Tag: Books

‘Halo: The Cole Protocol’ Hits Shelves

On Tuesday, Tor Books launched the latest in their Halo series of books, Halo: The Cole Protocol. Based on the tremendously popular “Halo” video games from Bungie Studios and Microsoft, the publishing franchise has featured two best sellers and looks to add to that record with this new title.

“‘The Cole Protocol’ may be the
closest reading experience to playing the games. The action is
non-stop, and it bores into some really interesting questions
concerning alliances in the greater Halo universe.”

Tor Editor Eric Raab

Penned by Nebula nominee and Prometheus Award finalist Tobias S. Buckell, the book reveals the first, early days of the Human-Covenant War, when the UNSC has enacted the Cole Protocol in an attempt to keep Earth and it’s Inner Colonies from being discovered by their alien foe. In the Outer Colonies human survivors of Covenant attacks flee to the asteroid belt where they strike an uneasy alliance with the a Covenant settlement. It is an arrangement which is complicated by a three-man renegade squad, the Spartan Gray Team, on a mission to create havoc behind enemy lines and the Covenant’s counter, the brutal Elite on a quest for nobility, rank and Ascendancy.

While this is Buckell’s first “Halo” novel it is not the first time he has guided the Master Chief on a mission. Buckell is a long time “Halo” fan who has played every incarnation of the game. In a recent interview Buckell recalls, “I started playing ‘Halo 3’ in December after I wrapped up my third original novel that year: it was my ‘OMG I finished another book now it’s time to play until my brains leak out my ears’ sort of thing that happens after every major project.'”

Buckell is a Caribbean-born speculative fiction writer who grew up in Grenada, the US and the British Virgin Islands. He now lives (through many strange twists of fate) in a small college town in Ohio with his wife, Emily.  Buckell was a first place winner for the Writers of the Future and has been nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the Nebula Award. He is also a graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction Writing Workshop.  His other titles include Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin and Sly Mongoose.

Halo: The Cole Protocol
Tobias S. Buckell
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Tor Books (November 25, 2008)

Fall Preview: Movies

We are pleased to unveil the first in a series of Fall Preview podcasts that will highlight not only the upcoming films for the next two months, but all manner of geekdom and pop culture goodness as well. Each week, the PCZ brain trust will sit down and hash out the good, bad and indifferent that will be presented to you in the form of movies, television, comics, books, music, games, toys and anything else that fits into our little corner of the universe.

The past few months have unleashed a bounty of cinematic glory for fans who have eagerly anticipated a summer film season of epic proportions. This year, we have already been treated to the reinvention of a perennial Hollywood star’s career, the newest chapter in a storied franchise and the second highest domestic grossing film of all time. After Iron Man, Indy, Batman and a host of other blockbusters, do fans have anything emotions left in the tank for the next crop of films? What is there to look forward to in this downhill slope toward the holiday season?

In this episode, we break down the films scheduled to hit theaters in September and October. From the return of the Cohen brothers to J. Michael Straczynski’s first screenwriting effort, we give the lowdown on what has us both excited and confounded about the next two months of film. Join Dan, Joe, Ian, Wes and Bob as we revel in the madness that is the PCZ Fall Preview!

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Review: ‘Jane and the Dragon’ on DVD

Before we talk about ‘Jane and the Dragon: A Dragon’s Tale’, let me first ask you a question. What is the first book you remember reading as a kid? If you are like me it requires stepping into the the Way Back Machine with Professor Peabody and Sherman, but I the first book I remember reading was about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I read that book until the pages fell out and then I went to the library to get other books on the subject. The concepts of chivalry and the knightly code I was exposed to as a youngster contributed to the more-than-slightly anachronistic geek I am today.

What if I had been a girl though? Would the lessons concealed in the tales of knightly adventures and men striving for greatness have impacted me the same? Probably not. Modern Arthurian literature stems from Mallory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur” and has passed through the Victorian era ministrations of writers such as Tennyson. These resulting stories demonstrate that is was really great to be a guy. If you were a woman though, you had better tighten up your corset, make sure your hair and makeup are just right, mind your manners and you just might attract a husband! Then you could spend your life working on your needlepoint and posing for portraits of you gazing wistfully out the window.

Jane and the Dragon- the Book

This is the sort of exciting feminine roll models that came to mind for writer and illustrator Martin Baynton when a young girl told him she didn’t like fairy tales because of lack of control traditional female character’s have over their own future. He saw her point and did something about it. He wrote the book “Jane and the Dragon“.

Set in the 9th-Century English kingdom of Kippernium, the story revolves around Jane Turnkey, a 12 year-old girl who doesn’t want to grow up to be a Lady-in-Waiting, the only roll she could traditionally aspire to. Instead, she wants to be a knight. With this in mind she sets off to rescue Prince Cuthbert from the clutches of a dragon. A dragon that turns out to be more into wisecracking jokes than being ferocious. Instead of doing battle, Jane and Dragon become best friends, while her brave efforts win her the King’s permission to training as a knight. With that the stage is set for a new twist on the legendary tales many of us grew up on.

That is not the end of the story for Jane and Dragon though. Mr. Baynton teamed up with Richard Taylor and Weta Workshop to create an animated series based on “Jane and the Dragon,” Weta’s first foray into children’s television production. The show, which expands upon Jane’s world, while remaining true to the characters has been shown on networks such as NBC, ION, Telemundo and qubo is now coming to DVD. ‘Jane and the Dragon: A Dragon’s Tale’ is being released by Shout! Factory on August 19th and features the first five episodes of the show and a number of extras.

Jane and the Dragon- the Television Show

Don’t let the phrase “first foray” throw you off- this is Weta we are talking about. As the writer who covers all things Weta for PCZ, I am constantly trying to wring new synonyms out of my thesaurus to describe the remarkable, usually groundbreaking, work they produce. I’ve reached the point where I am certain that if I ever have to write a negative comment about something that came out of the workshop it will be an indication that the 7th Seal has been broken and the Four Horsemen are standing right behind me.

The stories told in this show do a wonderful job of teaching lessons without having to force feed the moral to the viewer. The actions on screen put these lessons out there through the the characters actions and their personal revelations, without the need for a tomato and a cucumber to end the show by a parable rendering computer (not, that there is anything wrong with VeggieTales). Moreover, there is a certain irreverence woven into the dialogue which defies the contemporary compulsion for political correctness which is rather refreshing.

Yes, the lead character is indeed a female, but I in no way found the show to be a feminist vehicle, if that is what you are worried about. Instead, it promotes the concept that gender was irrelevant if one works for what they want. Jane is not a paragon of “girl power.” Rather she is an example of what one can do when they chase their dreams as hard as they can, accept the lumps, deal with failures and follow your heart. That is a lesson I personally hope every child learns.

I am happy to report this show has absolutely no purple singing dinosaurs. It is written in a way that adults will be able to enjoy watching it with their kids. Being a parent myself, I know the sheer agonies of my child asking to watch the same DVD over, and over, and over, and over. Generally, these shows are painful at best, but with ‘Jane and the Dragon’ my son and I would sit on the couch and watch it together. There are plenty of tidbits in the stories that are obviously for the benefit of parents. These snatches of humor and lines that are well above the comprehension of the target audience are surprising and really quite enjoyable.

The Art and Animation

There is no other way to put it, ‘Jane and the Dragon’ is like nothing you have ever seen before. In my opinion, not since Mainframe Entertainment premiered “Reboot” in 1994, the first full length computer animated television series, has something so unprecedented (see, I am straining my thesaurus again) been broadcast. In the case of “Reboot,” Bob, Enzo and Dot Matrix represented something that had never been done before. For “Jane and the Dragon” Weta has given us something that has never been done so well before. When watching the show I was reminded of how Walt Disney used “Sleeping Beauty” to take traditional animation to a higher, unheard of, level- Weta has done the the same thing with computer animated television production.

When you first hit play on an episode you will be taken with what Richard Taylor describes it as a “pencil drawn look”. The feel of the textures is that of having been hand penciled, but yet it is in the three dimensional space of the CGI set. It truly creates the illusion of stepping into the very pages of a story book. Not content to stop there, they engage in expensive-to-render helicopter shots of scenes and breathtakingly realistic hair. I would have to say that the finest CGI rendering of hair I have seen was Sully’s fur in Pixar‘s “Monsters, Inc.” Each character in ‘Jane and the Dragon’ sports a marvelously realistic coiffure that is every bit as remarkable as Sully’s.

This is evidence, yet again, of what is probably the most defining characteristic of Weta Workshop. No matter the project, they do whatever it takes to do it right. The combination of Martin Baynton and Weta have certainly produced something that has been done right- unequivocally.

Overall Impressions

If you have kids, buy this DVD. If you are thinking of someday producing progeny, buy this DVD and hold onto it for them. If you know someone who has kids, buy it and satisfy any sort of gift giving obligations which may arise in the future. If you are reading this while quartered in your parent’s basement and can’t remember the last time you engaged in verbal communication with a member of the opposite sex, buy it for you- you deserve something nice.

Overall, anyone who is a fan of animation (basement living not required), a parent or “Weta Holic” needs to have this DVD on the shelf

For the PCZ exclusive interview with Martin Baynton click here.

For more about “Jane and the Dragon” visit their website by clicking here.

To visit the PCZ photo gallery of the Weta booth from SDCC click here.

Farewell Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Legendary science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke has passed away and the world is a little less brighter for it. Clarke was 90 and had been suffering from the effects of post-polio syndrome. According to the BBC, Sir Arthur died of respiratory complications and heart failure.

Sir Arthur was perhaps best known to the science fiction community as the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was adapted into the film by the same name. Clarke’s other famous works included Rendezvous With Rama (which was still may see production as a film) and 2010: Odyssey Two. He was heralded by many as a visionary of science and technology and received a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

Sir Arthur’s legacy lives on with the Arthur C. Clarke award, which is given out each year to the best science fiction novel published in the United Kingdom.

How as Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s fiction or nonfiction works inspired you?  Share your stories in our Lounge.