Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Month: April 2014

Tangerine Dream – White Eagle

According to Wikipedia, this is TD album number twelve, if one discounts the film soundtracks they’ve done. White Eagle is probably the culmination of their short and sharp period that begun with Force Majeure and ended with Underwater Sunlight. This a tightly built album, with few of the long, swaying meanders of early efforts.

It’s very beat driven, with recurring motifs throughout. The twenty minute opening track, Mojave Plan, is one of the better things they’ve constructed, an occasionally sinister sounding piece of sibilant and ringing electronica that churns along. I get the impression that the band were fans of Vangelis’ work in Blade Runner. That influence is pretty much apparent.

Midnight in Tula is the album highlight, a New-Wave-ish three or so minutes of electronic chugg-a-long. Game-maker System 3 used this track in their game The Last Ninja 2.

Convention of the 24 drones on a bit, and it is this album’s weakest track. Things pick up for a sprightly, if strangely reflective closer in the title track.

Things got dreamier for Tangerine Dream from here, and I’ve covered a couple of albums of theirs where things are certainly ethereal. But White Eagle is concise highlight in their long catalogue.

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Phillip Mann – The Disestablishment of Paradise

The Disestablishment of ParadiseThe Disestablishment of Paradise by Phillip Mann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the knottier books I’ve read. It’s quite a struggle in many places then all of a sudden it picks up, only to mire itself in narrative lulls again. It’s written in a strange mixed-up present tense/recounting style where half of the time it’s a retelling by an interviewer and other times, it’s from the viewpoint of the characters themselves, i.e Hera, Mack and so on. In other words, there’s places where you can’t figure out who is actually telling the story.

Superficially, the book is a cross between something like Lem’s Solaris and an environmentalist’s diary.

Intriguing, hard-going and marginally rewarding. More of a 2½ out of 5 book.

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Jo Spurrier – Winter Be My Shield

Winter Be My Shield (Children of the Black Sun, #1)Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I tried my hardest to wade through this book but in the end, it was simply not possible. I’ll agree with other reviewers here that the book does possess a lot of originality, but I can’t empathise with their enthusiasm for it.

My issues with this book are many – for starters the characters for most of the book, do nothing except wander about in seeming circles from one snow-bound location to the other. There’s lots of dialogue, lots of going back and forth, but little of substance happens. Nothing really happens in the first fifty pages of this book and while that is unfortunately par for the course with fantasy novels, you do live in hope someone will buck the trend. Not today, big guy, not with this one.

Next is the motivation why anything is happening to begin with. There’s a three way war between the natives and two competing empires/kingdoms but we’re given no indication why this is happening. What makes the Ricalani so seductive that two different powers want to subdue them?

Then there’s the characterisations themselves. People do and say things in this book that run contrary to what’s in their face. Not just one character – which is forgivable and indicative of real life itself – but they all do it, villain and hero together. Show them a red ball to the west and they’ll call it a yellow ball and head east. That sort of thing.

It’s all very frustrating to read. And there’s a couple of characters in this book that serve no purpose than to provide opposition to the protagonist’s actions and words for the sake of opposition itself.

In other words, what we have here with Winter Be My Shield is a well-written account of slightly nasty, but generally faceless people puttering about in a magical land of snow.

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