George Orwell 1984 – Review

In a recent interview I was asked about books that have influenced me. There are some books and films  that I have read and seen once, that were truly brilliant, and I never want to be exposed to again.

Dracula by Bram Stoker was one, read as a child. He just kept on winning. Another, read when I was sixteen in the 1970’s, was George Orwell’s 1984.

This is a dark story of Winston Smith, living in a totalitarian society ruled by the wonderful Big Brother. Winston partially remembers a childhood rhyme from the past

“Oranges and Lemons sang the bells of St Clements…”

His journey to discover the rest of this haunting song, mirrors his quest for identity and love, in a society where all is crushed, and the past before the revolution, dissolved.

Published in 1949, it was a terrifying prediction of things to come. When things go badly for Winston he is threatened with Room 101. This is the room where you face your most terrifying fears, used to tear out your last thread of resistance, and human spark of identity. When I was a young man, the BBC, champion of British television, made a light entertainment program based on this concept!

The most disturbing concept for the young me though, was the constant surveillance. The concealed camera in his living space, in his television.

When things go wrong, it is in his most private, secret, safe space, shared with his love.

This is the first review I have written that even hints at the plot, and for that I apologise. When I read this story 1984 was still in the future, it was still Science Fiction. Like Aldous Huxley before him, Orwell, master of literature, paints a terrifying future society.

Now, 34 years on from his vision, I leave you to judge the reality.

Copyright Jhedron Luckspar © 2018

London Conversation

This conversation dates from February, and some how missed being posted. Things have moved on. Beano Grigio is being published on July 1st. The Lift is already available on my book page. I finished the sequel to the children’s book yesterday. Guess I have been busy.

My plot lines? Well, good question.

My plot hopefully runs through with some kind of logic. But it’s a bit like a Morecambe and Wise song, all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.

Because my characters are cosmic adventurers, assassins and warriors, bouncing backwards and forwards in space time, so do the series of events. I like to break up the action and come back to it. So there are multiple plot lines running, but also multiple times, not just now, the past, the future, but also different times in the life experience of each character. The way I look at it, a person’s life is a thread of moments. If I catch the train to London and spend the day at the British Museum and Ronnie Scott’s that’s the thread. Tomorrow I fly to Paris, drink coffee and play chess on the banks of the Seine, browse the shelves of the American Bookshop, and base jump inside Notre Dame. The thread continues. Next day I go back in time, still in Paris, and have dinner with Robespierre. Sunday, I travel by horse to Giverny, and look at the water lilies 130 years before Monet paints them. Four days of my thread. Each character is living their own thread, which crisscross, and intermingle throughout the plot lines.

Base jumping, no I’m only kidding. Never parachuted. An old friend once base jumped inside a cathedral. We pick up inspiration from all places.

I once heard the secret of life. The first two, of three, absorption, expulsion. Expulsion, in this case, creativity, but you need absorption in your life. Experience, travel, books, movies. Sometimes I will hear something in the morning on the radio, and by midnight it will nudge a thought, a sentence, an idea.

My stories are about adventures. People get shot, blown up, stabbed, but they also look at sunsets and enjoy dining together. At the moment in the world, there are events happening, and sometimes their ghost will haunt an idea.

Who knows how the creative process works?

What am I working on at the moment? Polishing off Beano Grigio, my third novel in the Friendship Series. The last few weeks I have been writing some side plots and character stories. I keep being asked for more detail, so I’m trying to listen.

I have a small group of friends who I send out my latest chapters to, when I have written them. It’s good to get feedback. Recently I wrote a stand alone short story, The Lift, which I posted out. Three friends were quite adamant. What happens next? It’s now ten chapters. I have set it aside now to concentrate on finishing Beano, but I guess that’s my next project.

I have the prologue written for Beano, and I know roughly where I’m going on the fourth book in the series. I wrote the first page months ago.

Also I am doing a children’s book with my friend, Faramond Frie. We did a private edition for children of friends and family for last Christmas. We only had time for the cover illustration then, but Fram is working on the artwork for an illustrated edition for publication.

How is it? Well I’m really pleased with it. We got some great feedback from parents, but most importantly from the kids.

It’s a fantasy about a princess, a horse and a dragon.

Why did I write it? Three weeks before Christmas I had dinner with friends. One friend was talking with me about reading to his ten year old daughter, and trying to find something she liked. I inquired about her likes, and was told horses. That was on the Friday night.

On the Sunday I wrote the book. It’s only 25 pages. Fram did the cover and I managed to deliver a hardback copy for my friend’s daughter in time for Christmas. There’s that thing again. Absorption, expulsion. If I hadn’t had the conversation, I wouldn’t have written a children’s book.

 

Copyright Jhedron Luckspar © 2018

Rogue One

 

A straight forward fight between good and evil. This film is magnificent. I had forgotten how good it was and was only really watching it to tweak my new home cinema sound system.

It’s hard to believe that Star Wars is forty years old. No video, dvd or internet in those days. I missed the first film even though my sister was an ucherette at the local cinema. I caught Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back on a double bill, sat on the front row of the balcony, in one of the old giant screen cinemas, all now long gone. I was never the same again.

Rogue One as I’m sure you already know is the immediate prequel to Eposode 4. A small band of rebels who strive to steal the plans of the Death Star that Princess Leah is taking to the Alliance and conceals on R2D2.

If you haven’t by some miracle seen it yet I won’t be giving away the plot. It’s heroic, brilliantly portrayed by an inspired collection of previously little known actors in the central roles. It’s got George Lucas’ name on it and if I was him I would be so proud of this film. It really rocks. It’s Star Wars but without the quirky, goofy humour that we all love, and actually all the better for it.

The strength of the film lies in it’s solid plot. It’s a stand alone story woven within the fabric of Lucas’ epic masterpieces. There are great characters especially the central six.

There are also main characters from the original film cleverly intertwined to tie it all together. Brilliant.

At the end I was connected and you can’t ask more than that.

They keep on making the films. I thought the last sequel was brilliant too. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for great entertainment, but of course, it’s so much more.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s great. If you have and it’s been a while, it’s worth seeing again.

 

Thank you to Faramond Frie for his great artwork.

Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 is a fantastic film. The original was ground breaking. Based on Phillip K Dick’s, “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep,” it was the great cyberpunk world of sleazy streets and magnificent architecture set in a future Los Angeles of flying cars and deep space exploration.

Made in 1982 it was a brilliant multilayered film of film noir, Dashiell Hammett type detective, Science Fiction, beautifully ambient, with the story of the human condition and the gift of life told through the experiences of a small group of androids, or human replicants, who had a four year life span and were fighting their mortality. A complex and intelligent film that the studio forced director, Ridley Scott, to put a commentary voice over, so that the less sophisticated cinema audiences might know what the hell was going on. Blade Runner was a film that inspired a generation.

So quite a lot to live up to. I rewatched the original the week before, thankfully the directors cut, long ago restored to it’s original glory.

The first twenty minutes were a surprise. A step away from the Los Angeles of the future. A little slow as the plot was developing, I was starting to panic. Still, no need to worry. We were soon catapaulted back to that steamy Los Angeles world. That mix of back street Hong Kong or Shanghai, replicant prostitutes, street markets selling robotic parts and organs. That mixture of flying cars and pedal bikes. If you have ever taken a taxi ride in Cairo at night it is full of fast moving images. Beautiful, amazing and scary all at the same time. All the cars driving as fast as they can, like around the Arc De Triomphe in Paris, but with no head lights, dodging, camels, donkeys, carts, pedestrians and all the other completely insane drivers. When you arrive at your destination unscathed it is like being reborn.

The greatest of Science Fiction uses it’s world as the backdrop to tell a great story. Scott’s dystopian world is the stage for a new complex twisting plot that continues and builds on the original story of 2019, now thirty years in the future. I thought it was very well done and I left the cinema feeling lifted, entertained and inspired.

You can’t ask more than that. Harrison Ford, bringing back the role of Deckard was brilliant. Perhaps this film will inspire a new generation. It should do. I hope so.

Hjalmar Wåhlin – Digital Artist

I met this amazing young artist at Swecon, the national Sci Fi convention in Sweden, earlier this year. He produces the most amazing Science Fiction inspired artwork of landscapes and worlds in space.

Pink Elephant by Hjalmar Wåhlin

My particular favourite, of a man looking out of a huge window in space at an incredible vista of stars and nebulae took my breath away because it was such a powerful echo of Lord Stiletto’s library in my own stories. Spooky.

Supergirl by Hjalmar Wåhlin

With a background in commercial retouching, Hjalmar describes himself as a freelance illustrator and digital artist who loves to create.

Observatorium by Hjalmar Wåhlin

I follow a lot of amazing art work on Twitter. Hjalmar’s work is as good as anything done by the greats of Sci Fi and fantasy art. Majestic, imaginative, beautiful, the works speak for themselves. Check out more of his work at his website by clinking on the link, and follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Check out Hjalmar’s website   www.hjalmarwahlin.com

 

Astrum by Faramond Frie

This book is amazing. A story about an adventurer and warrior, recounted to an audience at the Savoy, and written as an epic poem. That’s right the whole book is one amazing epic poem.

Indians living on the moon. Ships that fly, I’m not sure Faramond Frie describes it as such, but there is definitely a Steampunk element to this story, in so far as it is a parallel world of fiction where the science has developed in an alternative way to our own. The blurb on the back of the book describes it as being in the spirit of Jules Verne and HG Wells so I guess that confirms it.

It has grand themes about the way technology is developed by powerful men and misused for their own power and development. The kind of men who in our own world benefitted from the slave trade and develop the machinery of war.

There are elements of love and friendship. Integrity and soul.

The poetry is wonderful. No nonsense poetry that carries the story on a wave of rhyme. It would make a brilliant play.

“I only wanted to test my ability.
I never thought my creations
would come with such responsibility!
And yet the truth is very clear.
My conscience speaks in words of thunder.
I must become a Father.
I will show him love and wonder,
and teach of pain and fear as well
and grow a human heart
beneath the metal shell.”

Copyright Faramond Frie © 2016

Did I mention the robots and dragons?

This is an amazing book and I heartily recommend it.

 

CLICK HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stockholm Conversation

You ask me about the meals in my stories. The friends dine together a lot. In my life I love to eat. Eat out, eat in, good food cooked well. But sharing the experience, that adds quality of life. I love to eat out with friends, or to cook a meal for them, or to be cooked for. Good food, good wine, good friends it’s the stuff of life. Location too is important. Dining, like life is all about ambience, mood. You can find it, you can create it, you can enjoy it. When you get it you have to be a part of it, like being an actor in a play or a film. One of the differences I found going to Steampunk conventions in different countries. In some places the visitors dress up in their bowler hats, goggles, boots, ladies in extravagant dresses. They are into the ideas, the stories of Jules Verne, Phillip Pullman, Cory Doctorow. They assume a character they have created and stay in character all weekend. They create and share in an ambience. In some other places, Steampunk is just a tribe fashion, like mods and rockers.

No, it’s not elitist. Look at Bruce Willis’s character in The Fifth Element. He is a hard nosed character who kicks ass. He still dresses smartly when he goes to the opera.

When I wrote the Rabbit Chronicles, a lot of events and characters were based on real people, real events. I still do that a little. A trip to London or Stockholm will inspire elements of stories. A few characters are based on people I know, friends. Mostly now it’s imaginary characters and events.

When I was writing the Rabbit Chronicles, which I started at a Swedish Sci Fi / Steampunk convention, the story started at that convention, with people I met there. If anyone gave me their email address I used to send out a weekly chapter from the new book. The main villain in the book is based on a guy who emailed me back a few times because he liked the stories. I asked him if he wanted to be in the book, and did he want to be a hero or a villain. So the Hrym was born.

I had about twelve characters and because the friends dining together was so important, and as I was returning to Swecon the following year, I invited all the real people out to dinner at Linkoping at my expense. Three from England and eight from Sweden. We had a great dinner and it became part of the book. The ones who turned up in real life are the ones in the story who survived. I finished writing the book the next day.

Yes, my own character died quite early on. I wasn’t comfortable writing about myself, even if it is imaginary. The surviving characters have reappeared in what is now a trilogy. The Adventures of Miss Ann Thrope is my second book in the trilogy and I hope to have the third book ready for July, six weeks from now.


Yes, I do write quite fast. Short, sharp chapters, and hopefully plenty of them.

Even during the last few days, in Stockholm, I have written every day. I’m off to Uppsala tomorrow for the convention. Looking forward to meeting old friends.

My next project. Well, as I said, the third book is going well. My friend Faramond Frie will be at Swecon signing books. He arrives tomorrow. We are working on a graphic project together which we hope has potential for the future. As well as a writer he is a great artist and has done the covers for my last two books. We were at a Sci Fi convention in Ghent, Belgium, a few years back where we were just across the aisle from his childhood inspiration, Ian Gibson, who worked on the Judge Dredd comics.  He got to spend half an hour talking to him. Whether it’s in the pages of a book, or your life, it’s an amazing adventure. You get to choose.

Thank you very much.

Slan by AE Van Vogt – Book Review

This is a book I first read over thirty tears ago and thought I remembered well enough, but apparently not. I have just reread it and it’s still fantastic.

I was a bit worried when it brought technology in but apart from a woeful underestimation of a rapid travelling space ship, it wasn’t too bad. In 1946 I expect 300mph seemed fast.

The story is set in the future and the Slans of the title are mutated humans that have developed superior physical and intellectual ability and the telepathic ability of reading minds. As such they are hated and feared by humanity who are intent on destroying them. Young nine year old Jommy Cross, the Slan of the story, is quickly orphaned and has to survive in the brutal human world until he can come into his maturity and fulfil his destiny. Pitted against him are the “evil” humans who are mercilessly trying to destroy him and all his kind. Van Vogt’s writing is often beautiful with description which is almost Dickensian. Here’s a quote from early on in the story when Jommy is still a child and has been captured by the utterly evil and self serving Granny.

“It struck him that he had never seen a face that more nearly expressed the malignant character that lay behind the mask of old flesh. With rising disgust he compared her thin, lined, egg-shaped head with the mind inside; and it was all there. Every twisted line in that wrecked face had it’s counterpart in the twisted brain.”

This is a science fiction world written in a pre computer age so his citizens still read newspapers. Now tablets and kindles are taking over and I doubt if paper books will survive except on the library shelves of Lord Stiletto. However it is available in both print and on kindle.

Will Jommy attain his destiny and save the Slan world? A hopefully not forgotten Sci Fi classic that is well deserving of your attention.

Amazon.com         Amazon.co.uk

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The Hobbit – Battle of the Five Armies – Film Review

bilbo

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins

Tonight I watched the final film of The Hobbit.

Absolutely fantastic.

I would imagine like many authors of Sci Fi / Fantasy I was a Lord Of The Rings nut. Read the book a lot when I was young. Taped each episode off the BBC radio production in 1979/80 and listened to it over and over again, to be replaced in time by CDs and mp3. And, of course, the films were fantastic and the extended versions even more so.

 So when I heard The Hobbit was to be made in three films, like everyone, I was surprised. The second film dragged a bit in places but the scenes with Smaug and in Mirkwood were incredible.
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The latest one is just incredible. Who cares if it plays fast and loose with the characters and plot.
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Smaug’s conversation with Bard the Dragon Slayer is breath taking and the special effects, scenery, architecture and fight sequences are just so exciting and beautiful and awesome. It wasn’t perfect, occassionally a tiny detail could of been better, but overall I was in awe. The action sequences are electrifying and just keep on coming, never stopping the quality. I think the best fight scenes ever, although the sequence in Balin’s Tomb in the extended version of Fellowship Of The Ring take some beating.
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Martin Freeman is truly brilliant. His acting career has gone from strength to strength, and Peter Jackson gives him some great lines. Also fine performances by Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, Luke Evans as Bard the Dragon Slayer, Evangeline Lilly and Aidan Turner as the romancing elf and dwarf, a surprising and entertaining performance by Billy Connolly, and a marvellous voicing of Smaug by Benedict Cumberbatch.
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I was talking to a good friend before the film and he hasn’t seen the Hobbit films and didn’t care for Lord Of The Rings.
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I suppose you love it or don’t. Clearly I’m not a professional film critic but I watch a lot of films. This one’s fantastic. It’s loosely based on the book and much more tied to The Lord Of The Rings especially character wise. But, as I have said, who cares? Unless you are a dyed in the wool purist, if you like Tolkien you are going to love this film.
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My Reviews – An Introduction

I have been reading Sci Fi for a very long time and I think some of the great Sci Fi is timeless. We live in an age where technology, the science in Sci is changing at an exponential rate.

When I was at school a computer filled several rooms. my first business computer, the best available had a 20MB hard drive, that would now be one quality photograph. Things change fast so if Sci Fi is tied to technology it will date.

One of the greatest Sci Fi books that I really loved was Enders Game by Orson Scott Card which I read in the early 1980’s, already a huge admirer of Hot Sleep, and now 30+ years later made into a great movie.

He anticipated advanced role playing games and world wide blogs years before they existed. What a visionary.

There are books written in the 1950’s before space flight which are as powerful today as they were when they were written, authors like Clifford Simak and AE Van Vogt. I aim to write reviews of some of my favourite Sci Fi books written over many decades, some new, some old.

I was having this conversation with Zrajm at Swecon in June and he was saying how disappointed he was with the Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, a book I loved when I read it 35 years ago. The issue he found fault with was how nobody was uncomfortable with the removal of the moon from Earth orbit, something he felt would have considerable effect on life on earth, Even the film Bruce Almighty noticed an effect when Bruce pulled the moon in closer to impress his girlfriend. I love Asimov and consider him one of the Fathers of Sci Fi but Zrajm had a point.

When I review I try and give you the flavour of the meal without giving you the recipe. If you like to read the back page of the book first to see how it turns out then my reviews probably aren’t going to be for you.