I am rarely impressed by the content of cinematic science fiction on the idea level. I watch series like Star Gate, Babylon 5 or others, or most science fiction movies, for the adventure and action, but it’s not often that I feel like it does something what prose fiction hasn’t already done twenty or thirty or more years ago.
Starting TR2070 I thought this would hold true likewise, and it did to an extend. First I wasn’t very impressed, the show looked like a cheap imitation of Blade Runner and Total Recall with some cyberpunk elements thrown into the mix. But soon I became enthralled. There’s a level of detail and consistency to this show that makes it stand out compared to other SF shows. Also the personal story arcs were much more mature than what you come to expect from television SF. For example the relationship between Hume and his father could have been in any drama show, SF or not.
Compared to written SF it’s still far behind the curve, but toward the end there was some impressive SFnal content. The development of friendly AI, the realization from an amoral AI that for humans and consciousness machines to live together it has to develop constructs that have or can have a similar moral code as humans. And also the ironic fact that humans develop consciousness machines that lack this moral code.
They also played out the whole P.K. Dickensian paranoia angle, human brain implants, human androids slowly taking over and all that. Overall an excellent show that got shot down far too soon.
Considering how long this series has gotten, the main question you’ll ask yourself every new book is: is it still good? Well, as these questions are (mostly) subjective, I can only answer for myself: White Night was as good as previous outings. This time Harry has to stop a serial killer who is offing low level magic-users while stopping a plan that would make the war between wizards and vampires even more difficult (for the wizards). As urban fantasies go, I’m thankful that romance is nearly complete absent here (some romance is okay, but not all the time).
I do wonder how long Butcher will stretch out the storyline of the vampire/wizard war. While it’s neat that each book is a standalone and yet also a part of some bigger storyline, it can become annoying sometimes down the road if the whole conflict never gets resolved. The same holds true for the Black Council, as much as I like this big, sinister cabal, if the whole things gets stretched out too much, it would feel like a rerun of the later X-Files seasons and nobody wants that.
Considering how old this movie is, it has really nice animation. The rest is just too old-fashioned for my taste. I like fairy tales, but I prefer characters with a little more depth than grumpy and sleepy and chirpy (the princess). Even the evil stepmother is rather boringly evil.
While watching this and trying not to fell asleep, I wondered what Snow White would have done if the evil stepmother hadn’t been so conveniently killed. Would she have asked her prince to wage war on the nation of the stepmother? Would there have been a tribunal with Snow White giving her stepmother a death sentence for attempted murder (after all, you can’t let someone like the stepmother run around) or exile? Would she still be all chirpy after that? What exactly was in the soup she did for the dwarves the first time, maybe some of the nice animals that helped her clean? The mind wanders and wonders.
Steven Brust is one of those writers I got to like through one strong series, but who has shown himself to be equally adept at writing very enjoyable stand-alone stuff that has no connection to his Vlad series. So when I went to read TRiH I thought Brust could not fail. Even the weaker The Viscount of Adrilankha trilogy was okay in the end, if not up to his other stuff. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Bad book.
A retelling of the angels revolt and their subsequent fall from heaven has potential, but to retell something you also have to somehow make old stuff fresh again. Which, sadly, is not the case, the whole plot is rather predictable and bland. Brust tried to remake the fallen angels into good characters, but without blaming the other side for the whole conflict. There’s a moderately evil guy who is somehow responsible for everything, but his whole plan works only because most characters act like morons all the time. Real tension comes from real conflict, not one stupid mistake blown out of proportion.
You get the feeling that everything could be easily resolved, if not massive authorial intervention would prevent the right people from meeting. To do that, most characters seem to run around rather pointlessly, instead of trying to meet and solve the problem before it’s too late. Worse, since Brust makes his characters more or less intelligent, their apparent less than smart behavior feels like the already mentioned authorial intervention to make them act stupid when the plots needs them to. Which makes this an annoying and less than enjoyable read.
His last big outing, Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006 was an animated love letter to 2d-action games like Metal Slug and similar ilk. Like in a game the two main characters fought their way through a diverse lot of levels until they freed their stolen girl friend and confronted the final boss. Über-violent, fast-paced, silly and yet damn funny and entertaining.
Now, about KoP4B, it could be said this is just more of the same, but somehow it had less of an impact on me than PBCBSF had. There are more good characters in KoP4B than in PBCBSF, which makes it at times much more confusing with all the cuts between the characters. It’s also less clear what is going on, who’s actually the enemy and why is everyone fighting him/them. The ending is… bizarre. Overall, it looks like an attempt to break the mold set in PBCBSF, but without Robertson actually knowing what to do beyond making nostalgic flashbacks to video game history. Still, the animation is pure eye candy and looks excellent.
This has an interesting premise (which seems like a semi-realistic attempt at doing something similar to what happens in harem anime all the time). A society where man get rarely born (ratio: 90% women, 10% men) and what effect that has on social structure and behavior in general. It’s semi-realistic, because there’s no explanation offered how that situation came to be (I read on the official site that it’s an alternate Earth, but there’s no point of divergence from our timeline given) and why the ratio hasn’t changed in time to something more akin to our world. Also semi-realistic, because the story itself is a mix of romance and adventure told in the typical fairy-tale mode where all the good guys are beautiful and smart and nice, and all the evil guys are more or less completely evil. No shades of gray or a realistic portray of human interaction. That said, like all of Spencer’s novels I’ve read so far, it’s very entertaining and, despite the Mary-Suish qualities of the main characters, these are people you can care about.
That said, for all the fun I had with the novel, the world Spencer envisioned really made a small chill run down my spine. For all the attempts to change that situation, our world, from third world country to the most modern societies, is still very much male dominated. Seeing this reversed and taken back some centuries, a society that may correspond to Earth nations shortly before the industrial revolution, with men nothing more than cattle or slaves, makes me appreciate living in our world. Despite her light-hearted fairy-tale mode of storytelling, Spencer has incorporated some really nasty elements into her world, the cribs, rape-drugs (which, subverting the meaning of the word rape, is always thought of in connection with men getting raped, not the other way round like in our world) and other things.
All in all, an interesting read. On one level very entertaining, if you like a certain mix of adventure and romance, on another level an interesting thought experiment of how a society with such a different ratio of women/men would look like.
A well done sequel to Tinker, the first novel in the sequence. It builds upon plot elements that were introduced in the first part, but also adds some new to the mix. While it can be read without having read the first one (the book is self-contained to a certain extend), I wouldn’t advise it, since many characters and elements of the setting will be confusing to first-time readers. So readers who liked Tinker will gets more of the same without any loss in quality.
Spencer is one of those writers who could be, at least this novel and the previous one, attached to the group of writers who dabble in the urban fantasy romance genre, that became one of the big things in recent years. Like always, exemplified by the prominent vampire slayer series turned porn, series in this genre all seem to follow a similar schema (puritanical but strong-willed main heroine somehow gets involved with extraordinary beings (werewolves, vampires, elves, etc.), experiences adventures and in the process also seems to awaken sexually) and are always in danger of turning into bad porn or very boring Mary-Suish-fiction (with each sequel they become more and more powerful) or both. So far, while most of Spencer fiction has characters with Mary-Suish qualities, she still seems to make them likable and writes books that are very engaging to read. Hopefully that won’t change for some time.
by imitation pickles . (Download)
playable on Ubuntu via Python: python run_game.py
Since my recent move to Ubunutu I’m searching for some good freeware games for that system, but so far my search wasn’t that successful. I knew that when it comes to commercial games Linux-systems aren’t exactly crawling with the good stuff, but I had hoped it might be different with freeware games. Sad to say that most of the stuff you’ll find are simple arcade clones. One – maybe the major – reason is that Linux-systems seem to miss good game creation tools like RPGMaker, GameMaker, AdventureGameStudio and all the others, that have created a wealth of freeware games on Win-systems. But enough about that, I wanted to talk about Barbie Seahorse Adventures, which is platformer game playable on Ubuntu using Python.
First the good stuff. I really loved the style and graphics, reminds me of some good platformers I played in the past on my old, battered SNES. The controls themselves are also well done, making it easy to move around with precision.
Now the bad stuff, which also reminds me of some platformers of my console days and these are not good memories. I absolutely hate the level design. Most of the time while playing I was trying to figure out whether I could go a certain direction safely or whether I would plunge to my doom. Games with such a level design need a certain Trial and Error method to advance: Can I go there? I can’t see whether that’s the right way. Lets jump. Oh noes, killed. Maybe that direction. Arghh. No, that wasn’t good too. Ahh, he wanted me to go that direction. Repeat ad nauseam. That’s not funny and not a good way to design levels. But yeah, the art is nice.
Download, Solution, Youtube Let’s Play
As difficulty goes, this one is slightly easier than the Jumper games. If you played those, you’ll know that this doesn’t mean much. Even on the easiest setting AUS will prove unbeatable for most beginners and the highest difficulty setting will chew up most pros as well. I haven’t beaten it yet, still searching for two more gold orbs. Since I haven’t finished Cloudrun and the Nightwalk yet, I have an idea where they might be, but I’m not actually sure I want to play on. Like I said, it can be really hard. At first I thought The Curtain unbeatable, with some annoying ghosts following me while I tried to make some difficile jumps, but when I actually met the Ninja at the top and stopped him, I thought nothing could be worse. My error. Helix games can always get worse.
So far I haven’t talked much about the game itself, which is a typical Metrovania-type of game, which emphasizes exploring and getting new abilities to enter new areas. Unlike most games of this type, it’s hard as hell, but unlike the Jumper games (which aren’t Metrovania games, but were made by the same guy) I thought it was much more addictive and actually made me want to finish it (well, unlike right now, I’m not sure I want to finish it anymore, having seen some of the difficult parts of Nightwalk). The graphical style is completely different than that of the Jumper series. Where Jumper was all straight lines, here everything is twisting and the landscape looks much more natural. The music is well done, as it was in the Jumper games. What I really like about the game are the inventive boss encounters. There’s a wide variety of bosses and beating them (hard as hell again) is as much about good skills as it is about finding out how to beat them.
Despite the difficulty, this one is even better than the Jumper games. Excellent game.
Probably one of the least satisfying books I read in a long time. On the surface there’s nothing wrong with the writing itself, it’s more or less okay and doesn’t make you feel like ripping your eyes out, but… . There are no compelling characters, everyone is annoying. Some writers can take the most horrible people and make them at least partially likable, Sedia takes everyday people with whom connecting should be easy, and makes them into an unlovable, whiny bunch of characters that you can’t wait to get turned to pulp (not that anything really happens to the main characters). Sedia also has the habit of telling the backstory of seemingly every new character, whether they are important or not. This might be amusing the first three or four times, after all I can understand that even writers have some ticks they need to live (or write) out, but when it happens again and again and again it gets annoying.
Then there’s the Moscow underground, inhabited by a diverse group of people and creatures from Russian folklore and history. It should be a place that reeks of magic. But instead Sedia takes all these elements and somehow makes the Moscow underground into something mundane and boring. It doesn’t help that the mystical creatures turn out to be as annoying and moronic as her more worldly characters. As for the plot, don’t expect much better from that. There’s a mystery at the beginning, people get turned into birds, which starts the whole story. Well, don’t wait for some surprising twist or a big showdown. You get an ending that, like the rest of the book, is rather generic and boring.