Tuesday 14 May 2024

Book Review: Escape Velocity by Victor Manibo

Pros: compelling, fast paced, interesting characters

Cons: abusive dom/sub scene

The Rochford Institute is hosting their class of 2064 reunion on Space Habitat Altaire. As an added bonus, attending will net each participant at least 5 MERIT points, necessary to gain coveted spaces in the new Mars colony. Unlike her classmates, Ava Khan isn’t there to schmooze. She wants to know who really killed her abusive twin brother their last year of school, and she thinks her three oldest friends have the answer. Meanwhile, the station crew have a plan for how to make the world a better place.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of the four friends and Cielo, chief housekeeper on the Altaire. You learn more about each one, how things went in school, what they’ve been up, and why they’re really on the station. They’ve all got compelling stories, even if - despite what they think - they’re not particularly good people.

The book delves into the kinds of backroom deals that allow the super rich to influence the world and come out on top.

There’s an orgy scene (mildly graphic) and one character acts as Dom to another, in which a lot of minimizing language and swear words are used. The second scene with that pair went past words, and though it wasn’t graphic, it still left me feeling uncomfortable.

The ending hits hard and wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s a fast paced, compelling read.

Out May 16.

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Movie Review: Argylle

Directed by Matthew Vaughn, 2024
IMDb Listing
Available on Apple TV

Pros: weird, lots of twists

Cons: you have to be in the right mood to enjoy it, the trailers spoil several plot twists (so try to learn as little about it as you can before seeing it).

Elly Conway is a novelist who gets in trouble with a real secret service agency as her ongoing series gets too close to the truth.

I’d never heard of Argylle when I saw it, which is the best way to approach this movie. It is so much fun. Wild and bizarre in just the right ways to be funny and charming. The less you know about the plot going in, the more interesting the twists are, as you really don’t know what’s coming next. There was even one laugh out loud moment towards the end where the situation was so comically dumb, but acted so well with such good effects I truly laughed WITH the film, enjoying the absurdity.

The actors are all great, taking their roles seriously despite the truly bizarre direction the film pivots to at times. There are some fun, well-choreographed fight scenes and good special effects.

You have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy this. A lighthearted, go with the flow kind of mood. Because you really have to turn your brain off and just enjoy the ride. If you can do that, it’s a highly entertaining film.

Tuesday 30 April 2024

TV Show Review: Fallout Season 1

IMDb listing

Pros: interesting character arcs, some great plot twists, good action sequences

Cons: lots of blood and gore, some nudity

Lucy MacLean leaves her mostly idilic nuclear fallout vault to rescue her father who’s been kidnapped by raiders. She is wildly unprepared for the world she finds on the surface.

I have never played the Fallout games though I watched part of a playthrough once (can’t say which game it was). So while I knew a handful of facts about the Fallout world (Pitboy, mutants, vaults), I was basically coming into the show blind.

I had concerns about the amount of gore in the trailer. I’m not a fan of gross humour/horror. So I watched the first episode as a test. And then kept watching. While there is a fair amount of gore, strategically closing my eyes at the right moment has helped (and the moments are generally telegraphed, so this worked well for me).

There are 3 main protagonists whose stories interweave, and they’re all compelling in their own ways. Two of them (Lucy and Maximus) have fairly simple backstories and motivations. The Ghoul’s story gets more and more complicated as the series progresses. The world’s complexities makes achieving their goals a real challenge. Watching Lucy confront her beliefs and see how she’s forced to change in order to live in this new world was heart-breaking. Ella Purnell is brilliant showing the progression from Lucy’s naivety to survivalism. Similarly, seeing who the Ghoul used to be before the nuclear blasts and wondering what’s brought him to this low point is interesting.

The set designs were beautifully done. I loved how they reinvented technology based on the divergence of history. The VHS style videotapes were kind of fun, as were some of the robots.

There were a lot of great fight scenes in a variety of locations. I appreciated that they were all fights for survival, rather than feeling cleanly choreographed. Everyone fights dirty in this world, or they die.

The story had some excellent plot twists (though, apparently many of these are known game storylines, so may not be surprising to those who’ve played them). I was happy that so many questions were answered by the final episode, while leaving enough to segway into a second season.

If you’re ok with gore and some nudity (one episode has a weird scene where a group of people derobe), then give this a try. The acting is great, the characters compelling, and the story shockingly good (especially compared to some other video game shows lately *cough* Halo *cough*).

Thursday 25 April 2024

Video: When You're Married to a Helldiver

I've been watching some youtube videos of people playing Helldiver 2, so this video by the Warp Zone made me laugh.

Friday 5 April 2024

Ross Scott on Stop Killing Games

I've been watching Ross Scott, aka Accursed Farms' Freeman's Mind and Ross's Game Dungeon videos on youtube for years so I knew he was concerned about game publishers destroying video games for years. When Ubisoft decided to kill their online servers for The Crew, he kicked things into high gear. 

Basically, if you own a copy of The Crew, you're about to lose access to the game you paid for, forever. The move to online only games means there are more and more games each year dependent on publishers to maintain services that allow you to play. Once they stop, poof, the game - and the money you spent on it - are gone.

I'm embedding the long version of what he want to do to stop publishers from doing this. But if you want the VERY short version, he's got a 50 second video here.

There are 2 aspects of his campaign, depending on where you live and if you own a copy of The Crew.  If you own The Crew and live if France, he gives information on how to bring up the issue with Ubisoft and the French consumer protection agency. If you don't, or live elsewhere, he's setting up petitions you can sign.

In addition to the video, he's also got a website, stopkillinggames.com, with more information.

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Book Review: Anxiety Workbook for Women by Bianca L. Rodriguez

Recently I’ve been working on reducing my anxiety so I requested this on NetGalley.

The book has 2 parts (Understanding Anxiety & How to Manage Your Anxiety) and 9 chapters (Anxiety & Women; Navigating Life with Anxiety; Calm Your Body & Mind; Observe Your Anxiety & Identify Your Triggers; Release Yourself from the Cycle of Worry & Rumination; Replace Your Anxious Behaviors with Healthy Ones; Navigate Relationships and Manage Social Anxiety; Acknowledge & Address Specific Phobias; and Reclaim Your Life & Reach Your Goals). The book ends with a short list of resources, online sites for additional help if you need it.

The first chapter has a lot of repetition, which is great for getting you to really take in the information. I found it helpful to learn why anxiety exists and how it’s meant to help in dangerous or unusual circumstances. Anxiety becomes a problem when it overstays its usefulness.

The book progresses through teaching you about anxiety, then ways to deal with different aspects of it using a variety of exercises. I found some activities worked better for me, but the variety means people with different ways of learning and thinking - and different levels and aspects of anxiety - will find useful activities. There were several exercises dealing with intrusive thoughts/ruminating on past actions, on how to relieve black & white thinking, etc. Unexpectedly the book didn’t just deal with ways to improve yourself in private, there’s a section on how to do small talk and introduce yourself to strangers. The chapter on breaking down goals into manageable pieces was also unexpected and useful. I really appreciated the reminder to celebrate your successes.

It is useful to try various exercises, even if you don’t think they’ll work for you. I did the ‘write a letter to your anxiety’ and it was surprisingly insightful.

Through the work I’ve done over the years some of these lessons were no longer necessary for me, but I could see how they would have helped (and were similar to techniques I used in the past).

If you suffer from anxiety and want to learn techniques that can help, give this workbook a try.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Book Review: Cascade Failure by L. M. Sagas

Pros: fun and interesting characters, tight plot, some thought provoking moments, good fight scenes

Cons:

Here’s the back cover blurb, which is simply perfect.

There are only three real powers in the Spiral: the corporate power of the Trust versus the Union's labor's leverage. Between them the Guild tries to keep everyone's hands above the table. It ain't easy.

Branded a Guild deserter, Jal "accidentally" lands a ride on a Guild ship. Helmed by an AI, with a ship's engineer/medic who doesn't see much of a difference between the two jobs, and a "don't make me shoot you" XO, the Guild crew of the Ambit is a little . . . different.

They're also in over their heads. Responding to a distress call from an abandoned planet, they find a mass grave, and a live programmer who knows how it happened. The Trust has plans. This isn't the first dead planet, and it's not going to be the last.

Unless the crew of the Ambit can stop it.

The characters are so much fun. They’re all neurotic in complementary ways. Surly and snipey at times, talkative and playful at others. Eoan’s curiosity about everything was a real joy. Despite their arguments it’s clear Nash and Saint are a tight knit crew. Seeing Jal and Anke dropped into the crew’s dynamic made for some great interactions.

The plot is tight with enough down time to get to know all of the characters between chase scenes and fights. There are some real tense moments.

The politics of this future are suitably complex without taking over the story. There are a few decent questions about morality and whether it’s better to focus on the needs of society at large vs saving your personal friends and family. And who should make the necessary sacrifices.

It’s a book about the choices we make and how we deal with the consequences of the bad decisions of our past. Of working as a team to complete a goal. Of betrayal and redemption.

It’s a delightful story that, though it dealt with heavy issues at times, left me feeling hopeful about the future.