Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Tag: tens (page 1 of 2)

Altered Carbon – TV series

I watched this ten part series on Netflix recently, and it’s left me with mixed feelings. On one note, I hope the future depicted in this series (and the books) never comes to pass. On another note, I was impressed with the cast of the series, each of whom acquitted themselves excellently, particularly Joel Kinnaman as Kovacs and Martha Higareda as Ortega. Kudos to the ever-reliable James Purefoy too.

It’s gritty, well-made and produced, full of death, gore, nudity and the high-tech. No nice guys anywhere. It’s a neon-glitzy yet filthy future no decent person wants to find themselves in. Apart from the excellent fight scenes and gripping action, the series also has its lulls, and Episode 7, which dealt mainly in flashback with Kovacs’ time with Quellcrist on Harlan’s World dragged on. And that last episode? Talk about end with a whimper. I don’t know yet if Netflix made enough dough to put Broken Angels into production, but there’s hints the storyline of Kovacs continues.

The book Altered Carbon (which I reviewed here) isn’t fresh enough in my mind to know whether the series stuck to it or not. In the main, I think it did, but I do recall Kovacs being sleeved into the body of a woman at one stage, something the series omitted. The series kept the dystopian, hopeless for most future of the book intact though. Being able to save your consciousness to a device and then be implanted into a new body is something I hope never happens. It probably will, and that’ll be another slide down the self-destruction slope for humankind.

The story illustrates the philosophy that immortality is a bad thing and if it turns out like Altered Carbon, I thoroughly agree. If I hate to rate this series, I’d give it an 8/10. It’s very good, if you’re willing to put up with a few lulls and too many trips into flashback.

Blade Runner 2049 plot holes

Spoilers abound! Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the film.

  • As a civilian, how was Luv able to traipse into a police station and steal Rachel’s bones without being apprehended/shot/zapped or whatever?
  • As a civilian, how was Luv able to traipse into a police station and kill the lieutenant, after previously stealing bones, and killing the forensic scientist?
  • As a civilian, how was Luv able to deploy an armed drone and fire missiles?
  • For that matter, how are air vehicles allowed to carry armaments and use them in a public area?
  • K is a LAPD cop yet he pulls his badge out on the orphanage master, and the film states he’s in the San Diego area. Isn’t he out of his jurisdiction?
  • Why would Wallace want to send Deckard off-world to show him pain? Doesn’t a guy of his clout and power have the facilities on Earth? Since his enforcer Luv has already demonstrated a blase disregard for the law, why would it matter?
  • What made K so special that he had Deckard’s daughter’s memories implanted into him?
  • Joshi and Luv seem to have a history. How do they know one another?

I’m sure I’ll think of more as time goes by. I liked the film, despite its propensity toward artiness and consider it a worthy successor to the original.

Matthew Hughes – The Other

The OtherThe Other by Matthew Hughes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ah, judging books by their covers, what folly. You know, from the sly and self-serving smirk on Luff Imbry’s face, I expected this to be a tale about deception, intrigue, derring-do, skulduggery and the like. No, what we have here is an adventure tale cum quest fantasy where Mr Imbry is not really in much of a position to play scoundrel, rogue or rascal. In fact, he spends much of his time figuring out how to escape from the world of inbred religious loonies he’s been stranded upon.

In fact, I feel a little cheated, though I shouldn’t be. The novel’s blurb states quite unequivocally that Imbry is a rascal and a crook and I guess in the other stories he features in, he may well be precisely those things. In this book, his implied talent for cleverness and deception is put aside by a need for self-preservation and some mystery solving.

All that aside, the novel could be best described as pleasantly serviceable. From what little I know of this author, I believe he writes in the Jack Vance vein, which is something I’ve always thought to be fraught with deceptive danger. Vance had a style that is seductive to an author – you want to imbue your every sentence with whimsical poesy and colourful verbiage. He’s easy to imitate – I’ve done it too, but he’s extremely difficult (if not impossible) to master. Underneath the “big words” and the dash and the colour lies a scintillating internal logic that only Vance understood. I don’t think anyone will master his voice, only approximate it.

While there are echoes of Vance’s work in the beginning and end sections of this book, it’s too matter of factly constructed to be Vance. It’s also decidedly nastier than anything Vance ever wrote. Vance liked to throw the odd barb at religion and those who adhered to it like glue, but this book all but names religions the playground of the weak-minded and pliable. Doesn’t disguise itself in any way.

Also, I felt like I was reading one novel and portions of another. The beginning and the ending seem to come from outside the central narrative – there’s things going on before and after this story that are alluded to, but I’m not seeing anywhere in the book that this is part of a series. Goodreads isn’t listing it as one. And only about two thirds through the novel does Imbry actually list who may have led him to the forsaken planet he ended up on. Almost an afterthought.

A couple of quibbles that other reviewers have pointed out. Hughes overuses the word “ineffable” a lot. And why call Imbry a fat man throughout? Does Imbry being fat have any significance above and beyond the fact he likes his dinners? Is it part of some characteristic or notoriety he gained in another story? Without knowing this, I wasn’t sure what the point of it all was.

Anyhow, I like enough of what I saw in this book to seek out more of Hughes’ work.

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The Church – Further/Deeper

So, is this The Church‘s latest and greatest? It’s certainly the former and as for being the greatest, no I don’t think so, though I do rate it. It’s grown on me, far more so than the more mystic, reflective Untitled #23. While there’s nothing on this record that approaches the spacey directness of Starfish, it’s a direct album in a glistening kind of way. Maybe that’s to do with new guitarist Ian Haug, who replaced Marty Willson-Piper. Haug’s background is alternative rock with Powderfinger, and his influence may have reined in some of Kilbey‘s experimental tendencies.

Make no mistake though, this is a Church record in every sense, although what that sense is varies usually from album to album. Like I said in another review, each Church record swims in its own logic and this one is no different. As with most of this band’s material, repeated listens are mandatory and if you don’t get their particular brand of psych rock, then you won’t get this album.

Further/Deeper continues a Church tradition begun with Heyday‘s Myrrh in having a trippy, driving opening track, most prominently highlighted by cuts such as Starfish‘s Destination or Gold Afternoon Fix‘s Pharaoh. This record’s Vanishing Man definitely rates among the best Church openers.

In fact, the record goes from strength to strength as you get further and deeper (!) into it – to a point. Album highlights include the surging, throbbing Globe Spinning, which is about as close as The Church gets to a new wave track, and then there’s the delightful Laurel Canyon, and the equally scintillating Love Philtre. The record runs out of steam a little toward the end, though it picks up in a slamming, bright fashion with Miami. Trimmed of a little fat, this record would rate in the top 5 for anything they’ve ever done, yet thirty four years after the release of Of Skins and Heart, it’s marvellous business as usual for The Church. Further and Deeper indeed.

further deeper cover

Steve Kilbey – Miscellanaea Whispers in the Static

Well, what a glorious surprise this was. To be fair, I haven’t given much of Steve Kilbey’s solo work a real listen as what I’ve heard tends to blur together with many songs fighting to distinguish themselves. Yet his first record, the glorious Unearthed, is a masterpiece, full of hidden corners and sonic whisperings. At the other end of the catalogue, this collection with its purposefully misspelled title is almost its equal. Where Unearthed is a crafted album united in theme, this one is a motley crew of odds and sods but what marvellous offcuts and fragments it is.

It opens with the propulsive shimmer of Flummoxed, and things stay in palpably weird and vibrant territory thereafter. The record, true to its sewn together nature, it about half sung, half instrumental. There’s a couple of commissioned songs he’s written for others, such a A Song for Debby and James, and the glorious A Song for Domenique. He’s even concocted a string quartet rendition of Alice Cooper’s Poison which I think is a few notches up the totem pole from the original.

Some of the instrumentals rank among the best things he’s done, such as Carbon Nitrogen and Oxygen, Stately Garden Music and the Wild East.

But the album highlight would be the closing Panthalassic Sea, which wouldn’t be out of place on a Church record.

I love this collection and I can’t get enough of it. The one before it, The Idyllist, hasn’t grabbed me the way this one has with is unplanned, delightful chaos. Mr. Kilbey, more like this please.


New music in January

As with the review I did in December, “new” means new to my ears, not the dictionary definition. With that established, let us move on…

First up was Queen of the Stone Age‘s …Like Clockwork. I’m not a fan of bluesy hard rock and this record didn’t grab me in any way or shape on first listen and that dissuaded me enough from a second listen. It’s a bit like the Them Crooked Vultures record I listened to in the previous review (same lead singer) and though I’m absolutely sure this kind of music has its fans and adherents, I’m not one of them. Anyhow, Led Zeppelin did this sort of thing better, let’s face it.

We come to St Etienne‘s Sound of Water. I’m still struggling to recount what it is I exactly heard on this record. At times it reminded me of Missing Persons running headlong into Madonna but in the main, the music kind of just drifted by. Not something I’d want to listen to again. Not my cup of chai – the beeps and bleeps were all wrong.

sound of water

Lastly, we have Sarah Blasko and her What the Sea Wants, the Sea Will Have recordThis one kind of drifted by as well with nothing I recall standing out. Alternative rock/singer-songwriter or something like that is what the press and fans label this kind of music.

So, three records of material that isn’t my bailiwick, That happens.

Also gave a whirl to Peter Gabriel‘s third self-titled record (“Melt”), Nazareth‘s greatest hits, Midnight Oil‘s 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 and The Clash‘s London Calling. Apart from the Nazareth record, I’ve listened to the others before, wholly or partially. I’m still not sold on London Calling being the epic work the world says it is. Maybe I didn’t get the memo.

Anyhow, that’s that for January.

New music in December

New music as far as my ears are concerned. Of everything mini-reviewed here, only The Church‘s Further/Deeper is new.

First off the rank: In Rolling Waves by The Naked and Famous. My only previous exposure to this New Zealand band was through a TV commercial for Strongbow Cider, which used their song Young Blood.

It’s a curious album, reminding me of nothing really. It’s enjoyable with its strange hooks and rhythms but it’s not something I’d be in a rush to listen to again.

Next was Them Crooked Vultures‘ self-titled effort. As you’d expect from a group that features Led Zeppelin’s bassist John Paul Jones, it’s bluesy hard rock, and not particularly distinguished hard rock at that. You’re better off just listening to Zep themselves. Competent record in the main, but it’s not my cup of java.

Then I came to My Chemical Romance‘s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. Pretty much what I expected. Thirteen songs of fairly full-tilt melodic pop/punk. It’s all good fun, but it’s nothing different from dozens of things that have come before, and this band doesn’t do it in any way special or noteworthy.

Next up is Metric‘s Synthetica. I like it – it’s synthpop/neo-new wave updated to 2010s sensibilities and production techniques. Half Blondie, half The Cars with a few barbs along the way. Even the now late Lou Reed turns up on one track. The lead singer occasionally sounds like Chrissie Amphlett, same kind of nasal voice.

metric synthetica

Mark Lawrence – The Prince of Fools

Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War, #1)Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Doesn’t hold a candle to the first series and Jalan is nowhere the character Jorg Ancrath was. And as Mark Lawrence has admitted, there’s a bit of Fraser’s Flashman in Jalan. Well, Jalan is no Harry Paget Flashman, VC. Not even close. Not even remotely. He’s a pallid clone of a pallid clone. In fact, Jalan is not even a close runner to Vance’s Cugel, who’s #2 when it comes to fictional cowardly rogues.

Which is all a shame because I like Lawrence’s smart-assy writing. It’s refreshing and makes a change from the “fantasy is serious business” style many of his peers have.

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Scott Lynch – Republic of Thieves

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard, #3)The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This installment spends far too much time in flashback for my liking. It’d be great if Locke Lamora was an engaging character, but he isn’t. It’s like Lynch is purposely withholding vital or telling information about his protagonist for a future volume.

Either that, or he simply doesn’t know how to create a compelling lead character. All of the significant attendant characters are more fleshed out or have more intrinsic interest than Locke Lamora. While there’s many successful books out there in history where this is so, I’ve always found it to be poor character development.

So reading the acres of flashback was a chore. I’m sorry, Scott Lynch, I couldn’t care less about Locke as a kid. You don’t give me a solid reason to. It’s the right here, right now that drives your characters, not the infatuation they had for a girl when they were ten.

Further, I think Lynch is starting to fall for the cult that’s surrounding him and his stories. His tales are popular and so’s he. There’s a lot of lazy writing going on here, with too much reliance on cheap KHAAAAN! type over-dramatic effects. Too much pointless and nagging banter between Jean and Locke too. Almost at sitcom level.

Yet for all this, Lynch knows how to spin a good yarn, like Feist etc, before him. The world he’s made is intriguing and well-developed.

Just…make Locke Lamora a more interesting character please, without resorting to ineffective narrative tricks like flashbacks.

All right, so flashbacks aren’t an ineffective literary trick, but they can be overdone, like anything else literary. It’s overdone in this book. Too much history, not enough right now.

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Mark Charan Newton – Drakenfeld

Drakenfeld (Lucan Drakenfeld, #1)Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Intriguing story held back by some very broken up narrative and dialogue. So much so that it seriously gets in the way. It never flows smoothly. Apart from this, the tale could have used with a bit more flair too – and we never get in the mind of Drakenfeld enough. He’s far too faceless. First person perspectives are a good opportunity to get into the head of your character, mess with them a little, spice them up, but we don’t know any more about Lucan Drakenfeld at the end of this book than we did at the beginning. It’s far too matter of fact.

Not sure if I want to pursue this series if one does eventuate.

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