Friday, 16 November 2018

Box Theatre Kit: Country Notes

I got the itch to do another model a few weeks ago and pulled out a kit I bought off the internet. It comes with all the stuff you need (though I did add a few things from my craft stash). Here's the box with all the bags of parts. I love these kits as they're not only fully set up for you, they also teach you some cool tricks for making things like trees out of paper rope, thatch out of twine, pots & pans out of metal pieces.

 Here I've papered the insides of the tin and wired lights along the ceiling and put in the floor and battery cover.

 The house mostly constructed with some of the furniture ready to go in it.

 And the finished piece + the two bunny inhabitants (the only things not glued down).

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Shout-Out: Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko

The definitive English language translation of the internationally acclaimed Russian novel—a brilliant dark fantasy combining psychological suspense, enchantment, and terror that makes us consider human existence in a fresh and provocative way.

Our life is brief . . .

Sasha Samokhina has been accepted to the Institute of Special Technologies.

Or, more precisely, she’s been chosen.

Situated in a tiny village, she finds the students are bizarre, and the curriculum even more so. The books are impossible to read, the lessons obscure to the point of maddening, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, it is their families that pay a terrible price. Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want.

[Translated by Julia Meitov Hersey]

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

David Attenborough’s Life That Glows Documentary

Attenborough examines different kinds of bio-luminescent life, from fireflies to deep sea creatures. My favourite creatures showed up at the 38:50 min mark: larvae of a kind of gnat that live on ceiling of caves. They lower strands of silk sticky with drops of saliva and light in their tails act as lures for other insects at night. The deep sea creatures were also fascinating to see.

It was interesting that there are a variety of reasons for why creatures developed bio-luminescence: defence, attraction, mating. In some cases (like a certain type of earth worm in France) scientists still don’t know why creatures employ it.

It’s a cool documentary, if you’re looking for some interesting glowing creatures to add to a story, or if you’re simply interested in some of the cool critters on planet Earth.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Book Review: The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

This is book 2, click here for my review of The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

Pros: political intrigue, interesting characters, fantastic worldbuilding


Baru Cormorant’s actions on Aurdwynn have numerous consequences. She is now Agonist, a cryptarch, one of the secret lords of the Imperial Throne of the Imperial Republic of Falcrest. She has also made a lot of enemies, one of whom is a navy admiral, who decides to mutiny in order to bring Baru to a form of justice.

Baru believes she’s one step further towards destroying Falcrest and freeing her homeland, but cryptarch rivals Hesychest and Itinerant have a job for her and two of their other proteges.

This book picks up immediately where the previous one ended, and if you don’t remember all of the characters and subplots of the first book, I’d highly recommend giving it a quick reread. I was very happy that an issue I had with that book’s ending was dealt with pretty heavily in this one.

There are plots within plots, and two main points of view, that of Baru (told in third person) and Xate Yawa (told in first person). The switch was a bit jarring at times, but insured you didn’t mistake who’s thoughts you were observing. There are also flashbacks to a previous war from the viewpoint of Tau-indi, a prince of the Oriati Mbo, which gives cultural and historical information for the continent and for the war of ideas between the cryptarchs.

The worldbuilding is incredibly intricate. Everything is connected and the language recognizes differences from our own world - like ‘matronizingly’ instead of ’patronizingly’, because some cultures have a matriarchy as a system of rule. I loved the attention to detail.

While Baru is often - though not always - able to avoid personal consequences for her actions, once again it’s clear how she causes serious fallout in her wake, particularly with regards to trade and the economics of some of the islands she visits. Very serious consequences, for what seems like limited gains on her part. This makes her an increasingly hard character to like or sympathize with. Which I believe is the point.

A lot of the action is set-up for the next book, so the plot here feels scattered at times. Having said that, the level of intrigue is high and I never felt bored.

Be prepared to remember a lot of names and get lost in intrigue. If you like morally dubious characters, this book is for you.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Not a Review - Nier: Automata

Pros: great characters, interesting story, wonderful soundtrack, lots of action, variety in locations and battles

Cons: lots of unanswered questions at the end, some questionable content

Thousands of years ago aliens invaded the Earth and used machines to wipe out most of mankind. Now the remnants live on the moon and have created androids to help them retake their home world. YoRHa sends combat unit 2B and scanner unit 9S to Earth for reconnaissance and to help the resistance wipe out the machines. But they discover a new type of machine, one that looks human.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a gamer, and while I’ve played a good number of games, starting with the old Atari, Commodore 64, and original Nintendo Entertainment System, I’m terrible at them. I do love watching my husband play games though, especially ones with interesting stories. So when my husband got me to play the first level of Nier: Automata I didn’t expect to spend over 100 hours finishing the game.

First off, I played it on easy mode. This meant there were times when the game quite literally played itself (though, for the record, one of the 2 times I died was because I didn’t realize I could turn off the auto-fire system, which forced me to stay in an arena with constantly spawning enemies 20+ levels higher than me).

This was also my first time playing an RPG and I was shocked at how much fun I found all the levelling up battles - otherwise known as the grind. I thought that would be boring, but I enjoyed exploring the world and seeing (and killing) the wide variety of machines.

The game play automatically switches from regular mode to side scroller at times, with additional switches to air ship mode. Some of the side scroller switches were annoying (moving to the left suddenly changes to moving forward - a real pain when there’s a chest or something you need to get that’s just before the screen change and the game flickers you between modes). For the most part, it was cool seeing the different modes and the first chapter models all three (which is why my husband insisted I try it).

The reason I kept going after that first chapter was the story and characters. You start the game by playing as 2B. She’s mostly unemotional and her dialogue plays well with 9Ss complaints about their workload (side quests as well as official missions). The voice actors are absolutely incredible. Kira Buckland as 2B and Kyle McCarley as 9S especially deserve a lot of credit for making me care about the characters. They’re so expressive and made the characters fell alive.

I’m not sure if this has been done in a video game before - and it’s kind of a SPOILER - so if you don’t want to know what happens later in the game, skip to the next paragraph but… there comes a point where you get to the end and … the game starts again. Only this time you’re playing as 9S. The first time through you don’t really know what’s going on and there are so many side quests (some you can only do a certain points in the game) so getting a second chance to do some of those and to see the world before things change again, was really cool. Playing as 9S also comes with a new ability - hacking. And hacking allows you to find information about the old world. I also loved that you learn the back stories of some of the antagonists during this play through, and start to feel bad about killing the machines.

The world-building was mostly well done. The final boss battles left me with questions and exposed some holes in their backstory, which was unfortunate.

The world is fun and there were several hidden areas to explore off the regular map (that is, the sections you’re officially sent to for missions). I found the variety nice. There’s a desert, a ruined city, an amusement park, a factory, a forest with a castle, and a sunken city. 

You fight a nice variety of machines, which are modified for their environments. The boss battles are all unique, with side stories.

The soundtrack was wonderful. Each section has its own themes and there are some really haunting vocals. 

We didn’t know there was a previous game until I started looking up hints late in game play. It’s fairly clear there are a lot of callbacks to the original Nier, though I don’t know the full extent.

The game did have some problematic elements. Like when my husband was finishing off the achievements, we learned there was one for looking up 2Bs skirt 10 times, and another for playing as 9S without pants for an hour. I liked 2B and 9Ss main outfits, but couldn't stand the torn clothing they gave A2. We had a DLC that added battle arenas that gave each playable character a new outfit. I immediately switched A2 to the nice fully clothed hunter style outfit, but refused to use the skimpy lingerie 2B got and I really don't know what to say about the... apron thing for 9S.

Towards the end I was getting burned out. The game goes on for quite a while, and if you do all the side quests and fishing and everything, well, it's a LOT. While I enjoyed playing as a new character for the final sections of the game, I was unhappy over why that character was necessary.

On the whole I really enjoyed the game.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Shout-Out: Illusions by Madeline Reynolds

Dear Thomas,

I know you're angry. It's true, I was sent to expose your mentor as a fraud illusionist, and instead I have put your secret in jeopardy. I fear I have even put your life in jeopardy. For that I can only beg your forgiveness. I've fallen for you. You know I have. And I never wanted to create a rift between us, but if it means protecting you from those who wish you dead-I'll do it. I'll do anything to keep you safe, whatever the sacrifice. Please forgive me for all I've done and what I'm about to do next. I promise, it's one magic trick no one will ever see coming.


Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Video: Toil Sweat Owkwa O2

A while back I saw this video by Animaphonics, posted on the Escapist channel. It's a tribute song for the TV show (and novels) The Expanse. The language is belter speak, a co-mingling of several tongues where a different sort of nationality is practiced. The official description is:
You take kowlting, we say no more; In honour of The Expanse and it's last minute rescue, Animaphonics looks back at the inciting incident of the UN-MCR war to create a song of rebellion for the opressed Belters.