Thursday, 28 April 2016

Shout-Out: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

The English language debut of the bestselling Dutch novel, Hex, from Thomas Olde Heuvelt--a Hugo and World Fantasy award nominated talent to watch

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay 'til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children's bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town's teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Book Review: Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter

Pros: great characters, excellent world-building, interesting plot

Cons: 

Thames Tidal Power, a co-operative made up mostly of gillungs, is set to start operations when a series of minor accidents occurs. The new company’s quantum-battery technology is poised to upend the energy market, and other powerful players aren’t too happy about that. There’s an election coming soon and the possibility of a new gem positive political party entering the race would split the United People’s Party vote, giving the historically anti-gem Traditional Democratic party a better chance of winning. As political and economic turmoil increases, Zavcka Klist is released from maximum security prison to house arrest. And she’s looking for the ‘daughter’ she lost eight years ago.

This book picks up the story of Gabriel, Gaela, Bal, Aryel, Mikal, Callan, Rhys, etc eight years after the events of Binary.  The focus this time is on Gabriel and Mikal’s families.  Gabriel now works on managing the socialstream commentary around Thames Tidal Power when he isn’t taking university classes.  Along with his parents, he’s very concerned with keeping his adopted sister Eve off the streams in order to keep her safe.

Councillor Mikal Varsi, still an independent candidate, is being courted by both political parties as well as the potential third party.  While the UPP and the new gem party make sense, he’s unsure why the Trads would consider approaching someone very much the opposite of what they stand for.  

Mikal’s wife is now a Detective Superintendent, and keeping a close eye on the investigation into the accidents at the new power station.

It’s cool seeing how everyone’s grown, and also to see how time and change don’t necessarily remove the barriers and hatreds of ignorance, fear, and bigotry.

The story’s quite interesting and flowed nicely.  There were a good number of unexpected twists, and while one aspect of the ending was fairly obvious, there were others that were not.  I was particularly impressed with the last chapter that really rapped up the trilogy well.

While it’s possible to read this book without the others, the author assumes a familiarity with the characters, so backstory is left unexplained.  This makes a few of the relationships harder to grasp if you don’t know them already.  The ending is also somewhat dependant on knowing who Zavcka is and what she’s done in the past.

This is a brilliant series, highly recommended.

Out May 3rd.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Stranger Than Fiction: Octopus Photographer

Someone posted this article on facebook mentioning how Sony gave a New Zealand aquarium a camera in a special underwater housing to show how durable their cameras are as well as how smart octopuses are.  It apparently only took 3 tries for the octopus to figure out how to use it and now it takes photos of visitors.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Shout-Out: The Art and Science of Intergalactic War by Field Marhsal S. Myrston

As a young cadet, Private Myrston led troops against the Victoriana rebellion where he earned a reputation as a fearless soldier and cunning tactician. His meteoric rise to Emperor of the Molagrian Empire was paved with sound battle strategies, a winning smile and clever assassinations of several superior officers. As emperor, he sought out and engaged in countless conflicts with a multitude of sentient lifeforms during his reign. It was during this period that he mastered several forms of invasion, administration and religious manipulation for profit. In this text, Myrston has plagiarized wildly from Molagrian and Nebraxian classic texts infinitely better than this one to provide a concise set of tenants guaranteeing intergalactic success. Learn how to take control of the planet, establish a government that suits your needs and then seek out and annihilate exotic, intelligent lifeforms throughout the galaxy.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Video: Movies with Mikey

My husband found this channel recently and we've been quickly going through their backlist.  The videos, by Mike Neumann, go into a lot of depth, so it's best if you've seen what he's talking about both because of the spoilers and because analysis is always better when you know the media.  He does a lot of older films, making me want to rewatch stuff I haven't seen in years.  I don't always agree with his criticism (personally I enjoyed the Ladyhawke soundtrack, though I know he's not alone in panning it), but on the whole he's got some great insights.

Here's his analysis of Cabin in the Woods to get you started.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Book Review: Dawn of Procyon by Mark Healy

Pros: fascinating aliens, Landry’s resourcefulness 

Cons: cliched characters, Landry comprehends the alien with remarkable speed

When Landry agrees to help a friend he has no idea that favour will leave him stranded on the surface of Proc-One, oxygen running out, no way to communicate with the base, and no hope of a rescue.  Then he realizes that one of the alien enemy Argoni is nearby, cannibalizing the wreck of his scout ship.

Cait’s the optech promoted to supervisor after Landry’s disappearance.  Her day’s not going well either.  Her boss is unreasonable, work is piling up, there’s an emergency repair that brings its own mystery, and she’s found a picture of Landry with a mystery woman.  She wants to enjoy her promotion but keeps thinking of Landry and wondering if he really is dead.

Landry’s a pretty resourceful character, surviving in harsh conditions for a surprising amount of time. Though lots of new problems arise, he faces each one and finds a solution. I really enjoyed his man vs nature chapters. The book spends a lot of time trying to get away from the initial impression of him as an anti-social workaholic. He’s portrayed as mostly friendless, with few redeeming qualities. 

For the most part I liked Cait, though she’s somewhat cliched as well, a female mechanic trying to prove her worth to her father and male co-workers. She’s conflicted in that she’s happy to be promoted, but she doesn’t feel that abandoning Landry is fair, regardless of the circumstances for his disappearance. I did find it strange that the picture of Landry and his wife made her reconsider him as a person. I wouldn’t have thought his personal relationships would matter if she believed him a jerk for being so stand offish at work. There’s a chapter towards the end of the book where she makes some baseless assumptions about him that her own investigations don’t support. I talk more about this chapter in the spoiler section below.

There were some plot points that didn’t make much sense to me, starting with how Landry and Gus managed to steal a scout ship out of a military installation that requires passing through some sort of airlock. Surely there would be notification that the outer door has been opened, if there isn’t anything showing that a scout ship has been activated.

While I liked the pacing of most of the book, the ending progresses too quickly to feel realistic. It’s hard to believe Landry could come to comprehend anything at all from something so alien, but to do so as quickly as he does defied belief. I did enjoy learning more about the aliens and found these chapters very interesting, regardless of how contrived parts of it felt.

Having said that, the book’s ending was rather cool, with sequel potential.

This is a flawed book, but one that reads quickly and has some interesting ideas.

To learn more about the book and enter the publisher's giveaways, check out their website.


***SPOILERS***









Cait states in this chapter that Landry was just at the wrong place at the wrong time with regards to his disappearance despite the fact that she actually saw him working on the scout ship before it took off, and therefore knew he was involved with the theft of the plane. She feels bad that she ratted him out, but why? He was clearly acting funny and ended up breaking the law. At this point she has no idea why he did it, just that he did. Similarly, she has the idea that someone would miss him despite meeting his listed next of kin, a woman who doesn’t know his name. And while there’s the photograph, Cait has no idea who the woman is or if she’s alive and/or still cares for Landry. I was also annoyed by her insistence that all lives matter while consistently mentioning Landry ‘and his pilot’. Gus was named, and apparently well liked by several people, even if Cait didn’t know him that well. But she doesn’t care about Gus any more than Landry’s supervisor cares about Landry.

The idea the the army is willing to let expensive equipment go missing with the belief that they can recover the costs from the thieves’ families is ludicrous. Army equipment is very expensive and families won’t have the kind of cash to pay back an expense like that. Especially when we know that Gus’s family has no money and Landry’s been giving all of his money to charity. 

That chapter also mentioned that Cait would return to Earth and confront her father, convincing him that she’s capable of doing mechanic work. I don’t believe this confrontation would have any more effect than the previous times she’s confronted him. Talking to him won’t change his mind or it would have long before this point. Cait’s wasting her time trying for her father’s approval. Sometimes people don’t see eye to eye, and forcing the issue doesn’t solve the problem, it just prolongs it. If Cait’s happy with her optech job, than a better response would be to stop wishing for her father’s blessing and just get on with her life, enjoying the work she does. Because he’s never going to give her the validation she craves. And while making a positive decision in your life can remove negative thoughts and emotions for a short time, they’re patterns of behaviour and will return. To get rid of them completely she’d need to sit down and work through her issues, slowly replacing her negative thought patterns with positive one.