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Tag Archive: The Hunt for Red October


Review by C.J. Bunce

So many genre novels are quick reads, full of action and modern surprises.  Once in a while you stumble upon the slow read–the book that is so smartly written, so exciting and enjoyable you never want it to end, and you force yourself to take it slow and enjoy the author’s use of language.  With his latest book I’ve now added James Lovegrove to my shortlist of authors I will make sure to read as soon as his next work is released.  His new novel is Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils, book three of his trilogy, The Cthulhu Casebooks.  In short, this work has it all–tie-ins, a mash-up, genre-bending, and immersive storytelling in a suspense-filled mystery adventure.  It’s a big feat because the very subject matter and project has much to overcome.  First, it is the third book in a series, not your usual place as a reader to begin.  As it is a new release, I delved in anyway, and discovered Lovegrove crafted a complete end-to-end story requiring no prior knowledge of the first two books in the series.  Second, it’s a tie-in and a mash-up of the most well-known historical characters in all of fiction, Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson twisted together with the macabre, dark world of H.P. Lovecraft.

I’ve reviewed several Watson and Holmes stories written in the past decade and the challenge is always the same–getting two voices just right, voices that are so familiar after reading original Doyle writings, and watching countless modern sequels and a host of television series and movie versions.  One misstep and it’s easy to pull a reader out of the narrative, yet Lovegrove doesn’t skip a beat in this regard.  Whether you’re drawn to the TV series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, the classic Basil Rathbone film version, modern retellings, or just Doyle’s own marvelous words, you will feel this book is a believable sequel to the original stories and the voices are spot-on.  Another barrier for Lovegrove to overcome is getting right that rich world of H.P. Lovecraft, whose works and words drip with a uniquely strange brilliance and eerie beauty.  Again, Lovegrove fully captures the spirit of his creations and seaside environments, too, as if he’d conjured Lovecraft for this story.  This strange mash-up of the logical, rational Holmes and Watson and the dark and fantastical Lovecraft probably shouldn’t work so well.  These are opposites, right?  But Lovegrove fuses them into one, evoking the 19th century wonder of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne science fiction and fantasy along the way.  Not merely a fun romp for fans of either world, Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils has all the realism and research of a scholarly work, sinking us into the world of England, the nautical life of coastal peoples at the turn of the 20th century.

The story begins a few years after the retirement of Holmes and Watson.  In Doyle’s story “His Last Bow” we learned the character retired to a farm at Sussex Downs taking on beekeeping as a pastime.  Only two original stories take place during Holmes’ retirement.  This is where Lovegrove’s Watson catches up with Holmes: The date is 1910 and as England and the world moves toward war, Holmes and Watson learn the leaders of the famed Diogenes Club are all dead, found under strange circumstances.  When three young women go missing in a nearby town, the detective duo takes on sleuthing out their disappearance as their final case, where they encounter local lore that speaks of monsters from the deep and a foretold legend of the return of a phantom from long ago.  Locals believe that is why the women are missing, and Holmes knows it must all be connected.  How much is real, how much is fantasy?  Is it possible Holmes could discover both worlds might co-exist?  Can Holmes ever escape the specter of his lifelong nemesis Moriarty?  And what of his brother Mycroft?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Nearly one hundred years after Bushnell’s Turtle (the submersible, not the sandwich shop), Jules Verne introduced the world to his futuristic advanced submarine the Nautilus.  In the pages of his novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, an expedition is investigating a giant sea monster that ends up being Captain Nemo’s famous submarine.   A predecessor to modern steampunk stories, 20,000 Leagues gets a sequel 145 years later in C. Courtney Joyner’s new steampunk novel Nemo Rising

Pushing aside Verne’s own sequel The Mysterious Island, Nemo Rising finds Captain Nemo a prisoner of the United States, jailed in a vault in Virginia in a form of solitary confinement and set to be hanged for destroying the USS Abraham Lincoln.  Partially destroyed but slightly rebuilt and sitting in drydock, the Nautilus would seem to be calling for its captain as a bevy of sea monsters begins to destroy European vessels in the Atlantic.  U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant is eager to hang Nemo, but realizes he needs to negotiate a deal for Nemo’s cooperation to prove that these sea monsters are causing the destruction to get the international community off his back.  As the President dodges assassination attempts riding his trusty horse Cincinnati, he finally resorts to using a new invention, an airship, to redouble the efforts to see that Nemo completes his mission and learns the truth behind these attacks.  Accompanied against his wishes by the airship inventor’s intrepid daughter, Nemo seeks his own form of payback as he takes the choice of the mission over the gallows.  The result is a classic seafaring adventure any fan of classic science fiction or pirate tales will love.

First edition of the original Jules Verne Captain Nemo novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas.

With the pacing and action level of Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October, Nemo Rising reveals a brother-in-arms of Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab on the footing of a modern vengeance story as found in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 or Netflix’s The Punisher.  This Captain Nemo story is a fun read that will be gobbled up by fans of Verne (especially his novel Master of the World) and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  It also reflects the realism of living and working at sea, but without all the precise detail like you’d find in C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower, the Patrick O’Brian Jack Aubrey books, or the famous mutiny stories–it’s more like watching their television adaptations.

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Black Sea movie poster

No it’s not about Sub Search–the 3-dimensional Milton Bradley board game precursor to Battleship–although it sure looks like it could be.  In an era where Hasbro is partnering with movie studios to create tie-in films, why not?  What we do have is Jude Law, star of the movie Sherlock Holmes series as well as genre classic Gattaca, leading the next submarine flick coming soon to theaters, Black Sea.

We’re always waiting for the next “best submarine thriller.”  Back in February 2013 we previewed the David Duchovny and Ed Harris submarine film Phantom here at borg.com.  The one to beat is, of course,  the best submarine thriller ever made–The Hunt for Red October, based on the novel by Tom Clancy featuring Sean Connery as a Russian sub captain and Alec Baldwin as the original Jack Ryan.  Red October was inspired by actual events–a failed mutiny aboard the Russian anti-submarine ship Storozhevoy by Valery Sablin in 1975.

Sub Search in Black Sea

Black Sea features genre actress Jodie Whittaker (Attack the Block, Marchlands).  It’s about a sub search–a quest for a Nazi U-Boat on the ocean’s floor, supposedly full of gold, and a rough crew at odds with each other as they try to secure it.  After the break, check out the first trailer for Black Sea:

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Predator in 3d

Review by C.J. Bunce

As one of the top 10 science fiction movies of all time, Predator is one of those movies you’ve likely watched over and over.  Directed by John McTiernan, who would go on to perfect the action movie genre with Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, Predator is equal parts action and horror highlighted by an incredible science fiction villain as realized by the great Stan Winston.  But if you haven’t seen Predator since its theatrical release in 1987 or watched it only on video or DVD, then it’s time to watch it again.

Although it wasn’t originally filmed or released in 3D, Predator is now available in 3D as Predator 3D.  Remastered and converted to 3D using the same methods to up-convert movies like those used for I, Robot 3D and Top Gun 3D, McTiernan’s direction and Donald McAlpine’s cinematography just happened to be perfect for a Predator upgrade.  Who could have thought the 75% of Predator that is primarily jungle chases and little alien presence could still be so incredibly suspenseful?

Predator 3d limited edition

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jack ryan shadow recruit poster

After Tom Clancy’s passing this week, fans of his biggest character, Jack Ryan, have been introduced to a new phase of the movie incarnations of his geopolitical thriller novels with this weekend’s release of the first trailer for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  Last December we at borg.com listed Jack Ryan as one of the ten characters to watch in 2013, and we included Jack Ryan, the movie, as one of the 24 films we predicted would be worth seeing in 2013.

Since last year’s announcement of Chris Pine taking on the lead, the title was changed to add the subtitle Shadow Recruit, replacing the prior subtitle Shadow One (we think Hollywood really needs to work on their subtitles).  The role of Jack Ryan was, of course, first played by Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October in 1990, followed by Harrison Ford in Patriot Games in 1992 and Clear and Present Danger in 1994.  Ben Affleck then played a younger Jack in the 2002 prequel film The Sum of All Fears.  All four of these movies were based on bestselling Clancy novels, The Hunt for Red October often being listed as one of the best thrillers of all time.  Likewise, The Hunt for Red October is one of the best, and most exciting, movies of all time, with Alec Baldwin’s performance still the standard for future Ryans to be measured against.

Costner and Pine in Jack Ryan

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Hannibal - Season 1

If only it wasn’t another incarnation of Hannibal Lecter.

In hindsight the Academy Awards sweep of Silence of the Lambs at the 1992 Oscar ceremony seems very strange.  A win for a horror movie about a cannibal that took best film, best director for Jonathan Demme, best actor for Anthony Hopkins as the villain Lecter, best actress for Jodie Foster, and best writing for Ted Tally’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novel–it was pretty much unheard of.  The actual antagonist in the film was far creepier than Hopkins’ Lecter, played by Ted Levine, who would go on to star as the far kinder cop in Monk.  The Hunt for Red October and Silverado star Scott Glenn also had a key role in the film as an FBI director.

One explanation for the Oscar wins was that the events were preceded by actual cannibalism in the news and as sometimes happens Oscar nods to movies reflecting life.  The other is that it was a pretty bad year for movies, with Lambs facing off against the underwhelming JFK, Bugsy, and The Prince of Tides (it beat one acclaimed film, the bigger box office draw for the year, the successful animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast).  It also beat out two of the best sci-fi films of all time: Terminator 2 and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  Yet which of these are the only films that stand up to repeated viewings today?  Not Lambs or Tides or Bugsy or JFK, but the now classic genre films Terminator, Trek VI, and Beast.

Hannibal poster

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Phantom movie banner

Advance marketing for the new Ed Harris and David Duchovny submarine movie Phantom used “Something is Down There” as the tagline for the film.  Sounds supernatural?  We think so, too.  If so, it’s about time we get David Duchovny back in full supernatural X-Files mode, and back on the big screen.  And Ed Harris isn’t a stranger to the supernatural or submarines, starring in the 1989 film The Abyss, and genre favorites The Truman Show, Apollo 13, The Right Stuff and the original Coma.  But they dropped the earlier tagline and are now using “You’ll Never See It Coming,” “Brace for Impact,” and “The Enemy is Within.”  Sounds like a supernatural thriller.

So what about the “Inspired by Actual Events” part?

Not much has been released about the actual events inspiration for the film.  Scenes in two trailers released seem to mirror scenes straight from one of the best submarine thrillers ever made–The Hunt for Red October, based on the novel by Tom Clancy featuring Sean Connery as a Russian sub captain and Alec Baldwin as the original Jack Ryan.  Red October was inspired by actual events–a failed mutiny aboard the Russian anti-submarine ship Storozhevoy by Valery Sablin in 1975.  Might that be the source for Phantom?  The current movie poster has “WWIII” down the center.  Maybe it’s another Philadelphia Experiment tie-in?

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Green Arrow and Superman

If there is a constant as we look ahead to movie franchises and other entertainment properties in 2013, it is the sequel, spin-off, and remake.  We’re sure someone will provide new content and stories for us for movies and TV from entirely new characters and worlds in 2013, but just take a look at the 24 biggest genre movies coming out next year and it is obvious that Hollywood is following the “tried and true” model of investing in current properties rather than investing money in “the new”.

So with that in mind, what are the big characters to watch out for next year–the characters we already know that seem like they can only get bigger?

Chris Pine as Jack Ryan

10.  Jack Ryan.  Back in the 1980s and 1990s it seemed like Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan was everywhere, first with Alec Baldwin taking on the role in The Hunt for Red October, then mega-star Harrison Ford in two sequels, followed by a big break and then Ben Affleck in the prequel Sum of All Fears.  With Star Trek star Chris Pine bringing us yet another prequel effort next December, we think a wide audience will come back again to see what this CIA agent has been up to.

Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine

9.  Wolverine.  I’ve always thought Wolverine should be Marvel Comics’ key property.  Spider-man always relied on Peter Parker (well, until recently) who seemed pretty planted in the psyche of the past.  The Avengers seemed too cartoony with characters with too little in common to really be a huge property (happily I was wrong!).  But Wolverine has a certain modern grittiness that readers, especially young readers, would seem to really attach to.  Audiences seem to like Hugh Jackman’s take on the character and his incredible fifth outing as Logan/Wolverine in July, titled The Wolverine should tell us if this will be the end of a big-screen Wolverine for a while or whether he will only get bigger.

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