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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Geek Pride’s Best of 2023

2023 has been an amazing year to be a geek.  So much so, that it is almost impossible to identify the “best of the best”.

However, we at Geek Pride say nothing is impossible (amongst other things…)  We have each endeavoured to highlight what we each considered to be particularly meritorious, in what has been a packed year of incredible science-fiction, fantasy and horror.

So, Matt Geary, Peter Ray Allison, Laura Benson, Mark Canty, Bevan Clatworthy and Jonjo Cosgrove compiled their favourites, whilst somehow managing to remain friends.

It’s a bit like the Oscars, but without the lovies…

Best film

Matt: John Wick 4
I love the John Wick series and John Wick 4 was as intense and actioned-filled as any of its predecessors. The fight choreography is superb (I love the stair scene), its humour never dampens the severity of the situation and the film didn’t suffer from plot-rot; the staleness you can find in a long-running film series. A suitable end to an amazing tetralogy.

Pete: Totally Killer
A cross between Halloween and Back to the Future, Totally Killer was a surprisingly fun slasher-thriller with a time-travel twist.  The script has a wry tone, that played with the horror tropes and highlights the cultural differences between 1987 and 2023.

Laura: Dungeons & Dragons
This was a total surprise for me, as I don’t feel games transition well into film and D&D has so much lore that it could have become inaccessible.  Yet, its blend of practical and digital effects, paired with a story about love more powerful than romance, and finished with a sense of humour made this a fantastic movie.  I will riot if they don’t do a sequel.

Mark: The Marvels
lman Veilani shines in this film, which also features a more sympathetic and emotional performance from Brie Larson and some enjoyable set pieces. Unfortunately, it suffers from franchise fatigue on the MCU, and some people not prepared for female leads.

Jonjo: Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part One
The seventh entry in the series and possibly its best. Tom Cruise gets to bring Ethan Hunt out for possibly his greatest mission yet.  A huge all-star cast and some of the best ever action sequences cement MI:7 as one of the greatest cinematic experiences in recent memory. Every shot is spectacular and the line between visual and practical effects has never been more indistinguishable.

Bevan: Elemental
I went in with low expectations but loved the world building and the charming characters featured in Elemental. The story is little predictable (it’s by Disney, so it needs to have a happy ending), but I had a good time, and a little escapism can be good for the soul.

Best series

Matt: Loki season 2
There has been a lot of great television this year, but the new season of Loki, which I honestly didn’t have huge hopes for, was amazing. It has great writing, great acting and an incredible ending.  I thought the Marvel boat had sailed, but this really impressed me.

Pete: Gen V
Gen V especially impressed me because I was not expecting that much from it.  It is an original story within the setting of The Boys, and all the better for it.  Using the premise of superheroes as celebrities, Gen V explores contemporary themes with some fantastic writing and incredible acting.

Laura: Foundation
Foundation’s real strength lies with its actors. Every single one gives an engaging performance with special mention to Lee Pace – he is so charismatic that it’s hard to hate his character, despite proving time and time again to be irredeemable.

Mark: Picard
I have too many choices here; Season 4 of For All Mankind is simply fabulous, Ahsoka had a few issues with pacing but some wonderful performances, not least the late Ray Stevenson, and season 2 of Loki had interesting storytelling. I couldn’t not pick Series 3 of Picard, which gave us the finale for the Next Generation we didn’t get with Nemesis, and some wonderful performances by old and new cast.

Jonjo: The Power
Based on the book by Naomi Alderman, the series follows various women who develop electric powers. Dealing with worldwide implications and personal stories, the show feels like it has come out at just the right time.  We get a show that brings out fear, wonder and suspense with its superstar acting.

Bevan: Gen V
As a fan of The Boys, this step back into the ‘origin stories’ formula was refreshing.  With some great acting, an intriguing story line and some gruesome action, this was a winner for me.  If anything happens to Lil’ Cricket, it’s time to riot.

Best game

Matt: Legions Imperialis
2023 has been a busy year for games, but for me has been literally Epic!  Epic Space Marine was the first boxed game I ever owned and holds a special place in my heart; I have fond memories of setting up huge battles on my parents’ dining table.  Opening the new box set for the first time, seeing all the mini tanks and the titans just made my inner child smile. It’s a literal dream come true.

Pete: Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
This is a bit of a cheat, as Phantom Liberty is DLC for Cyberpunk 2077, which was released three years ago, but the expansion transforms it into a whole new game.  Despite a rough launch, Cyberpunk 2077 has become one of the best video games of this generation and is the perfect combination of writing, immersion, gameplay and atmosphere.

Laura: Baldur’s Gate 3
Baldur’s Gate 3 is my pick for a variety of reasons; the stunning designs, the humour and the sheer volume of content involved. Plus, the cast is an utter delight.

Mark: Cyberpunk 2077
A controversial choice, but with the V2 updates, Cyberpunk 2077 is the game we were all promised when it was first released. Dirty, grimy, violent, loud and fun.  Recommended, even if you were bitten the first time around.

Jonjo: Dead Space
A remake of the 2008 horror classic, Dead Space made its return earlier this year. For fans old and new, this game is a huge treat.  Heading to spaceship the USG Ishimura, Isaac Clarke and his crew are tasked with finding out why it has suddenly gone silent.  The game benefits from refined controls, a more balanced story and a not-so-silent protagonist.

Bevan: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
At 227 hours and counting, the mix of new traversal mechanics, the ability to build practically any vehicle you can think of and the vast environment chocked full of things to do, Tears of the Kingdom is an amazing addition to the franchise.

Best book

Matt: Lightbringer by Pierce Brown
There have been a few good books released this year, but for me it has to be book 7 of the Red Rising series. The series starts as a sort of Hunger Games, but evolves into a galactic-spanning civil war, with some of the most amazing battle scenes you’ll ever read.

Pete: Quantum of Nightmares by Charles Stross
This offshoot from the Laundry Files series is best described as Mary Poppins meets the horrors of corporate efficiency.  Although there were no references to the KLF this time, it was is an utterly gripping read.

Laura: Brandon Sanderson
I refuse to do one book, but everything Brandon Sanderson has done this year.  Sanderson brought out four books and finished a series in one year.  He is not only sickeningly prolific, but able to maintain that fantastic quality in his writing.

Mark: Making it So by Patrick Stewart
A wonderful book, at times touching, funny, sad and, overall, a really enjoyable insight into someone who has become a pop culture icon.

Jonjo: Making it So by Patrick Stewart
It’s amazing that it took Sir Patrick until his early 80s to release his memoirs. But, a gripping read throughout.  Any fan of Star Trek or Shakespeare will love this. From a baby born during the war, his journey is almost unlike any other actor.   If you can, experience this as read by the man himself in audiobook form. There is something about Patrick Stewart reading his life out that just holds you.

Bevan: Star Wars: From a certain Point of View
My favourite book this year actually came out in 2017, as it just happened to be in a holiday home we were staying in over the summer. From a certain Point of View contains a fantastic set of short stories, all from the perspectives of characters around the central plot of Star Wars. Personal highlights were the Jawas that dreamed of going to the stars before her family is slaughtered by the Empire, or the origin story of the eye-stalk monster the heroes encounter in the trash compactor.

Best event

Matt: UK Games Expo
There is only one event that does anything for me, and that’s the UKGE; a tabletop gaming convention that never gets boring. I find all other conventions have the same feel, but not so UKGE. Every year there is something new and I have to stop myself buying everything in sight!

Pete: The Forge
The Forge was a wonderfully immersive exhibition recreating a Star Wars cantina bar to promote the new season of The Mandalorian.  The event was filled with displays and props from the show, with music provided by the fantastic sci-fi band Blues Harvest.  Needless to say, I was in my element.

Laura: Thought Bubble
Thought Bubble was the busiest I’ve seen it since it moved to Harrogate and is clearly ready for another venue change. The quality of the artwork and volume of artists made it an expensive, but rewarding experience. If you love Artist Alley at conventions, this is the place for you.

Mark: Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary
I know it’s not over yet, but RTD has brought back so much joy and ebullience (not to mention David Tennant and Catherine Tate, and a tear-jerking final appearance for Bernard Cribbins).  I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve laughed and cried, and Neil Patrick Harris was fantastic as the Celestial Toymaker. The return of Mel was fabulous and I’m looking forward to Ncuti Gatwa at Christmas.

Jonjo: Barbenheimer
Possibly the biggest cinematic event of 2023, Oppenheimer and Barbie helped propel the worldwide box office. Originally seen as an unfortunate clash, the internet actually was used for good to promote both releases.  Whereas Margot Robbie led Barbie to the family audience, Cillian Murphy shined as the famed scientist in an Oscar-worthy performance. Will we ever see a more perfectly imperfect pairing? Maybe not, but you cannot deny that this helped cinema a lot more than even the kindest critics could have predicted.

Bevan: UK Games Expo
I only attended one event this year, but the UK Games Expo had to be the biggest and best one yet. 2023 saw me and my board game company at our biggest stall yet, plus the spectacle of seeing a massive Space Marine Terminator. It’s also wonderful to see so many indie publishers in one space, all that innovation, enthusiasm and cardboard was heaven.

Peter Ray Allison
Peter Ray Allisonhttp://www.peterallison.net
Science Fiction: the final frontier. These are the articles of the freelance journalist Peter Ray Allison. His continuing mission: to explore strange new realms of fiction, to seek out new genres and new visions of the future, to boldly geek where no one has geeked before.

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