All posts by ntbadmin

Going Dark

Going Dark (The Red #3)
Linda Nagata

In the third book in The Red Trilogy, former Army Lt. James Shelley becomes a black ops sniper working for the Red—a suspected rogue artificial intelligence that is ripped from today’s headlines.

James Shelley has left his lover, Delphi, and his companion-in-arms, Jayne Vasquez, with a fortune acquired from a fallen oligarch. They believe him to be dead, and he doesn’t try to set the record straight. His long-running question has been answered: There are other soldiers like him who have served the purposes of the Red—and he has accepted his place among them. As a soldier of the Red he pursues covert missions designed to nudge history away from existential threats—but that doesn’t mean the world is growing more orderly. It’s only in the froth of a “managed chaos” that human potential can grow and thrive. Shelley’s missions eventually take him into orbit—and into conflict with those he loves—Delphi and Jaynie—who are determined to escape the influence of the Red.

The final book loses focus on any science fiction themes and mainly consists of a series of armed conflicts. From the Arctic to the urban jungle, our hero manages to escape narrowly with his life. The problem is that it doesn’t add up to the promise in the first book, not bad, just OK (3/5).

 

Broken Sword 3

Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon

George Stobbart and Nico Collard are drawn into a terrifying conspiracy to harness and ancient power. Brought together by fate, coincidence and the intriguing mystery, they will fight sinister forces, uncover an ancient conspiracy, and discover a fiendish source of pure evil… Lured into the steamy jungles of the Congo, eerie castles in Prague, the chic backstreets of Paris and the historic English village of Glastonbury, the duo must unravel the mystery involving the ‘Voynich Manuscript’ which holds the secrets of the ultimate evil power, The Sleeping Dragon, and save mankind.

Crates, Crates and more crates.
This is the main puzzle theme – moving crates around. You can’t stack them, just push and pull. This is repeated about 658 times in the game.

This third outing for Nico and George has little to do with the Knights Templar. It has something to do with energy and leylines around the earth. It doesn’t make much sense.

Where the first two games were compelling and interesting, in this game you are lead by the linear plot from place to place. The ‘puzzles’ are often not very intuitive, so without a walk-through I would have been lost.

The traditional inventory-based puzzles that the first two Broken Sword games elevated to an art-form have almost completely been eschewed in favor of more “puzzly” puzzles. There’s one that takes a good half-hour that involves you as George slowly crossing an eternal sequence of tiles, occasionally ordering Nico to move in order to make different tiles “safe.” Your reward for getting through this torture chamber, likely forgetting why you’re even here in the process? A crate puzzle.

Thankfully, though, you can always count on the next cut-scene and plot development to wipe your mind clean of the turmoil you’ve just endured.

The game is in 3D, having abandoned the traditional cell animation style of the first two games. While it generally works, there can be problems with quick disorientating camera moves and being in just the right position to take objects.

The worst aspect are the timed puzzles, I did finish the game, but it took numerous attempts at getting these done.

Despite being 10 years old the graphic quality is fine. The rendering of people and faces is not what would be expected in a modern game, but it was sufficient to convey the necessary emotions of the characters.

In the end.. just an OK game (3/5) certainly not as good as the previous ones.

 

 

 

Robots

Robots (2005 film)

Robots is a 2005 American computer-animated science fiction dystopian comedy film produced by Blue Sky Studios for 20th Century Fox, and was released theatrically on March 11, 2005. The story was created by Chris Wedge and William Joyce, a children’s book author/illustrator. Originally developing a film version of Joyce’s book Santa Calls, Joyce and Wedge then decided to develop an original story about a world of robots. Joyce served as producer and production designer for the film. It features the voices of Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Greg Kinnear, Mel Brooks, Amanda Bynes, Drew Carey and Robin Williams. The film earned $260.7 million on a $75 million budget.

It’s Robin William that provides the spark to this film. If you think about the underlying mechanics and engineering of the world and robots, none of it makes sense. But really it’s a film about planned obsolescence in products. It’s fun, fast paced and good family entertainment (4/5)
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Captain America

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is a 2016 American superhero film featuring the Marvel Comics character Captain America, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is the sequel to 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger and 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the thirteenth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, with a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, and features an ensemble cast that includes Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt and Daniel Bruhl.

In Captain America: Civil War, set one year after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, disagreement over international oversight of the Avengers fractures them into opposing factions, one led by Steve Rogers / Captain America and another by Tony Stark / Iron Man.

Well, it’s a big explosion, running, hitting and falling then getting up and doing it all again type of film. The main problem is that there are too many plot threads that divert the main plot between Capt America and Iron Man. Despite it’s length (2.5 hours) there is never enough time to develop any sympathy for a character and their plight.
There is plenty of eye candy and effects to keep things interesting and mainly for the action I’m giving it a 3/5.

Lexx 4.16 & 4.17

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Lexx 4.16 “Moss” March 1, 2002
On the run Xev, Stan and Kai are abducted by Moss (in a reincarnation from season 2), head of the AFR. Using information from them, he masquerades as Prince, and installs himself as the head of the ATF. Moss has numerous conspiracy theories involving “666”, which are totally insane, but largely correct. He then puts the crew on a show trial for being in league with Prince, where he plays all legal roles, then decides to execute them. Prince (residing in his TV set) directs Bunny to read a note to the Idaho AFR, who then ride a moth to the ATF, and shoot all the AFR.

This just a long riff on a very old Monty Python joke from ‘Life of Brian’ that doesn’t go anywhere. More stock standard army stereo-types than you could shoot in sixty seconds (2/5).

Lexx 4.17 “Dutch Treat” March 8, 2002
Lexx is convulsing with starvation, and the crew decide to abandon him, leaving 790 behind as punishment for his latest treachery. They plan to hitch a ride with the Earth ship Noah, that 790 designed. Tina discovers that Ernst Longbore has his own secret plans about who is going onto his ship, and is sniffing the histocompatibily of schoolgirls. Prince re-boards the Lexx. Priest and Bunny shoot nearly every moth breeder to get the key, and then command Lexx to destroy Earth. Lexx only has enough charge to destroy Ottawa, so he eats Holland instead. Xev gets the key from Bunny – the lesbian way.

At last, the Lexx crew’s stupidity and incompetence results in an outsider (Bunny) making a rational decision. It’s beginning to feel like the end of the series (3/5).

 

 

 

Heaven and Earth

Projekct X – Heaven and Earth (2000)

Adrian Belew — Guitar and additional ‘V Drumming’
Robert Fripp — Guitar and Soundscapes
Trey Gunn — Bass Touch Guitar and Baritone Guitar
Pat Mastelotto — Traps and Buttons

This release is comprised of jams from The ConstruKction of Light sessions. It’s much better than Thrakattak (1996) which is just a lot of guitar wankery and silly noises.

The main reason it really works is drummer Pat Mastellotto, taking the attitude of ‘get out of the way or follow’.

The sound is cosmic and futuristic, built with an unrelenting tension from the manic electronic driving rhythm pulses.

He contrasts Bill Bruford’s cerebral attack, creating a new KC that’s has an electric energy and trippy, organic subsonic stomp. Stick player Trey Gunn, really anchors the bottom end with a snake-like prowess; winding and driving against Pat’s dominating beats.

Mastellotto’s performance is scarily propulsive and far more congruous with this style of the material than ever before. Instead of using an electronic kit to merely replicate the cymbal washes and snare pops of an acoustic kit, he uses sampled sounds to his advantage, using spontaneous studio jams to retrospectively create arrangements that embrace the dark, electronic trance pulse of the digital age, while at the same time retaining the angular improvisation.

Everyone else is just there to fill in the void.

As labyrinthine as the roadmaps were for previous albums, they were still roadmaps; and often laden with guitar parts recognizably descended from territory of the 1980’s lineup.

Here Fripp and Belew shed the calculated straitjackets and let roar like never before. It is a true window into the age-old Crimson manifesto of attempting to control chaos.

‘Superbottomfeeder’
Is a big blast of Pat and Trey hitting the low end while Fripp & Belew riff over it all.

“Heaven and Earth”
Is the best track, having a more composed form and structure. It begins quietly, but soon morphs into a strong groove by the rhythm section.

This a favorite album of mine because of it’s unrelenting crazy crackling energy.

 

Shades of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic
(Shades of Magic #1)

V. E. Schwab (2015)


Read as part of the Sword and Laser March pick.

Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

The writing was good with an interesting premise. The problem was it just didn’t get very involving or exciting. It felt like a novella stretched out to novel length. The good were good and the evil did evil things. It takes too long to get to the central conflict, then everything is crammed into the last 20% of the book. Not bad, just average.

 

Lexx 4.14 & 4.15

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Lexx 4.14 “Prime Ridge” February 15, 2002
The crew buy a house in Prime Ridge, using money from ATMs that 790 rigs for them. Xev’s cooking is atrocious, Kai doesn’t like his new fridge, and after a day they get bored of TV. Xev gets a job at CJD Meat Products as a counsellor (as a way to get sex), where she meets Cleesby. Stan reckons he’s got a chance to get it on with the realtor, and her daughter Picolina gets in on the action. Kai starts running out of protoblood, gives druggies all the money, and starts acting as high as they are. Everyone is a gun wielding psycho, and the episode ends in a massive shootout; S.W.A.T ruins the lawn, bullet holes line the walls, Cleesby and Picolina decide sex is better than shooting each other, and the druggies take off in the moth, leaving the gang no option but to use the neighbor’s car for a getaway. Features Britt Ekland as the realtor, “Dulcibella Sternflanks”.

This satire of American domestic life may be funny, mainly due to the over -the-top blood soaked ending (3/5)

 

Lexx 4.15 “Mort” February 22, 2002
Derived from Bride of Re-animator. Fleeing from the authorities, with exhausted Kai in a shopping trolly, Xev and Stan shelter in a funeral parlour run by Mort. Mort is assembling his “unofficial” girlfriend, Deedee, from spare parts. He rejects Xev’s breasts only on blood type, and becomes fascinated by Kai’s protoblood, which Kai readily donates. Xev and Stan show their supreme insensitivity whilst escorting mourners to coffins. On Lexx, 790 will not cooperate because Kai cannot speak. Meanwhile Xev fends off deputy Festus with promises of sex, but she gives him re-animated Deedee instead. Deedee then kills Mort in the name of His Divine Shadow.

Another un-funny attempt at satire (1/5).

Lexx 4.12 & 4.13

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Lexx 4.12 “Bad Carrot” October 31, 2001
The carrot probes invade US supermarkets, and leading scientists analyse how the carrots penetrate their hosts. The Whitehouse is overcome, so Prince, Priest and Bunny flee to the Lexx, accidentally taking a carrot with them. 790 sides with the carrot to eliminate everyone but Kai. Prince teaches him Chess, and offers a wager. Kai demonstrates his increasing cynicism about 790 and works out what is going on.

The president act’s like he is in a bad sex farce. Prince is getting cooler as the evil being. However the toilet ‘humour’ of the episode is not appropriate for science fiction. (2/5)

Lexx 4.13  “769”  February 8, 2002
On Lexx, Xev and Stan threaten to kill Prince, but they can’t do it, and Kai runs out of protoblood. 790 has the agenda of obtaining a body, so he helps Prince and Priest strangle half the moth breeders to get the key to the Lexx. Back on Earth he is attached to the body of a moth breeder, and he selects a penis from one of America’s finest. Bunny is given orders to kill the crew of the Lexx, but she can’t do it. Prince returns to Lexx, and almost kills Stan and Xev. Bunny loses the key to the Lexx by having sex with Priest. Prince is killed for the first time.

This one tries (and fails) to offend the  French, Native Indians, Military and anyone with half a brain (1/5).

 

The Trials

The Trials (The Red #2)
by Linda Nagata

Lieutenant James Shelley and his squad of US Army soldiers were on a quest for justice when they carried out the unauthorized mission known as First Light. They returned home to America to face a court-martial, determined to expose the corruption in the chain of command that compelled their actions. But in a country still reeling from the nuclear terrorism of Coma Day, the courtroom is only one battlefield. A new cycle of violence ignites when rumors of the elusive, rogue AI known as the Red go public—and Shelley is, once again, pulled into the fray.

Challenged by his enemies, driven by ideals, Shelley feels compelled to act—but are the harrowing choices he makes really his own, or are they made for him, by the Red? With millions of lives at stake in a game of nuclear cat-and-mouse, does it even matter?

The second in the series is a bit slower than the first. It starts with a trial and possibly that’s the whole story. Fortunately that’s finished with in a few chapters then it’s on with the plot. The rest of the book is unpredictable, not using military genre tropes. The ending is less of a big action piece then the previous book, but still an interesting end and setup for the third and final book. (4/5)