• Category Archives Review
  • Non-Euclidean Æthercast #41 – Interview with Shequeta Smith and review of Rayven Choi

    A few weeks back I already posted the trailer of the graphic novel series Rayven Choi, featuring the eponymous super heroine who is out to hunt the people who killed her parents. Sounds a bit like Batman, but it is not. Obviously, the hero is a lady and Rayven Choi is also not a billionaire but poor and not least of all, she is black.

    So we have a graphic novel featuring a poor black super heroine which is something I have not seen in comics at all. Luckily, after featuring Rayven Choi I was contacted by the author of Rayven Choi and director of the trailer I featured, Shequeta Smith, and she offered to be a guest on my podcast.

    Shequeta L. Smith

    I of course took the opportunity, and as you can hear in the podcast above, we had a really fun chat and I am hoping we get to meet during the planned European tour.

    Also, hee is the review of the grahic novel which I begin by featuring some of the pages of the first book in the series:

     

    As you can see, the artwork is top-notch, it is also the only thing that is not quite to my taste. I am a fan of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series and prefer the style used in this series and its spin-offs. Still, the artwork is dynamic, realistic and really helps carry the feel of the story along. The story itself is an action-packed mix of spy-thriller, murder mystery, and also enough basic real-life troubles, something you do not find often in superhero comics, which makes Rayven Choi really relatable to as a heroine. Bonus: Since Rayven Choi is from the US but grows up in South Korea, there is a strong multi-cultural flavour to it, which adds to the overall quality of the reading experience.

    All in all, after finishing the first book, I am also getting al the other five in the series.

    Nine out of ten bullets with vengeance written on them.

     

    And  you can get your own copy here.

     

    Find out more about Rayven Choi and Shequeta Smith over at Sherocomics and on Facebook.

     

     

    All images (c) Shequeta L.Smith et.al. used with kind permission

     


  • Review: Black Silk by Lila Lestrange

    Black Silk by Lila Lestrange has managed something no other book managed before: It wanted me to rage-quit my Kindle out of the window because of the level of disgusting, selfish evil the main villain reached, but let’s start at the beginning:

    Black Silk is a dark fantasy novel of quite some size (more than 100.000 words) and my first forray into Dark Fantasy or more precisely Grimdark Fantasy.

    The setting of Black Silk is the city of Naressina, a bustling trading port reminiscent of Renaissance Venice. Ships from all over the world fill its ports and many strange and wonderful goods from spices to silks to darker things change hands here.

    The first thing that sets Black Silk apart from other fantasy setting is the one non-human race living in rather limited numbers alongside humans in the city. These are the zereshi, humanoids with features of both cats and insects whose home is in some distant landNaressina trades with. One of their kind features prominently on the cover:

    Black Silk by Lila Lestrange Cover

     

    It is also with one of the zereshi, the merchant Zîf Kaliari, that the story begins. One of his warehouses is broken into but nothing seems to be missing. Instead, he finds a strange golden amulet depicting a beast or deamon of some sort.

    While the wealthy trader Zîf tries to uncover the secret behind the amulet and his health rapidly fades, the gang from Lowtown, the poorest part of Naressina, which broke into the warehouse and who got screwed by their mysterious employer, nearly destroying them, want revenge and a few answers themselves.

    At the same time revolution is brewing and the ruling classes of the city  use the civic unrest and general turmoil for their own ends, which are nefarious in more than one way. The reader lerns pretty quickly that life in the poor quarters of the city is cheap in deed, that the brutish law of the rulers does not even spare children and that dark forces are everywhere in more than one form.

    Enter Viedro, the aforementioned villain who is basically behind every single act of evil in the city. He is a noble who through intrigue and dark magic becomes the de facto ruler of the city, completely untouchable by the law. He is arrogant, lecherous, decadent, cares nothing about the lives of others, has despicable sexual preferences, is in league with deamons, I could go on. This bloated maggot (he is rather obese)  has no redeeming qualities and is depicted so realistically by Lila Lestrange, it made me mad on more than one occasion and let me seethe with rage several times as well.

    The political situation, the treatment of the poor and the self-serving dark magic is not the only thing that makes Black Silk a truely dark piece of fiction. There are the little personal tragedies that play out, the low-grade everyday racism against the zereshi and the bleakness of the lives of the poor.

    Yet, there is hope in the tale. Zîf and the gang which broke into his warehouse, the Wharf Rats, make contact in a roundabout way, uncover the dark conspiracy which has chocked the city and move against it as unlikely allies and make other allies along the way.

    One of the most beautiful scenes in the novel is when one of the truely evil scumbags in charge uses fear-based magic against another character with a dark past and finds out the hard way that fear-based magic does not work against a psychopath who lost his fear a long time ago.

    Also, the Drunken Rat, the tavern the Wharf Rats hang out, is a rare mostly happy place in this dark city of oppession, fear and magic. It is a place of refuge for some of the protagonists and also the reader.

    All in all, Black Silk is a fascinating, captivating, and harrowing tale set in a refreshingly different fantasy world, no elves or orcs but zereshi and two suns.

    8 out of 10 dark deamons.

     

    Find out more about Naressina and Lila Lestrange here.

     


  • Review: Star Wars – The Force Awakens (no spoilers)

    Here it is, the long-awaited first sequel to the original trilogy which ended with Return of the Jedi. I was a whole week late and had to do my best to avoid spoilers on various channels.

    I was really jittery when I bought the ticket and then sat down in the cinema. I had heard good things but was still unsure. The memory of The Phantom Menace was still clinging to my mind like Mynok snot.

    My worries were completely unfounded.

    The short review: The Force is strong with this one!

    Star Wars - The Force Awakens
    © Disney, fair use

     

    Now for the longer one:

    Right from the beginning, The Force Awakens, feels right. A clandestine meeting where important information is traded and then the action starts: Stormtroopers arrive and actually prove themselves to be able to hit something.

    From this point forward, tension and action never leave the movie, you always get at least one of the two. The new main characters, Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Renn and BB-8 are each introduced in their own way and very fittingly and they fill their roles perfectly. The only time they get eclipsed as the main characters of the story is when Han Solo and Chewbacca make their entrance. After all, who could steal the show from those two living legends?

    The new locations introduced are reminiscent of places well known to fans but are only a reminder, a view that touches a memory. They are not cheap copies of something that worked once before. One thing that is unique about The Force Awakens is how it handles the Force and how people who are strong in the Force experience the universe, especially when other things connected to the Force are involved.

    The Force Awakens adds a lot of depth to the Star Wars Universe. We now not only get a female lead that is actually vital in driving the plot, we have a non-white lead and we have female combat personel on both sides. We also get a look into how the Empire used to and now the First Order recruits Stormtroopers.

    The whole movie also feels more real than any of the prequel trilogy did, which had an almost plasticy feel too it. The old grit of the original trilogy is back. J J Abrams said on a number of occasions that he would go back to animatronics, masks etc. instead of using (and abusing) CGI. He was true to his word and the movie is all the better for it.

    The Force Awakens is also full of little details, winks and nods to its predecessors, I caught a few but trying to find them all the first time I watched the movie would have been too distracting, so I guess I have to watch it again (and again, and again!)

    Coming back to the characters, although Rey clearly takes center stage and is one great character and destined to [redacted] I thought Finn was more interesting. A reformed Stormtrooper with absolutely no social skills trying to do what his conscience tells him is the right thing. He is the accidental hero, and he gets to play with all the things (literally) the great ones of the first trilogy got to play with. The same is true for Rey, but she is [redacted]. I really love Rey, she is strong, independend, [redacted] and quite obviously a great person with a destiny, but Finn is something new, a character with no parallel in neither of the two previous trilogies.

    And then there is Kylo Ren… The villain you hate to love but trust me, you will love him. He is everything Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy should have been but failed to be. Kylo Ren brings more nuances to the Dark Side than either Vader, Dooku, Sidious, or Maul did. I am really looking foreward to seeing him in Star Wars VIII.

     

    One thing I found lacking, though: The plot is far from original. The parallels to [redacted] are too obvious. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens. I have already pre-ordered the DVD. J. J. Abrams has successfully ressourected the franchise from the ashes of the Prequels.

     

    9 out of 10 Star Destroyers.

     

     


  • Review: A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar

    It is in and of itself an achievement to write a book that your literary agent judges to be unable to be published in both Israel and Germany. Yet, from what Lavie told me, this is exactly what happened to A Man Lies Dreaming.

    The plot can bes summed up in one sentence that explains this phenomenon:

     

    Jewish Auschwitz prisoner flees from his hellish reality by imagening a pulp detective story in which all the villains in his life (including Hitler, Eichmann etc.) are protagonists.

     

    A_Man_Lies_Dreaming_pb_Reprint.indd

    A Man Lies Dreaming, is a gut-wrenching, sometimes nauseating hell-ride of a novel. The description of the daily life of the central character, Shomer, in Auschwitz is bad enough, but then comes the story he makes up in his head and things get really, well, twisted.

    The story in Shomer’s head is set in London in 1939, in an alternate universe were the KPD, the German Communist Party, won the election of 1933. The Nazis either fled or chaged sides and everyone with some money, including many Jews fled.

    Now London is full of refugees and expats, trying to settle in and find a new life for themselves. Some of the former leading echolon of the NSDAP are now businessmen in the skin trade, such as Hess and Goebbels. The skin trade is one of the more obvious aspects of the pulp story in which Shomer puts a bucket-load of the things he witnesses every day. It is horrifying to read and the knowledge of where Shomer gets his ideas from make the dark abyss the reader experiences even darker.

    The protagonist of the pulp story is a detective called Wolf, and this is all I am going to say about him as a person. He gets hired by a rich Jewish girl to find her sister and the more brutal Shomers life becomes, the more brutality enters the pulp story and the more Wolf suffers at the hand of various thugs. And here lies one of the worst mind-fucks I have ever experienced, but to go into any more detail would be a major spoiler.

    The novel ends in a really bizarre twist that makes you wonder what the final fate of Shomer is, if he died, crossed dimensions, went insane, travelled in time or what… It is hard to tell and it is an end I did not expect at all.

    On top of it all, A Man Lies Dreaming is fast-paced, fascinating, in all its horror an excellent read, but be warned: This novel kicks you in the guts really hard on an aweful number of occasions and is not for people looking for beauty in literature.

     

    10/10 and I wonder were Lavie gets his ideas from.

     


  • Review: Apequest by Professor Elemental

    My dear Professor Elemental, how do you do it? Father of Invention, your previous album was already a masterpiece, and now Apequest… But I am getting ahead of myself here.
    As I have pointed out in the previous review of Professor Elemental’s work, I am not much into hiphop and this has not changed, yet I was looking forward to receiving this album after the previous was so much fun to listen to. I was not disappointed. Not at all.

     

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    Apequest is one terrific concept album that tells the story of Professor Elemental donning his time travel trousers and going on a quest through time to find his orangutang butler/friend/companion Geoffery.
    For this quest he has assambled an impressive array of guest artists supporting him, Steampowered Giraffe among them. The quest gets him face to face with knights, Dinosaurs, dystopian future dictators, alternate (and rather vexed) versions of himself and… Well, listen for yourselves. You will also be surprized by the variation in styles from track to track. The one in the dystopian future packs the most energy and the one in the Wild West, is very Wild West.
    Further, Apequest is packed with references to various novels, movies and TV shows involving space travel, time travel and other weird things and is an absolute nerd fest! You really have to listen to the album several times to get them all. It does not end there: The rhymes Professor Elemental comes up with for the songs about his quest, just fabulous, he is a true poet of the modern age.

    My personal favourite track is Tempus Fugitive but there is not one I really disliked.

    I highly recommend you pick the album up for yourself, it should not be missing in any Steampunk collection.

    Apequest is one very creative, unique, fun and simply splendid album and a more than worthy successor to Father of Invention.

     

    10/10 Zeppelins and the badge of honour:

     

    And remember: Even outside time, there is a pub!

     


  • Product Review: Mirtello Night Black & Gold by Weird Ape

    I think I have mentioned this on the blog before, I collect watches. Mainly pocket watches (my oldest one was made in 1855) but I also have a decent collection of wrist watches. I was highly delighted therefore, when I was offered a complimentary watch by Weird Ape. Specifically one of their Steampunk range.
    You can imagine there was not much arm-twisting involved to get me to accept the offer.

    Before I start the review I have to comment on the excellent customer service of Weird Ape. the first watch I got stopped working after three days. It is an automatic watch and the mechanism got damaged, I think during shipping. In any case it is not a problem a watchmaker could not solve, nevertheless, Weird Ape sent me a replacement straight away.

    But now about the watch:

    First, it came in a very stylish Weird Ape bag:
    2015-10-17_19.48.59[1]

    The watch itself looks great and is definitely not too in-your-face concerning the Steampunk factor:

    2015-10-17_19.48.28[1]

    This is one of the factors which made me choose the Mirtello Night Black & Gold, because I like my Steampunk functional, I want to wear it every day. The Night Black & Gold goes well with my office dress-style (which ranges from casual office steampunk to standard IT/coder black).
    I expected the watch to be a bit flimsy. It is not. It feels nice and heavy (but not cumbersome ) around my wrist and the lock of the metal wrist band is also sturdy and well made.

    Around my wrist it looks like this:

    2015-10-17_19.51.53[1]

    Being picky about the exactness of the watch I checked it repeatedly against the radio-controlled watch in our living room, it has not even lost or gained a single second since I got it. The mechanical movement inside is doing an excellent job so far. It is a real shame this watch is not really water proof. The warranty only extends as far as rain splatter are concerned but you cannot take this watch for a swim. I guess at a price tag of 39 € /  £29 / $44 for a mechanical watch with that precision, that is nothing to complain about.

    One thing I do not like, though: The tiny round dial with the single seconds-hand you can see in both photos above is face. It is one piece of plastic that was put in there purely for decoration. I think it is just distracting and the watch would have been even more beautiful without it.

    But this is really the only thing I can complain about. The Mirtello Night Black & Gold offers excellent value for money and has become a permanent fixture of my wardrobe, I have worn it ever since I got it.

     

    8 out of 10 Zeppelins

     

    I have also bookmarked Weird Ape Watches and will pay the site visits in the future, after all, I collect watches, and they have pocket watches, too.

    SrMAyIve

     


  • Review: Victor Sierra – Go for the Strange

    The third full album of Victor Sierra and the third I am going to review and this is getting ridiculous. OK, disclaimer, I supported the fundraiser, Victor Sierra is one of my favourite bands (and their song Mastermind is one of my all time favourite songs) and Commander Bob is one of my oldest friends in the Steampunk scene, but, when I listen to an album, I do my best to be honest.

    So, here we go:

    Go For The Strange-Victor Sierra-artwork_small

     

    Go for the Strange picks up where Yesterday’s Tomorrow ended. The albums are not topically connected, but when you listen to one and then to the other, it is like one smooth transition from one classic to the next.

    Again, the album is multilingual, again, Victor Sierra’s very own style is instantly recognizable, and with instantly recognizable I mean:

    Unquiet Days, the first track, starts with an industrial stomping like the pistons of an airship engine followed, then a  harmonica joins in and lays a tune like you only find it on Victor Sierra albums. So, after 10 seconds, Go for the Strange had its first magical moment and I was hooked. The song itself really stresses the Punk in Steampunk and addresses several issues in our society today.

    The next one The Fall of the Airship Solitaria, goes into a completely different direction. The crew goes into „Full In-Character Mode“, introduces themselves to the listener as the personas they take on their airship The Hydrogen Queen, then they proceed to tell a story from the world the Hydrogen Queen is cruising in.

    OK, before I get into details for every song, I rather stop here. I think if I tell you what to expect from the song, I might set you up for something you do not expect, because listening to music is an interactive experience. You may well receive a song differently from how I received it. It may well trigger different images in your mind than it in mine.

    Go for the Strange is another grandiose album, it delivers everything I expected from Victor Sierra and adds something on top. I particularly enjoyed the songs that tell the stories from their Steampunk universe and then there is this jewel that made it straight into my All Time Favorite List:

    The Shadow Company

    The song is another one from the punk side of Steampunk, as far as its message is concerned. A motivational piece to do things your way.
    „If you feel your future is  made of stone, just get up and leave your comfort zone.“
    Your life is your hand!

    Overall, there is less variation in musical styles than in Yesterday’s Tomorrow but Go For the Strange makes up for this by packing a lot of energy and more drive. This is a very energetic album in deed. The Hydrogen Queen is going full steam ahead.

    Linguistic variation is significant once more with lyrics in English, French and Spanish. I really regret that my knowledge of French has deteriorated to the point that I do not understand what Atlantis (track 9) is all about, but that is my problem, not Victor Sierra’s.

    To sum up: Victor Sierra have delivered another outstanding album, their best to date, I think. Let’s hope it will put them in the spotlight and give them the popularity in the Steampunk scene they truly deserve!

     

    Go For The Strange gets 10/10 Zeppelins and the badge of honour!

    You can find Victor Sierra (and the album) here:

     

    VICTOR SIERRA’S WEBSITE | BANDCAMP | iTUNES | TWITTER | FACEBOOK


  • Review: The SEA is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia

    This is the aforementioned Steampunk from Asia Part II.

    As you may have noticed by the amount of book features I post, I get a lot of review requests recently, most of which I have to turn down because of time constraints. I do literature reviews on request only in exceptional circumstances. Enter The SEA is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia.

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    I have not been so excited about an anthology in a long time. As is obvious from the title, the anthology is a collection of tales set in Southeast Asia and the writers are from there, too. Those tales are authentic and not done by some Western European/North American authors, trying a setting different from the usual (i.e. Europe, Old West, British Empire).

    To me, reading them from a European perspective, the short stories contained in the anthology are wonderfully different, and they open your eyes to the view of those who were on the receiving end of colonialism. It is a whole different view and it is a completely different way to tackle Steampunk.

    You get Buddhist spirituality, organic technology, spirits, fauna adapted to a certain kind of ore, alchemy, music and technology and so much more.

    I cannot even say which one of the stories is my favourite. Each one is unique in their own way. There are some in there that I found more fun to read than others. Some of them are really sad, one becomes pretty predictable after a certain point but each opens vistas you simply do not get in the usual Steampunk tale.

    The SEA is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia is beautiful, exciting, and it makes your inner Steampunk landscape more complete. It also reminds you that there are cultures in this part of the world Europeans and North Americans usually know so little about, that are older than our own, that have their own histories, stories and ways to deal with the world.

    The SEA is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia takes you on a fantastic journey east, to lands unknown to most of us and shows you things you will not forget.

    There can be only one verdict for this anthology:
    10 out of 10 Zeppelins and the badge of honour!

     


    Get it here and then visit them on Facebook!


  • Review: Cryptex Version 2.0 – Almost like a Pocket Watch

    After getting my hands on the first version of the Cryptex and reviewing it, it was only a matter of time until the collection was extended. I am now also the proud and delighted owner of the next generation Cryptex USB drive in a flat, round brass shell which doubles rather nicely as a pocket watch substitute in the waistcoat of your choice and thus bridging from Steampunk right to Cyberpunk:

     

    Absolutely delightful!

    Storage capacity on the USB drive is 16 GB which is more than adequate for the kind of files I carry around with me. This version of the Cryptex has since become a constant companion, attached to a decorative chain, on every occasion when I am wearing a waistcoat.

    The perfect accessory for the discerning Steampunk lady or gentleman with an affinity towards cyberspace.

    10/10 Zeppelins and the badge of honour

     

     
    And if you want to get one, it is available at Steampunkjunkies.net, just like the first one, of course!


  • Review and feature: Steampunk Cryptex Flash Drive and SteampunkJunkies.net

    So today’s post is going to be two things at once, first, I am going to review the Steampunk Cryptex USB Drive, and then I am going to talk about the website I got it from, Steampunkjunkies.net.

    Disclaimer: I got the Steampunk Cryptex USB Drive from Steampunkjunkies for free, they asked me in turn to feature their website. They did not ask for a review of the Cryptex, nor did they tell me what I should write.

    With this out of the way, let’s start with the review.

    To give you an idea about the Cryptex, this is the feature video:

    And here are two images:

    The Cryptex is one wonderful little gadget. It is a work of art and definitely Steampunk, although the cryptex is a design originally by Leonardo Da Vinci, the whole contraption has a very Babbage-machine feel to it. This feel is enhanced by the fact the cryptex mechanism serves as a lock for an enclosed 16 GB flash drive, which is always a good thing to have.
    The flash drive itself is a standard off-the-shelf device, not outstanding in speed and accessibility, but also not bad. The Steampunk Cryptex is also one of those things I will add to my low-key steampunk outfit, since it is classy, not in-your-face and serves an additional purpose other than just looking Steampunk.

    All in all, the Steampunk Cryptex gets 10 out of 10 Zeppelins.

    Now for the website Steampunkjunkies.net:

    Steampunkjunkies.net is a market place for all things steampunk, fairly new but with already quite a selection of merchandise from electronics to fashion to art.
    The price range is astounding, ranging from a handful of dollars to several thousand euros for handcrafted time-piece.
    As a dedicated market place both for professional artists and for hobbyists, I prefer it to both etsy and tho Rebels Market, simply because if I go to Steampunkjunkies.net, I know that the things there are all Steampunk. At both aforementioned other sites, the steampunkness is partially or totally dubious.
    Also, I guess if you want to sell Steampunk material, Steampunkjunkies is a better place to go then etsy, since your offers are not being completely drowned out by the sheer mass of other people offering things there.

    So, check out Steampunkjunkies and see for yourselves, if the site is to your liking.