Scrolls Seperate Blog Ending

I started the Scrolls blog in anticipation of the podcast going live and, frankly just trying to get to grips with WordPress.  Everything I have been posting here has been going up on our parent site and for ages now the only things that have been posted here have also been posted at Geek Syndicate.  It seems pointless trying to keep this blog going as a mere duplicate.  The only benefit has been keeping all Scrolls created stuff browsable seperately.  As I have no plans or desire to leave the Geek Syndicate Network even this slim benefit is moot, so as of now I declare this blog ended, kaput, finito.

We will continue posting book reviews, convention spotlights and of course our podcast at so don’t worry, nothing is being lost.  If you’ve read this blog and not been reading Geek Syndicate you’ll find a hell of a lot more there.  In addition to the Scrolls material there is breaking news, interviews, reviews of films, games, comics and spotlights on geek conventions and culture of all kinds.

Join the community and have fun.  We’ll see you there.



Published in: on 19/03/2011 at 9:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Scrolls Reviews – Relentless

Relentless by Dean Koontz (ISBN 978-0007267590)
I love Dean Koontz, I really do, but there comes a point in a relationship when 
things sour for a bit. And for me, Relentless is that point.
Relentless is the story of fiction writer Cubby Greenwich who comes to the 
attention of critic Shearman Waxx. Waxx is scathing of One O'Clock Jump, Cubby's 
latest release, and Cubby just cannot let it lie. A chance encounter in a local 
restaurant brings Cubby into physical contact with Waxx and from here things 
start to get quite out there.
The plot centres around Waxx's victimisation of Cubby and his family; wife 
Penny, a children's author and super genius son Milo aged six.  Shearman Waxx is 
painted as a strange and vindictive man which works well in the build up to a 
violent and terrifying pursuit of the Greenwich family and it becomes apparent 
that this isn't the first time he has terrorised authors he considers of poor 
skill.  So we have a great premise set of psychopathic critic who is hell bent 
on killing the Greenwich's for his justified reason of ridding the world of poor 
work. Yet what could have been great flounders into mediocrity for me.
The problem is that the characters created are just too out there and quirky to 
make the story have credibility. We discover through the story that Waxx is part 
of a thousand strong secret militia intent on doing away with creators of poor 
writing, art and other mediums. To counter this we are introduced to Grimbald 
and Clotilda, Penny's parents, who are demolition expert hippies with secret 
nuclear bunkers dotted across North America in case of the end of the 
world. However, the strangest and most unrealistic character for me is Milo, the 
wise-cracking six year old genius whose ability with quantum physics is light 
years beyond anything we are currently capable of. Oh,forgot about the dog, 
don't get me started on the dog!
For their extremes I found that I couldn't relate to any of the characters and 
by about 100 pages in I just didn't care if they lived or not.  Everyone's a bit 
too cool for school and, mixed with Koontz's social commentary dotted throughout 
it, the story became secondary to everything else. When we finally get to the 
end of Relentless it feels like Koontz has decided that if you've come this far then he might 
as well throw in what he likes and see if it sticks. The end is ridiculous and I 
had to read it twice to convince myself he'd actually used the plot twist I was 
reading. I won't divulge in case you decide to pick up the book but suffice to 
say the laws of physics were broken due to the genius of young Milo.
There are bits I liked, the back story to Cubby for instance which showed the 
most catastrophic of family tragedies and a close second was Waxx's stalking of 
the Greenwich's in their own home which was excellent. If the rest of the 
book was like these two sections then we would have a 5 star book here but these 
highlights were too few and far between to make the story what it should have 
Quirky characters, witty dialogue in the face of death and twisting, out there 
endings work well in other Koontz work such as Odd Thomas or Life Expectancy but 
the formula just didn't deliver today. It's a shame really but I'm sure that 
normal service will be resumed soon.
2 out of 5
Published in: on 15/02/2011 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Scrolls Review – Haywired

Haywired by Alex Keller (ISBN 9781906132330)

One of the joys of the convention circuit is getting to meet creators face to face and having them pitch their work to you personally.  Not only do you get to meet some really interesting people but you often find yourself picking up books and comics that you may never have spotted otherwise.  At the London MCM Expo this year I met Alex Keller and bought his debut book Haywired.  On the back it’s subtitled: A Steampunk Fairytale and I think that’s a pretty good description, falling as it does somewhere between the Child and Young Adult markets.

Plot-wise it’s a classic children’s adventure full of dark secrets, hidden (rich) relatives, chase, capture and escape.  Ludwig von Guggenstein is an isolated but happy child, brought up in his father’s castle with just the gardener and the cook for company and his father’s library to study in.  Assisting his father in his scientific experiments he has no real notion of what the machines are used for or the dangers they represent, but the death of a local farmhand in one of the contraptions sets events in motion which force the boy to flee his home in the company of his monstrous brother, Hephaestus.  Pursued by HELOTS (mechanical abominations created by their father) they make their way across country and finally across the sea to enemy territory.  Along the way Ludwig gradually unravels family secrets, political plots and personal tragedies – and ultimately will find the way he sees the world changed forever.

For adults like myself who have gotten into the habit of reading ‘young adult’ fiction alongside our ‘grown up’ books since the Harry Potter renovation this feels perhaps a little too young, and reads a little too familiarly to be an altogether satisying read.  On the plus side it moves along at a fair old pace and twists around enough to keep the readers interest throughout (which is sadly a lot more than can be said for many bloated volumes clogging up the shelves.)  Unusually for a young adult book the author has focussed more on the personal journey that his character takes than in filling his book with whizz-bang distractions.  It makes for a more intensely emotional response in some particularly dark places and, though it leaves the world feeling a little sketchy on occasion, captures well the intense self-focus of children who simply aren’t aware of (and see no reason to care about) events, people and places outside of their immediate lives.  On occasion it can feel a little rushed, particularly in the last quarter of the book, and the cogs’n’leather fantasti-science doesn’t quite reach the giddy heights of invention found in the Mortal Engines series by Phillip Reeve. Nevertheless Keller brings enough spark to the tale to fire up the imagination and make the world feel a bit different, especially for a readership much more familiar with traditional science fiction or fantasy.  It’s important to remember who the target audience is, and I have to say, as a kid I would have devoured this and clamoured for more.

As it is, I can appreciate it as a cracking little read to bring youngsters into the genre, whilst not being able to wholeheartedly recommend it to bookworm kidults of my own age.

The sequel, ‘Rewired’ is being written at the moment – I’ll be interested to see how the characters and world develop – and then Alex is moving on to a new project.


Reviewed by Dion Winton-Polak.

Published in: on 12/01/2011 at 9:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Scrolls Review – Flashforward

Flashforward by Robert J Sawyer (ISBN 9780812580341)

It is Tuesday 21 April, 2009 and Dr Lloyd Simcoe is preparing to run an experiment which will result in everyone on the planet blacking out simultaneously….

Right, if you’ve seen the TV series with Jospeh Fiennes then put it out of your mind.  The theory is the same but the story is less world conspiracies and more theoretical physics.  Now that we’ve cleared that up let’s get on with the review.

Lloyd Simcoe and his research partner Theo Procopides are physicists searching for the elusive Higgs Boson particle by using CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC).  The only problem is, when they press the button to start their experiment everyone on the planet blacks out for two minutes.  During the blackout billions of people experience visions of their lives 21 years in the future; their Flashforwards.  But some people didn’t.  Some people like Theo Procopides.

And this sets out the basic, yet brilliant, premise for the story.  What would you do if you knew exactly what you would be doing 21 years in the future?  What would you do if you knew you were going to be dead then?  And is the future set in stone or can it be changed?

Sawyer explores this theme of the immutability of the future through his main characters Lloyd and Theo.  Lloyd, who is engaged to fellow scientist Michiko, has his vision showing him in bed married to another woman whilst Theo’s is of nothing due to his forthcoming death two days before the date seen by people in their Flashforwards.

Lloyd’s belief in the fixed nature of the future plays out wonderfully with his relationship with Michiko.  Here is the woman that he loves and wants to marry with all his heart and yet his head tells him he will be married to someone else who he hasn’t met yet.  The past cannot be changed in Lloyd’s opinion therefore neither can the future.  Why get married if you know it isn’t going to be forever?

Twenty-seven year old Theo is not prepared to accept that the future is fixed and desperately searches to find the cause of his death and how he can prevent it.  This is the main story for me as it provides a mystery to engage the reader further which delivers action and tension throughout.  It becomes an obsession to him, after all it’s his life and death, and there are good reveals as we go along.

Throughout the book there’s lots of moral and political issues around the ethics of what has happened and this is definitely one of those books to spark major debates amongst friends.  Weighing the deaths of those killed due to plane crashes and similar during the Flashforward against the advantages of seeing the future is, for me, the most difficult issue to rationalise and yet Sawyer deals with it well.  The clever interweaving of positive and negative sub-plots for secondary characters mixed with a good understanding of the political world we live in is the key to making this work.

Sawyer sometimes goes into too much theory around the physics of time but that’s my non-scientifically minded take on it.  Someone with a scholarly passion for this field might get more from it.  Saying that, it did get me thinking about, and questioning, the laws of physics and the varying theoretical debates interlaced throughout the book.

For me, there is a marvellous section towards the end of the book which goes very Arthur C Clarke by propelling us into a vastly future world.  I loved this with it being so vastly different to anything I’d previously envisaged and I’m sure will appeal to the many geeks out there.

Overall, Sawyer has written a great book which makes a complex scientific debate accessible and, more to the point, entertaining.  I cared about the characters, I loved the cynicism layered throughout and I knew the future yet still wanted to find out what was going to happen.

4 out of 5

(3 out of 5 if physics is really, really not your thing)

Review by Phil Ambler

Published in: on 16/11/2010 at 9:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Scrolls reviews – Use Of Weapons

Use Of Weapons by Iain M Banks (ISBN 978185723135X)

I’m very late in coming to Iain M Banks but I’m glad I’ve got here. Third in the series of stand alone novels, this is Probably the Culture book I’ve enjoyed the most so far (which bodes well for the next half dozen or so still on my list to read). The main character is Cheradenine Zakalwe, a mercenary working for the ultra-advanced utopian society called the Culture. He does their dirty work, fighting wars to seize and change hearts and minds for the sake of the greater good. Purportedly.
I thought Zakalwe was a very compelling character and the books structure well reflects his emotionally shell-shocked mind. The horrors of war are depicted powerfully, not least of which being the numbing normalisation of killing people on both the personal and chess-board scales. The more I consider the storytelling the more impressed I am, yet it doesn’t feel like an overly artful book. The prose is naturalistic and Banks’ droll humour is allowed a freer rein than in his earlier SF novels, perhaps a deliberate counterweight to the darkness of theme.
Whilst handler Diziet Sma and her sidekick the mechanical drone Skaffen-Amtiskaw suffer from a lack of character development I think that they are there more as representatives of the Culture itself which Banks constantly uses as a mirror in which to reflect upon our own culture. How they interfere in people’s lives (not least of all Zakalwe’s) and dictate morality and the overall ‘good’ without ever getting actively involved is important to the commentary being made upon us by the author. Whilst he has described his Culture as his version of heaven he is not uncritical of it and it is this ability to question and examine all sides of the drama – matched with an arsenal of talent – that raises Banks’ work to a higher level of artistry.

4.5 out of 5

Review by Dion Winton-Polak

Published in: on 31/10/2010 at 5:08 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

New episodes up! Blogger in disgrace.

Ok, so I’m seriously going to have to get back into updating this blog.  Things have been pretty busy and good in some ways recently and pretty heavy and bad in other ways.  Ah, don’t worry about it.

So since the Fey, Greys and Shades we’ve been to the Festival In The Shire and recorded a few interviews (Middle Earth Special Part 1), put out a Chapter 8 (Middle Earth Special Part 2) discussing Tolkien’s work and various adaptations, we’ve done a pilot episode for a Scrolls Book Group podcast discussing Shirley Jackson’s utterly brilliant book We Have Always Lived In The Castle and finally we’ve also put out Chapter 9 – Book At Bogtime in the last week.

Oh yeah, we’ve been working – not shirking.

For the future we’re looking at pulling together an official press release to get the word out about our show a little more professionally, we’re currently starting to pull together a crossover Christmas Party Episode with the lads from fellow Geek Syndicate Network podcast ‘Dissecting Worlds’ (a show that is well worth the listen and can be reached from the same websites as Scrolls).

I’ve also just won a ticket to go to the MCM Expo in London over the Halloween weekend.  I’ll be wearing a Scrolls t-shirt so I’ll be easy enough to spot, and I’ll probably be hanging around with the cool dudes from Geek Syndicate Barry and Dave.  There may even be a surprise appearance from my wonderful co-host Mattie.  We’d love to meet you so come on over and introduce yourself if you’re also there.  Depending on scheduling and who is there I may be able to grab an interview or two for the next episode.

I’ve written it everywhere else so I may as well post it here too…

We have a competition on for somebody with talent to create a logo for Scrolls that can go up on i-tunes and various other places.  We also need a banner designed to go on our web-pages, this blog etc.  There will be prizes, including my prized hardback Alan Lee illustrated Lord of the Rings, so you won’t go unrewarded.  More prizes to be announced as we get closer to the deadline which is…

20th December.

So best get cracking, eh?

Finally, the Scrolls Book Group.  It’s not really working on the GS Forums as they are not as well populated as they used to be.  To try to bridge the gap and form a closer, more interactive bond with our audience we’ve decided to try to bring the group to a larger stage, a podcast in which any listener can nominate a book and then join us on air to discuss it in as much depth as they like.

Nominations can be simply e-mailed to us at and we’ll be in touch to set up a date for recording (with enough gap to make sure we’ve all read the damn thing first, of course).

Want to take part?  We look forward to hearing from you.


Published in: on 22/10/2010 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Scrolls Review – I Shall Wear Midnight

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett (ISBN 9780385611077)

The trouble with reviewing books is that reading a full length novel is a much more time-consuming activity than, say, watching the latest episode of a TV series or ploughing through a comic.  It’s difficult to keep up with the latest releases, especially when you’ve got several shelves full of older ‘new’ books looking at you accusingly and demanding to know when it will finally be their turn.  However, I will always make room in my schedule for the latest Terry Pratchett book because a: they are always very good and b: they never take very long to get through.  In fact, in the case of I Shall Wear Midnight I got through it over the course of a weekend.

This is the latest in the Tiffany Aching series which are categorised as children’s books but, as any Pratchett fan will know, that doesn’t really mean much.  He is quite prepared to bring as much in the way of darkness and big ideas to his younger readers as you will find any of the ‘adult’ Discworld books.  In fact, I Shall Wear Midnight is one of the darkest books in the entire Discworld series.  He sets the tone early on when young witch Tiffany Aching has to deal with a particularly nasty instance of domestic violence.  Throughout the book he raises big questions about the nature of good and evil and what makes good (and less good) people do evil things.  Themes of religion, superstition and intolerance are touched on as well.  Of course, the Nac Mac Feegles are on hand to ensure that the weightiness is balanced with a wee dram of pint-sized, punchy humour.

As Tiffany carries out the often thankless and distinctly unglamorous task of being the resident witch of the Chalk she begins to notice that something is wrong.  Some of the local people have begun to treat her with suspicion and the ill feeling seems to be spreading.  It doesn’t help that her semi-romantic interest Roland is due to marry someone else within a few days and he too has started acting oddly.  Something dark and very unpleasant has awoken and it has its sights set of Tiffany.  Of course Tiffany has lost nothing of her characteristic resourcefulness and determination and she is not about to go down without a fight.

I Shall Wear Midnight rattles along at a fair old pace but Pratchett  still finds room for character development, a few powerfully emotional moments and a healthy dose of silliness.  The only criticism I have of this book is that because of its fairly slight word count some potentially interesting plot elements are left unexplored.  However he does hint that there might be wider implications to Tiffany’s adventures which may carry through to the ongoing Discworld series.  If you are new to the Discworld, this probably isn’t the best place to start (at least read the other Tiffany Aching books first) but if you are a fan it is a must-have for your collection.

4 ½ out of 5

Review by Clover Winton-Polak

Published in: on 14/10/2010 at 8:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 7 Fey, Greys and Shades

Ah, er, erm, yes,

soooo, been a while.  Dammit, I keep forgetting to update this thing.  Bodes well?


Anyway, for those vast thronging masses that a: listen to us, b: read this blog but c: don’t regularly check out the Geek Syndicate website

(hi Adam)

Chapter 7: Fey, Greys and Shades is now up and available to listen to here.


Next episode will be Chapter 8: Everybody’s Tolkien At Me – covering the Festival At The Shire (attending… now-ish) and of course the whole Tolkien milieu including various adaptations, followed by Chapter 9: Book At Bogtime – a look at short stories and alternative toilet-friendly fiction.

Keep reading.

Published in: on 14/08/2010 at 8:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Scrolls Book Group – ongoing

The remaining books for the year are as follows:

July – Fantasy Stories – by Rudyard Kipling – (ISBN 978-0812520026)

August – We Have Always Lived In The Castle – by Shirley Jackson – (ISBN 978-0141191454)

September – Use Of Weapons – by Iain M. Banks – (ISBN 978-1857231359)

October – A Wizard Of Earthsea – by Ursula LeGuin – (ISBN 978-0140304770)

November – Ghost Stories – by M.R. James – (ISBN 978-1853260537)

December – The Time Traveller’s Wife – by Audrey Niffenegger – (ISBN 978-0099464464)

If the current one doesn’t grab your fancy or you can’t find it you may wish to get ahead of us.  However, as we’ve not had much response with the Book Group there is some question in my mind as to whether or not it should continue.   I love the idea of the group as it gets me reading books I might otherwise not pick up, so my inclination is to push on – but do [b]you[/b] want to hear about it?  Please post here to let us know your views and any way in which you feel it could be made more inclusive and engaging.

Keep reading.


Published in: on 14/07/2010 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Announcing Scrolls In Middle Earth

This time next month Scrolls will be doing its first bit of roving reporting.  Go us!

The Festival In The Shire is a mammoth celebration of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world and works, and this year it will be held in our neighbouring village Pontrhydfendigaid. So… not roving too far.

Covering the full three day event we’ll be poking around the fan-expo, taking in the entertainments and sitting in on some of the conference sessions.  We’ll be bringing you the sights and sounds of this unique event as well as conducting interviews with various fans, scholars and exhibitors.  Video footage will be going up on the Geek Syndicate Website and we’ll be dedicating an episode to discussing the event afterwards.

Full programme details can be found on their official website.  Check it out.

Interested in going?  Want to meet up?  E-mail us at or reply to this post.

Dion and Clover.

Published in: on 14/07/2010 at 9:26 am  Leave a Comment