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Altered Carbon
Altered Carbon
by Richard Morgan
Edition: Paperback

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get to the next screen..., 11 Nov 2003
This review is from: Altered Carbon (Paperback)
This is probably one of the best books I have read in recent years, because it manages to blend a number of my favourite genres into one great tale. As a measure of how well the book has been received, I understand (from an interview with Richard Morgan) that Altered Carbon has been optioned by Hollywood, and has joined the select ranks of books which might make it onto the big screen.
Altered Carbon mixes equal measures of hardcore action, political intrigue and detective story with welcome dashes of wry humour (and even a little porn).
Set in a future where humanity has colonised the galaxy and death is no longer something to be feared, individuals are fitted with ubiquitous 'stacks' which can backup consciousness, allowing that person to be 're-sleeved' (at a cost) in a new body if their own is damaged beyond repair.
The central character, Takeshi Kovacs, is a renegade from the Envoy Corps, an elite branch of troopers who are conditioned to have superior combat skills. Killed while working as a mercenary on the colonised planet of Harlan's World, Kovacs wakes to find that he has been 'needlecast' (digitally freighted) and resleeved by a mysterious 400 year old benefactor called Laurens Bancroft. Kovacs is coerced into investigating Bancrofts recent 'death', which appears to be an open-and-shut suicide, only Bancroft refuses to accept that. We follow Kovacs as his investigations lead him into serious jeopardy, where more is at stake than the superficial death of just one man.
Altered Carbon contains some fantastic sci-fi conventions, most of which have been done before in some form or another, but never quite this slick. Although the book deals with futuristic concepts, it is gritty enough and seemingly 'real' enough, to be very accessible (compared to hardcore space opera 'Revelation Space, for example).
I especially enjoyed reading how the Envoy conditioning and Neurachem worked. You almost get to know these augmentations as well as Kovacs himself, and to me they seemed to be likeable 'characters' in their own right, especially when they are struggling valiantly to keep Kovacs upright and fighting on the 'Panama Rose'....
Although packed with technology, gratuitous sexual references and gore, the story deeply explores what it would be like to be essentially immortal, and to have the benefit of a backed-up existence. Morgan clearly associates immortality with hedonism, and it is interesting to see how the more depraved characters satisfy themsleves, given an unlimited timespan to sate these urges. Religion is also explored - if the mind is so easily transplanted, then what requirement is there for a soul?
These concepts are cleverly juggled in various ways to create some of the storys finest moments and twists.
The author, Richard Morgan, has a knack of creating appealing tidbits of information that, if he was inclined to explore them, could probably fill entire books of their own.
I sincerely hope he continues to explore.

Palm Tungsten T Stylus 3-Pack
Palm Tungsten T Stylus 3-Pack

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stylus Council..., 11 Nov 2003
I recently purchased this pack of replacement styli, and I was surprisingly dissapointed at such a simple product. Although one of them fit snugly into the Palm, the other two did not securely fit into the stylus holder, and fell out even when the Palm is simply held upside-down. The Palm itself is not at fault, as my original stylus fit perfectly, and I only lost it because I loaned it to someone :/
The one stylus that *does* actually fit performs just as well as the original, but it looks like I'll have to buy another pack soon. If the next set suffers from the same manufacturing flaw, then I'm going to be seriously annoyed.

ADS USB Ultra Hub 4
ADS USB Ultra Hub 4

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice alternative, 29 Jan 2003
A practical piece of kit that worked first time with Win98 and subsequently WinXP, and with no problems. I chose this 4 port hub instead of a Belkin product, since I have had a few nasty experiences with their products, and I found the ADS hub simple and easy to install. The box is a little bit flimsy although it is finished in trendy transparent colouring.
I can't believe I put off getting a hub for so long, but when I finally got one it made those dusty forays behind the desk a thing of the past. I would recommend this device to anyone, especially those who are a little bit suspicious of Belkin products (like me).

Dungeon Siege (PC)
Dungeon Siege (PC)
Offered by superdiskdeals
Price: £10.99

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, 5 Jan 2003
This review is from: Dungeon Siege (PC) (Video Game)
Ahh... RPG. Those three little letters that represent hours of head-scratching while you try to name the members of your party. Should the wizard be called Merlin? Or Xor? Should the female warrior be called Xena? Or Sheba? And who should I equip with the 'Sword of a Million Hurty Bits'? Anyway, I called my star character Malcolm, armed him with a rake, and boldy immersed myself into the new role...
I've now been plodding away at Dungeon Siege for something like 40 hours now, and I'm bored sick of it. The gloriously crafted senarios, the myriads of enemies, the fabulous inventory of weaponry - all of these ceased to hold my attention once I realised that the game was little more than a series of minor 'quests' held together by the barest of plots.
The graphics are very good, and the attention to detail is excellent at times. The appearance of your party characters changes almost every time you alter their inventory, right down to the gloves, boots and weapons. The various landscapes are nicely done too, ranging between frozen ice caves, fetid swamps, heat-blasted desert and towns and citadels.
However... (the Giant Fly in the Healing Ointment)
The repetitive battles soon become tedious, since the more your party advances, the more powerful your enemies become. This makes perfect sense, except for the fact that just to get past three enemy soldiers at the later stages requires a good five minutes of concentrated thwacking from your party. The enemies are pretty dumb too - don't expect them to do anything except stumble towards your party, or the occassionally ambush from the tree-line. The battles themselves require very little strategy - a console allows you to set the AI of your party, meaning that with a sufficiently armed party you could go make a cup of tea while they autonomously clear out a catacomb full of skeletons, giant floaty heads, or whatever.
Additionally, Dungeon Siege teases you with the most erratic Auto-Save I have ever seen. There seems to be no logic behind it's decision to pop-up and save your progress, so I thoroughly recommend saving often.
Finally, my last big rant. A member of your party will die, it's enevitable. Upon doing so, all of that characters posessions will tumble to the floor in a big chaotic heap. Nobody likes to see Zandolf kick the bucket though, so you will no doubt have purchased a Resurrection spell or two. A quick cast later, and Zandolf is back on his feet. Now you have to pick up all those bloomin' posessions that got scattered everywhere. If you lost two or more characters during a battle, ALL of their posessions are now lying on the ground, and will have to be collected and redistributed to the correct party members. This is harder than it sounds, especially if you had spent a lot of time earlier equipping the various items to confer the best bonuses for each individual character.
If this sounds exessive, then just wait till you have to sit and muddle through it all. My poor Gormlax was never the same after I misplaced his Butchering Boots of the Badger, with their +1 Strength bonus....
Dungeon Siege is not an RPG for seasoned players of the genre. Your characters are fairly limited in the directions they can grow, and there is a distinct lack of rich narrative and plot which I feel would alienate fans of fantasy games. However, if you enjoyed Diablo or Nox, then this may be just your thing.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 15, 2013 1:14 PM GMT

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within [DVD] [2002]
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Ming-Na
Offered by gowingsstoreltd
Price: £2.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A-Gaia-Doo, doo, doo, 20 Dec 2002
I really really liked this movie. All I know is that when I see that eagle at the end, and hear the fantastic final music, I feel good.
I think part of the reason that people flame the plot of this film is the fact that it deals with some fundamental things that we (Westerners) are not familiar with in cinema. We are not accustomed to films with such an ecological and spiritual standpoint, especially when set in an action packed futuristic setting. Fans of the game series (or sci-fi fans in general) who are expecting action, effects, and nothing more are likely to be left feeling shortchanged unless they appreciate these aspects. I feel it is harsh to ridicule the plot to the degree that some people have - the Western influence is there alright, with the plastic stereotype characters and comic relief (hence only 4 stars), and these do turn the movie into something less than it might have been, however the plot involving Gaia and the spirits is certainly unlike anything I have ever seen, and it deserves praise for daring to be different.
The film does *not* rely exlusively on the CGI element to be successful (in way that The Matrix was not just 'bullet-time'). It attempts to be successful by introducing new concepts to a jaded audience, and I for one am grateful for that.

Microsoft Internet Keyboard
Microsoft Internet Keyboard

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Go for the Pro?, 20 Dec 2002
This is a large and well laid out keyboard, comfortable to use with or without the supplied wrist rest, and with a curved modern design that makes my old keyboard look like a slab of soap. I agree with the reviewer above - if you have a desk with a slide-out keyboard panel (as both of mine have been), then you may have trouble accessing the hotkeys at the top of the keyboard.
Note that this keyboard has no USB options at all (no connector, no additional ports) and now that I am using USB peripherals more and more, I wish I had gone for the Professional version, simply for the convenience of having USB ports at my fingertips.
Hotkeys above the main keyboard are:
Back, Forward, Stop, Mail, Search, Favourites, Web/Home.
Hotkeys above the number pad are:
My Computer, Calculator, Sleep.
Hope this was useful :)

Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships
Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships
by Eric Berne
Edition: Paperback

226 of 229 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening, 19 Dec 2002
Years ago I chose not to pursue an education in psychology, but I retain a strong interest, if only to make sense of a world where motivations are often misguided and true intent is hard to perceive.
'Games People Play' explains and analyses, with pertinent real-life examples, the continual stuggle between our inner child, parent and adult to dominate a social situation, colloquially termed as 'games'. It explains that the outcome of these games are a fundamental human requirement, and by understanding the way these games are played we learn to understand the motivations of ourselves and our peers.
The first time I read this book, I instantly recognised real life occasions where the information contained was relevant and useful. If you have only a passing interest in psychology, you will still occassionally sit upright while reading and say to yourself - 'So this is why people act like that'.
Some of the passages are eminently quotable - "Everyone carries a little boy or girl around inside of him", and at the very least by remembering some of these key phrases, you will begin to understand the desires and reactions of others.
This is no pop-psychology rubbish - it is clinical psychology explained at a fundamental level, and crafted to be accessible and useful for everyone. The book is rarely dry and monotonous, and I was pleased to find some extremely humorous passages.
I challenge anyone to read this book and not find a revelation or two inside.

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (PC CD)
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (PC CD)
Offered by Startup Media
Price: £3.81

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Whizz, bang, splutter, 19 Dec 2002
I still don't get it... I've read enough of the glowing reviews to realise I'm in the minority, but I just didn;t geta kick out of this game at all.
I'm a seasoned FPS player, and I was really looking forward to MOHAA. It took me a while to get round to buying it because I discovered that a number of people were having compatibility issues with their graphics cards - I *URGE* you check this out before you buy, especially if you have older 3Dfx cards. An upgrade may be necessary if you want hassle-free MOH experience.
Experience? I'll concede that the game looks the business, and some of the effects are innovative and 'never seen before', but at no point did anything provoke a 'WOW!' I'm assuming that some of the other reviewers just haven't played enough games...
Looks aren't everything of course, and imho it's gameplay that counts. Right from the start I knew things were going to be dodgy - I continually felt herded towards a goal, and opportunities to explore were few and far between. Part of the appeal in a FPS is when you beat off that roomful of baddies, and get to investigate the nooks and crannys - none of that in MOHAA, since the levels were really not as sprawling and wide-open as they at first appear.
The AI has been criticised at length above, and I agree that the reactions of the enemy are absurd and unrealistic. It makes no sense to create levels so apparently rich and realistic, then populate them with moronic A-Team bad guys.
I found the available arsenal dissapointing too. I admired the realism, such as recoil and small clip size, but I found myself using only one or two weapons at all times - in fact you can plough through most levels with nothing more than the sniper rifle.
The levels themselves become tedious. You know when you buy a new game, and you stay up all night just to get that little bit further? There was none of this for me in MOHAA, although it maybe had a positive effect in increasing the playing time, which would have been ridiculously short otherwise. I played the game through simply because I had nothing better to play at the time - if I had, I'm sure MOHAA would have been shelved.
Finally, I'd like to criticise the end of the game. Like movies, I expect some big finalé or flourish, but when MOHAA ended I was speechless... Was that it???
So, to summarise... I bought this game as the Next Big Thing, but feel I was left decidedly short-changed. Maybe they'll change things for me in the inevitable follow-ups... ^_^

Star Trek: Armada II (PC CD)
Star Trek: Armada II (PC CD)

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Star Trek: Armada 2, 3 Jun 2002
I immensely enjoyed the first ST:Armada game, and was anticipating the sequel tremendously.
The most significant changes from the previous version include the new ship classes (you can build the Galaxy-class this time) and additional resources (such as Latinum). A few other tweaks, such as colonising planets and the ability to warp are nice additions too, as are the appearances of Ferengi and Species 8472 vessels. However, the missions and the plot lines are very similar to the first game, and ST:Armada 2 feels very much like an 'expansion pack', rather than an outright sequel. I would thoroughly recommend this game to the people (like me) who finished ST:Armada and wanted more, but if you didn't like the first version there's not much new here for you.

Belkin USB PCI Card (2 port)
Belkin USB PCI Card (2 port)

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 23 May 2002
Having installed various hardware successfully on a number of occasions, I was disappointed that I could not get this card working.
Supposedly 'Plug and Play', it caused my machine to freeze repeatedly during startup and this problem was only rectified by removing the device entirely, despite my setup being 100% USB compatible. I am running Windows ME, and although the Microsoft HCL list is inconclusive I was informed elsewhere that this product is WinME compatible
The device is delivered in bloated packaging, no drivers are supplied with the product and the literature provided is worthless.

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