Kevin J. Anderson talks about books "Hellhole Awakening", "Mentats of Dune" and working with Rush’s Neil Peart on "Clockwork Angels"

Kevin J. Anderson is the known best for his work in the “Dune” universe working with co-author Brian Herbert. He also co-authored the book “Clockwork Angels: The Novel” with Neil Peart from the band Rush. He is releasing his latest novel, “Hellhole Awakening” this month and working on the next “Dune” novel, “Mentats of Dune”, due next year. Kevin took out some to time to chat with Media Mikes before he hits the road to promote his new novels discuss them and also what else he has in the cards for 2013.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your latest novel “Hellhole Awakening”?
Kevin J. Anderson: Brian Herbert and I have written about a dozen other books together in Frank Herbert’s “Dune” universe. They are all international best sellers and we love diving into that universe. But after doing all those books together we decided to take a crack at our own universe. It is trilogy. “Hellhole” is the first one, which came out two years ago. And now “Hellhole Awakening” is part two and comes out at the end of March. Hellhole is a planet that is struck by an asteroid. Due to that, there are volcanoes, earthquakes, storms and most of the native life forms are extinct. Then you have a bunch of misfits that are trying to colonize it, led by an exiled rebel general. So, these desperate colonists are trying to make a new life for themselves on a very hellish place. We have a lot of various storylines with aliens, disasters, terrific space battles and some other really cool stuff. We are very excited about the trilogy. It is really epic. The story just keeps building after what the first book has set up. (I know I should have a good one-liner to describe it—HELLHOLE is about a colony trying to survive in a place where nobody would want to live.

MG: Tell us about how this collaboration with Brian Herbert compares than your other books?
KJA:  We have been doing this since the mid-1990’s and every single year we have a new book out. We have spent most of the time in the “Dune” universe, and we really know how the other person thinks. We play upon each other’s strengths and are able to describe things and tell a story we find engaging. The “Hellhole” books gave us a chance to strut our own stuff instead of using what Frank Herbert developed in the “Dune” universe. It is nice to play with your own toys sometimes.

MG: Also with Brian, How is your progress coming along for “Mentats of Dune”?
KJA:  MENTATS is the second book (after SISTERHOOD OF DUNE) in a new trilogy set about 10,000 years before the original novel “Dune”. It is about the formation of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood and the Mentats School. “Mentats of Dune” will be out next spring. Actually when the phone rang for this interview, I was editing page 100 out of page 651. Brian and I are in our fifth draft, and we will probably go through ten drafts or so until we get it all finalized. We do a book every year, kind of like clockwork… which leads me into my other recent book “Clockwork Angels,” the steampunk fantasy adventure based on the new Rush concept album.

MG: I was just going to ask actually, tell us about the “Clockwork Angels: The Watchmaker’s Edition”?
KJA:  The Watchmakers Edition is the audiobook version of the novel. Not your typical audio book. It is unabridged and read by Neil Peart (the drummer from Rush, with whom I cowrote the novel). Neil has a gorgeous voice and he wanted to do this. This novel is very close to him and me as well. And what could be better than having Neil Peart read it himself? The novel and the audiobook itself were released last September. “The Watchmaker’s Edition” is a very snazzy special edition, with a modeled clock tower with a working clock inside. It has beautiful artwork all around it by Hugh Syme, the cover and album artist. (He’s done all of the artwork for Rush’s albums dating the way back to “2112”. ) It also has a nice poster inside with a timeline for the “Clockwork Angels” project for Rush and my work as well. Any die-hard Rush fan should have this.

MG: Let’s go back, tell us about origin about how this collaboration came about with Rush’s Neil Peart?
KJA:  “Clockwork Angels” is Rush’s latest concept album, like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” or The Beatles’ “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”. It is a steampunk fantasy adventure about a Big Brother figure called The Watchmaker and a crazy anarchist who wants to destroy everything—who meet up with a naive dreamer, someone who grew up in a small town. He wants to visit the big city where the Clockwork Angels are. The world has zeppelins, pirates, steampunk carnivals, and the lost seven cities of gold. Neil and I have known each other for about 25 years. He’s already read my books and I have always been a Rush fan. We’ve worked together a few times. Before CLOCKWORK ANGELS, we did a short story called “Drumbeats.” and Neil wrote an introduction to a collection of short stories I did. When he was developing the story for the”Clockwork Angels” album, I started brainstorming with him just because it was fun. At some point along the way, Neil suggested that this could be a novel also. This novel is something I’ve been waiting my entire career to do. Rush’s music has inspired many of my stories. During their “Time Machine” tour, they came to Colorado (where I live) and on a day off, Neil and I climbed a 14,000 foot mountain—because what else do you do on your day off? During the hike up, we plotted the story and came up with the characters. So while Rush was writing the album, I was putting together the story in my head. I was able to put in little references to Rush lyrics—not just “Clockwork Angels” but the entire library of songs. If you are a die-hard Rush fan, you will catch them, but otherwise the story flows just fine.

MG:What/when can we expect from the third Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. novel, “Hair Raising”?
KJA: HAIR RAISING is the third installment after DEATH WARMED OVER and UNNATURAL ACTS, and will be out in May. I’ve also done an original story, “Stakeout at the Vampire Circus” (available in all eBook formats), and I’ll have another new one, “Road Kill,” out in about a month. This series is a humorous horror series which follows Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I., set in a world where all the monsters come back and live in a part of the city called the “Unnatural Quarter”. In HAIR RAISING, somebody is stalking werewolves and scalping them.
If you can’t tell, I have so much fun with my job. I love telling these stories. I don’t have enough time in the day to put down all the words in my head

MG: Tell us about your upcoming tour to support these?
KJA: I am about to start a US tour for HELLHOLE AWAKENING (San Diego, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Atlanta, Dayton, Richmond VA, and Colorado Springs)—full tour schedule at Unlike a rock concert tour, I will be there meeting with the fans face to face, give a little talk about working with Brian and Neil, and there’ll be a Q&A, door prizes, lots of cool stuff. I look forward to getting out there and meeting the fans.

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Book Review “Awakening: The Art of Halo 4”

Author: Paul Davies
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: November 6, 2012

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

When it comes to video games, “Halo” is definitely the master chief of them all.  “Halo” has become such an iconic franchise over a short period of time.  “Halo 4” is the latest blockbuster installment, which is set to change history and re-define gaming. The story is set in the aftermath of “Halo 3”, it marks the beginning of a new trilogy as the Master Chief confronts an ancient evil that threatens the fate of the entire universe. In this book we get a glimpse into the beginning of this new trilogy within a stunning array of concept art, character sketches and much, much more. If you are a “Halo” fan, this is the holy grail of kick-ass books that you need to own for sure.

From the minute I opened this book, I was flooded with colors and amazing images.  It is one of those books that you literally cannot put down once opened.  Every page – every chapter is better than the next.  “Awakening: The Art of Halo 4” will satisfy all give gamers, whether they are hardcore or novice.  This book contains an in-depth look at the behind-the-scenes of how the stunning worlds of “Halo 4” were created. Fans of the series don’t fret since this book is also packed with some great commentary from the art director and game designers, so there is plenty of insider goodies.  We mentioned concept art and character sketches above, that is one the tip of the iceberg.  There is very detailed environments layouts, as well as an additional section on the forthcoming multiplayer game.

Author Paul Davies is definitely the right man for this job.  He is a crazy Halo fanatic (just like us) and has worked in gaming journalism for twenty years, where he has written and edited magazines and websites including Official Nintendo and Computer & Video Games. He wrote this book as a fan and therefore fans are going to really did it.  I read a lot of “art of” books and this one literally jumps off the pages.  Titan Books has deliver probably one of their best to date.  The quality of this book is just very high and it is aimed to satisfy the hardest gamers out there.  And if you are not the biggest “Halo” fan and just looking to see what all the fuzz is about this book will make you run to the store, trip the person in front of you and buy this game ASAP!

DVD Review “The Awakening”

Director: Mike Newell
Starring: Charlton Heston, Susannah York, Jill Townsend, Stephanie Zimbalist
MPAA Rating: R
Distributed by: Warner Archive
Running Time: 101 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

When you put Charlton Heston and mummies together, it immediately grabs my interest. The film is based of Bram Stoker’s “Jewel of the Seven Stars”. It is directed by Mike Newell, who went on to direct “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”. The film overall drags a bit but does have a snappy ending, which I really enjoyed.

The film follows Egyptologist (Heston), who becomes obsessed with a sorceress whose return has been prophesied and also whose tomb was opened the exact moment his daughter was born. Will his obsession take him over and what is the fate of his daughter?

If you enjoy classic horror films, this 1980 film, should do the trick. “The Awakening” is presented on DVD in widescreen 16×9 with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It both looks and sounds good. There is no special features included, unfortunately.  But either way, thanks to Warner Archive for finally releasing this film on DVD.

3D Blu-ray Review “Underworld: Awakening”

Directors: Björn Stein, Måns Mårlind
Actors: Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Stephen Rea, Theo James
MPAA Rating: R
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Running Time: 88 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

What is great about “Underworld: Awakening” is that even if you haven’t seen any films in series, you can still watch this film. The opening scene sums up the whole series and catches you up to speed. So what can you expect for the fourth film in the series? Well, surprising quite a bit. This film has more of everything vampires, werewolves, action and even adds 3D to the mix.  It is action packed and most important boasts the return of the sexy yet deadly Selene. In fact out of all the film in the series, this is easiest my favorite!! So if you are reading this Sony…let’s get started on “Underworld 5”!!

Kate Beckinsale returns to the role of Selene (after skipping “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”) and she is back with a vengeance.  She is honestly the most bad-ass female vampire/warrior ever to hit the screen.   In this installment, after being caught and confined for testing, she escapes only to find that the world has changed.  Humans have discovered about the existence of both the Vampire and Lycan clans.  The humans has started a war in order to remove both species. Things get a little more complicated when Selene finds out that she has a daughter that she didn’t know about during the time she was held and she is the target of both species.

Let’s focus for a second on the film’s 3D.  This is one of my favorite live action 3D Blu-ray’s that I have seen seen.  Most live-action 3D Blu-ray are said to be darker, this one puts that statement to rest.  The film itself just uses the 3D so well, holds a constant depth and also rocks out with the film’s constant action. This all goes along well with the film’s amazing 1080p transfer and 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  So, this film not only looks amazing it also sounds even better.  Sony packed this Blu-ray with a super impressive DTS-HD MA 7.1 track and really pushes the format to the max.  This film also comes with a standard Blu-ray and DVD of the film, as well as an Ultraviolet digital streaming copy.

The special features like the film are also very impressive. Firstly there is a massive commentary track with directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, producers Richard Wright and Gary Lucchesi, executive producer and visual effects supervisor James McQuaide.  Everything is covered her from proudction to effects, very highly recommended.  “Selene Rises” focuses on the return of Kate Beckinsale playing Selene. “Casting the Future of Underworld” looks at the series new player, Theo James and India Eisley and plans for future installments. “Resuming the Action” talks about shooting in 3D and creating the film’s amazing action sequences.  “Building a Better Lycan” showcases the plans to create better werewolf visuals for this installment.  “Awakening a Franchise, Building a Better World” is a general making-of featurette and also touches on revamping this series. “Previsualization Sequences” are exclusive to the Blu-ray 3D release and includes six scenes.  Lastly there is a Blooper Reel and Music Video for “Heavy Prey” by Lacey Sturm Feat. Geno Lenardo.