Bryan Parke 7 of the Best

Bryan Parke’s 7 of the Best

Written by Bryan Parke

Pariah by Dan Abnett
Set in Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 universe, Dan Abnett’s Pariah paints a vivid picture of life in the Grim Dark Future. There have been many books published about Warhammer 40,000, primarily with a military focus, but what sets Pariah apart is that (like the other titles in Abnett’s Eisenhorn and Ravenor series) it shows us a different view of life within the Imperium. A universe filled with arcane cults dedicated to Ruinous Powers and the Machiavellian scheming of the orders of the Holy Inquisition. Pariah tells the tale of Alizebeth Bequin, spy and agent of the Inquisition, how her world falls apart and how she tries to survive.

Why do I love this book? A lot of the lore of Warhammer 40,000 is visual. Look up some of John Blanche’s art for an idea. It’s grandiose, and it’s bonkers. Dan captures these themes in words.

Alien
I’d decided to put Alien on my list before I’d heard the news of the death of John Hurt, so the choice seems somehow pertinent and timely. I think I was 10 or 11 when I first watched Alien, and my goodness did that movie leave an impression! I loved the sense of shock during the chest-burster scene and the sense of dread as the crew hunt for/are hunted by the creature. So, I have a lot of nostalgia for this film, and it’s still great on a rewatch.

And of course it sets the scene for one of the greatest, most quotable sci fi action movies of all time…

Flash Gordon
Another childhood favourite! The BBC used to show the black and white Flash Gordon cinema weeklies, so I was familiar with Flash, Dale and Zarkov well before the film hit the big screen. But what a difference! Gorgeous bright colours, the amazing Queen soundtrack, and the legendary Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan.

I’ll happily spend a guilt free couple of hours watching and quoting along with this fantastic pop-corn flick whenever it’s on the TV. I don’t think I should do all seven entries for this article on “Brian Blessed overacts and shouts a lot”, but I’m quite tempted; “Dive!”

Pawn of Prophecy, by David Eddings
The date is early 1980-something (yep it’s a Goldberg moment). Picture younger me standing in front of the Sci Fi and Fantasy book shelves of WH Smiths. I’ve just discovered Dungeons & Dragons and I want to read something Sword and Sorcery related. I don’t have a clue what to choose; I’m looking at the pictures on the covers and the blurbs on the back. And more by luck than judgement I pick Pawn of Prophecy.

The tale of Garion the farm boy and how he leaves the familiar world of his childhood to discover a darker, scarier world of magic and dreadful prophecies, this book sets the scene for the Belgariad and Mallorean sets. The stories and characters are reasonably simplistic, but are a wonderfully engaging, enjoyable romp. Today we might describe these books as “Young Adult”, and I’d recommend them to kids with an interest in fantasy fiction.

Men At Arms by Terry Pratchett
If you like fantasy and you like funny, then I suspect you like Terry Pratchett. It’s been a tough call as to which Pratchett book to choose; I nearly picked Moving Pictures for the King Kong gag, or Mort just for the opportunity to quote Death (“GO ON. APPARENTLY SPEAKING IN A BLOCK CAPITAL ACCENT IS AMUSING TO SOME PEOPLE. I DON’T GET IT MYSELF.”) But in the end I chose Men At Arms simply as it is most recent Pratchett story I’ve read.

The City Watch typically only hires Watch MEN, but now in the name of diversity the latest recruits are from a variety of different backgrounds. Both Watch and the recruits must adjust; Detritus the Troll is officially not required to salute officers on account of constantly hitting himself too hard in the head, and whilst the twin bladed dwarven throwing axe might be a cultural weapon it is not appropriate for a Watchman trying to apprehend criminals alive. It’s going to be a long shift…

A great mix of storytelling and humour, I’m chuckling while I write this review. In fact, I think it might be time to pick another Discworld novel off the shelf.

Interstellar
In the near future, crop blight threatens the survival of Humanity and so mankind looks to outer space for a new home. How did the strange wormhole mysteriously appear close to Saturn providing a tempting glimpse of possible destinations?

Some movies are made to be watched on the Big Screen; for me Interstellar is one of those films. Great cinematography and a fantastic soundtrack by Hans Zimmerman made paying the extra money to watch it on IMAX well worth it.

I found Interstellar reminiscent of 2001 (another film I love), and although it’s pacing is slow in places, the time is well-spent enjoying the majestic views of outer space.

Jason and the Argonauts
I’d like to finish this list off with another childhood favourite film; Jason and the Argonauts. So what do I love about this film? It’s an old school cinema epic, it’s a reworking of Greek mythology and it has oodles of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation. As a sword and sorcery fan, the fight between the Argonauts and the Skeletons summoned from the Hydra teeth is one of my favourite movie scenes.

I’d happily pick other films on the basis of Harryhausen’s animation; the gorgon Medusa scene from Clash of the Titans is another winner.  (I was also going to suggest the 7 Faces of Dr. Lao but my googling informs me this wasn’t a Harryhausen film. It’s still worth a watch though.)

 

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As well as being a Fantasy and Sci-Fi fan, Bryan is a keen gamer. You can read about his gaming hobby antics at Varchilde’s Vault.

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