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ToastBongo (London)

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The Dreaming Void: 1/3 (Void Trilogy)
The Dreaming Void: 1/3 (Void Trilogy)
by Peter F. Hamilton
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, but lots of typos, 2 Jun. 2012
The first Peter F Hamilton books I read were his fantastic 'Night's Dawn' trilogy some years ago. I followed them up with the also excellent Fallen Dragon when that came out, but have only just come round to reading the Dreaming Void.

As with all Hamilton books, the scale is epic. I regularly have to do little double-takes to consider just how big the scale of the book is. Hamilton isn't termed the king of 'space opera' for nothing, and the Dreaming Void doesn't disappoint on this level. I don't want to go into too much detail on the story as even mentioning characters may ruin earlier books for readers (make sure you read the previous series!), so I will focus on stylistic and other points.


There are a lot of recycled characters from The Commonwealth Saga which is enjoyable in some respects, but also seems a little unimaginative. Whilst care is taken to explain why some characters have remained around so long (rather than 'moving inwards' to a kind of human computer system), others are rather brushed off with casual explanations that don't really tie in. Also, for those of us who read the previous books some time ago (I think it was 2007 for me), it's often hard to remember the significance of characters who are mentioned in a very off-the-cuff way.

The new characters are enjoyable and there are some good morally-ambiguous ones in there, although perhaps a few too many are very much black-and-white characters (one even refers to his world as such). Personally I think there's a little too much clear-cut definition between 'goodies' and 'baddies', while I would love to see some of the anti-hero (or simply unpleasant) figures like Alastair Reynolds' creations - Chasm City, incidentally, is a must read for space fans.


As above, I won't go into any detail. Suffice it to say that there's a good mysterious backdrop with a series of factions jostling for position, interspersed with some very good episodes from a central character's dreams. The alien races mix between benevolent and obnoxious, but remain largely on the outside for the vast majority of the book. This is very much about human political manoeuvring rather than intergalactic relations.


Perhaps I've simply forgotten the previous books, but I find the style a little bit casual in parts. Sometimes it works well to convey a character's perspective or viewpoint, but sometimes Hamilton slips out and uses very casual style in the narrative, which is a little irritating. He also puts in vast quantities of rather strange sex scenes, so if they're not your thing you probably won't like any of his books!

The other real annoyance was an enormous number of typos. Apostrophes missed out (e.g. 'our masters lives'); names misspelt (one side character changes from Vadran to Vadren or something similar every other line); occasional weak commas and a depressingly large number of completely garbled words. One of these was 'ntnig' - and the problem is I have no clue if ntnig is some weird exercise (there were a group of people doing it) or some misspelt version of knitting! I don't tend to read terribly carefully - especially sci fi which I largely skim, but when these sort of things pop up it's very irritating and takes the reader out of the zone.

All in all, it's a good book. I've given it 4* for the quality of the book, but if I could I'd deduct a further 1/2* for the typos, which I find irritating.

Stronghold 3 (PC DVD)
Stronghold 3 (PC DVD)
Offered by Gameseek
Price: £8.34

40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably Poor, 26 Oct. 2011
= Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Stronghold 3 (PC DVD) (DVD-ROM)
Despite a fairly decent amount of hype and a much lauded 'return to basics' approach, Firefly have dismally failed in this appalling game. As one other review commented, it is quite literally the theft of £30. Take Stronghold 1, make shoddy graphics with unresponsive units, a boring campaign and a generally frustrating layout and you've got it.

I have to admit, I haven't even bothered to go past level 2 on the campaign and have already traded this back as it holds absolutely no appeal to me. The first problem I had was the lack of a proper auto-attack function, which is enraging, especially as you have to click EXACTLY on each enemy to make your troops attack it. If you have units nearby, good luck if you want to tell them to attack the baddie... It simply won't happen. Wolves cheerfully run around walls and ladders. Perhaps the most farcical thing was when I build a cow shed, a new cow was born and promptly 'baaa-ed' at me. I mean, seriously, if they can't make a cow saw 'moo' what CAN they do?!

The following part of this review has been found online, but I feel that it addresses many of the key issues:

'combat is unbelievably unbalanced in typical stronghold fasion. Archers on walls or towers gain no advantage, thus rendering the building of defences utterly useless. Wolves can climb ladders, and archers atop towers can be killed by enemy infantry at the bottom. Walls themseleves are hard to place, weak and work poorly in conjuction with other fortifications. Another flaw being the tiny size of maps, which are even smaller than stronghold one, which is just unacceptable considering the size of buildings has increased and the demand for room to support an economy which barely feeds your populace is lacking. Above all there is no combat ai, which while poor in previous stronghold games is completly lacking in this installment. The economy is rediculous, despite filling the incredibly small map with apple orchards players will struggle to mantain a food surplus. The irony of Stronghold 3 is the fact one cannot actually build a decent stronghold, on a rediculously small map and on your increasingly insane quest for food the option of building an actual stronghold, or minor fortification is impossible. Therefore your stronghold is nothing more than an cluster of economic building and hovels (that house less people the futher you move them from the keep) surronded by a weetbix wall that can be overcome by even the weakest units in the game and even wildlife (wolves). In a nutshell there is no gamplay in Stronghold 3, the game is clearly in alpha stage, absolutley riddeled with bugs and almost unplayable. Knocking even the most hardcore stronghold fans off their high horse. One must question as to whether any of the developers actually played the game before release. .' [credit to Wikipedia].

So, in summary, an incredibly poor game that is genuinely offensively bad. If this had come out in 1998 I probably would have been disappointed. Back to Stronghold 2, I suppose...
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 2, 2011 1:29 PM GMT

iDelta Genuine Leather Case, Cover & Screen Protector for 4th Generation iPod touch
iDelta Genuine Leather Case, Cover & Screen Protector for 4th Generation iPod touch
Offered by i-Protect
Price: £3.45

5.0 out of 5 stars Cheap and cheerful!, 17 Jun. 2011
It does the job exactly as described - it's a rather smart looking case and for the price I doubt you'll find better. It arrived extremely quickly - they sent it 1st class for no extra charge - and it has lasted so far! All in all, I'm very pleased.

Clash of Empires: Battle for Asia [DVD]
Clash of Empires: Battle for Asia [DVD]
Dvd ~ Stephen Rahman Hughes
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £7.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Mclovin with fries guy is an employee of the production group..., 27 May 2011
Ok, I would like to clarify that this film is absolute garbage. Its premise is appalling, the acting is worse and the whole thing feels like it was made for daytime TV (ever watched Canary Wharf's TV Channel? It's like that, but with spears and stuff).
The Mclovinwithfries reviewer clearly works for some production company - look at his other reviews. ALL of them go wildly against the general consensus, so it's fairly clear that something's wrong... For your sanity's sake, don't watch this film - especially if you have even the most basic knowledge of history!

Centurion [DVD]
Centurion [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Fassbender
Offered by streetsahead
Price: £4.33

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Riddled with cliché and goes nowhere..., 26 May 2011
This review is from: Centurion [DVD] (DVD)
As many people have commented, this film has a distinctly half-finished feel to it. The characters, to me, feel robotic and difficult to like. They're either massive lads who party with the troops (such as our General) or moralising bores, like Quintus Dias.

It looked like it could've been quite an entertaining romp, but the problem is that the whole film was rushed. It started badly with a camera rushing through the mountains whilst EVERY (and I mean every) single person involved with the film's name was put on screen. There's a reason people leave during the credits - no-one cares. I certainly don't want to spend 5 minutes at the beginning of a film staring at them in front of some fairly indifferent camera work. I've mention the clichéd and boring characters - the loveable general, the 'good' centurion, the playful rogue, the cook who turns out to be a really good soldier: it's as if they looked up a list of clichés and stuck 'em in!

I've heard criticisms of the Roman tactics in the main fight scene but, to be fair, they're in a wood and there are similar examples of fights getting bogged down like that in Germania, so I won't criticise that. One really immersion-breaking factor is the sudden change of scenery - they literally jump from heavily-wooded areas to snowdrifts and back again in the space of moments. Problems like hypothermia seem to be ignored, despite them swimming in ice-melt during winter in Scotland... Moreover, these guys can sprint all day every day over mountainous terrain having eaten nothing but some mushrooms. I run marathons and triathlons and I accept that soldiers were probably fairly fit (although I'd argue that they're more used to marching than outright sprints) but to be able to do that is just silly. Why not just put a few scenes with them jogging instead? It's naive script-writing and an attempt by the director to make the film look flashy and fast-paced. They manage to outrun horses often, which is simply ridiculous. They get caught, they fight, they escape, 2 days later they get caught again. Repeat.

Obviously there has to be a love interest - obviously it's the person who doesn't quite fit in with her people. Obviously she's attractive, worldly and capable. I won't go into detail with the last 3 scenes, but suffice it to say that they're utterly ridiculous!

I really wanted to like Centurion - I'm a fan of hacky-slashy historical trash films, but this one just didn't go anywhere for me. No particularly likeable characters, and extremely flimsy plot line (Get captured, escape, go fight, escape, fight, escape, ad nauseam - look Latin!) made for a bad start. The filming was average at best and seemed more interested in getting dramatic shots than continuity or quality of shots. I did, however, quite like some of the lighting.

All in all, it's a poor attempt at what could've been a decent film. Pity, really.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 18, 2012 8:24 PM BST

Cinderella Man [DVD] [2005]
Cinderella Man [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Russell Crowe
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly magnificent film..., 23 May 2011
This review is from: Cinderella Man [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
Cinderella Man is a powerful tale of the highs and lows of a James J. Braddock, a remarkable boxer who came to epitomise the spirit of the common people in the Great Depression. Russell Crowe is magnificent in portraying Braddock's desperate fight not only with his opponents in the ring, but with the daily struggle to feed his young family. Crowe's simple, yet instantly likeable and moral Braddock epitomises the essence of Braddock's popular appearl: he was a stout-hearted 'bulldog' who never gave up.
Renée Zellweger is heart-wrenching in her role as Mae Braddock, fighting her own fight: her desperation to see her family safe, but not at the expense of her husband's safety or even life. The moments of intimacy between the two are superbly filmed and Mae Braddock's concerns become intermingled with those of the viewer as we progress down the journey of Braddock's life.

The choreography and filming of the boxing scenes is magnificent, capturing the grit, pain and determination involved in the ring, whilst also showing the passion of the fighters, crowd and, of course, Mae Braddock. The filming remains original and does not seem repetitive, partially aided by the nature of Braddock's career, but also by the nature of boxing. Braddock's manager, played by Paul Giamati, is a superb motivator not only of Braddock's fighting spirit, but also of the viewer's desire to see him win.

This true underdog story is an emotionally inspiring dedication to one of boxing's most brilliant characters and to the spirit of the Irish migrants in America. I urge you to avoid any wikipedia-ing of Braddock - to do so would be to ruin the suspense and expectation that the film masterfully builds and would serve to devalue the ending which has left even the most cynical of reviewers misty-eyed. Whether this is due to loss or fulfilment, I leave to you.

Battery Charger BC-60L / BC60L / NP-60 NP60 for Casio Exilim EX-FS10, EX-S10, EX-S12, EX-Z9, EX-Z19, EX-Z20, EX-Z21, EX-Z22, EX-Z25, EX-Z29, EX-Z80, EX-Z85, EX-Z90 Digital Camera World Travel Plug Version - UK/USA/Europe+
Battery Charger BC-60L / BC60L / NP-60 NP60 for Casio Exilim EX-FS10, EX-S10, EX-S12, EX-Z9, EX-Z19, EX-Z20, EX-Z21, EX-Z22, EX-Z25, EX-Z29, EX-Z80, EX-Z85, EX-Z90 Digital Camera World Travel Plug Version - UK/USA/Europe+
Offered by abcproducts
Price: £8.95

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So far so good, 20 May 2011
Obviously one chap had his troubles, but after reading the others (and sheer necessity in the end!) I decided to give it a go. It works perfectly well - it's about three times as deep as the original casio one, so quite a big charger but the battery fitted perfectly and it charged very quickly. The light switches from red to green when the charge is finished and I'm very satisfied overall. I didn't hear any weird noises like the reviewer below - but even if you do, you can just return it as it has a 10 year warranty or something. All in all, it's worth it. Especially if you, like me, couldn't find head or tail of an 'official' charger on the casio website (which is a terrible website, incidentally).

This is very competitively priced and it works.

The King's Bastard (King Rolen's Kin)
The King's Bastard (King Rolen's Kin)
by Rowena Cory Daniells
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I'm afraid I didn't even finish it..., 4 Sept. 2010
As one reviewer above mentioned, this is the perfect example of 'bog standard fantasy'. The world is minature and, far more significantly, there are simply not enough people in it! We have Rolencia - our hero's homeland - and Merofynia whose relationship is so unoriginal it's painful. One sees the other as too savage and the savages see the others as overly refined - WOW! MINDBLOWING! Medieval England and France anyone?
The characters were (275 pages in) unbelievably poorly formed and ,to compound the problem, frequently acted out of character. Our hero essentially boils down to the 'ultimate man' - he kills magical creatures (repetitively), is noble, kind, honest, generous etc. etc. He is also spectacularly naive and is completely oblivious to any odd behaviour. 'Good', thinks the reader, 'that this man is not the heir to the throne'. Sadly, the heir is even more of a moron. I have no problem with bitter, twisted or plain stupid kings in fantasy books, but Daniels shows the heir (Lence I think he's called) as in the same mould of his brother. Everything we hear about him is that he's magnificent etc etc ad nauseam. He suddenly switches after the suspicious arrival of a cousin (our hero, of course, can't work out why Lence has changed, but then he's like that.) Perhaps the only genuine character in the 275 pages I read was the monk child, who is the only person sensible enough to talk about problems and things that are wrong, rather than the others who all seem to be filled with the absurd notion that only they are truly capable of solving the mysteries.

Perhaps I've been harsh, but I genuinely found nothing compelling in this book at all. As a summary:
The world: Poorly formed, small, sparsely populated and deeply unoriginal. Oooh, squabbling chieftans yet again...
Characters: Big macho men acting like small children - Daniels seems unable to make up her mind if her hero is a man or a deeply confused teenage girl.
Plot: Interesting idea about the 'Seeps' and I rather liked the idea of the squabbling religious orders, but otherwise it's poorly devised.
Writing Style: Not everyone cares about grammar etc. but frankly this woman can't write. Her opening description was excellent and I really felt I was up in the icy hills, hunting a beast. The rest of the book, however, fails to live up to early expectation. My image of the rich fertile regions was a field with a manor house and perhaps a small village or two...

Just for reference (so readers can see what my preferences are - after all, everyone has different opinions) the books I've enjoyed recently have been:
Brent Weeks 'Shadows' Trilogy, which was fantastic for character portrayal
Brandon Sanderson 'The Final Empire' Trilogy which had a magnificent world, a fantastic new variant on magic and truly excellent descriptive writing. Excellent examples of court intrigue and manipulation.
Joe Abercrombie's books - All are extremely gritty and perhaps not to everyone's taste, but are (as far as fantasy can be) more 'realistic' than the others with especially unpleasant characters!
Kristen Cashore 'Graceling' - only 150 pages in but so far it's well written, got good characters and good intrigue. EDIT: Perhaps a somewhat weak ending...

Inglourious Basterds [DVD] (2009)
Inglourious Basterds [DVD] (2009)
Dvd ~ Brad Pitt
Offered by Jasuli
Price: £3.95

52 of 94 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A need to redress the balance..., 29 Dec. 2009
Right, well. I'll start by clarifying that I have enjoyed Tarantino's previous films, except Death Proof, in which I nearly died of boredom due to the endless talking about pointless rubbish - I know it was supposed to immerse me and make me think 'Wow, look how real these characters are' like it did in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, but it didn't.

So, on to Inglorious. Well, there are several features of the film that should really be addressed and I'll do so in no particular order:

Scenes: These were the one bit I really appreciated. The auditorium was well done, the French barn superb and they were all topped by the scene in the underground bar which had palpable tension and was very exciting - although why a barman in occupied France would be allowed to have a weapon is beyond me...

Actors: Well, this is where it starts to go wrong. Shoshana was well played but rather a one-dimensional character so I wasn't hugely fond of her. Our friend the SS Colonel Hans Landa was, however, absolutely fantastic. He was the only character who was remotely genuine and actually played his part with enthusiasm and enjoyment. Yes, he had a thoroughly unpleasant character but he Christopher Waltz played him with style and made him seem real and, most importantly, interesting. We were kept guessing about what he was going to do next which was a good touch.
On to the bad: Bradolf Pittler gave an absolutely terrible performance I'm afraid to say. He goes through the whole film with a permanent smirk as if he's had the left side of his jaw injected with cement, and which he must uncomfortably maintain for long scenes on camera without dialogue. As if that weren't enough, he is the MOST odious and unpleasant character of any in the film. Yes, I understand that his savagery was to show that both sides were evil (at least I hope Tarantino meant it, otherwise he's a twisted freak) but it just didn't pull off. About half way through I started feeling sorry for the Nazis, particularly after the Sergeant on the patrol is savagely beaten to death with a baseball bat - how, just HOW is that supposed to be classy cinema? It's tasteless and unpleasant and left me leaving the auditorium with a bad taste in my mouth.

To address the violence - yes, I expected violence (well, it's Tarantino) but what no-one particularly wants is tasteless violence. I have no problem with seeing lots of people getting shot all over the place and Saving Private Ryan style gritty, 'real' violence. What I dislike is rubbish like the auditorium scene and the swastika carving. It's just unnecessary and could be done just as well if it weren't shown. Also, coming back to the auditorium scene - how the hell did a countryside girl make her way to Paris, create a new identity and gain ownership of a cinema in 2 years?! The idea that the entire German High Command would go to a French-run cinema in Paris to watch a debut of a film. Oh well.

My real problem with it is that it isn't anything like Tarantino except in its rather long dialogue and scenes. Inglorious isn't funny; it isn't particularly exciting; it isn't a realistic war movie, yet neither is it an entertaining genre spoof or a clever counterfactual wartime yarn. It isn't emotionally involving or deliciously ironic or a brilliant tissue of trash-pop references. Nothing like that. There are some nice-ish performances, particularly from Fassbender and Waltz, but everything is just so boring. I was hoping for Shosanna at least to get a satisfying revenge on Colonel Landa. But no. The two Hitler-assassination plots cancel each other out dramatically and the director's moderate reserves of narrative interest are exhausted long before the end. He should perhaps go back to making cheerfully inventive outrageous films like Kill Bill. Because Kill Adolf hasn't worked out.

To quote one newspaper reviewer 'The expression on my face in the auditorium as the lights finally went up was like that of the first-night's audience at Springtime for Hitler. Except that there is no one from Dusseldorf called Rolf to cheer us up.'

I'm sure lots of you enjoyed it, but here we are - after all reviews should be based on opinion, and this is mine!
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2010 9:18 PM BST

Appeal To Reason
Appeal To Reason
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £13.54

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb but more mainstream, 10 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Appeal To Reason (Audio CD)
As the reviewer before me said, this is a slightly more mainstream album than other Rise Against but that is one of its main strengths: It still addresses political questions (for example the anti-war 'Hero of War' and the superficiality of fame in 'Entertainment') but has a distinctly more catchy style - not to say that this is a weakness (although some fans felt let down when Rise Aganst joined a major label).
Anyhow, Hero of War is one of their best songs in that it is both reasonably simple but also has a classic Rise Against anti-imperialist theme. If you enjoyed Swing Life Away or Roadside you'll enjoy this (they're rather different musically but it's a similar style of singing and guitar)
Essentially you shouldn't expect the more hardcore political songs such as Give It All or Ready To Fall (in my opinion their best songs, especially the uncesored video for Ready To Fall) but you CAN expect classic Rise Against heavy melodic punk with a political theme, although with significantly less screaming than in previous albums.
Previously i had been sceptical about this new album but having listened through it five times or so I think it's among their best - think an entire album in the theme of 'Tonight We Dance' and you'll be on the right track for an idea of this album.
Four songs to listen to on Youtube that will give you a good idea about hte album: 'Saviour', 'Hero of War', 'Entertainment' and 'Kotov Syndrome'. Rise Against are probably the best melodic punk group around at the moment so definitely worth a listen if you're a newcomer. Even if you're into more hardcore punk like AntiFlag, Rise Against offer a more melodic and viable alternative (let's be honest, Antiflag DO try to cram far too many words into one line and their rhyme schemes are distinctly suspect!).
On a final note, Rise Against are actually more progressive in their thinking than most punk bands, again, using the exanple of Anti-Flag's 'one trillion dollars' or 'Angry Young and Poor' - they both address legitimate themes but they are entirely negative in their message, Rise Against encourage us to become more informed in our lives and to accept responsibility for our actions. To see a further example look up the video for 'Ready To Fall' which Tom McIllrath (lead singer) called their most important work so far...
Once again, i can't emphasise the ability of this band enough, the only reason it got 4 stars was in consideration for hardcore punk or early Rise Against fans who may find the more commercial edge less appealing, but for the everyday listener this gets a definite 5 stars!

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