Sunday 29 January 2012

Thundercats reboot…

Ok so perhaps I’m a little late with this post as it is a while since the series aired but being a huge fan of the original Thundercats I felt it necessary to finally inflict the remake upon myself and consequently inflict my reflections on it upon yourselves.

On first glance I shied away and my initial impressions were numerous. ‘Lion-O doesn’t look like that.’ ‘The Thundercats don’t look like that.’ ‘Why isn’t Snarf talking?’ ‘What happened to the rest of the theme song?’ ‘Where’s Panthro?’ ‘Why is Tygra so mean to Lion-O and how can they be brothers?’ My mind was reeling with questions and attempting to hold onto as much of the original series as possible.

However, I watched with an open mind and found myself soon drawn into this re-imagining of one of my childhood favourites. Tygra is adopted and jealous that he will never be king. Snarf may not speak but his other character traits have definitely translated. Fear not, Panthro does reappear and the visual appearance of the characters, with their sharper lines and anime styling, becomes pleasingly appropriate once you get into the series.

I was also glad to see that some of the core elements of the original Thundercats have remained. The logo, the Sword of Omens and thankfully Lion-O’s “thunder, thunder, Thundercats, Ho!” have survived the years along with an almost exact “ancient spirits of evil, transform this decayed form into Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living!”

So it may be modernised and it may be different to the original but fortunately the programme makers have recognised that the original fans may not welcome a remake with quite so open arms and have thus ensured they bring the core elements across but have also made the series sufficiently different to the original that it does not replace or destroy what we watchers from the 80s loved so much. Overall conclusion is it is not bad and I will be watching the rest of the series because it is Thundercats after all. Don’t think I’ll ever be replacing my DVD set for a new one though.

Elloise Hopkins.

Thursday 26 January 2012


With the dramatic end of the second series of the BBC production of Sherlock I felt it necessary to share my thoughts on what has become a phenomenon in popular culture and hopefully enough of you have seen it now so I won’t spoil it. On the Sunday airing I was entertained to see that during the final episode Twitter went silent as the UK suspended reality to watch and then burst into comment at the end as people began to speculate over just what was happening.

I confess the week before with the Baskervilles adaptation I had been less enthused with the series and wondered whether perhaps the novelty had worn off or the audience expectations had become bigger than anticipated.

With the end of the series though all of my doubts were dispelled. Fantastic writing coupled with strong performances from the main characters made for an episode that had me enthralled throughout. I won’t give anything away but it really did blow me away and reminded me just how powerful an adaptation can be when translated well. It is nice to see the detective rendered so popular once again.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Book review: Giant Thief...

David Tallerman
Angry Robot

Easie Damasco is about to be hanged by a trio of fishermen no less. Well, Easie is a thief, although he denies this particular crime vehemently. He is a smooth talker as well though and his witty comebacks do delay the hanging long enough for a rescuer to arrive. Well rescuer is perhaps the wrong word. Moaradrid is in fact the leader of this army and the fishermen some of his ‘soldiers’ although the word is perhaps used loosely in their case.

Nonetheless Easie is spared his noose and instead recruited into Moaradrid’s army to put himself to some use – no point wasting an able man. Not yet anyhow. Easie quickly learns that his destination, the volunteer brigade, is a sure path to slaughter at the hands of the enemy as soon as the armies meet in battle; the volunteers meet the first onslaught as sacrifice to keep the real soldiers safe. Easie is introduced to some of Moaradrid’s band including the terrifying giant Saltlick – an enormously formidable creature that sadly has unswaying loyalty to Moaradrid, or so it seems at first.

Easie fancies death at the point of a sword or spear, or even at the hand of a giant’s fist, no more than he fancied a hanging and rather than stick around to serve in Moaradrid’s army, which by some irony happens to be the enemy of his own people, he puts his skills to good use, steals Moaradrid’s hefty money pouch and somehow manages to escape practically unscathed. By a strange turn of fate Saltlick is ordered to obey Easie and the giant assists in making the getaway.

Now, Easie Damasco, renowned thief and now a giant thief, finds himself relentlessly pursued, riding on a giant and running rapidly from one danger into another. Saltlick turns out to be more of a burden than a blessing and quick as he can Easie ditches the giant to make good his own escape. He reaches the town of Muena Palaiya and hopes the Thieves Highway can help him shake off Moaradrid for good. Unfortunately he finds himself at the mercy of a new foe and by an inescapable irony his only means of freedom now relies on his relocating Saltlick and stealing the giant anew.

Tallerman has great command of language and phrasing and the witty tone of this book makes it a thoroughly enjoyable read. The pace is fantastic and the action takes off right from the start tracking Easie’s misadventures from one theft to the next. An endearing protagonist, a host of excellent supporting characters, a less than communicative giant, and most importantly a unique story, are just some of the elements that make this book worth reading. The narrative flows well and it is not easy to predict what trouble Easie will inflict upon himself in each new chapter.

Perhaps my only complaint is that with the action and pace keeping up so well throughout, we are not given much of a back-story for Easie, or indeed any of the supporting cast, and with some of the characters he encounters it is clear that they definitely have a history. With Giant Thief Due out in February and then another Easie Damasco tale planned for release later in 2012 this is a series and an author to look out for and hopefully Tallerman will reveal more about this loveable thief in later books.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Novel progress...

This week I finished the first draft of my novel Sentinels: Protectors of the Landfolk after blasting through a conclusion that I had been holding in my mind for the best part of a year. Even after a few days the elation of reaching the end of book one is still with me.

I began writing in August helped along by Fantasy Faction’s 500 club so it has taken just under six months to draft the story which is currently just shy of 120,000 words. Perhaps a little short for a fantasy novel you may say but I already know there is more to the story I need to write in – exciting developments occurred as I was writing and unforeseen characters manifested beautifully. There is also a prologue to add in to support events prior to the point the story begins.

So what is the next stage? Well once I have finished celebrating finishing the first draft I have to write it all over again. I feel enthusiastic about doing that at the moment – the thrill at reaching the end is energising me – but once I get past the re-write and into editing stages I hope that my positivity and drive to produce a finished manuscript will stay with me. Here’s hoping.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Sleep deprivation...

Not something I thought would ever be a top blog topic for me but recent conversations with people working in the creative industries have proven interesting. I suffer from frequent inability to sleep and find myself restlessly and irritably lying awake half the night wishing I was asleep – the product of an overactive imagination I think.

What is surprising is that this is a condition that seems to be all too frequent amongst creative professionals. Four out of the five people I spoke to are suffering in the same way as myself – they are a reader at a literary agency, a web developer, a photographer, a part time lecturer/part time writer and an editor.

So what is it about the creative mind that is so hard to quieten at the end of the day?

In my case I think my mind tries hard to make sense of the day’s activities by weaving them into stories and so I find it very hard to switch off and find a state of relaxation that does not involve plot points or characterisation. For me writing helps to digest the things I hear and see and I find a more restful night always comes after a more productive day on the writing front. Solution – write more!

Elloise Hopkins.

Friday 13 January 2012

"Just Get It Done"…

This is a phrase I hear so often in my life. It could be my father, in relation to some chore akin to the room tidying of yesteryear, bellowing “just get it done” along the hall. It could be my internal monologue telling me to stop procrastinating and get on with a tricky chapter.

But the other day I heard a comment from my boss to rival them all. His tirade began (not directed at me I hasten to add) along the lines of our colleagues’ work not being mystical or in any way difficult blah blah and ended like “I don’t understand why it has to be so difficult, just get it done!”

Hearing it from his mouth in a professional environment gave me a little epiphany about how versatile our language is and how with just a few changes of resonance, tone, volume and circumstance we can give few words a multitude of meanings scaling from playful to downright angered.

This is a concept I’m taking into my novel writing. One of my characters already has a phrase he likes to use frequently and now I may just use the phrase to give it a twist on the meaning during some difficult event in his story. Ease of adaptation for expression is possibly the biggest strength of our language.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 7 January 2012

Book review: Exmortus

Todd Maternowski

A new star hangs in the sky, unmoving and ominous. A group of knights journey home to Exmortus having been on a secret mission to retrieve an important artefact, but something hinders their journey. The strange star looks like it is following them and as Yount gets closer he vows to discover what it is. The answer brings a winged creature bearing a sword and the curious knight meets his fate.

Left behind while the knights went on their mission with the Abbot, the young Ash is trying to gain his entry to knighthood and, disgruntled at being left behind, his life in the abbey is not easy. He has always been different and his peers do not make his time easy. Ash craves more than his mundane duties. Watching from Exmortus Abbey he sees the star swoop down then return to its unnatural place in the sky. Word reaches the Abbey that only four of the knights will return from the mission and Ash is left wondering whether Yount is among the survivors.

Ash doesn’t sleep well; strange whispers haunt his dreams and, as he longs for knowledge and ability beyond his years, he fears that something is coming. Startled awake from one of his strange dreams he senses danger. Ash runs from explosions and the sound of screaming and finds the prior Zirev, but it is too late. The injured Zirev thrusts a small box and a message into Ash’s hands and begs him to take them to the Empress. Reluctant to be called a coward Ash hesitates but soon realises that he is Exmortus’ only hope against the evil force of the white demon. Along with his only real friend, Simon, he runs, leaving the destruction of Exmortus Abbey in his wake.

Ash swiftly finds himself in danger unable to escape the Abbey grounds fast enough, but strong hands pull at him and he flees to safety in the company of two highly questionable farmers/warriors. The pair are as far from noble as Ash could find and seem untrustworthy thieves and cutthroats to boot. But they are strong, determined and Ash owes them his life. He cannot dwell on the past or on the dreadful white demon. All that matters to him now is getting the box to the Empress and the young warriors can help him do it. Along with his coarse companions and their even coarser language, Ash sets off on his quest.

Exmortus would definitely fall under the darker bracket of fantasy, having elements of gritty realism and moments of graphic violence – not for the faint hearted – but this approach only added to the believable quality of the action in this world of magic and monsters. The gruesome acts didn’t put me off, rather I understood they were a necessary part of the narrative and they somehow validated Ash’s journey as being essential – there are real night terrors in this world and they must be stopped at any cost.

The action moves at a fast pace and for this reason Exmortus is an easy read, with the reader experiencing Ash’s journey with him and getting that sense of danger and urgency that reflects in his mission. The pace does mean that the depth of sub-plots and the intricate details of the world and its magics are perhaps not as developed as they could be, but the sense of growth in Ash’s character does come across well with a notable change in his behaviour and perception from part one to part two.

The ending of the book did leave me a little deflated considering the rest of it flowed so well. Clearly this is the first book in a series and the final chapter has set up events to dramatically continue into book two, but I was disappointed that so many elements of the story were left unresolved. I reached the last page and felt bereft of a definite conclusion; rather I felt that I had already started reading book two, with new plotlines starting up.

Nonetheless this is a well-written story and I expect the sequel will surpass everything that Exmortus has to offer in the continuation of Ash’s journey.

Elloise Hopkins.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

So this is 2012…

Well another new year begins and I feel like I should be pledging new year’s resolutions for the world to see, but really I think there are too many to list and most of them are probably obvious anyway – write more being the top of the list.

2011 was a great year and my re-cap really helped to motivate me for more of the same in 2012. I may try to see it as a little competition with myself and see if that gets me moving.

So here are my scores to beat:

106,965 words of my debut novel written
231 tweets
150 books read
92 blogs
32 book reviews
2 book fairs
1 convention
1 NaNoWriMo win
1 full time job
½ an MA
and a handful of seminars.

The game is on. I’m welcoming 2012 with an optimistic gaze and starting as I mean to go on.

Happy New Year.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 1 January 2012

Howl’s Moving Castle…

On Friday I went to Southwark Playhouse to see Howl’s Moving Castle, featuring narration by Stephen Fry and music by Fyfe Dangerfield. Stylistically this was a fantastic production. The set was designed to act as a projector screen for the animation and cinematic imagery that were the main drivers of the production. With a cardboard construction of Howl’s castle in the centre, the stage was purposefully plain to allow the actors to interact with the projections, which they did so in a skilful and witty manner; the combination of live action with technical and well-executed visuals and voiceovers worked to perfection.

Howl (Daniel Ings) and Old Sophie (Susan Sheridan) delivered stunning performances that really brought the much-loved characters from Diana Wynne-Jones’ book to life for me. Howl was wonderfully flamboyant and exactly as I pictured him in my mind when I read the book. Also there were elements that reminded me of the (also adored) Studio Ghibli production of the same story: Howl’s coat was reminiscent of the feathers of Ghibli’s Howl-in-flight look and I think my favourite scene was Howl’s temper tantrum that resulted in a (projected) green slime meltdown after Sophie’s over-enthusiastic cleaning.

On top of the great performance, the venue itself only added to the magical darkness of Ingary – The Vault is a converted warehouse underneath the railway station and felt aptly atmospheric. The only downside for me was that the performance was fairly short (I suspect a result of the painstaking hours that must have been needed to create the visual effects) and so a lot of the story was compromised as a consequence. Nonetheless it was definitely worth watching.

Elloise Hopkins.