Very Quick Review: THE LAST ENFORCER by Charles Oakley, w. Frank Isola (Gallery)

OakleyC-LastEnforcerAn interesting, albeit limited memoir

A memoir from Charles Oakley — one of the toughest and most loyal players in NBA history — featuring unfiltered stories about the journey that basketball has taken him on and his relationships with Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, James Dolan, Donald Trump, George Floyd, and so many others.

If you ask a New York Knicks fan about Charles Oakley, you better prepare to hear the love and a favorite story or two. But his individual stats weren’t remarkable, and while he helped power the Knicks to ten consecutive playoffs, he never won a championship. So why does he hold such a special place in the minds, hearts, and memories of NBA players and fans?

Because over the course of nineteen years in the league, Oakley was at the center of more unbelievable encounters than Forrest Gump, and nearly as many fights as Mike Tyson. He was the friend you wish you had, and the enemy you wish you’d never made. If any opposing player was crazy enough to start a fight with him, or God forbid one of his teammates, Oakley would end it.

“I can’t remember every rebound I grabbed but I do have a story — the true story — of just about every punch and slap on my resume,” he says.

In The Last Enforcer, Oakley shares one incredible story after the next — all in his signature, unfiltered style — about his life in the paint and beyond, fighting for rebounds and respect. You’ll look back on the era of the 1990s NBA, when tough guys with rugged attitudes, unflinching loyalty, and hard-nosed work ethics were just as important as three-point sharpshooters. You’ll feel like you were on the court, in the room, can’t believe what you just saw, and need to tell everyone you know about it.

I was looking forward to reading this memoir. Like many people, Michael Jordan’s prime years with the Chicago Bulls was my introduction to basketball. Oakley was one of Jordan’s earlier teammates, and is one of his closest friends, but was traded away to the Knicks just before the Bulls embarked on their epic six-championships run. This is his story, complete with honest, blunt appraisals of his teammates, the League (now and then), and more. It’s got plenty of interesting insights and illuminating stories. But in many ways, it also comes across as rather one-note. Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: GIGANTIC by Ashley Stokes (Unsung Stories)

StokesA-GiganticHi. Many thanks for asking me to annotate a section of Gigantic. It’s certainly been intriguing and stimulating to revisit what has been probably the most torturous editorial experience I’ve had with any story, long or short. I chose a passage to edit based on how fun and funny I hoped it is, but just by spending some time with it, I realise how much the story, text, structure, tone and voice had changed from the first draft and how honing this story had been like fighting Proteus or the Hydra. The main character, Kevin Stubbs, has had many heads and forms.

Gigantic has taken ten years since conception to find a publisher. It started life in 2011 as an idle notebook jotting: what if there were a bigfoot mythology akin to that you find in backswood America in my hometown of Sutton, Surrey?  I rejected this as daft but went back to it when The Sun reported a bigfoot sighting in Tunbridge Wells. Originally titled The North Surrey Gigantopithecus, it was a short story told largely in footnotes like my A Short Story about a Short Film and forthcoming Fade to Black. Subsequently, it became a more conventionally-structured novella, then a novel, a longer novel and a shorter novel as stuffing was ripped out. This was a process of sifting and hacking, abandoning and resurrecting well beyond the usual three-step Discovery-Meditation-Polishing process of writing a novel. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE PAST IS RED by Catherynne M. Valente (Tor.com)

ValenteCM-PastIsRedThis summer, Tor.com are due to publish The Past is Red, an intriguing-looking new post-eco-apocalypse sci-fi novella by Catherynne M. Valente. Check out the synopsis:

The enchanting, dark, funny, angry story of a girl who made two terrible mistakes: she told the truth and she dared to love the world.

The future is blue. Endless blue… except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown.

Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she’s the only one who knows it. She’s the only one who knows a lot of things: that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world, that it’s full of hope, that you can love someone and 66% hate them all at the same time.

But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her. Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected.

Catherynne M. Valente’s The Past is Red is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on July 20th, 2021.

Also on CR: Interview with Catherynne Valente (2012); Guest Post on “The Long Orbit of Radiance

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Interview with GAVIN G. SMITH

SmithGG-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Gavin Smith?

Just some guy. (He’s a science fiction and fantasy writer with a track record for action oriented stories.)

Your third Bastard Legion novel, War Criminals, is due to be published in July. How would you introduce the series to a potential reader? And what can fans of the series expect from this instalment?

So the high concept pitch for Bastard Legion is the Dirty Dozen/Suicide Squad (depending on your age) meets Aliens. It’s about a mercenary penal legion recruited from the 6,000-strong convict population the Hangman’s Daughter (an interstellar prison barge). They are led by the cheerful, if possibly psychopathic, ex-black ops soldier Miska Corbin and the VR ghost of her dead dad.

War Criminals will see the Legion engaged in a full scale war for the first time! (Previously it’s been smaller-scale black ops.) Continue reading

Interview with CHRISTOPHER RUOCCHIO

RuocchioC-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Christopher Ruocchio?

I am the author of Empire of Silence, a new space opera/epic fantasy out in July. I am also the Assistant Editor for Baen Books, where I have edited the military SF anthology Star Destroyers and the upcoming Space Pioneers. I sold my first novel — this novel — at age 22. I graduated from North Carolina State University, where I studied English Rhetoric and Classics. I am a boxer, and former fencer, and the owner of half a suit of replica first century Roman armor. I worked as a waiter for seven years, during which time I wrote and paid my way through college at the expense of any sort of social life. I remain an enthusiastic student, and am blessed with what I consider the world’s greatest family, a lovely girlfriend, and better friends than one of my stormy disposition perhaps deserves. Continue reading

Guest Post: An Annotated Chapter of RAVENCRY by Ed McDonald (Gollancz/Ace)

McDonaldE-AuthorPicWhen I was asked to provide a first chapter critique of my own book, I thought that this was an excellent way to explain the way that my own writing craft works, and to point out the level of complexity that comes into play through many rounds of editing.

I think that I have to stress that the first chapter did not look like this at the end of the first draft. So many of the details, the events, even the character of Levan Ost, all changed multiple times during the editing process. These were the details and events that remained when the dust settled.

Throughout this text I’ve interrupted the narrative to point out why I made particular decisions. Everything in this chapter is a conscious choice, and hopefully I’ve been able to explain why I made some of them. Writing is a deeply personal and individual craft and no two people’s are the same. These were the right choices for me.

It should be noted that although there are no direct spoilers in my commentary, if you’ve not read RAVENCRY yet, then I will be pointing out particular details that are specifically of interest later in the book.

Continue reading

Upcoming: FELIX CASTOR SERIES by Mike Carey (Re-Issues, Orbit)

CareyM-FelixCastor2018-1to3

This year, Orbit is re-issuing Mike Carey‘s Felix Castor series: The Devil You Know, Vicious Circle, Dead Men’s Boots, Thicker Than Water and The Naming of the Beasts. Above and below are the new covers. Here’s the synopsis for the first novel:

Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist, and London is his stomping ground. It may seem like a good ghostbuster can charge what he likes and enjoy a hell of a lifestyle, but there’s a risk: sooner or later he’s going to take on a spirit that’s too strong for him.

When Castor accepts a seemingly simple ghost-hunting case at a museum in the shadowy heart of London, what should have been a perfectly straightforward exorcism is rapidly turning into the Who Can Kill Castor First Show, with demons and ghosts all keen to claim the big prize.

But that’s business as usual: Castor knows how to deal with the dead. It’s the living who piss him off…

Carey has recently been publishing as M.R. Carey, including the critically-acclaimed and best-selling The Girl With All the Gifts and its sequel, The Boy on the Bridge. The Felix Castor novels are published by Orbit in the US and UK.

CareyM-FelixCastor2018-4to5

Also on CR: Review of The Girl With All the Gifts

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: BLACKWING by Ed McDonald (Gollancz/Ace)

A promising debut grimdark fantasy

You think you know Misery? You’ve not seen anything yet…

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery — a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.

Blackwing is one of the most hotly-anticipated debut fantasy novels of the year. Social media and the blogosphere have been filled with glowing reviews, squees and other evidence that suggests the hype has been entirely justified. There’s a lot in here that will certainly appeal to plenty of fantasy fans. However, I ultimately came away from this novel underwhelmed. Continue reading

SDCC: New JUSTICE LEAGUE teaser trailer

Save for the superb Wonder Woman movie, DC’s cinematic output hasn’t been too well received. I’ve quite enjoyed each of the movies (though, I still haven’t seen Suicide Squad), and so I’m very much looking forward to Justice League. Warner Bros. has just unveiled a teaser trailer at San Diego ComicCon, featuring a lot of Steppenwolf, some parademons, and of course the League. Here it is:

Justice League should hit theatres in November 2017. During SDCC, a new poster was also unveiled, and I couldn’t agree more with io9, it really does look like an Alex Ross painting brought to life: