Welcome To The Darkside – My Local Comic Shop

Killing Joke Graphic Novel and Joker Pop

Darkside Comics is my local comic shop. I can remember going to comic shops as a teenager and twenty five years later I’m starting to enjoy it again. A lot of that has to do with the owner Holly and the atmosphere she’s given to her business. It would be easy to say that as a woman she is bound to have more female customer than some of the creepy blokes that ran comic stores when I was a kid but that would be doing her a great disservice. Darkside is inclusive. Not as some lip service publicity seeking make a quick buck gimmick. Holly has a unique way of not just bringing all her customers together through comics but to enthuse people who wouldn’t necessarily ever visit a comic shop to want to visit. Whether is is through her women’s nights, pride tables or the cool Beast Boy stickers she puts of the comics for younger readers there is a genuine feeling of being part of a community just by walking in. For somebody like me that is awkward around people that is impressive, but when you consider my wife has now bought Squirrel Girl from there and my 9yr old has comics on order and loves having a look around. My eldest was an avid reader when he was nine so it has been hard for us to deal with a child who enjoys reading less. It is great to see him eager to read things and talk about the story afterwards.

Is Darkside the cheapest? No. We could get most things slightly cheaper elsewhere but we don’t just pay for  the comics. Holly understands a LOT better than silly Amazon algorithms what our tastes are. For example my boy is probably going to give Lumberjanes a go and I’m not sure that would be at all likely without Holly explaining to him what it is about. Is Darkside unique? I doubt it. I also know that whilst the bigger stores like Forbidden Planet are also great with how they treat people it doesn’t have the same personal feel every time you walk in. If you are ever anywhere near Chelmsford it is only about a minute from the train and bus stations and well worth your time.


Training Days by Joan De La Haye

Training Days Cover

This book follows on from The Race. The story started pretty much directly after the first part but it was different. Whenever I’ve read anything buy De La Haye I’ve always felt it was South African. In this story though it felt like as the main protagonist changes and moves away from her roots so the writing changes. I found it fascinating to feel the voice change as the character does. It was only a slight shift but it really added something to the story.

There is a definite act two feel to this story and it really does build well upon the first book. I don’t think it works as well as a stand-alone book when compared to the first book but I think the writing is a lot better in terms of the characters. I re-read The Race before reading Training Days and I would highly recommend doing that if you can. I can’t wait for the third part so that some vengeance can be enacted.

Smallbany by Graham Wynd

Cover for Smallbany Graham Wynd

At just over ten pages that is a short, sharp shock. Ideal for a chilled out lunch break.

Reviewing anything this short is difficult without spoilers or getting more technical than I’m capable of doing. It is a pretty standard noir short story, hard-boiled in more than one sense. That said it does mess with you a bit. Accents and appearances that jar against the” norms” make you think about your own inbuilt prejudices.

I know this is a lead in story for Drag Noir by Fox Spirit Books so if you enjoy this I heartily recommend checking them out.

I enjoyed this story as I do most by Wynd but I wanted more.

Throneworld by Guy Haley

Cover Throneworld by Guy Haley

I bought the audiobook version of this series. I miss my e-reader and wanted to try reading a series through this medium rather than physical books. This had an unexpected benefit this holiday. Unlike my eldest son who falls asleep on every form of transport instantly my nine year old is a terrible traveler. He fidgets, whines and generally makes journeys feel a LOT longer than they are. A seven hour drive North was turning in to one of those fun times. In desperation I let him borrow my phone and listen to it. FOUR HOURS OF SILENCE. We then had a nice discussion about the things he didn’t understand. Some of them were because he hadn’t read the previous novels but most were interesting questions about the story. That alone made this worth buying for me.

For me this novel works really well. It stands up as a story in itself but it really does pull a lot of things together in creative ways. I especially enjoyed the addition of the Eldar and how they are perceived as enigmatic guardians of the old ways before the Age of Imperium and yet still want to help “guide” mankind. This part of the book opens up so much scope for the following books that I was thinking about the possibilities for days.

In the previous books the politics at the heart of Terra sees the threat levels for the Highlords themselves being almost non-existent. This book changes everything. Nobody is safe, no plans are not being delved in to by others. All of this happens with the perfect amount of physical battles.

Needless to say I’ve already started reading the next book in the series. In fact the only good thing about returning to work is listening to it as I trudge along my commute.



Notes: Writing Prose in Pleasure of the Park by Kyle J. Knapp

Book Cover - Notes: Writing Prose in Pleasure of the Park by Kyle J. Knapp

I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk this year. I keep starting books and not feeling like finishing them. The editor for Knapp’s work is his uncle who just so happens to be a really underrated editor and publisher. I remember when he sent me a copy of Knapp’s first book and I was nervous about reading it. I needed have worried, it hit me somewhere inside and my emotional late teens came flooding back. Since then I’ve been a fan. When I heard this book was coming out I said no to a review copy because I wanted to pay for it. I needed to express my admiration for Knapp’s work in the only meaningful way I knew. I paid for it.

It would be easy to say that this collection is about the natural world and how we look at it when we slow ourselves down and really see it. For me though there was something else. An undercurrent of love for another person, maybe unrequited and maybe not.  The struggle of human contact and emotional attachments hit me and my own struggles really hard.

The simple structure and the far from simple words combined to paint vistas in my mind. The way this book is put together with a smattering of notes and an interview interspersed through the work made this feel more like a journal that I was guiltily reading without the owner knowing.

I have always found it difficult to be objective about poetry and this publication was no exception. I became emotionally attached not just to the work but also the life of Kyle J. Knapp. I’d have loved to sit in the pub garden having a long chat about ephemera over a jar of warm beer.

What a great way for me to be enthused about books again. I may have just ordered a book on Sufi poetry because of this book.


Outliers: 2016: Volume 1 (Outliers Saga)

Outliers 2016 Cover

This book was a collaboration between Jonathan Ward, Alec McQuay, James Fadeley, Robbie MacNiven, A.R. Aston, Manuel Mesones. For me the biggest downside to this book was that there were not more graphical elements like the luscious cover art. I’d loved to have seen a picture of Meld in New York. That would have been epic. If you haven’t read Outliers: The Shape Of Things To Come I highly recommend it. The format for this book was a lot more traditional than the primer and that could have spoiled this book for me, but it didn’t. I did find the odd memo and email worked well in this book but would have liked a couple more.

In some ways reading this felt a bit like watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D but there was a more gritty and realistic feel to it. I liked the fact that there wasn’t a binary confrontation. The different factions twisting and bumping together really added a depth to the story and had me itching to see how alliances and confrontations would change the balance of power.

It wasn’t until near the end it twigged that Snapshot was the character binding everything together. He was an unusual character and not at all the character I thought I’d be following. I was really impressed by how the characters developed seamlessly across the stories by different authors without appearing to compromise the voices of the individual authors.

I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next installment.



The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

Book Cover House of Shattered Wings

Although I’m a fan of Aliette de Bodard I didn’t plan to buy this book.  I’ve never really been a fan of Paradise Lost and the plethora of fallen angel stories it has been inspired. Then I watched a video of the author being interviewed at Eurocon by Ian Whates and I knew I had to read it anyway.

As with everything Aliette de Bodard does this book took a simple and well used premise and twisted it until as the reader I forgot all about the premise. Sometimes after reading a book I’ll go and do some research about one thing or another, but one of the things that really made this book stand out for me was that at least a couple of times I stopped reading to go research something. The one that stood out for me was the symbolism of the Banyan tree. I now have an unhealthy fascination with looking at old and gnarly fig trees.

I have always been fascinated by food and food in fiction  when done well can be amazing. There was one line about the small of jasmine rice that evoked really strong memories for me. These references seem quite subtle as you read them but seem to have a massive effect.

This book could easily have come across as a clash of cultures and a battle of superiority not of the protagonists but on one religious tradition over another. It didn’t. I loved the way I was left feeling that regardless of your background we’re all doomed with that inkling of hope and redemption there to keep us sane.

As usual Aliette de Bodard has nail-gunned this one straight in to my brain and it is going to take me a while to get parts of this book and the ideas it has raised out of my head, and that is a great thing.