Kidscomic Shakespeare: The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth

Adapting Shakespeare for kids is an age-old tradition stretching back almost to the time of Shakespeare itself. But as Cory Doctorow discovered, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth brings The Scottish Play to life for audiences young and old in kids-comic form with a lot of broad humor and some grisly murder besides.

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Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel: Bad romance, Russia and writer's angst

Anya Ulinich’s 2008 debut novel Petropolis, marked her out as a master of tragicomic romance; now she’s back with a huge, hilarious, bitter graphic novel about sex, immigration, the Russian soul, and heartbreak. Cory Doctorow reviews Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel: A Graphic Novel.

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Wendy and Richard Pini's Complete Elfquest

The Complete Elfquest is a mammoth graphic novel collecting the entire original series, as self-published by Wendy and Richard Pini from 1978-1985. Rob Beschizza sums up what’s so great about it.

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Scott Westerfeld's Afterworlds

Scott Westerfeld’s latest novel, Afterworlds is a book about a teenager who’s just sold her first book. It’s a story-within-a-story, and it works brilliantly. Cory Doctorow unpacks the nesting tales of Darcy Patel and Elizabeth Scofield.

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Lauren Beukes's Broken Monsters

Lauren Beukes’s latest crime/horror novel Broken Monsters marries the snappy, hard-boiled cleverness of her 2010 novel Zoo City with the visceral horror of 2013’s The Shining Girls and yields up a tale that’s as terrifying as it is contemporary — Cory Doctorow reviews Broken Monsters.

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Mice and Mystics: awesome dungeoncrawler board game for all ages

Mice and Mystics is a beautifully-produced board game that creates a relatively all-ages-friendly dungeon crawl RPG experience without need for a dungeon master. “My kids went absolutely bananas over this game in a way I haven’t seen before,” says Jon Seagull

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Seconds, by Bryan Lee "Scott Pilgrim" O'Malley

What do you do for a followup after a triumph like the Scott Pilgrim series? If you’re Bryan Lee O’Malley, you do Seconds, a graphic novel that’s three notches less self-consciously clever, and six notches more heartfelt, smart, and sweet. Cory Doctorow reviews Seconds.

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Steven Gould's "Exo," a Jumper novel by way of Heinlein's "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel"

Steven Gould’s 1993 YA novel Jumper was a spectacular success (even if the film “adaptation” stank on ice), and each of the (all-too-infrequent) sequels have raised both the stakes and the bar for a must-read series. But with Exo, published today, Gould takes his game into orbit — literally.

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The Portlandia Activity Book

Inspired by the hilarious and quirky TV show Portlandia, The Portlandia Activity Book, written by Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, and Jonathan Krisel includes all kinds of Portland-related activities, tests and advice, such as a “Build Your Own Chore Wheel,” conversation starter cards, conversation stopper cards, fashion tips, bird stencils, silly word games, and more.

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Glimpses: amazing audiobook of one of the all-time-great rock-n-roll novels

Cory Doctorow rates Lewis Shiner’s haunting Glimpses as one of the all-time great rock-n-roll novels, right up there with George RR Martin’s stupendous Armageddon Rag. It’s now available as an audiobook, and he’s delighted.

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The Magician and the Cardsharp: The Search for America's Greatest Sleight-of-Hand Artist

A Gweek listener recommended The Magician and the Cardsharp to me (I can't remember who - sorry!) and I'm thankful he did. It's a well-told story about two men with intersecting lifelong goals. The first man was Allen Kennedy (1865–1961) a professional card cheat who spent many years perfecting his technique to deal cards from the center of the deck undetected. The second man was Dai Vernon (1894–1992), one of the most highly-respected sleight-of-hand magicians in history.

Vernon, who worked as a silhouette cutter in department stores, had been interested in card tricks (especially ones involving sleight-of-hand) since childhood. By the time he was an adult, he'd gained a reputation for being one of the best card handlers in the world. From time-to-time, Vernon would heard rumors that there was a professional cardsharp somewhere in Missouri who'd mastered the mythical Center Deal, a move that almost every magician dismissed as an impossible fantasy.

Vernon had his doubts too, but the rumors continued to spread, and his curiosity got the better of him. He embarked on a years-long quest, involving much travel and encounters with scary characters, to find out if there really was someone who had invented an undetectable center deal and, if he existed, to convince the man to teach him how it was done. This book is not only the story of Vernon's search for, and eventual meeting with, the man behind the rumor, it is also a history of the American midwest's rough-and-tumble past, replete with illegal gambling dens, speakeasies, con-men, whorehouses, and mobsters. Author Karl Johnson does a fine job of bringing the dusty, dangerous, boisterous, exciting atmosphere of small city vice to life.

The Magician and the Cardsharp

Video below shows a sample of the genius of Dai Vernon:

Sword and Laser bookclub kicks off The Name of the Wind

This episode is brought to you by Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and 10% off, go to squarespace.com and use offer code SWORD.

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Lev Grossman's The Magician's Land

Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Land concludes his genre-bending, brilliant, acerbic rethinking of the entire high fantasy genre, and does so with enormous style and skill. It’s easy to take cheap shots at the thrice-brewed tea of Tolkien, but Grossman’s moves are subtle, filled with understanding and affection, and offer no mercy to cherished illusions.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films

I saw the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes over the weekend and was amazed by its greatness. I applauded at the end with the rest of the audience. The acting, by both the humans and the “apes,” was superb. The revolutionary special effects – using “performance capture” cgi technology in ways never used before, created the most realistic digitalized characters I’ve ever seen. And the engaging and moving storyline with its themes on war, trust and humanity tied it all together into a perfect package. I love the rare science fiction film that surpasses expectations on every level, and this one hits every mark with incredible precision. So it was with great interest that I opened up Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films, a book that looks behind the scenes and explains the incredible ingenuity and talent that went behind the two latest movies in the Planet of the Apes franchise. With tons of photos that show how the effects were created along with a fascinating narrative that tells the journey of creating these films, this is a behind-the-scenes book that any Planet of the Apes or special effects fan will thoroughly enjoy.

See high-res sample pages from the book at Wink.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films by Sharon Gosling, Matt Hurwitz, and Adam Newell

Mark's culture picks on NPR's Bullseye: Forbidden Island and Citizen Keane

keane

From Bullseye with Jesse Thorn from NPR:

This week's recommendations come care of Boing Boing founder and Gweek host Mark Frauenfelder.

He suggests checking out Forbidden Island, a co-operative game. It's a simple premise: collect four treasures from a sinking island.

He also recommends Citizen Keane: The Big Lies Behind the Big Eyes, a biography about the sketchy past of Walter and Margaret Keane, the couple who painted the kitschy pop-art paintings of teary, big-eyed children.

Want to hear more? For more interviews about the best in culture, comedy, and recommendations every week, subscribe to our podcast in iTunes, with our RSS feed or search for "Bullseye with Jesse Thorn" in your favorite podcast app.