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Toby Andersen (UK)

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Iphonica
Iphonica
Price: £12.63

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime Soundscape Electronica from an iPhone, 28 Mar. 2013
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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

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overt plagiarism done better than the original?, 14 Mar. 2013
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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 Gameseek
Price: £21.49

4.0 out of 5 stars a great way to waste 40 hours!, 1 Oct. 2008
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


Red Seas Under Red Skies: The Gentleman Bastard Sequence, Book Two
Red Seas Under Red Skies: The Gentleman Bastard Sequence, Book Two
by Scott Lynch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant second novel - this series is the best around!, 29 April 2008
Absolutely cracking new novel from Scott Lynch, Red Seas Under Red Skies is the follow up to the jaw droppingly good Lies of Locke Lamora.
Locke and Jean are back in a tale of ocean's eleven-like cons in huge medieval casinos and a Pirates of the Caribbean-like adventure is in store for them, testing their false-facing skills and inventive talents to the limit.
The book is intricately plotted, has interesting flashback structured chapters and loads of the best dialogue to come fantasy's way since GRRM.
the series features two of the most memorable charaters in fantasy and the books are so well written its hard to find any gripes.
i liked this just as much as Lies but was slightly let down by the not-as-complex-as-rest-of-novel ending. that said it is a brilliant heart felt cliffhanger with plenty of action, conniving and violence.
i was in awe of the plot, in awe of the action and the amazing POTC beating pirates section, the whole thing is a masterclass in fiction writing.
the Gentlemen Bastards sequence is fast becoming a sure fire hit series.
10/10


The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Lies of Locke Lamora
by Scott Lynch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant read - heist/con fantasy - class of its own!, 24 Mar. 2008
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Absolutely awesome novel. Scott Lynch's, The Lies of Locke Lamora is a witty, violent and clever fantasy in a brilliant Gormangastesque city. and soo much fun! It is written superbly, with clever narrative fluctuations, having chapters unfold in the wrong order revealing plot in an exciting way - chapter 3 is a real treat. the plot unfolds quickly and satisfyingly and Lynch's prose is deft, original and imaginative. it is full of cons, heists, murders and torture and sometimes hilarious dialogue and brilliant set up scenes. The story is basically about Locke Lamora and his small bands of con artists as they rip off the rich of their city in ever more elaborate ways. eventually of course things start to go wrong, reputation gets the better of locke and they become embroiled in a city wide murder plot. this novel is like an awesome mixing pot of loads of great genres and ideas - it is written like a kind of retro Pulp Fiction with the flashbacks and narrative play and the story starts as a kind of Oliver Twist thief schooling, but quickly becomes a mix up of Robin Hood, Hustle and Ocean's Eleven (and any other heist/con movie) with his Gentlemen Bastards as his 11 (only 5 tho) set in the middle ages (add some alchemy here tho). It is enjoyably crass, lots of swearing, references to gratuitous things, base language and description, but also highly imaginative and real. Lynch really seems to enjoy writing it. and i enjoyed reading it! i would recommend it highly and am gonna read the next one in the series for sure. its earnt itself a place in my favourite books. 10/10


The Fade (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
The Fade (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Chris Wooding
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome manipulative writting and a great standalone fantasy! readable stuff!, 17 Mar. 2008
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Another truely excellent novel from Chris Wooding, The Fade is a deeply originally structured fantasy, with intricate characters and emotional complexities that get you very involved.
The story is about the lead character's revenge and the lengths they will go to. lots of satisfying subterfuge and spying, lockpicking and sneaking about - prison escapes and infiltrations. set in a subterrainean world in the midst of war - its a very interesting read.
where this book is original is in its narrative construction - the book starts with a chapter part way between two stories in the book - from that point on one strand continues the story and the other is a backward flashback system of the character's life before the opening chapter, revealing the reasons and motives in time for their effects to be felt in the present.
It is written in the present tense and in 1st-person, initially difficult to get into, but after a few pages, this style comes alive - your right there in the action and decision making process all the time. another clever bit of writing is in the first chapter - i dont want to spoil it, but it relies heavily on preconceptions of human thinking, then when you think you know it all, it totally subverts your thinking revealing something about the character that totally throws you. very interesting to be manipulated so easily.
in closing, a satisfying novel, a standalone fantasy thats well worth a read, political subterfuge and espionage with unforseen twists and turns especially in the last 10 pages, The Fade is interesting, descriptive and accomplished in its prose.
i'd give it 10/10 but i liked Wooding's 'The Braided Path' more so its
9.5/10


Heaven's Net is Wide
Heaven's Net is Wide
by Lian Hearn
Edition: Hardcover

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to be blown away - Amazing start/finish to an awesome series!!, 21 Sept. 2007
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This review is from: Heaven's Net is Wide (Hardcover)
Absolutely awesome start/end of the best series of books i've ever read. there is no higher praise.
Feudal japanese set tales of samurai, geisha, swords, blood, treachery, intrigue, and love. The complex, entertaining and beautiful history of the otori is finally finished with Heaven's Net is Wide - the last in the series and a prequel to the other books.
This book is in third person like the recent and equally awesome Harsh Cry of the Heron, and unlike the original trilogy told from Otori Takeo's perspective.
This is the story of Shigeru, Takeo's adoptive father/uncle and reveals the much wondered about events prior to the first book - the legendary battles and the real story of Shigeru's brother and tribe knowledge. all the character's that get little time in the trilogy are explored and personalised in this volume.
It is awesomely written, moody and evocative, tranquil, yet gruesome in equal measure. It serves as an awesome way into the series and can be read first (as Hearn must now intend) as the book leads on to within 6 pages of the start of Across the Nightingale Floor. Alternatively it can be read last - like i read it - revealing the legendary events the other books are based on. there are one or two instances where it's prequel nature is apparent - sentences like - (name) who would go on to become suchandsuch in the near future. these originally made me think a first time reader should start with the trilogy but upon research i found that these types of sentences appear throughout the series. i now think it is a great place to start as Hearn now intends and should be on your reading list soon.

incredible, atmospheric and complex.
involving and entertaining - a book to treasure -
there are so few this good. 10/10


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