Friday, December 8, 2017

Blog: Sleeping Beauties

Stephen and Owen King's Sleeping Beauties begins with with a strange sleeping sickness occurring across the globe, women are falling asleep and not waking up, in fact, if disturbed in any way they get murderous and then immediately fall back asleep. With no end in sight society begins to shift, falling apart in some places and pulling together in others.

Much of the novel takes places in one small town affected by the sleeping epidemic, and the nearby women's prison. Following law enforcement we begin on night one and therefore a large part of the early chapters follow women attempting to not fall asleep.

The novel builds at a really nice pace and even the crazy things that occur later in the book (this is co-written by Stephen King after all), feel like they come from a logical (sometimes deranged logic) position.

A thrilling story that merges fairy tales with pulse pounding thrills - well worth a look.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Book Review: The Fox

M.N.J. Butler's 1995 novel The Fox was almost the one that killed my current streak of one historical novel set in Ancient Greece that I've been doing for the last two years. Following the list found here, I've been slowly but surly working my way from the mythic age, through the Trojan War, Persian War, Peloponnesian war and am now just getting into the age of Alexander the Great.

The Fox follows a spartan soldier called Leotychides who was raised as royalty, through his entire Spartan upbringing, and cleverly sets it against the fall of the Spartan Empire. Similar in many ways to John Gardiner's The Wreckage of Agathon (1970), which is itself set in the beginning of the Golden Age of Sparta and narrated by a philosopher asking where it all went wrong, The Fox shows how a society built on one principle, an elite warrior class who ignore everything else, could not easily stand against the Athenians over any length of time once a shared enemy no longer existed.

The novel was a really fun dip into an area of history I'm becoming quite fond of, and thanks to the power of Inter-Library Loans (wherein one library borrows a book from another) I was able to read this long out-of-print book and continue on with a winning streak that will take me through Alexander the Great's life next year and the fallout after his demise (sorry for the 2300-year spoiler)

A great read!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Book Review: Artemis

Andy Weir's 2017 follow up to The Martian, Artemis follows the story of a young woman, Jasmine "Jazz" Bashara who works as a porter on the lunar city of Artemis.

As with The Martian, much of the novel comes down to timing and problem solving, but unlike his first work, a clear man vs. nature story, Weir has created an entire society with Artemis, working to outline its economy, class structure and characters ranging from the porter/smuggler protagonist through to city leaders, technical staff, the police and others.

The story moves along quickly and with a great sense of tension as Jazz takes a simple job that quickly becomes complicated and then moves straight into some truly dangerous and exciting territory.

A really fun read and well worth the look.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Book Review: The Mask of Apollo

Mary Renault's The Mask of Apollo focuses on Nikeratos, an actor of some repute living in Syracuse in the aftermath of the reign of the tyrant Dionysius.

The book does a remarkable job of following a society in which a young man (Dionysius II) has been placed in control entirely in conflict with the fact that he is not a leader, doesn't care for his people and wishes to spend all his time at his hobbies.

The novel focuses largely on the lives of actors in the era and seeing the story of a young man's professional career against the backdrop of great change in the world (Alexander the Great's father Phillip of Macedon makes an appearance in the framing chapters of the story).

A remarkable read and one that has me looking forward to the remaining three Renault novel's I'll be reading next year as I finish my read through this list.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review: The Arrows of Hercules

Although I have spent the last month switching from game to game in the Five Nights at Freddy's series, in my off time I've been enjoying a number of books from all sorts of genres, including todays little voyage to Ancient Greece in L. Sprague de Camp's 1965 novel The Arrows of Hercules.

The novel focuses on an engineer named Zopyros who creates early siege weapons for Dionysius of Syracuse.  The story is full of all sorts of derring do, and from my own experience in fantasy fiction felt an awful lot like a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, including the four random fellows of different backgrounds and temperaments who decide to team up for no reason and seek their fortunes.

A lot of the fun of the novel for me was in the way that de Camp relates Zopyros's work to our modern tech-focused world - wherein he has been hired by someone to do a job no one has ever done before and instead of simply spending his time working on his concepts, he ends up spending an awful lot of it dealing with professional rivals and coworkers hellbent on undermining his efforts.

The novel was a lot of fun and following Manfredi's Tyrant, which focused on Dionysius himself, this was a great way to get a man-on-the-ground feel for how one city state dealt with the aftermath of the Peloponnesian war.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Night Thirty-One

So here we are, the end of my trip through five games, two novels, a guidebook, any number of YouTube videos and a family-themed restaurant with some over-enthusiastic animatronics.

In the end, Five Nights at Freddy's works as a pretty fun introduction to horror video games and horror stories - although the game levels can certainly get frustrating, the tension you build in yourself while listening for movement in the restaurant beyond what you can see on the security cameras can be a lot of fun, and the jump-scares are pretty great too.

Although the deeper mythology of the games was a little trickier for me to get a handle on, I cannot deny the marketing, and as you can see in the picture above, you can get all sorts of things from Freddy Fazbears if you're interested.

A neat little horror franchise I was glad to experience.

That's all folks!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Night Twenty-Eight

So here we are at the final (latest) game, Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location and this game finally allows you to move around, more than just from side to side in the same room, and ends with some pretty terrifying concepts.

For me the problem was that each night sort of seemed like a great rough idea of a stage, but then clearly hadn't gone through any sort of revision...

Basically the game has you monitoring an animatronic factory, wherein new animatronics are created and maintained to be rented out for parties.  As with the original three games, you play night staff who must survive your shift by completing different tasks depending on the factory rooms you enter.

In the end, I found the game to be fun, but under-realized, I think if some more work and time had been put into it, it could have been pretty amazing, but as it stands the game is good for a few scares but is largely forgettable.