5 November 2017

Taking a little break...

Hello, my bookish friends!

Reading My Way Through Life will be going offline for a few weeks. I've had a bad case of flu this past week, and I need some time to recover. I also have tons of school work to catch up on, and in-between getting better, and studying I'm hoping to slay Nanowrimo this year. We'll see how that goes... 

You can still follow me on Instagram (@dinaratengri), and on Twitter.

Thank you all for being so great. I love you, and I will see you soon :)





31 October 2017

Odd Reality: Malmö's Supernatural Underbelly (Book Review)



First, an announcement. Our special Silent Fear Halloween giveaway is now over, and we have picked our winners. Well, Rafflecopter's picked our winners. Your names will remain anonymous, of course, but we will be contacting you very soon (like, right after I finish writing this post). 


It's Halloween, and instead of trying on my new costume for the upcoming Halloween party, I'm drinking cough medicine, and chewing on breath mints like they were... well, breath mints. 

Being sick sucks, especially when you had your whole week planned out down to the littlest detail. 
But since there is nothing I can do about my physical state right now, I might as well make the best of my predicament and finish the second half of the latest book review double feature.

Last week, I reviewed Udda Verklighet, literary debut of author Nene Ormes. It's an urban dark fantasy with elements of horror and romance. Since the book is written  isSwedish, I decided to write two reviews - one in Swedish, and one in English. 

 You can read the Swedish review right here.  

So here we go. 


Title: Udda Verklighet (De Sära, #1)
Author: Nene Ormes
Date of publishing: May 27th, 2010.
Published by: Styxx

Our heroince is Udda (a cute play on words, since "udda" is also Swedish for "odd", or "different"). Udda is a mousy, angsty young womam, who lives in Malmö (a.k.a the third largest city in Sweden, which also happens to be my hometown). 

Udda has been plagued by nightmares for as long as she can remember. Daniel is the boy-next-door/best friend/potential love interest in whom Udda confines her problems. 

One night, Udda has the most vivid dream about a woman in peril, and after some investigating she and Daniel realise that the woman in her dream was real, which means that Udda's dreams are someone else's reality. When Daniel tries to look for the mysterious woman, and inevitably gets himself in trouble, Udda will risk her own safety to try and rescue him.  

In her desperate search, Udda discovers a whole new world - a rich and dangerous reality that exists right in the heart of Malmö. This supernatural underbelly of Malmö is inhabited by people with magical powers, who call themselves "de sära" ("the others", "the special ones", or whichever you prefer). They live by their own code and for the most part they manage to go undetected by the common folk.

Udda also meets a smoking hot shapeshifter who calls himself Hemming. And although he has reluctantly agreed to help her, Hemming has his own agenda, and we're not entirely sure if Udda should be trusting him. But, there's plenty of sexual tension to go around, and I'm expecting a love triangle later in the series. 

This is quite a fantasy world that the author has created, and I like to play with the idea that there may be shapeshifters, and vampires walking around in my hometown (kind of like a Swedish Hellmouth). That being said, this world does feel a little "half-baked", and underdeveloped. They're plenty of storybuilding clichés, and tropes that tend to haunt the urban fantasy genré, that I think the story would have been better off without. Still, this world does have potential, and I hope that his potential will be realised in the second book in this series. 

What I do miss the most in this book is Malmö. Malmö is big and diverse city. It's interesting and complex, both when it comes to its demographic, and location, and I wanted to see more of Malmö in this story. I wanted this city to be a character in its own right, or at least a fun and dangerous playground for our characters. Unfortunately, the full potential of my fair city is not realised in this book. This story isn't unique to Malmö, and could have taken place anywhere else in the country. Anywhere else in Europe, really. 

The story itself feels kind of rushed, and unfocused, and I think that some of it has to do with Udda being the "audience character", so we spend a lot of time having Hemming explain stuff to her. 

Which brings me to our heroine. Udda is our typical "wish out of water" character. She gets tossed into this dangerous and mysterious world, helpless, and clueless. What she lacks in physical strength and knowledge she makes up for in sheer determination and fearlessness. She's the type of heroine that doesn't know her own strength until it has been put to test. It's fun watching Udda go from the angsty girl who's scared of her own shadow to a woman who isn't afraid to challenge ancient oracles, and other supernatural folk in order to save her friend. 

All in all, Udda Verklighet is a pretty solid debut. It's fun, and exciting, and this series has a lot of potential. Udda is by far the best part of this world.  

My rating

Plot: 3 stars 
Story: 3 stars
Characters: 4 stars
Language: 3 stars     

Average: 3 stars 



29 October 2017

Udda Verklighet: Malmös Övernaturliga Skuggsida


Welcome to another round of 2017 Halloween Special! Udda Verklighet is the literary debut of the Swedish author Nene Ormés. Published in 2010, this dark fantasy novel is the first in the De Sära series. What made this book so interesting to me was that it's about Malmö, my hometown.

"Udda verklighet" is Swedish for "odd reality", but it's really a play on words, because Udda is also the name of the heroine. "De sära" is Swedish for "the special ones". And that concludes our crash course in Swedish, because I will be writing two reviews - one in Swedish, and one in English.

Happy Halloween!

Titel: Udda Verklighet (De Sära, #1)
Författare: Nene Ormes
Utgivningsdatum: 10.05.27.
Förlag: Styxx

I en dröm ser Udda en kvinna som flyr för sitt liv i spårområdet vid Malmö Central. I jakten efter sanningen bakom drömmen försvinner Uddas vän Daniel spårlöst och när Udda tvingar sig ner i gångarna under spårområdet för att leta efter honom hittar hon en annan verklighet, långt ifrån det vardagliga livet i Malmö. Här finns de Sära - hamnskiftare, gudinnor, orakel och annat - rivaliserande grupper som är mycket, mycket angelägna om att vinna över henne till sin sida. Uddas gåva att sanndrömma att hon är andra människor och veta vad de tänker är ett hot men lika mycket en möjlighet att kunna påverka framtiden.

I en dröm ser hon Daniel i händerna på en sadistisk varelse som förtär människors minnen som livselixir. Med hjälp av sin nye vän Hemming färdas hon genom rum och tidsepoker hon inte anade fanns för att hitta ett sätt att rädda Daniel medan han fortfarande är i livet.

Udda verklighet är något så ovanligt som en svensk urban fantasy. Här lever Sära, mitt ibland de Ordinära, med sitt eget rättsystem, interna stridigheter och med det ständiga hotet att bli upptäckt.
Nene Ormes debuterar med en roman som utspelas i, över och under Malmö, där hon också bor.



I sin debutroman Udda Verklighet, har Ormes skapat en helt ny värld, ett annat Malmö som existerar parallellt med vårt Malmö. Denna värld är bebodd av människor med övernaturliga krafter, så kallade sära. De sära lever enligt sitt eget regelverk, och lyckas - för det mesta - förbli oupptäckta av de vanliga dödliga. 

De säras stabila om inte helt fridfulla värld skakas om när de blir upptäckta av en ung kvinna som drömmer sanndrömmar om dem. Udda, som vår hjältinna heter, har plågats av mardrömmar i hela sitt liv, men nu har hon upptäckt att hennes drömmar är någon annans verklighet. 

I den senaste drömmen ser Udda en ung kvinna som jagas av en flock vildhundar. Med hjälp av sin granne/bäste vän/potentiella love interest Daniel upptäcker hon att den här kvinnan har jagats och kanske till och med dödats. Som en riktigt förnuftig tjej med en välfungerande självbevarelsedrift vill Udda inte leka detektiv och leta reda på den mystiska kvinnan. Tyvärr är Daniel lite för nyfiken för sitt eget bästa, och när han försöker undersöka saken själv försvinner han spårlöst. Nu är det upp till Udda att leta reda på sin vän. 

Uddas desperata letande för henne ihop med Hemming - en mystisk och sexig hamnskiftare. Hennes nya kamrat/potentiella love interest (jag känner en framtida kärlekstriangel på mig) går motvilligt med på att hjälpa Udda. Det Udda inte vet är att både hon och Daniel har blivit en del i ett komplicerat politiskt spel mellan makthavarna i Malmös övernaturliga skuggvärld. Kan hon verkligen lita på Hemming? 

Det är ingen dålig värld som Ormes har skapat. Den är lika stor som den är komplicerad, och det är lite kul att få leka med tanken att det kan finnas hamnskiftare och vampyrer mitt i Malmö. Samtidigt känns den här världen lite "halvbakad", och underutvecklad. Och det finns en hel del riktigt stela och överanvända formler och begrepp, som plågar fantasygenren. Men det övernaturliga Malmö har ändå stor potential, och jag ser fram emot att få upptäcka mer av denna värld i Särskild, som är den andra boken i serien. 

Det jag saknar mest i den här boken är just Malmö. Av någon anledning hoppades jag på att själva staden skulle spela en större roll i detta storslagna och komplicerade spel. Jag ville att Malmö skulle få vara en karaktär i sig. Det känns som att Ormes kunde ha tagit nytta av Malmö som en spelarena, men just den här historien kunde ha utspelat sig varsomhelst i Sverige. Ja, i världen.     

Själva handlingen känns också lite påskyndad. Den saknar fokus. För det mesta vandrar Udda och Hemming runtom i det hemliga Malmö, medan har manklarar för henne hur hans värld fungerar. När handlingen sedan sätter igång på allvar, är det inte mycket som händer. 

Udda är vår typiska "fish out of water" karaktär. Hon slängs in i den här farliga och invecklade världen, hjälplös och desperat att hitta sin vän. Det hon saknar i fysisk styrka och kunskap tar hon igen i ren välvilja och beslutsamhet. Hon är den typen av hjältinnan som inte vet hur stark hon är tills hennes styrka har satts på prov. Det är kul att få se Udda utvecklas från en ångestfylld och rätt så mesig tjej till en kvinna som vågar utmana vampyrer, orakel och annat mystiskt folk.

Udda Verklighet är en solid debutroman. Den är fantasifylld och spännande, stundom romantisk, stundom läskig och rentav obehaglig. En lovande början på en ny serie. 

Mitt betyg

Handlingen: 3 stjärnor 
Storyn: 3 stjärnor
Karaktärerna: 4 stjärnor
Språket: 3 stjärnor     


Medel: 3 stjärnor 

25 October 2017

Silent Fear: A Special Halloween GIVEAWAY

                                             



SILENT FEAR: Coming to you this Halloween!

October 31st is Halloween. It's also the release date for the Kindle edition of Silent Fear, the new thriller by Lance Morcan and James Morcan. 


The authors and I want to celebrate this spooky coincidence with a very special Halloween giveaway competition. We're giving away three Kindle e-books of Silent Fear. All you have to do answer this question:

What is the scariest book you've ever read? 


You can submit your answer either by leaving a comment on this blog, or by tweeting the answer.

Note that we're only giving away one copy per person.  The winners will be chosen by Rafflecopter. 

The competition starts tomorrow, October 26th at Midnight, and lasts until October 30th (also Midnight). So think back on all the books you've read, and give us the one that scared you the most.

Happy Halloween!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


"When you can't hear... death comes suddenly."


So goes the tagline for the new suspense novel, Silent Fear by Lance Morcan and James Morcan - a father and son author team from New Zealand. Now all my awesome readers have a chance to get a free advanced readers copy of Silent Fear, and an opportunity to win a physical copy! 




Silent Fear is dedicated to the many millions of deaf people around the world. This novel was inspired by the murders of deaf students at Gallaudet University, one of the world’s most prestigious learning institutions for the deaf, between 1980 and the early 2000’s. The investigating authorities didn’t know if the killings were ‘inside jobs’ and for a time nearly everyone connected to Gallaudet was under suspicion. 


Synopsis


Scotland Yard detective Valerie Crowther is assigned to investigate the murder of a student at a university for the Deaf in London, England. The murder investigation coincides with a deadly flu virus outbreak, resulting in the university being quarantined from the outside world. 

When more Deaf students are murdered, it becomes clear there is a serial killer operating within the sealed-off university. A chilling cat-and-mouse game evolves as the unknown killer targets Valerie and the virus claims more lives. 

A stunning, claustrophobic, "whodunit" murder mystery with shades of horror, sci-fi and romance, Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true crimes) is the eighth novel by the father-and-son writing team Lance & James Morcan. Included is a commentary by Deaf filmmaker Brent Macpherson on the unique aspects of Deaf culture the story covers. Together, the Morcans and Macpherson are currently developing a feature film adaptation of Silent Fear



Detective Valerie Crowther - concept art

The unique premise, and the early reviews make me very excited to read this novel myself.  

Silent Fear will be available on October 31, but you can pre-order it right now on Amazon: 


https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075HRYTVC/


Buzz about Silent Fear


In the meantime, you can read the early reviews of Silent Fear on Goodreads: 



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35626239-silent-fear

"What a great story! I didn't figure out who the killer was until the last chapter, and it still had a surprising twist! I had to read the book in one sitting!" - Beth. Goodreads reviewer 

"Very suspenseful from beginning to end. The characters are very well written. The story moves along very nicely. I've recommended this book to many of my friends already... it's a MUST-READ" 
-Troy, Goodreads reviewer  

You can also join the discussion group for Silent Fear on Goodreads: 

The best part is that you can sign up right now to get a FREE advanced readers copy of Silent Fear!  It's a gift to all of us book lovers from the authors of the novel. There's no catch. No string attached. Just submit your name and your e-mail address to receive your very own ARC of Silent Fear!  

NOTE that this book is COPYRIGHT protected, and cannot be shared. It's for private use only!

About the authors


Lance

New Zealand novelist, screenwriter and film producer Lance Morcan is a prolific writer with various published books and released movies to his credit. His novels include the international thriller series THE ORPHAN TRILOGY (The Ninth Orphan / The Orphan Factory / The Orphan Uprising) and the historical adventure series THE WORLD DUOLOGY (World Odyssey / Fiji: A Novel). All five novels were co-written with his son James Morcan and published by Sterling Gate Books. The Morcans' first non-fiction title, THE ORPHAN CONSPIRACIES, was published recently. Their production company, Morcan Motion Pictures, is developing The Ninth Orphan and Fiji into feature films. 


A former journalist and newspaper editor, Lance divides his time these days between novel writing, film producing and screenwriting. Numerous screenplays he has written are in active development as movies and as a producer his feature films have screened at cinemas in Australia, Italy and Cannes.

Lance is currently perfecting his solo-written 'New Zealand' - an epic adventure novel covering 500 years of South Pacific and Polynesian history. Including research, writing (and life's distractions!), this novel has been over a decade in the making.


James


New Zealand-born actor/writer/producer James Morcan resides in Sydney, Australia. His books include
the international thriller series THE ORPHAN TRILOGY (The Ninth Orphan / The Orphan Factory / The Orphan Uprising) and the historical adventure series THE WORLD DUOLOGY (World Odyssey / Fiji: A Novel) and the controversial non-fiction UNDERGROUND KNOWLEDGE SERIES (Genius Intelligence / Antigravity Propulsion etc). These books were all co-written with his father Lance Morcan and published by Sterling Gate Books. Their production company, Morcan Motion Pictures, is developing The Ninth Orphan and Fiji into feature films.

James' most recent acting performance was a leading role in the post-Apocalyptic feature film 'After Armageddon' which he also wrote. The dystopian adventure film was shot in rural Australia in early 2015 and Morcan co-starred with Berynn Schwerdt ('Wyrmwood').


Other recent leading roles include the OZ-Bollywood productions 'My Cornerstone' and 'Love You Krishna'. Morcan also wrote the screenplays for both features which were filmed in Sydney and Mumbai and incorporated English and Hindi languages.


Additional productions he has performed in include a BBC TV series, several indie features and a live stadium production of Ben Hur headlined by Academy Award winner Russell Crowe. To date, his feature films have screened at cinemas in New Zealand, India, Australia, Italy and Cannes.



22 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049: An Identity Crisis (Movie Review)

Last week, I went to see Blade Runner 2049, which is the sequel to the 1982 sci fi classic Blade Runner, and I was genuinely curious to see what the director - Denis Villeneuve could do with this fantastical and complex world. I tried my best to keep an open mind, and judge this movie on its own merit, and not just as the sequel to Blade Runner.

One of the consequences of having been writing reviews for over two years is that when I'm watching a movie I can't turn off the part of my mind that is responsible for all the nitpicking and critical thinking. I can no longer just see a movie as a fan, as I am constantly thinking about what I'm going to write once I get home. This is a minor nuisance that can sometimes make it difficult for me to enjoy a movie. Perhaps, it's this over-analyzing that kept me from liking Blade Runner 2049.

I have tried to keep my emotions out of this review. I've tried to keep my arguments clean and sober. Ironically, it isn't my irrational love for the original that made me dislike the sequel. Nor was it any in-universe changes and world-building choices made by the screenwriters. My strong dislike of Blade Runner 2049 has to do with the structural and tonal flaws of the movie itself.

WARNING: this review contains spoilers for the original Blade Runner, and some minor spoilers for Blade Runner 2049.

Title: Blade Runner 2049  
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Screenplay by: Hampton Fancher and Michael Green
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, and Jared Leto
Premiere date in Sweden: October 5, 2017

Just like the original, Blade Runner 2049 starts with an opening crawl that sets up the plot, and teases the central conflict of the movie. The words look clunky on screen, and I was reminded of the innumerable plot summaries I used to write for my own brilliant projects. And even though that one detail made me a little uneasy about what was to come, I wasn't going to judge the whole film based on that one nitpick.

In short, the movie is about Ryan Gosling's hero - "K", who is the next generation blade runner, a special task police officer whose job is to hunt down and "retire" rogue replicants. I say, "next generation" because "K" himself is a replicant, one of the latest models, known for their obedience and loyalty, which makes them the perfect blade runners.

In the original, it was strongly hinted at that Deckard himself was a replicant. This uncertainty was one of the things that made the original so interesting and gave the story and Deckard's role in it a whole new dimension. More importantly, the question was never answered, and was left open to interpretation.

In the sequel, however, we learn about "K”: s true nature from the very beginning. And that's because "K”: s identity crisis is supposed to be the central conflict of the movie. "K”: s journey, which starts with a rather messy "retirement" and leads him to a massive cover-up makes him come face to face with a possibility that he might be human after all.

So, for the most part of the movie we follow "K" as he's trying to figure out whether he's human. "K" is Pinocchio, and we want to believe that after all the trials and tribulations, the Fairy with Turquoise Hair will descend from the skies, and reward "K" by turning him into a real boy. That is a good story. That is a good central conflict, and it's the only central conflict this movie really needs.

But since this is a sequel to the original Blade Runner, there just has to be a McGuffin that will connect "K”: s story to Deckard's past. And this is where the movie, at least storywise, falls apart.

The original was a noir detective that made you ask interesting philosophical questions. It had a small story set in a big world. The scale of that world, that awe-inspiring grandeur was only hinted at, as the story remained on the ground-level of the futuristic Los Angeles, and focused on a handful of characters. These were characters whose motives, and fears we understood, and even if we couldn't directly relate to them, we could at least respect their motives.

Take then "K", who is suffering from a bad case of identity crisis. He is a replicant and he knows it. As loyal and obedient as he is, he's still scorned by society, and has to endure verbal abuse from other cops on a daily basis. His nature renders him lonely and isolated. He has no connections to the world; no friends; no family. As a replicant blade runner his existence is defined by one thing - terminating other replicants. His life has no meaning outside of the task he was designed to perform.

So, when "K" is faced with a very real possibility that he might be human after all, we root for him. We see him for the vulnerable, lonely human being that he is. Gosling gives a stoical but incredibly heartfelt performance, bringing this complex character to life. How disappointing is it then that "K" is the only such character in a movie filled with stock characters, and rigid stereotypes.

Sure, "K" is surrounded by characters with more or less defined goals, and motives but their actions are subservient to the plot, and tell us nothing about who these people are. I want to say that Deckard is still the complex antihero we remember from the original but there is nothing in his actions or motivations that would support my argument, as the only reason he's in this movie is to remind us that we're watching the sequel to Blade Runner.

Which brings me to my biggest issue with Blade Runner 2049"K" isn't the only one with an identity crisis.

Deckard is but an echo if his former self, and has nothing to offer to the story save for some awkward exposition and quippy lines. And yet, this pale husk of one of the most interesting characters in cinema takes center stage, as "K" - the actual hero of this movie - becomes a sidekick in his own story. The attempts to connect "K" to Deckard's past are not only clumsy, but also unnecessary, and offer some of the worst examples of nostalgia bating, and fan-service I have seen in a long time. (Not to sound harsh, but how much faith did the filmmakers have in their own movie, if they had to include actual clips and soundbites from the original?)

In other words, Blade Runner 2049 doesn't know what story it wants to tell. Is it "K”: s story or is it Deckard's story? The movie's identity crisis is reflected in its tone as much as in the storytelling itself.

From the opening scene, as the sound effects department was trying to drown me with ominous music, I got an instant feeling that this movie was trying  too hard.

This movie is trying too hard to be like the original, only bigger, and louder. Everything has to be twice, four times as big, from the architecture, to the post-Inception soundtrack. If there is anything we have learned from the army of sequels, and reboots, is that bigger doesn't always mean better. Sometimes less is more. But the filmmakers don't seem to realize that. I want to say that the filmmakers don't seem to realize what it was that made the original so good, but one of the screenwriters (Hampton Fancher) also co-wrote the original, so I don't really know what to say. 

The world in the original, the monstrous Los Angeles looked and felt gritty and lived-in. The city felt vibrant and alive not only because of the neon explosions of colours, but because of the feeling that the filmmakers had created. Los Angeles of 2019 felt real because of the contrast created between the bright and glossy advertisement, and the dark dirty back alleys; between the seedy glamour of the pleasure districts, and the hectic reality of the food market. Los Angeles was a character, and it had a story to tell. There wasn't a shot that made the city look desolate, or barren. It was a city plagued by overpopulation and yet, it was so easy to feel lonely and isolated there.

In contrast, the world of 2049 looks hollow and desolate. We see a lot of wide shots of barren landscapes and dusty horizons. We see giant ruins that look like leftovers from a Leni Riefenstahl movie. Visually, this is supposed to represent "K”: s loneliness and isolation. I get that. However, Deckard's loneliness and isolation were just as tangible - if not more so - while he was surrounded by hundreds of people.

This imagery is also supposed to show a world that is slowly falling apart. For instance, there are mentions of a "blackout" that almost destroyed the civilization. Meanwhile, the periphery of California is succumbing to chaos and neglect, as Los Angeles is continuing to grow, not unlike a tumour. If this is the visual language that the filmmakers have chosen, fine. I can respect that. But they can't seem to decide what visual language, what tone they want to adapt. Is it the multiple shades of sepia borrowed from The Book of Eli, or is it the busy neon colour pallet of the original Blade Runner? And whenever the movie comes back to its stylistic roots, it looks like it's trying too hard to look and to sound like the original.

It's tonally dissonant, and doesn't know what kind of movie it wants to be. Is it a neo noir detective that's faithful to is roots or is it a post-apocalyptic action flick? What we're left with are a lot of half-baked ideas, clumsy storytelling, and a very uneven visual tone.

If it seems that I'm making a case against Blade Runner 2049 because it's a sequel to a much beloved film, this couldn't be further from the truth. As stated above, I was curious to see what story the filmmakers could tell. I was looking forward to this movie. Let's not forget that the original Blade Runner was based on a book. Yet it was original, and created a legacy of its own. It also created a world so vast and complex that it seemed almost a crime not to revisit it. It's a world with a nearly endless amount of possibilities to tell good stories about interesting people. What a pity is it that the only other entry in this series we got in over three decades turned out the way it did. * 

That's not to say that this movie doesn't have any redeeming qualities. As mentioned, I like "K”: s tragic story, and Gosling's performance is the strongest part of this movie. I also like the retro-futuristic visuals in some of the scenes, and how reminiscent they are of the classic sci fi I love so much. I respect the ambition, and the effort put in this production. I just wish the filmmakers had more courage to be original, and make a movie that could stand on its own. 
   

*PS. There is actually a film that claims to be a "side-quel" to Blade Runner. It's called Soldier, and it was written by David Webb Peoples, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the original Blade Runner. with Hampton Fancher.  

15 October 2017

Audiobook Review: The X-Files: Stolen Lives



And we continue our Halloween Special, with a new review. 

If you have been following me for some time now, you know that I am a die-hard fan of The X-Files.  

The X-Files is an American sci fi/horror show that was created by Chris Carter, and stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. Its original run was from 1993 to 2002. 

The X-Files is a paranormal drama set in a dark and gory universe. The plot centers around FBI agents Dana Scully - the skeptic, and Fox Mulder - the believer, who run the so-called X-Files division, where they work on cases the FBI has deemed unsolvable. Cases that involve ritual sacrifice, homocidal mutants, and, of course, 

                                       

The show's episodes are divided in two categories: there is the main mythology that centers around extra-terrestrials, government conspiracies and illegal experiments on human subjects. And then there's the so-called "monster of the week" episodes - the standalone stories, that are unrelated to the main arc. 

The paranormal and the supernatural elements are excellent, and the show does a fantastic job blending sci fi with character-driven drama. The otherworldly cases allow the characters to ask difficult questions about science, faith, politics, morality, and family. With all the monsters, mutants, and cigarette-smoking government operatives the show is about people.  

The X-Files inspired a whole generation of "dark and gritty" science fiction shows, and set a new standard for television drama. It gave us some of the best episodes of television, and some of the scariest monsters. It gave us a theme song that still sends chills down the viewers' spines, and of course, aliens. 

What started off as a small TV-show soon turned into a massive franchise, spawning two movies, countless books, comic books, and novelizations. Not to mention video games, board games, and a porn parody.

Hitting its prime in the mid-90's, The X-Files was the first TV-show to have a strong, and vocal online fanbase. And legend goes, the writers actually listened to what the fans had to say, and incorporated some of the fan ideas into the show (for better or for worse).  The show was cancelled in 2002, after a nine season run. After the disappointment that was the feature length movie The X-Files: I Want to Believe, the fans campaigned strongly for a third movie. 

Once again, our voices had been heard, and in 2016, Fox announced that it would revive the original show with a six-episodes event series. It may not have been the movie that we wanted, but The X-Files always works best on the small screen. Despite mixed reviews (I liked it!), the event series - or, season ten, as it's now called - got great ratings, and it was only a matter of time before Fox green-lit a new season of this paranormally paranoid drama. The production for season eleven began this summer, and a few days ago, Fox dropped the official trailer (and it's awesome!). 

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, The X-Files lives on in audio form.   

The X-Files: Cold Cases is an audio drama, produced by Audible Studios. It's based on the graphic novels by Joe Harris. The novels were adapted to audio by Dirk Maggs, and starred most of the original cast. The audio drama was a big success, so the conspiracies live on, as Audible released the sequel to Cold Cases, titled, The X-Files: Stolen Lives. Also based on Harris' graphic novels, and starring most of the original cast. 

The release lined up perfectly with my series of Halloween-related reviews. And now, I give you my review of The X-Files: Stolen Lives

You can also read my review for The X-Files: Cold Cases

Title: The X-Files: Stolen Lives

Author: Joe Harris
Adapted to audio by: Dirk Maggs
Date of publishing: October 3, 2017

Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, William B. Davis, Mitch Pileggi, Tom Bradwood, Dean Haglund, and Bruce Harwood.


The division has been reopened, but nothing is as it seems in this electrifying follow-up to The X-Files: Cold Cases, starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and a full cast.

"In a world filled with shades of gray, we have to carefully choose which cloak we wear...."

Out of the ashes of the Syndicate, a new, more powerful threat has emerged. Resurrected members of this fallen group - now shadows of their former selves - seemingly bend to the will of someone, or something, with unmatched abilities and an unknown purpose. As those believed to be enemies become unlikely allies and trusted friends turn into terrifying foes, FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully become unknowing participants in a deadly game of deception and retribution, the stakes of which amount to the preservation of humankind. Based upon the graphic novels by Joe Harris - with creative direction from series creator Chris Carter -adapted specifically for the audio format by aural auteur Dirk Maggs (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Alien: Out of the Shadows), and directed by William Dufris of AudioComics, Stolen Lives further explores the sonic landscape of Mulder and Scully's paranormal investigations while continuing the epic storyline begun in Cold Cases.

Demonic possession. Flesh-eating swarms. Mind-altering hallucinogenic trips. Listeners experience it all alongside Mulder and Scully in this original dramatization that reunites Duchovny and Anderson once more with fan-favorite characters: Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), Cigarette Smoking Ma
n (William B. Davis), and the Lone Gunmen (Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, and Bruce Harwood). 


"No! Why did it have to end? And why did it have to end so soon? Another frustrating cliffhanger, and a pile of unanswered questions. Not fair.


Oh, well, I'll just read the rest of the Season Eleven comics then."


Stolen Lives consists of five episodes - two "monster of the week", and three mythology episodes. The new conspiracy that was hinted at in Cold Cases, gets further explored in this audio drama. Also, we get a new Big Bad. 

Breaking with tradition, the creators decided to open the new season with a standalone episode, something they shouldn't have done because the standalone episodes in Stolen Lives are not very good. For instance, the season opener centers around the bombing of an abortion clinic. The topic is painfully relevant, and there is real potential to tell an interesting story, and ask some serious questions, but the story doesn't go anywhere, and the issue is never discussed. Understandably, the writers don't want to get into a serious discussion about something this sensitive. So why bring it up in the first place, if you won't follow through?

While the standalone episodes are quite disappointing, it's the mythology that makes Stolen Lives worth listening to. Firstly, we find out what happened to agents Doggett and Reyes, who went missing in Cold Cases. Secondly, the Big Bad of this new mythology finally reveals himself. And it ain't the Cigarette Smoking Man! We're talking about a nearly unstoppable evil genius, with an unlimited amount of resources, and a big chip on his shoulder. This villain is someone we already know from the original series, which makes him so much more interesting.

The mythology episodes are great, and for the first time I think that they could have done without the standalones. Mostly, it's because these particular standalones aren't that good. But also, it's because the main storyline isn't given enough time to develop. It's fast-paced, and suspenseful, but just as its starts gaining momentum, the cliffhanger happens, and the end credits roll. 

What both the new TV-season, and these audiobooks do very well, is ask how Mulder and Scully's work fits in our day and age. This isn't the 1990's anymore. The political climate has changed, the world itself has changed (#waronterror, #wikileaks, #youtubeconspiracytheories). How fitting is it then that at one point in this series, Mulder finds himself at Guantanamo Bay.

The performances are all great. I love hearing the original cast again, especially Mitch Pileggi and William B. Davis as Walter Skinner and The Cigarette Smoking Man respectively. The supporting cast deserves a lot of props as well. These voice actors give it their all. They bring life into the story, and they do a great job creating this high-strung, paranoid world around our heroes. This time, I started paying attention to all the sound effects, and the little details, that make the story more lifelike, and make this a more enjoyable experience.

Audiobooks are demanding, because they literally demand your full attention. And audio drama is more demanding still, because there is a lot that remains unsaid, and you have to use your imagination to fill in the blanks, and try and picture the scene in your head. Which is perfect for me, given how I have the attention span of a five-week-old kitten. These audiobooks help me work on my concentration. They challenge me, and I like a challenge.

So, another X-Files audiobook. I'm still not sure how this new storyline fits in the official X-Files canon, if it fits there at all. I like to think that these comics and audiobooks take place in some alternate reality. I like to think that I Want to Believe was so boring, that it literally made the X-Files universe split, creating two different timelines, where in one, Mulder and Scully meet the were-monster, while in the other, Mulder goes to Guantanamo Bay. 

Stolen Lives is not the "non-stop thrill ride" that Cold Cases was. However, it's still a very entertaining, and damn well-executed audio drama. It's suspenseful, and chilling. Plus, there's one episode with all those bugs, and just thinking about it now, makes my skin crawl. Between this Audible original series, and the new TV-seasons, it's not a bad time to be an X-phile.

My Rating

Plot: 4 stars
Story: 4 stars
Writing: 4 stars
Delivery: 5 stars

Average: 4,25 stars 












9 October 2017

The Horror on My Shelf


It's Halloween the whole month of October here on my blog. I'm kicking off this week with a list. I rummaged my shelves to find all the horror and horror-related titles I own, and then, I took pictures, Bookstagram style. Speaking of which you can follow me on Instagram on @dinaratengri. 

Now, to the books!




Urban horror (in Swedish)




Creepypasta: Spökhistorier från Internet: by Jack Werner is a collection of the most famous creepypastas with commentaries by the author. You can read my review to find out more. 

 Udda Verklighet is the debut novel by author Nene Ormes. I don't know anything about it other than it's set in my hometown, Malmö.  


Mad Scientists



Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was written by Robert Louis Stevenson? Not many people know that. It's a great book, and I don't think all those movies do it justice.  

Frankenstein by Marry Shelley is a book I read many years ago, and it's time for a revisit. 


Spooky Classics




Complete Ghost Stories by Charles Dickens is something one might enjoy on a cold October night. 

Skräckens Dal (Valley of Fear) by Arthur Conan-Doyle - I don't remember what it's about, but I'm sure it's great.  

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories by Washington Irving is one odd short story collection. You can read my review of the titular story on my Goodreads page.


Ray Bradbury




These are two of my favourite books from my favourite author ever. Halloween is not Halloween without good old Mr. Bradbury. 


Stephen King


The Shining - I love this book so much I lost count of how many times I read it.

Väckelse (Revival) - haven't read this one yet. It's on my TBR, I promise!

The Shining - the Swedish version.


 I guess that was all of them.