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Toby Andersen (UK)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime Soundscape Electronica from an iPhone, 28 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Iphonica (Audio CD)
Iphonica, the latest album by electro soundscape outfit Vector Lovers is, as the title suggests, composed entirely on the Iphone Nanostudio app. If that wasn't enough of a hook to at least give it a listen, this is the fourth 'studio' album in a series of some of the best IDM/ambient electronica albums on the market.
The soundscapes that Martin Wheeler creates are melodic, funky and relaxing, often poignantly beautiful and evocative of other worlds, futuristic science fiction cities and just watching the world go by, but always with a nod to cyberpunk, virtual reality and glitchy urban environments.
I got into Vector Lovers with the very first eponymous album, though I missed a single or two, and tracks on that album and Capsule for One are often breathtakingly beautiful. Iphonica is more of the same, and even after only a few listens I have a few stand out favourites.
Nakadori and On Kastanienallee are gorgeous planetary themes, evoking being on an alien world and watching the sunrise on some sparkling vista. Warm Laundrette and Simulant are the striking and more funky pieces this time around, with deep basslines and glitchy melodies. The second half of the album is the quieter, ambient and more melodic half, perfect to drift away to, with Let's Go Home and Final Wish standing out. Big City Loner is that urban landscape piece effortlessly creating a feeling of watching the city at night alone atop a 'scraper's roof.
Vector Lovers has always been about these evocative soundscapes, but with Iphonica, because of how it was composed, you get a real sense of the place where Martin must have been when he put each piece together; not alien worlds, but an underground train, alone in the city streets or out on the hills with a beautiful view etc.
Iphonica is a gorgeous piece of electronica, with the added lure (and advantage) of the tight composition afforded by the Nanostudio Iphone app.
I have heard (horrible internet rumours) that this is the last Vector Lovers album - to be honest I thought that was the case when the Electrospective came out, but I will continue to hope that Martin Wheeler keeps the Vector Lovers project alive. His albums (especially Capsule for One) are some of my all-time favourites and all deserve far more critical acclaim, but at the least it has gone out on a wonderful high.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2014 10:56 PM BST

Fuzzy Nation
Fuzzy Nation
by John Scalzi
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overt plagiarism done better than the original?, 14 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I came at Fuzzy Nation as a writer interested in how a published writer would rework an old classic and reboot it for a modern audience. I have to say on finishing that I have a certain sympathy for both sides of the controversy this reboot has caused.
So I started this book by reading the original, Little Fuzzy by H Beam Piper. I'm grateful to Scalzi for somewhat backhandedly recommending me a really great book, that I devoured in a day or two and really enjoyed. The sentience question is dealt with well, but overall the book seemed to miss out on a few of the better legal related things it could have done with the plot. Fantastic concept, of which the closest comparison I can think of is Avatar.
I started Fuzzy Nation eager to see what Scalzi would do with this fantastic source material. But apart from Carl the dog's antics I didn't warm to it. I wondered why Scalzi had bothered. But then I started to appreciate the things he was doing better than Piper, the ex-lawyer was a better fit, the high range audio infused throughout the story, the smaller cast. Reading the books the way I did you couldn't help but compare. I spent more than two thirds of the novel slowly liking it more and more.

And by the end it was clear that Scalzi had taken source material of a charming but slightly flawed novel, and made it into a fantastic novel. By this point I was full of appreciation for just how clever and intricate and downright satisfying this book is throughout. I love it, I unreservedly love it. I rarely give out the perfect score for a story. I think I've done it maybe 10-15 times in more than 500 books. I didn't get there with Old Man's War (although `The Last Colony' wasn't far off) but this is something else. Taken on its merits alone, I'm tempted to actually give it a 10.

But then I come to my sympathy for the other side. As a writer, the fact that this book is not original is a big deal. Nothing is really original in science fiction, or at least very little. Everyone steals little things and big things from everywhere, and have done for the last 40 years. But to do it like this so obviously! An author, a good author, is not just a hack. They make up the plot, dialogue and characters and one other rather important thing - the concept. Scalzi didn't make up the thing that in my opinion is the hardest to get down as perfectly as Piper did - the concept. Fuzzies on an exploited colony planet, sf courtroom drama for their very sentience. It's perfect. But it's Piper's not Scalzi's. Maybe this doesn't matter to some, but I wonder about stories I've written and how I'd feel if someone had the audacity to redo it, whether they could do better or not.

In the end I have to remain honest to my gut reaction, rather than my intellectual property rights brain. Fuzzy Nation outdoes Little Fuzzy in almost every respect and to an incredible and honed standard. It has something only the very best stories have - that self-contained world, tiny cast, pitch perfect prose and up-all-night plot. And Holloway. Scalzi's new Holloway is quite possibly the most interesting character I've read in months. Holloway is a wonderfully flawed lead, with more facets and motives to his character than most authors manage from their entire cast. Even when his morals and motives are exposed I still think there were reasons and motives underneath.
I can't recommend it enough and it so off the beaten track with respect to the bulk of the current SF shelf.
And yes, I really am going to give it a 10. As a writer I dream of concept as perfect as this and then pulling it off even better than the original author is an incredible achievement.

Marsha's Bag
Marsha's Bag
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and accomplished thriller, 5 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Marsha's Bag (Kindle Edition)
Thrillers, especially this type of thriller, are not the type of books that I usually pick up. The blurb was what got me. Some woman named Marsha trapped down a ravine with only the contents of her bag to save her from a kidnapper. Brilliant!
I am so glad I took the plunge, and with an unknown indie as well.

I found the beginning a little tough (its not my genre - so maybe thats just me) but it took some time before she was out of the car, injured and all. From that point on though, this book had me engrossed. I finished the whole thing in about 3 days, speeding through the middle two thirds in around a day. The story revolves around Marsha realising someone else is down there in the ravine with her and trying to save them, and her plan to get them both out alive even with a busted foot.

I won't ruin the story, but suffice to say there is all the necessary action, moments of horror and shock and a heroine you can root for even if you can't actually relate to her (you'll understand if you've read it). Price has a great knack for internal thoughts and getting them across readably, without any ridiculous streams of consciousness or monologues.
And there are some really interesting scenes. Without spoiling anything, one dialogue section is conducted in a really interesting say-everything-at-once style that is really engrossing.

Thats the thing with this novel. Its engrossing. Short and sweet and most of it happens in one locale, but you won't forget the time you spent there. Finally, there are two epilogues that throw a great self-referencing spanner in the works at the end, both of which are brilliant, well thought out and really changed how I felt towards certain characters. For Price to have made me feel much of anything emotional is high praise enough, but to then subvert my conclusions at the end is the mark of a gifted writer. Epilogues are often pointless, but Price shows they can sometimes be the very best bit.

In short, an engrossing thriller, not quite what you expect and very accomplished once it gets going. Far more so than your average ebook indie. It put me in the mind of some of Stephen King's single-character books in style and thats no small praise.

Yellow Blue Tibia: A Novel
Yellow Blue Tibia: A Novel
by Adam Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great UFO theory - but not what i expected, 13 Mar. 2009
Yellow Blue Tibia is a crazy novel of multiplicating realities trying to explain the paradox of UFO sightings and there cultural existence and their actual nonexistence.
what starts as an irresistible premise about russian SF writers being asked to concoct an alein threat for communism, soon degenerates after they are told to disband and forget everything, into a confusing, bizarre and wryly humourous jaunt across russia and the ukraine to stop the chernobyl disaster, after one of the writers finds out that the aliens they created might in fact be real ad are following the plan they imagined. what follows is a very philip k dick style novel of reality arguements and displacment, parallel future theory and the reality of UFOs.
however i feel it actually doesn't do what it says on the tin. i was expecting a fight against a potentially alien communist government - inflicting the concocted story on its populace to galvanise them into communism. what you get is a strange hole where a real story should be, where now only existensial arguements remain. it is confusing and confused.
however i really did enjoy reading it.
the prose is deft, the writng wry and ironic, the arguements extremely entertaining and the reality based theory awesome to comprehend.
in short a great novel in the Philip K Dick style, but its not the story of russian conspiracy you might expect from the blurb.

on a side note - i really want to know how much is truly what Skrovecky thinks happened to him, how much is mental neurosis, and how much is adam Roberts invention. very intriguing.

Final Fantasy III (Nintendo DS)
Final Fantasy III (Nintendo DS)
Offered by simplesimon1966
Price: £22.44

4.0 out of 5 stars a great way to waste 40 hours!, 1 Oct. 2008
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
a great way to waste a good 40 hours
though not even comparable in quality to latest installements of this god-like series, FF3 DS is a brilliant remake of a pearl of early RPG making.

the story is almost nonexistant comprising of 4 light warriors trying to awaken 4 crystals and save the world from darkness. and it really never gets any more complex.
the battle system in utterly simple turn based old skool easyness. the jobs just starting to make real sense in this edition.

where this game is great is the ease of play - the fact any amateur can pick it up and get to grips with one of the easiest systems in any FF. the remake has introduced recognisable charactermodels and personalities for the 4 light warriors (4 nameless clones in original) and the game is pretty, uses the stylus stylishly (?) and was just simple enjoyability all the way through. it is also really hard later on.

the down points are the lack of any story - something even the most basic RPGs today have in droves. this was where it was starting. it serves its purpose but goes no further, the remake adds some individuality to the proceedings but not much besides. The game in really simple and for ff aholics it doesn't offer much in the customisability areas. very toned down.

overall, a solid retro fantasy spruced up with the power of the awesome DS. makes what was an almost impossible title to love into something any ff player could play and enjoy. for that it deserves recognition.
it also serves as a practice run for the development company before they release all the stops and tackle the beast of FF4.
if its this only with a story and characters to care about it cant go far wrong.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 19, 2009 8:35 PM GMT

by Michael Marshall Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars totally loses track of itself - but is fun nonetheless, 31 July 2008
This review is from: Spares (Paperback)
So 'Spares' by Michael Marshall Smith is at once a sci fi thrill ride of intricate cyberpunk proportions. It is fueled by a great idea and loads of invention - such as the sentient computer systems and viruses. all very interesting.
its well written and witty to the point of sniggering in places.
However, the premise of Spares begins as an interesting jaunt into the ethics of cloning and the spare humans it involves. This section is great (roughly the first 3rd) then suddenly Smith wants to write a different book, so he begins the second premise halfway through this one, an alternate reality you can enter where Earth's brain resides called The Gap. this story is more fantasyesque and very annoyingly, the clones story is almost completely...forgotten. The spares are mentioned every 30 pages or so from then on, but the book becomes some weird race against time in this drugfueled vietnam. The title and premise of the story is lost.
The postrationalised ending is very annoying - smith seems to not have known how to end it and tacked on a weird magicesque thing that leaves much to be desired and many holes.
overall, if you want a story about clones - like your led to believe on the blurb - avoid this book.
but if you want a well written, witty, noir-ish and fun rollok through a great science fiction detective hunt then you could do worse.
never gonna be a classic novel - coz its too messy - but its a fun read.
6/10 for the messy losing track story
8/10 for the writing.
equals 7/10

The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands: Waste Lands Bk. 3
The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands: Waste Lands Bk. 3
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars awesome continuation - the dark tower just gets better and better, 23 July 2008
really awesome continuation of the Dark Tower series
the action is hotting up and the tower is closer...
This one is beautifully crafted and written yet again, full of interesting sidequests and shaped in a nice rounded narrative - there are things at the beginning that get solved at the end - everything that is introduced has a reason later on. its quite satisfying storytelling in that way.
overall - i'm still well intrigued about what could possibly happen in the next books. i still wanna find out about Roland and i still want to know what the Dark Tower really means
its a great series so far and i will soldier on. it aint hard wen the road is so interesting.
this one is full of apocalypse and action, the return of Jake and a very strange train.
Overall a great read - and an interesting if not entirely unpredictable cliffhanger.

Everything's Eventual
Everything's Eventual
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback

2 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars yet another dull short story collection - avoid, 23 July 2008
This review is from: Everything's Eventual (Paperback)
yet another seriously dull set of short stories from King
he is only worth reading in novel form
his short story ideas leave a lot to be desired.
this collection is slightly better than the turgid and boring Nightmares but it doesn't even touch a single one of his novels.
the roland (sisters of eluria) story is the only one worth a look

Nightmares and Dreamscapes
Nightmares and Dreamscapes
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback

0 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars so weak - a bunch of turgid pointless tales, 23 July 2008
a really rubbish collection of short stories
i was barely interested in a single one
just 800 pages of very boring and badly handled short stories.
the majority are dull to the point of turgid and a lot of them don't fully make sense
the only interesting one was 'Sneakers'
this is the second awful collection of short stories by King and i won't be buying another
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 5, 2013 5:54 AM BST

Needful Things
Needful Things
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars very dull - far from king's best, 18 July 2008
This review is from: Needful Things (Paperback)
stephen king is a hit and miss artist of truly impeccable form. one book will be masterful and the next absolutely terrible. for me he just isn't consistent.
thankfully sometimes this means the book can be utterly brilliant and you wanna read it over or it can be so dull you give up half way.
Needful things falls into this latter group. the premise has very little supernatural stuff and relies on the horror of human nature. however when not a single character engages the reader and nothing they do is in the slightest bit interesting it is hard to keep reading.
it is yet another small american town gone bad story - sometimes these can be brill - this time it was tired and rehashed - you could replace all the characters with any from the rest of his small town books. it was boring and the bad guy was pointless.
there was no evil and no hook.
overall, avoid - read one of the truly great king novels - like Green Mile or The Stand.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2011 6:24 PM GMT

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