Tag Archives: Robots

Spoiler-free Book Review: The Court of the Air

10 Apr

If I’m being perfectly honest, I bought this book because of it’s cover.

It’s got a pretty font! And there was a cool looking balloon. And a super-cheesy, yet tantalising, tagline. (“A fantastical tale of high adventure, low-life rogues, and orphans on the run.”)

Can't argue with its appeal

Luckily, it managed to live up to my font-driven expectations.

Slotting this book into a genre actually wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be; all I have to do is string words together until they encompass it: it’s a steampunk Victorian fantasy adventure novel.

I think my favourite part about this book is how it shoves you into this new world and just goes, without tedious pages of background explanation. Through the clever use of jargon (in this case, words that are similar enough to their ordinary usage that you can understand their meaning, but used in unusual ways so the world still feels different) you’re plunged into the world without fanfare.

This is one of the few books where I’ve instantly thought “This would make a really good movie.” (Normally, I’m a stickler for original formats: I appreciate the nuances found in a book that a movie wouldn’t be able to convey. And vice versa; I’m an equal opportunity stickler.)

But this book? Would make an awesome movie! This world, done right, would be absolutely beautiful to see on the big screen. There’s so much unique detail: steam-powered living robots, fey mutations and magic users, armoured crab-people, flying bat-winged tribes…and those are just the character possibilities.

You know what would be even better? If it was animated. Not as a kids’ movie, and not necessarily computer animated because I don’t think you’d get the level of detail that this world deserves…but an old-school hand-drawn animated movie. Oh, why don’t I have any artistic skills? I really want this to happen now.

The Court of the Air can be enjoyed as a good old-fashioned adventure novel: exploring and experiencing a new world with the characters as they run for their lives from mysterious forces trying to kill them. (Always fun, right?)

Or, for the literary analysts among us, there’s plenty to read more deeply into. Examples:

  • Political commentary easily conveyed by exaggerating the parliamentary procedures (they actually fight each other during meetings in order to get proposals approved).
  • Social commentary thinly veiled in the described class structure and differenced between the many species/cultures mentioned.
  • Religious contradictions examined, for instance, through the fact that steambots are more spiritual than humans, whose religion is almost indistinguishable from political theory.

The world doesn’t feel as crazy-expansive as most sword-and-sorcery novels do; it’s not spread-out so much that you feel the characters are taking months to trek across it. Not to say that it isn’t good world-building…there are plenty of aspects of this world mentioned in passing which hint at a larger and more detailed universe (which seems like it’s more fully explored and expanded upon in the sequels).

The other covers in the series are just as awesome, and more than enough to encourage me to finish the series. (Yes, I’m shallow in that way. And now I’ve admitted it on the internetz. Damn.)

Has anyone else read it? Want to let me know what you think?

2011: A Year of Geek Movies

8 Jan

There are a ridiculous amount of geeky movies coming out this year.

With superheroes, fairy tales, robots, gods, aliens, vampires, gnomes, zombies, genetically engineered apes, smurfs, pirates, spies, witches, wizards, pandas…the movie selection this year is a smörgåsbord of geek topics.

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Season of the Witch: Jan 7th

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The Green Hornet: Jan 14th

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Gnomeo and Juliet: Feb 11

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I am Number Four: Feb 18th

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All Star Superman: Feb 22nd

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The Adjustment Bureau: March 4th

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Mars Needs Moms: March 11th

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Battle: Los Angeles: March 11th

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Beastly: March 18th

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Paul: March 18th

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Dylan Dog: Dead of Night: March (tentatively)

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Sucker Punch: March 25

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Super: April 1st

Starring Rainn Wilson as The Crimson Bolt, a powerless superhero who wields a wrench, it looks like it’s going to be Kick Ass level of good.

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Source Code: April 1st

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Your Highness: April 8th

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Thor: May 6th

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Priest: May 13th

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: May 20th

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Kung Fu Panda 2: May 27th

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X-Men First Class: June 3rd

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Green Lantern: Emerald Knights: June 7th

Straight to DVD animated movie about Kyle Rayner and a time-travelling Hal Jordan as they team up with the JLA and Green Arrow to fight Sinestro and Parallax.

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Super 8: June 10th

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Rise of the Apes: June 24th

Planet of the Apes prequel which shows how the apes came to rule to world, starring James Franco.

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Green Lantern: June 17th

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Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon: July 1st

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: July 15th

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Captain America: The First Avenger: July 22nd

If you don’t know what this is going to be about, shame on you.

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Cowboys and Aliens: July 29th

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The Smurfs: August 3rd

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Conan the Barbarian: August 19th

Conan”s adventures on his quest to avenge the death of his father and the slaughter of his village.

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Fright Night: August 19th

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Johnny English Reborn: September 16th

Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) tries to stop a band of assassins from killing the Chinese Premier

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Now: September 30th

A society where aging stops at 25 and the rich are immortal while the rest struggle to survive. Starring Justin Timberlake, who’s falsely accused of murder, on the run with his hostage Amanda Seyfried.

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Real Steel: October 7th

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The Thing: October 14th

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Puss in Boots: November 4th

Origins of the swashbuckling cat from the Shrek movies.

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Immortals: November 11th

3D movie where Theseus (Henry Cavill) must fight to save his people and the Greek gods from the mad King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke).

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Arthur Christmas: November 23rd

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Sherlock Holmes 2: December 16th

After how awesome the first one was, we all knew the sequel was inevitable.

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The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn: December 28th

3D motion-capture film based on the comics: Tintin’s first encounter with Captain Haddock and their adventures trying to find his ancestor’s hidden treasure.

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Tekken: Sometime in 2011

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These are trailers for the ones I’m actually likely to go see. For even more, see this io9 post.

Time Travel Mart Expedition Log

19 Dec

The Intercalary Scanner I cobbled together last week was finally able to narrow down the temporal anomaly to the Echo Park area. Used the last of my paper money to hire a yellow conveyance called a ‘Taxi’ which delivered me to the area.
(Note to other travellers: Exorbitant prices for such a sluggish and primitive method of land-transport not solely due to high Cred-to-Dollar exchange rate in time of origin, but attributed to the social norms of the 21st century Los Angeles metropolitan area).

Residual rift energy left in my H.G.W. Protective Contacts for Temporal Travel (TM) enabled me to detect the Echo Park Time Travel Mart. Located in a pocket dimension, it exists outside of linear time and is imperceptible to anyone who has not travelled through space-time rifts or inter-planetary wormholes.

Ordered a temporalator and the chronometrical coil replacement needed to repair the flux capacitor and was informed that it had arrived yesterday. Sort of.

Also picked up spare antennae extension for MX-1510 (who knew that AIs could complain so much about wireless signal strength?) and some Caveman Chew Candy for Ugg (he’s been pretty quiet since the second Renaissance/Mesozoic era trip we took last Earth cycle and I think it’ll cheer him up).

Had to refrain from buying the Aeon Bottled Time because, no matter how much I could use that spare year, I know I’ll just waste it watching retro television shows on that antique Blu-ray player I bought myself for TheWinterHolidayOfYourChoice.

Have documented relevant store inventory for future (and past) travels here.

A ray of hope in light of Skynet’s inevitable rise

3 Nov

Anyone else worried about the upcoming robot apocalypse? I think I have news that might help ease your fears a little. Robots will soon be able to  feel!

Well, kinda. They’ll potentially have artificial skin which allows them to touch and feel that way.  (UC Berkeley Press Release).

 

Bet I know who's squeezing more tightly.

 

So, in the future, not only does it mean that they’re more likely to be able to appreciate things like the soft fur of fluffy kittens (Gratuitous Kitten Pictures), but I’m sure that it means they could also feel eventually feel pain.

I am soft and squishy and robots are metal and very hard to bring down. In the event that Skynet overtly takes over (with the amount of satellite and other surveillance already in place and the pervasiveness of technology in our society, you know it’s probably already conscious and surreptitiously manipulating us even as you read this), I want to take comfort in the knowledge that setting this thing on fire while whacking at it ineffectually with a baseball bat is still going to have some minimal effect.

 

My weapon(s) of choice for the zombie apocalypse too

 

Next step = emotion chips a la Bladerunner, right? Or A.I. Or Bicentennial Man. Or any of the million other robot movies where we deal with our fears about being eradicated by superior beings that we’d created by giving them emotions and foibles and eventually defeating them (with lotsa explosions)….

I’d watch it in theatres

20 Oct

A clumsy salesman, with an arguably hallucinatory steak for a sidekick, who turns super-spy because of a microprocessor implanted in his brain by mad scientists? Yup, best premise ever.

Spoilers: The following video includes, in no particular order, the following awesome things: American president zombies, exploding starfish shot from a rather large gun, a thwarted robot revolution, pirates stealing a glowing meteorite that turns things into seafood, a thrilling chase sequence, sewer surfing in a bathtub, mutant human-sea-creature hybrid monsters, action, adventure, a chef getting punched in slow-motion…and all in under seven minutes.

Perhaps, it might be more elucidating to ask (despite grammar considerations) “What cool geeky things does this short animated feature not contain?”

Who says I’m grown up?

24 Sep

It would be a lie if I said I didn’t watch cartoons anymore. (I firmly believe that there’s no such thing as being too old for kids’ things).  Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic, so I spent the weekend watching Invader Zim on the Cartoon Network and I happened upon the pilot episode of Sym-Bionic Titans.

Basic storyline so far: alien princess and her assigned royal guard and robot protector have fled to Earth to escape an alien invasion on their home planet. They’ve got to integrate with human high schoolers, but occasionally use their super-cool alien armour to fight the alien monsters that have been sent to kill them.

The animation felt familiar; I looked it up and realised that the series is made by the same guy who made Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack. While it might be that my rose-coloured nostalgia-tinted memories of those shows predisposes me to like this show, I think it’s independently good. (Watching alien observations of high school cliques is always entertaining).

I’m also amused by the fact that the main villain (male) wears thigh high patent leather boots with spurs and has a face like a bearded monkey. And a cape with large orange fur accents. Oh, the Cyclops eye on his hat shoots out green lightning; that’s cool.

The plot is kid-show predictable, but it’s still fun to watch it play out! And, honestly, it’s kinda what you want in a TV show anyway, isn’t it? Enough predictability that you feel satisfied when what you expected happens, but still an entertaining ride along the way? The pilot looks promising, if a little short; so far, I like this show.

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