Books and movies


This week I’ll give you a break from talking about series to talk about the movie we saw last weekend.


A clever, coming-of-age story about a boy who becomes a spy (or the equivalent of). With nods to all those old sixties, seventies and eighties spy movies and television series like James Bond, The Man From Uncle, the Avengers, and no doubt a dozen more. And, of course, to the graphic novel from which it was spawned.

It was very violent. Exploding heads, people getting stabbed and otherwise finished off in various terrible ways. Almost slapstick humour. Definitely not a movie for the squeamish. It was so violent that I could turn off on the violence itself, but I couldn’t always turn off on the audience laughing at that violence.

There were some beautiful pieces in it.

The church scene is … awful, but superb is the only way I can describe it.

The recurring theme of ‘manners maketh a man’ was fun too.

It was a well-plotted movie. Talk about guns on the mantelpiece. There were plenty, and they used them all. If I wanted to teach someone storytelling I’d point to this movie as one to dissect to see how they did it. The writers used classic storybook techniques and they told a fun story with it.

I do have to mention the actors. They were great, and I’ll never think of Colin Firth now without remembering that church scene.

All up, a fun movie if you can get past the violence.

Next week, back to talking about writing series novels.

Books and movies

Things I wish I’d written in 2014

My annual shameless plug of other authors’ work, and why. These are things I read in 2014. Note that the books weren’t necessarily published this year, I just read them for the first time in 2014.

There are minor spoilers below.

Best cover

Ancillary Justice, Anne Leckie

I loved the cover. Interestingly, it’s not Sherylyn’s favourite, and while we were looking at covers in bookstores around the time our own was being designed, most of the booksellers here in Australia said it didn’t attract attention at all.

MistbornBest creature

I wanted to choose ancillaries, from Anne Leckie’s Imperial Radch series. They’re dead(ish) humans, thawed out and controlled by an AI.

But no-one could call Breq anything but human.

My second-favourite creatures were the mistwraiths in Mistborn. And the ‘grown-up’ mistwraiths, the kandra.


The story that makes you think long after you’ve finished the book

No surprises here. This book made a lot of people think.

Ancillary Justice, Anne Leckie.

I know a lot of the talk around this book was how Leckie dealt with gender, which was refreshing and well done, but I got used to that very early. For me, the thing I loved about the book was how she took a truly repulsive regime and turned it into something sympathetic. I mean, the Radch destroyed whole races, they took people and effectively killed them, storing their bodies in deep freeze, then thawing them out and plugging them into a computer brain as required.

Biggest surprise book (most unexpected)

Fuzzy Nation, John Scalzi

I like John Scalzi’s books. They’re clever, they’re fun, they’re easy reads. But for some reason, Fuzzy Nation particularly resonated. It’s good, old-fashioned science fiction with a modern twist.

And I still can’t work out if Jack Holloway was just a bad guy who did good deeds, or a good guy I didn’t really like much. Either way, it was excellent characterisation.

Books re-read

There are some books you love so much that you pick them up again and re-read them. Often more than once. Often, not long after you’re read them the first time.


Sage Blackwood’s Jinx’s Magic

I love the repartee between Simon and Jinx in the Jinx books, and the way you know, without being told, that Simon cares for Jinx. Any author who wants to study up on ‘show, don’t tell’ should check out how Blackwood does it.


Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Sword.

We both re-read Ancillary Sword. Not Ancillary Justice, which was surprising.

Looking forward to next year

Based on the above, I think you can tell that the two books I’m looking forward to most next year are

Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy


Sage Blackwood’s Jinx’s Fire.

Honorable mention

Last year, the book I was looking forward to most was

Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor

It lived up to expectations.

Books and movies

Expendables 3

I’m a sucker for the Expendables movies, even though I’m sure half the references go over my head. There’s something about Barney Ross and his pals that hits a chord.

Maybe it’s the way the characters laugh at themselves, at the way they laugh (in a good way) about the characters that made them famous. Maybe it’s the banter between them. The set-piece fights are glorious—hopelessly impossible in real life of course, but lots of fun anyway.

And, of course, the names. If ever you want to name-drop, get yourself into an Expendables movie. You’ll be working with some of the best-known action movie stars.

I also love the way they deal with aging. They don’t pretend they’re not getting old, but they kick butt anyway.

If they were books you would reread them over and over and get more out of each reread. You’d have favourite quotes.

“Get out of the seat … Christmas is coming.”

“But it’s only June.”

Yes, we went and saw Expendables 3 yesterday. Enjoyed it too. Even the final fight worked for me. (Not like last time.)

It was good fun.

Books and movies

Edge of Tomorrow is a movie worth seeing

The golden age of science fiction seems to have been replaced by the golden age of science fiction movies lately. Gravity, Hunger Games, Iron Man, Pacific Rim, Edge of Tomorrow, Transformers: Age of Extinction, more Star Wars, more Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy and seemingly on and on.

If, like me, you like sci-fi movies, this is a good time to be going to the cinema.

Last week we went and saw Edge of Tomorrow. I enjoyed this movie. A lot.

Before I went I wondered how they’d do the continual repeats of the same day, and whether it would get boring after a while, but it didn’t. It was done well.

This week we saw Transformers: Age of Extinction. While not in the class of Edge of Tomorrow it’s a Transformers movie. What more can I say about it. If you liked the earlier Transformers movies (I did), you should like this one too.

You’ll already know if you’re going to see the Transformers movie. If you’re not sure about Edge of Tomorrow, I recommend it.

Books and movies

Things I wish I’d written in 2013

A shameless plug of other authors’ work, and why. These are things I read in 2013. They weren’t necessarily published in that year.

Plague YearOpening line

“They ate Jorgensen first.”

Jeff Carlson, Plague Year

I mean, what can you say to a story that starts like this?

Best cover

Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood.

Promise of BloodAwesome cover, and I don’t normally notice covers on books. The tagline isn’t bad either.

“The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.”

Best creature

Brandon Sanderson’s thunderclasts.

“The enormous stone beast lay on its side, riblike protrustions from its chest broken and cracked. … vaguely skeletal in shape, with unnaturally long limbs that sprouted from granite shoulders. The eyes were deep red spots on the arrowhead face … the beasts’s hand was as long as a man was tall.”

Way of the KingsThe story that makes you think long after you’ve finished the book

Brandon Sanderson, The Way of the Kings.

Awesome world building

Surprise, surprise.

Brandon Sanderson again, The Way of the Kings.

Emerald GreenThe book I waited for with the most anticipation

Emerald Green, by Kirstin Gier (translated by Anthea Bell).

Nowadays, I normally wait until books are out before I buy them, but I pre-ordered book two (Sappire Blue) and three (Emerald Green) in Gier’s Ruby Red series. I haven’t done that since Diana Wynne Jones’ House of Glass .

Best line I wish I’d written

Is actually one we did write.

Not saying which, because it doesn’t work out of context, but I like it. They do say, if you love your work like that, get rid of it. Not going to happen, not in this draft.

Goblin EmperorThe book I’m most looking forward to next year

Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor

Sarah Monette’s Mildmay—from the Melusine, The Mirador, Virtu and Corambis—is one of my favourite characters ever. (Felix, not so much.) I was disappointed when Monette’s publishers decided to not continue to publish her. But now she’s back, as Katherine Addison, with the Goblin Emperor. It feels like it’s been coming forever, but it’s out in 2014.

Books and movies

Thor: The Dark World. They should make more movies like this

By which you can guess that I enjoyed Thor 2. A lot.

I was a little worried because watching the trailers I got the impression Jane had been dumbed down, made more girly. But she hadn’t.

Thor/Loki? What can I say that others haven’t? Loki needs a hero to play off against and Thor is perfect.

The bad guy was a one-dimensional stereotype, but it didn’t spoil the fun. Imagine how awesome the movie would have been if they’d given us a better bad guy.

One minor quibble. If you dump a car in a neighbourhood like that, it’s not just going to be covered in graffiti and have it’s windows smashed in. It’s going to be up on chocks, all four tyres missing and the battery gone. No-one, just no-one, is going to get in it and simply drive away. (But I loved that they did, anyway.)

I’m off to buy the soundtrack to add to our ‘music to write by’ collection.

Books and movies

Stilettos and dresses on a two-man five-year mission: you’ve got to be kidding me

Am I the only person who took umbrage at the clothes Victoria wore in the film Oblivion?

I mean, come on. You’re on a five year mission, there’s only ever the two of you, and one of you gets to wear practical coveralls (science-fiction style) while the other wears dresses and stilettos.

You have to be joking.

It looks good, but seriously.

I work from home one day a week. During the day there’s just me and my computer. A bit like Victoria, actually. What do I wear? Socks, a pair of comfortable stretch pants and t-shirts.

Even if they’re the only clothes Victoria has, you tell me she’s going to sit on her own every day for five straight years and not kick off her stilettos. I don’t believe it.

But you know what really gripes me?

Spoilers for Oblivion here, so the rest after the fold.

Books and movies On writing

Safe: a good example of show don’t tell in character building

Today I saw the Jason Statham movie Safe.

Despite the fact that the movie had obviously bombed – at least I’m guessing it did because it had only been out a couple of weeks and we had to search to find a theatre where it was on, and then they only had one session early in the day – I enjoyed it.  There were eight of us, squashed together in the same row of seats (I don’t know why movie theatres do this) like the grand circle at the opera.

It was a typical Statham movie, with lots of violence, dozens of bad guys—a Russian gang, an Asian gang and corrupt local police—all pitted against our hero and the young girl he chooses to champion.

The moviegoer in me enjoyed the spectacle, although I would have liked less violence and more plot, while the writer in me loved the characterisation that was not only an excellent example of “show, don’t tell”, but also managed to drive the plot forward.

Spoilers after the fold.