These crack me up…!
These crack me up…!
as opposed to last time!
So it’s been some time since I read a John Scalzi book. While I enjoyed the Old Man’s War series, that was some time ago. I tried to read Fuzzy Nation, but just couldn’t get into it, so gave up. But then a few weeks ago I came across The Android’s Dream and thought it’d give it a shot. In a nutshell – a great read!
What’s interesting here is that again, Scalzi wears his Heinlein influences well. While Heinlein’s The Star Beast was originally billed as ‘young adult fiction’ when it was written – like some of his other YA books of that era, it’s easily interesting enough to be enjoyed by adults, too. In The Android’s Dream, I felt Scalzi was offering hints of the same humorous background tone as TSB, and his handling of the alien species seemed similar too – meaning that the humans initially discount and condescend to the aliens as weird, lesser species or just petlike – but in the meantime we see the aliens develop over the course of the story to be much more by the end.
In TAD, of course the Nidu are treated as largely human-equivalent but more obnoxious and intense in most cases; the Thragh alien definitely gets his own set of obstacles to examine and overcome, and the humans in the story are fairly cut and dried heroes or villains in turn – you are definitely meant to either root for them strongly or hate them deeply.
The opener is certainly one of the most unique in all the sci-fi books I’ve read, but i’ll either let you read the book (or a spoiler in someone else’s review) to find out more.
The pacing of the book is kept up throughout and definitely kept me keen on the result – there are hints of a key Minority Report (movie) scene in one chapter you may recognize, and I liked the (distant?) echoes of Old Man’s War as we find out more about Harry Creek’s background. Finally, there is more than a bit of implied commentary about the current state of affairs in Washington DC here – and I think Scalzi is as annoyed with things as the rest of us are – but I think he’s optimistic in the end that a few key people with their hearts in the right place may yet prevail.
Defnitely an entertaining read – a nice contrast to the overly serious stuff (e.g. Gideon’s Trumpet, not a sci-fi book) I’ve been reading lately – check it out!
Well, it’s been awhile since I watched any anime – but what’s cool is that despite having thought I had watched most of the ‘really’ cool series (Initial D, Ghost in the Machine, Cowboy Bebop, etc.) there was still at least one more great one out there – Samurai Champloo. Just watched the last episode today, sad to end it.
This is the next series done by the director of Cowboy Bebop, Shinichirō Watanabe. Completed in 2004, it tells the story of a young girl, Fuu, seeking a ‘samurai who smells of sunflowers’, accompanied by two master swordsman – Mugen (a fairly wild man/criminal type who literally lives on the edge nearly the entire series) and Jin (reserved, quiet dojo master fighter who says little but can clearly handle himself). The two effectively act as Fuu’s bodyguards (not always successfully) for the interesting and sometimes crazy situations that crop up along their journey. The story is set in Japan’s isolationist Edo period (late 1600′s to 1800′s) so it’s a very rural society with only basic firearms becoming available, possibly through limited European influence/trading. The travelers journey for a long time across Japan, ending near Nagasaki.
There are a number of interesting parallels with Cowboy Bebop, if you pay close attention. The three main characters vary wildly in personality and are largely thrown together by circumstance, much like the crew of the Bebop in the earlier show. While the journey of the Bebop is a bit more disjointed, an overwhelming sense of wandering without knowing why, where or how is a strong influence on both series. And the characters of both seem to be running from their past lives while somehow circling back to confront them at the same time. Finally, in thinking about it, I can see where Mugen and Jin are arguably the two halves of Spike Spiegel from Bebop – the crazy wild side that loves to fight and thrives on excitement and conflict (Mugen); and the measured, calculating, quiet side that still retains an edge (Jin).
But there are plenty of new things to enjoy about Samurai Champloo, too. The pervasive influence of music and specifically, hip-hop in the theme and at various intervals where you least expect it. The ability of the stories to relate history while putting a new (sometimes blatantly fictional) spin on it. Ultimately, taking a rather simplistic concept that’s been arguably done many times (Kung Fu, the original Hulk tv series, even Samurai Jack) yet still creating something new and very entertaining.
Like most anime, we don’t get to see *all* the motivations of the main characters – many are left to the imagination. And in the usual anime way, there is endless posturing and one-upmanship that I’m starting to think is just a facet of Japanese society (old or new) – but never having been there, i’ll have to take that one on faith for now. And there are a few cliff jumps in this show that are unbelievable (meaning not possible to survive if you did it) but i’m picking nits here.
In summary, I’d have to conclude Samurai Champloo was a very pleasant surprise as to the quality and entertainment value and ranks among the best anime I’ve seen to date, surely up there with those mentioned above – Check it out if you get the chance!
I will *always* stop for a squid comic!
with a screaming goatherd!
The Von Trapps heard them coming from miles away…
very cool video and experiment idea!