Listen to my latest short story "The Forest Trail"

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Monday, October 5, 2015

The Top 5 Dystopian Films
Guest Post by Maria Ramos

Dystopian fiction is bigger than ever, and while not all films in the genre are critically lauded or well received by audiences, some manage to stand above the rest with tremendous stories of how society will turn out when the end of the world comes around. Here is a list of some of the best dystopian films in recent years. 

The Hunger Games (2012) 

Based on the trilogy of bestselling young adult novels by Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games helped usher in the new era of post-apocalyptic popularity. Leading this list is the story of a young woman who offers herself for a match to the death in order to save her younger sister. Living in a totalitarian world where children are forced to kill each other for entertainment, the heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself wanting only to survive and return to her family. But through her quest to be the last person standing, she becomes a symbol for a rebellion long brewing against the government.  

Snowpiercer (2013) 

In the future dystopian world of Snowpiercer, all of humanity that remains is living on a giant train, constantly circling the globe. Those people that live near the front of the train are wealthy, well fed, and sure of their superiority. Those in the back of the train are the complete opposite – abused, starved, kept in filthy conditions like animals, and constantly under threat of being killed. When Captain America himself, Chris Evans rises up to lead rebels from the back of the train to overtake the front, all hell breaks loose. The ending of this dystopian film is even more bleak than most films on this list, with little hope that humanity can survive what they have done to themselves. 

The Maze Runner (2014) 

The Maze Runner centers on all male teenagers dropped into a seemingly impossible to solve labyrinth, where monsters and machines are out to kill them and survival is a thing not to take lightly. Little is explained about the overall post-apocalyptic world the characters inhabit, though it is obvious that there’s more than meets the eye and the answer to a better future may lie in the survivors of the maze itself. The story is action-packed and ends in such a way that viewers want to see the next installment in the series, if only to have their questions about the premise answered. Although the second film in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials, strayed away from the plot of the book, it still made for an engaging and action-packed feature. 

The Giver (2014) 

Based on the novel by Lois LowryThe Giver showcases a (seemingly) much more peaceful world than those in the other movies on this list. In this world, all emotions have been removed from the populace so that everyone can live in peace and harmony, with no more war or conflict. However, each individual is given a specific use in this society, and if they cannot fulfill that use they are removed from their community altogether. While less centered on action and fighting than some other dystopian stories, The Giver does present a lot of important questions about what it is to be human and to feel emotions, and what a world would be like if that part of humanity was stripped away.  

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) 

One of the biggest, best movies of 2015 was also the latest installment in a franchise that began back in 1979. Mad Max: Fury Road was everything a great, action-packed, post-apocalyptic film should be. It was set in a barren wasteland of a world, run by diseased warlords using water, fuel, and ammunition as leverage against the rest of the populace. One reason the Mad Max series continues to resonate is the feeling that something like this could easily happen in our own, real world, if our reliance on fossil fuels isn’t supplanted by use of renewable resources - for instance, Enmax energy has reported that we may have as few as 54 years worth of oil reserves left, and scarcity has historically led to warfare. The world of Fury Road is obviously a man’s world, run by men and defended by men. However, in this chapter of the Mad Max saga it is not Max that takes center stage in the story. Instead it is Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, who seeks a better life for herself and a truckload of enslaved concubines. Women are the warriors as well as the victims in this dystopian tale.  

While all dystopian stories have a central theme of explaining how the world moves on after an apocalypse-level event, the good ones also work to take their stories in unique, memorable, and surprising ways. And they seek to explain not only why we might be so fascinated with what would happen in a post-apocalypse situation, but why it is so important to work now to make sure those kinds of situations never take place.  

This awesome article was written by Maria Ramos. Click on the label Maria Ramos below to find more articles on this website written by her. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan
Book Review

This was a magical tale full of adventure and fantastical delight. It was really enjoyable. It reads as an instant classic. It fits well with the novel Peter and Wendy that came out in 1911. It's the story told from Hook's point of view. Being a fan of anything Peter Pan I jumped at the chance to read this book.

The writing style is spot on and instantly you're pulled into the nautical world of Hook as he recalls being a boy growing up in Port Royal and encountering Peter Pan, then later Neverland. The way in which he discovers Neverland reminded me of The Chronicles of Narnia and was a really cool part of the story that was super fun to read. I loved the way he describes the part of Neverland he discovers. Parts of this story also reminded me of Tarzan of the Apes, which is a fantastic book. Young James and a friend face incredible beasts  on an island and much like Tarzan their adventure facing off against these beasts makes for exciting fiction.

The author really captures the voice of Captain James Hook and you get to hear his story from his childhood on. It was fascinating and very well told. This book is a real treat for anyone who loves good storytelling but especially for fans of the Peter Pan story world.

There were some incredible sword fights at the end that were immensely satisfying. They made for huge stand up and cheer moments that made my heart swell with pride for the most unlikely of protagonists James Hook. This book was easy to rate at 5/5 stars. I loved every minute of reading it. I was highly entertaining, well written, and full of fun adventures.

Also the narrator David Stifel did an outstanding job with the audiobook. He just nailed Hook's voice and the voices of the others perfectly with all the different accents. It really added to the story to hear it told through a perfect Captain James Hook voice.

Author Websites:

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir | Book Review

Oh man was this book good. Ok let's get into it. I've got to say this book had more stand up and cheer moments than most books I've read, and those are really satisfying moments as a reader. You go on a long tough lonely journey with NASA astronaut Mark Watney. I'm not really a hard science fiction reader and I did get bogged down a tiny bit occasionally from all of the technical stuff but at the same time it was Mark explaining what he was doing to stay alive so the tension was still there. I'm sure a lot of more scientific minded readers will love these details for the realism they add to the story. This story was 100% believable. I believed everything the whole way through. It was as if I was reading astronaut log entries from NASA's website of actual events that happened.

One of the best things about this book is the main character's sense of humor. He wrote the most hilarious stuff. I laughed out loud a ton while reading this book even though I was reading about a stranded astronaut on Mars in situations where it looks like he most likely will die. The things he writes in the log entries you read in the book are so funny. His levity really makes the prose in this book shine and the dire situation he is in more palatable. If it weren't for his jokes and laugh out loud humor I would of had a much harder time reading through the long technical bits and might not have even made it through the story. His humor makes you want to root for him even more. I mean lets face it, everyone automatically wants to root for a guy stranded alone on Mars but the fact that this guy doesn't give up, is extremely talented, capable, and hopeful and hilarious on top of all that just makes you want to root for him that much more.

This book takes you on one heck of a journey. Most of the book is the log entries of the main character Mark who is stranded on Mars. I have to stress though that the other parts of the book written in third person about the people back on Earth trying to save him were really well done too. They had many moments of tension and hilarity.

This book with all of its dire situations and need for extreme knowledge of technical scientific details would have been extremely hard to write even if it turned out dull and boring when it was done. Andy Weir managed to get all the technical stuff right in an amazingly believable way and sprinkle in fantastic humor and great characters you love on top of it makes this an instant classic of Science Fiction in my book. I don't think it has won me over to wanting to read more hard science fiction books, but I will for sure read anything Andy Weir writes. I'm a big fan of his. I can't believe this was his debut novel. It was amazing.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dan Dan The Art Man's Book Reviews | Episode 30
Haywire by Justin R. Macumber

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In this 30th episode I review Haywire by Justin R. Macumber. Listen to hear why I gave this Science Fiction adventure novel 5/5 stars and loved it!

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: 

Written by Justin R. Macumber
Narrated by Veronica Giguere

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Writing Via Recording and Speech to Text

I'm taking a second part time job again soon on top of my normal full time job. In preparation for this I've been looking at what my schedule will be and not finding much time for writing in it. That's unacceptable. So I've decided to employ my digital voice recorder and my phone's speech to text capabilities to help me out. I've done this in the past but it's been years since I've used it to generate prose for a first draft. 

While I commute I record my story into my digital voice recorder. I've tried just doing straight speech to text but then I'm looking at my phone while driving so that's out. Instead I just record with two hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road. Later instead of transcribing it like I used to by listening and typing it all out I'm using my phone. While listening to the recording I speak it back into my phone. My iPhone 5c does an amazing job at converting my speech to text with very few errors. I tried having my phone listen to the recorder to create the text from my recorded speech and it works in a quiet environment, but then cuts out any small edits I want to make as I transcribe. From my 18 small recordings I made yesterday on my way home ranging from 15 seconds to a couple minutes each I cranked out 1,285 words. It took a while to get the audio into text but with my speech to text method it went WAY faster than keying it in by hand even though I'm a pretty fast typist. So this is my new plan. Recording my story while I commute and speaking it into my phone later to quickly transcribe it.

It's weird at first but doesn't take long to get used to and I think my dialog is better for it because I'm saying everything instead of typing it out. It also gives me a chance to do a light first pass edit because I sometimes find a better way to write something as I'm transcribing. I'd rather be sipping coffee and listening to my hands tap the keys but this is a great way for me to use the time I already have as a constant in the car commuting to get some words on the page. This is the method I used to write most of my second novel the first time I did NaNoWriMo. It helped me find more time to write to try and get those 1,667 words a day and I ended up hitting 50K words by the end of November. Looks like it's a method I'll be employing again during this NaNoWriMo. I thought this might be interesting to fellow writers. I'm sure I'll still do some cherished keyboard clacking on the weekends. Happy writing!

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