Archive for September, 2022


Since 1977 the St. Louis area convention Archon has become one of the Midwest’s premiere science fiction and fantasy convention events.  After canceling its event in 2020 for the pandemic and holding only a partial event in 2021, Archon 45 begins today and it promises a return with its full slate of festivities including its internationally recognized cosplay masquerade, extensive gaming arena, and 250 scheduled events over its three days, September 30 through October 2.

 

The Guests of Honor headlining Archon 45 are Edgar Award-winning mystery and Morris Award-winning fantasy author Elizabeth C. Bunce and Artist Guest of Honor, the award-winning fantasy artist and actor R. Cat Conrad.  Past Guests of Honor include George R.R. Martin, Tanith Lee, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Forrest J. Ackerman, Robert Jordan, Connie Willis, and Barbara Hambly.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re like me and you’ve read nearly all of the adaptations, novelizations, sequels, and spin-offs to the Alien and Aliens movies, you might be surprised at how different these sci-fi horror tales play out when you add the sci-fi hunters of Predator and Predators to the mix.  Husband and wife writers Weston Ochse and Yvonne Navarro take up the challenge in Aliens vs Predators: Rift War, hot on the heels of the Hulu prequel movie Prey.  This story is for anyone who wanted to see more of the third Predator movie: 2010’s Predators, as it could easily take place right after that movie.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

No photographer is more synonymous with U.S. national parks than John Muir, and the world has marveled at his look at the precious national wonders of America for more than 125 years.  Lesser known are 19th century photographers who crossed the country snapping stereographic–three-dimensional–images of these magical places.  3D Disneyland author David A. Bossert has amassed a collection of vintage stereoscope images spanning several U.S. National Parks, and as with his previous book (reviewed here), he’s converted, cleaned-up, and enlarged those stereoscope cards into 3D anaglyph format.  Now they can be viewed by a new generation via those 1950s movie theater-style 3D red/cyan blue glasses in the former Disney Imagineer’s latest book, 3D National Parks, available for pre-order now here at The Old Mill Press.

Teddy Roosevelt in 3D?  You are going to love the result.  You can almost smell the sulfur burbling from the mudpots or hear the deafening sound of the waterfalls at Yellowstone, as these images of the past snap to life before your eyes.

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Did you know there were Advent calendars for Halloween?  Neither did we.  Not really anything remotely religious related, you now have “Halloween Countdown” books to stretch out Trick or Treat, Beggar’s Night, Mischief Night, All Hollow’s Eve–whatever your word for it it’s the night to get your costume game on.  And there’s not just one, but four.  Gifts for 13 days leading to Halloween… one features Harry Potter’s wizarding world… one features The Nightmare Before Christmas… one features Hocus Pocus… and one features the Villains of Disney.

Remember that awesome Borg Cube Advent calendar?  Think that, but for Halloween.  Who’s in?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Sea of Thieves is a first-person shared world action-adventure game pirate adventure, allowing players to sail a legendary world alone or with a crew of up to four players, rooted in that oft’ cited early roleplaying game Oregon Traillive or die by your actions and your wits.  Well, Ahoy there, matey! Microsoft has partnered with Titan Books for its third tie-in to the game (check out my review of Tales from the Sea of Thieves here).  Sea of Thieves: Heart of Fire is the latest novel following up on the first novel, Athena’s Fortunewith both novels written by game creator Chris Allcock.  If you’ve dreamed about venturing into the high seas in the age of pirates and pillaging, Sea of Thieves: Heart of Fire is for you.  Inspired by a world fleshed out in popular fiction by Robert Louis Stevenson and popularized most recently in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, anyone young and old will find this book a quick, easy read full of all the tropes of pirate lore.  And this time readers will learn the backstory of the game’s infamous Captain Flameheart.

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It ticked several boxes for us last year: Best Horror/Thriller TV Series, Best Limited TV Series, Best API/AAPI TV Series, Top 40 TV Series of the Decade (#26!), and it introduced three of last year’s best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines.   It inexplicably got lost in the shadow of the cheap quality and poorly acted series Squid Game.  The Emmy winner should have been Alice in Borderland, a breathless, dystopian, live-action manga, Japanese noir-meets-steampunk thrill ride streaming on Netflix.  Directed by Shinsuke Sato, Haro Aso’s popular manga series came alive with his version of Doomsday, Tokyo-style, a surprisingly violent, surprisingly thought-provoking look at lost souls in a city vacated (as in The Quiet Earth and 28 Days Later) and the remaining citizens left to fight for their lives The Running Man-style or they’ll get zapped and killed The War of the Worlds-style.

The only problem?  The end of Season 1 came too soon.  Netflix is remedying that with a second season, and we have the teaser for it below.  18 million households watched the series, prompting a renewal within only two weeks.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

I always figure second grade is the make or break year for kids.  It’s the best opportunity to reveal all the components of the world to them before they follow along with the crowd into the next “in” thing.  When I was in second grade I had chicken pox, and my teacher provided me with a stack of books to read at home for the next two weeks.  One was about Easter Island, one was about King Tutankhamen, one was about Thor Heyerdahl, and the rest were about space exploration.  Just in time for your kids–or you, should outer space be a recent passion for you–is an updated edition of Marcus Chown’s Solar System: A Visual Exploration of All the Planets, Moons, and Other Heavenly Bodies That Orbit Our Sun, available now here at Amazon, a survey of the subject for amateur astronomers.

At a minimum, this book should be in every school and public library.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Anyone familiar with the Fabled Lands solo RPGs of the 1990s will take quickly to Spidermind Games’ Legendary Kingdoms campaign.  Ultimately expanding to six books, the first of its roleplaying game books in the classic “choose your own adventure” and Oregon Trail format is The Valley of Bones, an immersive journey where you guide four characters there and back again, complete with many of the tools and experiences you’d find in a multiplayer Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The first three episodes of the Rogue One prequel series Andor have arrived on Disney+.  Unfortunately writer/creator Tony Gilroy squandered the first hour and a half.  With only twelve 40-minute episodes for the season, the time typically allotted for an entire movie is wasted on set-up and backstory instead of delving right into the action of a younger Cassian Andor, played again by Diego Luna.  The series is missing the tight direction and breathless scene-by-scene build of its source material, director Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the movie that re-ignited the possibilities for Star Wars after George Lucas sold it all to Disney and laid the groundwork for the Lucasfilm tentpole series The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.  With nine episodes arriving weekly this Fall, Andor has some ground to make up if it wants to match the excitement of those series.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a strange thing.  Kotaro Isaka’s 2004 novel Three Assassins, newly released in an English translation, is actually better than his later work in the same world, his 2011 novel Bullet Train, released in English last year and reviewed here at borg.  It’s difficult to tell whether translator Sam Malissa simply did a better job this time, or if Isaka’s writing was better earlier in his career.  At about half the page count as Bullet Train, this prequel of sorts is certainly a better edited piece of fiction.  It has little in common with his other novel, and its brand of storytelling emulates Quentin Tarantino’s 1990s brand of pulp novel nostalgia.  Unfortunately Three Assassins seems past its time.  Sympathetic to the lives of “philosopher killers” for hire, its melancholy questions about the meaning of life seem dated and out of place today.  Although it amps up the intrigue in its final chapters, this feels pretty thin as action thrillers go.

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