Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

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Ex-Envoy Takeshi Kovacs serves as a pro-Protectorate mercenary in a planetary uprising on Sanction IV, one of the planets humankind colonised with the help of ancient Martian star charts. During a brief respite from the war aboard a hospital ship, Kovacs is contacted by a member of an archaeological mission who promises rich rewards if he helps them return to a dig site in an active war zone to uncover and claim the most significant find in human history since the discovery of the first Martian remains on Mars.

Listened to the audiobook with Todd McLaren – good narrator.

I’ve said before that I like series in which sequels depart in style/genre from the original, in order to keep things fresh. In Broken Angels, Morgan does exactly that: where Altered Carbon was a bio-cyberpunk detective novel, Broken Angels is much more military sci-fi. Unfortunately, this time, I think the (sub)genre-switch had the opposite effect of what I usually see: where Altered Carbon felt constantly new and interesting, Broken Angels is unfortunately just far more generic.

Our protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, is much more at home on the battlefields of Sanction IV in Broken Angels than he was in either the dark alleyways or the high society of Earth in Altered Carbon. I think his nihilistic attitude is far less interesting when he is surrounded by a global-scale nuclear war instead of the mansions of the über-rich and immortal.

 I also felt like Morgan used his most interesting science fiction concept – being able to download consciousness and transfer it to a different body or a virtual world – better in Altered Carbon than in Broken Angels. In the second book, a lot of the characters that die conveniently have their consciousness-storing stack destroyed alongside their sleeve (body), leaving them dead without recourse like they would be in any other story.

That is not to say that there are no interesting/gruesome tid bits of speculation – like the use of virtual reality timescales to shorten long voyages (or as a means of torture….) and the wholesale of the stacks of victims of war in their thousands by weight (yikes). But overall, Altered Carbon is constantly throwing curveballs or blowing your mind with the possibilities of re-sleeving, and Broken Angels just isn’t.

That is at least in part because Broken Angels delves a lot deeper into one aspect of Morgan’s universe that only existed as drops of flavour in Altered Carbon: the ancient Martian civilisation from which humanity derived the knowledge to find habitable planets out in the vastness of space.

Broken Angels revolves around an archaeological dig for Martian techno-artefacts, and the mysteries the mission uncovers when they hit the historical jackpot. This is (by some distance) the coolest element of the book, and if that two-line description tickled your fancy, Broken Angels might be worth reading just for that.

While the dig is an important element of the book, it is unfortunately mostly a McGuffin, as the plot focusses instead on the conflicts between the different members of the expedition.

Frustratingly, during the entire book I felt like I had skipped a chapter dealing with Kovacs’ and his fellow expedition members’ motivations (so much so, in fact, that I re-listened to the first couple hours of the book after finishing just to be sure).

This next sentence might be a slight spoiler, but towards the end of the book I lost track of the crosses, doublecrosses and triplecrosses going on, and I hardly cared. I’m a relatively attentive reader/listener so this hardly ever happens to me. Perhaps it wouldn’t have if I was reading instead of listening. At any rate, the scheming and find-the-imposter sections of the book completely fell flat for me – but they take up a large portion of Broken Angels. The action sequences and worldbuilding unfortunately could not make up for that.

Broken Angels is not bad, I just found it relatively forgettable. If only Morgan wrapped all that interesting stuff on Martian archeotech in a better plot…

Jop

Peter

Peter: In the summer of 2018, Jop and I walked into the famous Science-Fiction Bookstore (don’t worry, it also sells fantasy) on Gamla Stan in Stockholm, after a week-long hiking trip along the northern section of the Kungsleden in Lapland (if we were recommending hiking trails on this website, that one would come with a five star rating). Having had ample opportunity to discuss our fantasy libraries on the trail, we discovered that neither of us had ever read anything by Brandon Sanderson – which is at least somewhat remarkable, given that he is one of the big names currently in the fantasy genre. This was something we had agreed to remedy.  After reading some cover blurbs, we settled on The Final Empire – we both picked up a copy, and left the store with high hopes. 

It took us a while to read all three parts in the Mistborn Trilogy (not to say: nearly three years), but some time ago I finally finished the final chapters of The Hero of Ages, and it is time to have a proper discussion on Sanderson in general and the Mistborn Trilogy in particular – beware: spoilers are incoming. I think there are several points that we want to touch upon – firstly, our opinions, but also Sanderson’s style, his worldbuilding, his plotting, and religious influences in his works.

Without further ado, let’s get going!

Check out our other posts on content mentioned here:

The Hero of Ages
The Well of Ascension
The Final Empire

What we thought

To kick things off, I think it is fair to say that neither of us was blown away by the Mistborn Trilogy. To be honest, I was even somewhat disappointed. Because Sanderson’s name is so prominent on online fora, because he took on the mantle of Robert Jordan in finishing the Wheel of Time, and because I have a couple of friends that religiously read his works, I had expected Sanderson to be one of the best out there. For me, the Mistborn Trilogy does not quite live up to that standard. We can delve into why in more detail later, but at their core, it felt as if Sandersons books failed to come alive – they were cleverly constructed, but lacked soul.

You’re right. Although the books were entertaining enough and contained some interesting premises, I ultimately wasn’t blown away by them. In that respect, I do share some of your disappointment. Frankly, I wonder if we would have enjoyed the books more if we hadn’t had any expectations about Sanderson beforehand. 

Still, all in all I didn’t think the Mistborn Trilogy was bad. I also thought that the books lacked soul, but they are solid Fantasy books nonetheless.

Yes, before I throw the baby out with the bathwater, I need to reiterate that the Mistborn Trilogy is not bad – it is just not outstanding. I think you strike a nerve when you say that perhaps we went in with too much expectations –  quite possibly, I might have been pleasantly surprised if I had never heard the name Sanderson before. 

We both say that the books miss ‘soul’ – perhaps we should try to explain. What does ‘soul’ mean to you in this context? 

That is a fair question… For me, I’d say it’s a lack of emotion. Or rather, a kind of elusiveness one encounters when trying to interpret emotion-related things. A certain randomness. I’m not sure if that clarifies anything?

To put it differently. A singer can hit every note perfectly and clearly, however, that doesn’t make a song emotionally gripping. It needs something that the listener can’t anticipate, something that gives the performance zest. Though I can honestly say Sanderson constructed his story well – singing clear notes, so to say – he didn’t impart any long-lasting emotions. As to why, I’m sure this will come to light when we’ll discuss his plots and characters.

I agree, I like your analogy. Mistborn very clearly shows the gap between an technically well constructed story and an emotionally touching one.I would argue that perhaps, the story is so neatly constructed, that at times it almost appears as if you can see the gears turning underneath the text – which brings us to the question, what is the text like?

Sanderson’s Style

One of the things Sanderson excels at, is his prose, I believe. It’s quick and it’s easy to read. Even when I didn’t really feel like reading but decided to do it anyway, Sanderson’s writing style helped me to make significant progress regardless. This also meant that I could quickly read through passages that I didn’t really care for, such as the extensive Allomancer action scenes. Because of his comfortable prose, it’s completely possible to read hundreds of pages in just a few hours.    

 

We agree here, definitely. Sandersons style is quite utilitarian – dare I say, workmanlike – with very few flourishes or metaphors, whilst at the same time not at all dense. It makes for quick reading, and because he has a tendency at times to state the obvious, you are invited to read at breakneck speed, and can get away with it. There are a lot of words in the Mistborn Trilogy, but I didn’t mind so much because the pages flip over quickly.

A less successful aspect of Branderson’s style would certainly be his tendency to repeat, a lot. For example, there is absolutely no need to constantly explain your magic system’s rules in detail throughout the whole trilogy. I got the gist halfway through the first chapters of the first book. I didn’t need the reminders in the second installment and I definitely didn’t need them in The Hero of Ages. Although I understand a writer’s desire to aid the reader in their reading journey, especially when it comes to strange worlds and rules, I rather experienced his repeated explanations as an insult to my intelligence.

I don’t know if I would call it an insult, but I do recognise the feeling – as I stated before, Sanderson does not shy away from stating the obvious or explaining the explicit. There is, of course, a tough balance to be struck between respecting your readers’ time and memory on the one hand, and making sure the reader understands the complex magic system that drives all of the action scenes and a good chunk of the plot in the later books on the other. I know Sanderson has written a number of essays on worldbuilding and fantasy writing, and one of his ‘laws’ is that the ability of a writer to solve a problem that one of his characters runs into through magic, is directly proportional to the reader’s understanding of the magic system. I think it’s a charming idea, but the result is that at times Sanderson feels a need to repeat himself. Personally, I think one of the most disappointing results is that nothing is ever allowed to be a mystery, and everything needs to be explained. As such, elements that could have added to the book’s atmosphere instead end up feeling mechanical. Sometimes I wonder whether this writing style is a result of overactive online discussion fora where every detail of a book is dissected, leaving writers with the feeling they will be roasted for leaving plot holes if anything is left unexplained.

I believe these things that you just named are in part responsible for why we felt his books lacked soul. I’m always a little bit wary when people state how certain things must be done, especially when it comes to art. Sure, there are ways that have been proven to work; narrative models, tropes etc. However, to look at these techniques as ‘laws’ not to be broken is a risky business. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use them, but if you use them, the real art is then to use them in such a way that the reader isn’t aware of it. 

As for your speculation that Sanderson might be influenced by overactive nit-picky discussion fora, I don’t hope that’s the case. No writer should ever feel the need to cater to that sort of analysis, as it doesn’t necessarily help the quality of a story. Of course, we are currently also thoroughly dissecting Sandersons writings, but I’ll never expect anyone to write a book that’s perfect in every way.

Well, the Mistborn Trilogy certainly isn’t, but if there’s one element where Sanderson gets some good marks….

Sanderson’s Worldbuilding

I think Sanderson has some really interesting ideas that result in very imaginative worldbuilding. The question posed on the cover of The Final Empire – “What if the dark lord won?” – is evocative, and speaks to his wish to give a fresh face to the genre. I have heard him say in interviews that he feels that Fantasy should be a genre with a huge variety of settings, because anything should be possible, but in practice he finds that the settings tend to be rather generic. I think that is a fair assessment, and really many of the worlds of modern fantasy stories could to some extent be interchanged without changing the plots much. Sanderson has done a great job of creating a world that is both different and inextricably linked with the story that is taking place inside it, in a way that other writers have not achieved. 

Sanderson built a world through an interesting mix and match of tropes, taking elements from the more standard medieval European settings, from Victorian England, and from post apocalyptic science fiction. To top it off, he built a unique hard magic system full of interesting rules and limitations, that takes the foreground more and more. Jop, what did you think of the magic system from a worldbuilding perspective?

When it comes to magic, I usually find soft magic systems are the most charming. The magic system in the Mistborn Trilogy is definitely a hard magic system, however,  but one I thought was interesting. The concept of specific metals that can be used for performing very specific supernatural abilities is not something I believe I encountered before in Fantasy. At least, not in a similarly precise way Sanderson developed it. 

I quite liked the spiritual reasoning behind the three different magic ‘schools’, even though it is a worldbuilding aspect that only becomes apparent quite late in the trilogy. The balance between allomancy (which grants powers), feruchemy (which stores powers) and hemalurgy (which steals powers) is refined, even though I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the cosmic scale behind it all. 

I’ll agree that the cosmic scale thing wasn’t my cup of tea either, but I think we shouldn’t let that distract us from just how novel the system is. Despite the action sequences being a bit of a chore to read through at times, I do really think that the magic system and worldbuilding are the stand out achievements of the trilogy. 

That said, there were also certain elements that I didn’t really buy in to – the most important of which is the koloss. In my – harsh – opinion, they were an unnecessary and poorly executed element of the world.  They are the stereotypical not-orcs, with some weird feature (they grow into their blue skin? What? How? Why? How does this make sense in the context of how we – after the third book – know they are created? Was there supposed to be any hint? What purpose does it serve other than to have them look weird?). The koloss are mentioned but not described in the first book, and I imagined the ‘koloss legions’ to be either elite troops like Dune’s imperial Sardaukar, or maybe some kind of mechanical army (what with metal being a source of magic and all). The info-dump scene were Sazed gets to describe a camp full of koloss at the start of the second book put me off reading it for a good month at least. A really big miss in a book that is otherwise characterized by its worldbuilding hits. Do you have any big hits or misses? 

It’s a small element, but I rather liked the running gag about how implausible people thought it was that plants were once green and contained flowers. It was an elegant but inseparable detailed result of Sanderson’s world in which constant mists and ashfall affected nature, but at the same time something that you don’t quickly think up yourself. Another testament that his worldbuilding skills are indeed praiseworthy.

As for any big misses, I am quite forgiving in general. As I’ve already mentioned, I was not particularly charmed by the whole cosmology part of the story. In comparison with the other aspects of the books it felt somewhat underdeveloped – something that became apparent in the rushed ending of the trilogy – and left me with a handful of practical questions. What was the original nature of Ruin and Preservation? Were they also humans once? Did their power reach across a whole universe, or just to this one planet for some reason? How and why? Despite all these questions, however, I know from experience these are common difficulties with cosmology in general, so I can forgive them. 

Sanderson’s Plots and Characters

If I were to guess Sanderson’s writing style in the terms of planning, pantsing and plantsing, I’m quite confident to call him a planner. His plots in this trilogy are clearly well thought out, something that also becomes apparent in his plot twists. Although I suspected to have found plot holes a few times, most of them were resolved (much) later on. This is evidence of a clear long-term vision in the author. 

However, just because it is cleverly constructed, didn’t necessarily mean I enjoyed all of the plot or its twists. I think I speak for us both if I say that The Final Empire was the strongest of the three books in this regard. The original setting (a world in which the dark lord won) and the plotpoint of overthrowing this practically invulnerable godlike dark lord were both unique and worked well together. The twist that the Lord Ruler may not have been the ultimate bad guy was similarly inspiring. The other books, dealing with petty politics, large armies and colossal stakes, missed the same spark, don’t you think?

I think you hit the nail on its head – The Final Empire had both a great premise and a  really cool execution. The double twist you mention – and I know we warned for spoilers, but here come few big ones – was great: I was constantly trying to rhyme Alendi’s diary in the codices in between chapters with the character of the Lord Ruler, only to find out in the final chapters that they weren’t the same person. Only to be surprised again when the Lord Ruler in his dying breath warns them of the evil the main characters will unleash by killing him. The plot ticked like clockwork.

I’m trying to think of why the other plots didn’t have the same effect on me. It may be that the twist at the end of The Well of Ascension was effectively the same as the one at the conclusion of The Final Empire – the heroes thought they did the right thing, but ended up making a mistake. Or maybe it is that the characters knew so little about the cosmology, which determined whether their choices in part two and three were good or bad, that it wasn’t as much of a shock when their assessments turned out to be wrong.

The fact that the carefully crafted twists and turns of the plot in The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages weren’t as satisfying is doubly disappointing, because Sanderson’s style is to sacrifice the moments that could build his characters to the overwhelming necessity of explaining his plot. There seem to be very few moments that are just about the character living their lives, doing the things that people do. And mind you – these are 800-page books! The plot is interesting, but becomes a lot less so when you don’t feel close to the people living through it. Though the story is supposed to be about Vin and Elend, especially Elend completely failed to come alive for me throughout the books.

Without a doubt, the characters are the weakest link of this trilogy. Although I didn’t quite dislike them with your passion, I had a hard time really caring about them. They were too subordinate to the plot, I believe. A low point for me in this area was Vin’s character arc in The Well of Ascension. Her personal conflict, to choose between the free life of a powerful mistborn (personified in the abhorrent character of Zane) or the more dependent life filled with morals, love and camaraderie (represented by Elend) lacked any real credibility. I never once doubted she would abandon Elend. Why? Because this conflict was forced by the plot to ‘spice matters up’, but the characters were never lifelike enough to sell it.

Although the lack of soul is painfully evident in Vin and Elend in particular because they are the main characters, the other characters suffer the same fate. In my experience, it happened regularly that Sanderson neglected his characters, just at the moment they had achieved interesting potential. Dockson, for example, Kelsier’s best friend and confidant? In the aftermath of Kelsier’s death and the realization of his dreams, Dockson could have played an exceptionally intriguing role in the narrative. Instead, he is written off passionless in only a few sentences. The same could be said for most other members of Kelsier’s crew. Unless the plot permits, there is little room for character development.

Just a side note, but might I also mention that the number of significant female characters can be counted on precisely one hand? 

I happen to have seen a Sanderson interview in which he acknowledges that last point and has admitted that he would change that if he were to write the story today. Maybe it shows that Sanderson has learned since the Mistborn Trilogy – and maybe that means he might also spend a few more words to flesh out his characters.

If that’s indeed the case – that his characters and their characterization get more love – I might just be urged to pick up another one of his books!

Religious Influences

It didn’t really register with me reading the first novel of the trilogy, but starting in the second book, the large role religion was going to play in the plot became more clear. That was also when it started to become more obvious that Sanderson himself was religious. Without going into depth (which dear Brandon has done for us himself), Sanderson is a devout practicing Mormon, who went on mission trips, etc. Full disclosure: I had a catholic upbringing but dropped the whole thing pretty fast when I started thinking for myself during my teens.

There are a number of instances where I feel Sanderson’s religious background shines through visibly. First of all, his choice of a dualistic monotheist religion with a prophesied saviour is much closer to real world religions than most fantasy, which tends to draw more inspiration from germanic/norse or roman/greek pantheons. This makes the drawing of biblical comparisons much easier. Secondly, I found it interesting to note that in the end, even though all religions contained knowledge that The Hero of Ages used to reconstruct the world, only one of them – the Terris religion – turned out to be true. This, too, feels like a bit of a departure from most fantasy stories, where writers often have elven, dwarven and human pantheons existing alongside each other, and unsurprisingly, this departure fits with modern christian religious dogma as well.

I was also somewhat surprised (not unpleasantly) by the increasing role of religion in these books. As a scholar in religious studies, I am always curious how other people deal with the concept of religion, especially in creative contexts. Even though I wasn’t ultimately blown away by how Sanderson handled the religious themes in the Mistborn trilogy, I suspect others might find them interesting enough. 

Also, to be fair to Sanderson, I believe I recognized some influences from East Asian ideas in his religious worldbuilding. For example, the ultimate amalgamation between Preservation and Ruin has some major similarities with the concept of yin and yang from Chinese philosophy. Also, one might argue that the concept of a deity sacrificing their own ‘life’ to enable the creation of humanity (with free will) is not particularly Biblical in nature.  

For me, Sanderson’s religious background was most obviously reflected in his strong attachment to the male-female binary in his worldbuilding, which felt mostly unlogical. Especially in the case of the kandra (a species of shapechangers) I just couldn’t fathom why they still cared for concepts like sex and gender. At a few times, it’s even explicitly mentioned when a kandra has or hasn’t constructed a sex organ for their body – even in the privacy of their secret society – even though they have no use for them. One could argue that the first few generations of kandra, because of their recent human heritage, would still cling to their previous genders, but this makes little sense for the kandra born ages later. By the same rules, koloss should also have retained a concept of gender, but that does not seem to be the case. To a lesser extent, the same can be said of the Inquisitors.

I think you make a fair case, and I agree maybe I shoehorned in the notion that Sanderson’s influence is overwhelmingly Christian. But as you mention, his dedication to ‘traditional American family values’ is bright and clear at times, for me mostly in that he chose to have Vin and Elend – two characters neither of whom care about appearances or what others think of them, both busy saving the literal world – get married somewhere off-page. It makes no sense for these characters to want to be married, and there never seems to be a logical reason for them to spend the time and effort to do it. It is also never explained or mentioned anywhere. It is almost as if Sanderson couldn’t stand the idea of his characters being in a long-term relationship without a religious union. 

Another example, for me, is Sazed in the third book. Sazed loses his ‘faith’ and then spends most of the book going through all the religions that he knows to find the one that is true. He evaluates each critically, and decides to discard them if he’s unsatisfied. What is fascinating, however, is that Sanderson has Sazed discard the religions because he finds them internally inconsistent. And it is true that often, atheists will argue that it makes no sense that Christians follow some rules in the Bible but not others. But what never appears to show up in Sazed’s evaluations is what I expect to be by far the most common reason for atheists to dismiss religion: the fact that the teachings do not rhyme with what we see in the world around us. I did not leave the church because I couldn’t understand why Christians follow some of the Bible’s rules but not others, or because the Old and New testament paint a completely different picture of God; I left the church because the church tells me being gay or bisexual is bad, but that’s something that I can’t rhyme with the real world. I may be wrong, but I feel Sanderson wrote Sazed as a religious person would write an atheist, blatantly missing the core point of why people don’t believe. 

That’s an interesting perspective that you bring up. Ironically, from the very first scenes in which Sazed appeared, I’ve read him as an inherently religious character. In theory, he is supposed to be somewhat of a comparative religionist. However, the way in which he preaches his religions, hoping to sell them, shows a spiritual passion I have never encountered in real religious studies scholars. In a way, you could argue that science is Sazed’s religion, I suppose. His character arc in the last book essentially is all about the fact that he has fallen from his faith because of Tindwyl’s death. He struggles to recover his beliefs, which were so (spiritually) valuable to him in the first two books. If it was indeed Sanderson’s goal to write an atheist, I agree with you that his execution wasn’t very convincing. However, Sazed’s ultimate religious pluralist conclusion – that all religions contained an element of truth or worth – was something I liked and thought was a fitting ending to his arc, be he religious or atheist.

In Conclusion

I think we’ve discussed Sanderson’s The Mistborn Trilogy quite thoroughly by now – something I quite enjoyed doing with you, if I might say so – so perhaps it’s time to tie ends up.  

In summary, I think I can say we both think The Mistborn Trilogy consists of solid fantasy books. We both praise Sanderson’s overall prose, worldbuilding and plotting skills. On the other hand, we were both less convinced by the characters and Sanderson’s tendency to take the reader by the hand. Is there anything I’m missing, before we end our discussion?

No, I think that’s a fair assessment. I am, however, curious how all of you readers have experienced Sanderson – do you recognise our gripes, or do you feel we’re unfair to him? And if we were to give Sanderson another chance – what would you recommend?

Can a plot be too polished? Is The Mistborn Trilogy a good representation of Sanderson's capabilities as a writer? Is there something Peter and Jop missed? Let us know on our social media!

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In a post-apocalyptic world where humans have been exterminated by their own creations and enormous AI mainframes battle for dominance, Brittle is a scavenger robot wandering the Sea of Rust on the edges of robot society, looking for derelict robots to loot for parts. When she gets damaged herself and needs rare parts to repair her own body, the stakes are raised to a new level.

Listened to the audiobook with Eva Kaminsky. She wasn’t the reason I disliked this book.

This book is what happens when you let the algorithm decide for you what to listen to. I finished one book, didn’t feel like doing research and just tapped the ‘recommended for you’ title because it had a nice looking cover. Aaaaand… it was a disappointment.

My main problem is that this book is about 50% pure action sequences, written out in painstaking trigger-pull-by-trigger-pull detail. In that, it reminded me a bit of Brandon Sanderson (and I realise some people love that kind of text, it is just not for me). Maybe if you’re reading on paper, you can just skip across some of these sections, but especially when listening I just tended to trail off.

At one point, I thought to myself that the book read almost like a shot-by-shot action movie script, and, after some googling, I found out the Robert Cargill is actually better known as a screenwriter than as a novelist, and it all started to make sense: this is a book with the depth and pacing of an action movie.

There is some worldbuilding to set up the apocalypse that resulted in the wasteland that the story takes place in, but it is perfunctory and not particularly original. What is more, it is spaced out over flashbacks between chapters, so that it takes about half the book to complete. This is no different from the worldbuilding regarding the post-apocalyptic world itself, which is meted out in small snippets on a strictly need-to-know basis, often a paragraph or two before said story element becomes plot relevant.

The overarching story is never clear from the start but evolves as the characters meet whatever challenge pops up next, and is eclipsed by – not necessarily poorly written but rather predictable – character moments. This book expects very little from the reader in terms of memory or deduction and just serves up everything that is relevant (and nothing more), at the moment it becomes relevant.

This focus on visuals and individual scenes comes at the price of interesting science fiction. Sea of Rust is about robots, but it could just as well have been about humans. In typical Hollywood fashion, Robert Cargill makes no effort (or, intentionally doesn’t want to) to emotionally differentiate his robots from relatable humans.

As a result, Sea of Rust is an action-packed featherlight read that I am sure some people will appreciate for what it is, but it is not for me. I suspect this story would – perhaps unsurprisingly – come unto its own better as a 90-minute action movie than a 10 hour book.

For people looking for action-packed novels, I would rather recommend Sanderson over Sea of Rust because I found him a lot more original. If you want to stick with sci-fi, there is the Murderbot Diaries, which are also light reads but actually incorporate interesting sci-fi elements in the way AIs interact with eachother. And if the post-apocalyptic-robots-inherit-the-earth setting is to your liking, try one of my favourite games, Primordia.

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In this Netflix series, Wednesday Addams is sent to her mother’s old boarding school after almost killing a kid at her former high school. Reluctant at first, Wednesday soon starts to feel at home as she tries to solve a monstrous murder mystery. The real challenge she faces is dealing with her preppy, colour-loving roommate.

This review relates to season 1

I’ve heard a lot of people waxing poetic about this series, so I finally decided to check it out.

I should preface this by saying that I’m not really an Addam’s Family fan. I didn’t grow up with it, and I haven’t seen much more of it than a few clips. I know who the characters are and generally what their “deal” is, but I’m not a huge fan of them.

I thought Wednesday was perfectly fine. Enjoyable enough that I didn’t turn it off, but definitely not interesting enough to draw my attention away from whatever else I was doing while watching. Wednesday is a pretty fun character, but I do have my issues with her. I get it, she’s an antihero, and that’s totally cool and good for her. But why is everyone in the show so obsessed with her?? Why does she have multiple people falling for her, even though she’s been dismissive of them and has zero chemistry with either of them? Why does Wednesday have to couple up in the first place?

Most of the characters weren’t very interesting, especially the men. The only truly fun character was Enid, who pretty much carried the show. I do think her inclusion was a very smart move on behalf of the writers. Wednesday Addams is a fun character conceptually, but she needs something to balance her out. None of the other characters managed to do this in the way Enid did.

I will say that I think Wednesday Addams seems like an incredibly difficult character to write a show about. She’s an amazing side character, but turning her into a main character must have been a huge challenge. I don’t think the writers did a bad job at all. I just think they had an almost impossible assignment.

This review relates to season 1

I was surprised that I was amused by this series. Wednesday was definitely a teen drama, but relatively well executed. I don’t have a lot of nostalgic feelings surrounding the Addams Family, and I thought it would be more horror-y than it turned out to be. Of course you get your fair share of teenager angst and there are some gory moments from time to time. But nothing unbearable. If you’re looking for a straightforward whodunnit series you can watch on a lazy evening, this might be your pick.

This review relates to season 1

It’s been years (decades?) since I last saw anything Addams Family related. I had a fondness for the 1991 movie, though, with its melodramatic and “colorful” characters and humorous goth vibes. It’s these two things that really make the franchise, I believe. Characters like Wednesday, Lurch, Thing and Cousin Itt, and the passionate relationship between Morticia and Gomez are what I still remembered, apart from a general feel.

I hoped Wednesday would invoke the same enjoyment I felt as a child when watching the 1991 movie. I was not disappointed. Though Wednesday is definitely its own thing, it took enough key elements from the franchise to speak to my nostalgia.

The plot of Wednesday is a classic whodunnit. The mystery is clever enough to keep most people guessing for a long time, though those familiar with the genre will quickly have an idea about who is the culprit. It’s decently executed.

Wednesday’s bigger strength would be its characters, though I felt there were some characters who worked really well, while others were quite flat or too unrealistic. I’d say that most of the female cast were strong. I loved Enid – she is the best werewolf girl ever <3 – and Wednesday, as well as their dynamic. I was also intrigued by the roles of Principal Weems and Bianca. However, I didn’t care about the two male love interests and their struggles.

On the whole, I agree with Lotte that Wednesday is a challenging main character to write. The way she treats other people should often have had more consequences than was the case. Sure, as viewers we might find her awkwardly dismissive demeanour endearing, but I hope people who really have to deal with it, would respect their own boundaries more.

One last small thought about the special effects… Thing and the werewolf were a delight to look at. I’ll always want more werewolves in my visual media, and I’ll forever be grateful to Wednesday for providing me with my heart’s desire.

 

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In The Boys, superheroes are the instruments of corporate and political interests and care more for their reputation than for saving anyone. The Seven is a relentlessly marketed brand more than a a superhero team, and its members are shielded from the machinations of justice by the corporation that markets them. When Starlight is chosen to become a member, she gets an inside look at the dirt behind the façade. Meanwhile, a group of vigilantes is trying to bring superheroes – including the Seven – to justice for the heinous crimes and collateral damage on their record, including rape and murder.

This review relates to seasons 1-3

Wait, Peter is reviewing superhero media, even though his curator page specifies superheroes as one of his dislikes? What is going on here?

What is going on here is that Amazon’s The Boys dislikes superheroes about as much as I do! One of my criticisms has always been that rather than trying to have their superheroes solve real life, life-sized issues, superhero-writers need an alien invasion or an equally ridiculous supervillain for their hero to fight against. And The Boys picks up on just that: it sketches a world in which superheroes (’supes’) mostly worry about their favourability rating and social media following, all the while murdering and raping with impunity.

On top of that, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It recognises that the concept of a superhero is inherently a bit silly and plays around with it. It’s humorous, though the humour is on the crude side for me (and I can imagine some people would find it disgusting).

On the other hand, even though The Boys recognises that supes would probably become a tool for late stage capitalism and have a negative societal impact, its solution appears to be either (i) blackmail them; (ii) kill them without trial; or (iii) recruit or become a supe yourself to kill them without a trial – none of which are ways to address the systemic issues underlying the abuse of powers by supes. As a result, the series seems not to understand its own message on superheroes. And while it does highlight the very commendable message that ‘Nazis bad’, I feel it misses out on why people end up supporting Nazis, and that the message would perhaps have been stronger if – slight spoiler alert – it wouldn’t be about literal Nazis.

Then again, maybe I’m asking a bit much of The Boys – its not exactly trying to be literary and in the end, it is probably mostly about watching a black-haired Éomer bash in the heads of arrogant supes with a crowbar more than anything else.

And there is more to like: I think that there are a number of couples with great chemistry, the superhero company Vought is positively terrifying and cringe-inducing at the same time, and a number of the parody superheroes are super well done.

Overall, if you can stomach the violence, gore, and crude humour, The Boys is a surprisingly refreshing take on the superhero genre that managed to pull me in despite my preconceived notions – so I’m sure that it’ll work even better for viewers who actually like superheroes to begin with.

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As a drilling operation in the Norwegian mountains results in a mysterious eruption that kills several people, paleontologist Nora Tidemann is summoned to share her theories on what happened. It is with reluctance that she surmises that the cause of this event might be stuff of folk tales and legends…

Let’s be clear. Troll is a typical monster/disaster movie, and not necessarily a good one. I really liked it though, as proved by my various passionate exclamations during the movie. I really rooted for the troll…

This movie works because of the titular troll and some impressive special effects. The troll, the unsung hero of this story, looks absolutely stunning and has the best characterization out of all the characters. The other – human – protagonists are also likeable, though.

The plot and writing of this movie are on the whole decent for its genre. Nonsensical at times, but because the actors and directer really leant into it, I interpreted this more as a style choice than as a internal flaw. However, I hope the Norwegian government would have other tactics in their arsenal besides blindly shooting bombs at unknown threats.

.A good movie to watch when you just want to gaze at what’s happening on the screen without thinking too much.

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Review: Wednesday – Netflix

Wednesday Addams is sent to her mother’s old boarding school after almost killing a kid at her former high school. Reluctant at first, Wednesday soon starts to feel at home as she tries to solve a monstrous murder mystery. The real challenge she faces is dealing with her preppy, colour-loving roommate.

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In a grim world in which superheroes are the instruments of corporate and political interests and care more for their reputation than for saving anyone, a group of vigilantes is trying to bring superheroes to justice for the heinous crimes and collateral damage on their record.

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Review: Troll – Roar Uthaug

Review of the Netflix movie Troll.

As a drilling operation in the Norwegian mountains results in a mysterious eruption that kills several people, paleontologist Nora Tidemann is summoned to share her theories on what happened.

Read More »