Friday, September 28, 2007

Just a news-filled update today...

I've got to be honest, I'm lacking a lot of time which is needed to do the research and critical thinking required for original content today. Nothing bad, just really busy.

So, I'm gathered the most interesting things from my RSS Reader.

First and foremost, is SCIFI has ordered a third season for Eureka. All I've got to say to this is, "hooray!" Now all I need to do is get the first and second seasons on DVD so I can watch the ones that I missed.

Second, ABC is planning a SF show for Fall 2008 which the producers describe as a mixture of "House" and "X-Men." Not a lot of details on that, but it should make for an interesting thing. At least there is hope for more sci-fi after this crop of shows, and the potential for failure this season due to SF overload.

The third, and final, thing of interest that caught my eye in my RSS feed was an article from Website @ The End of the Universe suggesting we try foreign films if you're disgusted and tired of the cookie-cutter SF fare being produced by Hollywoood these days. I'm of two minds about that. I do see the tripe that Hollywood is producing, but Pan's Labyrinth (the last foreign film I watched) was just so violent and bloody, often unnecessarily so, that I'm hesitant about looking more closely at European films. That said, I still love my Anime (movies and TV Series) so who knows.

Well now that that's all out of the way, let me tell you about my little Jedi. He's 10 months old, and a happy cruiser who believes that everything exists solely for his amusement and or comfort. So, whenever he have something that he wants, say a bottle, or a cup, or a toy, or just us to be near enough to him to pick him up, he'll stretch out his hand, and make baby-babble, as he lifted one eyebrow.

I'm serious, he looks like Vader in the Cloud City scene of ESB. Except he's a baby, and doesn't have that whole black mask, and breathing problem going on.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bionic Woman

I did something amazing last night.

I sat on the couch and watched TV.

Yes, yes, I know I do that every Monday night with Ani-Monday and every Saturday with Saturday morning cartoons, but this was a prime-time drama, on at 8 o'clock at night. The last time I tried this, I had the misfortune of watching part of the new Flash Gordan.

Anyways, what I watched last night was the premier episode of the Bionic Woman. I have to say it wasn't that interesting. Basically, it's a cop show with a girl that has super powers, and it even lacks the cool know-it-all status of Vincent D'Onofrio's character from Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

It wasn't a bad show mind you, it's just not that much science-fiction.

It's a gimmick show. Normal drama scenarios, and then you have the character with a gimmick.

The original Bionic Woman and Bionic Man were this types of shows. As was the Incredible Hulk and even the A-Team. Of course, I'm not really that surprised, it's not often that you get really, truly good geek shows, and I've been spoiled over the past few years with the number that had shown up, and was hoping that the trend would continue.

Oh well, I guess it's back to my PC during prime-time...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Eek! *girly-scream noise* I want!

It's... it's Lego... and it's Star Wars... and it's the Falcon... and it's over 5000 pieces... it has a 4-pound manual...

I so want this!

Galaxy of Stars, 08

All right, I've stumbled upon a science-fiction convention that is run in Jackson, Mississippi. It's called Galaxy of Stars. What's odd, is that it doesn't list a whole lot of information about it on their website. I mean, DragonCon in Atlanta gives so much information, things such as contests and dealers/exhibitors, and gives a lot more details about events.

As far as I can tell about Galaxy, they've got two stars lined up, and a couple of meals planned, but there's no information about dealers/exhibitors, nothing about cosplay, and may lightning strike us dead if they list something about panels or speakers. Couple that with the fact that it doesn't have it's own website (like a majority of cons do) and I'm wondering just how legitimate this con is.

Does anyone know anything about it? Maybe they attended Galaxy '07.

Serialized Fiction

I have a secret. One that I've been keeping from a lot of folks. This secret, it arrives in my RSS Reader on a daily basis, and has for a few months now. Also, it is written by Jon Evans.

What type of secret is this, you ask?

It's a serialized story by the title of Beasts of New York. Described by the author as a "Children's book for adults" it is the story of a squirrel who lives in New York's Central Park during a dark time of war and destruction. What's better is (as I indicated above) that it arrives in your RSS feeder (or you can walk through the website reading the pages) at the rate of a chapter a day. It's a grand experiment in serialized fiction in the information age. Makes me giddy.

Why would he describe it as a children's book for adults? The answer is because it has an animal protagonist, yet is an incredibly dark book about war, death, betrayal and all sorts of other "adult" themes that tend to be to dark for the under-9 set who are the prime audience for animal protagonists.

Or at least, that's a paraphrase of the FAQ about it, truthfully, it seems slightly odd to me. I mean, I've long enjoyed the wonderful story, Tailchaser's Song, and anyone who has ever looked into Watership Down knows that that's not a kid's book. Then we also have more recent fiction such as Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw (Review).

Basically, if a story is good enough, with themes and characters that appeal, it will be read.

And that's what I'm wanting you to do. Read this story. Frankly, I think you will be happy that you did, and I'm sorry that I didn't push it out to everyone earlier.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ani-Monday on September 24

Well Monday night has come and gone, and I have, as usual, watched two of the four animes being offered on that particular night for our viewing pleasure from the Sci-Fi Channel. Noein is still in mid-series, while Tokko had their conclusion last night.

Truth be told, there's not a lot to report about what happened in Noein last night. We did not get that many answers, just a bit of techno-babble worthy of any Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. Well, we did get to see Yuu dumping some of his angst and standing up for Haruka again - the last time that I remember him doing that was early on in those first few episodes. Good for him.

But turning over to Tokko, well, we actually get a lot of answers here. Of course, not a single bit of it is worth anything as those answers all come from the antagonists of the piece. That said, the decision here was to end the series on a cliffhanger. Frankly, I'm of two minds about the rather... overt way this cliffhanger was handled. On the one hand, it's obvious that there's more story to tell involving our heroes. On the other, that story hasn't been written, and doesn't appear to be getting written.

Oh well, I enjoyed the series, though it's not one that I plan on asking the wifey to get me later on. Currently, Noein will probably be one of those things that I want to add to my collection.

There were two episodes of Streetfighter II on last night as well. I didn't watch them.

As I said in yesterday's post, Tokko is over, and Streetfighter II is gone as well. What that means is that Noein is now pushed back to the Streetfighter II timeslot, and we're going to be getting two episodes a week for it, and a brand new anime is coming in for the earlier timeslot.

Should be an interesting week, next week.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday Morning Rambling....

Well another weekend has flown past, and I'm once more scrambling to figure out just where my days have gone. Only to be reminded why my days fly past, as I am once more spat up upon by a 10 month old climber. I'm serious, this boy climbs more than those silly monkey's in Tim Burton's remake of Planet of the Apes.

We have one of those Fisher Price Step & Play's. That blue seat in the center comes out, for when kids become cruisers, and of course, that's where we're at with the thing. So basically, it's these two white bars with a space in the middle of them. Well, my boy was outside this toy, basically where that logo is, and rather than walk around it, climbed over it.

Or well, he tried to climb over it. He kind of had to get rescued once he got up on the white part.

But that's all well and good, as I then got to watch part of the Family Guy Star Wars special. Part, because I kind of well, dozed off during the last quarter of it or so. Basically, I saw Luke leave Yavin in an X-Wing, and the next thing I know my wife is poking me, saying, "Are you sleeping or are you faking?"

BUT there was a number of bits that had me laughing. Stewie as Darth Vader was just perfect, and Peter's comments about Harrison Ford's post-Star Wars acting career was spot on.

Of course, the funniest aspect of that special last night was something I found after it was over. I had gotten up out of bed, and went to check on the boys. Pause for back-story here: my wife was watching Cold Case or one of those oddball shows in the living room, which left me with my animated goodness in the bedroom. So on with the story; I went down the straight hallway which connects our bedroom with the boys', and almost stumbled over this Thomas the Train fold-out bed/couch thing that was sitting in the middle of their bedroom doorway.

Which hadn't been there when we had put our eldest boy to bed.

Slightly confused, I checked on the youngest in his crib, ensuring that he was sleeping and not climbing out. I then went and pulled the blankets up over my older boy. I turn around, and what do I see? The television from my bedroom. If I listen hard, I can even make out what they're saying.

So yeah, that's my boy. He snuck out of bed to watch a cartoon. I'm highly amused, though worried at the fact that he didn't think to clean up the Thomas couch in order to hide his tracks. Thought I taught him better than that.

Oh well, I'm sure we'll have similar attempts in the future where he can better ply his duplicity skills, and this way it also preserves the omniscience of Mommy and Daddy for a few more years, or at least months.

Hours maybe?

Regardless, we have Ani-Monday tonight as usual. It's episodes 13 for both Noein and Tokko. That's it for Tokko, the final episode for that particular anime. What that means for next week, is that Noein gets pushed back into the time slot currently occupied by two episodes of Streetfighter II and a new anime (Virus Buster Serge) gets two episodes for that first hour's time slot. So, basically next week, we get two episodes of this Virus anime, and two episodes of Noein, and no episodes of Streetfighter II. I'm excited.

Speaking of anime, we were in Wal-Mart earlier last week, and as we walked past the oriental food section, I saw a small red box which startled me. I recognized this box. I knew it. From the blocky writing, to the rip-off Coke swirl. One of the first anime's that I watched after I got really involved in my latest obsession was Onegai Teacher, and the female lead of that show was always eating this stuff.

Have to say though, they're not that great. The biscuit base isn't that bad, it's just the decision to use chocolate liquor as the coating. The only worse possible decision, from my point of view at least, would be if they used non-sweetened chocolate, or dark chocolate. I would have been much happier with a milk-chocolate coating. Mmmm....chocolate...

Culinary adventures aside, I am excited over the upcoming week's television, I must say, I'm highly interested in the fact that we're being overwhelmed with scifi television shows and fantasy movies this fall. On the small screen tonight, we're getting Chuck, the first episode of Heroes' second season, and Journeyman. Tuesday is Eureka night. Wednesday night is the premier of Bionic Woman. Thursday is Reaper. Friday night has Doctor Who, Moonlight, and Stargate: Atlantis. Well, Friday night also has Flash Gordan, but luckily for us, that's not getting renewed for a second season. And somewhere in there is supposed to be Pushing Daisies but I didn't see it while looking through TV Guide.

Anime news I'm still in kind of a waiting mode. Kenichi and Kekkaishi are still going strong, and Dennou Coil has a good ten or so episodes left (if memory serves). Zombie Loan finished last week or so, but beyond that I'm fast running out of anime. I had been thinking about grabbing the entire season of School Days once that finished airing, but with the murder of a detective by his daughter over in Japan, it seems that the final episode has been pulled and won't be aired. I'm saddened by the death of the detective, flabbergasted by the concept of patricide, but still, oddly confused by the decision to pull the episode. This detective isn't the only person that died this year, and it's odd to make such a decision to pull the episode just because this particular murder has garnered international attention. But, I'm odd that way.

On the book front, I'm still trudging through the second book I checked out of the library (The Stonehenge Gate), and have went around the house, gathering old books that I don't read - oddly enough, most of them are my wife's - and plan on trekking over to the used bookstore tomorrow or Wednesday on lunch. I may be able to return victorious with more books. Additional fun news is that I received my first ever review copy of a novel in the mail over the weekend: Simon Haynes' Hal Spacejock. Expect that review up as soon as I get it read. Also of note, is if you're interested in writing at all (and even if you're not), Simon Haynes has a number of free software products on his other website.

Nothing exciting for me beyond that, but I do have to wonder which television series are you looking forward to the most? Personally, it's a toss up between Heroes season 2 and Moonlight.

Now, if only I had the memory to actually remember to go watch these things when they aired, or even later on their respective websites as a streaming video. Maybe one day I'll get a DVR.

Friday, September 21, 2007

10 best Animated Movies...

For traumatizing kids.

No, seriously, has an article up, entitled the 10 Best Animated Movies for (Traumatizing) Kids.

I must admit, it is a funny article. I snickered at various places, agreed with some of the stuff, and was flat out laughing by the end. Highly disturbing. Seriously funny.

For adults at least.

Friday Morning Rambling...

Well, it's Friday morning again, and I'm sitting here dealing with the fact that I don't have the Talifan essay written. I've started. I got about 1800 words in my word processor. I've also discovered that it's not quite as good a topic as I had originally thought. At least for a science-fiction blog. It almost reads perfectly like a blog entry that I would have over at KrashPAD.

But oh well, I can use rambling posts as endcaps to the week. My wife would like that as I'm more apt to talk about her that way. As I reported earlier, she has now decided that she needs to read A Wrinkle in Time because of the author's death, and I'm proud to say that she has gone and checked the book out of the library.

She hasn't actually opened it up yet though, but she has it checked out.

Highlander: Source has aired, I think twice now. Not to my surprise, it has been met with rather overwhelming critical and fan disdain. Personally, I didn't watch it. I had not intention on watching it. Nor have I watched Highlander: Endgame. In fact, I regret watching the first half or so of the Highlander anime.

That's about all I have for right now. I'm certain that as the day wears on, I'll discover more interesting tidbits in my RSS Feed. What I would like to do is leave you with a link, tell me which of these you like the best: Star Trek Inspirational Posters.

This one is my favorite:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Review: Eastern Standard Tribe

I've finished my second Cory Doctorow novel, Eastern Standard Tribe (ISBN: 0765307596). As always, he's released this novel under a Creative Commons license so it can be downloaded and read on a computer all as an effort to get you to purchase physical copies of the books he provides that way. Anyways, I read a hardcover edition, clocking in at 221 pages, but it's a rather large type, so I'm guessing that this novel is only around 50K words, amusingly enough that's near the same length as Catcher in the Rye. It's not a long book, but as always, quality rules over quantity. Anyways, here's the blurb from the dust jacket:

Art is an up-and-coming interface designer, working on the management of data flow along the Massachusetts Turnpike. He's doing the best work of his career and can guarantee that the system will be, without question, the most counterintuitive, user-hostile piece of software ever pushed forth into the world.

Why? Because Art is an industrial saboteur. He may live in London and work for an EU telecommunications megacorp, but Art's real home is the Eastern Standard Tribe.

The comm-instant wireless communication--puts everyone in touch with everyone else, twenty-four hours a day. But one thing hasn't changed: the need for sleep. The world is slowly splintering into Tribes held together by common times zones, less than families and more than nations. And Art is working to humiliate the Greenwich Mean Tribe to the benefit of his own people.

The world of next week is overflowing with ubiquitous computing, where an idea scribbled onto one's comm can revolutionize an industry. But in a world without boundaries, nothing can be taken for granted--not happiness, not money, and, most certainly, not love.

Which might explain why Art finds himself stranded on the roof of an insane asylum outside Boston, debating whether to push a pencil into his brain. Happiness or smarts? What's it going to be, Art?

Creativity and invention swarm off the page like hornets in this scathing comedy of loyalty, betrayal, sex, madness and music-swapping.
This blurb has a lot going for it, it tells us a lot of what this book is about: Tribes, industrial sabotage and betrayal. Not all of those are necessarily universal human problems, but we can understand them. Additionally, this blurb makes us want to read the book. It gives us the broad strokes of the novel, and leaves us asking questions which can only be answered by us reading the book. I think whoever was responsible for this, did a superb job on this particular blurb.

Plot wise, this is something of a meandering story. It begins about three-quarters to the end of the story, and we jump forwards and back through time as Art relates his story. Which is an odd choice as this is a first person story, so we have somewhat sudden shifts between first-person past and first-person present. Not a horrid choice by the author but one which it took me a moment to catch onto, especially since the book I had read directly previous to this one was Scalzi's The Last Colony.

The main character is Art, as the blurb indicates, is an user experience engineer. Basically, he's a genius who comes up with ways to make products better or worse. Art begins the story, asking the question if he should choose happiness or intelligence, as that is a choice he has given himself once he gets stranded on the roof of the asylum. Additionally, that question underlines the entire narrative, as Art's prime task in the story is learning that happiness and intelligence are not mutually exclusive concepts. Surrounding Art are a handful of characters that interact with Art as he learns the answer to his question. Primary among these are Linda, Fede and Dr. Szandor. All of these characters ultimately don't matter, except as they relate and react to Art. They don't have true character arcs, and we don't get any real character development for them.

The Major settings are various locales in London and then the asylum outside of Boston. Since this is a first person POV story, we don't have a whole lot of details. Which is both a strength and a failing of that POV.

Finally, we stumble onto themes, and it's here where I get to explain why I found the length of the book being close to Catcher in the Rye's length so amusing. Basically, this book reminded me a lot of Catcher, as its protagonist is a somewhat cynical, borderline paranoid who has some serious issues on folks being "fakes." He has serious issues with his friend Fede, even though he chooses to spend time with him, and this is another way that he's similar to Holden. Also like Catcher, there is a theme of what does it take to be happy. Both Holden and Art are searching for happiness, and more importantly, they're wondering why they're not happy. While this story doesn't have the sheer angst and literature-credentials that Catcher has, it also lacks the extensential angst of Catcher. Frankly, I have to wonder if that's not a good thing--the angst of Catcher in the Rye was almost enough to make me want a drink.

My final thoughts on the matter is that, though short, this was a fun read. I can admit that I've spent the past few years with my head in the sand, focused primarily on the books I had on my shelves and Star Wars, so I've missed out on this latest wave of new writers, people like Doctorow, Scalzi and Walton.

I was stupid.

This book is one of those that shows why.

In the end, I give it a 3.8 out of 4.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More From Scalzi

John Scalzi just reported over on his forums website (Whateveresque) that he's released a fourth entry to his Old Man's War universe, as well as a sequel to The Android's Dream.

I've previously stated my unabashed love for the OMW universe, and I'm ecstatic that we're getting more. Additionally, we have pretty cover art for the next entry in the OMW universe:


Rule of Drew

Drew has put up a small little FAQ for his upcoming Darth Bane novel, tentatively entitled Rule of Two. Read more here:

Personally, I can't wait. Path of Destruction was one of the best EU entries in recent history, at least in my opinion. Hopefully, he can create something that is equally as wonderful, and I have the utmost faith that he will be able to do so.

Review: The Last Colony

I've read and reviewed John Scalzi's Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades so when I was at the used bookstore and saw the book-club edition of the final book of that particular loose trilogy, I had to get it. That book was entitled, The Last Colony (ISBN: 9780765316974) and clocked in at 308 pages. I call it a loose trilogy because the set doesn't really tell an overarching storyline, but rather three distinct adventures, with common characters and settings. Anyways, since this is a the third book in a series, there's a lot of overhead in continuity to reach up to. As always, the first thing we look at is the dust-jacket blurb:

John Perry, the hero of John Scalzi's Hugo-nominated debut novel, Old Man's War, has found peace in a violent universe, living quietly with his wife and daughter on one of humanity's many colonies. It's a good life, yet there's something... missing. When John and Jane are asked to lead a new colony world, he jumps at the chance to explore the universe once more.

But Perry quickly finds out that nothing is what it seems. He and his new colony are pawns in an interstellar game of diplomacy and war between humanity's Colonial Union and a new, seemingly unstoppable alien alliance that has ordered an end to all human colonization. As this grand gambit rages above, on the ground Perry struggles to keep his colonists alive in the face of threats both alien and familiar, on a planet that keeps its own fatal secrets.

For the survival of his colony and his family, Perry must unravel the web of lies, half-truths, and deception spun around him and uncover the shocking true purpose of his colony--and fight to prevent a war that not only threatens to engulf his new home, but promises the destruction of the Colonial Union. Three are few options, and no margin for error, for Perry to keep his colony from becoming the last colony of the human race.
I'm of two-minds of this particular blurb. First it works. I actually read this blurb before I read either Old Man's War or The Ghost Brigades, and it was on the strength of this blurb that I went and looked at Old Man's War. Yet, it's long. It took up the entire dust jacket. Maybe I'm just finicky over these things, but length is still an issue for me on these things.

Oh well.

Onto the plot. Or plots actually. You've got the whole colony setting up thing, and then when that is getting underway nicely, you start dealing with the colony and its relation to the Colonial Union and the Conclave. The Conclave is that new, seemingly unstoppable alien alliance discussed in the blurb. Frankly, I'm amused by the Conclave. It's a decidedly Star Trek take to insert into his universe, especially when the first novel spent the entire book hammering home the thought that all aliens were out there to kill, and possibly eat, humanity as a whole. Of course, Scalzi once more pushes in the thought that humanity isn't the end-all, be-all for his literary creations as humanity wasn't responsible for the creation of the Conclave. Did they have an alliance? Yes. One that was attempted to be forged as a direct answer to combat the Conclave.

Anyways, the plots move along face and fun. Propelled by the sheer force of will of the characters and the narrative.

The two main characters here are from Scalzi's previous novels. John Perry of course, the protagonist from the first novel, Old Man's War. As in that novel, he's also our POV character here. Then we have Jane Sagan, Perry's wife and a former Special Forces operative who was built from the DNA of Perry's first wife, who died incidentally prior to the events of OMW. Yet, tell me that that doesn't give you the heebie-jeebies. I get confused at those folks who want to create clones of their dogs and cats so that they can have their Fluffy back, but Perry here, he gets a handy-dandy cloned version of his dead wife. Beyond them, you have a host of secondary characters who existed in the previous novels, as well as a few brand new characters. None of them stand-out and demand screen time, but that's more an artifact of the first-person which the story is told in, than any failing on the author's part.

Settings were not quite as diverse as they were in OMW. You have the colony at the start of the book, Huckleberry. The colony they move to, Roanoke, and then various space stations and starships. Of these, Roanoke is developed the most. He comes up with a host of technological goodies, and then, to me at least, takes great pleasure in denying his characters their use. Regardless though, things are described in quite a bit of detail, though sometimes it was lacking. For example, he described one alien race as looking like a werewolf. But was he talking Teen Wolf, An American Werewolf in London or Wolf werewolves? There's a lot of play in using something as undefined as werewolf as a description. Of course that could very well have been his point.

Stumbling over to themes, that would have to be home, and your duty to it. This is more for Sagan's character than anything else. Since she's Special Forces, and basically built from the DNA of the dead, she feels as if she doesn't have a home. The whole book works as a good allegory for her, and what it means to have one, and most especially what it means to find it. This is done rather well through the use of having Sagan look at the Constellations of the various planets they visit.

Now, I have to confess something. Oddly, I think I've confessed this before. Specifically on the review of The Ghost Brigades. I LIKE Scalzi's writing. I like his characters. I like the humor they have. I think he's a great writer. So, of course my reviews of his books will be biased by that unabashed fanboy-ism. Yet, regardless of that, I think that this is a fun book. It's easy to read, and better yet, you want to read it. Nothing so annoying as to find yourself time to read a book, to discover that your chosen book is just one that's utterly unreadable. Yet, as I said, this isn't one of those. While I didn't inhale it as I have some books, there was never a time when I just felt like hiding it away to never read again. Best of all, it provides a brilliant endcap to his trilogy. If you've read either of the first two, then, I say read this one as well. I also say if you've not read any of them, make sure you do so. You'll be happier for it.

In the end, this gets a 3.7 out of 4.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ani-Monday for Sept. 17th

Well, another Monday has come and gone, and thus we've gotten another episode of Noein and Tokko. Of course, Ani-Monday also showed two episodes of the anime Streetfighter II but I happily ignored it, turning off my television set after Tokko finished.

Something that I am ecstatic to announce is that the Sci-Fi channel has woken up to the fact that their little endcaps are rather...lackluster at the moment, and that until they come up with new ones, they're better off not really showing them. Rather than having an endcap at every commercial break, there was only one per episode.

Anyways, in Noein we got to the Karasu and Fukurou fight. Nice, bloody, devastating to all the characters involved. I enjoyed it. Beyond that, there wasn't a whole lot to report. Haruka has started to learn about what she is, and more on what she is capable of, which is a good thing.

Over on the Tokko side of things, we have what appears to be the most psychologically damaging episode yet, at least for our main character. Sakura is still reeling from the coop of her brother by the phantoms, and we see more of the main bad guy's efforts to corrupt Ranmaru. Especially chilling was seeing that purple mist which comes from the bad guy's mouth come out of Ranmaru's.

Surprisingly, I'm enjoying Tokko a whole lot more than I actually expected. It helps that the whole sister-love stuff has taken a backseat to the main plot.

Next week, we get more Noein and Tokko, so I'm happy. For whatever reason, while I'm writing this, the scheduling display on gives me errors whenever I try to see what's playing on a Monday in October, so I don't know when the next movie will be, nor do I know what show we'll get once Noein and Tokko are over, and for the record, next week's should be the last episode for Tokko.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday Morning Rambling

Well, it's another Monday morning, so that means it's another rambling post. Some odd little facts, Fact one, I have an average of 12 RSS/email subscribers to this blog. Got to say, that gives me some major warm fuzzies there. Fact two, these rambling posts get more hits than any of the other ones I do. What's the point of that information? Who knows, I just felt like sharing.

Anyways, while I was talking to the wife about this little fact at lunch yesterday, her response was "well, that's the day you talk about me." Gotta love my wife, she's always willing to make sure I don't get an ego. Yet, there is a good thing to report about my beloved and scifi. As a response to Mrs. L'Engle's untimely death earlier this month, she has resolved to re-read A Wrinkle In Time. A book which her father used to use as a punishment tool, and as a result of that forced reading as a child, she has somewhat bad memories of the book. With, Mr. Jordan's untimely death, I have to wonder if that means she'll now read the Wheel of Time series. I'm sure her brother will let us borrow them.

Since this is Monday, that means we get Ani-Monday tonight. After Ghost in the Shell last week, we're back to Noein and Tokko in the first hour and Street Fighter II in the second. I so can't wait for that to stop being there, but oh well.

In other Anime news, Zombie Loan finished on Sunday, so I'll get a review of that up soon. I also hope that I'll get a bit of time to watch the last few episodes of IdolM@ster Xenoglossia and try out Sky Girls sometime soon, both of those series have somewhat stalled whenever I tried watching them previously. Also coming up is Clannad, an anime based on a visual novel by Key. Outside of that series though, I'm not entirely certain what anime series are coming up. My usual source for such information (the boards at is oddly silent, and let's be honest, I'm obscenely lazy in hunting down this information.

On the book side of things, I finished Scalzi's The Last Colony, and have written up the review for that novel, expect it to be up on Wednesday or Thursday. I then wandered to the library on Saturday afternoon, and grabbed two more novels to read: Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe and Williamson's The Stonehenge Gate. So, we have more reviews coming down the line. Also, next month is a busy one for Star Wars novels. On the release queue are Death Star by Micheal Reeves and Steve Perry, Republic Commando: True Colors by Karen Traviss and then Legacy of the Force: Fury by Aaron Allston.

Yet, above and beyond that, what amazes me the most is just the sheer number of fantasy movies that are being released this fall/winter. Walden Media has been busy. Me and the wife went to see Stardust on Saturday and just wow. By the fifth preview my wife would just look at me and say, "Yes, we'll go see that one too."

Additionally, there are those essays on the back burner which I talked about on Friday. I just hope those come over as well as I expect them too, but I doubt it, as what I've written on the Talifan bit just isn't what I was expecting to write. Oh well.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

We've lost another one...

According to his official blog, Dragon Mount, Robert Jordan has passed away from complications from primary amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy (cardiac amyloidosis).

I can be honest, I've never been a big fan of his books, could never really get into the whole Wheel of Time series. Yet he's been a staple of the fantasy scene for as long as I've been reading, and I know my wife's brother loves his series.

It's a sad year for speculative fiction, what with us losing first Mrs. L'Engle and now Mr. Jordan.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Friday Rambling?

I can admit it. I don't have content for today.

Between the sinus problems/mild cold and Metroid Prime 3 for my Wii, I just didn't have enough time to gather things together. Then this morning, I woke up, looked at the tasklist, and saw that I was supposed to write something for today, and that it was in that nice red color for a missed deadline.

I'm just happy that they're self-imposed deadlines.

But, do believe me, I do have a list of ideas that I plan on using for articles. Currently, these include:

  • The use of "Talifan" in the discussion between creator & fans
  • S-Groups/Marriages & Sex in Spec. Fic. What it holds for our future?
  • The balkanization of the United States
Two of those you might recognize, as they've been simmering in the hind-portions of my brain for quite a bit of time now.

But, because I feel bad about the lack of today's content-and let's be honest, this is something of a tripe post and all. Just me yammering about what I intend to do and all. As you may notice, I get easily sidetracked in these rambling posts.

So, I was reading through the 300 items that had accumulated in my RSS Reader overnight, and one from SCIFI Wire caught my eye: Highlander's Paul goes to the source.

My first thought was: Isn't that franchise dead yet?

My second: Isn't Paul tired of Highlander?

Let's be honest here. The last few Highlander movies have sucked. More to the point, everyone BUT the first one did. The television series was fine, as you could squint your eyes, and pretend it was set before the original movie, yet all the rest of the movies, were after the Game which was the focus of the original movie. Disgusting.

But this movie, according to the link, deals with the "source" of immortality. It scares me. I'm serious, I'm typing this from beneath my desk, shuddering, and clutching at my stuffed Ewok. No, wait, that's my 10 month old trying to pull out my power cords.

Seriously, though, they've tried this whole source thing before. It gave us Highlander 2: The Quickening. And does anyone need a reminder of the awfulness of that movie?

Actually, to be perfectly frank, if you've never saw the original movie, two wasn't that bad (I actually saw that one first). It's only when you shine the light of the original Highlander on them that the other movies are revealed for horrible, horrible, twisted, evil things. Kind of like Johnny and the Sprites, but for adults.

Other science-fiction news? Well, yesterday I saw reports of yet another nostaligic-based rework of a classic SF franchise is underway. This time, Buck Rogers gets the knife. Actually, all these reworks of classic SF makes me wonder if in 2040 they'll be "re-imagining" franchises like Space: Above and Beyond or Firefly or better yet, Star Wars.

Actually, I wouldn't mind another Space: Above and Beyond series. Or one like it. They could mix in Star Wars and call it X-Wing: Rogue Squadron.

Ah, well, that's enough pipe-dreams and fluff for one day. Expect more rambling on Monday, AniMonday stuff on Tuesday, and I'm hopeful for essays the rest of the week.

p.s. Who would watch a Space:1999 remake?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cover for Darth Bane Sequel

I truly enjoyed Path of Darkness the novel by Drew Karphyshyn concerning Darth Bane and the ending of the New Sith War at Ruusan set approximately 1000 years before The Phantom Menace.

It was with great joy that I first read about the sequel, and I'm still excited about it with the release of the cover artwork. Look & enjoy!

Review: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

Cory Doctorow has an interesting take on books. He believes that if he gives away free electronic copies, that folks will buy his work. Frankly, I believe him. Additionally, I like the thought of being able to get an electronic copy of every book I own. Mainly, because it's a hassle to carry around a small library with me whenever I go on trips.

But I digress. I recently checked out of the library a physical copy of Doctorow's novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (ISBN: 0765312786, free download available here), and I have to say I'm impressed. This is a hardback edition clocking in at a decent 315 pages. Not long, but not so short that I'd worry over it. What is obscenely long though is the front cover blurb, which says this:

With Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Easter Standard Tribe, Cory Doctorow established himself as one of the leading voices of next-generation SF: inventive, optimistic, and comfortable with the sheer strangeness of tomorrow. Now Doctorow returns with a novel of wrenching oddity, heartfelt technological vision, and human pity set on the streets of Toronto today.

Alan is a middle-aged entrepreneur in contemporary Toronto who has devoted himself to fixing up a house in the bohemian neighborhood of Kensington. This naturally brings him in contact with the house full of students and layabouts next door, including a young woman who, in a moment of stress, reveals to him that she has wings--wings, moreover, that grow back after each attempt to cut them off.

Alan understands. He himself has a secret or two. His father is a mountain, his mother is a washing machine, and among his brothers is a set of Russian nesting dolls.

Now tow of the three nesting dolls, Edward and Frederick, are on his doorstep--well on their way to starvation because their innermost member, George, has vanished. It appears that yet another brother, Davey, whom Alan and his other siblings killed years ago, may have returned... bent on revenge.

Under such circumstances it seems only reasonable for Alan to involve himself with a visionary scheme to blanket Toronto with free wireless Internet connectivity, a conspiracy spearheaded by a brilliant technopunk who builds miracles of hardware from parts scavenged from the city's Dumpsters. But Alan's past won't leave him alone--and Davey is only one of the powers gunning for him and all his friends.

Wildly imaginative, constantly whipsawing us between the preposterous, the amazing, and the deeply felt, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is unlike any novel you have ever read.
Ouch, that hurt typing all of that out. I'm hesitant to say this blurb works or not. While I'm not obscenely fond of its length, the story does not really narrow down far enough for a shorter blurb than that. Sadly, though, I'm thinking I'm going to have to go with it doesn't work, as it doesn't tell me why I should buy this book. I know NOW, after having read the whole thing, why I should buy this novel, and take a serious look at his other works, but that doesn't really help things when I'm standing in a bookstore, holding two different books in my hands and can only buy one.

Regardless, we've got two major plotlines going on here. The first is the technopunk stuff. It revolves around Kurt and his plan to blanket Toronto with free wireless Internet connectivity via a WiFi "meshnet." It's an intriguing plotline, one that almost settles into the form of traditional cyberpunk, but lacks the dystopic and anti-establishment commonly found in that genre. It's an interesting take on democracy and the freedom of speech and how that relates to companies like the Bell's. In a personally amusing twist, it is the establishment (symbolized by the IT department of the local phone company) which helps the most with this plot, while the heroes of traditional cyberpunk (a group of Anarchists, who all go by the name Waldo) stifle it. The second plot involves Alan and his brothers: A precog, an island, a dead boy, and a set of Russian nesting dolls, and the family dynamics that build them. Flowing in and through this particular plot, is a secondary plot involving the people who live next door to Alan, including the girl with wings. It's a story of fratricide, murder, jealousy and love. In other words, we have all the ingredients for a Greek tragedy, and for the most part that's how it plays out.

Characters, are of course Alan, the eldest son of a mountain and a washing machine. His 6 brothers, Kurt the technopunk, and then the four kids who live in the house next door to Alan. Doctorow did something interesting with names here though. Most of the characters, especially the brothers, do not have names in the traditional sense. Alan answers to any name starting with an 'A' and will call his brothers by various names, all starting with the next letter of the alphabet (B, C, D, E, F, & G). I know I'm getting into some of the theme material here, but it's highly relevant, so stick with me. This thing about names, has startled me slightly, and because of a discussion with someone over IM, I had written an entry on why I use my real name online these days at one of my other blogs: The KrashPAD. Relevant here, is the quote from Milton Acorda I used in that piece:
Without freedom, no one really has a name.
Think about it. Alan spends much of this book, fighting for freedom. Freedom from his past, and what he is. Freedom of speech in the technopunk plot. Just, pure, simple, freedom. Then couple that to the fact that he doesn't really have a name. Just an alphabetized nomenclature. The article for this novel on Wikipedia wonders if this could be related to the relative namelessness of our modern communication devices, but it reads more to me as if Alan, in effect searching for freedom, is also looking for the name which he can be called. Which is a relevant POV, as the narrator consistently refers to Alan as "Alan."

And since I'm discussing theme, I guess I'll continue on with it. Outside this hunt for name and the freedom that a name requires, we also have a similar thematic issue as Ghost in the Shell. There are serious questions on what makes up humanity. How far outside the norm does your family have to be before they stop being 'human' and start being 'monsters.' In probably the most ironic line I've read in a while, Krishna, the wing-girl's (Mimi as she is called) boyfriend, tells Alan that he can see others like Alan, the monsters as Krishna refers to them, and he does this without ever once stopping to realize that he himself is different from baseline humans by this ability. But, I seem to wandered onto a digression while I wasn't paying attention. We are left wondering if Alan and Mimi are human or not. This is answered from a certain point of view in the novel itself, when Alan is talking to his first love about it:
"Are you... human, Alan?"

"I think so," he said. "I bleed. I eat. I sleep. I think and talk and dream."

She squeezed his hands and darted a kiss at him. "You kiss," she said.
It's a poignant answer from a junior high student's POV, and the only one which the characters or the narrator is willing to provide. Which is not a bad thing, after all, Science-Fiction is about making you think.

But back to the characters. The named characters are all brilliantly thought out. From the anarchists, who as a group all have the given name of "Waldo" to the girl with wings, who never gives a name for herself, but is merely called Mimi. The way he plays with names also touch on the fundamental aspects of who these characters are. For example, Kurt and his obvious ties to cyberpunk (and I'm wondering here if this Kurt is so-named because of the bartender from Neuromancer), and Krishna and his hatred of "monsters."

Truth be told, Mimi's story is the one that sings to me the most. She is so obviously distraught in and of herself. Worried about what she is, and how she fits into society as a whole. Those are issues that I struggled with in my later teen years. I wondered why I didn't fit in with my peer group, and can feel sympathetic pain for her because of this.

While, I'd be hard-pressed to declare this outright science-fiction, it is a fully realized fantasy story at its best. The themes of humanity and the desire to fit in and belong blend perfectly with the classical tragedy elements found in the relationship between Alan and his brothers. Even if they're not human, their story ultimately is. Frankly, this is a startlingly beautiful book, that is poignant in the story and lesson it tries to impart.

In the end, I give this a solid 3.9 out of 4.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Review: Stardust

Well, the movie was recently released and I am very interested in it. I knew that it was a book, and written by the wonderful Neil Gaiman, but until recently I had not read it. Lo and behold, I had to take a trip, and in the process of getting out of the house I left the library book I had intended to read on the trip at home. Well on a layover in Memphis I shopped around in one of those little stores, and almost picked up a $10 Stephen King novel that I had not read. As I was heading to the checkout, I saw this rolling rack filled with novels, and found it set amongst them. At $7 it made a much more reasonable purchase, though I did finish it before I got home, so it might have been smarter to have gotten the Stephen King novel from that point of view.


As I stated, this review is for Neil Gaimon's novel Stardust. My copy is the mass-market paperback (ISBN: 978-0-380-80455-9) and clocks in at 336 pages. Normally, 336 pages would have lasted me the six hours of travel that I still had to do from the time I purchased the book until I returned home. What tricked me here though, was the fact those 336 pages were in a font size about 1.5 times the size of the font used in most adult novels. Basically, Inferno runs a font size of about 10 points, where Stardust runs about 15 points. That's enough to easily shave off a good 90-100 pages, ultimately, this novel is not much longer than Bridge to Terabithia and I would hazard it runs somewhere in the vicinity of 60-75 thousand words. Anyways, the back-cover blurb is as follows:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author NEIL GAIMON comes a remarkable quest into unexplored and magical lands--in pursuit of love and the utterly impossible.

Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria--even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. But beyond that old stone barrier, Tristran learns, lies Faerie--where strange things can happen to a determined lad chasing his heart's desire... and where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.
It's a decent back cover blurb, giving enough information to intrigue while not destroying any of the plot events of the story. Overall, it's a beautiful blurb, despite the author ego-petting at the start of it. Maybe it's just me, but I don't care if a writer is a #1 New York Times bestselling author or not. Most of the time that has no bearing on the quality of the current work. Need proof? Look at the number of #1 New York Times bestselling authors that have only been up there once.

Anyways, blurbs and statistics of the book aside, let's look at the plot. It is set up as a traditional "get the macguffin" plot. Oddly, a good way through the book it switches over to a "win the girl" plot. While there are protagonists and antagonists in the traditional sense, we're not really given any long, dragged out fight scenes, like are at the climaxes of any of the Lord of the Ring novels. In fact, for a fantasy story, there's not a lot of fighting at all. Did it make it a bad or boring book? No! And in fact it was something of a welcome change of pace.

Though there are a myriad number of characters, the most important are Tristran Thorn and Yvaine. Tristran is the main protagonist, and most of the story is seen from his point of view. What little is not, is from his father's point of view, prior to his birth. No matter how much I think about it, I can't remember anything that could be construed as character development in the traditional sense. Neither character grew better or more accepting of differences overall in the course of the story. There are emotional changes between the two main characters, but beyond that I've got nothing.

A handful of secondary and tertiary characters flit in and out of the story, performing the tasks necessary for the ending Gaiman wants to come about, but again, not really growing, changing or learning anything.

Where the book excels though is the theme. It's not traditional good versus evil which one usually finds in fantasy novels, but rather focuses instead on defining what you want. Tristran starts out the story, determined to do something for Victoria, despite the fact that she is ultimately uninterested in him. So, he runs off to get the macguffin in order to win the girl, and along the way realizes things about love and what the heart wants.

Settings and descriptions are beautiful, though I could have used a bit more of them. Mr. Gaiman describes things succinctly, filling the world of Faerie with all manner of interesting magical tidbits and beings, from magical crystal flowers to boats that float in the sky hunting lightning bolts.

Ultimately, this is a great and well executed story. I liked it, a lot as it happens. What's odd is that there's not really a single thing I can point to and say that's why I like it. There's little physical conflict, and the characters spend most of the story just wandering around the country side. But it's those characters and how they react to each other which builds the story. Despite the fact that there is little character development, the character interactions, especially between Tristran and Yvaine, are beautiful to behold.

In the end I have to give this a 3.4 out of 4.

Disturbingly Covered

My RSS Reader just popped up a story from Subterranean Press concerning the dust jacket artwork for Warren Ellis' upcoming novel Crooked Little Vein. I must say that this is the most disturbing piece of cover-art I've seen in quite a while.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

8 Possible Sci-Fi Futures has an article up detailing 8 Possible Sci-Fi Futures (and why they won't happen). It had me chuckling, a much needed light-hearted note for the day.

Go forth, read and enjoy!

Ani-Monday on September 10

Last night Ghost in the Shell was on Ani-Monday. I had full intentions upon watching this, and in fact turned of Metroid Prime 3 in order to do so. Unfortunately, by the time I snapped awake at 11:40ish, I realized that I wasn't going to be watching that much television.

Somehow, I got infected with a disease and now my throat is burning, my eyes and neck hurt and I can barely breathe through my nose.

Yeah, me!

And then to top if off, I'm allergic to the medicine that you'd normally take for this (psuedophrine) so I've got to take the other stuff, which IMO doesn't work as good. But if it did, then I'd probably not be able to take it either. That's just the way of things, y'know.

So, with the dual facts of my being sick and not actually watching the movie last night, you don't get some beautiful insights into Ghost today. But hey, if you want, Google it. There are over 1.8 million sites dealing with the philosophy of Ghost in the Shell alone. And let's face it, despite the beautiful animation and the compelling cop-based storyline, it's the philosophy and the questions it asks about what makes us human that is why Ghost is such an awesome movie.

Enough rambling. I'll post the review for Stardust tomorrow morning, but for now, I'm going to curl up and collapse.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Iron Man

Oh my stars and garters.

I just watched the trailer for this movie over at and I am stunned. I can't wait!

Okay, total spaz moment over.

Monday Morning Rambling...

Well, it's another Monday morning, and I, your intrepid hero/blogger have survived another weekend with my kids.

Actually, the little buggers aren't that bad, and I'm inordinately proud of them. Especially, the eldest, as he has now taken to running around the apartment complex with a gaggle of kids at or near his own age. It's grand fun to watch, as they'll take down his toy lightsabers and go at each other. In fact last night, he came to me, and handed me the red-bladed one and said, "Daddy, I'm Luke Skywalker and you're Darth Vader. You have to say," at this point, he put a hand over his mouth and nose. "Ha-PSH! Ha-PSH!"

So, I took the saber, and held it out, made the appropriate noises and held out my hand and said, "Nathan! I am your father!"

He giggled and told me that Darth Vader didn't say that (hey, he's not watched ESB yet as he prefers ANH and RoTJ). I quickly told him that Darth Vader did indeed say that, at which point he switched lightsabers with me and took off to another point in the room.

He slowly advanced, making appropriate noises and stopped a few paces from me, a cheesy grin on his face, as he said, "Daddy! I am your father!"

Glorious! I love my little sci-fi geek.

But of course the whole running around thing is great to me as well. I myself, have an almost pathological aversion to people (calling me shy would probably be an understatement), and I was fearful that my son had inherited that. Previously, when he was in preschool on a daily basis, he would have never done that. In fact, at one point, he was to scared to go across the hall of the foyer (we're talking 5 feet max here) to knock on the neighbor's door back when there was a boy a year or so older than him there.

Sure, I know as a lover of science-fiction I should be one of those who looks towards the future for solutions to problems, but frankly, in the case of my family, I have to look backwards to how things were done in the past. Traditional family values and all that jazz.

Of course the wife being home with the kids, and us on a single income, means that I have less money to buy books and things that interest me, but my boys are worth it. Besides, that's what public libraries are for.

Speaking of libraries, I currently have Doctorow's Some Come to Town, Some Leave Town checked out and am about half-way through with it. If you've never read anything by Doctorow, I highly suggest it. Running a quick search for him, you'll be able to find downloads of his novels as he gives away free e-copies (under a CC license) in the hope that you'll buy a real copy of his book. I like this model, as I want an e-copy of every novel I own for various and sundry reasons. But I digress.

Anyways, I've got the Doctorow book in the works for a review, and I have a review of Stardust (the book not the movie) that'll be up later in the week. Finally, I should have a copy of one of the Hal Spacejock novels to read & review soon.

On the anime front, I think Dennou Coil is about half down, and IdolM@ster Xenoglossia is nearing completion as well. Those are the two most sci-fi specific anime's that I'm currently watching.

Tonight on Ani-Monday, we're getting a movie. The great and glorious, Ghost in the Shell. It should be interesting to see how they've changed this for broadcast television (well, it's cable, but you get the idea) as I've only ever seen it on VHS/DVD.

Finally, on the conversion of cartoons to live-action movies, there's the recent hoopla about Tobey Maguire and Robotech, which I must say: Don't get Micheal Bay for this. Go for Bryan Singer or (with a tight reign) the Wachowsky's. More depressing news though, is that G.I. Joe is coming to a live-action format near you, but at the cost of being "A Real American Hero." They're making the team a coed task force, international in scope.

Why you ask?

Because the producers don't feel that "a heroic U.S. soldier won't fly."

... (<- Again, that's me banging my head against a hard surface that's close by. In this case, my desktop.)

It boggles the mind. I can understand "re-imagining" an existing concept, but to change the fundamental principal upon which a series or character is formed is insane. Especially, when it's done for the sake of politics and appeasing those who hate the United States anyways. As if releasing this movie like this will make them love us or something. It would be like Star Wars without the lightsabers or spaceships. No, scratch that, you could put most of Star Wars in the naval era with cutlasses and clipper ships and it would still work as a concept and a story.

Oh well, all I know is that if it gets released this way, I won't go see it in the theater, and probably will never rent it either. I'd rather go re-watch Navy SEALS.

So, what have we learned today? My eldest kid is doing great and making friends. More book reviews are coming down the line. We all need to watch Ghost in the Shell. And finally, I hate the idea of a
"Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity" concept for G.I. Joe.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Who Loves Robotech?

I know I do. I would randomly catch this show during weekdays back in the eighties growing up, and have somewhat fond memories of it.

And much to, well no one's surprise, there's now talk of a live-action version. Apparently Warner Brother's has picked up the rights, and Tobey Maguire (of Spider-Man fame) is set to produce and possible star in it.

First Transformers, then the rumors about Voltron, and now Robotech? It seems like the year of the giant robots or something. Now all we need is some Gundam, IdolM@ster Xenoglossia, and maybe a bit of Heroic Age.

Review: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (時をかける少女 Toki o Kakeru Shōjo) is a movie that was released in Japan in May (or June, I've got two different dates on that) of 2006. Produced by Madhouse Studios, it is a sequel of sorts to Tsutsui Yasutaka's novel, Toki o Kakeru Shōjo (時をかける少女)(translation: The Little Girl Who Conquered Time). Clocking in at a little over an hour and a half, this isn't a long movie by any stretch, but it tells its story without dragging it out unnecessarily. And let's be honest, with the entire thing being about Time Travel, it'd be EASY to drag out the story. You've got to give kudos to the production team for knowing when to say enough is enough. As for what the story is about, Anime-Source has this as a synopsis:

When entering a chemistry room, Makoto slips and crushes a small item. From that point on, she was able to leap back in time on command. She uses her new abilities to fix mistakes, play cupid, and avoid undesirable situations. However, she doesn't realize that her selfish requests to develop her life hurt other lives around her. Also, there are some events in which you cannot change no matter how many times you re-live it.

Makoto endlessly tries to fix mistakes she makes, but in effect digs herself deeper and deeper in sacrificing the happiness of people around her.
While Wikipedia has this:
Makoto Konno, a girl attending high school in Tokyo's shitamachi [a district in the north-east section of Tokyo], gains the power to go back in time and re-do things (the time-leap) when she gets involved in an accident at a train crossing one day.

A little bewildered with her new powers at first, Makoto uses them extravagantly to avoid being tardy and to get perfect grades on tests. However, things begin to turn bad as she discovers how her actions can adversely affect others. Along the way,Makoto's aunt, Kazuko Yoshiyama, offers some advice to her niece, with the hint that she herself had done something similar in the past. (Kazuko is the protagonist of the novel, The Little Girl Who Conquered Time.)
Both work as a synopsis, but I prefer the Anime-Source version, and hope that that's what appears on the back of the DVD. But since this is a movie, posters, DVD covers and singletagline are what attracts attention. IMDB lists the translation for the tagline for this movie as: " There is a future that we can't wait for." Whether that's an accurate translation or not, I don't know. Truth be told, I'm somewhat surprised that they did not use the phrase "Time waits for no one." More on that later. As for the poster, they used this beautiful image of the main character leaping through the air. Oddly, it lacks the tagline listed for IMDB and has, what seems to me at least, is a lot of text for a movie poster. If you can't make it out in the image at the start of this review, the text says this:
17 years old Makoto Konno is a talented time leaper!

Makoto Konno ordinary 17 years old school girl.

Her everyday life is suddenly recomposed once she became a latest heroine who leaps across the 21st century.

As for DVD covers, I've found two. One seems to be very similar to the movie poster while the second is a somewhat more subdued cover, featuring the main characters standing in front of a railroad track, with one of the secondary characters walking away from her.

Personally, I like them both, as both offer a pertinent point of view concerning the movie, but again, more on that later.

First thing to discuss is the animation. Primarily, this is a traditionally drawn animated movie. I read the in-depth review on Anime-Source and it had issues with that choice, noting that this particular style would not go over well with those raised more or less on heavily CG-ed animation. Well, I'm older than that, growing up, a CG animated series would have been unheard of, and would have looked like TRON if it hadn't been unheard of. Don't believe me? Look at the movie Lawnmower Man. If that's not TRON on drugs filtered through Stephen King's mind, I don't know what is. Personally, I loved this particular style. Sometimes I think CG gives things too crisp of an edge. In the hands of the right animator, they can be beautiful. Of course, then sometimes we get character designs like in the upcoming Star Wars animated series. Unfortunately, (as noted in Anime-Source's review) where they did use CG is somewhat obvious. The disconnect between the hand-drawn characters and the CG backgrounds is telling and somewhat startling. It actually brings back memories of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and its mixture of live-action and animation.

As usual, I'm skipping over the sound track of the movie. Speaking of myself, this particular Renaissance Man, though he can write, draw, take pictures and even program, well, he has no aptitude at all for music. Calling me tone deaf is being nice. What I do know is that the music fit. It flowed with the emotions of the storyline and did not interfere with the story. To me, being the atonal music ignoramus that I am, that's all that matters.

Plot-wise, this is an intriguing story. It's more about character development, and the characters learning something, than any type of defined, classical task-based fight. Not that this is a bad thing, in fact I was somewhat happy watching this character-based movie after the fact that the past few movies I've seen have been more along of the lines of the task-based fight.

Since the plot relates directly to the theme, I'll jump on over to that now. Yet, as I sit here trying to figure out exactly what to write, I realize that it's not quite as simple as I had initially thought. My initial thought was actually something along the lines of learning that messing with time only leads to more pain, and not regretting your choices. Yet, when I first wrote that out, I was re-reading and realized that it just did not fit the events of the movie. Ultimately though, I still think it's based on learning to not regret your choices, sprinkled with a bit of try to do your best for those around you.

Anyways, there are three major characters here, Makoto Konno (the main character), Kazuko Yoshiyama and Chiaki Mamiya. There's not a lot that can be said about these characters without delving into spoilers, but what I enjoyed most is the relationship between the three. We start out with them playing baseball, three friends utterly comfortable with one another. It's from this frame of reference that we learn everything we need to know about these characters. While we don't get into such mundane things as their hopes and dreams, we're treated to just how they relate to one another, especially how Makoto tries to get them to not change, and then how she tries to get them to all grow. It's handled brilliantly.

Ultimately though, the movie is best summed up by a phrase which is seen multiple times throughout the film. "Time waits for no one." Contained within that phrase is both a cynicism and a hopefulness which is embedded in the story of the film as well. Elbert Hubbard said, "Everything comes too late for those who only wait," and to me that seems to be what is the phrase is implying. Things happen to us, and we can't change them. No matter how much the idea appeals to us.

In the end, I liked this movie. A lot. The animation was beautiful, the characters were stunning, and it left us with questions that we have to ask. One or two of them, I have to wonder why we're left asking them, but I can only assume the production staff hopes to produce a sequel. I have to admit though, the part of me that loves Star Wars EU and ongoing comic books, hopes that they do.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time gets a 3.8 out of 4.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Do you like free books?

Simon Haynes is having a contest in which a lucky user (or three) will be able to win a copy of one of his Hal Spacejock novels. Truth be told, I had never heard of either this writer, or the Hal Spacejock novels, and the link to the contest came across my RSS Reader.

Go forth! And win.

And if I win, expect a review.

StreetFighter is sci-fi?

Remember back in 1994. Jean Claude Van Damme had recently released Timecop. Universal Soldier was two years in the past. And we still had a year before Sudden Death made our eyes bleed. Well in the midst of that cinema mastery, Jean Claude released a video-game tie-in movie. Streetfighter.

Surprising, eh? But of course, it's understandable, after all, Mortal Kombat was all the rage with its upteen billion versions and its movie was upcoming (Mortal Kombat the movie was released in 1995, and actually won an award for its music in 1996). It makes sense that they'd rush through and get Streetfighter out there as fast as possible.

Oddly though, this link tells us they're making ANOTHER movie based on this video game franchise. Seriously, folks, wasn't the first one bad enough?

Ultimately though, the characters and their backstories as supplied in the cut scenes and instruction manual could easily pave the ground for stories. Yet I still wouldn't watch it, much the same way I'm not watching the anime series Streetfighter II.

Then I have to wonder why this is being given a sci-fi label? This is an action adventure/martial arts movie. There's not really anything in the original video game that screams sci-fi/fantasy. At least not that I remember, don't hesitate to correct me if I'm wrong though.

But, what amuses me the most. What part of the story at the link above made me actually laughed aloud was the fact that there is a live-action Joust movie in the works.

Yes, Joust the old Atari game where you were riding an ostrich, jousting with other ostrich riding people. And when you killed them, they'd drop an egg onto the platform, which you had to pick up or else it would hatch into another bad guy, and an ostrich would fly (yes, fly) and pick the new bad guy up in order for him to now fight you.

Yes, that Joust.

You know, this game was released the year that my little brother was born. I was 5.

There was no true story, there was a gimmick. You're jousting on a giant, flightless bird.

Of course, a gimmick might be all you need in Hollywood these days. On second thought, it is all that you need. After all, they released Balls of Glory and how many Mr. Bean movies are there now? They all revolve around him being clumsy.

And people wonder why I read books as my main past time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

SFWA & e-piracy

I was wrong. I can admit it. I don't like to, but I can and do admit to being wrong.

On occasion.

This time, I was wrong about the SFWA and its efforts to hunt down those abusing copyrights (re: DMCA - Why it reeks of moldy cheese). Apparently, despite the fact that I could find no reference to it on their public website, they do (or did, as it's been disbanded due to this whole fiasco) have a division which deals with protecting the intellectual property rights of authors who give them specific permission to do so. Why those authors would do things the way they do, I don't know, as my thoughts on the matter are more closely related to Mr. Doctorow's thoughts on things than Dr. Burt's.

Truthfully, the ideal solution to me would be every time I purchase a book, I get an electronic copy of that book free. I want to be able to carry my library with me in a succinct portable form like that. I want to be able to easily search for quotes or references while I'm writing reviews or other articles.

But all of that is neither here nor there.

We're talking about SFWA and the case of the magical takedown notices. Sure, I was wrong, and the furor seems to be dying down, but we are getting more information about some of the things that are going on behind the scenes. Additionally, the SFWA is getting more defenders in this issue. Defenders such as Jerry Pournelle and his article on the issue over at Chaos Manor Reviews.

Mr. Pournell's article is relevant here because he actively defends Dr. Burt's actions in this issue. Telling us how wonderful the e-piracy actions of the SFWA are. And from a certain point of view, he is correct. The SFWA, acting as the IP rights manager for some of the documents, was proper and right in requesting SCRIBD to take down those documents.

The problems though are thus:

  1. There are certain ways a DMCA takedown notice is required by law to be worded
  2. You should only ever send DMCA takedown notices for things which you are certain you contain IP rights for
SFWA's emails to SCRIBD failed in these legal requirements. Sure, SFWA had the legal right to send the email for some of them, but this is a legal issue, some just isn't good enough. Especially, when Dr. Burt is trying to get SCRIBD to put a legal disclaimer on their uploading process.

A move made doubly amusing, because a DMCA takedown notice is a formal legal document, and by indicating SCRIBD had to take down IP works which he wasn't allowed to, Mr. Burt in effect perjured the SFWA. And made even more amusing, when Dr. Burt claims to have looked at each of the files he requested being removed to make sure that he had the legal right to do so.
The final issue from Mr. Pournelle's post is the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) letter to the SFWA. He kind of bad mouthed both, and in fact had this to say about things:
It was rather intimidating. It was also a surprise: one would have thought that if EFF were going to get in this act, it would have been on behalf of the authors!
The thing is that SCRIBD did nothing wrong in this scenario.

Let's repeat that.

SCRIBD did NOTHING wrong. Nada. Zilch.

Legally, SCRIBD is not responsible for the materials its users upload, provided that they respond to all LEGAL DMCA takedown notices.

SFWA sent illegal DMCA takedown notices. The letter which SCRIBD and the EFF sent to SFWA (posted at SCRIBD's blog here) is merely pointing that out.

I have no doubt that if the SFWA had sent legal DMCA takedown notices and SCRIBD had not complied with them, then the EFF would have sided with the SFWA. Unfortunately, and what Mr. Pournelle seems to not realize, is that the EFF has a tendency to side against any organization or person who sends fraudulent takedown notices.

So, regardless of SFWA's intentions, because it sent takedown notices which did not comply with the legal requirements for a takedown notice AND some of the notices it sent were fraudulent, it seems obvious to me which side of things the EFF would fall (once it got involved).

Sure, SFWA has the right to aggressively protect the intellectual property of those authors who wish for that. What it does not have the right to do is provide improperly formed legal documents, and claim they are legal. It does not have the right to impose on the intellectual property rights of others. These are all defined clearly and succinctly, and with the fraudulent takedown notices - some rather stiff fines, in the DMCA's text.

Ignoring the ethical or moral issues of piracy, ignoring the argument on whether or not free e-books lead to greater sales of physical copies of books, legally, SFWA is the only organization here that has broken the law.

Frankly, I'm still wondering if there's not a monetary issue to this in the way that Dr. Burt worded questions and pitched his algorithm. But I'm something of a cynic.

Review: Inferno

Legacy of the Force is the currently running nine-book series, detailing the continuing adventures of our beloved Star Warriors 40 years A New Hope. The newest novel released in this series is Troy Denning's Inferno. It's a mass-market paperback which clocked in at 289 pages, and then it contained an additional 10 page round-robin interview of the series three authors, and finally a twelve page preview of Fury. Though I must question if the $8US I spent on those 289 pages of story were really worth it. Additionally, this review was posted over at TheForce.Net/Books/Reviews earlier last week.

Regardless, we've got this as the back-page blurb:

Luke Skywalker wanted to unify the Jedi Order and bring peace to the universe. Instead his wife, Mara, lies dead at the hands of an unknown assassin, his wayward nephew Jacen has seized control of the Galactic Alliance, and the galaxy has exploded in all-out civil war.

With Luke consumed by grief, Jacen Solo works quickly to consolidate his power and jumpstart his plan to take over the Jedi. Convinced he's the only one who can save the galaxy, Jacen will do whatever it takes, even ambush his own parents.

With the rebel confederacy driving deep into the Core to attack Coruscant and the Jedi under siege, Luke must reassert his position. Only he can lead the Jedi through the crisis, but it means solving the toughest problem Luke's ever faced. Does he fight alongside his nephew Jacen, a tyrant who's taken over the GA, or does he join the rebels to smash the Galactic Alliance he helped create?

What I felt after reading it was "meh."

There is a fairly standard action-adventure plot here, nothing spectacular, but not total drivel either. Frankly, it feels less like a comprehensive plotline than it does a series of short action adventure stories that make up the novel. It tended to be more like smaller set pieces or events rather than an overall story. There was the post-Sacrifice aftermath event. There was the first battle, then the second, and so on. Basically, I guess my problem is that it felt more like an anthology of Troy Denning short stories set in a common time frame rather than an actual novel.

Settings tended to be exact places: the Jedi Temple, the Anakin Solo the Wookiee council chambers. We did not get any huge vistas of planetary descriptions nor did we really receive any descriptions of space battles. That's not to say that they didn't happen, but the only time we were in a starfighter cockpit was with Jaina, and she spent more time navel gazing than actually flying. The rest of the time, the space battles were from Jacen's POV as he watched from the Anakin Solo.

In essence the only non-Skywalkers in play were Troy Denning's pet characters of Alema Rar, Saba Sebatyne, Tarfang and Jae Juun. Of course, he introduced a new character in Major Salle Serpa, a slightly mentally disturbed subordinate of Jacen's in the Guard, who I found myself actually liking somewhat. Additionally, I could easily buy into how both Luke and Ben were acting (reacting?) in the aftermath of the previous novel. Yet, I stumbled slightly with Han and Leia, especially in how they thought of their son. The two characters that weren't Skywalkers or Denning-pets were Tahiri Veila and Tenel Ka.

I liked Tenel Ka here. She was strong and aloof when necessary, but had a definite streak of basically herself in the midst of the story's events. We got to see the girl behind the crown so to speak, and it was a very welcome respite from the ice-princess which has been her standard characterization for the past decade.

Tahiri I'm less than thrilled over. I can understand the reasons that she's doing everything, but I don't think I like it. This girl has been through so much, especially during the NJO time frame, and while I can admit to preferring her ending up with Anakin Solo, at this point in time, I'd much rather have her with a happy ending than what they're doing to her here. Let's make this clear, it has been nearly 15 years in-universe since Anakin's death—the girl should be over it by now. Instead, she's effectively the same thing as a crack-whore.

Now, onto my pet rant for shared universes, continuity. Overall there was nothing horridly wrong continuity wise. Yet, as they say, the devil's in the details. There were a number of little things, such as giving Tahiri brown eyes, or Lumiya having a box filled with kaibur crystals (if there were that many of the things, why in the world would Luke have spent all of Splinter of the Mind's Eye hunting through swamps for it?).

Out of all the interesting things we learn in this book, the one that amused me the most is that it is possible to change the past via flow-walking (read more about my thoughts on Flow Walking in Inferno here). The first dozen or so pages, reveal that now, the infamous "almost" kiss between Anakin and Tahiri no longer exists, as she did kiss Anakin, due to her older self's interference in the past. As I read those words, I could hear a dozen anti-Anakin Returners groaning at this disruption of what they viewed Flow-walking as being capable of doing.

In the end, I wasn't as thrilled with this novel as I was with Denning's previous book, Tempest, and it was definitely a much weaker offering than either Tatooine Ghost or Star by Star. It had the "Star Wars" feel in the space battles and the lightsabers, and read fine as space opera, but somehow it just did not click. Maybe it was the sense of oppression and depression which is a recurrent theme since Del Rey won the contract.

One good point for this book is that it is the first novel in this series where the prequels are not slapped upside our heads, multiple times, in the most obvious way possible as if we were nothing more than dumb readers, who shared a single brain cell. In fact, as I was writing this review, I was amazed by the fact that I didn't think, "Oh look, here's the required Prequel tie-in" at least once while reading. Of course, thinking back now, probably an entire third of the book can be construed as being related to a 5 minute scene from the prequels.

I just hope that Denning's third and the final installment of LotF comes out better than this. While I can't find any single thing wrong with the book, the whole thing just did not work for me. As always, I enjoyed Denning's writing, I enjoyed the action scenes, and I enjoyed how he handled the characters themselves, yet despite that, I just felt very blasé about the novel as a whole.

In the end, I have to award it a 1.8 out of 4, just because of that melancholic feeling I was left with at the end.

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