Why do I keep buying Grateful Dead albums?
I'd like to propose another class of GD fan called: (and ripping of shamelessly from Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead -I'm also a horror movie buff) The Deadite. The Deadite is an enthusiastic GD fan but not obsessively so. They're someone like, well, me who had to have this compilation but not the massive set from which it's compiled.
And, boy, am I glad I did. Clocking it at around 79 minutes on each of the two discs, you couldn't possibly get more for your money, and a reasonable price it is too. Later period Dead isn't as fashionable as their 70's heydays but this set goes some way to correcting the image of later period as somehow inferior. Let me tell, om these discs, the band are on fire. They are as tight and as sharp as I've ever heard them. Maybe it's the production or better quality drugs, I don't know. What I do know is that, because it's a well chosen compilation, there isn't a dud track here. You could even use it as a introduction to someone who's never heard the Dead before.
No question, this is one of their best live releases ever.
They can, just about and albeit watered down, work on TV (Smallville and the recent Arrow), and work very well on film but even there it helps a lot if the director is Joss Whedon. But where they work perfectly is the place that they came from -comics. In comics the stylised dynamic art creates a convincing hyper-reality that transcends the essential silliness of the concept. Comics were made for super-heroes and it's their natural home.
But prose without pictures isn't. I've read a number of novels which attempt to transcribe costumed super-heroes from their home into another format and, with one glorious exception, they don't work. And Seven Wonders isn't the exception.
I can't go into too much detail because I'm assuming a few of you will be buying this book so I'll have to comment in more general terms as I don't want to write any form of spoilers. In the Californian city of San Ventura lives the world's last super-villain -The Cowl- and his nemeses, the superhero team known as Seven Wonders -probably because the wonder is why they can never catch him. The our hero suddenly discovers he's developing super-powers and battles the Cowl who attempts to rob a bank where he's cuing up for cash and defeats him. What follows is a multi-viewpoint story in which, if you can't guess most of the surprises, twists and turns, you haven't been reading comics (or any fiction) lately.
And what also follows is why the book doesn't work. The author hasn't attempted to create a prose form which describes super-hero battles, and other super-hero tropes, that actually works. "Avengers assemble!" works fine as a battle cry in a comic in big dynamic lettering and shouted out by Captain America but is just silly in text- "Seven Wonders, unite!" when spoken by a character we know little about. The descriptions of super-hero fights are ploddingly mundane without any accompanying images. But to be honest, the rest of the prose is competent at best and the real story, when we finally get to it, just isn't very interesting.
In short:it just doesn't work.
To be fair there are three pages of ringing endorsements from numerous people whose names I recognise and all of them are in the comics industry, most of them being comics writers, so I suppose they would say that, wouldn't they?
And the one glorious exception to super-heroes in prose -it's the Wild Cards series, a shared world created by George R R Martin (Games of Thrones) a few years ago with the help of many other talented writers. Try and get the original series but avoid a more recent attempt to revive it.
Whatever. Basically history has been changed by the existence of people with magical/super powers and public reaction has varied. But that's just the background. The story is the recruitment of (really, really, really) tough guy Jake Sullivan to the cause of the good guys magical secret society and their hidden war with the bad guys magical secret society. It's about 20% too long but it still kept me reading and I'll be back for the sequel.
On the acting side is solid work from hero Taylor Kitsch who is outshone by a feisty Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris, with solid support from the supporting cast including Dominic West, Ciaran Hinds, and Mark Strong. The special effects are convincing, especially the four-armed Tharks led by Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe). The airships are good to look at and it usually moves along at a fair pace.
I can't understand the downpour of heavy criticism the film engendered as it's a solid and entertaining genre piece. Sadly this means there won't be any sequels or other movies set in exotic alien landscapes with two-fisted lantern-jawed blaster-wielding heroes, beautiful mysterious heroines and ancient and deadly secrets from the heady days of Pulp SF and written (at its best) by Leigh Brackett. Alas.
Once that's over, the film itself is set in and around an isolated and cursed Spanish village. Removing the curse (a wolfman) depends on our hero getting eaten on a specific day by the wolfman and if he isn't a worse curse descends on the village. Needless to say, this happens and the English title sort of gives away any surprise as to its nature. The gore is moderate and often undercut by humour. The monster is quite good and accurately depicted on the 3-D cover and a very effective 3-D cover at that.
Approach it with moderate expectations and a couple of beers and you'll have a reasonably good time.
The good stuff includes an interesting premise which sets this apart from other Urban Fantasy (of which I've been reading a lot lately) as three mismatched coppers (police to our overseas friends) and a researcher are forced together to use police procedures to investigate a crime involving the supernatural. It's more complicated than that but I do try to avoid spoilers. It also involves a major football club (West Ham) and Anne Boleyn, and a really vile villain who commits certain acts which are truly shocking and horrifying to even the most hardened reader. It builds well to a climax and sets the scene for a sequel.
Cornell is a competent writer of growing experience but one who lacks a talent able to deliver the groin-gripping prose of, say, the current maestra Kate Griffin.
My gripe is that the characters are never vivid or distinctive enough, particularly in the beginning and it took me a while to get any sort of handle on them and I never really did with one. Eventually the sheer power of the story does overcome this and it kept me reading right to the end but it's still a misjudgment on my part. Or maybe it's just me.
Worth reading at a rating of three and half stars for fans of the genre but be prepared to persevere at first.