Archive | Reviews

26 August 2015 ~ 0 Comments

BOOK REVIEW: Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick

Chasing the Phoenix is a science fiction novel by Michael Swanwick, published by Tor Books earlier this month.

The book stars Swanwick’s recurring characters, the con men Darger and Surplus. As the story begins, Surplus is journeying through a future China with the Darger’s corpse carried on the back of a yak, seeking the services of the legendary healer the Infallible Physician to raise Darger from the dead. Once that’s happened (it happens early enough in the book that I don’t think that counts as a spoiler). Considering greed a virtue, the con men are always looking for ways to profit from their circumstances. Surplus, who is an anthropomorphic dog, has used his appearance to his advantage by pretending to be an immortal, and with Surplus rising from the dead they have soon gained the attention of powerful people involved in a brewing civil war. Even among one side of the war, there are always those jockeying for power and willing to kill to get their way, and soon the two con men are working all sides just to stay alive.

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21 August 2015 ~ 0 Comments

BOOK REVIEW (Conclusion): The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu (Translated by Ken Liu)

Less than a month ago, just before the Hugo Award voting deadline, I gave a preliminary review of the first 100 pages or so of the Hugo-nominated novel The Three Body Problem. I gave the partial review then to get it published before the Hugo deadline, but since then I’ve finished reading. This review will be pretty brief because I don’t want to spoil everything, and the truth about what exactly explains the weirdness that’s happened so far in the book takes a while to unroll.

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10 August 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Anime Review: Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works

fate stay/night: ubwFate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is based on the Unlimited Blade Works storyline from the adult-rated Fate/stay night visual novel. Unlike in the US, it’s not unheard of for erotic games to be repackaged for a broader audience with the explicit scenes removed and for an anime to use the cleaned up version of the storyline.

In the world of the Fate series, there is a tournament held every few decades where seven Masters summon seven Servants and battle to obtain the Holy Grail, which will grant the winners a wish. The Masters are all supposed to be powerful wizards in the present day world, and the Servants are legendary heroes from across time. Each Master and Servant pair work as a team towards their goal and each of them will get their own wish.

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05 August 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Summer 2015 Anime First Impressions

Summer 2015 Anime First Impressions

aoharu x machinegunUnlike summer on American TV, new anime debuts year round with every season, and this summer in particular looks like fun times, with multiple shows I’m interested in following. It’s like winter 2015 all over again, where there’s more than I can keep up with, but this time there are no returning series vying for my attention and all of the interesting things are new.

It’s going to be hard to limit my viewing pool to my preferred cap of three shows! There is one exception though, due to a very special bonus show I’m including at the bottom.

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28 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novel Review (Partial): Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)

I’ve been reading as fast as I can before the Hugo voting deadline on July 31st, but there’s been a bunch of things competing for my time (most recently the Welcome to Night Vale novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor) and so I haven’t been able to read as many of the nominees as I like. I am only part way through The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu, but since the Hugo voting deadline is almost here I wanted to give a partial review–I’ll give a complete review when I have had the time to finish the book.

The story starts in China in 1967, during the Cultural Revolution (a social-political movement started by Mao Zedong whose stated goal was to preserve the “true” Communist ideology from the corrupting influences of capitalist and traditional elements from society. Ye Zhetai is a physics professor at the time, trying to teach his students without coming under the ire of the movement, but in a debate about relativity he is struck dead. His daughter Ye Wenjie follows in his footsteps, becoming a physicist as well, and ends up being recruited for a top-secret research project.

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24 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novella Review: “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr.

“Flow” by Arlan Andrews Sr. was published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Analog published it free to read online as part of the Hugo season.

Rist and Cruthar live with their people in the Tharn’s Lands where the world exists in unending hazy twilight. They make their living by riding icebergs that break off from the greater ice mass to sell them to warmlanders further south. In this story Rist takes his first berg-riding trip to the south, where the sky is blue and the light burns brightly in the sky. They are only meant to take the iceberg as far as the ice broker, but Rist gets the idea to ride the iceberg further south, and so they go on to the strange lands of the south for an adventure. People from different lands have lived separately long enough to gain differentiating racial features, including extreme farsightedness so that none can see things clearly up close in favor of far vision. The people of the Tharn’s Lands used carved figurines for writing, and Rist keeps a journal of everything he does, and everything he learns to share with his family (both on a philosophical level and things that might have applications in their merchant business).

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22 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novelette Review: “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra

“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra, published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, is nominated for the Hugo Award this year in the novelette category. Analog has posted this story for free for the voting period.

The protagonists of this story are a trio of Exoplanetary Explorers: an earthling, a silver Venusian, and a golden Martian. They get in a bar fight, which puts them on thin ice with their commanding officers. Their punishment is to be assigned to a mission doomed to fail–there is a planet on which they wish to establish a colony, where they have learned that the residents are intelligent but have failed to establish true contact with them. Priam, the Martian, raises the stakes by promising that they can establish contact and offering up their jobs if they fail.

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20 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novelette Review: “Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner

“Championship B’tok”, written by Edward M. Lerner, published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, is nominated for this year’s Hugo Award in the Novelette category. Analog has posted this story for free online as part of this Hugo season.

I generally start these stories with a synopsis, to give a sense of what the story was about. For me to be able to write a meaningful synopsis I need to be able to get some cohesive sense of what the story was about. I had trouble discerning that for this particular story, so this is not so much a synopsis as a list of story elements. The story starts with pilot Lyle Logan playing chess against his ship AI, and then the scene ends very abruptly in a way that’s never adequately explained and these characters never appear again in the story, nor have any other appreciable effect. We’re introduced to an alien race known as Snakes, among other things. There are also a mysterious race of beings (Interveners) that can apparently mimic the appearance of either humans or Snakes–these beings are not at all well-understood but they believe that the beings sparked the explosion of life in the Cambrian Era and that they steered the social/technological development of the human race. The story mostly circles around two characters: a snake named Glithwa and a human named Corinne, and a human Carl. Glithwah represents the ruling Snakes, digging for information about what might be human sabotage. The titular game, b’tok, is played during the story, which is supposedly as much more complicated than chess as chess is more complicated than rock-paper-scissors.

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17 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novelette Review: “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn

“The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn, published in Analog, is nominated for this year’s Hugo Award for Best Novelette. Analog has posted this story as a free read as part of the Hugo season.

This is part two of the Journeyman series of stories. I have not read the first part of the story, so I am extrapolating a bit. Teodorq sunna Nagarajan the Ironhand and Sammi o’ th’ Eagles are in the midst of a journey that began in the previous story, where they were sent on a quest by a ghost that resided in a crashed vessel from the sky (presumably an AI residing in a starship) to find particular settlements for the star-men to salvage from the remains. As well as the quest, they are also trying to stay ahead of Kalakaran Vikaram who is looking to avenge his brother that Teodorq killed. As they are trying to cross a territory toward their destination, they stop to examine a stone building and they wonder how it was constructed (the technology level of the setting is mostly like a Medieval level, but with the remains of higher tech scattered about it’s clear that this occurs in the future after a technological collapse of some kind). They, as well as their pursuer, are captured. To continue their quest they must somehow escape their imprisonment.

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15 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Hugo Novelette Review: “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelte (translated by Lia Belt) was published in Lightspeed Magazine. It appeared both in text and on the Lightspeed podcast.

Toby’s world turned upside down, figuratively speaking, when his girlfriend Sophie left him, with only a promise to pick up her goldfish the next day. But, before she can fetch the fish, the world turns upside down, literally. No one knows why or how, but gravity suddenly reversed. Many people don’t survive, many from head injuries, many others from falling down into the endless sky. Toby survives. The goldfish survives. Did Sophie? He has to find out. And also give her the fish back. And maybe, just maybe, they can reconnect in this world gone wrong. As Toby makes his way across the dangling undersurface of the Earth, he meets other people trying to survive.

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