(Repost) All that’s Left is Truth and Fear, Part II

And now, the second part of our discussion of Truth and Fear, in which we begin our discussion on the role nuclear weapons play in the trilogy, particularly on how they drastically alter not only the military and metaphysical balance of power, but the nature of the story.

Oh, and that header image is a little something I found while trawling online. In some ways, shortsighted postwar American optimism is the gift that keeps on giving.

One Last Sketch

Part I

Nukes are Kind of Magic

Michal: Higgins is very clear that the introduction of nuclear weapons represents a cosmic-scale shift in humankind’s relationship with the supernatural. Up until this point, the citizens of the Vlast conceptualized power almost entirely through the stone angels. The remnants of their bodies are literally the source of the Vlast’s strength, experimenting with those remnants the primary driver of industrial development. The living stone angel is the apex for most of what power even means. However, not all focus has remained on the angels, and when scientists develop nuclear technology it upends the very idea of how power works in the Vlast. Before, the measure of power was how closely you communed with the stone angels, afterwards, we’ve flipped the hierarchy. Wolfhound Century spent so much time emphasizing the insignificance of the Vlast’s petty squabble when measured against the greater struggle between…

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(Repost) All that’s Left is Truth and Fear, Part I

Well, it’s happened again. Me and my buddy Michal over at One Last Sketch are back to continue our collaborative review series of Peter Higgins’ Wolfhound Empire books. Today, our discussion focuses on Truth and Fear (2014), the second book of the trilogy. It is a story of storm and stress; of werewolves and heavy bombers, of endless snowy vistas and stinking cattle cars, of the magic of the deep forest and the alchemy of a fission reaction. Suffice to say, there’s a lot going on in this book.

And now, without further ado, please enjoy the first part of our review, in which we ramble on at length about World War II and the thematic importance of not being a Nazi.

One Last Sketch


Amidst the Ruins

As promised, I’m bringing back Alasdair Czyrnyj to continue our discussion of Peter Higgins’ Wolfhound Empire trilogy. This time, we’re taking on the middle volume, Truth and Fear.

Truth and Fear is in many ways a departure from Wolfhound Century while drawing on many of same themes and inspirations. While the first novel was mainly an atmospheric piece, here we have a much greater focus on narrative and on relating the actions of the characters to the thrust of the story.

In Wolfhound Century, the assassination of the Novozhd that capped off the novel seemed to be largely a side-event, deflated from significance by how peripheral it was to the journey of Vissarion and Maroussia, but here the full consequences of the assassination come to the fore. The power struggles in Mirgorod to fill the vacuum left behind by the beloved dictator actually have consequences…

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(Repost) Surviving the Wolfhound Century, Part II

And now, the second part of me and Michal’s discussion of Wolfhound Century, this time focusing on the antagonists of the story and the nature of Mirgorod itself.

One Last Sketch


City and Swamp

Part I

Alasdair: The point you make about authoritarian regimes narrowing the scope of possibility for the future is an important one. Indeed, all of the major antagonists of the Wolfhound Empire trilogy are concerned with remaking the Vlast according to a singular vision.

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(Repost) Surviving the Wolfhound Century, Part I

Over the last few months, I’ve been reading Peter Higgins’ Wolfhound Empire trilogy (Wolfhound Century, Truth and Fear, and Radiant State), a New Weird-styled fantasy trilogy that takes most of the inspiration for its setting from tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. I agree with Adam Roberts that the trilogy is one of the best fantasy works of the 2010s, but there has been very little attention given to it in most genre circles, online or otherwise. To remedy this, I browbeat persuaded my friend Michal Wojcik over at One Last Sketch to give the trilogy a try, and we’ve put together a series of collaborative reviews of each book. The following two posts will cover our discussion of Wolfhound Century (2013), the first book in the trilogy. Today’s post will cover our discussion of the basics of the novel’s setting and the ways it reworks Russian and Soviet history. Enjoy!

(Edit: Forgive the weird bolding in this post. There’s something screwy with the code somewhere.)

One Last Sketch


Lost in Leningrad

I read Peter Higgins’s Wolfhound Century after a strong recommendation from fellow blogger Alasdair Czyrnyj. He’ll join me in the next series of posts as we air our thoughts on the Wolfhound Empire trilogy one book at a time.

First, some background. Wolfhound Century takes place in the Vlast, a country bearing the heavy mark of the Soviet Union, manifested particularly in the city of Mirgorod, a swampy cement-covered place that evokes St. Petersburg back when it was called Leningrad. Vissarion Lom comes to Mirgorod to investigate the activities of erstwhile revolutionary Josef Kantor. This thriller-esque procedural plot largely takes a back seat to the cosmology and fantastic weirdness of the Vlast, caught in a struggle between stone angels and an endless forest, industrialized but in a way that incorporates the preternatural. Giants and golems wander the streets as labourers, unremarked but haunting in their normalcy.

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Yinglet Like Me: The Out-of-Placers


I must admit that webcomics are something of an undiscovered country for me. I used to read a fair amount back when I was in university, but that was back in the early 2000s, when the medium was new and taking many of its cues from newspaper comics. Since then, of course, the medium has blossomed in every conceivable way, with the only limits being the imaginations of the creators and the technology available. As for me, I drifted away from the medium after university and have only begun dipping my toes back in again rather recently. Indeed, at the moment there are only two comics I read regularly: Drugs and Wires, Cryoclaire and Black Io’s pessimistic comedy about post-Soviet life in the dystopian cyberpunk future of 1995, and the subject of today’s review.

The Out-of-Placers is a fantasy webcomic written and drawn by Sal Valia (or Valsalia…I’m not quite sure myself). The comic started sometime around late 2013 and over the past few years has developed a small but loyal following. While the subject matter it handles is perhaps a little unorthodox, there is a charm and humor to the comic that just makes me want to ramble on about it for several paragraphs.

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A Private Language of Modernist Mayhem: An Appreciation of Marcel Dzama


Marcel Dzama, Grand presentiments of what must come, 2012

I haven’t talked about art as much as I’ve wanted to on this blog. Art is something I have a great appreciation for, but it’s an appreciation that I have found particularly difficult to translate into words. Most of my knowledge of art comes from the handful of art history classes I took as an undergrad, and that was almost a decade ago. As a result I often find I don’t have the proper vocabulary to discuss painting or sculpture the way I can write about novels and film. In fact, if I may let a private embarrassment come to light, when I visit an art gallery I will spend more time reading the placard explaining the meaning of the work than I will taking in and appreciating the work on an aesthetic level.

Still, there are some artists whose work manage to penetrate this barrier and hit me directly on an emotional level, to engage me in ways words can’t entirely explain. As part of my new “forget your insecurities and just write whatever you want on your blog,” I thought I would share my appreciation for one of these artists, the Winnepeg-born multimedia artist Marcel Dzama.

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If I Wrote Book 4 of The Legend of Korra

Book 4 - Comicon Promotional Poster

(Fair warning before we begin: this is going to be an intensely nerdy post talking about The Legend of Korra, so if you haven’t watched the show, not much of it is going to make a lick of sense.)

Today’s post is one inspired by an essay Robert Jackson Bennett wrote on his blog back in January about how he would rework the Star Wars prequels. In the introduction to his piece, Bennett mentioned that most everyone has a “hobby story” in their minds, some fanfiction version of a story you liked but just had some flaws that you’d like to see ironed out. I’ve certainly tinkered with a few over the years; one of these days I should write about my dumb Star Trek reboot idea that involves time-travelling Cardassians, the destruction of the Klingon Empire, and Kirk sacrificing himself in the third act and being replaced with an Andorian lady as captain.

However, there is one story that has exercised my imagination the most for the past two-odd years: the final book of The Legend of Korra. It’s a season of television for which I have such a frustrated affection. The basic premise, that the decadent, fractious Earth Kingdom has collapsed and is being reunified by an modernizing autocrat, is fantastic, and the autocrat in question, Kuvira, is my favorite character in the entire Avatar franchise. There’s a wonderful buildup in the first half of the season, as Kuvira begins to push back against international opinion as she establishes her new state, culminating in a showdown with Korra at the gates of Zaofu that both women narrowly survive. And then…

Well, then it all becomes a bit rubbish, which is where I step in.

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