Monday, June 24, 2013

Kindle Spotlight -- Folding Reality

Today we have a quirky novella by Mit Sandru: Folding Reality.

Mike, an insurance salesman, is having a very bad day. For some reason, every time he folds a piece of paper--whether it's a map, a dollar or take-out menu--he finds himself transported to another (usually unfriendly) place and time. He ends up in Jerusalem where he somehow prevents the crucifixion of Christ--and gets nailed to a cross himself! Later, becomes a Jewish prisoner of the Nazis at Auschwitz, followed by a stint aboard a decidedly hostile Russian space capsule. He has no idea where--or when--he'll end up next. Is he losing his mind, or is reality considerably more fleeting than he realized? And what's the deal with the magic circus tent in the middle of the desert?

I would describe Folding Reality as a more violent version of the 1980s TV show Quantum Leap, except the main character makes the leap home repeatedly. Mike certainly does not spare us the details of how painful crucifixion can be. There is virtually no character development; Mike is focused entirely on solving this mystery rather than telling us his life story. Still, the plot was intriguing enough to keep me hooked until the rewarding end. I especially like the shocking revelation about the nature of reality Mike is ultimately presented with. 

In summary: if you like weird sci-fi stories, this is for you.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Revisiting the Classics -- Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do you Remember Love?

Today I'm here to tell you about an anime that never got a proper American release. It is (deep breath) Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do you Remember Love? Based on the Macross anime (which got turned into the first part of Robotech), the 1984 movie is an alternate retelling of that series.

We begin the story five months after the alien battleship-turned-UN Spacy battleship Macross was warped via space fold to the far reaches of the solar system during a battle with the invading Zentradi forces. As Do you Remember Love? starts, expert UN Spacy pilot (and occasional idiot) Hikaru and his wing men are fighting off a Zentradi attack inside the Macross (which doubles as a human city). Hikaru disobeys orders from his commander (and reluctant love interest) Misa Hayase, separating from his comrades to rescue imperiled pop star Lynn Minmay. This leads to a love triangle between Hikaru, Minmay and Misa. Said love triangle might also be the key to defeating the Zentradi who are confused as hell by human culture (AKA Protoculture).

Do you Remember Love? is worth watching because of the differences between it and the TV series. Hikaru doesn't meet Minmay until after she becomes a celebrity; Roy Fokker no longer has the stupidest death in recorded history; the Zentradi men and women are at war with each other instead of simply segregated; Earth is even less fortunate this time around, if you can believe that. There is also considerably more nudity and violence than I remember being in the series.

While this movie was never officially brought to America, you can pick up the region-free DVD with English subtitles on Amazon for cheap. If you enjoyed Macross or Robotech, you should definitely check it out.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Kindle Spotlight -- The Dark Victorian: Risen

Today we have a Victorian adventure by Elizabeth Watasin, The Dark Victorian: Risen. This is the first book in the Dark Victorian series.

Jim Dastard is not your usual detective. In fact, he's a talking disembodied skull who works for the Secret Commission, a government bureau that resurrects people from the dead and sends them to fight other eldritch threats to England. His latest partner is Artifice, a tall, statuesque woman recently brought back from the dead. The resurrected agents of the Commission have their memories erased at the beginning of their second life, so Art (as she comes to be called) has no idea who or what she was prior to her death. However, her new form does have certain advantages, like the ability to fly and become incorporeal, as well as superhuman strength and endurance. She'll need these advantages if she and Jim Dastard are to stop the villain who's been reanimating the dead and using them to commit murder throughout London.

The Dark Victorian: Risen provides a refreshing change to the steampunk formula. Art and Jim Dastard make a colorful duo and play off each other's quirks very well, and I even found the villain to be (somewhat) sympathetic. There isn't a whole lot of character development since, as I said, the agents of the Commission have amnesia and don't even know who they are--or were. Tantalizing hints regarding Art's past are provided via women who obviously know who she was, but Watasin has obviously chosen to save big revelations for later volumes.

There is one significant caveat which may turn off readers. The female characters are not shy about showing their attraction to one another, and lesbians abound in this story. If that doesn't bother you (or if you're a hotblooded male), by all means pick up The Dark Victorian: Risen. You'll find an engaging story within.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Kindle Spotlight -- The Real Thing

Today we have a cyberpunk novel by Jacob Prytherch: The Real Thing.

Roman Rasnic, AKA the Black Cat, is a chemist turned black market peddler of a drug he invented called "Cupid." It allows people to experience the sensation of intense love towards whomever they want. This has proven quite profitable to him in future Japan. Unfortunately, it also causes him plenty of problems. Cupid caused one of Roman's marks to go insane and become dangerously obsessed with him. If that wasn't bad enough, his former business partner wants revenge on him, and his wife steals his supply of Cupid and proceeds to flood the streets with an even more dangerous version of the drug. Roman must track down the elusive Medea, rid Techosaka of the inferior concoction before any more people die from overdosing on it, and salvage what remains of his reputation. But no one is what they appear to be, and few can be trusted. Can Roman find redemption and true love for himself?

This could have been an excellent novel. Story-wise, The Real Thing is a gripping adventure, and Roman is a likable protagonist. Unfortunately, a complete lack of editing brings it down. I honestly don't think Jacob Prytherch put even the smallest effort into polishing this story. Typos and grammatical and formatting errors are all over the place. Because of the strength of the story I was able to keep reading to the end, but this kind of thing shouldn't have happened. 

Bottom line: If you can get past the shoddy editing, you'll find an engaging story. But at 99 cents, you get what you pay for.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Revisiting the Classics -- Mobile Suit Gundam

Here it is, the one that started it all: the 1979 anime Mobile Suit Gundam.

The story takes place in the year 0079 of the Universal Century. Mankind has spread out across the solar system, taking up residence inside floating cities called Sides. One of them, Side Three, decides they've had enough of the Earth people calling the shots, and proceeds to wage a war of independence against the Earth Federation, even going so far as to drop one of the colonies on the planet. Side Three--now calling themselves the Principality of Zeon--gains an early advantage because of their mobile suits, giant robots with a pilot inside each one.

The first episode introduces us to Amuro Ray, a 14-year-old engineering prodigy who lives happily with his family on Side Seven. His world is changed forever, however, when Zeon attacks the colony and he discovers the Federation has been developing their own mobile suits there in order to turn the tide of war. In order to protect his friends and family, Amuro hops into the most advanced mobile suit ever created: The Gundam. Despite having never piloted anything like this before, Amuro learns quickly and soon becomes a member of the prototype Federation spaceship White Base, fighting alongside a crew of colorful characters. Does he have what it takes to defeat Zeon's greatest pilot, mysterious masked-man Char Aznable, AKA the Red Comet? Is Amuro truly a Newtype? Will he ever see his family again? Just who is Char? To find out the answers to these questions, you'll have to watch.

I've enjoyed the various Mobile Suit Gundam anime since I first started watching this one in high school, and it remains my favorite. Before 1979, giant robot anime were all about unique machines fighting evil. But with Mobile Suit Gundam, things changed. Giant robots were now merely another tool of war, and the distinction between good and evil wasn't so clear (a fact many Gundam characters found out the hard way). The soldiers in this war had to figure out just what they were fighting for, and whether or not they were on the right side. Furthermore, the series challenged us to decide if it's acceptable to force children to fight our battles. We may survive, but their innocence won't.

You can pick up the first part of this show online. Unfortunately, Bandai--the distributor--went out of business and so the second half of Gundam is rare and hard to find. You can get it on Amazon but you'll have to pay an arm and a leg for it. If you can find it for a good price, though, I heartily recommend you get it. It has a strong story, memorable characters, and a powerful message.