Blog Archives

#CBR7 Review #1 – Ready Player One

Ready Player OneTarget: Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One

Profile: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Pop Culture, Adventure!

After Action Report:

Ready Player One is one of those books that’s been sitting on the shelves at Barnes and Nobel taunting me with nearly universal acclaim for longer than I care to think about.  Not only that, but it falls clearly into my ‘near future, speculative fiction’ bailiwick and even focuses on video game culture, so I really have no excuse as to why I’m only just now adding it to my library.  And that’s a shame, because it really is quite good.

Any returning readers will recall that I intensely dislike reading books with good press or recommendations, mostly because it means that I’m suddenly holding the author (and the book) to much higher standards than are reasonable, but also because it messes with the way that I think about writing these reviews.  I feel pressure to generate ‘original’ criticism, which puts my tendency to nitpick into overdrive.

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LAB Notes #3 – Scrapped Princess

Target: Scrapped Princess
Studio: BONES
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Notable Themes: Mystery, Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic
Episodes: 24
Fanservice Level: Average

Reasons to Watch:
A mysterious story that transcends genre
Broad appeal without sacrificing substance

Reasons to Not:
Main characters are somewhat one dimensional

Similar to: Turn-A Gundam, Last Exile, Avatar: The Last Airbender

Review:
It kind of baffles me that Scrapped Princess doesn’t get mentioned more often.  The series is a nearly perfect example of how anime can tell interesting stories that would do well on U.S. television.  It has action, mystery, comedy, drama, cool concepts, and solid characters.  Combine that with the above average production values and decent dubbing and I just don’t understand why this wasn’t picked up by some U.S. network during the anime boom in the late Nineties and early ‘Aughts.  Regardless, Scrapped Princess is one of those rare series that has something for everyone and doesn’t really compromise to get it all packed in.

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LAB Notes #1 – Xam’d: Lost Memories

Target: Xam’d: Lost Memories – Bounen no Zamned
Studio: BONES
Genre: Action, Adventure
Notable Themes: Mecha, War, Religious Persecution
Episodes: 26
Fanservice Level: Mild

Reasons to Watch:
Top quality animation from Studio BONES.
Strong, original story that doesn’t feel like a retread.
Great characters and very strong character development.

Reasons to Not:
Lots of obscure terminology that is never explained.
Very random ‘final-boss’ ending with little real resolution

Similar to: RahXephon, Eureka Seven, Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Review:
There isn’t a good reason for why I started this new anime review series with Xam’d: Lost Memories.  It isn’t my favorite series, though it probably sits in the top twenty-five.  It is a rather good exemplar of the kind of things I like in shows, anime or otherwise: strong main character development, good storytelling over the entire arc and fun action sequences that don’t dominate the rest of the show.  Xam’d doesn’t feel as polished as some of the real classics in its genre, but still manages to stand above the crowd as a show that provokes thought and emotion.

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#CBR4 Maneuver #3 – The Kingdom Beyond the Waves

Target: Stephen Hut’s The Kingdom Beyond the Waves (Jackelian 2)

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy, Adventure

Summary: Adapted from the Back Cover, “Professor Amelia Harsh is obsessed with finding the lost civilization of Camlantis, a legendary city from prehistory that is said to have created the perfect pacifist society.  Without official funding, Amelia is forced to accept an offer of patronage from Abraham Quest, the man she blames for her father’s bankruptcy and suicide.  Quest has evidence that proves that the Camlantean ruins are buried under one of the sealike lakes that dot the murderous jungles of Liongeli.

Amelia will blackmail her old friend Commodore Black into ferrying her along a huge river on his ancient U-boat.  With an [untrustworthy] crew of freed convicts, Quest’s force of fearsome female mercenaries on board, and a lunatic steamman acting as their guide, Amelia’s luck seems to be going from bad to worse.  Her quest for the perfect society has a good chance of bringing her own world to the brink of destruction.” Read the rest of this entry

#CBR4 Maneuver #1 – The Court of the Air

Target: Stephen Hunt’s The Court of the Air

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy, Adventure

Summary: From the Back Cover, “When streetwise Molly Templar witnesses a brutal murder at the brothel she has just recently been apprenticed to, her first instinct is to run back to the poorhouse where she grew up.  But there she finds her fellow orphans butchered, and it slowly dawns on her that she was the real target of the attack.

Oliver Brooks has led a sheltered existence in the backwater home of his merchant uncle.  But when he is framed for murder he flees for his life, accompanied by an agent of the mysterious Court of the Air.  Chased across the country, Oliver finds himself in the company of thieves, outlaws and spies.

Soon Molly and Oliver will find themselves battling a grave threat to civilization, an ancient power thought to have been quelled millennia ago.  Their enemies are ruthless and myriad but the two orphans are also aided by indomitable friends in this endlessly inventive tale full of drama, intrigue, and adventure.”  Read the rest of this entry