Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Month: Sep 2013

Rush – Hold Your Fire

This is the successor to Power Windows and you could argue it’s more of the same. At least on first listen.

Synths are definitely more front and centre and on a few tracks, they dominate so strongly, you wonder if Alex Lifeson is on the record at all. Particularly on tracks like Tai Shan which veers heavily into synth-pop/New Wave territory. The band later admitted the song was a mistake. I don’t mind it personally, but it’s not Rush, that’s for sure.

While I said this album is more of the same compared to Power Windows, it’s not the unity that album was. It took me a lot longer to warm to Hold Your Fire. Where the songs on Power Windows individually felt like one eighth of a whole, there’s none of that rhythm. No space and power together here. Lots of either, but not both. The guitars sound short and sharp and are often buried under all the 80s synths. For the first (and only time) Rush use a female vocalist, on Time Stand Still. That’s indicative of the direction they went here and some fans may have wondered where their favourite hard rock/prog rock band went, me included.

That being said, there are some glorious rockers here, namely Force Ten and Turn The Page. Neil Peart’s lyrics are at their preachiest on any record they’ve made and in a way I’m glad they retreated from the overall vibe of their “synth period” that started with Moving Pictures. It reaches an apex here and the next album, Presto is a far harder, guitar-heavy record.

hold your fire

Paolo Bacigalupi – The Windup Girl

The Windup GirlThe Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Actually, I’d give this a 4.75 out of 5, but there’s no way to do that here.

I knock it down from a perfect score simply as I don’t believe the energy future the author has created. He expects us to believe that in the 23rd Century, everything runs on spring-laden potential energy or pedal power? Really? No hydrogen, no solar, no fusion, no wind, no hydroelectricity, no tidal, nothing? Nope, not buying it.

With that out of the way, what we have here is a masterpiece. A horrible, bleak future where GMOs have virtually destroyed the world, where the empires of old have crumbled and all that remains are petty states eking it out. But we have Thailand, a dragon amongst skinks, and that is where this story takes place.

Ostensibly, it’s about the titular windup girl, a Japanese GM female engineered to be a servant, but her story takes a back seat to oily politicking and industrial espionage. The real battleground is the political arena. Emiko, the girl in question, does tie everything else up but this is hardly her story.

No, this is a cautionary tale, a world gone mad with genetic engineering and global warming, rife with racism and neo-colonialism. The author pulls no punches here and ought to be congratulated to taking the anti-Western stand he does. It’s refreshing to read.

Still don’t think it’s an accurate description of the future, but that’s a minor quibble.

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