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Reviews Written by
S. J. Fisher "Hecate" (Kent, UK)
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The Prestige (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
The Prestige (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Price: £5.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story., 25 Jun. 2013
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A slightly unusual novel for the genre of science-fiction, but fascinating and well-written. Perhaps not quite as stylistically accomplished, but a superior story in my opinion is Priest's earlier novel 'Inverted World'.


The Sorcerer's Curse
The Sorcerer's Curse
by Paula Volsky
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars I love Paula Volsky., 25 Jun. 2013
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An accomplished and highly literate fantasy writer, Paula Volsky is, surprisingly, comparatively little known in the UK. 'The Sorcerer's Curse' is not as good as the first book in this trilogy, but better than the second. I still think 'The Luck of Relian Kru' is a masterpiece, though written in a much more light-hearted style than any of her other works. When I first read it I many years ago I had not heard of Paula Volsy (no net to look her up on in those days) and I wondered whether Volsky was a pseudonym for Jack Vance, the style is so similar to many of his earlier fantasies.


The Stainless Steel Rat eBook Collection
The Stainless Steel Rat eBook Collection
Price: £16.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good collection., 7 Mar. 2013
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I have never regarded Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat stories as his best work, but they are nevertheless amusing and very enjoyable. The first two he wrote (The Stainless Steel Rat and The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge) are still the best in my opinion, and are included in this collection. Good value, and if you are a Stainless Steel Rat fan this will no doubt delight you. If you are a Harry Harrison fan but have not come across slippery Jim diGriz, then this collection is a good place to start.


The Sword and the Dragon (The Wardstone Trilogy Book 1)
The Sword and the Dragon (The Wardstone Trilogy Book 1)
Price: £2.92

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Derivative fantasy., 24 Sept. 2011
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This book is so poorly written that I scarcely have room to enumerate all its weaknesses here. The spelling mistakes may not be the author's fault, the grammatical errors surely are, as are the stylistic ones which range from irritating repetitions, to belabouring the obvious, to virtually incomprehensible sentence structure at times. The story is so derivative as to seem like an extended cliche, and the characters are pure stereotypes. I dislike being so harsh, but anyone looking for high quality, original fantasy would be wise to avoid this. Try Lois McMaster Bujold, Jack Vance or Paula Volsky instead.


Star Ocean: The Last Hope International (PS3)
Star Ocean: The Last Hope International (PS3)
Offered by Digitalville UK
Price: £23.53

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!, 15 Mar. 2011
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I am lost in admiration for the designers of this game. Not only is the gameplay immense fun, but the non-linear worlds over which the action takes place are large and varied with beautiful graphics. The attention to detail is amazing, for example: scuffing up fallen leaves when walking under certain trees, splashing through waterlogged areas or slipping about on frozen lakes, or simply just admiring the vegetation or observing the behaviour of incidental wildlife. But where the graphic artists have really excelled is in towns and particularly in interior design. Decorative stonework, beautiful windows, ceilings and floors, attractive objets d'art, fine firniture, tablecloths and carpets. Those who like running through such games as fast as possible might well miss all this which would be a shame because it deserves more careful observation.
On a more RPG typical level the battles are well thought out and well choreographed, with some fine effects and some striking character costumes, although the game might not appeal to those who prefer furious, fast-reaction, and bloody fights. Personally I am not excessively keen on first-person style battles, and in this game (as in Final Fantasy XIII) you can control any one team member at any time whilst the rest of your team functions on quite decent AI which also allows you to choose to a certain extent what style of fighting each AI controlled member will use. Although not particularly apparent, and it could probably be virtually ignored by those so inclined, there is some scope for battle tactics here. Less commonly encountered in RPG's there is also scope for gameplay tactics if one learns to manipulate the battle Bonus Board. There are dungeons, and there are puzzles (although not of the frustratingly obscure variety) but basically the game is a well-balanced mix of traditional RPG fare, with opportunities to manufacture and enhance equipment when you acquire the appropriate skills. The menu system is also well-designed and easy to use.
If you have read this far you will have realized that I am a long-standing RPG fan, and in my opinion there is so much to praise in this game that I find it easy to forgive its minor faults, and I have no hesitation in saying that I love it.


Persuasion : Complete BBC Adaptation [1995] [DVD]
Persuasion : Complete BBC Adaptation [1995] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Amanda Root
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £12.64

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Falling at the last hurdle., 18 Nov. 2010
`Persuasion' is the last, and arguably the most difficult, of Jane Austen's novels, and I am afraid that this adaptation just fails to capture the necessary subtlety required to do it justice. Admittedly this is a formidable task, as Anne seldom shares her emotions with other characters. As readers we can be made aware of her thoughts and feelings, but this is much more difficult to convey with a visual medium. Outstanding acting, direction and scriptwriting are necessary to achieve this. Unfortunately, the acting varies in quality from the very good to the noticeably poor - sometimes even from the same character. The direction is equally inconsistent; to my mind, for example, the interjection of cinematic naval vignettes is completely inappropriate for an adaptation which otherwise appears to be trying to adhere quite closely to the feel of the book. The novel is fundamentally rather cerebral and these attempts are quite out of place. The scriptwriting - always one of the most challenging aspects of adapting a novel by a writer with such a superb and distinctive use of the language as Jane Austen - is merely adequate. However, after a poor beginning it improves, and the bulk of the adaptation is moderately competent, though unremarkable. It came as quite a shock to me, therefore, that in the final stages the scriptwriters clearly suffer a rush of blood to the head, introducing scenes which simply do not occur in the novel, and altering a significant part of the plot: that relating to the motives and circumstances of the young Mr Elliot. For my taste this completely destroys the ending of this adaptation. As a great admirer of Jane Austen as a writer, I cannot regard this adaptation as at all superior to others I have seen, and, frankly, I was rather disappointed. Having said that, it was a worthy attempt, and I have yet to see a really good adaptation of `Persuasion'.


Chobits: The Chobits Collection [DVD]
Chobits: The Chobits Collection [DVD]
Dvd ~ Morio Asaka

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chobits - Entertaining and high quality anime., 16 Jun. 2010
This is a charming, entertaining and at times extremely funny series derived from the original manga (2001 - 2002) from Clamp.

Basically the plot purports to be about the developing relationship between a young man (Hideki) and his cute android `persecom' or personal computer (Chi), but there is also a Science Fiction element to the story, as it seems the young man may have stumbled on a legendary special model of extraordinary power and unknown capabilities. These Sci-Fi elements are intriguing, and could perhaps have been made more of, but fundamentally the series is a romantic comedy. If it simply concentrated on the main romantic theme, it could perhaps be accused of being `a cheap romantic comedy', an accusation which has (unfairly, in my opinion) been levelled against it, but it does not fall into this trap, and in fact examines the nature of romance on several different levels. Philosophical questions are ubiquitous in anime, and Chobits is no exception as it also discusses, to a certain extent, the problems which one might expect to be associated with a romantic relationship between a human and a non-human, or artificial entity.

Overall the plot, dialogue and characterisation could initially be taken as being somewhat superficial, but the maturity and subtlety incorporated into the material at times, and the skill with which it is handled, belies this impression. The naivete and over-cuteness of Chi can sometimes become a bit cloying, which some might object to, but I do not think it is fair to describe it as `cheap', and for my taste the skill with which the bulk of the material is handled saves it from being irritating. The artwork is full of pastel colours and flowing lines, but this seems quite appropriate for the subject matter and is of the high-quality we have come to expect from the talented ladies of Clamp.

The soundtrack is extremely well thought out, the choice of sound effects and their skilled timing frequently combining to produce very amusing results. Similarly the choice of musical backing for certain events is often so successful in its dramatic role that it can also become seriously humorous, simply because it is so appropriate that it almost parodies dramatic conventions. However, this is clearly not accidental. The entire soundtrack is so well compiled and edited that it could not have been achieved without a complete understanding of the medium and its use on the part Masafumi Mima and others connected with the sound production. Indeed the production qualities of the series as a whole are uniformly high. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Ergo Proxy: Volumes 1-6 [DVD]
Ergo Proxy: Volumes 1-6 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Shukou Murase

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ergo Proxy - A rare mix of qualities, 14 May 2010
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This somewhat disjointed and at times nearly incomprehensible series is, nevertheless, strangely compelling and very enjoyable, not least because of its superb visual quality, and a desire, (carefully inculcated), to find out what the hell is going on. However, the stylish artwork and animation seems far better suited to the `real-life' and action sequences of the series, which are extremely effective, than it is to the more metaphysical aspects of the work, which are not infrequent. The fact that the heroine's name is a corruption of the word `Real'; the names of Husserl, Rousseau and others cropping up, and the phrase `raison d'etre' being bandied about (not to mention the title with its hint of Descartes), should, I suppose give us ample warning that this is one of those examples of anime which indulges in existentialism, particularly near the middle of the series. However, I did not feel that it worked quite as well on this level compared with other existential plots like, for example, `Ghost in the Shell 2 : Innocence'. Still, once it has got these interludes (almost digressions), out of its system, and returns to more tangible plot lines and dialogue, it soon regains its impact - philosophical episodes being generally leavened by a rare mixture of other elements: mystery, unrequited love, humour, strange anomalies, domesticity, even a quiz show - while mayhem, although frequently lurking, is not as common as one might expect. Characterization is variable in quality, and character interaction is awkward at times, and neither this or the plot exposition is helped by the dialogue which is often obscure or confusing, although this may be the fault of the subtitling. Admittedly it is difficult to avoid these weaknesses when the the main characters are Re-l (human; a rather bad-tempered but interesting young woman), Pino (an android with a virus which endows her with a soul) and Vincent (a dichotomy, creating a virtually schizophrenic personality). However, anime traditionally has a good history at making difficult character groups work, and due to the strengths of Ergo Proxy I think the inconsistency in this area can be forgiven. The series also indulges in dream sequences and sudden, almost surreal changes in style, particularly in the latter stages, to the extent that it strains credibility - its incongruity sometimes having a similar effect to a smack in the face - which detracts from the carefully sustained dark atmosphere of the earlier episodes, and undermines the build up of the plot. Even the series creators seem to be aware of this tendency, as is evidenced by one of the characters saying: `Our story won't go anywhere if we keep adding complications'. Deceptively, however, this potential weakness almost seems to work in its favour, adding to the tortured, restless atmosphere of the series.
Leaving the metaphysics aside, this is basically a Sci-Fi mystery thriller; simplistically it could be summed up as a gripping yarn about the dangers of identity crises in a precariously balanced future society and how these perceptions can change according to environment. On the less cerebral level there is intrigue, corruption and betrayal - plus occasional monster hunts, destruction and related carnage thrown in. Despite its peculiarities and occasional flaws it is intriguing, and I enjoyed it very much. In my opinion it is worth watching for the artwork alone, although the quality of this varies, too. There appears to be one cel animator who is noticeably superior to the others. I would like to know who that is.


Death Note Complete [DVD]
Death Note Complete [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kappei Yamaguchi
Price: £21.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Death Note (Box Set) - Fine anime., 23 Mar. 2010
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This review is from: Death Note Complete [DVD] (DVD)
This is a long series (37 episodes) and the first episode didn't really fill me with enthusiasm. However, as an anime fan I continued to watch it, and was surprised at how quickly it hooked me after that.
The plot is clever, gripping and generally well structured, while unexpected twists make it seldom predictable. It does fall away from these initial high standards during some of the latter episodes, but the quality of the series as a whole is little diminished, The dialogue is intelligent and both it, and the occasional narrative information, display a subtle, often dry and sometimes flippant sense of humour. I should say here that I almost always watch anime in Japanese with English subtitles - I don't know what the dubbed version is like. The characters are intriguing, plausible and often react to events in unexpected ways which are, nevertheless, consistent with their character.
The animation and character drawing is certainly competent, although for general scenes fairly basic and unremarkable - one of the reasons I didn't get into it straight away. However this only serves to highlight the high quality when they pull out all the stops, which they do quite regularly, both for lengthy scenes, and for short, intriguing actions or camera angles. The artwork has a similar approach, and varies from the unremarkable to the superb.
The soundtrack is good, and although the opening song is not to my taste (but there's no accounting for taste) the rest of the music is well-chosen.
This is good quality entertainment - as good if not better than most television drama.


Claymore Collection [DVD]
Claymore Collection [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hiroyuki Tanaka

59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast paced, violent action with unexpected subtleties., 2 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Claymore Collection [DVD] (DVD)
On the face of it, Claymore is simply another anime series about the hunting and slaying of nasty monsters. It is well directed with fast moving action, some excellent animation, a straightforward plot, good screenplay and some interesting characters - and on this level it succeeds quite well. However, look a little more carefully, and one finds that it also possesses some quite satisfying depths in certain areas.
The artwork is unusual and extremely effective, employing bold drawing of the characters, often contrasted with pale colours occasionally fading almost into black and white, and incorporating monochrome tints and pale washes. The colours are well chosen, however, and this approach makes it even more striking when vivid colours are suddenly introduced for certain scenes. The lighting is also notable, often dramatic and sometimes spectacular.
Superficially the plot premise is fundamentally simple and often violent, as vicious, evil monsters are slain by claymore wielding heroines, but the character development is quite strong - many of the main characters displaying unexpected complexity - and ethical issues, as is frequently the case with anime, are not far beneath the surface. In fact, much of the series' plot and to a certain extent the characterization, revolves around the concept that power wielded in the name of Good can be corrupted into Evil if it becomes too great. That the characters in the story are morally aware is demonstrated by remarks such as Jean's : "I have no intention of compromising my honour just to live a long life".
Qualities like these manage to lift this Anime above the average, and, in my opinion, will further enhance the reputation of those brilliant women at Clamp, and all those connected with turning the manga into anime.
My initial four stars becomes five because I like the artwork so much, but even if the art doesn't work so well for you this is still an above average series.


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