Tag Archive: Stephen King


Review by C.J. Bunce

Twenty years ago this weekend, the sovereignty of Hong Kong was handed back to China by the United Kingdom as the last act of the old British Empire, without incident.

The anniversary of this transfer of power coincides with the release by Hard Case Crime of one of crime fiction readers’ most eagerly awaited events: the final novel of Donald E. Westlake.  The result surpasses all expectations from one of America’s most celebrated authors:  the adventure of Ian Fleming, the complexity of Michael Crichton, the surprises of Stephen King, the thrills of Peter Benchley, the pulse of John Grisham.  A taut thriller, gripping, heart-pounding, and jaw-dropping, Forever and a Death is Donald E. Westlake saving his best for last.  Forever and a Death is his never-before-published new novel–a James Bond story of sorts–with an intriguing backstory.  Tapped to write the second James Bond film to feature Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Westlake created a compelling story of international intrigue revolving around the return of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997.  Because of the success of GoldenEye, the uncertainty of a smooth transfer of power of Hong Kong, and a distaste by the Chinese market for Bond,  the Broccoli family and the Bond franchise machine amicably parted ways with Westlake.  But he then reworked his story in secret, leaving behind at his death in 2008 a stunning action adventure, only snipping the world famous spy from the story.

The result is one of the most intelligent, loathsome, and shrewd Bond villains you’ll ever meet, Richard Curtis, an enormously wealthy business mogul who has amassed a network of corporations across the globe that will allow him to carry out his every wish.  When he is booted from Hong Kong at the transfer of power, he becomes fixated on a power play to destroy Hong Kong as payback.  As with many wealthy CEOs, Curtis is charismatic and influential.  He has encircled himself with individuals who are beholden to him for their own wealth and they would do anything to maintain his and their own lifestyle.  And that includes murder.  Not as preposterous as many Ian Fleming constructions, the method Westlake creates for Curtis is completely believable: using a series of carefully calculated explosions, a soliton wave will be created that will shake the very foundation of Hong Kong and reduce the entirety of the city–skyscrapers, homes, and millions of lives–to sediment.  Westlake introduces his male protagonist to show us the way, a trusted engineer named George Manville (a partner in action with Bond in the original treatment).  Kept in the dark about the ultimate goal, Manville completes the first test on a small abandoned island near Australia that he believes to be part of a plan to make the island into a lavish resort.  But when an environmental group tries to stimy Curtis’s test, a headstrong activist and diver emerges, a woman named Kim Baldur (who would become, to a small extent, Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies) dives into the ocean and swims for shore to stop the operation.  Unfortunately for her, Manville neglected to incorporate a kill switch to the project, and she is swallowed by the wave and what would have been a superb Honey Ryder-esque Bond girl is left for dead.  And this is only the introduction of the novel.

Artist Paul Mann completing the original artwork for the cover of Forever and a Death (from Illustrated 007).

Westlake peppers his story with completely unique characters, and readers will find they empathize with even the most minor of them as they are subjected to Curtis’s gruesome tactics.  You may need to remind yourself to breathe as well-meaning whistleblowers find themselves in Hong Kong’s underbelly just as Curtis begins to carry out a plan to walk away from his destruction with a haul of gold bars that rest in the bank vaults beneath the city.

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Stranger Things cast

Stranger Things is a rare thing among plenty of series bombarding viewers of streaming services.  It would never get accused of trying too hard.  It’s good but not great.  It features no major actors.  It has developed a cult following yet it is not produced by J.J. Abrams (think Lost, Fringe, Almost Human, Believe, Westworld).  And for all these things, it’s just what we want.  We’ve had enough of CGI and big budget explosions and special effects.  Low budget is just fine–for now.  It’s that movie you are looking for late on a Saturday night, but stretched to eight episodes long.

More series like this will make Netflix survive despite all the competition from other services.  Stranger Things is good enough–good at sci-fi and horror and coming of age retro fun–to get you to sign up with Netflix for your next binge watch session.  More important than its storytelling is how the story is told, and the efforts taken to make the series, the characters, the setting, the dialogue, all look like it was filmed in the early 1980s.  Several artists have even mocked up the series marketing material into VHS tape packaging.  Were it a movie-length feature it would probably fool many.  It’s in the same vein as Disney’s Watcher in the Woods.  Like Stephen King’s Firestarter, Stand By Me and Silver Bullet it features kids in a coming-of-age setting.  Its monster/alien horror and soundtrack (available here) reflects the look and vibe of John Carpenter movies.  The marketing screams Stephen King, especially that red-on-black title font.  And it will no doubt gin up nostalgia to spur cassette tapes of its soundtrack like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Stranger Things VHS

It’s Steven Spielberg’s E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, if the story had taken a darker turn, and very similar to Spielberg and Abrams’ Super 8 (Super 8 poster artist Kyle Lambert even created the poster for this series to further lock in the look).  Critics have picked apart odds and ends found in the background of scenes–this item didn’t exist then, etc.  But ultimately the overall feel is very right.  You’ll point to a pitcher on the table, a rug on the floor, a poster on the wall, all that you had back then.  And the season one wrap-up is as satisfying as you’re going to find in a TV series.

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Audrey haven

We’ve been fans of Haven, Syfy’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid, from episode one and seeing Emily Rose (Audrey/Sarah/Mara/Lucy), Eric Balfour (Duke), and Lucas Bryant (Nathan) at San Diego Comic-Con back in 2012.  The three series stars are returning, joined by Dwight (Adam Copeland) and the brothers Teagues (Richard Donat and John Dunsworth), as they have one season to make a final stand against The Troubles.

Unlike so many series that have a good run and are cancelled dead in their tracks, leaving fans hanging forever, Haven will be able to complete its story, with 13 episodes that have already aired in Season 5 and 13 more in the can, including a series finale promising to tie up any loose ends.

haven finale

When we next catch up with the citizens of Haven, Dwight makes an important announcement: Haven PD is no more, The Guard has taken over and everyone is trapped inside town.

Here is a promo for the end of the series:

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EUROPA-REPORT-Poster

We’ve previewed the first trailer for Matt Damon’s science fiction film, Elysium, earlier this year.  Writer/director Neill Blomkamp offers his next entry in the science fiction as social commentary vein following his very successful District 9, one of the few films ever nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.  This second trailer for Elysium reveals a far more layered and interesting film than that shown in the first preview, however, it suffers from the problem on the other side of the spectrum:  It just reveals too much.  It’s possible the marketing folks think they need to show more to get people interested and into the theaters, but you wish there was a better, middle ground to be found.  Still, it looks great.

Check out the second trailer released for Elysium:

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joyland banner

As the carny says “Step right up! Step right up!”

Talk “the Talk” @Titan Books to Win Prizes Money-Can’t-Buy

What’s “the Talk”?  Check out our review of Stephen King’s newest novel Joyland, released this week at borg.com.  Bestselling author Stephen King’s new tale is a murder-mystery mixed with a coming of age story based in the early 1970s in a North Carolina amusement park.  Fans of King will find it in the same vein as Stand by Me (aka “The Body”) and The Green Mile.

Celebrating the release of Joyland, Titan Books and Hard Case Crime are teaming up with a series of digital partners to host competitions to win a free copies of Joyland and a limited run of EXCLUSIVE Joyland canvas prints of Glen Orbik’s cover painting:

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Joyland cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Tomorrow Stephen King’s newest novel, Joyland, hits the shelves already a pre-release #1 Bestseller.  Come back to borg.com Friday, June 7, 2013, for information on how to win copies of an exclusive edition of Joyland or canvas cover prints of the novel’s artwork from Titan Books, publisher of the Hard Case Crime imprint, as part of the Stephen King-Joyland online book tour.

As a fan of many Stephen King movies and TV series based on his books, strangely enough I never made it through a Stephen King novel before now.  Because King’s adapted visual works have been so consistent, I found the easy-going storytelling in Joyland to be very familiar.  Joyland contains themes found in the innocence of Stand By Me (based on King’s novella The Body) and Silver Bullet (based on King’s novella Cycle of the Werewolf), the supernatural of The Green Mile (based on King’s serial novel of the same name), and the Northeast U.S. town-life found in the TV series Haven (based on King’s The Colorado Kid) and The Dead Zone (based on King’s novel).  King’s storytelling is very recognizable–you’d know his style anywhere.  And Joyland is not horror, but a blend of true crime-type drama mixed with King’s signature violent/explicit/graphic accounts of not just the crime that is the focus of the story but the life of the protagonist.  Yet it is also a coming of age story for the 20s set–written in a manner similar to classic middle grade and young adult works, like S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and Tex, and even some of Judy Blume’s works.

Old Joyland Amusement Park

Old Joyland Amusement Park (King’s is a fictional park)

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Chasing the Dead cover 1 Chasing the Dead cover 2

Chasing the Dead is a 2007 supernatural thriller novel by Joe Schreiber.  Schreiber has written several genre novels including Star Wars: Red Harvest, Star Wars: Death Troopers, Star Wars: Darth Scabrous, and Supernatural: The Unholy Cause, as well as No Doors No Windows, Eat the Dark, Perry’s Killer Playlist, and Au Revoir Crazy European Chick.  IDW Publishing writers Matthew Scott and Tim Westland have begun to adapt Schreiber’s Chasing the Dead into a monthly comic book series.

Chasing the Dead  takes readers for a very intense ride.  We meet Susan Young, now separated from the man she married who was a childhood friend.  They both shared a secret, and now their secret has impossibly returned and their daughter is now thrust into what reads like a suspenseful horror movie plot.  A 13-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl are playing at a park in a town that has a rash of child murders.  A strange car slowly pulls up and instead of another abduction the little boy grabs a knife and strikes back at the attacker, killing him, but not before noticing something unworldly about the killer.

Tomorrow Issue #3 is being released and we’re previewing the first seven pages below.  Want to get caught up?  Keep reading for an overview of Issues #1 and #2, and why you might want to check out this series.

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A new movie trailer may explain why Ridley Scott has not been saying anything about what to expect in his new movie Prometheus, the new science fiction film from the universe of the Alien franchise.  Because, like a good magician, he is not going to reveal the big surprises until just the right time.  This is something cool and by itself gets a cybernetic thumb up from borg.com–in its realism, it is oddly prescient, and in its calmness and innocence, something outright creepy.  Check it out:

This new trailer is more an “ad from the world of Prometheus” than a typical trailer with snippets from the movie to entice us to see it.  Like Total Recall with all its advertisements for transplanted memories from the company called Rekall, this advertises something different, something at the core of a lot of science fiction–the ethics of science–just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should do it.

The ad seems like it may be good for people who like the chilling parts of Philip K. Dick’s science fiction, people who liked the brilliant science fiction film Gattaca, but who also hope that world never arrives.  The character is familiar–we’ve seen androids and similar cybernetic organisms before and have discussed several here at borg.com.  This guy looks like Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the eerie quiet and childlike movements also conjure something dark like something you’d get from Stephen King–or maybe like Data just before he malfunctions and takes out the crew of the USS Enterprise.

When and how is this seemingly sentient thing going to break?

Science fiction is often at its best when it shows us tomorrow… failing.  Like the Millenium Falcon with a broken hyperdrive.

This trailer feels like 2001: A Space Odyssey, maybe just because of the choice of the name “Dave”.  Now I am pretty much not a fan of most of Stanley Kubrick’s work.  Despite some neat outer space scenes in 2001, the single scene with HAL and Dave, and some neat set decoration, I’ve never been able to get through the entire film in one sitting.  I just find it stunningly boring every few years when I try it again to see if I will like it this time.  But if Prometheus is like this ad, with this kind of quiet future scary science… this trailer might have elevated Prometheus for me from a future rental to an actual theater ticket.  And that’s saying something because its traditional trailers haven’t convinced me this is something I’ll care about.  But then again, their print ads state this David 8 robot is powered by… wait for it… Verizon.  Umm… right.  And all the restaurants of the future will be Taco Bell.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that Sir Ridley Scott, creator of the films Blade Runner, Alien, and the recent Prophets of Science Fiction series, has some visionary tricks up his sleeves.  But the release of this very, very different movie promotion struck me as surprising, in a good way.  And if they do the movie right, “Happy Birthday, David” may be the next sci-fi catch phrase.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com