In my many years of reading, I’ve encountered three “perfect” science fiction books, and I’d like to share them with you, because they are more than worth your time.
As a short preamble, this isn’t a listicle, and this isn’t a “Top 5 Sci-fi Books!” for two reasons: One, I hold a distinction between “favourite” and “best”, and not all of my favourite books are likely to also be yours. Second, I’m not going to share the runner-ups here, this list is about perfect books.
Second, before we get to the list itself, I want to say a couple of words about science-fiction. Science-fiction isn’t merely futuristic or in space, but it’s about stories that ask questions, that posit changes and explore them, or advocate for said changes. The setting can help, but isn’t necessary, for instance, Star Wars is famously an Arthurian fantasy series, that happens in space, rather than a science-fiction story.
If I had to answer whether Moon Hunters: A Myth Weaving Game by Kitfox Games (which I backed on Kickstarter) is worth your time on a yes/no basis, then I’d unhappily choose “no”, as it’s a very close thing. It might be the game for you, and I didn’t suffer playing it, but you usually have better uses for your time, especially when you consider just how much time this game asks of you. Time is what this is all about. Time and content: I’ve played this game a number of times, with all classes but support, more than once with most, and beat the end-game boss a number of times. Each playthrough of the game is quite short, ranging from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on how well you’re doing and the size of the maps.
The game is designed to be played multiple times, except where it is not. You only get to visit 5-6 locations in each playthrough, which provides a reason to play again, and again. Right? Well, except I rarely encounter new options, even 5 hours into the game, and less as I reached 7 hours. Not every location or every setup will appear in each playthrough, and not in every playthrough will you have one of the traits needed to make use of it, so you’d think they’d let you play through every locale the map generates each time, or most of them, and you’d still have reasons to play again for a new map, and to try a different combination of options, so why don’t they?
Ah, what a time to be alive, the cour finale for Durarara!!x2 is upon us, and it’d be a bitter-sweet occasion, if not for the fact we have 2 more cours to look forward to, so be joyous and merry, because more Durarara!! is coming soon. This specific write-up began as a post-finale overview for the first of the three cours (To those who don’t know, “cour” in this sense refers to a “Season’s worth of episodes, 3 months’, which is distinct from “Season” for various unimportant reasons) for Durarara!!x2, but as it kept growing longer, I gave in and turned it into an exploration of the themes I found interesting in the show, and how it went about them.
Part 1: The Great Game Begins:
In life, stories do not come to an end. There’s never a clean break, and there are always more storylines going on in the background, and things are always, not starting, not ending, but ongoing. That’s always been what Durarara!! has been about, and especially the first half of the first season. And yet, while thinking ahead to the cour-finale, as I watched it, and especially with all that’s been going on as the episode continued, I was left with the impression that this is doubly true for this cour .
(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that have risen in my mind as I’ve watched it. There will be spoilers for the entirety of Durarara!! up to this point.)
Sword Art Online was probably the most popular anime to air during 2012. It had and has many fans, and many detractors. I for one liked it a whole lot. I liked it enough that after it ended, still in the throes of desiring to know what happened next, I’ve actually gone ahead and read all of the Sword Art Online novels. Well, from the 5th novel onward, so I didn’t revisit material which the series had covered. My opinion of the series might be coloured by it, but hey, I strive to give information for you to make your own minds as well.
I’m going to try and avoid spoiling the novels by Reki Kawahara and their content in-depth, but will touch more about plot-structure, themes, and how I felt about the books/arcs in general – so broad brushstroke/theme spoilers, not so much particulars. Furthermore, the second season is going to begin airing this weekend, so I will give some thoughts on what I think the upcoming adaptation will cover.
It’s Still a Light Novel Series:
I wrote a post about how Light Novels aren’t the best-written literature out there, and especially how that is relevant when one adapts the light novels to anime. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, which I wrote a post about the first 11 novels of, is the perfect example of endless internal monologues which replace characterization and action, a lot of non-action, and purple prose that is so overbearing and ubiquitous as to drown everything out. As one could see, a focus on non-action and internal monologues doesn’t translate well to the visual medium – either you kill the pacing by delivering these things, or you’re left with an indecipherable world due to the lack of explanations, or actions that support said things.
King of Thorn (Ibara no Oh in Japanese) is a well-produced movie. It in many respects didn’t remind me of anime (series), but of western films. The plot in particular, which is a death-game meeting a mindscape film.
At a pretty early stage, I saw resemblance to the 2009 film Pandorum, and also to 1997’s Cube. Later on they actually reveal some of those similarities, at least to Cube aren’t superficial, when Alice speaks of how the whole way the event had been orchestrated was so specific people would survive, so Kasumi could make it out – the dangerous criminal, the leader-cop, the nurse who takes care of the helpless oracle (the child), and of course, cannon fodder, along with someone who possesses internal knowledge to get them started on their journey.
(This is a “Things I Like” post. It’s slightly more “reviewy” than usual, touching on the themes and production, rather than exploring them in-depth. The 2nd half of this piece tries to explain the ending, the “mystery”, and also elaborate on character-motivations. Full-film spoilers ahead.)
LUFTRAUSERS is a shoot’em up, or an aerial dogfighting game, where you get to make a plane out of 3 parts (weapon, body, engine) making up 125 combinations, each with a different audio track (I assume they have 3 layers/parts, for each bit) – I personally like the nuke body (where you blow up when you die, but take extra damage from collisions) the best.
This game is elegant, there are a total of four buttons you can click: Right, left, up (accelerate) and “Shoot”. Nothing else. Actually, the game has 6 buttons. Right, left, pressing on accelerate, not-pressing on accelerate, pressing to shoot, and not-pressing to shoot. While it seems weird for me to note these, as we don’t talk of “not shooting” as a button in most games, there the choice is often what to shoot, or how else to circumvent an enemy (Stealth games).
Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, known as “The Irregular at Magic High School” in English is a series of light novels written by Tsutomu Satō, and is the high profile (shounen action) adaptation of the season, poised to receive the most hype, and perhaps garner the same sort of attention as its peers in the last couple of years – Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) in 2013, and Sword Art Online in 2012. The first 11 books cover the first year in highschool, of the two main characters, so we’ll discuss that. Book 12 is the first book of their second year.
I’ve actually had numerous friends suggest this series to me over the past year or two, especially as I’ve been a big fan of Sword Art Online. Well,with it airing this season (tomorrow, actually), I thought it’d be a good opportunity to sit down and read it (though I dunno why, I prefer coming to material new, why consume it twice?). I wasn’t as enthused as my friends had led me to believe I’d be, and the series shares and exemplifies the woes I write of in my piece about LNs’ writing style, but I actually think the adaptation might be better than the book-series, and more fun, so don’t rule it out.
I’m going to try and avoid spoiling or describing the series in-depth, that’s never been of much interest to me, and I doubt it’d be very useful to you, as you can simply read the books or watch the series. I’m going to discuss the themes of the series, arc by arc, and things which stood out to me. I will also discuss some thoughts on the upcoming adaptations, which are only guesses and predictions, naturally.