a_cubed: (Peace)

There are many science fiction stories published each year with wild speculation, and usually few details. It’s not unusual, therefore, just by the law of averages, for sometimes the SF to be followed by the  a discovery of (somewhat) matching science. An interesting piece on anti-agathic (delaying or removing the effects of ageing) work I saw today reminded me of a piece in a Heinlein novel. In “Methuselah’s Children” where a secret bunch of families with naturally bred longevity flee the Earth in an early spaceship because of the threat of a pogrom and/or being the subject of vivisection to discover the secret of their longevity. Returning to Earth after some interstellar adventures and with time dilation having kept them even younger than ever, they find that their existence spurred Earth to invest in anti-agathic research and discover a “blood cleaning” process which seriously reduces ageing. Not a novel idea, actually, as this Guardian article points out, the idea was proposed by Libavius in 1615. It’s looking like it might have potential, though. The work of Wyss-Coray on the effects of young mouse blood on old mouse brains (and vice versa) shows that transfusion of young blood into an old mouse causes a revival of neuron birth, while old blood in young mice retards such development.


There’s a horror story in here about, say, the Chinese communist party using both sides of this – harvesting young blood to keep their gerontcratic leaders healthy, while deliberately transfusing older blood into younger dissidents to dumb them down.


As that very good Guardian article mentions (it’s an in-depth and very well-written science piece, a rarity in modern journalism) though, it’s not just the idea of transfusions – we can hardly keep up with other demands for blood for transfusions in most societies. The idea that we could track the protein components of blood plasma as we age and filter out the ones which contribute to ageing and synthesise and add back the ones which promote health and youth, are interesting. Of course there’s also the idea that’s been used by a number of SF authors where by tinkering with ageing and encouraging bodily regeneration, we “use up” our body’s ability to regenerate and instead of gaining (near)immortality we die quicker (sometimes very quickly) though with amazing powers of regeneration in the (usually short) time. Again, this is perhaps a worry with these real science ideas.


Current Mood: Interested


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Peace)

We lost Iain M. Banks last year and now we’ve just lost Terry Pratchett as well. Both taken well before their time and both still writing amazing work until the end.


http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-31858156


Bright Burning Lights

Illuminate Life

Death Extinguishes Not

The Brilliance Of

Words Writers Wrote

Nor Crosses Off

Party’s Soul

Though Too-short Whole


(CC-BY-SA Andrew A. Adams)


Current Mood: (sad) sad


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Peace)

Almost a year since my last blog post. Very bad of me. The last one was a report that I’d finished Kiki’s Delivery Service Book 2. It’s taken me ten months to finish books 3 and 4, but I’ve now done so. I’m just over half-way through Book 5 (which I’m racing through, having read the first 150 pages of 280 in just over two weeks). I’ve also now seen the recent live action Kiki movie. This is definitely derived from the first book, rather than from the Ghibli animation. In some ways it sticks closer to the book. For instance Kiki cannot accept money in return for her magic services. It’s never quite explicit in the book, and the “economics” of this are somewhat glossed over in terms of how she manages daily existence if she can’t earn money (or possibly can’t even deal with money directly). There’s something of an implication of receiving services in “barter” for her own and she can certainly accept gifts in kind in exchange for her services. Although this bit is closer to the book, and some of the scenes/sequences in the movie are heavily inspired by chapters in the book, it’s still quite a departure from the book in many terms. In the book there’s a sequence with a girl asking her to deliver a black envelope to another girl, which it turns out is an old tale of witches cursing people. In the book this is dealt with on the small scale of the girls involved only, whereas in the movie it’s part of the plot whereby after this incident people start distrusting Kiki and even returning things she’s delivered to them, back to Kiki instead of back to the sender.


I watched the movie in Japanese (no choice – there doesn’t seem to be an English subtitle version available – but I wanted to do that anyway). Since I know the story pretty well and it’s a kids/teen movie, I was able to follow much of the dialogue well enough, but I certainly wasn’t understanding every sentence in detail. Harder than the book, of course, since spoken word is harder to follow because of speed and difficulty to re-tread (I was watching it with $DAUGHTER so could hardly stop every thirty seconds and re-play to get the dialogue, though I may do some of this later to try to improve my Japanese listening).


Current Mood: (accomplished) accomplished


a_cubed: (Default)

As I noted in March, I had the second book of the Kiki’s Delivery Service series on order having finished the first book. I didn’t makea precise note of the day it arrived, but it wasn’t long after the 9th of March when that post was made. Tonight I finished book 2. I made much more of an effort to read at least six pages a day of this one, and to catch up if I missed a day. The book is 380 pages, although that seems longer in some ways than it is since it’s got a number of illustrations, some of which are full page or half the page. Japanese literary typesetting is also quite different to English in that it’s set vertically. Just as with English texts, this means much of the dialogue only takes up part of a line. However, since japanese books, like English ones, are taller than they are wide, the resulting white space in Japanese is a larger proportion of the page. For dialogue-heavy sequences with  lot of short statements, this can mean a page using less than half the space.


I have book three on the shelf, so it’s on to that, tomorrow.


Current Mood: (accomplished) accomplished
Current Music: None


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

Many may know of Studio Ghibli’s movie “Kiki’s delivery service”. What many may not know is that this is based on a series of books by a Japanese author (although set in a fictional Eastern European country [one with a coastline]). The books are really sets of short stories rather than novels per se, or so $WIFE tells me. Having watched Kiki (in Japanese 魔女の宅急便 or Witch’s Home Delivery Service) too many times lately due to $DAUGHTER, and having had $WIFE explain that the author had finally finished the series of books of tales with a finale in which Kiki’s daughter (by Tombo) heads off for her “year away” at 13, I asked $WIFE to get the books for me. It seemed to me that I should be up to reading teen literature in Japanese. She picked up the first book earlier this week and I’ve now started reading it, which is quite hard going but so far just about feasible for me. I’m reminded of an experience in the mid-90s though. A friend of mine was a nurse in London at the time and I used to visit her whenever I was there. At first she was staying in the nurses’ accommodation – multiple occupancy apartments owned by the hospital, and quite nearby (in this case right next door). She had a roommate who was a fairly nice guy but not really the intellectual type. My friend is an SF reader, though not an active fan. She told me on one visit that her flatmate had borrowed one of the early Terry Pratchett Discworld books from her and finally returned it a month later saying he’d really enjoyed it. it wasn’t that he’d taken a month to get around to reading it. He’d taken a month to read it. Being both heavy readers my friend and I found this rather alien. We figured he must be having to read every word as an individual word and then figure out the meaning of each sentence before moving on to the next. I’m feeling a bit like this with starting to try to read Japanese for “pleasure”, though of course part of the purpose is to improve my Japanese, but I’m also reading it because I want to know the story. I think I may be already ahead of friend’s flatmate’s English reading ability, though.


Current Mood: (accomplished) accomplished
Current Music: Mononoke Hime OST


a_cubed: (Default)

A non-Culture SF book by Iain M. Banks. According to something I read online there were some claims by non-M fans that this should have been an Iain Banks novel, becase it was mainstream not SF. Clearly the Margaret Atwood school of genre-definition – if it doesn’t include spaceships and space squid then it’s not SF. Rubbish of course. While a non-Culture novel, this is an SF novel in a grand tradition. Parallel universes have been a staple SF trope for many years. There are more than a few hints of Richard Meredith’s Timeliner Trilogy here, though with Banks’ take on it. There are multiple viewpoints, though only one told in first person, the rest in over-the-shoulder third person. There’s a complicated temporakl structure with flashbacks and time-skipping (of some kind, perhaps just moving to a near-identical parallel world which lagged behind the rest in time progression). This jumping around in time and viewpoint is perhaps a little over-contrived to turn what is actually a fairly simple story into something more complicated. Worth perservering with, but not his best non-Culture SF novel.


Current Mood: (restless) restless
Current Music: None


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

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Yet another Harry Dresden installment. Having recovered from being dead (hey, this is a fantasy novel after all) Harry is plunged into his role as the Winter Knight withhout much in the way or mercy (well, what did you expect from the Winter Court). He’s also thrust into a wider world of magic in which a bunch of the previous threads going all the way back to Book 1 are either explained, or even have their apparent original explanations yanked away and a deeper truth revealed. It’s pretty skillfully done, though, so I think quite a lot of the stuff here was in Butcher’s mind from way back (not necessarily all the gory details but the general thrust of things at least). There’s some nice twists in this tale and a brilliant sense of impending doom, only slightly averted by the denouement here. Lots of excretory intersections with air moving devices still to come from this and doubtless further threads to be explored. IMHO Butcher is doing a pretty good job with the levelling up issue and isn’t shying away from the character implications for both his hero and the supporting characters.


Current Mood: (accomplished) accomplished
Current Music: None


a_cubed: (Default)

The umpteenth Harry Dresden novel by Jim Butcher follows up on the previous one titled “Changes” by exploring that changes made in the universe in the last installment. Harry’s back, but after being assassinated he’s back as a ghost, with the task of solving his own murder as well as helping his friends with the fallout from his previous apocalypse. Things have got darker in Chicago in his absence, and his friends are not faring so well in this not-so-brave new world. Meanwhile, most of them can’t see Harry and even if and when they can, they don’t all believe in his identity and/or good intentions. I’ve seen some criticism of this from people who feel the series has jumped the shark but I think he’s dealing well with the inevitable levelling up that Harry’s been going through n the previous books, setting new challenges, all tied in to earlier plot threads that he’s dropped along the way.


Current Mood: (accomplished) accomplished
Current Music: None


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

A one-off collaboration between Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm. A mixture of police procedural in Lakota, Ohio and Gypsy/Celtic mythology. Written well before the modern trend for urban fantasy, though after De Lint’s Jack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon. An interesting set of authorial voices (a both Burst and Linholm tend to create) combine with a deep twisting of European folklore in a lovely little tale of murder, good, evil, temptation and redemption.


This is one of those books that’s sat on my shelf unread for many years and I’m glad I finally got round to it.


Current Mood: (accomplished) accomplished
Current Music: None


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

A recent (very) occasional strip published in 2000AD comic, the two so far are collected in this somewhat overpriced Graphic Novel (GBP12 for around forty pages). The title of the volume is that of the first of the two stories. This is a Cthulhu-mythos-inspired tale of an upper class gentleman and his servant (a bit of Lord Peter Whimsey and a bit of Bertie Wooster) who go around investigating and fighting incursions into our reality by elder things. There’s a shadowy government conspiracy lurking in the background but no real details on that given in these two tales, just its introduction. A fun little read if you like the Mythos, reasonably well-done and the characterisations aren’t derivative per se, though it’s difficult in such a short selection to really distinguish them from so many other 20s/30s pairings of post-war upper and lower-class former soldiers. Decently drawn to reflect the settings and action.


Current Mood: (calm) calm
Current Music: Doctor Who Season Four OST


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

Another Simon R. Green romp, this time the latest in his Bond-ish (in title at least) urban fantasy about the Droods,  the secret agents with sufficiently advanced technology (strange matter) help that they look like magical creatures. The titles are drawn from Bond but are sometimes little really to do with the actual subject matter. This latest one sees Eddie Drood recoving from being dead (hmm, shades of Butcher’s Ghost Story, there – pun intended) and taking on a cthulhish cult. More excellent modern urban pulp fantasy churned out by the bucketload by Green who hit his stride with Something from the Nightside and has been running along nicely since.


Current Mood: (refreshed) refreshed
Current Music: None


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

Simon R. Green channels P. J. Hammond in this third installment of adventures with the ghostfinders of the Carnacki Institute. This is a fun little romp of a Sapphire and Steel plot but with Green’s wisecracking reference-filled style laid on top. There’s some good progress on the ongoing plot arc of the series together with a neat little closed-world plot that chunters along steadily, with chills and spills along the way. Modern pulp urban fantasy at its best.


Current Mood: (refreshed) refreshed
Current Music: None


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

The front cover has a quote from “The Denver Post” (that well-known literary reviewing journal) that this “succeds on making cyberpunk fun again.” I wasn’t aware that it had stopped being fun when it was well done. Unfortunately, for me at least, this one isn’t well done. It read very much like a first novel, althoughit’s the author’s sixth published novel. There’s a decent plotline underlying it with an interesting idea, though i’m not sure it’s really cyberpunk. It seems to teeter on the edge of being parody/humour without reaching into being funny, but with the bizarre edge ruining thenormal suspension of disbelief. For me, humour like Surfing Samurai Robots or Aprin’s Phule series (review to come soon, I read them this year but haven’t reviewed them yet) allows for a greater suspension of disbelief since things are meant to be absurd. When you approach this line without being funny, the absurdity breaks the disbelief.


It isn’t the main plot that’s the problem for me, but the characters. They all seem like they’re out of central casting, with their requisite background of craziness. ex-cop, former mental patient, spritualist, antiques thief with Asperger’s Syndrome, abusive criminal boyfriend, conspiracy theorist waiter and on and on. The constant sexual undertones of the main character’s interactions with the females in the book would be spot on in a hard bioled detective parody, but this isn’t such a pardoy, or if it is, it doesn’t parody hard enough.


Current Mood: (cynical) cynical
Current Music: Battlestar Galactica (2003) Season Four Soundtrack


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

The HP Lovecraft Historical Society seems to have missed this one, so I’ve filled it in for them.


Great Cthulhu’s Coming to Town (lyrics)


You better watch out

You better keep an eye

Better not doubt

I’m telling you why

Great Cthulhu’s coming to town

Great Cthulhu’s is coming to town

Great Cthulhu’s coming to town


He’s making no list

I’ve checked this out twice;

Gonna find out Who’s tasty and nice

Great Cthulhu’s coming to town

Great Cthulhu’s coming to town

Great Cthulhu’s coming to town


He sees you in your safe place

He knows if you’re alive

He doesn’t care if you’ve been bad or good

Just to stay sane you must strive!

O! You better watch out

You better keep an eye

Better not doubt

I’m telling you why

Great Cthulhu’s coming to town

Great Cthulhu’s coming to town

Great Cthulhu’s coming to town


Creative Commons Licence

Great Cthulhu’s Coming to Town (Lyrics) by Andrew Alexander Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at http://blog.a-cubed.info/?p=637.


Current Mood: (amused) amused
Current Music: Star Wars Episode III OST


a_cubed: (Default)

Last one today, I promise (for those whose friends-list is filling up with my book blogging). I’m determined to catch up on a Cherryh kick I went through a few months ago but didn’t get around to blogging.


Yet another of her Alliance/Union books, this is one of the Merchanter-based ones, though it also includes the Fleet. It’s a fairly late on in the post-Company Wars era, so still directly linked to the events of Downbelow Station rather than much further down the timeline.


This is the coming-of-age story of a young man whose upbringing has been screwed up royally by his screwed up mother and her complacent self-satisfied family, on a classic Merchanter family trading ship. Conceived in a rape but as we eventually find out one which while the victim didn’t deserve (no one ever does) the victim was hardly a sensible and sane woman to start with.


We get Cherryh’s over-the-shoulder third person trademark on multiple characters in this story and as with a number of her other books she remarkably manageds to make some really screwed up and nasty people really work as main characters. It helps that the main character Joh Bowe Hawkins is as sane and positive a character as he can be given his background. His coming-of-age is the main point of the book, behind which is an explanation of some of what happened to the Earth Company Fleet after Downbelow Station. Wonderfully ethically-grey as much of Cherryh’s writing is, this explores some of the darker sides of the human character and comes out with a message that even the most screwed around can posibly find somewhere to fit in.


A nice addition to the Merchanter set and one of my favourites of that subsqeuence, along with Rimrunners.


Current Mood: (calm) calm
Current Music: Star Wars Episode II OST


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

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The long-awaited (approximately two decades) sequel to Cyteen. This picks up mere months after the events in Cyteen and all takes place over a few months time. Compared to the timescale of Cyteen which follows the death of the first Ariane Emory and the growth to early adulthood of her clone, this is a breakneck pace. There are some retcons in here, such as the xeplanation of the inconsistent numbering of some of the Azi in Cyteen, and the introduction of a few Azi who didn’t appear in the first, giving all the Reseune natural born senior people at least one Azi companion. There’s also an attempt to deal with the outdated computer terminology and the introduction of more advanced computing systems. Other than that the basic set-up remains the same and the storyline continues on where Cyteen left off in both personal and political terms. The mystery of what really happened to Ariane Emory I is revealed, though it’s a little bit of a violation of the law of Chekov’s gun. This is a nice read, but sadly not up to the masterpiece qualities of Cyteen. Then again that was always going to be a hard act to follow and twenty years on even more so. It’s clearly written with scope for another sequel, but whether it will get one is, I think, doubtful. It’s less demanding of one than Cyteen, possibly because  Cherryh has an honesty towards her fans and so leaves things open enough for an interesting further installment without leaving so many juggling balls up in the air it leaves one slightly unsatisfied (as the slightly abrupt ending of Cyteen did for me, being it’s only major flaw, I think) given how long this took to get commissioned. Definitely worth reading if you like Cyteen.


Current Mood: (calm) calm
Current Music: Star Wars Episode II OST


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

What to say about this Hugo Award Winner? It was a masterpiece at the time and remains a classic of the genre. Some elements of it have not dated well, unfortunately, in particular the terminology surrounding the compters. The constant mention of Tapes is slightly dated even for 1989 and the lack of graphical interfaces likewise. These niggles aside, though the strengths of the book in protraying  a monstrous main character as sympathetic, in two “incarnations” while weaving politics, psychgology, sociology, economics and personal vendettas together is absolutely wonderful. Her trademark alienation is more overt in some ways here as she explains Union’s “Specials” as people with a vision of something int he universe that only they can see, but that is important to humanity for them to articulate in a way that will eventually allow others to comprehend their vision and assimilate it fully. Perhaps even more relevant today as the pace of technological change continues to increase while the social fabric struggles to cope with those changes.


I remember being in one of Cherryh’s GoH programme items at Bucconeer where she was asked about if and when she’d write the sequel to Cyteen (it was clearly crying out for a sequel and written with one in mind). Her response was that she’d write it as soon s a publisher was willing to pay her for it to be written (as a pro, she wrote to contract and it was on offer but no one was picking it up, at least not for what she was willing to accept for it [my subtext]). I found this bizarre at the time that no publisher would pick up the contract for the sequel to a Hugo Winner (by a multiple winner of the Hugo for best novel). Luckily, eventually someone did pick it up.


If you haven’t read this and have even a vague liking for science fiction, go read it now!


Current Mood: (calm) calm
Current Music: Star Wars Episode II OST


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

Sorry for the flood of posts. I’m trying to catch up on my book blogging for the year as work winds down a bit, so I can try and manage the task I set myself at the start of reviewing all the books I’ve read.


This is the sequel to Heavy Time and features many of the same characters. It follows them as they reform their group, brought together to try and fly the prototype of the advanced attack ships carried by the carriers of the Earth Fleet. A familiar name from earlier written later-in-internal-chronology book Downbelow Station turns up: Jurgen Graff. The main storyline is just as engaging for me as Heavy Time, with a(n attempted) murder mystery, political shenanigans, interpersonal relationship conflicts and philosophy of sociology all joining the mix. The only weakness to my mind is that there are some continuity issues with the Fleet information from Downbelow Station with regards to Mallory’s status as third-most-senior of the Fleet Captains, despite Keu and Kreshov being listed here as senior in the nascent fleet and still in command at the time of Downbelow Station.


This neepery aside, this is another cracking book, with brilliant pacing and excellent characterisation and plotting.


Current Mood: (calm) calm
Current Music: Star Wars Episode II OST


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

This is the earliest book (in internal chronology) so far that Cherryh has written in her Alliance/Union (aka Merchanter) future history. Together with its immediate sequel (post to come soon as this is a catch-up post) it’s also the primary “Earth” sub-sequence. This one is set in the asteroid belt where independent miners compete with corporation-run (i.e. corporation-screwed) miners and others to identify rocks worth mining for their metal content. The demand for the contents at this point is principally to provide the raw materials for the carrier fleet which plays such a crucial part in events yet to come, but which those familiar with this universe of course know about. This is an interesting explication of a political situation which has been described from afar (both in time and space) in her earlier books. It’s also about her trademark alienated character coming to terms with their alien surroundings. In this case it’s the character of Decker coming to terms with the loss of his partner, the utter injustice of the situation (he knew it was unjust, he just didn’t realise quite how blatant it was) and his own mental imbalance brought on by the loss of his original partner. It’s a really nice near-space piece, that explores the possible consequences of a solar system partially settled by heavy corporate interests, who’ve gradually chipped away at human rights, to the extent that even paper is banned.


This is one of my favourites of Cherryh’s, mostly due to the wonderful characterisations. The speech patterns of each character is built up with great precision and, along with another of her trademarks (the over-the-shoulder third person view) one really gets to know and care about these characters. The eight deadly words are nowhere in sight here, for me at least.


Current Mood: (calm) calm
Current Music: Star Wars Episode II OST


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

The third and so far as I know final Zoot Marlowe book starts once more with his return to his home planet. THis time his grandfather persuades him to bring him along for the ride, giving him an even harder time explaining their physical form. But this being a timeless California 80s, the only people who really look deeply into it don’t take it any further. In this installment we meet Whipper Will’s father Iron (middle name Duke), his landlord Max Toodemax and re-encounter Mr Knighten Daise (transformed from his lobster incarnation to a camel this time).


Whipper’s father’s android business, currently producing Melt-O-Mobiles which get extruded by a dispenser and dissolve into smoke instead of requiring to be parked, has some difficulty with their superhero Androids going stale and he wants Whipper back working for him. Connected or not, someone kidnaps Whipper and Zoot’s surfer friends, Whipper’s girlfriend and Zoot’s grandfather Zamp. Zoot follows the trail with his hard-boiled wit and his idekick Surfing Samurai Robot duck sidekick Bill. The fun lasts all the way through the trilogy and I’d be happy if there were more to discover.


Current Mood: (tired) tired
Current Music: None


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

October 2016

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