Dracula by Bram Stoker

DraculaDracula by Bram Stoker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a classic piece of Gothic fiction that has been re-imagined and adapted many times over in film, books, comics, anime and computer games. It helped to make Whitby the infamous centre of gothic culture that it is today and it is often seen as one of the seminal pieces of vampire fiction. Published in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is as popular today as it was a hundred years ago.

The book tells the story of the titular character, Dracula, Count of Transylvania and his desire to purchase property in London. Jonathon Harker, the man charged with aiding Dracula in his acquisition of property, uncovers some terrifying truths at the castle, while back in England, disturbing incidents unfold; An unmanned ship crashes off the coast of Whitby, a young woman is drained of blood and an inmate at an asylum raves about the arrival of his master. As the story unfolds a determined group of men seek to find the truth and bring an end to the horror that has befallen London.

The story is told from the first person perspective of each character through their diaries, letters, journals and memoirs. There is also the odd section that details events via the means of a newspaper article. This was quite different to any other story I had read previously read so I found it quite unique and refreshing. It did, however, mean that I knew that whoever was narrating the current section would not meet their demise or else they would not be able to narrate it.

As well as the story there are several sections essays that may interest fans of the author and book. The start of the book includes a preface written by Christopher Frayling, an introduction by Maurice Hindle, a section on further reading (which covers Bram Stoker, Dracula and vampires), A Chronology of Bram Stoker’s life and a Note on the Text which explains a few minor changes made from the original. The appendix includes Bram Stoker’s correspondence with Walt Whitman, his interview with Winston Churchill, his essay on censorship and Charlotte Stoker’s account of the Cholera Horror in a letter to Bram Stoker.

I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who likes vampire fiction due to the undeniable impact it has had on the genre. But more than that, it is a great gothic tale that presents interesting ideas about life and death as well as the nature of insanity.

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Cyberforce Rebirth Volume 1 by Marc Silverstri and Matt Hawkins

Cyberforce: Rebirth, Volume OneCyberforce: Rebirth, Volume One by Marc Silvestri
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Released in 2013 following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Cyberforce Rebirth see the return of a Top Cow classic. Cyberforce was created by Marc Silvestri, with this volume being co-written with Matt Hawkins, who also wrote the Aphrodite IX Rebirth comics.

Carin Taylor has escaped from the corporation CDI and is searching for the one man who she believes can help to stop the end of the world. During her escape, she encounters a group of CDI escapees, but will they help her? Or turn their back on her?

To be honest, I felt little connection or interest in the individual stories of the characters, as they were fairly standard. However, I thought the overall plot and ideas presented in it were good and that’s what caught my interest. The idea that a powerful company discovered when the world will end and devise a plan to survive it through the development of humans that could, was interesting. Of course, there is a downside to the plan in that it may not include the whole species and even see many innocents die.

At times, I felt the dialogue was immature, mostly the insults and quips from the various characters, so if you like immature humour, then this will be perfectly fine. If not, then this may be a problem. There are also a lot of pop-culture references dotted throughout which I felt were a little forced at times. There’s a fine line between making references tasteful and including them for the sake of it. It isn’t excessive, but some just didn’t feel natural.

Like all the Top Cow comics I have read the artwork is on top form. Kho Pham penciled and inked the comic while Sal Regla also did inking and Sunny Gho did the colouring. Stjepan Sejic also added some final art polish to the pages. The pages

Colour coding is present for both narrated and spoken sections to show specific qualities of the voice or who is talking. This makes it easy to follow the dialogue, especially with the black coloured sans font that is used for all text. Troy Peteri did the lettering.

Although it has its flaws, I enjoyed the comic. The dialogue and characters are pretty standard, but the main plot and ideas behind the story are interesting. Plus it has great artwork. I recommend Cyberforce Volume 1 to fans of the Cyberforce and Aphrodite IX series as well as those wanting an easy to read Science Fiction Action comic.

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Neuromancer by William Gibson

Neuromancer (Sprawl, #1)Neuromancer by William Gibson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Published in 1984, Neuromancer is the first book in William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy. The book tells the story of a hot computer hacker named Case, who is crippled after double-crossing the wrong people and therefore losing access to the Matrix. Following that incident, Case lives in Chiba trying to forget his old life, until he meets a mysterious lady named Molly and an even more mysterious benefactor named Armitage. Case is returned to his old self following an operation paid for by Armitage, however, to ensure his cooperation in completing a dangerous job, Armitage implants poisonous sacs in Case, with the promise of them being removed once the job is complete.

As with most science fiction stories that involve hacking and protagonists who are “coerced” into a job, it inevitably becomes more complicated towards the end as the tension mounts and the mysteries are unravelled. There are several great concepts within Neuromancer, ones that are tropes of the genre by today’s standards, but at the time were relatively new. For example, the dangers of an artificial intelligence, extension of life and the difference between the physical world and the digital one.

William Gibson’s writing style is very easy to follow and does a good job of portraying the forts and emotions of case as well as the complexities of the story towards the end. Although there is some technological speak throughout the story as is generally the case with cyberspace focused Science Fiction stories, it never becomes too heavy for the reader and therefore doesn’t detract from the flow of the story.

Anyone interested in Cyberpunk and technology/computer based Science Fiction should definitely read this book. It’s one of the early progenitors of the cyberpunk genre and in turn had a massive impact on the development of the genre. I really enjoyed reading the book and picking out the ideas which have had a lasting impression on the genre, especially in relation to cyberspace.

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Horus Rising by Dan Abnett (Horus Heresy #1)

Horus Rising (The Horus Heresy, #1)Horus Rising by Dan Abnett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anyone who has played the tabletop game, Warhammer 40,000 from Games Workshop, will know that the Horus Heresy was the pivotal moment in humankind’s history that led to the current situation in the 41st Millennium. Horus Rising is set at the beginning of this epic tale towards the end of the Great Crusade in the 31st Millennium. The Emperor has returned to Earth and left Horus, his favoured son, in his stead to finish the job of uniting the human race in all corners of the galaxy. However, will Horus’ promotion lead the Legions to glory or Heresy?

Dan Abnett is a household name amongst those familiar with Warhammer 40,000, and for good reason. His writing is perfect for military science fiction. It’s easy to follow and contains enough level of detail to bring the story to life. The story is well paced with a good balance between action and character development.

The focal characters of the story are quite mixed, ranging from Astartes in two different legions, human military personnel, civilian remembrancers and a couple of Primarchs. It’s nice to see the different perspectives as the human characters are the lowest in stature while the Primarchs are the largest, thus, you get a good impression of how each sees the other and their position within the Imperium.

At the front of the book, there is a list of the main characters with their role stated alongside their name and sorted by their affiliation. For example, Garviel Loken is listed as Captain, 10th Company and listed under The Luna Wolves Legion. This is quite useful when there are a lot of characters involved in a story as it means clunky introductions can be avoided, especially when the characters involved should already know who certain people, even if the reader doesn’t. It also has the benefit of allowing the reader to quickly check who a specific character was if they’ve forgotten at some point in the book.

This book is a definite read for anyone interested in the Warhammer 40,000 universe and its incredibly deep lore. At the time of writing this, The Horus Heresy series is 32 books long and still going, so it may not be a good read for anyone daunted by the task of reading such a long series.

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Civil War by Mark Miller, Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines and Morry Hollowell

Civil War (Marvel Civil War Collection)Civil War by Mark Millar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Marvel event known as Civil War was originally released in 2006 and 2007 and was built around a 7 part limited run series written by Mark Miller. Following a disaster involving some young superheroes and the death of many people, including the attendees of a public school the American Government decides to introduce an Act stating that all superheroes must be registered and in the employ of SHIELD. Iron Man agrees with the plan, and along with Yellow Jacket and Mr Fantastic, lead the way in promoting the initiative. Captain America, on the other hand, disagrees with the idea and goes underground with many superheroes who agree with him including; Falcon, Luke Cage and Daredevil. As the story unfolds the tension between both sides escalates and becomes deadlier as each side seeks to win the war.

I read this book in mere hours, the story had me gripped. It was friend-on-friend and with each part the desire to know how the whole thing would play out grew more and more. The idea of whether masked vigilantes are better off as stand alone individuals or as employed government officials is a debate that is likely to carry good points for both sides; as is shown throughout the story.

To follow the story it isn’t necessary to be familiar with all of the characters, however, as there are quite a few people involved (many of whom aren’t A-List heroes) having some kind of familiarity with the major ones could be helpful.

The combined efforts of Steve McNiven (penciler), Dexter Vines (Inker) and Morry Hollowell (Colourist) have produced a very clean and crisp looking comic. It’s a very common art style with thick black lines around the characters and large amounts of detail and colour that is no less wonderful to gaze upon while reading. The action is really easy to follow due to the clean art style and there is a lot of action to be found throughout this story.

Like many other comics I have read, the use of colour and type is prominent to show the character’s voice. The default black on white is used for the majority of characters, but there are the odd ones whose voice is a little different, such as Iron Man’s, who has a modulated voice due to his armour. This is shown by presenting his dialogue in a red bordered text box with a red font. Chris Eliopoulis did a fine job with the Lettering; very clear and easy to read.

The panels are generally laid out 4 or 5 per page that stretch the full length of the page. It gives the story a cinematic feel, which is especially useful in displaying the grandeur and magnitude of the events that take place throughout the story. There are exceptions, sometimes a full page panel is used to emphasise a scene or smaller boxes are used to when there’s a lot more action taking place on a page. Overall, it works nicely and you can really appreciate the art and the story in this format.

I really like this story, it presents a very real world idea to the superheroes; who is responsible for the destruction and collateral caused when they fight the villains? What is good or bad? On several occasions, the question is asked if “bad” is simply breaking the law or if there is more to it than that. With the dramatic escalation that occurs throughout the story, I feel the conclusion is appropriate and shows the danger of losing sight of what is right. This is definitely recommend reading for fans of the marvel universe as a whole, but particularly so for fans of Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.

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