Comparative reviews are one thing and obviously must be done as objectively as possible but reviews of individual items are in many ways more difficult because you're not giving them context. They must be handled as objectively, as fairly, as possible and the following is the overall way in which I try to review something.

It is not enough to simply say you hated a film or loved it, you must be seen to be consistent so proper evaluation is necessary. I know it's a pain but it works quite well and can give some quite surprising results. The following outlines the method I use and the categories I use to do so, all the reviews on this site follow this method. I've given some considerable thought to these categories and hope that they make the review that little bit more objective and interesting.

Most reviews on this site will be books but occassionally I will also review films, TV & DVD, all are typically evaluated against the following categories:

  • Action: How much action (as opposed to violence) in the film.
  • Direction: Quality of direction and its effect on the final product.
  • Effects: Quality, appropriateness & effectiveness of the effects.
  • Extras: Quality and amount of extras (DVD only).
  • Music: Originality and appropriateness of the score & other music.
  • Originality: How innovative the concept behind it was.
  • Plot: How good the basic story is.
  • Presentation: Packaging, booklets & other extra stuff (DVD only)
  • Romance: How well/appropriately the romance & sex scenes are handled.
  • Scope: How wide-ranging the scenario scope is.
  • Sound: How good the sound effects (as opposed to music) are.
  • Suspense: Well we didn't see that one coming ... or did we?
  • Violence: How much violence (as opposed to action) in the film

Books are typically evaluated against the following categories:

  • Action: How much action (as opposed to violence) in the book.
  • Originality: How innovative the concept behind the story is.
  • Plot: How good the basic story is.
  • Presentation: Pictures, introductions and various other aspects of the book.
  • Romance: How well/appropriately the romance & sex scenes are handled.
  • Scope: How wide-ranging the book's scope is.
  • Suspense: Well we didn't see that one coming ... or did we?
  • Violence: How much violence (as opposed to action) in the book.
  • Scope: How wide-ranging the book's scope is.
  • Writing: How good the author's writing style is.

Games are typically evaluated against the following categories:

  • Action: How much action (as opposed to violence) in the game.
  • Addiction: How eager you are to get back into the game.
  • Control: How easy the game is to control.
  • Difficulty: How easy or hard the game is.
  • Gameplay: Straight line play or can the player deviate from the path (linearity).
  • Graphics: How realistic/smooth the graphics are in relation to the platform.
  • Music: Originality and appropriateness of the score & other music.
  • Originality: How innovative the concept behind it was.
  • Plot: How good the basic story is.
  • Presentation: Packaging & supporting booklets etc.
  • Romance: How well/appropriately the romance & sex scenes are handled.
  • Scope: How wide-ranging the scenario scope is.
  • Suspense: Well we didn't see that one coming ... or did we?
  • Violence: How much violence (as opposed to action) in the game
  • Scope: How wide-ranging the scope is.

All reviews carry two further categories:

  • Personal: A personal score based on the reviewer's gut reaction to it.
  • Overall: Overall mark (calculated ... see below)

Guidelines for reviews:

  • Reviewers can choose the standard suggested sets of categories or adapt them.
  • Reviewers should not use inappropriate categories e.g. the action category would not normal be correct for a romance.
  • Chosen categories should be accompanied by a short comment and/or explained in greater detail in the review.

All category marks are out of 10 but the "Personal" category score is doubled.

The "Overall" score is calculated as:

(SUM + (2 * PER)) / CAT

Where:
SUM: Sum of all category scores except "Personal"
PER: "Personal"> x 2
CAT: No. of Categories excluding "Overall"

Ultimately it up to a reviewer how they evaluate a film but this does, at least, allow for a degree of objectivity and if anyone has better suggestions we'll be only too pleased to listen.

Thanks for reading.

J. C. Rocks (aspiring author: "The Abyssal Void War" series)

The Abyssal Void War, Book 1 is Done!

Well there it is, the book, my - first ever, is largely done and I am now just waiting for the cover art to be completed. Two hundred and fifty-seven A4/Letter pages (line and a half spaced), fifty-four chapters and approximately eighty-five thousand words.

I've given details of the book itself before and I still don't want to give too much away right now but it is set nearly eight hundred years in the future, not ours, but that of an alternate history (which is why I call it an alternate future history) and humanity is once again engaged in what it does best, blowing the hell out of each other.

The book falls into the science-fiction sub-genre of Military Space Warfare and, with some exceptions, I do my best to keep the physics as real as possible. The exceptions are, of course, those required to facilitate the story, to allow my characters to get to the places they need to be to allow the story to progress. In "Doctor Who" that's the TARDIS, in Star Trek it's "Warp Drive", in "Star Wars" it's "Hyperspace" and in my universe it's "Tachyon Space" more commonly known as Hyperspace and typically accessed via the "Hypergate network".

When I last wrote about it the book comprised seven large chapters and an equally large prologue but I came to the conclusion that shorter was better with the book falling into two acts, "Akatsu" and "Aumakua".

The cover art is, I believe, important and, once I have permission from the artist, I hope to update this article with some of the sample art I've received. So now it is just a waiting game which I am using to update some appendices as well as check my grammar and tech.

I am hopeful the artwork will be complete within a month and, once done, the book can be reviewed by the group I hope to publish with.

I will post a further update when it is complete ... thanks for reading.

J. C Rocks (aspiring author: "The Abyssal Void War" series)

Books

"The Abyssal Void War" Series

The Abyssal Void War is set in an alternative time line about eight hundred years ahead of us at a time when mankind has spread out to the local stars. At this point in time mankind occupies a roughly spherical region of about one hundred light years radius centring from Earth. The generally accepted name for this region of space is The Extent.

True faster than light travel has yet to be achieved and travel between the stars is achieved by means of a series of hyperspace gates that connect in a fixed network across The Extent.

The Extent contains some three hundred colonised planets across about two hundred systems and these are divided between various nations and tensions are extremely high. War has broken out across between the Geist and the Pax Ereban nations and surrounding nations, including Saxonia, have become involved. Although involved in supplying weaponry and covert intelligence to Saxonia the United Colonial Systems have yet to become directly involved and, although there are conflicts around an area of space known as The Abyssal Void full scale war has not yet broken out.

At the time the story begins the UCS government is heavily involved in negotiation with one of the most powerful nations in The Abyssal Void arena, The Akatsu.

The Abyssal Void War series is currently envisaged as three books the status of which are as follows:

  • Book 1: Stars, Hide Your Fires (in preparation for final draft)
  • Book 2: Let Slip The Dogs Of War (first draft completed)
  • Book 3: Unnamed

Thx

J. C. Rocks (aspiring author: "The Abyssal Void War" series)

I've written the first draft of my [wannabe] masterpiece which is shaping up to be around sixty thousand words, one hundred and fifty A4/Letter pages (line and a half spaced that equates to around two hundred and thirty pages paperback). That's eight fairly chunky chapters including The Prologue.

finaldraft rubberstampThe book is called "Stars, Hide Your Fires" and it is the first book of what I am calling, "The Abyssal Void War" series. Without giving too much away I view the series as a future alternate history. BY that I mean it is set about eight hundred years in the future where humanity has spread out to colonise the stars in a group of systems they refer to as "The Extent". In the most generic sense the "universe" is human only and all of the life on the planets is seeded from Terran/Earth stock. I have tried to keep the physics in this "universe" as real as possible currently only allowing one main technology deviation from that, a plot device designed to allow my characters to travel between locations several light years distant from each other.

The book itself falls fairly clearly into a sub-genre called Military Science Fiction but, as I imply above, it's slightly different from the usual stuff at least as much as in my overall idea.

For those who are interested here is the chapter list:

  • Chapter 01: Wave Without A Shore [Complete]
  • Chapter 02: Agent of Change [Complete]
  • Chapter 03: Mists of Dawn [Complete]
  • Chapter 04: The Final Programme [Complete]
  • Chapter 05: Space Cadet [In Progress]
  • Chapter 06: The Only Thing We Learn
  • Chapter 07: A Fire Upon The Deep

Between finishing the first draft and moving on to review/correct my writing I realised something just didn't add up in my story and correcting that, even though the correction was fairly simple, had ramifications, huge ramifications. It took me more than six months to deal with that alone.

Since then I have been through several steps in order to make this book the best ever written (I jest of course, I can but aspire to be that good). When I started writing, I had little more than a vague notion that I would try to keep the science, the physics in it "real" but reviewing what I knew changed my mind in many different ways. I had already noted that as I wrote my way towards the last chapter the technologies I was writing about changed, not only from a progressing story's perspective but as I discovered we humans were even cleverer and more advanced than I had previously thought. My corrections involved the research of the various subjects my novel touched on, the writing of extensive background histories and the development of various other materials. I have now completed, inasmuch as anything of this sort is ever complete, this process but it is still true that my background changes on a daily basis although currently it is changing mainly in fine only.

I revisited my locations. Although there was some research involved this was primarily achieved by drawing maps, schematics, plans and profiles that allowed me to better describe the scenes in which my characters appear. Again this is largely complete subject to the proviso expressed above. Of course not wanting to reinvent the wheel much of that material will end up on my website wiki for those of you in any way interested in the universe I have created.finaldraft folders

Now I am in the process of creating my final draft which, in broad terms, involves me going through the book chapter by chapter, correcting, expanding and reviewing my material. I am currently at Chapter five of seven (actually six of eight if you include the prologue) and so on. I had been considering adding a ninth chapter and, as I write, I see a very good reason to do so ... that would make the next chapter I review, seven of nine (and if you don't get that you're really not a geek).

Finally, once I have completed the final draft I will have to create the final review copy to send to my editors. I strongly suspect that may be a painful process necessitating as it surely will going through the entire novel once again and ripping from it all that material that doesn't serve to progress the story or bear on the as yet untold stories of books two and three.

By my current estimates I should have the first book completed in about two to three months, so mid to late summer, which roughly speaking boils down to a total of two and a half writing and editing. I freely admit that's a long time but, in my defence, I am also working and don't have a great deal of time to devote to a project that may never really amount to anything regardless of how much I hope otherwise.

For now that's it ... thanks for reading.

J. C Rocks (aspiring author: "The Abyssal Void War" series)

A brilliantly written popular science book that explains how evolution can create the staggering variety it has, whether dinosaurs were warm or cold blooded, why cinematic monsters such as King Kong and Godzilla are laughably impossible, why the marsupials kept control of Australia, why insects are so small. Finally he explains why, despite our apparent superiority, we really don't own the world at all, that there is no such thing as a superior or dominant lifeform on the planet. He also explain why, of course, elephants do have big ears.

Learning To Write, Part 2

In the last article I dealt with mastery of your chosen language. This article discusses the basic inspiration which we gain from a variety of sources such as events, people, books, movies, television. My own arose from book series, several well written and one not so much and from that I could imagine better and whilst I may never fulfil that dream it gave me something to aim for. The next requirement is dealt with in the following article.

Learning To Write, Part 1

Writing may not be as easy as it appears at first glance. This article, the first of three, starts the discussion of what I think are those essential skills, the first of which is a good understanding of the language in which you choose to write. It then goes on to discuss ways in which you can improve your language skills. The next requirement is dealt with in the following article.

In 'River Out Of Eden', Dawkins writes of a universe with no apparent design or purpose and explains more of our evolutionary past. With thorough knowledge and captivating style, Dawkins illuminates how life has achieved what to the uneducated or bigoted appear to be miracles. Science journal 'Nature' says, "It abounds with metaphors that make things brilliantly clear, an excellent introduction to many important evolutionary ideas".

A brilliant idea that ultimately fails in execution. It has been said of Turtledove that he is the master of the alternate history series, on the basis of the first seven books of this series I have little choice but to disagree.

The scientific endeavour, assumed an "unending march of science" by many but, in truth, no one claimed it as such. But why? Why does science, a purely human endeavour, give us real answers whilst religion only pretends to? In discussing some of the most famous feuds in science the author throws light on the true motivations and petty jealousies of scientists throughout history. In cleverly revealing the kind of sarcasm and abuse competing scientists would often throw at each other he puts to rest the idea that science is infallible whilst reflecting on today's media battles between evolutionists and fundamentalists.

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