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  • 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!

     


  • 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: The Machine | This is a Cyberpunk Jewel!

    Two computer programmers fall in love as they create the first-ever piece of self-aware artificial intelligence, designed to help humanity. But things go terribly wrong when the British Government steals their breakthrough and teaches it to become a robotic weapon.

    This is the very short synopsis of the movie and it does not really do it justice. As you can tell from the title of this post, I am absolutely delighted with The Machine.

    TheMachine_INAL

    Set in near-future Britain, during a new cold war between presumably the West or NATO on one side and China on the other, we first follow a disillusioned computer/AI specialist James who develops experimental brain-implants for veterans with serious brain injuries. The first experiment we witness ends in tragedy.
    Next, we are introduced to Ava, a maverick and gifted scientist who has developed an almost perfect AI. She gets hired by James and while working together, they develop a working AI and also fall in love. We also learn that James hates his job, since his goal was to produce an implant which could cure his daughter’s Rett syndrome but now his expertise is used by the government to turn disabled veterans into killing machines.

    The cold, uncaring government is epitomised in its avatar Vincent, the head of the operation James works for. Vincent is the only real villain in the movie. He is cold, manipulative, and uncaring in the extreme. Everybody but himself is expendable. We learn of this attitude towards others in a very drastic way but to tell more would be a massive spoiler.

    After this incident, James dives even deeper into his work and develops the eponymous Machine, an AI android who is almost too perfect. First she, it is hard to think of her as an it, is childlike and cannot control her machine strength, but she soon learns, loves music, emphasises with James and his love and concern for his daughter and wants to help. In short, she turns out not to be the weapon Vincent wanted, which leads to another dark twist which in turn leads to the most drastic revelation the movie has to offer and which changes everything.

    Apart from the action-packed and very philosophical plot, one of the questions the film raises is obviously What makes us human?, there are several well-done homages to other movies, most obviously Ghost in the Shell, transhumanism in a number of different incarnations and love. There is romantic love, fatherly love and the love between two AIs right at the end, mother and child.

    The Machine is a dark and wonderful tale, and the best cyberpunk film I have seen in years.

    10/10 and the badge of honour

     

     

    And here are some stills and the trailer:


  • Non-Euclidean Æthercast #24 – A bushel of Steampunk Reviews

    Since I will very likely not be able to do all the reviews I want to do any time soon, I am trying to be efficient about it and do as many in one go as are easily feasible. For this reason, today’s Non-Euclidean Æthercast’s episode take a look at two Steampunk works, an EP and a book, a geek rock album and a Cthulhu Mythos movie, please enjoy:

    Subscribe on iTunes

    LZ-X1 Württemberg_Werft

    And here are the ratings in detail:

     

    A Halo Called Fred – We love you all

    7 out of 10 Zeppelins

     

    Sunday Driver – Flo

    10 out of 10 Zeppelins and the badge of honour

     

    A Steampunk’s Guide to Tea Dueling

    8 out of 10 Zeppelins

    And please check out the Tea Dueling website.

     

    The Whisperer in Darkness

    9 out of 10 Zeppelins

     

    And here you can listen in to A Halo Called Fred and Sunday Driver:


  • Review: Babymetal – Babymetal

    Three Japanese teenage girls making heavy metal music, if this scenario sounds weird to you, well, it sounded weird to me when I was first introduced to the band a few months ago.

    Just a bit of background on the band: Babymetal is a constructed band, the members are all part of the Sakura Gakuin idol girl group (the topic of idol groups in Japan deserves a whole term paper and is something entrenched in Japanese pop culture).

     

    And now comes the big „However“:

    However, the fact the band is constructed does not mean their music is equally constructed, artificial, uninspired, or bland, far from it.

    Babymetal (the album) is the perfect fusion of teenage dreams in the cyberpunk age, J-Pop and various varieties of Heavy Metal, from Speed Metal to Death Metal. It is its very own form of Heavy Metal, not seen or heard before and another testament to the fact that Metal continues and is still evolving.

    The girls also tackle problems of their age group in their lyrics, thus continuing the tradition of other metal bands who regularly address issues of various sorts in their lyrics (Metallica: One, Skyclad: Still Spinning Shrapnel to name just two examples) and they do it very „kawaii“ (for lack of a better term). I am talking of this one:

     

    „Gimme Choko!!“ (ギミチョコ!!; Give Me Chocolate!!)

     

    The tune and the chorus just sticks in your ear, doesn’t it? Here’s a partial translation of Gimme Choco!!, just so you know they are really singing about something that is really very important to teenage girls, and they are sending the message: „It is OK to like chocolate, just be yourself and like it!“ Freaking excellent!

    I guess there are some die-hard metal fans out there who are appalled now by what they are seeing but tastes and opinions differ.

    I find Babymetal a thoroughly enjoyable album, tremendous fun to listen to. It also comes with the added bonus of lyrics I can hardly understand (I speak just a little Japanese) so the chance of them wearing out on me due to overrepetition is significantly reduced.

    To sum up: Babymetal is fun, enjoyable, innovative and one of a kind. Not recommended for Heavy Metal purists but for everybody who wants something fresh and new to blast out of their speakers. Listening to Babymetal is like being in a ball-moshpit together with Godzilla, a squadron of mecha and a troupe of unicorns.

    10 burning, candy-flavoured skulls!

     

    You can listen to some preview snippets here: Babymetal – Babymetal.

     


  • Review: Lego Space – Building the Future

    In 1979 I got my first Lego Space toy, it was the classic moon buggy.

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    I have been a fan of Lego Space ever since, although I still strongly prefer the classic series and some of the late 1990’s releases did not really strike my fancy. Anyway, the other day I found an email by No Starch Press, a partner of O’Reilly, in my inbox inquiring if I would be interested in receiving a review copy of Lego Space – Building the Future.

    Of course I was!

    Lego Space – Building the Future is one of those books that takes you right back to the glorious days of your childhood (if you are my age), gives you inspiration for what to do with your Lego collection and lets you spend more quality time with the kids. In short: It is a book no parent who wants his children to grow up to be astronauts or Lego enthusiast should be without. Lego Space – Building the Future tells an epic tale of exploration and adventure, starting with Sputnik and the Mars Rover and stretching all the way into the far future with bases on the Moon and Mars and even further to gates connecting star systems.

     

    Lego Space - Building the Future (cover)

     

    Peter Reid and Tom Goddard have gone into a lot of detail, we learn about the lives and daily challenges of the scientists and explorers, the organic growth of the Federation from humble beginnings as a science outpost to the driving force behind human space exploration. It is also a tale of scientific breakthroughs, ambition leading almost to disaster and human perseverance. In short, it is an absolutely epic sci-fi story told with Lego. Every step of the way, there are Lego models, shuttles, robots, bases, aliens, base interiors, maintenance droids. Everything you would expect in space (did I mention the star fighters and the sentinel walkers? Now I did!) you find in this book – built with Lego, not every model in there comes with instructions, but there are still plenty in the book, there is even an instruction for building Sputnik!

    Lego Space – Building the Future will send you scrambling to wherever you have stored your Lego and start building, it may also cause you to usurp your children’s Lego.

    10 out of 10 and the badge of honour:

     

     


  • Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

    About two weeks ago, my friend, co-author and soon to be co-(statics, connection lost) Alex from Clockworker pointed me towards Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It sounded intriguing enough to read it in spite of my 50+ books backlist. Ready Player One The book has been out since 2011 and I could kick myself no end for only reading it after Alex recommended it.
    In one sentence, Ready Player One is a geek 80’s retro cyberpunk techno thriller virtual reality love story. But one sentence is not enough.
    Let me get one thing out of the way first: If you are a child of the 80’s and were a computer geek and/or role player in the 80’s, like I was, you get a lot more out of this book, simply because of all the references to 80’s geek and gamer culture in the novel. If you are not, the book is still an excellent, fun and action-packed read.
    About the plot:

    In 2044 the world is a pretty messed-up place, war, recession, environmental destruction and the depletion of natural resources have devastated the world and sent most economies crashing down. The USA have turned into a poverty-stricken, almost lawless place, where civilization as we know it only exists in the remaining bigger cities.
    Most people flee their harsh reality in an online cyber environment called OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow of Gregarious Simulation Systems (GSS), formerly known as Gregarious Games. It is World of Warcraft, Second Life, Facebook and your real life combined. People go there to play, work, hang out, shop. You can do everything in OASIS.
    One of the people who flee their harsh life and live mostly in OASIS is Wade, a destitute orphaned boy who lives with his aunt in a stacked pyramid of trailers and makes a living on the side repairing and scavenging electronic equipment while being enrolled in OASIS-based online highschool. His life changes when one of the founders of GSS, Halliday, dies. In his will, released as an online-video sent to every OASIS player, he declares an Easter Egg hunt of epic proportions. Within OASIS, three keys are hidden and whoever finds them and unlocks the three gates inherits Halliday’s multi-billion fortune.
    All clues for the hunt are 80’s geek gamer references and things from 1980’s pop culture Halliday loved so dearly in life. The hunt creates a subculture called Egg Hunters (Gunters for short) and leads to a 1980’s revival. Wade becomes a Gunter and on his quest to find the keys gathers a group of other gunters around him who will become known as the High Five.
    But all is not well, because a multinational corperation, IOI, just another incarnation of Evilcorp Inc. devotes enormous resources to finding the keys and does not stop at extortion and blackmail at all to get what it wants, far from it.
    But I shall not spoil!
    Ernest Cline has created a masterpiece, a blend of Matrix, Blade Runner and every sci-fi/cyberpunk movie of the 80’s you love. plus everything you find in WOW and other such games taken to the extreme, after all, computer technology is so much better in 2044, thanks to Moore’s law.
    There is action, there is cyberpunk, there is a love story, there is a coming-of-age story in there. There is a tale of true friendship and of loyalty. And: There is tons of 1980’s references and some tongue-in-cheek hat-tips to our time (like the Doctorow/Wheaton tac team)
    A true masterpiece and an excellent read. I devoured it in three days.
    Highly recommended reading!
    Ten out of ten, what shall it be… Space Invaders!

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    And of course, the badge of honour:

     

    And these are the formats you can have it in:

     

    Paperback

    Kindle

    Audiobook

     


  • Review: Victor Sierra – Yesterday's Tomorrow

    So here it is, the Steampunk album I have waited for ever since I read it was in the works. After listening to and liking Electric Rain, their previous album, I was very excited to get an early copy of Yesterday’s Tomorrow.

    Album Sleeve of Victor Sierra's "Yesterday's Tomorrow"

    The album contains both singles available previously, such as Steampunk Symphony and the title track of the famed web series of the same name, Dirigible Days, but the majority is new material, and what material it is!

    Victor Sierra display a versatility in styles and especially languages unmatched by any other Steampunk band and hardly approached by other bands in general. We find tracks in English (with Annouk’s charming French accent), French, Spanish, and once again Yiddish. The music is a powerful blend of EBM and rock with ethno elements for flavour. Every track is unique, nothing is even remotely off-the-shelf.

    You also do not tire of this album after listening to it a couple of times.

    Case in point:

    I have listened to Yesterday’s Tomorrow for at least 10 hours now, I had it on repeat on my MP4 player at work, and even now I discover details that have previously eluded me. Victor Sierra have created an album you can listen to really deeply and can get lost in trying to take in all the details.

    Better still: It is an album for every Steampunk party. It is equally suited for running in the background or blasting through the speakers with the crowd dancing to the tunes.

    Bob, Annouk, and Big Machine have delivered the Steampunk album of the year, already a classic and something no Steampunk music collection should be without.

    And before I forget it: Look at the artwork again! The sleeve tells a tale of three retro-futuristic free riders blasting off towards the horizon. I hope they will continue blasting for a very long time.

    Yesterday’s Tomorrow gets the full 10 Zeppelins and the badge of honour!