Far Cry 4: Game Review

Far Cry 4 Limited Editon packshot_0Finished Far Cry 4 (Xbox360 version) yesterday and, ultimately, it is a disappointing game.

First-person open world games are my favourites, and some entries in the Far Cry series are right up there alongside S.T.A.L.K.E.R. as amongst the best.

In a way, Far Cry 1 started it all — allowing you to approach missions any way you wanted, with few set paths. Far Cry 2 took this to a new level, opening up an enormous map of a (fictional) section of Africa, allowing the player a great deal of latitude in playing the game the way they wanted to. Far Cry 2 also took itself quite seriously and, despite it’s numerous bugs and annoyances, was a dark tale with strong messages on ethics in war. I think Far Cry 2 is still my favourite of the series.

Far Cry 3 was gorgeous to look at, and took the open world nature of FC2 to an entirely new level. Unfortunately, the POV character was lame and the story even worse. There were also constant attempts at humour, and I mean ‘attempts’, and a silliness to many of the characters that meant it lacked the gritty seriousness of FC2. There was no real moral, and the ethics questionable. I played it through though (twice!) because the scenery was so good, and I just loved the open nature of the missions. Ultimately, though, I was hoping for more with FC4.

Far Cry 4 started out well. The new setting (Himalayas instead of a tropical island or African savannah) is even more gorgeous than previous games, and the verticality of the mountains make a very different game. And the wildlife! Tigers, Bears, Rhinos, Elephants, Eagles, Honeybadgers (damn those honeybadgers!)… they’re all there and they’re all dangerous. Very exciting! But the story? The POV character’s motives for getting involved in all this are near non-existent. You’re just expected to become a bloodthirsty killer, mowing down natives in another near Third-World country, for the flimsiest of reasons (if there actually WAS a reason). And the ending was VERY anti-climactic. After pouring over 45 hours of my time into this thing, I expected some sort of pay-off at the end. Unfortunately, it just sort of fizzes out.

So, the verdict? It looks amazing and there have been many improvements — getting the wingsuit so early really opens up the world, and the single-seat ‘Buzzer’ helicopters were a great addition. I still loved just wandering the world, climbing mountains and traversing valleys, watching Eagles snatch pigs from the fields and bears fight with tigers. I loved stealthing into an enemy compound and taking guys out silently, without anyone ever knowing I was there… and if things turned to shit, I always had enough heavy weaponry to blast my way to victory. It was AMAZING!

But the story? It sucked so bad that it spoiled a lot of the experience. I’m glad I played it, but I probably won’t be going back to Kyrat. Hopefully, FC5 will return to the much more serious (and adult) style storyline of FC2.

Score: 7/10

From Out of the Dark now available

New_From_Out_Of_The_DarkEditor: Robert N Stephenson
Publisher: Altair Australia Publishing
Published: 9 January 2015
290 pages
Available in two formats: print and ebook (free)

From Out of the Dark is a SF/H anthology set in the gap between galaxies, in the immense darkness of space with all the frightening aspects and contemplation billions of light years of unseeable entities can bring.

A collection of 10 short stories by 10 unique writers, including Tony Shillitoe, Gene Stewart and Gregory L. Norris. Some stories travel the same road, some not so close, some are classic space opera and some are strangely different. But these are not just first encounters. This is not horror added the SF or SF added to horror by slight of hand. These are journeys into places we cannot and will never imagine outside of telescopes and maths.

Edited by Robert N Stephenson (Altair Australia Publishing), an award winning author of novels and non fiction/fiction collections, with over 100 short stories published across the world. As an editor, Robert has edited over 30 full length novels, as well as Altair Magazine for 3 years, and other anthologies in SF and Horror.

Written in Darkness by Mark Samuels – review by Mario Guslandi

23462553WRITTEN IN DARKNESS

By Mark Samuels

Egaeus Press 2014,

Hardcover, 127 pages

A review by Mario Guslandi

The latest short story collection by British author Mark Samuels ,aptly entitled “Written in Darkness” , confirms his ability to unearth the dark side of the universe as well as the dark depths of the human soul. Darkness is everywhere, in the failing economy, in the breakdown of our place of work, in the emptiness of the daily routine, in the loneliness of our life, in the nature of our secret feelings. That is the common ground of the nine stories assembled in a slim, elegant volume published by Egaeus Press.

Obviously, not all the stories have the same intensity and some are more accomplished than others. The general tone may sound a bit depressing, so I advise you to savour each tale in separate reading sessions rather than being engulfed in a spiral of pessimism and melancholy : you will enjoy the stories more.

In my opinion the best stories are : “A Call to Greatness” a Kafkaesque piece featuring a stern Baron hopelessly fighting against the Bolsheviks, “My Heretical Existence”, a short, sinister tale about an elusive zone of an European city where a different, dangerous reality is lurking and “Outside Interference”, a puzzling example of urban horror involving the employees of a corporate firm located in a building,the basement of which conceals deadly secrets.

My favourite ,however, is a very traditional horror story, the deliciously creepy “Alistair” where a little boy becomes privy of the dark mysteries surrounding an old mansion and the adjacent cemetery.

- review by Mario Guslandi

2015 Ditmar Award nominations open

Nominations for the 2015 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) awards are now open and will remain open until one minute before midnight Perth time on Sunday, 1st of February, 2015 (ie. 11.59pm, GMT+8). Postal nominations must be postmarked no later than Friday, 30th of January, 2015.

The current rules, including Award categories can be found HERE.

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Swancon 40, the 2015 Australian National SF Convention. Where a nominator may not be known to the Ditmar subcommittee, the nominator should provide the name of someone known to the subcommittee who can vouch for the nominator’s eligibility. Convention attendance or membership of an SF club are among the criteria which qualify a person as “active in fandom”, but are not the only qualifying criteria. If in doubt, nominate and mention your qualifying criteria. If you received this email directly, you almost certainly qualify.

You may nominate as many times in as many Award categories as you like, although you may only nominate a particular person, work or achievement once. The Ditmar subcommittee, which is organised under the auspices the Standing Committee of the Natcon Business Meeting, will rule on situations where eligibility is unclear. A partial and unofficial eligibility list, to which everyone is encouraged to add, can be found HERE.

While online nominations are preferred, nominations can be made in a number of ways:

1. online, via this form.

2. via email to ditmars [@] sf.org.au; or

3. by post to:
Ditmars
6 Florence Road
NEDLANDS WA 6009
AUSTRALIA

Book of the Dead by Greig Beck – review by Geoff Brown

9781760082437_Book-of-the-Dead_cover1Book of the Dead

by Greig Beck

Momentum Books

(review by Geoff Brown)

Military horror. That’s what I like. Hell, that’s what I tend to publish through my own press. The term is pretty self-explanatory. Guys with guns shooting at things that shouldn’t exist. When you put it that way, it seems pretty basic, but it’s hard to pull off one of these tales without losing the reader. Things get too hard to believe, and then bam, the reader rolls their eyes and you’re lost them.

Australian writer of military horror Greig Beck manages to keep the reader engaged throughout his books, and I can tell you, that is hard considering some of the creatures that act as the villain in them. I’ve read Beck’s books since I first discovered This Green Hell, the third book in the Alex Hunter series, his most well-known works. As soon as I read that one, I raced off and found copies of the two earlier books, and then waited (somewhat impatiently) for the follow-ups. Since then, he’s written two more in that series, and a number of other books, all as exciting and thrilling as I had come to expect.

Book of the Dead is not an Alex Hunter novel. It follows a side character from that series, paleolinguist Matt Kearns, on a mission that even Hunter may not have survived. From the depths of history, word has carried through the ages of elder gods and of a time they will rise up. Many of the prophets of these events have been called mad, and to anyone listening to what they try to warn us of, they surely do seem insane. Yet… in this madness lies the seeds of a dangerous truth.

In our age, massive sinkholes begin to open across the globe, dragging anything on the surface down into the depths. When authorities investigate, they find no trace of any living thing. No bodies, no forensics… nothing. When these sinkholes start to get bigger and bigger, there are also reports of ‘things’ rising from the depths. As more and more people start to disappear, the government is forced to act. They recruit a team of specialists which includes Professor Kearns. The team explores one of the sinkholes, and find evidence to show that the ancient, elder gods are once again ready to rise from their ancient slumber. Their aim? Another catastrophic extinction event, just like the last few times they have risen. Life on Earth would cease to exist.

The team of military and civilian experts find themselves in a race against time, and against an unknown but powerful and ruthless enemy, to find the Book of the Dead before it’s too late.

Beck takes a man-made mythos, that of Cthulhu and the pantheon of elder gods he leads, and brings it blazing into the Twenty-First Century. Things that have only caused fear in legend and literature are now rising up to destroy the world. The characters are believable, the pacing is frantic, and the plotline is so incredible only a few authors could make it seem so believable. Beck is one of those authors. He has really hit his stride with Book of the Dead, and I cannot wait to see what he does with his next book.

- review by Geoff Brown

Geoff Brown AKA G.N. Braun is an Australian writer and Australian Shadows Award finalist-editor raised in Melbourne’s gritty Western Suburbs. He writes fiction across various genres, and is the author of many published short stories. He has had numerous articles published in newspapers, both regional and metropolitan. He is the past president of the Australian Horror Writers Association (2011-2013), as well as the past director of the Australian Shadows Awards. He is an editor and columnist for UK site This is Horror, and the guest editor for Midnight Echo #9.
His memoir, Hammered, was released in early 2012 by Legumeman Books and has been extensively reviewed. He is the owner of Cohesion Editing and Proofreading, and has now opened a publishing house, Cohesion Press.

Exile by Peter M Ball – review

index

Exile by Peter M Ball

Apocalypse Ink Productions

Exile is the first novella in what is (I believe) a trilogy, The Flotsam Series. Broadly defined, it’s urban fantasy. But I like to think of it as a whole new subgenre: Gold Coast Demon Noir.

The story follows the return of Keith to the Gold Coast (in Queensland, Australia) from sixteen years of self-imposed exile. It was self-impose exile or die in circumstances that are slowly revealed through the plot. But returning is utter lunacy and Keith knows it. The trouble is, he and his partner, Roark, really messed things up with a cult in Adelaide and returning to the Gold Coast is about the least deadly option left open.

Ball has done a great job of creating a grimy Gold Coast noir setting here and it was great to read something so thoroughly Australian, yet retaining all the great tropes of noir as we know it. Then add in the supernatural elements and it’s a heady brew of worldbuilding. Ball’s description of the Gloom and the creatures from it who inhabit people and live just beneath the fabric of society is expertly handled. The development of the plot and characters shows a writer at the top of his game. He’s also used the novella length really well for structure.

However, it’s not all rainbows – after all, what is? As far as the writing is concerned, the only real complaint I have is that it’s a novella. I know that seems strange after my comment above, but Ball writes really tightly and with great economy of language, which suits the novella well, but this story is left hanging wide open and there are all sorts of things follow up on. It’s not like the next one will be a sequel – rather a continuation. So I wonder why all three weren’t put together as a novel rather than three novellas. But let’s be honest, that’s a pretty weak complaint.

My other concern is with the publisher. The edition I read via the Kindle Store was absolutely riddled with typos, missing words and so on. This is no fault of the author, as the publisher’s job is to find and fix that stuff. So that was rather disappointing. But it’s no reason to avoid this story.

Dark, gritty, funny in places, horrible in others, this is Gold Coast Demon Noir done perfectly. Highly recommended. I’m looking forward to the next one.

.

Suspended in Dusk – edited by Simon Dewar

Dusk - New CoverSuspended in Dusk
Edited by Simon Dewar

Books of the Dead Press (http://www.booksofthedeadpress.com/)

E-book: ISBN 978-1-3117783-8-3

Suspended in Dusk is the latest anthology from Books of the Dead Press, and the first for Australian editor Simon Dewar. Featuring 19 tales from a mix of new and established authors, and an Introduction from Bram Stoker Award winning Jack Ketchum, Suspended in Dusk hits its mark more often than not.

It’s always nice to have a note or introduction from the editor at the beginning of an anthology; a place where they lay out their thoughts and goals, their targets. Simon Dewar does this quite well. He tells us that the stories are all about change, and the time between those changes, much as dusk is “the time between the light and the dark”. Some of these changes are metaphorical, while others take the theme more literally.

To the stories! I might not mention all of them, only the ones that really stood out for me. This isn’t to say there are any bad stories in the anthology; that certainly is not the case. Any reader of horror will find plenty here to enjoy, and those tales that weren’t quite for me might be exactly what another reader is looking for.

First up is “Shadows of the Lonely Dead” by Alan Baxter. A beautifully written and emotional tale about a hospice worker with a gift for easing the suffering of the elderly as they slip into death, and the greater ramifications that has on her life outside the hospice.

Anna Reith’s “Taming the Stars” takes us to the dark and gritty side of Paris, with a story of a drug deal that goes horribly (and gruesomely) wrong.

“At Dusk They Come” by Armand Rosamilia invites us to a small town at sundown for a well written take on the old tale of ‘doing deals’ with the nefarious.

Rayne Hall brings us “Burning”, a Southern Gothic flavoured tale with a conspicuous absence of the supernatural, but all the more horrifying for it. As in real life, “Burning” shows us that people — especially those isolated by the ignorance of their own world views — are much worse than any monsters we can imagine.

Chris Limb’s “Ministry of Outrage” reveals the truth behind corporate and governmental conspiracies in a tale that is all too scary for its plausibility.

S.G.Larner give us “Shades of Memory”, wherein religion reigns in post-apocalyptic Queensland and the locals of a small town, who want no part of it, have some ghostly superstitions of their own.

“Outside In”, a strange Quantumpunk-Noir by Brett Rex Bruton, is one of the most interesting pieces in the anthology. The story begins: “I swing my feet from beneath the warmth of the covers and down on the cold, hard copy of the opening paragraph.” I stared at that — “hard copy of the opening paragraph” — and wondered if it was some kind of strange typo, an editor comment inserted by accident. But no, it isn’t! It is slips like this, in the walls of reality between story and reader, that really made this story stand out for me. Very original.

“Would To God That We Were There” is the creepy science fiction story I’ve been trying to write for years. I even have 10yr old opening paragraphs that are near identical. I never knew where to take the idea, but it seems that Tom Dullemond did, and he does a wonderful job of it.

The anthology finishes on a high-note too, with Angela Slatter’s “The Way Of All Flesh”. I love a post-apocalyptic story that doesn’t focus on the actual apocalypse, but instead on the people who are trying to get on with their lives. “The Way Of All Flesh” accomplishes this brilliantly, subtly, and in the end, very disturbingly. It’s a fitting end to a collection of so many fine stories.

As I said earlier, I haven’t mentioned every story; only those that really shined for me. A few of the other stories just weren’t too my taste, or I found personally a little predictable. Be that as it may, there isn’t a badly written story here. In every case the prose is well constructed and, in a few stories, quite beautiful.

Overall, Suspended In Dusk is a very good collection. I think there’s something for everyone’s taste — vampires, werewolves, ghosts, zombies and plenty of nefarious humans — and I’m sure others will find things in certain stories that I didn’t. And the mix of authors, old and new, means you’re certain to be introduced to someone you’ve never heard of before: which I think is the most exciting part about reading any horror anthology.