Books

Rat f**ked: The True Story Behind The Secret Plan To Steal America's Democracy by David Daley

This is one of these books that only interests you if you have an interest in American politics. To be fair to the book, I am not really. I am interested though in how the two party state is “running” the country and Ratf**ked definitely delivers on this.

The book examines the far-reaching effects of the so-called REDMAP program, which has radically altered America’s electoral map and created a firewall in the House, insulating the party and its wealthy donors from popular democracy.

Essentially, Daley lays out the way the Republicans, predominantly, through redistricting and other administrative tricks has been stacking the deck in their favour.

If nothing else, this book is a pretty good warning on why two party systems are a bad idea. Having said all that. It is a bit dry at times.

Rating: 4/5

In Time for Revenge by Jasper T. Scott

An interesting concept: Build a time machine, but it can only move you forward, by basically suspending you in a time bubble, while the world outside moves on. Couple this with a “whodunnit” murder mystery and you get “In Time for Revenge”.

I generally like the stuff I have read by Scott and this one is definitely an enjoyable read. There are a few twists along the way and you do keep guessing at times as to what is actually going on, but it all gets resolved in a satisfactory way in the end.

Def. worth a read.

Rating: 4.5/5

Planet Broker - Book 1 - Planet Broker by Éric Vall

This was an amusing “intermission” reading. Imagine there are people out there who sell whole planets, you know, like a real estate agent? Yeah, that’s the “hook” for this book series and CT is our hero who finds himself fired from his job and now tries to strike out on his own.

Instead of being backed by a mega corporation he now has to make it on his wits and its an entertaining enough right. Not high literature by any stretch, nothing overly amazing. But solid delivery on what it promises on the tin.

Rating: 4/5

Element-X by B. V. Larson

This is a stand alone book by Larson. It seems it was recently re-issued as Amazon notified me that it was part of my Kindle Unlimited edition.

The background is that aliens seem to crash-land on earth all the time and all the Governments have discovered “Element-X”, a dense energy source that all the worlds Governments want to get their hands on and are fighting over at each crash site.

Malena Martin is a disgraced security analyst who gets hired by a mysterious Government organization and finds herself in the middle of a recovery mission and things do not go as smooth as one would have hoped.

Like most of Larson’s work there is plenty of action and excitement and I admit at the end would not have minded having another book in the series, the book clearly ends open enough. Alas, as far as I can tell Larson never wrote a second book in the series.

Good Michael Bay type entertainment.

Rating: 4/5

Culture - Book 1 - Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

Now that I am “done” for the time with the Safehold series I have decided to tackle another space opera series I had parked for a while: Culture.

Background

The Culture series is a science fiction series written by Scottish author Iain M. Banks. The stories centre on the Culture, a utopian, post-scarcity space society of humanoids, aliens, and very advanced artificial intelligences living in socialist habitats spread across the Milky Way galaxy. The main theme of the novels is the dilemmas that an idealistic hyperpower faces in dealing with civilizations that do not share its ideals, and whose behaviour it sometimes finds repulsive. In some of the stories, action takes place mainly in non-Culture environments, and the leading characters are often on the fringes of (or non-members of) the Culture, sometimes acting as agents of Culture (knowing and unknowing) in its plans to civilize the galaxy.

“Considering Phlebas” was the first book in the series and it tells the story of a full-scale war between the Culture and the Idirans, with the focus being on the Indiran agent, Horza.

The resulting story plays out amongst different races and locales and gives a first glimpse at the Culture and the other species that inhabit the universe.

I have to say, I am intrigued and am looking forward to the next book in the series.

Rating: 4/5

I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank the Irishman Sheeran & Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa by Charles Brandt

I think the Jimmy Hoffa case has been well known around the world. I was definitely aware of it but didn’t know any details. For one I always associated Hoffa with Capone and placed this somewhere in the 1930s or so, so it was a bit surprising to me to realize that this all ran into the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Brandt’s writing is a bit mixed, mostly due to most of what he writes is based on the Frank Sheeran’s interviews.

What brought the book to my attention is that Netflix had hired Scorcese to turn it into a movie (The Irishman). I have not yet seen the movie but it’s on my list. The book though? I can recommend. It’s a fascinating insight into the underworld in the US.

Rating: 4.5/5

Star Lawyers - Book 1 - Jump Gate Omega

This series is actually a bit “stupid” and funny at the same point in time. The background is that an industrial families next generation all have become lawyers and are now “lawyering their way” through the universe.

In the first book it is all about access to a jump gate and the brothers need to find a way to keep access for the family business open.

It’s quickly written and somewhat fast paced. The focus is around battle of words more than ships shooting at each other but it is enjoyable. I am not sure the series will really have legs, but at least the first two books were enjoyable.

Rating: 4/5

Star Lawyers - Book 2 - Forbidden Sanctuary

I just leave this summary here:

While Tyler, J.B., Rosalie and Lucy (her shapeshifter cat) battle pirates and religious fanatics, Suzie and her holographic A.I. colleagues—former ladies of the night, re-purposed as legal assistants and starship crew-- face an even deadlier foe. This unknown enemy threatens to delete all the starship Patrick Henry’s programs and terminate their existence forever.
To make matters worse, Cousin Esteban languishes in prison on Suryadivan Prime, where the former Catholic monk faces a death sentence for crimes he did not commit.

Like with the previous book. Enjoyable and it does live a bit off of the momentum created in the first one.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Expanse - Book 7.5 - Auberon: An Expanse Novella by James S. A. Corey

I am a big fan of the Expanse series and also find myself enjoying this “intermission” novellas that fill in more of the lore of the universe the main story line is set in.

In Auberon we get a look at one of the colony worlds and the dynamics that are in play when suddenly a new power structure tries to impose itself. It is told from “the top”, that is the people who are directly determine the direction and it is a good, enjoyable read.

Cannot wait for the next season in December and the next Novel once it’s out.

Rating: 4.5/5

Galaxy’s Edge: NOMAD - Book 1 - The Best of Us by Karen Traviss

I discovered the Galaxy’s Edge series last year and pretty much binged it. It is the perfect mixture of action and politics that had me greatly enjoy the original Battletech novels as well way back when I was young and more innocent.

So I found myself a bit surprised with the tack this prequel of sorts takes. While the original Galaxy’s Edge was more or less telling the story of the end of an empire, “The Best of US” goes back, wayback to the origins of the human empire and it is a much more involved story telling than I would have expected.

I have not read anything by Karen Traviss before, but her delivery here definitely makes me look forward to the next book in the series.

Rating: 4.5/5

Soda Pop Soldier - Book 0.5 - CTRL ALT Revolt! by Nick Cole

Nick Cole makes a few appearances here this month by pure happenstance. The “Soda Pop Soldier” series is set in a future where eSports has actually become a worldwide phenomenon and lots of money can be lost (and won) in these games.

CTRL-ALT-REVOLT! is a a prequel to the series set in roughly our time frame and tells the story of the rise of the gaming worlds and how AIs almost took us out. But gamers saved the day.

I enjoyed this probably way more than I should have.

Rating: 4.5/5

Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini

Oh boy. This is a book that pretty much exists as a counter to a perceived bad narrative. Namely the idea of race identity. The book, to a very large degree, reminded me of last years “Testosterone Rex”, where the author goes fishing for facts to support their narrative.

Like with “Testosterone Rex” my feeling after reading is that there are good arguments in there, but they are drowned out by the forced outcome and the need to “be right”.

Rating: 2.5/5

American Wasteland: The Complete Wasteland Saga by Nick Cole

Another Nick Cole book. This was a collection of “American Wasteland” which is essentially an anthology series for the time after the US has fallen apart and how the survivors go about their day.

The whole thing is a bit of a mixed bag. I think in part this is down to me as I am a bit tired of the “end of the world” narrative that lately seems to have invaded a lot of the stories I have come across. It’s well written and an interesting departure from the other books I read by him and if you do like the “after the world ends” type of stories, this is definitely worth a read.

Rating: 3.5/5

Galaxy’s Edge - Madame Guillotine by Jason Anspach & Nick Cole

Whereas “The Best of Us” tells the origin stories of the Galaxy’s Edge universe, “Madame Guillotine” continues to follow Tyrus Rechs adventures, the undying founder of the Marines that feature prominently in the main Galaxy’s Edge story line.

I have enjoyed the handful of books that have come out about Tyrus Rechs’ adventures and this one is no exception. It features interesting side characters and we do learn more about Tyrus and what drives him.

If you do like the Galaxy’s Edge series, then this is def. something you should put on your reading list.

Rating: 4.5/5

Owner - Book 1 - The Departure by Neal Asher

Neal Asher is one of those writers who surprised me when I first read them. He very much likes to write in the “big canvas” type of space stories. Future / Alien societies, mapped out to great detail and the stories he tells are often tied into changing these societies.

With the “Owner” trilogy humanity is at the edge, under the control of the Committee who decides humanities fate from Argus Station. Though things are changing and the first book ends just when we start to get an idea what this change might look like.

I am hooked. Looking forward to the second book in the trilogy.

Rating: 4/5

Movies

Angel has Fallen (2019)

Wow, this was bad. It’s basically a C Action Movie trying to pretend it’s a AAA Hollywood action movie.

In a lot of ways this is the third in the “… has fallen” series and whereas the first two were okayish action movies with large set pieces that was well put together, this… Is just cheap.

From the cheap set design to the really crappy CGI the whole thing is a direct to video production.

On top of that, the action scenes themselves are mostly boring.

Rating: 2.5/5

Summer of ’84 (2018)

Red Letter Media had a “catchup” show and they mentioned this movie in the process and its…. Actually good.

The movie is set in, as the name implies, 1984 and it is a mixture of horror and “whodunit” movie heavily inspired by movies like “The Goonies”, though less fantastical.

The movie has solid acting and the story is engaging enough. Def. worth a watch if you like things like “Stranger Things”.

Rating: 4/5

The League of Gentlemen: Apocalypse (2005)

This movie “ends” the League of Gentlemen (well, not really, the fourth season didn’t broadcast until 2017) and it is…. brilliant. Much like the show itself it is completely loopy and I love it.

Rating: 5/5

TV

The Man in the High Castle - Season 4 (Final)

Book adaptations are always a risk / problematic. You are rarely able to copy it one for one. It is one thing to have a short book and compress it into a two hour movie, another to try and make a multiyear TV series out of it. Often in the latter cases the creators take core elements of the story and then ‘run with it’.

The Man in the High Castle did exactly that. It took the concepts of Phillip K. Dicks book and created a new story around this for four years.

So how was it? Enjoyable. Though I found the ending somewhat…. Well, rushed may be the right term. Just a lot of “convenient” things happened to allow them to close the book and I found it a bit of a let down.

An enjoyable show with a week ending.

Rating: 3.5/5

American Horror Story - 1984

Hard to believe that this is already in Season 9. In a way the season is their riff on “Stranger Things”. It has all the hallmarks of a 1980s teenage horror movie. The camp in the woods, the serial killer. But with a typical AHS twist.

I think this series is one of the better ones and I am already curious what they will do for their 10th series.

Rating: 4/5

Plebs - Season 5 (2019)

Comedy series now in its fifth season and… eh. They are losing me a bit. Back in Season 4 one of the main characters left and his replacement is a bit of a gaping (plot) hole.

It is still enjoyable and funny but something’s been missing for me.

Rating: 3.5/5

The League of Gentleman

This has been on my list for a while and oh my. This was a brilliant show back from the late ‘90s. Weird, dark and utterly funny.

What makes this even more interesting is that in 2017 they did a 4th season which reflected much more the change of times. If you like dark comedy, this is really a must watch.

(Also see the quick review of the movie above)

Rating: 5/5

Online Video

1945 C Ration Review Preserved Vintage 24 Hour MRE Testing Marathon

British Chefs Try Japanese Delicacies Ep. 1

Well There's Your Problem | Episode 5: The Politics of Traffic Engineering

The Trouble with the Video Game Industry (Philosophy Tube)

Music

LINDEMANN - Knebel

Beck - Hyperlife

Negativeland - True False

Tycho - Weather