Dec 31, 2010

'Fever Crumb' and 'A Web of Air'

A few years ago I read a quartet of books called Mortal Engines - set in a post apocalyptic world where most cities are motorised and live under a principal called 'Municipal Darwinism' - and I absolutely loved them. So, Imagine my excitement when a few months ago I discovered the author Philip Reeve had written a couple of prequels (and after a quick look on Wikipedia it appears he may be writing more!) called Fever Crumb and A Web of Air. Unfortunately it was a while before I was able to read them and at about 6:30am this morning, after failing to fall asleep all night, I finished A Web of Air.

The two prequels are set around the first novels namesake: Fever Crumb - A young heterochromatic girl taken in by London's Order of Engineers after being found abandoned as a baby. Unlike the main series there are not yet any motorised cities at the beginning of this book and so London is still a static settlement. After spending her life being raised in the 'rational' environment of the Order Fever is sent to help an archaeologist who needs help with a dig and soon enough (without going into too much detail) Fever finds her life threatened as she is mistaken for a member of an old mutated tyrant race called the Scriven who once ruled London, this is also alongside a rising threat from the north as a barbarian race who move on motorised settlements known as The Movement are moving towards London with their own agenda. Throughout the book Fever is thrown into life or death situations against her will and soon enough by the end of the book (which I'd say was predictable by from start, but only because of the original series) London sets to become motorised.

After leaving London at the end of the first book Fever is travelling with the Lyceum theatre, working below the stage with the new electrical lighting set to distinguish the Lyceum from other theatres. The story takes place when they stop in the city of Mayda, built inside the crater of what I can only imagine was a nuke during the 'Downsizing'. Within this city is a young boy named Arlo Thursday, who is set to unlock the mystery of flight which have been lost for centuries. It is not all good news however as there are some who don't want the mysteries of flight recovered. Of course, Fever finds herself tangled up in the trouble yet again, all while still trying to come to terms with the irrational world outside of the Order as well as emotions she previously looked down upon as irrational. Although I think the ending might not have been the best choice [!SPOILER if the plane was destroyed and flying looks to be outlawed for generations to come, what was the whole point of the book? We still don't know how flight returned to the world. SPOILER!] it was still as brilliant as the rest of the Mortal Engines world and leaves me hoping beyond hope that there is another, because after 6 books I am still not ready to let go of Reeve's enthralling world.

The way Fever starts isolated from the real world in the first book to being thrown straight into it by the second makes you really feel a connection with Fever, because you are there as she comes to terms with the irrational world, irrational emotions and changes into her own person.

If you have read and loved the original quartet then it is an absolute must that you read these prequels as you will undoubtedly adore them too and it's always fun when you see names and things you recognise from the originals (including a certain Stalker) and know how Fever's world is set to evolve. Just like the rest of my posts seem to end I recommend that if you haven't read the originals, that you read them too! I suppose it doesn't really matter if you read the prequels first or after the original series because they are completely independent series. These books can easily be enjoyed by children and adults alike and I near guarantee you'll get sucked into them too. This'll also be my first excuse to use this fancy Amazon widget thing, although I can only seem to use the US site, so it's in dollars. I'm also not able to find them all with the same style of cover deign which bothers my sense of neatness.


Dec 29, 2010

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

In a surprisingly quiet Christmas game-wise I only really wanted Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. My only experience of Assassin's Creed beforehand was the first 20 or so minutes of Assassin's Creed 2 so I spent a few minutes on Christmas Eve reading up on the plot of the previous two, which gave me some idea what was going on when I started.

I immediately got into the game, both story and game-play. Free running+Sandbox world is definitely a winning combination. The graphics are also a significant improvement from what I saw in that 20 minutes of the second game. The game's version of Rome is rather accurate from what I can tell of my visit there 2 years ago and is made much easier to explore thanks to the ability to call horses (which seem to appear from thin air, rivers or even walls) and ride from one side to the other with relative speed. The new aspect of recruiting civilians and training them until they become fully fledged Assassins is also a great idea. You can send them off on missions throughout Europe, earning you money and items whilst also levelling them up and they can be extremely useful to call upon when you're in a sticky situation. Although I did find myself calling upon them for almost everything to the point I barely did any work myself.

The only real complaint I have story-wise is the execution of Sequence's 8 and 9. I found myself being thrown from mission to mission with no connecting cinematic and then I simply had no idea how I got to the situation in Sequence 9. The final mission at the end as Desmond seemed to be nothing but bouts of platforming between cinematics and story telling but I found it enjoyable enough.

Disappointed with the lack of Engineer or Blacksmith

Of course, there is Brotherhood's biggest new feature: Online Mutliplayer. I have been playing this daily with my friends (as either the Engineer or Blacksmith whenever we have the chance) and we all love it. The basics consist of players choosing a character (with many NPC's as the same character) and either hiding from other Assassins or trying to hunt out others amidst the dozens of identical NPCs. You get a certain amount of points depending on how you take out your target, so sneaking up or jumping from a rooftop will get you much more points than if you sprint around like an idiot. The current game modes consist of Wanted - a free-for-all where you are both the hunter and the hunted (along with an 'advanced' variant which apparently makes it harder to find targets), Manhunt - Two teams of four takes turns hunting and hiding, and Alliance - Similar to Wanted but with three teams of two. There are also various abilities, perks and kill/loss streaks (along with different costumes colours and extra characters) you unlock as you progress through the levels with each being very useful, especially in certain combinations. There are only about 5 maps (with one more apparently coming out along with Advanced Alliance) but you probably won't seem to mind as you'll be having too much fun.

I completed this game yesterday, and yet I have no intention of stopping playing it any time soon. I still have plenty of things to do in 16th Century Rome - renovating buildings and shops, completing various other missions and achieving 100% synch (another new feature) on missions I failed to achieve it on. Along with this I also have Virtual Training (which I'm not too bothered with) and the ever-so-enjoyable Multiplayer. I haven't had a desire to 100% complete a game this much since Mass Effect 2 earlier this year and this is easily one of the best games I have played, being a welcome breath of fresh air among the hordes of First Person Shooters, Racing and Sports games coming out these days, and I think it's even more of an achievement due to the fact I haven't even played the first two games and I was still completely immersed.

I know that more or less all the 'review' kind of things I've done so far have been extremely positive, but I suppose I just always choose thins that I will undoubtedly love. If you've played and enjoyed the first two games I strongly recommend this as you will undoubtedly love it and if, like me, you haven't even played the first two I still recommend you buy this, although you may be better off playing at least the second game first (which I plan to do eventually) so you have a bit more of an idea of what's going on.

Dec 26, 2010

Lack of Posts

In the extraordinary chance that someone actually regularly checks this site, I shall apologise for the severe lack of posts lately.

The reason, quite frankly, is that absolutely nothing particularly noteworthy is happening in the news and there hasn't been anything else to really post about. However, the Fall season is coming to an end so I'll probably be making a post on End of Season Impressions soon even though all but one of them are going to run into next season, I'll then make a Shiki post a week or so later because that still has one episode left. I may also make an Angel Beats! post on the two new special episodes once I get a chance to re-watch the first when it's re-released in 720p because the quality of the first version I watched was just plain cancerous. A new 720p version of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzimiya is also being released tomorrow, which gives me plenty excuse to watch that masterpiece all over again.

I know this is all a bit anime-centric but unless somebody gets off their ass and creates some interesting news, there's nothing else to post about. I might make a post on Assassins Creed: Brotherhood when I finish it though...

Fuck Yeah Misaka <3

Even though I failed to say so yesterday: 
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

A little bit more RailDex Christmas for you

Dec 20, 2010

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzimiya

After hours and hours waiting for it download and then a bit of tweaking to get the 1080p to run somewhat acceptably on my crappy computer I finally watched The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzimiya and it was quite simply incredible. Not only was the animation so much better (understandable since it was a film) but the story was top-notch and they even managed to develop the characters further after two series. I grew towards Yuki much more than I had previously, especially her alternate self, and couldn't help but love Haruhi throughout as her typical self (with her behaviour at the beginning making me think even more that she resembles K-ON!!'s Ritsu).

Despite it's 163 minute running time not once was I bored and willing it to end and when it finally did end I was actually a bit disappointed there wasn't more, I'd have been more than happy to spend the whole day watching. The pacing is perfect, with revelations around every corner yet still remaining easy to follow.

I'm aware that I'm not exactly the best reviewer ever but the main impression I want you to get from this post is: Watch It! If you've watched the series - watch this film, if you haven't watched the series - watch the series then watch this film. You will NOT regret it. It'll be a long time before I watch something that tops this.

Dec 18, 2010

Bite Me - Episode 1 - "Outbreak"

Introduced to me by the ever so brilliant Philip DeFranco, here is the first episode of Bite Me, a webseries about three gamer friends and a zombie apocalypse. Although the first episode (linked above) didn't get me too interested it quickly improved and gets better every episode in my opinion. I enjoy the comedy a lot and as a gamer myself I feel drawn to the ever so socially awkward characters. For me the biggest draw is to whole zombie angle because if something has zombies the chances are I'll love it!

I'd recommend clicking the button to watch this on YouTube, because embedded quality is balls.

Dec 14, 2010

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Debut Trailer

Not as exciting (in my eyes) as Mass Effect 3, but exciting nonetheless, is the debut trailer of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a direct sequel to Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I played a bit of Oblivion before giving up when I was stuck on some puzzle near the end of Shivering Isles (which I shouldn't have went to straight away in hindsight) but I'm still pretty pumped for Skyrim. But still, Mass Effect 3 is much more exciting in my eyes, time to buy it again and buy a truckload of Microsoft Points for the DLC.

Dec 13, 2010

Mass Effect 3 Debut Trailer

Oh My God!!!!!! There are simply no words to portray my excitement. Looks awesome even if it's just a video trailer, 'tis just a shame we have to wait a year for it. I think I need to buy Mass Effect 2 again (sold it to fund Final Fantasy XIII) and buy all the DLC when I can so I can have one final playthrough. It's a shame my Mass Effect one save files were lost...

Dec 9, 2010

Coalition 1-0 Students

With a vote of 323 to 302 the Coalition won the Parliamentary vote on tuition fees, despite criticism from Labour and rebellion from Lib Dem and Tory backbenchers. The coalition's proposed rise in tuition fees has led to the resignation of two ministerial aides – Mike Crockart and Jenny Willott. Two former Lib Dem leaders, Charles Kennedy and Sir Menzies Campbell, were among the 21 Lib Dem MPs who rebelled against the government proposals. Eight Lib Dems also abstained, although two were due to being at the climate change summit in Mexico.

As the debate was under way students were protesting outside parliament. After initially starting peacefully protests started to become violent towards the evening (as news of the votes result spread through the crowd), resulting in clashes with police, vandalising of the Treasury building with graffiti and window smashing and even an attack on the car of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla as they were unfortunate enough to drive past a group of protesters. Officers with riot shields and helmets charged at the protesters in an attempt to control them and there has again been reports of unnecessary violence (with one person even being knocked unconscious) and injuries to both protesters and police.

As stated in my previous post on tuition fees protests I am very much against the rise in tuition fees, so I am extremely disappointed in today's result. These rises are avoidable (80% university teaching budget cuts? C'mon!!) and students really don't need the large amount of debt University education will now bring. On the plus side the Lib Dems look unlikely to get anywhere in government for a long time after abandoning their pledge (although some did show they have principles and stuck to their promises). Despite these controversies I am still an avid Conservative; at least they didn't throw away a promise which got them most of their votes.

Dec 7, 2010

Julian Assange Arrested!

WikiLeaks founder was arrested today at 9:30am by British police on behalf of Swedish authorities. He was charged at the city of Westminster magistrates with one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape. Bail was refused and he now faces a stay in HMP Wandsworth until December 14th. Assange's lawyers claim allegations are made up and are politically motivated over the Embassy Cables scandal, a viewpoint held by many others.

This arrest comes after MasterCard and Visa cut off support for WikiLeaks (yet still letting you fund the Ku Klux Klan), as well as PayPal and Amazon cutting ties with the site.

Despite the arrest WikiLeaks has pledged to continue publishing the Embassy Cables.

I personally share the view that this arrest is motivated more by the leaked Cables than these supposed rape allegations (which appear rather weak), especially as efforts to arrest Assange weren't really strong despite these rape allegations being present long before the leak of the embassy Cables.

Dec 5, 2010

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

I downloaded The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya towards the end of the summer and haven't been able to watch it because I've been too busy for anything other than the odd currently airing episode. With the BD/DVD release of the film The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya only 2 weeks away I have decided to force myself to watch! I planned to watch yesterday but got distracted by a rather fun day of Halo: Reach. This morning I started watching... and watching... and watching, until 8 episodes later when I decided I needed a break! I love it! I wouldn't be surprised if I watch a few more episodes tonight. It's been a while since I've watched a full previously aired series and I'd forgotten the merits of being able to watch as many episodes as I please without waiting a week. I've only just begun the series and I'm already excited for the film in 2 weeks (which I've heard VERY good things about), although I'm also dreading The Endless Eight episodes. Now I understand the popularity of this show! The rest of my Sunday shall be spent reading the latest BBC History Magazine, maybe playing a bit of Halo: Reach, the newest Star Driver episode, and then probably another 4 episodes of Haruhi!

Dec 4, 2010

Views and News

From a promising 6 views on the first and second days of this blog, views fell to 5, then plummeted to 1 and then to two days of no views at all! Before getting 2 views yesterday and a measly 1 today. Where these views even come from (in terms of links and sites) I have no idea (except for one from an search) but it's quite interesting to see they've come from Europe, Asia and North and South America and that Chrome and Windows are most popular (and rightly so). Getting worldwide viewers is rather cool.

I don't know why views have suddenly plummeted either, or how to regain them. I am part of no forums where I can post the link in my signature, nor do I want to post it on social networking sites because I'm perhaps too scared of criticism from people I actually know. It's too early to appear in any Google searches and I've tried adding it to blog sites but nothing seems to have happened there yet.

I also have another disadvantage: Absolutely nothing interesting is happening in the news! Without news I can make barely any posts, and that makes it even more unlikely for people to find their way here.

I suppose this blog is in its birth still, but going days with absolutely no views is still a bit crappy. I suppose this way it lives up to its name... the small things heh. With lack of news or anything to post about there'll probably be barely any posts for a while, making it even less likely to get any views. Not that there's any point in even making this post, as nobody is going to actually see it...

Dec 3, 2010

Arsenic Based Life - Is It Too Good To Be True?

Anyone with an interest in Science or just anyone who checks the news regularly will have no doubt heard about the NASA discovery of a new bacterium in a Californian lake that thrives on the toxic chemical arsenic. This has massive implications for the possibility of extraterrestrial life as originally it was thought (based on life on Earth) that oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus were necessary for life. However, this new bacterium is able to use arsenic in it's molecular make up instead of phosphorus and even incorporate it into its DNA.

It is not yet known how arsenic gets incorporated into its molecules or how they operate but that will perhaps come in time. The ability of this bacterium to live not only with arsenic but also to incorporate it into its molecular make-up and DNA increases the possibility of life on planets that aren't Earth-like and contain all sorts of chemicals toxic to us.

However, the scientific community is split over these results, with many questioning their validity. Some of the doubt is coming from the fact that in order to measure the modified DNA it has to be put into a water-containing gel, which would rapidly dissolve any arsenate molecules and so any hypothesis that arsenate might replace phosphate in biomolecules must take this into account. Some are playing with the idea that perhaps arsenate was being stabilized by yet another molecule or being stuffed away in shielded bubbles in huge amounts.

Only the coming months will prove whether or not these finding are true. In the past there have been many other discoveries published but later proved wrong after further testing, but hopefully this will not be one of them as the possibilities it opens to extraterrestrial life are just too intriguing.

Dec 1, 2010

Magic Mars Bars

An interesting perspective on illegal downloading from good ol' charlieissocoollike:

It's Snowing Everywhere!!!!! ...Except Here

As December begins heavy snowfall has hit Britain, closing schools, airports and motorways. Six inches of snow has prompted Gatwick, Britain's second busiest airport, to close for the day and the country is a blanket of white.

That is... except for where I live. With snowfall predicted for the rest of the week for large portions of the country not a single speck of snow is predicted to land here. Instead, I have to walk to the bus stop in the freezing cold, suffer the cold occasionally during the day, and then suffer again on the walk from the bus stop to home before locking myself inside with the heating on full for the rest of the day. At least heavy snow would allow me to stay at home all day and even have a bit of fun perhaps, but no, just bitter cold and wind. After last years snow many have hopes of a repeat this year, unfortunately for me I realise that as likely just a blip in the last 15 or so snow-less years and that there will once again be no white Christmas for me, just a darn cold one!

In the mean time, here's last years snowman: