Neal Asher, Gridlinked (2001)

Gridlinked_cover

Author: Neal Asher

Title: Gridlinked

Format: Paperback

Pages: 522

Having followed advice of the inestimable Bookstooge, I decided to embark on another bloody literary journey, but this time a decidedly hi-tech and futuristic one. Neal Asher’s Polity novels had been described as ‘a more action-packed Culture’, and it’s a description I find at once very apt and quite misleading ;). The world of Polity is indeed similar to Banks’s Culture in that it is an ever-expanding and galaxy-spanning political entity of humans inhabiting planets and space stations, all governed and kept together by extremely sophisticated AIs. The AIs have distinct personalities which are, as expected, highly logical and possessed of a worldview undoubtedly more affected by their computing skills than by any emotions, though they seem to feel them too – especially curiosity. In short, however you would slice it, they are not human. Their ascendance to the position of power in the human Polity has apparently been bloodless and quite benevolent, humans having realized that it’s ultimately for their own betterment – and that the other choice they have is definitely worse. The AIs act more like managers than dictators, quite content to improve the lives of Polity citizens and repel any possible threats. And there are threats aplenty, as on many worlds human populations hadn’t joined the Polity, mostly due to political differences (especially autocratic and religious regimes seemingly disapproving of the entire concept of Polity or even the existence of AIs). The major one is posed by Separatists, a loose coalition of terrorists, interest groups, or even governments happy to use Polity’s technology to bring about Polity’s demise, and they are a constant source of interest to ECS – the Earth Central Security agency, consisting mostly of human agents dealing with out-Polity threats.

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Nostalgia post #4: Star Wars (1977 – 1983)

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

SW Opening_crawl

Ola: That’s the way fairy tales start. Once upon a time, beyond tall mountains and vast rivers, a mysterious hero was born who had changed the fate of his tribe/community/nation/humankind. Led by fate, S/He had many dangerous and tasking adventures, had to overcome many deadly foes, traps and tests in order to come back to Her/His home with a great boon of miraculous nature and redeem Her/His people.

Nothing original, really, especially considering the fact that George Lucas’s creation of his famous saga had been significantly inspired by Joseph’s Campbell The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The theory that most of the world myths conform to one, simple pattern modeled on the rites of initiation is as suggestive as is ultimately misleading – and yet Lucas in his creation of Star Wars universe managed to strike a chord with millions of people worldwide, envisioning a world like – and yet unlike – ours, just exponentially bigger and vivid.

Starships! Knights! Droids! Magic! Princesses! Scoundrels with hearts of gold! Vile emperors! Cuddly little creatures! Breathtaking vistas of planets and space! It’s all there, and more – and everything is suffused by Force, a mana-like, magical power binding every living thing in a net of awareness.

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Piotrek: It is a simple story, of a young man going from zero to a hero, discovering his heritage and coming to his power. A story like countless others, but in space.

Not a very realistic space, there aren’t that many attempts to pretend that, it is not hard science fiction that would try to propose a likely vision of space-travelling humanity of the future. This story takes place long ago, like the stories of Gilgamesh or Theseus, and takes a structure immediately familiar to audience from any cultural background.

Campbell is an obvious inspiration, and that’s something Lucas freely admits.

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Edward Rickford, The Serpent and the Eagle (2019)

The Serpent and the Eagle

Author: Edward Rickford

Title: The Serpent and the Eagle

Format: Kindle

Pages: 314

*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

The Serpent and the Eagle is Edward Rickford’s debut, a first book in a planned trilogy about the  Spanish conquest of the Mexica (Aztec) empire. The topic of Hernán Cortés’ bloody and ambitious subjugation of the biggest New World empire of the time is a very interesting one, and I was eager to read the fictionalized account of his endeavors, especially balanced, as was the case here, by the Mexica perspective.

If I were to describe The Serpent and the Eagle in one word, it would be “earnest”. It is indeed a very earnest book, a work of undeniable effort and knowledge, and a clear passion for the topic.

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Captain Marvel (2019)

It’s been some time since we had a Marvel movie review 🙂 But in preparation for Avengers: Endgame we feel we need to review the most recent MCU production, Captain Marvel.

Marvel

First things first, we’ve decided not to tackle the controversies concerning Brie Larson, the lead of the movie, and the fanbase, a huge part of which chose to get enraged. None of this serves the movie well, and we’d rather focus on the newest entry in MCU itself :).

Captain Marvel is a definitely smaller and less ambitious movie than the entirety of the Avengers franchise; in fact it’s one of quite a few origin stories Marvel has put on the screen through the years – from Iron Man (2008), Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) through Ant-Man (2015) and Doctor Strange (2016). We should probably also include Hulk (2003), at least from the chroniclers’ duty point of view, even if the majority of fans would prefer to forget it 😉 Captain Marvel also the first Marvel female-centered movie, despite fans’ ongoing pleas for a Black Widow flick. It is symptomatic, then, the the female superhero Marvel decided to depict in their response to the popularity of the Wonder Woman movie (2017) was a similarly beefed up, overpowered character of an ex-fighter pilot, who at the beginning of the movie remains an outside force not connected to Earth’s troubles or humanity, and whose main story arc revolves around the issue of getting involved and starting to care.

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Tea Party and other news

Tea Party

Seems like we hit a run of non-review posts recently… Don’t worry, the reviews will come back soon, but before – another non-review, maintenance post. This one will probably end up as hectic as my lifs recently, so bear with me here 😉

First, I wanted to explain my recent reticence, owed to the fact that I involuntarily caused a Tea Party for my laptop, and it ended up being a mashup of the craziness of the above Mad Hatter and March Hare party with the ferociousness of the below Boston party:

Boston_Tea_Party

Sadly, my laptop did not emerge unscathed; while his critical components were saved through the valiant efforts of my wonderful husband, it still required a new keyboard and a new screen… Seems like the act of acquiring a new laptop in the near future is becoming inevitable – however, I don’t anticipate it with anything but dread, as, firstly, the amount of data I gathered on my current laptop is staggering and I don’t look forward to going through the task of cataloguing it and copying it; and secondly, my faithful Samsung served me exceptionally well over the years: through another Tea Party, a fall from a table, a bug in the hard drive (a real one, quite dried up by the time we found it) and the still unsolved mystery of three Wolverine-like scratches. Admittedly, it had to be a really tiny Wolverine:

Samsung

Yes; as you can see, I’m quite fond of my laptop and everything it contains (well, except that bug). Anyway, it took some time to get up and blogging again, and I’ll be trying to make up for my absence in the coming weeks (though don’t count too much on it, as we’re having a house move in a couple of weeks ;)).

On a more happy note, however, as a part of the celebration of the four year anniversary of our blog, we’ve decided to follow the example of Erik on the Past Due blog and dig up some of our old posts, posted long before the time we knew any of ya’ll 🙂 You can expect some of our older reviews popping up from time to time, followed (or not) by a few words of contemporary commentary of the author and some acid remarks of the other blogger 😀

We expect it to run every couple of weeks/month, and since we already have over 330 posts, we’ll have quite a lot to choose from… I actually wonder how those older posts will hold up to our current scrutiny; how much our tastes changed over that period of time and whether will uphold our old ratings – guess we’ll see soon enough! 😀 Hopefully it will be less like this:

burial-pit

and more like this:

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😀

Ed McDonald, Blackwing (2017)

Blackwing

Author: Ed McDonald

Title: Blackwing

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 378

First, an admission. I read a lot of books when my mental plate’s full, as they provide a bit of comfort and take off some strain from my overworked brain – when they’re good, of course, because bad books don’t help at all 🙂 However, by the same logic, I write no reviews when I’m stressed out, because writing demands a lot more from my already  overworked brain 😛 No surprise, then, that lately there are less reviews on our blog, even though the amount of books I’ve recently read has noticeably grown.

I’ve spent the last couple of months checking out some of the books our fellow bloggers recommended, and Ed MacDonald’s Blackwing had been favorably reviewed by many. A special shout out to Aaron at Swords & Spectres for persuading me to finally try it out, because it was definitely worth it :).

Blackwing follows the story of Ryhalt Galharrow (it’s a mouthful, I know – try to say it out loud a few times!), a former pampered noble and an ex-Army officer who now serves as a Captain of Blackwing: a private military unit in employ of a Nameless sorcerer called Crowfoot. Galharrow as we meet him is a down-on-his-luck cutthroat – a glorified spy/bounty hunter/enforcer to a ruthless, ancient being, who had not been seen in the world for a long, long time. Yet, as the war between the Nameless sorcerers of the republic with powerful Deep Kings of the Eastern Empire still brews on, centuries in the making, Galharrow soon finds himself in the thick of the bloody action.

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Nostalgia #3: Willow (1988)

Piotr: I have to admit I had some doubts about the series, whether we’d be able to continue it for long, but here we are, post no. three, and I love it! And revisiting this one has been a delight!

Ola: Indeed, we may not be overly timely with our regular posts, but Nostalgia posts appear every month as planned 🙂 And it looks like we’ll be continuing it in the foreseeable future, as there are many other topics to cover. There are some trips down the memory lane that we’d like to forget, like Robin of Sherwood, but there are others, fantastical and wondrous, and confirming our fondest reminiscences – like Batman: TAS, and Willow.

Willow2

Piotrek: Willow is a fantasy movie from 1988 that many considered to be Lord of the Rings light, made with the technology of the day. I’ve seen it ages ago, when the world was young and Peter Jackson was making shitty/cult horror movies, and it shaped my views on fantasy movies, more than any other 80-ties classic.Then LotR came and the new era of modern fantasy and I forgot about Willow.

Ola suggested we include it in our Nostalgia series, and I re-watched it recently with great pleasure. Obviously influenced by Tolkien, although not nearly as ambitious, it is a pretty good movie in its own right. Funny, imaginative, not too complicated, but at the same time quite skilful with its handling of the basic tropes. It’s a brainchild of George Lucas and he was good back then, when he did not try to make things too complicated.

Ola: Willow had been my first foray into fantasy movies, around the same time as my reading of Lord of the Rings – and it was a great experience. I enjoyed the child’s perspective of the camera, the fact that the titular hero’s strength did not lie in his sword skills or magical power, but rather in the very human ability of doing the right thing whatever it takes, and making friends:)

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