Review of Ill Wind

A while ago – a long while ago – I read a post-apocalyptic novel about the end of oil. This was back in the 90s, well before the whole peak oil debate arose, so the authors took a different tack. In this novel, instead of the gradual end of the world through peak oil – as occurs in World Made by Hand – the planet’s supply of oil disappears after scientists release a virus designed to clean up a massive oil spill in San Francisco Harbor.

Ill Wind opens with a supertanker known as the Oilstar Zoroaster entering San Francisco Bay, laden with 1 million or so barrels of crude oil. There is a moment’s distraction and then the supertanker smashes into one of the Golden Gate Bridge’s supports and is ripped open.

Oilstar executives faced with an Exxon Valdez-like disaster in the midst of one of California’s largest cities, scramble for a way to deal with the disaster. Dr. Alex Kramer and his assistant Mitch Stone – from the company’s own “bioremediation research” department offer a solution – the Prometheus microbe, a genetically engineered organism with a thirst for crude oil. They claim it will remove 2/3 of the oil and its by-products are water and carbon dioxide. And because it can’t become airborne, it won’t spread beyond the harbor. The Board and CEO are elated and order its use. What they are not aware of is the hidden agenda that Kramer and Stone have – a desire to rid the world of gas/oil and have hidden the fact that Prometheus was engineered to go airborne. Within a few hours of its use, cars in Bay Area begin to stall, their tanks drained of gas. The petro-plague spreads quickly and soon reduces everything made of crude oil – including gas and plastic items – to a grey goo.

Thus is the world forced to suddenly and inexplicably deal with the collapse of our high energy civilization.

The book is full of great characters and until I re-read it recently, I had forgotten them. The sleazy politician who thinks with his dick more often than his brain, the hardy everyman who adapts no matter what the world throws at him, the scientist desperate to avoid calamity and the would-be strongman who would impose his will on those around him.

If you haven’t read Ill Wind yet, check your local library or used book store and read it – it’s a really great story on the end of oil.

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The Last Man on Earth

Last Man on Earth is the post-apocalyptic TV show I would have written were I a TV writer. Check out this clip:

It is dark, funny, sad and insane all at once. The main character, Phil, is akin to Al Bundy from Married with Children (another Fox product). He is tragic, flawed and sarcastic as hell. Oh, and he likes boobies too! ;)

Now, I missed the pilot last weekend, but this week’s episode was amazing.

SPOILER ALERT

After years of being alone and coming within a breath of killing himself in despair, Phil finally finds someone else. But instead of his dream girl, she is someone who chastises him for his margarita pool, his giant Jenga tower and everything else he does, from driving to parking to masturbation! Within in minutes of meeting her, Phil wishes he hadn’t!

For a more in-depth look at the episode, head on over to AV Club

I think I have found my new favourite show – sorry Walking Dead!

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Just-in Time Delivery (and what it means in a disaster)

Last week during lunchtime, I walked to the nearby Wal-mart to pick up a couple things (ginger, garlic and green onions IIRC) for the wife and was greeted by this.

Now empty store shelves aren’t that big a deal really, assuming some sort of disaster isn’t happening. But curious as to why so much stock was missing, I asked a stock boy what happened.

“The truck didn’t come last night,” he told me.

So because a truck didn’t show up, most of the produce section was empty.

That is what just-in-time delivery means in a survival situation. If a disaster hits where you live, you can expect empty store shelves very quickly and there won’t be anything in the back to bring out.

That means you have to make sure that you have enough food and water for your family during that time.

Now, I’m not advocating for a hoard of canned goods, guns/ammo and everything else that preppers do, but it does make you think.

Could your family deal with a disaster that means there is no food in the stores for a week? Or a two?

It’s one of the reasons I try to make sure we have some extra cans of food, extra water, some camping supplies (to cook said food) and some other things in my house to help us through a potential disaster. It doesn’t have to be much, just an extra package or two of chili/beef stew/etc and a flat (or three) of water in your basement.

If you want to go the prepping route, that’s fine too, but I realize that’s not for everybody.

But the fact of the matter is that the more people do to help themselves now, the less problems they will have later. In my mind, it’s no different than having a fire extinguisher in your kitchen or a savings account to use for ‘rainy days’.

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What I learned from Frozen

If you’re like most parents, you’ve probably been forced to watch this movie over and over and over in the past year.

I’m fortunate that my my little ones only watch it in our van, so I just have to hear it over and over.

That’s not a good or bad thing, the movie itself is fine and I don’t really have any problems with it, other than the fact that it is a musical. I just don’t get how people can break out into song in the middle of life and not have someone go, “What the Hell was that?” I also don’t care much for Disney (the corporation), but that’s another post altogether!

The only problem I have with it is the same problem I have with any movie my children want to watch over and over – it goes from nice to annoying.

Anyways, here are some random things I learned (or that the movie made me think about):

1. The palace staff are corrupt, or at the very least, totally incompetent: Why didn’t anyone bother to go check on Anna after Hans declared she died? Why didn’t any of them challenge him when he claimed they had said their marriage vows? Or even be present to witness the vows? Why didn’t they send anyone to help Anna find Elsa? She has been locked up in the castle her entire life and almost certainly has no tracking or wilderness skills. Why is Prince Hans all that Arendelle has left if Princess Anna dies – Queen Elsa has been brought back to the castle when this is spoken. Is she ineligible to be Queen because of her ‘sorcery’? If that’s the case, why is she allowed to become Queen after she unfreezes everything? Wouldn’t it be possible that she might freeze everything again if she gets upset again?

2. Elsa & Anna’s parents are terrible: Why did they automatically take the negative route after Anna’s injury? The troll tells them how to avoid problems in the first place, but they automatically lock up the palace and steal Anna’s memories from her. Then to top it off, they lock up BOTH daughters! Why did Anna have to be locked up in the castle? Why couldn’t she have a somewhat normal life (at least as normal as a princess should have)? That made no sense to me at all. It should come as no surprise that Anna grows up desperate for human contact and falls in love with the first man she sees or that Elsa grows up as a dangerous shut-in with anger issues!

3. Never a trust a teenage girl when it comes to love: Anna shows us the reason why so many girls watched Titanic over and over in the ’90s, “He’s dreamy!” Teenagers simply don’t have the experience to make an informed decision about anything like marriage, which probably why arranged marriages were the cultural norm for so long – and for the record, no I don’t agree with arranged marriages.

4. Elsa’s Ice Palace is beautiful but useless: What did she plan on eating on top of North Mountain? There isn’t a helluva lot of food on the top of mountains, especially not in winter. Given that it was made of ice, it must have royally sucked using the toilet. As a guy, most of my use doesn’t involve touching the seat, but for women…who knows, maybe Elsa found a furry cover for her seat! ;)

5. Lazy writing: The characters – Anna especially – say “Wait, what?” far too many times. I’m chalking that one up to lazy writing.

6. Odd Worldbuilding: I realize it’s a movie with magic and whatnot, but the whole the notion that a frozen heart is so much worse than a frozen head seems like just silly to me. I guess the trolls didn’t have access to MRIs and cat-scans.

How about you? Did Frozen bring any oddball thoughts to you when you watched it?

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Wacky Christmas Songs

Last year I compiled a list of alternative Christmas movies, and though I forgot one or two like Gremlins, it was pretty well received.

This year, I’ve got a list of alternative Christmas music to turn some heads this season. This is NOT a list of my favourite Christmas songs, but I do enjoy most of this list – personally, the death metal Christmas song is a bit much.

Enjoy!

Scary F**ked Up Christmas when you’re high

This hilarious contemporary songs stars a couple young comics who were also on Big Bang Theory.

NSFW version of Santa Claus is Coming

This is disturbing on so many levels, but some people will probably like it.

Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)

Hey, it’s the Ramones, what else do you need to know?

O Holy Night – Matt Mulholland – NSFW

A disturbing, but darkly hilarious adult version of a Christmas tune – you have been warned!

Jingle Cats – Silent night

While I’m not a cat person per se, apparently the rule these days is that any list is not complete unless it includes cats!

Dominic the Donkey

A hilarious, un-PC Christmas tune of yesteryear, I just had to include this gem I discovered recently!

Eleven days of Christmas

An ethnic, un-PC version of 12 Days of Christmas, it is a classic in my books!

Bob & Doug’s 12 Days of Christmas

The hoser version of 12 Days of Christmas, this one is corny as hell, but still pretty funny.

Christmas at Ground Zero

Dark and disturbing, this Christmas tune is a product of the 80s when many were scared World War 3 would erupt and wipe out mankind, it is one my my all-time favourite Christmas tunes. And yes, I’m well aware what that says about me…

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!

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An Early Christmas Gift

Looking for an early Christmas gift?

Just sign up for my mailing list and I’ll send you a short story on Christmas Eve.

It’s that easy – sign up and get a free story. No strings attached…and unlike some people, I don’t send out tons of emails, clogging your inbox. I only send out an email when I have something important to say, which tends to be every couple months.

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A few more things I learned about conventions…

In late September, I went to the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo to try and sell some copies of my novel and I learned a few more things about what to do at conventions.

I know I already discussed this after the Calgary Expo back in May, but here they are;

1) Stand up and smile – I know it sounds silly to have to mention this, but if you stand up and are ready to chat about your book to anyone who passes by, it makes it easier for them to approach you. Not everyone will approach someone to chat to someone with their nose down in a book or focused on a laptop/tablet. Be open and approachable and you’ll talk to way more people. This is a numbers game and the more people you talk to, the more likely you’ll meet someone interested in buying your book.

2) Have items other than your book to sell – things like buttons or swag of some kind. If you have smaller branded items for a buck or two, you can increase your sales AND promote your writing at the same time. Not everyone wants to spend $10 or $15 on a book by an author they have never heard of – but a cool Anti-Zombie Squad wrist band for a buck? Sure, why the hell not?

3) Display your books prominently – everyone has copies of their book(s) on their table, but many people only have a few on the table. I found that sales were much better when I had three tall stacks (each 7 or 8 books high) in the centre of my table than when I just had a few on it. Many people are visually-oriented and by displaying them prominently on your table, it attracts attention and lets people see and touch the product. It also saves you time to complete the sale, as well as shows that you are confident and proud of your work.

4) Booth Babes – In my previous post, I mentioned having chocolate or candies on your table to grab people’s attention. But at the Edmonton show, I saw something that works even better – a booth babe. Sure, it’s sexist as hell, but in a lot of cases, it works. That’s why they have scantily clad women besides the cars at Auto shows. Now this might not work for all conventions, but the ones I go to are Comic and TV/Movie cons (copies of San Diego’s Comic Con) and the crowd is largely male. At the Edmonton show, both tables on either side of me had booth babes (in each case the artist themselves dressed somewhat provocatively) and drew in dozens of people they probably wouldn’t have if they were in sweat pants and t-shirt like some of the other exhibitors.

5) Costumes/Flare – this kind of ties into the point above. If the convention you’re attending and/or your novel(s) lend themselves to dressing up (and you’re comfortable doing so), then go ahead and do it. It makes you stand out from the crowd of other exhibitors wearing jeans and t-shirts.

There you have it, a few more tips on what to do at comic conventions. Hope they help!

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And the weiner is…

The winner of the autographed copy of Zombie Night in Canada: First Period is…

Johanna K. Pitcairn!

I’ll be in contact ASAP to ship it to you!

Congrats and I hope everyone had a great Coffin Hop this year!

Coffin Hop Souvenirs – you know you want ‘em!

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Review of The Games by Ted Kosmatka

Brilliant geneticist Silas Williams oversees U.S. selections for the Olympic Gladiator competition, an internationally sanctioned bloodsport with only one rule: No entrants may possess human DNA. Desperate to maintain America’s edge in the upcoming Games, Silas’s superior engages an experimental supercomputer to design the ultimate, unbeatable combatant. The result is a highly specialized killing machine, its genome never before seen on earth. But even a genius like Silas cannot anticipate the consequences of allowing a computer’s cold logic to play God. Growing swiftly, the mutant gladiator demonstrates preternatural strength, speed, and—most chillingly—intelligence. And before hell breaks loose, Silas and beautiful xenobiologist Vidonia João must race to understand what unbound science has wrought—even as their professional curiosity gives way to a most unexpected emotion: sheer terror.

As with Scott Siglar’s Ancestor, The Games could be compared to Crichton’s Jurassic Park, which it could be argued is basically a modern day telling of Frankenstein.

The world this novel takes place in is somewhat different from our own – one in which genetic engineering and artificial intelligence are if not common, then at least accepted as science fact and not science fiction.

While there isn’t a lot of character development, who cares? If you want character development, you read the classics, not pulp fiction like this. No, people read books like this for action, which this book delivers on. The book starts slow, but once the creature begins growing and developing, it ramps up and Silas begins to doubt the creature he has helped bring into the world. Then the race is on to discover what the creature is and how to stop it, if that’s even possible.

The path Silas and Vidonia undertake to learn about the creature that includes immersion in a virtual environment with an AI is a great whodunit that keeps you on the edge of your seat, as Kosmatka hands out just enough info to maintain interest. While some have said the AI part of the novel was lacking, I felt it as great and interesting to see that a computer can be just as odd as any person can be.

The book was a real page turner and kept me reading even when I wanted to sleep or do other stuff.

Four stars out of five.

P.S. I realize this wasn’t published in October as I had wanted to, but real life issues kept me far to busy to worry about posting this. Hope you enjoy it anyways!

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Review of Ancestor by Scott Siglar

Every five minutes, a transplant candidate dies while waiting for a heart, a liver, a kidney. Imagine a technology that could provide those life-saving transplant organs for a nominal fee … and imagine what a company would do to get a monopoly on that technology.

On a remote island in the Canadian Arctic, PJ Colding leads a group of geneticists who have discovered this holy grail of medicine. By reverse-engineering the genomes of thousands of mammals, Colding’s team has dialed back the evolutionary clock to re-create humankind’s common ancestor. The method? Illegal. The result? A computer-engineered living creature, an animal whose organs can be implanted in any person, and with no chance of transplant rejection.

There’s just one problem: these ancestors are not the docile herd animals that Colding’s team envisioned. Instead, Colding’s work has given birth to something big, something evil.

Okay, that’s a pretty big promise of chills and thrill, right? The obvious comparison is Crichton’s Jurassic Park, as this is about a team of scientists who meddle with Mother Nature using genetic engineering and wind up creating a bunch of monsters that lead to their doom.

On the surface, it kind of reminds me of Deep Blue Sea, but what that film lacks, this novel has in spades (by that I mean character development).

Now, I’m not criticizing Deep Blue Sea for not having lots of character development because it is a monster movie and the main characters are the big, bad sharks. The people they are trying to eat are almost secondary to the story, so it makes sense not to invest too much time in their story, especially when most of them are just going to get eaten anyways.

But Ancestor spends time letting you get to know the characters – some of which are admittedly caricatures (like the insane head of security and the reluctant scientist), but Siglar’s genius is in developing the less important characters, like soldiers-for-hire, the C-5 flight crew and those living on Black Manitou Island.

There were also many great little bits and pieces in this book IMHO. The evil billionaires heading Genada were Canadians, including Magnus, who had spent time in JTF (Canada’s version of Delta Force). They set part of the novel in the Canadian Arctic. If that wasn’t interesting enough, one of the security guards was busy writing vampire novels in his spare time! :lol:

I actually read this BEFORE I read Infection and I was very impressed. Scott Siglar gets one star just for setting part of the book in Canada – far too few authors do that IMHO. While the book has its flaws, it was hard to put down and that’s what I look for in a book – something that will entertain me and keep me hooked.

Four stars out of five.

Coffin Hop Souvenirs – you know you want ‘em!

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