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Loose Bones (West Midlands, UK)

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Dark Eden
Dark Eden
Price: £3.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and alien, 28 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Dark Eden (Kindle Edition)
A gripping and in some sense hopeful and uplifting survival story (making it plausible that humans could get by on a very alien world if they have a bit of luck with the local life). But it is also quite dark and depressing in its exploration of the negative aspects of the human condition - frustration, jealousy, desperation, recklessness, egomania, suicide, murder and aggression. The positive existential philosophy of Jerry and negative proto-spiritualism of Lucy Lu is a nice touch, but perhaps a bit shallow and heavy-handed. The revelation about the companions is unsurprising, and it is a bit disappointing that this book is not self-contained.


Fairyland
Fairyland
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Skillful modern mythology, 28 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Fairyland (Kindle Edition)
A rich and strange world is conjured by this novel. Fairytale creatures and subjective points of view are created by quite plausible but roughly sketched genetic engineering, bioinformatics and nanotechnology innovations. It is populated with dark and nasty characters, and others who are ambiguous but subjected to extreme privations, a bit like those in The Quiet War. Through them you're only given flickering oblique snapshots of a grand narrative (the creation of Fairyland by greater powers, locked in their own struggles), whilst their own struggles form the page-turning plot. This makes for a complexity that can be rewarding, but also left black areas of misunderstanding and confusion for me.


Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space
Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space

3.0 out of 5 stars For Doctor Who fans, 28 Feb. 2013
This seems to have been created with a endearing love for the setting (specifically for the 9th and 10th Doctor with Rose, Martha and Donna, emphasising the wild pacifist protector role), with good storytelling emphasis over mechanics (e.g. with positive and negative traits, and story points for luck or to tweak plot). I wasn't sure the Doctor would ever be a balanced PC though, and treating PC advancement informally seems weak for an RPG. I was surprised at how little in-universe material there was (14 alien types, frequent but only light passing references to times and places, strictly from broadcast episodes), though the brief chapter on adventure (and campaign) design was sound. It didn't make me desperate to find a group to play this. The same publisher's weightier Starblazer Adventures maybe a richer foundation for fun science fiction fantasy gaming. Drivethrurpg helped me save shelf-space for both these.


Genetopia
Genetopia
Price: £2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich, intriguing and orignal, 28 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Genetopia (Kindle Edition)
Brooke very skillfully creates a rich, intriguing and orignal world for a grim but hopeful hero-quest. The main plot, following Flint as he goes out into the wild to reach the big city via a tortuous path, slowly reveals a depopulated post-industrial world of slavery and mutated human castes. This is broken by a few well-placed interludes that give insights from other character's perspectives, revealing the hopes of the enslaved Mutts and the mini-quest of Henritt for example. There's no great exposition, but there are hints this isn't imagined too far in the future, and that gene-therapy and nanotechnology was meant to create a world of modified natural organisms for sustaining humanity. But Flint demonstrates that meditation and accepting change are more valuable than the comforting nannying of an Oracle or sustaining a class bred for servitude. This is perhaps closer to the modern post-environmental crisis theme as in Paolo Bacigalupi's Windup Girl than Jack Vance's Dying Earth fantasy.


Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
by Robert M. Pirsig
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Prisig's not a good Buddhist or philosopher, 20 Feb. 2010
My rhetorical take is that Prisig seems deeply selfish (in the treatment of his friends and son) and arrogant (in his patronising lumping together of different Eastern traditions and his dismissal of aesthetics with much else from mainstream philosophy and other academic traditions), and uses a literally unbelievable autobiography (personality substitution) to distract from some enormous leaps of reasoning (he can't define quality, therefore all knowledge arises from an unknowable Tao) and unsupported assertions (there is no motorcycle, or it's just a cognitive projection). There seems to be a sound philosophical foundation - doubt everything, avoid naive realism - and a noble agenda - unify empiricist and romantic (reductionist and holistic?) traditions to avoid anomie in the modern technological society and maintain a positive energetic approach to whatever you do. However, for starters, it's questionable that hypothesis selection at the heart of the scientific method is that unscientific or unfathomable, it's hard to believe that the Greek sophists were unique in putting virtue before truth and that rational progress since Aristotle has battled against this, and it's likely that a straight-forward and useful definition of "quality" can be made and applied (using functional suitability, economy and harmony perhaps - there's no need to presume it's more awkward than qualities of a different sort like "redness"; note, Prisig seems to fall into the very trap he notes of muddling aesthetic quality with pre-cognitive perceptive qualia). I welcome demonstrations that no man is an island, and that improving concentration and awareness can transform one's apprehension and relation to the world, but not this rant.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2010 11:09 AM BST


Escape from Woolwich Arsenal
Escape from Woolwich Arsenal
Price: £10.53

5.0 out of 5 stars Dark trip, 20 Jan. 2008
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Jungle-breakcore-whatever made heavy by jerky insertion of that subliminal bass buzz, 200+ BPM bouncing rhythm and pacey high-tap synth-percussion sequencing (kicking the stuffing out of arty poseurs like V Snares with its skillful business-like onslaught). It has a psychedelic potency from sucked up and wrapped around electo-rhythm riff snippets (working well at the headphone-brian interface), and darkness especially from some really dirty ragged fuzzy layers. 2 stand-out samples underline the dark tone - I think they're from a Ray Bradbury radio play about aliens possessing children, and the Art Bell broadcast about the sounds from Hell (also used by the equally gifted Bong Ra). There's a more metal vocal scream/ growl with hidden grinding guitar in parts, and moments of electro trance blips and unexpected Boards of Canada style calm - but even the intro/ outro samples of bird-song sound claustrophobic and urban, leaving you wanting more.


Pathfinder # 1 Rise of the Runelords: Burnt Offerings: Issue 1
Pathfinder # 1 Rise of the Runelords: Burnt Offerings: Issue 1
by James Jacobs
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quality RPG beginning, 19 Nov. 2007
"Burnt Offerings" is the first of a monthly series of d20 (Dungeons and Dragons) modules, taking PCs from level 1 to 4. Piazo's raising the bar again, beyond the defunct Dungeon magazine's adventure-paths. It's a niche market of quality-minded dungeon masters, but worth the price (there's some saving for subscriptions).

Half the book describes the adventure setup and encounters parts, from small-town events to an ancient dungeon. It's about vanquishing goblins, but begins a bigger plot about lost mage-kings' power. Note, there are many tough encounters (EL 2+ over the intended party level). As treasure is also light and well hidden, and it's sometimes implausible to return to civilisation, a novice party may feel they're in too deep. However there's a nice mix of familiar and more obscure opponents (stats include combat behaviour), and NPCs' backgrounds are well developed (beyond a hack-n-slash party's needs).

The other value-added half of the book describes: the sites and people of the frontier-town central to the story; a brief history of the empire which left monumental ruins littered around world; an introduction to the chronicles of an adventurers' institution; 5 stylish monsters; and 4 pregenerated characters (there's also more campaign background in a free 32 page player's guide). The local detail and mythic scope together give a great fantasy balance between individuals' quirky relationships and an awesome deep past - an exciting start to a new campaign setting. Artwork is also colourful and striking.


A World in Their Screams
A World in Their Screams
Offered by ProMedia GmbH
Price: £6.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome gothic classicism, 19 Aug. 2007
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The subdued male French narrative is a dreamlike epic of slavery, occultism, war, death, fantastic sites and a kingdom of blood. Independently of neo-classical industrial-ambient tags, the music makes its own unsettling journey. After a 30 second medieval chant, the initial restrained majesty twists into a vampiric descent with dissonance and intrusions of battering noise. It then crosses a haunted ambient space of lamentation and building tension into off-kilter outbursts over whines and screams. At the halfway point your embedded in a world of symphonic edifices, hemmed in by urgent hammering and high-keening bat-like effects; awesome. Urgency then builds with heavy steps and jagged intrusions of strings into a hair-raising screamed assault, which fades to another unquiet lull before lashing out again. Perhaps fittingly, that leads to the hollow calmer space as a minimal conclusion, pulling out a brief queasy crescendo before ending in a distant wailing-wall of damned souls.


Nokia 7373 : USB Data Cable & Software Suite : Fits CA53 CA-53
Nokia 7373 : USB Data Cable & Software Suite : Fits CA53 CA-53

4.0 out of 5 stars Cable works, software doesn't, 29 Jun. 2007
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A good quality, very economically priced cable, ideal for non-bluetooth (high speed) connectivity between your Nokia and PC.

However, the shipped software (an older v6 of Nokia PC Suite) didn't work with the 7373:Windows-XP combination. You'll need a download from Nokia - free, but 20MB.


Metridium Fields
Metridium Fields
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £8.39

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Diverse, energetic, symphonic, 12 Mar. 2007
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This review is from: Metridium Fields (Audio CD)
Apparently a brilliantly accomplished complex modern rock work (with the detail of Mastodon, thinking of the tracks 'Neonate' and 'Revolution in the Water'), this also has a well built epic-feel in stately repetitious guitar building (the style Isis exemplify) and that retro atmosphere (done best by Witch). There is masterfully constructed arrangement: heavy fuzzy slabs of guitar with moments delicately picked melody, piles of atmosphere from strange sounds well-worked in (70s rock organ, Eastern pipes, samples talking about sharks etc), high-toned clear energetic vocals in the main (the bit that's most reminiscent of other modern stoners) with hoarsely screamed moments as well as female and some half-growled backing, and the drums (when they come in) are pounding and clear. But then there are confounding delicate tracks and passages with gentle rhythm, slow melodies and emphasis on the female voice (Versus The Siren also has a theramin and trumpet) - more like the best kind of millennial intelligent post-rock indie (Delgados, Novak, Quickspace). The closing 21 minute title track puts it all together; Terrorizer also mentioned "mythical gravitas", Neurosis and Low. Overall, a rich album that immediately intrigues whilst demanding repeated listening.


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