65 ώρες και συνεχίζουμε, εξαιρόντας τις ώρες που άφησα το παιχνίδι να τρέχει μόνο του για να δω τι περίεργος διαφορετικός κόσμος θα έβγαινε μέχρι τη 2α Ιανουαρίου του 1821. Ο λόγος -ένας από αυτούς δηλαδή- που δεν γράφω όσο θα ήθελα αυτές τις μέρες. Να, τώρα ας πούμε. Ήθελα να τελειώσω ένα ποστ που γράφω εδώ και έναν μήνα αλλά με συγχωρείτε, το χρέος με καλεί…
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I discovered Roger Zelazny from Ran Prieur’s recommended books list (scroll all the way to the bottom). Basically, our Earth and reality is one of many, one of countless Shadow worlds. The one true world is Amber, and there are 9 princes who all claim the throne to it. If this smells like Game of Thrones with a hearty dose of The Dark Tower to you, you have an excellent nose.
The story was simple and straightforward, without too many descriptions which would have made me turn the pages in frustration as I had done with The Lord of the Rings. The characters aren’t very well fleshed out, apart from Corwin (the protagoinst), but honestly I didn’t really care: the action and the scope were so grand and the plot development centered around Corwin, with his own very lucid and personalable narration, so engaging from the very first pages to the very last, that I didn’t miss not finding out too much about the rest of the princes. The problem is that the plot isn’t limited to those very last pages. The first book was a good introduction to the world of Amber and Corwin’s story, the internal plot was resolved, a round and bubbly sigh of optimism was left, but the huge events the book basically hints at are barely even put into motion. I suppose that’s a problem with any series in any medium.
Perhaps the thing I liked the most about Zelazny’s writing was his edge, his cheekiness and willingness to play around with expectations. If the rest of the books set in Amber are in a similar style, I’m in for a treat!
I feel bad for not having posted anything about Dan Carlin earlier. I’ve been listening to his podcasts for months now. Common Sense is political commentary with an edge, keeping it very real but no less engaging and insightful, whereas Hardcore History is historical commentary and narration with an even sharper edge! He is a wise person and I enjoy his shows very much, they’re excellent food for thought and for my
side whole which loves anything that gives alternative meanings and explanations to stuff we think we know. It is always a great reminder for how little there is that we know compared to what’s out out there and how distorted, biased and altered that little we know really is. It’s a reality (ironic, isn’t it) wake-up call I quite often find myself in need of. Same reason I love You Are Not So Smart. 🙂
Common Sense has plenty of episodes and is more pic’n’mix-y. Go in there, download what might look interesting to you, pop that little sumbitch in your MP3 player and enjoy — preferably going on a long walk! That’s exactly what I’m going to do tonight with the first episode after the US elections.
Hardcore History I feel is more suitable for me to suggest some episodes from:
Logical Insanity — Was dropping the atomic bombs on Japan such a despicable act, considering what else had gone on during the war as far as attrocities go? A history of strategic bombing in the first part of the 20th century.
Globalization Unto Death — The story of Magellan’s voyage and some insights I bet you’ve never heard of (at least I never had). Such as: who was really the first person to circumnavigate the globe? How did people first meeting indigenous South Americans react to them? What inspired people to become sailors in the 16th century, knowing full well that most of the exploration caravels never came back?
Ghosts of the Ostfront — A haunting journey to the oft-forgotten Eastern Front of World War II, by itself the largest military conflict of all time.
Suffer the Children — Is it possible that history as we know it is a result of all the children having been mistreated in times past, therefore, according to contemporary psychology, growing up to in turn mistreat others as a result? Listen to this if you feel you need some hope for the future.
I know that the two above episodes can’t be accessed unless you buy them. Well, if you’re reading this and would like to listen to them, I’d be glad to share them with you. You can tell how much I like this guy by the fact that I’ve bought plenty of his past work already. Dan, if you ever read this, I hope the fact might spare me from your wrath. 🙂
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“I don’t know why I find it intensely erotic to stand naked before an open fridge, but I do. Maybe it’s something to do with the expectation of a hunger soon to be satisfied, maybe it’s that the spill of light on my body makes me feel like a professional stripper. Maybe something weird happened to me when I was young. It is an alarming feeling, mind, because all those assembled food-stuffs put ideas in your head you’re on the rise. Stories of what you can do with the unsalted butter on ripe melons or raw liver, they crowd your head as the blood begins to rush.
“I spotted a big slab of Red Leicester and pulled off a piece with my hands. I stood there chewing for some time, buzzing with happiness.
“Thas was when the idea came to me, full born.
“The force of it made me gape. A mashed pellet of bread fell from my open mouth and at once the blood flew upwards to the brain where it was needed, leaving my twitching excitement below with nothing to do but shrink back like a started snail.”
No wonder this man can write so eloquently and wittily about penises. It’s a great thing it’s not just them he can write like that about.
Stephen Fry is some sort of homo universalis: a modern day Leonardo Da Vinci, only much funnier. He’s an actor, a humourist, a TV show preseneter, a walking encyclopedia, an activists for gay rights, a linguist… an intellectual all around. I had no idea he was a writer on top of all that but it comes as no real shock. One can’t resist but nod silently, in contemplation and agreement to Mitchell & Webb’s “who doesn’t want to be like Stephen Fry?”.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that the book I had picked from Politeia, just because it had “Stephen Fry” and “History” written with large playful letters on the cover where it also had a picture of a cat, had to do with WWII and alternate history. I was thrilled! It’s been some time since I last read a 500-page book in less than 10 days. It was a good page-turner, not too memorable or original, but for a lover of good alternate history and for one that wouldn’t turn down well-written science fiction, it was rather good.
I know that the best part of such stories, at least for me, is finding out the little details of the “fictional” worlds that have branched out differently. Therefore, I shall not disclose anything but what’s necessary to whet your appetite: if Hitler had never been born, how can we be sure that the evil he was responsible for would have been equally prevented? Would Rock & Roll have ever been born? Would Orwell live to write 1984? What would the computers look like in 1996 — the year the book was written? Stephen Fry in his signature cerebral style includes real historical tidbits on many personalities of the past as well as science and cultural background that make the thing more believeable. It seems only right that a man with a broad range of interests such as himself would be the perfect candidate to write such a demanding genre as alternate history.
I’ll roll this review up leaving you with this: at one point of the book, the protagonist decides that the format of a novel is not enough to convey the action; the book promptly switches to telling the story by means of being a film script, only to switch back when the heavy action’s suddenly over:“I fade from Hollywood screenplay format to dull old, straight old prose because that’s how it felt. That’s how it always feels in the end.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I started replaying Majora’s Mask a few weeks ago and that was enough reason for me to start looking again for books, movies or other games with a similar central idea. Replay appears to be the original work of fiction which examined this particular kind of thought experiment this exhaustively. In Replay, it’s not three days or a single day like in Groundhog Day –which this book directly inspired; it’s 25 years.
The concept sounded very exciting — if you’re fan of this narrative gimmick like I am, of course. 25 years sounds like enough time for anyone to be able to do pretty much anything they want in and live comfortably. What could possibly go wrong with Jeff’s new life, what could possibly produce any kind of drama and make the book interesting? Well, let’s just say that long-term relationships, including families, don’t exactly thrive on such circumstances…
Every replay was a mystery and the possibilities were spreading out in front of me together with Jeff every time he returned to 1963. But I could not always identify with some of his choices or the way he opted to handle some matters, like
I also thought it was sloppy writing having all the sporting events conveniently turn out exactly the same way every time. In what kind of cause-effect comological system do teams of players play exactly the same way, the same horses come first 25 years in 25 years out? This story could have a lot of extra worth as a feast of alternate history but unfortunately it does not deliver anywhere close to what it could, apart fromthat little bit close to the end whenI gusss Ken Grimwood (great name for a writer, btw) wanted to have the best of both a clockwork and a quantum theory world.
Another of my qualms:
You know what? Now I want to watch Star Sea. It would be my favourite movie ever. I bet I’d also be one of the geeks that liked Continuum.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
1964, Berlin, Greater German Empire. A week from Adolf Hitler’s 75th birthday. No-one remembers what Germany was like before the war. What does it matter? The Führer is God, he saved Germany from mortal danger and raised her to become the world’s mightiest. All follow the Leader completely blindly, a Goebbelsian utopia come true. All? Gestapo officer Xavier “Zavi” March is the right man, at the right place, at the right time, and is about to catch a glimpse of the Third Reich’s best kept and most horrible secret…
1964 Nazi Berlin is very convincing. World politics following a Nazi victory in the War also make the mood for this alternate history fittingly gloomy. Albert Speer’s Germania plans for Berlin have all come to pass, including the awe-inspiring Great Hall. An illustration of the book’s timeline’s central Berlin welcomes the reader right at the beginning of the book setting up the climate quite “appropriately”.
Xavier March is a burdened man. His son, a result of his failed marriage, looks to the regime for a father figure instead of him. He’s been working for 10 years as a successful Sturmbannführer but with no promotion. “The Fox”, his work nickname, is a great lead character. He’s surprisingly clever (he’s an investigator and this is a thriller, after all!) but his weaknesses and mistakes are easy to spot throughout the story, grounding him and making him a realistic lead. I was rooting for him all the way.
A thing I liked about Fatherland and Robert Harris’s writing is that it had little details that made it easier to imagine each scene or situation. Insignificant descriptions, like the way some-one breathes or what he or she looks like while walking away, associations March makes with things he notices, hears, touches or smells give the story a much more personal feel, it makes it easier to identify with the –thankfully, unknown for us– circumstances. I could really feel as if I was actually there, as if I was — shudder– March myself .
The plot can be a bit confusing at first, reflecting the lead’s own confusion with the case of the murder by Lake Havel, but as it thickens, as no-one you think could be trusted comes through, as some things become apparent and others come as shocking revelations and turnarounds, everything is made clear and fits well. It took me maybe three weeks to read the first half of the book. I don’t have great experience with police mysteries, but this is more than that. It took me another three days to finish it. This should tell all.