Gunmetal Gods – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

They took his daughter, so Micah comes to take their kingdom. Fifty thousand gun-toting paladins march behind him, all baptized in angel blood, thirsty to burn unbelievers.

Only the janissaries can stand against them. Their living legend, Kevah, once beheaded a magus amid a hail of ice daggers. But ever since his wife disappeared, he spends his days in a haze of hashish and poetry.

To save the kingdom, Kevah must conquer his grief and become the legend he once was. But Micah writes his own legend in blood, and his righteous conquest will stop at nothing.

When the gods choose sides, a legend will be etched upon the stars.

REVIEW 5/5 STARS

Kevah was once a hero who did the impossible. He killed a magus and his legend was born. Ten years later he is old and leads a life averse to warfare but his time will come again. Meanwhile, Micah the metal has been on a conquest for his faith. He has conquered much of the world and now he comes for Kostany, the city that Kevah lives in. He will stop at nothing to achieve his victory.

When an author is bold enough to name a book Gunmetal Gods, they better deliver the goods with a huge, epic story that is an absolute page turner full of amazing battles, intense political intrigue, and surprises at every turn. That is exactly what author Zamil Akhtar has done.

The parallel stories of Kevah and Micah intertwine and intersect in surprising ways as the world moves with them and around them. As the book progresses, the reader only becomes more engaged in the story as the cast of characters grows.

Battle scenes are fascinating in this book with the combination of swordplay, magic, and technological advancements in the early development of guns. They are vividly described and utterly thrilling to read.

The book is full of well realized characters, a deep culture that is well thought out, incredible creatures and amazing beings that turn the tide of the story and everything else you would want in a fantasy tale. This book easily stands with the best of epic fantasy fiction.

If you love sweeping epics like the Game of Thrones series or Throne of the Crescent Moon, drop whatever else you are reading and pick up this book. It’s as bold as the title and it delivers on all fronts. Remember Zamil Akhtar’s name because if he keeps writing like this, he will be the next well known epic fantasy author to have a global fanbase.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Lovecraft Country (Rewind 1921) Episode 9 Spoiler-free Review

The Intensity is Turned All the Way Up In The Penultimate Episode of the Season

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to give a spoiler free review of the ninth episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

The title of the episode probably gives you a good clue as to where and when the main events of this episode happen, especially if you know your American history well. With all that this show has delivered week in and week out I was not sure if it would be able get better.

It did. This episode is utterly nail biting, intense and superbly emotional. The family drama deepens and connections are made and resolved. Events that have been spoken of previously in the show come to light and are turned in stunningly surprising ways.

This show is absolutely a must see for any horror fan, especially if you have a strong stomach. There were a couple of episodes that I thought were not as strong as the others but overall this show is gripping television.

There is only one episode to go. If you have not watched Lovecraft Country yet, binge as fast as you can this week because the final episode is sure to deliver everything you would want in a horror show.

I can’t wait until next Sunday to watch.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Invisible Man (2020) vs. The Invisible Man (1933)

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I recently watched The Invisible Man (1933) and wanted to compare it to The Invisible Man (2020).

You will probably see right through this but if you keep reading, there will be spoilers for both movies below. You have been warned.

In this corner we have a scientist who injects himself with a solution that not only makes him turn invisible but also causes him to go insane and allows him to torture scientists he works with and terrorize an entire town. In the opposite corner is a horrifically abusive scientist who is an expert in optics and fakes his own death in order to torture a woman, frame her for unspeakable crimes, and terrorizes a police facility for the mentally ill.

The original film is a fun romp into what ifs about being invisible but still shows the dire consequences of what happens when science goes to far. The current film is more of a statement about the sad truth that far too many victims of domestic abuse are not believed when they should be. It’s a much more gripping psychological thriller than the first.

While in the original it is to be expected that there would be plot holes, silly camera gimmicks that were innovative at the time and a bit of overacting, the current film needs to be held to a higher standard. It’s hard to do film magic now since the audience understands that we have such things as green screens, CGI etc. The current film is able to create plenty of tension despite the fact we can all guess at how the camera tricks were pulled off. There are some things that I question in the current film however.

Here is where I will go a bit into deeper spoilers for the current film so if you have not seen it, you may not want to read further. In the new film, the main character, Cecilia (who is not the invisible man if you did not guess), is framed for murder. Moments later she is in police custody where she is interrogated by her friend whose house she was staying at. Now, while I give this movie a lot of credit and I think it was a good watch, I hardly found this part believable. It would be such an obvious conflict for that cop to be interrogating a murder suspect who he had such a close relationship with. Sorry, but I don’t buy that at all.

Later in the film, when things are wrapping up and Cecilia is trying to get the actual Invisible Man to confess, James is listening in as a cop. Again, that is way too much of a conflict to happen. I know complaining about those parts of the movie might be considered too picky, it threw off the experience for me.

Still, it is a terrifying movie but perhaps not for the reason you would think. On the surface, thinking that an invisible stalker is around is certainly terrifying. There is no doubt that would be a challenging adversary. But the terrifying part of this is the fact that in so many cases in real life women are not believed when they say they are abused. This whole movie plot would not work if that were not the case and to me that is utterly horrifying. It’s so easy for the characters around Cecilia to dismiss her concerns because that is what actually happens far too often and that is unacceptable. It does add weight to the movie though and raises the stakes.

So to sum up, the original movie is great if you want a fun silly scare and to see the golden age of movie monsters at the beginning. The new one is terrifying because it reflects much of our reality. Depending on what you are in the mood for, both are very good films. I recommend them both but if you decide to watch the current one, think about how easy it is for Cecilia’s situation to be translated to reality and how tragic that is.

I can’t really pick a “winner” between the two because both are very competent films. But if you are looking for escapist fantasy and fun monsters I definitely say to go with the original. And let’s try to keep the horrors on the screen instead of in reality.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Werewolf of London (1935) – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here and you know what has been missing from my Universal Monster party? Werewolves. That’s right, the hairy, transforming creature has only just made its appearance on the Universal stage. Today I am going to review Werewolf of London (1935).

This movie is from 1935 so I am pretty sure I am okay to go ahead and say it’s your fault if anything below is a spoiler to you. Still, some people grow hair on their knuckles over that sort of thing so consider yourself warned.

Werewolf of London was one of the first movies to feature werewolves. This film should not be confused with the much more popular film The Wolf Man. I will get to that one but the Werewolf of London came first so I am reviewing it first.

The movie starts with a couple of Londoners in Tibet trying to get a hold of a rare flower that only blooms in moonlight. In their attempt to do so, one of them is bit by what looks like a man and a wolf combined. The film starts with good potential there and talks about superstitions and we all know where it is going.

The next, I don’t know, really long part of the movie, is a garden party. Yep, that’s right, there is a really long sequence at a botanical society and it is every bit as exciting as that sounds. There is a rival botanist who wants the moon flower that the Londoner stole because, well, it cures, “werewolfery”. The film tries to make the whole thing seem menacing but it comes off as pretty silly.

I’m sure you know where it goes from here. The botanist from London transforms into a werewolf. He does bad, bad things. We get to see a transformation and some makeup artistry at work and then, ultimately he is stopped.

The best part of this movie is the two innkeeper women who bicker with each other and occasionally knock one another out. For the rest of this movie I would put this in the Incredible Hulk category for MCU movies. That is to say, it is one you can skip and get along in life without just fine.

Still, there is one really good thing to come out of this film. And that’s not even a film, it’s a song. Warren Zevon watched this movie randomly on television one day and he was convinced that he should write a song about it and create a dance craze to go along with the movie. The song became a smash hit and is still played on the radio today. I bet you want to listen to it. No problem, I have you covered, just play the video below!

Horrifically and musically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) – #MovieReview

Hey all you monsters out there, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review the next of the Universal creature features, this time its the romantic biopic known as The Bride of Frankenstein from 1935.

This movie was made a long time ago but I am told there are still living bodies today that have not seen it so I give you a spoiler warning. Don’t let your hair stick up in the air because of it.

Boris Karloff was getting quite the reputation as a leading monster. Frankenstein was a huge hit and audiences wanted more. The studio wanted money, thus, more Frankenstein pictures were guaranteed. This time, the creature wants a wife.

This movie is a rather interesting entry in monster movies. Like the first of the series, it starts with a little bit of a warning to the audience that what we would see would shock us. Only, this time we get a flashback to Mary Shelley reflecting on her novel instead of a man on a stage. Elsa Lancaster plays not only Mary Shelley but also plays the eponymous bride. The hairdo really makes a big difference here.

Interestingly, it could be argued that this movie is more accurate to the book than the first Frankenstein film is. Karloff gets some dialogue. He makes a friend and there is a bit of moral gray introduced here, as we see that the monster is a very isolated creature. Like in the book, Frankenstein’s monster wants a companion who is like him. One that won’t hate him and reject him because of his monstrous appearance.

Dr. Frankenstein is obsessed with learning the secret of life even after the events of the first film. The part that gets kind of out of hand here is the doctor that comes to entice Frankenstein into taking a second dip into reanimating the dead. Doctor Pretorius has a creepy demeanor, a face that is unforgettable, an evil agenda, and… a bunch of little people in jars. Yep. It’s a bit of film trickery which was innovative at the time but looks a bit silly. Luckily the rest of the film overshadows that flaw to make an extremely gripping film.

You can feel the anguish in Karloff’s voice as his creature realizes that the bride that was built for him is afraid of him. I think the most memorable line in this is three short words, “She hate me.”

It’s kind of soul crushing. If you haven’t seen this you should. There is a reason this is an all time classic.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Invisible Man (1933) – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here again to review yet another Universal monster movie. This time I watched The Invisible Man. Or did I? Can you really watch someone who is not visible? Anyway, I watched the movie from 1933 starring Claude Rains. I do intend to do a review of the more current Invisible Man as a compare and contrast but I haven’t watched it yet.

For this movie, it’s from 1933 so I probably don’t need to tell you that there will be spoilers below. But still consider yourself warned. If you get the creepy feeling that someone is the room with you telling you not to read further it’s not me but it could be The Invisible Man.

If you look at the previous Universal films you’ll notice something interesting. Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy have relatively low body counts. Sure, Dracula did kill everyone on a boat and he had terrorized everyone in his home country to the point that everyone was afraid. Frankenstein (well his monster that is) killed a few people and again terrorized his home town relentlessly. Imhotep aka the mummy, brought himself back from the dead and murdered a few people to regain his lost love. But you know what? They were not just regular humans. At one point they may have been but Dracula is thousands of years old. Frankenstein’s monster is more a collection of people than a single man. Imhotep is the closest to being a regular human but he comes from an ancient society with a different set of rules and magic on his side. You know what The Invisible Man had? A bit of science, some bandages, a wig, and a desire to cause a ton of chaos. This guy has a huge body count compared to the other monsters. And he seems to do bad things because he enjoys them.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. So the basic plot is that a man discovers a solution that can make you invisible. This man is a scientist and he goes off to an inn to try and work in seclusion and cure his condition. The problem? This solution drives you insane. He decides it would be fun to, you know, murder a bunch of people and by golly he does it. He derails an entire train at one point. A whole town can’t catch him and he enlists partners to help him in his criminal enterprises.

To modern audiences there are a lot of things that seem silly in the movie. A bicycle riding by itself with a voice over, things moving where you can see string if you look close enough, and film tricks like superimposing images so it looks like there is no head on a body. In 1933 these things were fairly innovative and left audiences shocked. What I really found shocking was the gleefully deviant attitude of the main character. I mean, this guy really likes to cause trouble and no one is gonna stop him.

The film is very entertaining if you can get over the older effects and I can see why someone like this would still be scary today. If you have never watched this, do yourself a favor and give it a view.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Lovecraft Country (Jig-a-Bobo) Episode 8 Spoiler-free Review

The Horror of Reality Collides with the Horror of the Cosmos as the Family Drama Intensifies

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to give a spoiler free review of the eighth episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

After seven episodes one would think that you could not get much more intense than the previous episodes. Yet this episode delivers everything you could want from this show.

The episode is electric with drama and it has loads of horrors. It proves that our hero Atticus is far from perfect and that things could go critically wrong. None of the characters are safe, from the world, from nightmares, or from themselves.

A lot of the episode reminded me of some of the best of Stephen King stories. If you love horror, and have not started watching this series, you need to get on this one right now. It’s terrifying in both the way it portrays the impossible and in how it portrays reality. Added to that is deep character development with nuanced heroes and villains.

This episode does propel the story forward and feels like it is building toward an epic conclusion of the season. There are only a couple more episodes to go but I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Mummy (1932) – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, back to review another of the Universal creature features. This time I am reviewing The Mummy from 1932. This is the second Universal movie to star Boris Karloff as an undead creature.

This is a movie that is almost ninety years old but I will still give the warning that spoilers will follow below. Don’t let your bandages unwrap over it.

By this time, Universal was building a reputation as masters of early film horror. In fact, there is a lot of overlap in the actors in all the Universal monster movies because of how the studio and film contracts worked at the time.

As far as The Mummy goes, there are a lot of issues with this film. For starters, the film has a pretty cavalier attitude about plundering Egypt for ancient artifacts in the name of, “science”. That’s pretty much how the attitude was in those days so it is not surprising but that doesn’t make it right. Secondly, most of the Egyptians in this movie are played by British or American actors. Let’s just say that the 1930’s was not the best era for representation in films. Whether we like it or not, that is how things were back then. Since this is the case, I am going to review the movie based on it’s plot and not it’s shortcomings here but we would be foolish to think this was a perfect film.

Boris Karloff gets a second turn as an undead creature in this film. He plays the menacing, yet soft spoken, mummy raised from the dead, Imhotep. In 1922 an expedition digs him up along with a box containing a scroll that has a warning against opening it. Of course, the archeologists immediately open it and ignore the warning because… plot. Ten years later, another expedition goes to the same area and a man who looks suspiciously like Imhotep leads them to a new find.

Imhotep is just looking to raise his great love from the dead and, you know, live happily ever after. Unfortunately to do that, he has to hypnotize and kill a woman named Helen Grosvener who seems to be a reincarnation of Imhotep’s love. The heroes have to stop that from happening. I won’t go into too much more detail other than that but I will say that the mummy has some serious thought control powers and has magic on his side so he isn’t easy to defeat.

If you have not seen this movie you should, even if it is just to watch Karloff’s performance. As always he has the most watchable film presence in anything he appears in. Because of this The Mummy has endured for decades and is one of the most important film monsters of all time. His quiet demeanor combined with his imposing figure was enough to give plenty of audiences nightmares in the 1930’s and is still really fun to watch today.

While this is not my favorite of the Universal monsters, I have to give the mummy credit for being an important component of it. I haven’t really watched the sequels so I am interested to see where it goes from here.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Frankenstein (1931) – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review the second of the Universal monster films, the ever popular Frankenstein starring the one and only Boris Karloff.

This is a film that is so iconic that if you say the word Frankenstein, the image of Karloff with his neck bolts is what immediately jumps to mind. And that’s despite the fact that the book of the same name is one of the most famous horror novels of all time. And that’s despite the fact that Karloff doesn’t play Frankenstein, he plays Frankenstein’s monster. If you haven’t read the book or watched the movie there will be some spoilers that follow. It’s a movie that is almost ninety years old though so try not to lose any body parts over it okay?

The book Frankenstein is a deeply philosophical novel that goes in depth with questions about how humanity should draw the line between science and nature. It asks if ambition can be destructive. It asks if a man can be a god and if he can, what does that make his creation. It asks us to decide who is the real monster in this story.

The movie has cool wheels and gears and a whole bunch of over the top insanity from its Dr. Frankenstein. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the movie, it’s just very different from the book. Some of the story is the same, a portion of the events play out like they did in the book. The basic idea is there. A doctor who is consumed with discovering the secret of life does so by harvesting the dead for body parts then reanimating them. The new creation is more creature than man in the movie but it is more complicated in the book.

My favorite part of the film adaptation is the beginning. Before we get into the main action of the story a man comes on stage to warn the audience that what we are about to see may shock and terrify us. If you are a fan of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes, you probably know that this is where they got the idea for Marge to give the audience a warning. It sets the tone for the rest of the film and puts us in the mood to be shocked or horrified.

For modern audiences there is nothing truly frightening here but it is still really fun to watch. Karloff does not have a single line of dialogue in the whole film and he mostly just goes around grunting. We do get to see him in his costume, complete with makeup and heavy boots. Those boots would give poor Boris back problems for the rest of his life. It’s an iconic and mesmerizing performance and it’s easy to see why audiences of the day found it so fascinating.

I’ll never understand some of the choices the filmmakers made for this however. I have no idea why they chose to name the scientist Henry Frankenstein instead of Victor like it is in the book. Not only that, they give the name Victor to another character who vies for the affection of Elizabeth who is engaged to Henry. It’s definitely confusing if you read the book but of course you do not have to have read the book to enjoy the movie.

I also will never understand why Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant opens the jar with the “normal brain” instead of just leaving with it but I guess if he didn’t the rest of the movie couldn’t happen. After all, a creature with a normal brain would be pretty dull.

If you have never watched this film, do yourself a favor and give it a view. It’s great fun and well worth a watch.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dracula (1931) – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. This October I thought I would go through a bunch of the classic Universal creature features and give them a review. And if we are doing Universal monster movies, we have to start with the granddaddy of them all, Dracula from 1931 starring the one and only Bela Lugosi as the title character.

This movie is almost ninety years old and the book it is based off is even older but I still will give you the warning that spoilers will follow. Because, you know, maybe you are an undead creature who loves to feast on human blood but also loves movies and has just not had enough time to get to reading or watching Dracula. You have been warned, now get those sharp teeth off of my neck.

Dracula is the most iconic vampire of all time and as far as I can tell, he always will be. The book took a bunch of separate ideas about what a vampire is and put them all together to create one of the most terrifying books in all of literature. The film from 1931 is not only a horror classic but a film classic. Any list of the greatest movies of all time that leaves this one off is missing the mark. Re-watching the film it’s obvious why this is a classic. The filmmakers were able to pack all the menace and mood of danger in that they could. Even with all of the subsequent versions of Dracula from different studios, remakes, etc., this will always hold as the most iconic. It’s nearly impossible not to imagine Bela Lugosi when you say the word Dracula.

Still, the film makes some very odd choices and leaves out plenty of the best parts of the book. The main thing that confuses me in this adaptation is that they put Renfield as the one who travels to Castle Dracula to make arrangements for the count. Anyone who has read the book knows without doubt that the character who does this is Jonathan Harker. The other major complaint is that the story of Lucy is almost completely ignored. That part of the book is what really raises the stakes (pun totally intended) for our heroes. They choose to leave this part out and focus more on Mina which makes some sense when you have to keep it at seventy-five minutes. It would have been nice to have it there though.

Even with those complaints, this is still a great movie. Most versions are a little grainy and the sound can be difficult to hear at times but that is just due to the age of the film. This is also, in my opinion, where you should start if you want to introduce your kids to horror. Honestly, there is a reason that all these years later when I tell you that I am going to review Universal monster movies, you know exactly the kinds of creature features I am talking about. This is the movie that kicked that off and proved beyond doubt that horror was a golden money maker in Hollywood. I wish that studios would make something this iconic today.

There are immortal lines in this one as well. “I never drink… wine,” probably being the most recognized. The mood and setting are iconic and set the tone for several films to come. If you have never watched this or if it has been a while since you have, do yourself a favor and give ol’ Dracula a little bit of attention. You won’t regret it.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon