Friday, March 27, 2020

Review of The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

I assume like most bibliophiles, there are a few authors that touch that nerve of pure enjoyment and satisfaction inside. Their stories fill me with an inner sense of delight at the places, characters, and emotions described, and leave me feeling a little high upon completion—wanting more but wonderfully gratified with what I have. And completion is, unfortunately, a necessity. While we may like to be forever in those places and among those characters, the last page inevitably turns. And for authors who have passed, so too do oeuvres have a last page; at some point in time I will have read everything by an author and face the reality of not being able to embark on any virgin experience.

And thus it is with a few authors I have patiently let their final unread book sit on the shelf for years, waiting for the moment that feels right to enter upon that last bit of glory. With Iain Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata (2012) a couple of weeks ago the moment felt right. And so, with mixed feelings, I dived in for my last, virgin experience in the Culture. I have emerged upon the last page to confirm delayed gratification is a real thing.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Review of Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson

From a few, solid perspectives, Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2009 Galileo’s Dream is the perfect bit of historical fiction. Where some modern writers will relay history in near-fictional form, i.e. adding dialogue, emotions, etc., not all of which are directly taken from recorded history, this approach can often feel disingenuous, like the writer is preying upon our acceptance of their conjecture. Galileo’s Dream thrusts in a different direction: science fiction.

Robinson clearly having pored over biographies of Galileo and the Italian mathematician/scientist/lens maker/astronomer/author/physicist/engineer’s own written works, not to mention histories of Galileo’s era, the Catholic church, and many other contributory sources, a good two-thirds to three quarters is a mimetic imagining of the man’s life—dialogue, emotions, stream of consciousness, etc. But where Robinson departs from the presentation of historical fiction is to introduce the ludicrous. Yes, the ludicrous. Sending Galileo into the future, particularly into a war being fought among Jupiter’s moons by the future of humanity, the 16th century mathematician meets the next millennium.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Review of Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski

Seeming to set the pace for the remaining three books in the trilogy, Time of Contempt (1995), the second book, picks up exactly where the first Blood of Elves left off. Not only pace, the novel likewise carries forward the character focus, authorial voice, and style of the first novel in consistent fashion.

At the outset, Ciri and Yennefer are on their way to Aretuza where the intention is that Ciri will train to harness her magical source abilities and become an enchantress. Their journey anything but straightforward, while stopping in Gors Velen the duo have several encounters that indicate prying eyes are interested in their progress—or lack thereof. Meanwhile, Geralt wanders the countryside and cities, earning his keep as a monster hunter. After accidentally stumbling upon a behind-the-scenes fight amongst factions of the mages, Geralt finds himself embroiled in the wider interests of Aretuza, like it or not, and simultaneously in the machinations of Nilfgardian interests to take over the lands.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Console Corner: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

While single-player games can be a lot of fun, something I can sink hours of time into, I still prefer couch co-op.  Something about working together with someone sitting beside you to solve a puzzle or take on a difficult level of enemies (and the boss!) is more satisfying.  But these days there are relatively few really good couch co-ops.  Most games designed for online multi-player, gone are the hours of fun with: one Nintendo, two controllers, and a game that was almost inevitably designed for at least two players.  The market today is not devoid of such games (Overcooked, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, Never Alone, Wipeout and others keep the type alive), but they are certainly the minority.  Where most Nintendo games were couch co-op, modern games are not.  But a 1.5 player game?  A wonderful adventure stuck between a one- and two-player experience is Starbreeze Studio’s 2013 Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.  How can a game be 1.5 player? Let me explain…

Brothers is the story of two boys, Naiee and Naia.  Their father lying deathly ill in the family’s small, seaside hut, the village doctor sends the pair on a mission to the Tree of Life to collect the waters that will save him.  Both the boys able climbers and eager to help, they embark on the journey of a lifetime to get the valuable resource.  Norse in theme, their journey through the fields, mountains, and beyond is full of surprises, good and otherwise, the pair must pass to get to the Tree of Life and help their father.

Console Corner: Review of: Assassin's Creed: Origins

A new year, and a new Assassin’s Creed game.  Oh wait, 2017 was a little different; Ubisoft had taken a two year break to change the formula with Assassin’s Creed: Origins...  Or did it?

Before I start bemoaning the state of Ubisoft, it’s best to jump into what AC: Origins is.  Origins is the story of Bayek, medjah of the desert town of Siwa.  Egypt ruled over by the despot Ptolemy, Bayek works to protect his town from Ptolemy’s generals whose greedy, ambitious soldiers persistently kill and steal from the people.  But things hit closer to home for Bayek one day when he and his son are abducted by one of the generals and forced into an underground occult ritual, a ritual whose results prove devastating to Bayek, pushing his life in a new direction.  Revenge now his goal in life, Bayek must travel throughout Egypt to take down the generals and ultimately the pharaoh who wronged him.