Dark Rite by Alan Baxter and David Wood – Review by Damien Smith

DISCLAIMER: Thirteen O’Clock is managed by Alan Baxter, Felicity Dowker and Andrew McKiernan as Contributing Editors. While the Contributing Editors’ roles at Thirteen O’Clock are editorial and critique, all three are primarily writers. It is inevitable that their own work will form part of the Australian and international dark fiction publications which are Thirteen O’Clock’s focus, and as such it is also inevitable that their work will be reviewed at Thirteen O’Clock (to prohibit this would not only be unfortunate for Baxter, Dowker and McKiernan themselves, but for their hardworking editors and publishers).

Thirteen O’Clock will always have a third party contributor review the Contributing Editors’ work. Such reviews will be unedited (aside from standard corrections to typos and grammar), posted in full (be they negative or positive), and will always be accompanied by full disclosure of Baxter, Dowker and McKiernan’s place at Thirteen O’Clock. At no point will Baxter, Dowker or McKiernan review their own work.

Dark Rite webDark Rite by Alan Baxter and David Wood

ISBN: 978-1940095004

Gryphonwood Press

Dark Rite is the inaugural collaboration between Thrillercast co-hosts Alan Baxter and David Wood. It sits on the cusp between a long novella and a short novel (just over 40,000 words for the pedantic) which means, whilst difficult for award judges to classify, it is able to deliver a novel’s worth of story and action in a package that’s easy to digest in an afternoon.

We open with our protagonist, Grant Shipman, heading to the tiny Appalachian hamlet of Wallen’s Gap to deal with the deceased estate of his father. Dumped remotely by his girlfriend of three years and no longer tied down to anyone or anything he seriously considers joining the seemingly friendly community permanently.

However, such thoughts are short-lived as he begins to unearth some disturbing facts about the town, its people and history. As a result, he quickly manages to inadvertently scare off Cassie, the only normal-seeming local, and have some disturbing run-ins with the resident banjo-wielding heavies.

With Cassie’s help, he begins to piece together an increasingly horrifying history of Wallen’s Gap and its occupants despite being stone-walled at every turn. Throw in a brutal public murder in broad daylight for good measure and Grant and Cassie realise they’re stuck firmly in the middle of a small town conspiracy of Hot Fuzzian proportions.

It becomes increasingly clear that there was more to the death of Grant’s father and the conspiracy enwrapping them is more than two people can handle. Dark cults, magic, brutal violence, witches and warlocks crash together and spiral towards a bloody and catastrophic conclusion with the unstopability of a demonic freight train.

Although I’ve not had the pleasure of reading David Wood’s works to date (something I plan to rectify shortly) I have read many of Alan Baxter’s works and whilst the dark cult was no shock, the main protagonist surprised me somewhat. Rather than being some heroic skull-cracking anti-hero, Grant Shipman is nothing more than an ordinary man. A young, fit, no-nonsense man for sure, but still with all the familiar problems and frailties of anyone else in the world and therefore easy to relate to.

Whilst nothing else particularly caught me off guard as the story played out, it was nonetheless a rollercoaster ride that kept me turning the pages until I was almost late for work. This story ticks all the boxes of a rollicking action / cult mystery, including the obligatory hook at the end, and would make a fantastic movie should that option ever arise. Wood and Baxter have managed to construct an engaging, punchy story that is dark enough to sate the bloody-minded but not too dark to keep the rest of us up at night, and for less than the price of the coffee, this is definitely worth the investment of an afternoon.

Damien Smith has heard that to be a great writer, one must read a lot and write a lot. While the former is covered off in spades, he reserves the latter for when he can actually imagine something stranger than his young family and the world around them can throw at him. If you’d met his family, the frequency of his writing may surprise you and give you some insight into his mind. Occasionally his stories even get published.


Black Feathers: The Black Dawn, Volume One by Joseph D’Lacey – review

BlackFeathersBlack Feathers: The Black Dawn, Volume One
by Joseph D’Lacey
Published by Angry Robot Books
UK ISBN – 978-0-85766-345-0
US ISBN – 978-0-85766-344-3

Black Feathers is the first volume in a new horror series by Joseph D’Lacey. The story follows two main threads simultaneously. We have young Gordon Black, a thirteen year old boy living in a slightly alternate version of our own modern day. In Gordon’s England, the world is sinking into economic collapse and being ravaged by various naturally destructive phenomena like solar flares and earthquakes. The land is ruled with an iron fist by The Ward, a combination of brutally right wing political party and zealous corporate conglomerate, driven by a greed for money and power. The people of most countries have voted The Ward into control globally after the successful lobbying of the party to convince the populace that only The Ward can protect the people against the swift descent into Armageddon facing them all.

Concurrent with this story is the tale of Megan Maurice, a young girl living far in the future, in a green and pleasant post-apocalyptic land where people have returned to living with the Earth, putting back as much as they take out and revering the Great Spirit and The Earth Mother. Megan is approached by Mr Keeper, a very revered holy man among the people, and he tells her that it is her destiny to walk the Black Feathered Path. This is a path of Shamanic learning, where she puts herself in the path of the stories of the Crowman, for someone must keep the tales alive in order to never lose the knowledge.

By now I’m sure you’re getting the feel for where this book is going. Gordon’s family are abducted by The Ward, but Gordon escapes and goes on the run. He is told he must find The Crowman, a terrifying creature of modern legend who some say is pure evil and others say is a force for good. As Gordon runs, the world descends quickly into its destructive cycle as the Earth Mother shakes off the scourge of humanity and The Ward are desperately hunting Gordon, as he is prophesied to usher in the end times, which is something they can’t allow if they are to maintain their grip on power and profit.

It should be quite clear by now that this is a book with a very clear and unashamed agenda. D’Lacey has an affinity for the Native American mythology of the Earth and it manifests throughout this narrative. The thing is, D’Lacey is a brilliant writer and while the message is something of a sledgehammer throughout, the story, the characterisation and the sheer beauty of the prose make that okay. This is an excellent story, very well told.

The juxtaposition of Megan’s life with Gordon’s is adroitly handled, giving the reader a huge and encompassing view of everything while maintaining a personal and powerful focus on these two very difficult journeys.

There’s an almost YA feel to the book at times, as both the key protagonists are young teenagers. But this is most definitely not a YA book, as the horror of Gordon’s world is laid bare time and again. I was pleased that D’Lacey didn’t shy away from the depravity in the hearts of humanity when it’s pushed to the edge. The threat to Gordon as he seeks is constant and very real, and The Ward is only one of many enemies on his quest.

Megan’s journey is one of discovery, a strange mix of vision quest and genuine, physical seeking. Sometimes the two are blurred together and D’Lacey does a great job of letting us in on enough of the story while still keeping Megan’s discoveries fresh and engrossing.

The anti-corporate, love-the-Earth message is a little heavy-handed at times, particularly at the very end of the book. By then it was at a point where it really didn’t need reinforcing and the final pages could have been much tighter without that repetition. But that’s a small complaint. The end, however, is far from the end. There’s no real Book One resolution here – we are most definitely only at a stopping point in a far longer narrative. Certain things come to a head – things the reader has been sure of for most of the book, only unsure how they will manifest, but that is the nature of this kind of story.

The Crowman mythology here is excellent, especially for all fans of corvids. The crows, ravens, rooks, magpies and others play central roles in the growth of Gordon as he runs and the weaving together of modern and ancient myth is brilliantly developed. The Crowman himself is a wonderful invention.

You need to go into this book knowing that its message is central to its existence. If you accept that, you will enjoy a superbly written dark fantasy with some truly original ideas and a very clever culture-crossing hero’s journey. I’ll certainly be looking out for further volumes to see how D’Lacey develops this story and where it might ultimately lead.


Review: Witch Hunts – A Graphic History of the Burning Times

witch-hunts-a-graphic-history-of-the-burning-timesWitch Hunts – A Graphic History of the Burning Times
By Rocky Wood & Lisa Morton
Illustrated by Greg Chapman
Publisher: McFarland
Paperback, 186 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7864-6655-9

Blurb: For three centuries, as the Black Death rampaged through Europe and the Reformation tore the Church apart, tens of thousands were arrested as witches and subjected to torture and execution, including being burned alive. This graphic novel examines the background; the witch hunters’ methods; who profited; the brave few who protested; and how the Enlightenment gradually replaced fear and superstition with reason and science. Famed witch hunters Heinrich Kramer, architect of the infamous Malleus Maleficarum, and Matthew Hopkins, England’s notorious “Witchfinder General”, are covered as are the Salem Witch Trials and the last executions in Europe.

Way back when I had just started High School I discovered, in the library, graphic novel versions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Othello and Romeo and Juliet. There were also graphic novels of the life of Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. They were brilliant. They not only introduced me to wealth of historical figures and to Shakespeare’s genius but they cut through all the hard work of the original texts. They presented art and history in a visual way that made the past exciting and interesting. It is something that stuck with me. It is something that helped pave the way for my own journey to becoming a writer and illustrator.

What has ‘Witch Hunts – A Graphic History of the Burning Times‘ to do with this?

Well, I think they’re much the same. On opening ‘Witch Hunts…‘ for the first time, I was struck with a wave of nostalgia. Like I was that little kid in the school library, just now pulling down one more book after all these years. Within a couple of pages —  or maybe it was only a couple of panels — I was hooked.

Witch Hunts – A Graphic History of the Burning Times‘ begins with a brief introduction, an overview that sets the direction and tone of the work. There’s a bit of time-jumping in the chronology of this section, but bear with it. ‘Witch Hunts…‘ very soon settles into a detailed chronological telling of ‘The Burning Times’ (roughly 14th to 18th centuries) and beyond to the horrors still perpetrated around the world today.

A couple of things struck me about ‘Witch Hunts…’. Firstly, the obvious knowledge of the authors is there in every word. It was sort of amazing to me, as I read, to see how much history they’d encapsulated within such short bites. To distil all that information down to just a few words shows a real depth and understanding of the subject matter. Also, I felt I learnt more, retained more, and enjoyed it more than I ever have any history text-book. HWA President Rocky Wood and Bram Stoker Award winning author Lisa Morton really have to be congratulated on achieving such a feat.

Secondly, the artwork by Queensland author/illustrator Greg Chapman is spot on for the work. The style is not that of the modern ‘comic’ — all mood, bold blacks filling 80% of a panel — but much more what I remember from those old Illustrated Classics in the library — less chiaroscuro, more detail, more character. Again, as with the authors, the research that must have gone into each and everyone of Chapman’s illustrations is mind boggling. To be honest, I’m no expert on any of this stuff, but every page looks authentic. The clothing, the hairstyles, all the little objects in the background. They mesh perfectly with the narrative, really drawing you into the stories that Wood and Morton are telling.

The overall narrative is one we’re all familiar with through the culture of horror-literature and -cinema: that despicable period of inhumanity that began with the Spanish Inquisition and spread as Witch Hunts and Witch Trials throughout Europe and the New World. But Wood, Morton and Chapman take us beyond that; back to the religious and biblical origins of ‘Witchcraft’ as an evil and as a sin in the introduction, then later beyond the 18th Century. They also delve deeper. They offer up an onslaught of historical events and incidents. Grotesque images by Chapman. Individual things that happened to individual people, and these people had names. Sure, I’d sort of read and seen TV docos on the sort of things that the Catholic Church did in the 15th Century, or what occurred in Salem. But never before has this history been shown to me on such a personal level. As I said, these people had names, and now I know some of them. That has to bring anyone closer to history, doesn’t it? Gets you right in there, and you begin to really understand what these people went through. Isn’t that what learning history is all about?

That’s where ‘Witch Hunts – A Graphic History of the Burning Times‘ really worked for me. It showed me stories of real people. All the horror and the torment they went through and all the madness of the people who’d condemned them. It certainly is graphic — Chapman’s illustrations are often more uncompromisingly gruesome than the text — but it serves to show a truth about our past that we should not shy from. In light of some of the religious and political events happening around the world today, remembering that truth seems, to me, an especially important thing.

Ultimately, ‘Witch Hunts – A Graphic History of the Burning Times‘ is informative in a way few non-fiction works are, and it’s great-looking too! Definitely a worthwhile addition to any horror reader’s or writer’s library.

Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig – review

by Chuck Wendig

Publisher: Angry Robot Books

UK ISBN 9780857662323

US ISBN 9780857662330

ePub ISBN 9780857662347

Mockingbird is Wendig’s second novel from Angry Robot Books and the sequel to Blackbirds (which I reviewed here.)

Mockingbird picks up a year or so after the events of Blackbirds, with Miriam and Louis in some kind of stable situation. But this is Miriam Black, so we know that’s not going to last. Louis sets Miriam up with a job using her special power to see how people are going to die. A friend of his works at a school for troubled girls and wants to know if her suspicions of terminal illness are well-founded or not. Miriam reluctantly agrees to use her powers for good.

While at the school she touches a young student, a troubled teen called Lauren, and sees her suffer a hideous death, aged eighteen, at the hands of a particularly nasty serial killer. This leads Miriam to investigate further and she begins to uncover a lot of horror, murder and mayhem,  dragging her through several twists, reversals and life-threatening scenarios.

Once again, Wendig showcases his excellent writing skills, with tight powerful prose, locked into the voice of his characters like a tick to exposed skin. The character of Miriam definitely grows in this book – she’s explored more deeply, we discover more about her background and what has led her to be the way she is. She also begins to realise what she is to become, where her own destiny lays.

The irreverence and black humour are still well in evidence and this book is definitely darker than Blackbirds. Horrible people do horrible things, but there’s also a deeper, more pervasive dread throughout this book that Wendig handles with far greater skill than the last one. The development of the supernatural aspects of Miriam’s life and talents was particularly well done, and greatly interesting to me. And there’s still more to learn, so it seems likely that we’ll be getting more instalments. At least, I hope we do.

The story this time around is a lot more complicated than Blackbirds, but complicated in a good way. Mockingbird is a longer book than Blackbirds, but it still rocks along with that addictive pace Wendig maintains so well. It’s twistier than a dark mountain road and characters play a variety of roles. Miriam is in the thick of it all the time and kicks butt and takes names throughout. In fact, she also gets her own arse thoroughly whupped on many occasions. It’s sometimes hard to suspend disbelief at just how much punishment one small woman can take at the hands of these brutal assailants, but I suppose she’s a kind of superhero, so maybe it’s okay. A foul-mouthed, smart-assed, violent, crazy, psychic, killer of a superhero, at that.

Mockingbird is a violent and powerful tale addressing fate, mortality and our duty to others. It’s funny, horrible and often quite disturbing. Which makes it a lot like life. Wendig’s characters, particularly Miriam Black, are well realised and engaging. Even Louis (who I found a bit bland in Blackbirds) is a far more interesting person this time around. Mockingbird is, in many ways, a much better read than Blackbirds.

Urban fantasy, horror and thriller all rolled into one. Delicious. Five stars.


Damnation And Dames – review by Damien Smith

DISCLAIMER: Thirteen O’Clock is managed by Alan Baxter, Felicity Dowker and Andrew McKiernan as Contributing Editors. While the Contributing Editors’ roles at Thirteen O’Clock are editorial and critique, all three are primarily writers. It is inevitable that their own work will form part of the Australian and international dark fiction publications which are Thirteen O’Clock’s focus, and as such it is also inevitable that their work will be reviewed at Thirteen O’Clock (to prohibit this would not only be unfortunate for Baxter, Dowker and McKiernan themselves, but for their hardworking editors and publishers).

Thirteen O’Clock will always have a third party contributor review the Contributing Editors’ work. Such reviews will be unedited (aside from standard corrections to typos and grammar), posted in full (be they negative or positive), and will always be accompanied by full disclosure of Baxter, Dowker and McKiernan’s place at Thirteen O’Clock. At no point will Baxter, Dowker or McKiernan review their own work.

Damnation And Dames (Edited by Liz Grzyb & Amanda Pillar).

Ticonderoga Publications April 2012, ISBN 978-1-921857-03-4 (Paperback)

Damnation and Dames is a sixteen-story paranormal noir-themed anthology from Ticonderoga Publications.  I remember seeing it appear in April and thinking that it sounded like a great read, but since I’d only recently got to Base Camp One of my pile of unread review books I had to sadly let it pass by.  Seeing another opportunity arise recently to review it, I couldn’t resist any longer.  Paranormal noir sounded like a really interesting spin.

What the heck is paranormal noir?  Well you know noir: private eyes, prohibition, mystery, dames with dangerous curves, characters narrating to the fourth wall.  Take that and mix in a bunch of ghosts, vampires, zombies, legendary creatures and at one point an undead king kong and you have paranormal noir.  Given the dark nature of noir it seems only natural that the unnatural creepies would creep in eventually and this collection certainly delivers what it advertises.

The collection kicks off by plunging straight into the vampiric underworld in Jay Caselberg’s Blind Pig with a full complement of dangerous (and damned) dames and collisions of the normal and paranormal worlds, and delves deeper from there.

There is an ebb and flow between paranormal and noir, with many stories being a solid mix of both.  Brian G Ross’ Hard Boiled only touched the surface of the paranormal, but with gems like “I knew never to trust a broad with a naked flame that close to my face, even one who seemed like she’d been poured out of a lingerie catalogue and dipped in perfume” you can almost hear the saxophone spilling quietly from the gramophone in the background.  Contrasting that are tales like where humans are the second-class citizens doing their supernatural superior’s bidding like M.L.D Curelas’ Silver Comes the Night or merely a background theme as in the excellent One Night at the Cherry by Chris Large, where a zombie detective has some problems with a genuinely dangerous doll.

Robert Hood’s Walking the Dead Beat is one of the only stories not written from the first person perspective and deserves a special mention if only for including a Playdead magazine in an undead bordello.

There are also two collaborative works in the collection: Burning, Always Burning by Alan Baxter and Felicity Dowker, and Prohibition Blues by Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter, both of which warrant a mention because although I’ve read many offerings from all four authors, both stories were so seamless I couldn’t pick who had written what, despite the authors’ differing styles.  One bone I would pick with Burning, Always Burning though is that it hinted enough at a much wider world that it felt like a prologue to something larger, and I found myself flicking through the anthology looking for the next instalment.  Hopefully it’ll come at some point.

Which brings me to about the only fault I could find with the collection: due to the nature of the format several of the stories finished up right when I felt they were just getting good.  I’d love to see some of the authors take the worlds they’ve hinted at here and let the various beasties rampage across a longer format.

I’ve picked a handful of the sixteen stories to mention for no real reason beyond the fact they stuck in my head for a particular line on theme.  Damnation and Dames brings together a bunch of stories from authors international and local, experienced and fledgling (Three Questions and One Troll is Chris Bauer’s debut work of fiction and he should be justifiably proud of the company it’s keeping) and it’s difficult to find a weak link amongst them.

Damnation and Dames can be found over at http://ticonderogapublications.com/ Upon finding, be sure to add it to your collection.

Reviewed by Damien Smith.

Damien Smith is a regular reviewer for several publications, most frequently online zine The Specusphere. Whilst usually content with being an armchair expert on other people’s work, he recently had his debut publication in SQ Magazine. Observing the social dynamic between his young daughter and two dogs provides endless inspiration, so there will no doubt be many more stories to come. Some of them may even get published.


The Hunger Games movie – review and analysis by Halinka Orszulok

The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games is based on the first of a trilogy of young adult novels written by Suzanne Collins and has some very devoted fans of all ages. As one would expect, opinions vary about whether the movie has done justice to the written work. It seems most fans of the books are pleased with the film, however some feel necessary detail was lost. Other readers felt those same details made the written work drag so the story was in fact told more effectively in the film. I have not read the novels so can only comment on my experience of the film and the story told in this context.

It begins by immersing us in the world of Katniss, who lives with her mother and younger sister Primrose in impoverished District 12. Here people exist hand to mouth and in constant fear of Peacekeepers who enforce the iron rule of the Capitol. This is a time far in the future where new and amazing technologies exist for those lucky enough to live in the Capitol, but life in the Districts is hard, basic and rudimentary. They slave sourcing raw materials, while barely able to feed their families. Katniss’ skill with a bow and arrow in the forbidden zone of the forest helps them get by, but such unlawful behaviour is carried out at great risk, like feudal England where serfs starved but hunting in the king’s forest was a crime met with serious consequences.

An even more chilling terror than that of the Peacekeepers is the fear of being chosen in the annual Reaping to take part in the Hunger Games. Every person of a District between the ages of 12 and 18 is put into a ballot selecting one male and one female ‘tribute’ to the mighty Capitol. The games are a reality TV sensation somewhere between ‘Survivor’ and the gladiatorial contests of ancient Rome, for the entertainment of the ruling class. There are 12 districts, so 24 competitors in all. It is almost certain death – to win you must survive while the other 23 tributes die. The sole survivor gains fame, fortune and public adoration, so there are volunteers from the Capitol who participate with an intense self-belief, fuelled by the many resources they have at their disposal to train into readiness and almost certain victory.

This film is largely a hypothetical exploration of class and society framed within the experience of young people being thrust into an unjust, terrifying world and having their moral mettle tested. For me, the first and most lasting impact of the film was the dread of being chosen; it forms the crux of many of the ideas underpinning the story. There is such an enormous tension built around the process of the reaping. You can imagine the potential tributes feverishly swinging between thinking ‘please don’t let it be me’ and ‘what if it is me?’ Then, the enormous guilt and relief when they’re not chosen or the numb horror of realising this terrible thing is in fact happening, the nightmare is real.

This plunges the story into two fundamental questions: what individual responsibility do members of a society have to each other and, as a maturing individual, how do you deal with the terror of facing a seemingly impossible battle on your own? What values must you stand by to remain true to your humanity and what do you take with you as comfort in times of terrible fear and darkness?

These questions are played out by contrasting the character of Katniss, and her District 12 co-tribute, Peeta, with the citizens of the Capitol. Katniss is quietly strong and resourceful because she has to be, unsentimental but deeply caring, and will help another even at great risk to herself. Her ethics are an instinct; she doesn’t have to stop to consider what is wrong or right, there is a sense that she knows this reflexively.

Most of the people of the Capitol seem extremely superficial, pampered and live totally without fear of hardship or even illness. They love the Games which are a time of great celebration and never really trouble themselves with thoughts of what the players are put through, let alone about the conditions they live in back in the Districts. It’s OK because it’s not happening to them, they are safe. For the ruling class, the Games function as a social control.

This contrast made me think about the discussions around public versus private education in our world and the slippery slope this represents. There is a parallel between the District kids versus the Capitol kids in the film and the public/private education debate. The District tributes hardly stand a chance against the Capitol Career tributes who have been coached their whole lives for winning. However, the District tributes’ enforced resourcefulness and real-life skills give them a chance of success. As epitomised by Katniss, they have to not allow themselves to mentally lose the battle first by giving up all hope; they have to believe enough in themselves to put up a good fight.

The film is a representation of class division to the extreme and again it hinges on this question of being chosen. The only real difference between the citizens of the Capitol and the Districts is where they were fortunate or unfortunate enough to be born. Fundamentally it’s about that age old saying of being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes; is it still OK when it is happening to you? Or to your child? What about your neighbour or even someone from the same town? Where do you draw the line and separate your well-being from the well-being of others? In this sense the film is like a lesson for young people in ethics 101, but because it was so visually engaging and because there was enough food for thought, its appeal will stretch to a broad audience.

The film doesn’t pull any punches or soften the harsh horror of this future world. The violence is deftly handled with excellent camera work and direction. The camera angles and distance to the action are just right, giving you a very clear sensation of the brutality without being overwhelming. In some ways this suggestiveness makes more of an impact than excessive in-your-face violence. There are nice touches with quiet scenes that effectively build up tension – for example, Katniss waiting to go up into the playing field, her nerves so tangible, you feel that you are in that room waiting with her. The first scene of battle and its aftermath works very well and sets the tone for the action to come.

The camera largely sticks to Katniss as she navigates her way around the terrain, occasionally panning out, but mostly giving the sensation that you are right there beside her, or you are her – tearing through the forest, tumbling down a slope, turning a corner and abruptly colliding with another player knocking the wind out of you. It’s all skilfully done. Part of this is also achieved through the soundtrack. There is little if any music, rather you hear things like her breath or the crunching of the ground underfoot. This adds to the realness and presence of the characters.

I’m a great fan of Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Katniss. I loved her in Winter’s Bone where she played a character with many parallels to this one – the older sibling driven to care for her family and subsequently mature for her years. A lot of the message of this film rests on her portrayal. She will play the game because there is no other option, but she will not give up the core of herself or her values. I think this is a powerful premise to share with a YA audience – if you want to change things sometimes you have to learn the rules of the game first, even if they are blatantly unjust, but not lose yourself in the process. This lesson is driven home to Katniss by Peeta and is something they take to the very end of the Games. In this way at least she is sure to have a moral victory of sorts and we see that this is something to hang onto even when the outcome seems grim. Katniss instinctively knows that comfort in times of real darkness comes from the connections we have with each other.

If there is one criticism I have of the film it is that throughout there are hints of the broader political context outside the game and once the game is over, the ending seemed a little abrupt. There could have been a few minutes spent on tying in these threads to build the context for the next story and make this one a little more complete. However overall it was enjoyable, visually seamless and thought-provoking.


Bio: Halinka Orszulok is a Kung Fu fighter and painter from the Illawarra region of NSW, Australia. She has a Masters Degree in Visual Arts from SCA. You can see her work at www.halinka.com.au