Submitted by Geoffrey Dow on Mon, 2014-03-03 01:30
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'Steaming like raw meat dropped onto a hot stove'
March 3, 2014, OTTAWA — It's not news that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I have a soft spot for space opera; I confess, the big space base (which I initially mistook for a starship of some sort) adorning the cover of Neal Asher's novel, The Departure, helped sell me on it.
As it turned out though, The Departure hardly qualifies as space-opera and only squeaks by as science fiction pretty much the way Superman does: on technicalities only.
Though it's set in the future and some of the action takes place in orbit and on Mars, the book is really just a narrated first-person shooter dressed up in some SF tropes — a corrupt and incompetent world government, artificial intelligence, robotic weapons and a transhuman genesis.
But all that is only window-dressing. That spectacular cover is a gateway to lugubrious dialogue, sophomoric libertarian philosophy, hackneyed world-building and, especially, to one pornographic blood-bath after another.
The Departure is one of the worst books I have read in a very long time. More boring than Atlas Shrugged (which I reviewed a while back), it drips with just as much contempt for ordinary human beings. Unlike Rand's John Galt though, Asher's superman does much of his killing at first-hand.
Does this novel have any redeeming qualities? The short answer is "no". The long answer lives behind this link.
Submitted by Geoffrey Dow on Wed, 2014-01-08 11:58
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It's a mystery ...
January 9, 2014, OTTAWA — I've said it before and will certainly say it again: there is a big danger in giving control of a venerable and much-loved popular fiction franchise to a writer who grew up reading or watching the stuff.
When a true fan takes the wheel of their beloved creation, it can become a toy, a gadget used to satisfy the writer's childish fantasies, not a vehicle for delivering stories to others.
The results tend to become ever-more convoluted and self-referential, leading to a slowly-dwindling audience of those hard-core fans who enjoy the nostalgic winks, the meta nods, while the general public starts to look elsewhere for its entertainment.
As for fans like me, who wants story and character to go along with the in-jokes and arcana, the result can be torture. We feel almost as if a person, someone we love, is being abused and yet helpless to do anything about it.
And so I keep watching (for those of you who have wondered): because I care, even though my caring has been so painful, so often, these past three years.
I'm sad to say that "The Time of the Doctor" was not what I was hoping to get for Christmas. Far from it. So be warned: My review is long, spoilerific, and laced with venom and vitriol (though also, I fancy, sweetened with a strong dose of pure Canadian maple syrup. And pictures. And arguably one paranoid fantasy).
Ringing in the new year with a book signing!
January 8, 2014, OTTAWA — The BumblePuppy Press is holding its first event of the new year in Ottawa's Glebe at neighbourhood fixture Brittons Books! If you're in the area — or even the city! — come on down, meet Carl Dow and (of course) buy a copy of The Old Man's Last Sauna!
Carl (and I) would love to meet you there!
Click the image below for a larger size poster and full details.
Submitted by Geoffrey Dow on Thu, 2013-12-05 03:41
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December 5, 2013, OTTAWA — It was 1978 or 1979. I was in grade 8 and quite liked my home-room teacher. Mr. Pritchard also liked me, the bright, nerdly kid who had made the school's "newspaper" his own, contributing articles, editorials, cartoons — and (yes) even reviews.
One afternoon after class, as I watched over the Gestetner machine chunking out its blue mimeo pages and Mr. Pritchard watched over me, I mentioned I was looking forward to Saturday, when another episode of Doctor Who, this British television program I'd recently discovered, was going to be broadcast, right before the hockey game.
Mr. Pritchard looked up and laughed, his moustache bristling his delight. "Really!" he said, "Is that still on the air? I used to watch it when I was your age!" He was probably about 30 then, meaning I had barely been born when he was my age!
Learning of that long continuity delighted me as much as — and maybe more than — it did Mr. Pritchard. And now that 15 years of the program's history has become 50, and my personal continuity with it is twice what my teacher's was, the fact that Doctor Who is still on the air delights me even more.
All of which makes me doubly-pleased that the program's 50th anniversary episode, "The Day of the Doctor", exceeded my (admittedly, low) expectations by a wide margin. While not without some significant flaws, Steven Moffat's long-awaited 2013 series finale (of sorts; the upcoming Christmas special will probably mark the real series end, as well as the transition to the next) was a well-crafted entertainment, that balanced humour, drama and nostalgia and, even, pathos, without getting bogged down by the Enormous Anniversariness of it all.
Though some nonsensical elements demonstrated yet again Moffat's tendency to confuse plot with story and maguffin with plot, structurally, "The Day of the Doctor" was a happy anniversary present for this jaded and weary viewer.
Certainly it was the most entertaining multi-Doctor special to come down the pike since, well, forever. I really did laugh and I really did cry, on both first and second viewings — and it's been quite a while since a Moffat-scripted episode of Doctor Who hit me like that.
As usual, my full review is liberal with spoilers. And yes, I spend quite a lot of time exploring those "significant flaws". If you don't want your pleasure challenged, I recommend staying away; if you want in read on click here for The Day of the Doctor: The Bad, the Good, and the Meta.
Submitted by Geoffrey Dow on Sun, 2013-11-17 21:36
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Resurgence of hope?
November 22, 2013, OTTAWA — Doctor Who returns tomorrow, in yet another special, this one to be simulcast all over the world, the better to prevent the spilling of spoilers before their time.
Do I sound cynical? Those (few) of you who have been wondering what happened to my long-promised review of "The Name of The Doctor", first broadcast last spring, might well expect me to be.
I won't disappoint you: I still am.
But I ran across a bit of a surprise a couple of nights back, in the form of an eight-minute (mini) episode called "The Night of the Doctor." I don't suppose many of you reading this are still in the dark about it, but just in case, I'll offer no details here. Beware the spoilers that lurk in my review!
The surprising pleasure I received from the above-noted short film, saw my cynicism tempered, a little, by hope that this Saturday's long-awaited extravaganza might also surprise me. That hope saw me finally re-visit last spring's ostensible finale, "The Name of the Doctor" — and, yes, to also finally review it. That review is behind this cut. Spoilers, of course, and also a return to much wailing and gnashing of critical teeth. You've been warned on both counts.
Note to local readers:
The Old Man's Last Sauna celebrations
November 20, 2013, OTTAWA — I'm very pleased to announce that The Old Man's Last Sauna is now available at Brittons in Ottawa's Glebe at the corner of Bank and Fifth. If you can't make it out to our launch party at Daniel O'Connell's Irish Pub this coming Sunday, then Brittons is the place to be!
Catching up, or trying to
The Old Man's Last Sauna
is was born
The Old Man's Last Sauna,
delivered at last!
November 17, 2013, OTTAWA — This entry was supposed to have been written nearly a month ago. In fact, it mostly was written very early on the morning of October 26, but careless user-error on the part of yours truly — due in large part to extreme exhaustion (I ain't taking the fall for this one, your honour!) — saw it eaten up when I closed my text-editor without first saving my deathless prose.
And so it was that the front page of Edifice Rex Online completely ignored what is quite possibly the most important even in its pretty long (internet) life: the launching of The BumblePuppy Press as an actual publisher, with an actual book in print and ebook editions!
Yes, Carl Dow's first book, The Old Man's Last Sauna cried its first on the morning of October 25th, 2013, when five cartoons containing the proof were delivered to my door, a mere 24 hours before Mr. Dow (yeah, he's my dad) and I were due to take our places at a table at the Ottawa Independent Writers' annual Author's Fair.
I'll have lots more to say when I get the chance, but for now, I'll just let you know that we're having a launch part this coming Sunday (November 24, 2013), at Daniel O'Connell's Irish Pub here in Ottawa. The details and a chance to register for tickets (they're free!) are at our EventBrite page. There will be readings, a chance to meet the author, book give-aways and live music provided by Kevin Dooley & Friends!
If you're in town, forget about the Grey cup and come out to celebrate with us!
(And if you want to know how I reacted to the book delivery back on the 26th, read The cavalry came in five cardboard cartons (but be warned: salty language ensues).
Submitted by Geoffrey Dow on Thu, 2013-08-29 15:25
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The prodigal blogger returns (again)
August 29, 2013, OTTAWA — I hate the fact that I am so often making excuses and apologies for this site's less-than irregular schedule, so I am not going to bother this time. The three months that have passed since I last updated have been busy ones for me, and even productive ones, but not much of the evidence is yet ready for pixelation.
I would like to wax elequent about the criminality behind the West's latest march to war in the Middle East, or the police states being revealed on our shores, but for now I can only commend you to my Twitter feed if you want my take on the state of the world.
As for Rex, I can offer only my sole venture into the wasteland of this year's summer blockbusters — not the new Star Trek or E-Men (was there an X-Men movie this year?), but a sequel to a minor hit from a few years back that I liked quite a lot. The original, that is. The sequel? Not so much. Kick-Ass 2 wears sneakers, not steel-toed boots.