Thursday, 19 July 2018

Shout-Out: Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah Dawson and Kevin Hearne

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told.
This is not that fairy tale.

There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.

And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.

There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord, who wishes for the boy’s untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Video: Hurdy-Gurdy

A few weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a link to a video explaining how to play a hurdy-gurdy, an old medieval instrument. I wondered why more fantasy books didn't include older instruments, and low and behold, the Sanctuary duology I'm currently reading by Carol Berg mentions one!

These two videos briefly go over the mechanics of a hurdy-gurdy and demonstrate how they're played.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Book Review: The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

Pros: brilliant worldbuilding, compelling characters, thought-provoking
Cons: some brutal descriptions of wartime atrocities

Fang Runin knows the Keju exam is her only way out of a miserable village life working as shopkeep for her adoptive opium smuggling parents. And only Sinegard charges no tuition. But getting into the Empire’s preeminent military academy is just the first hurdle she must overcome, for war is coming to the Empire. And she’s going to use everything she’s learned to win it, even the power of the gods themselves.

This book is absolutely brilliant. The writing is lyric and feels so effortless you know the author worked HARD on it.

The book is predominantly character driven, which I normally don’t like, but Rin is such a fascinating character that I loved it. With so much intricate history to learn with Rin as she goes through her classes, I never felt bored. The supporting cast was equally interesting from the eidetic memoried Kitay, the other two girls in her year, and her rival, Nezha.

When the war starts there’s little talk of heroism, it’s a realistic portrayal of fear and butchery. There are some brutal descriptions of wartime atrocities committed by the enemy. Seriously horrific stuff. Like, nightmare fodder if you think about it too much.

The worldbuilding was solid. There’s multiple branches of history, various races with their own customs, the people on the mainland have different dialects. The politics even in the Nikara Empire were messy and complex, not to mention the relationship they had with their neighbouring countries. There are some WWII reference with regards to the naming of characters and some of the horrors that happen at the end.

While I’m not a fan of swearing in fantasy (or books in general) I’d say it was handled well here. It’s not excessive, and when it shows up it’s appropriate to the situation.

There are several philosophical questions the book asks, especially towards the end. I love books that make me think.

This book was brilliant. Pick it up if you haven’t already.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Toronto Maker Festival 2018

Last weekend I went to the Toronto Reference Library for the city's Maker Festival. There were a bunch of booths both displaying cool makes and selling interesting things (like steampunk jewelry). There were booths on 3 floors, plus more outside.

At the 'learn how to solder' booth I bought a mini rocket kit and soldered LEDs and a battery holder on it.

The library's booth had a 1D arduino game called Twang that was played on an LED strip. When the enemy red lights came near, you had to 'twang' the joystick, which basically fired light a few LED away so you could proceed. Later levels involved water and lava traps that pushed you quickly in one direction. It was surprisingly fun for such a simple concept.

The R2D2 builders from the local 501st division had a display of some of the things they'd built.

Ryerson University had an infinity mirror with LEDs you could turn on and change the colour of called 'Twinfinity'.

When I was a kid I read Follow My Leader by James B. Garfield, a book about a 12 year old boy who goes blind due to a firecracker accident. I thought the book was fantastic and taught myself braille as a secret code. It was really neat seeing this braille typewriter and learning about some of the modern tech used to help the blind.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Shout-Out: The Atrocities by Jeremy Shipp

When Isabella died, her parents were determined to ensure her education wouldn't suffer.
But Isabella's parents had not informed her new governess of Isabella's... condition, and when Ms Valdez arrives at the estate, having forced herself through a surreal nightmare maze of twisted human-like statues, she discovers that there is no girl to tutor.
Or is there...?

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Video: Floppotron

I've seen videos in the past of music played on CD Roms, dot matrix printers, etc., but Floppotron takes that to the next level. Here it is playing two of my favourite 80s theme songs, Knight Rider and Air Wolf.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Graphic Novel Review: The Furnace by Prentis Rollins

Pros: decent artwork, interesting story, thought provoking

Cons: left with questions

In the future US Department of Gard Administration and affairs needed a new way to deal with the prison population. It created GARD, a ball that hovers 1 meter behind and 1.5 meters above the prisoner, creating a field that renders the prisoner unseen and unheard.

This is the story of Walton Honderich, who must come to terms with how his brief contact with the unfinished GARD program in university affected the rest of his life.

The story starts a bit slow and gains momentum through flashbacks. There’s a fair bit of philosophical dialogue which makes it surprising that so little time is spent debating the ethics of what the GARD program will do. The graphic novel does make you think about it though, the ethics and about how many people along the way could have stopped the program and didn’t.

The artwork is done in a realistic style with subdued colours. It’s not my favourite style, but it’s well done.

The art style and philosophy reminded me of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and Watchmen, though maybe a ‘light’ version, as the story isn’t as deep or heavy handed here.

It’s an interesting story and worth a read or two.