Jay Kristoff, Nevernight (2016)

Nevernight

Author: Jay Kristoff

Title: Nevernight

Format: Paperback

Pages: 464

Nevernight went through various blogs with a force of natural calamity, garnering a lot of praise for originality and vividness of the story despite what seemed like a very clichéd plot. When I saw Aaron’s glowing review at Swords and Spectres I decided to finally forgo my misgivings and give the book, constituting – not surprisingly – the first installment in Kristoff’s new series, a chance.

Boy, I wish I didn’t.

I was close to DNFing this book thrice. The first time happened on the first page, when the contrivance of the interlapping opening  scenes hit me like a hammer between the eyes. The second time happened within the first few chapters, when I was so fed up with the narrator’s dubious personality charm that I didn’t think I could take any more of his/her blathering. You undoubtedly know what I’m talking about, O, gentlefriend, if you’ve read the book. Third time should be the charm, alas, I powered through by sheer effort of will just to write a vitriolic review later on.

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Game of Thrones finale – reflections

It’s been over a week since we all saw the final episode of the TV series of the decade, and we had time enough to calmly discuss how we feel about it. We’re not too impressed by the last season, but mostly happy with how the story ended. What resulted from that is a short, story-focused two-shot.

Piotrek: Season 8 has some fans, but it’s been widely criticized, not only on the social media and genre pages, but also in such venerable papers as The Guardian and Polityka. There’s a petition on change.org, with 1.5 million supporters, to remake the entire season! And even if I’m not ready to go that far, I’m not happy with these 6 episodes. The Benioff/Weiss duo stumbled when they had no more source material to refer to, and now they simply failed. Good things were inherited from earlier years, or clearly part of the general outline they got years ago from GRRM, but how did they go to the endpoint? With a story clearly rushed, full of plot-holes and characters going against their nature.

Wimpy Jon, foolish Tyrion, passive Cersei… Dany suddenly losing her mind just because that’s what was needed for the final confrontation. GoT stopped developing organically, around its many strong protagonists, and started running a short hurdle race, to quickly tick off all the major plot points.

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Ola: Agreed. Benioff and Weiss knew their destination, but not the road to it. They chose too many shortcuts along the way, and even though I can relate to the problems of such a big and lengthy production, spanning a decade, and I understand why the mechanisms of group thinking might have entered into this situation, so bound up in secrecy and the necessity to keep the story development to a very limited team of people, I still think it all had a detrimental effect which could have been easily avoided.

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Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Avengers: Endgame. Movie to conclude the major plot points of 21 movies, stories of multiple characters that took place throughout the galaxy. Thanos won part 1, but we just knew not all was lost. It would go against every rule off modern profitable film-making, and some of us read comics…

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WARNING! There will be spoilers. The movie has been in cinemas for three weeks, so you had time enough to see it 😉 It will be our discussion on how successful it’s been in summing up the complicated history of MCU and opening avenues for new adventures.

Piotr: I’m a bit tired of my role of enthusiastic simpleton, yet I’ll start with a decisive yes. It was not a perfect movie, it was not the best Marvel movie, but it was a movie well suited to play its unique role within the MCU. Heroes ultimately won, but it wasn’t easy, and not without serious sacrifices. There were hilarious moments, spirit-rising speeches, epic battles – the final battle was, IMO, better than the one from Infinity War. Three hours, but I was not bored and could even stay in the cinema a little longer 😉

Ola: I am also quite tired of playing the unsmiling Dirty Harry to your Pollyanna, and yet I cannot endorse this movie. It is well-made, very professional and full of perfectly choreographed and rousing action scenes, but ultimately it remains empty, the promises of Infinity War for something deeper unrealized. I was intrigued and dismayed in turn, and what really killed my pleasure of enjoying this movie was the lack of internal coherence and logic. For a film that makes so much fun of Back to the Future it should really show a better alternative to time travel – and one that is not blithely disregarded half an hour later.

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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…

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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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