• Category Archives Review
  • 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.


  • Review: Rude Alchemy

    Already some time back, I was contacted by the gentleman Andy Wertner who humbly suggested his podcast and radio drama Rude Alchemy for my listening enjoyment and a possible review. I did in deed listen to it and will now give a review.

    cropped-R-A-sepia_reddish_sm

    This is another one of those difficult reviews where I desperately avoid any spoilers, but anyway:

    Rude Alchemy starts with an epic tongue-in-cheek subversive intro and then we get a wonderful old time radio commercial and then we meet the main protagonist and then we are right in the story, a nefarious plot is underfoot. The nefarious plot ends even more nefariously and the we meet a specialist in all things nefarious: Carver Cranebootom, the bone detective, a savant, neurologist, expert cook, gentleman, navigator, philosopher etc. (you get the idea)
    Those two scenes set the mood and pace of the whole story and plot: It is completely mysterious and hyperbolic. No punches are pulled, no scenario is too bizarre, no plot too twisted, nothing is sacred in the world of Rude Alchemy. The plot is intriguing and fast-paced, the elements (steampunk, real world, some magic) make the world very interesting, we also get some romance (of course). On top of that, the production is superb, the sound effects are very professional and add a lot to the listening experience.
    But all this greatness is stained by one thing: Rude Alchemy takes rude very seriously. There is a lot of very crude innuendo in Rude Alchemy, sometimes I thought it was rather forced, too. At the beginning, I thought it was entertaining, but at episode 3 it started getting annoying, but this is the only thing I can complain about.

    Rude Alchemy gets 7 out of 10 Zeppelins.

    And if you want to have a listen, go here:

    Rude Alchemy (home page)

     


  • Review: Jews vs Aliens (Anthology)

    One thing first: Jews vs Aliens is not Steampunk, two of the stories in there fall, from what I can tell, into the Pulp Era and could be considered Dieselpunk but I primarily read the anthology for two reasons:

    1. The title alone…
    2. The anthology was curated and edited by my friend and favourite author Lavie Tidhar and Rebecca Levene

    Jews vs Aliens

    But now, on with the review:

    I am not going to get into detail for every single story in there, since some of them are so short, any review would contain major spoilers. The stories are:

    • “Antaius Floating in the Heavens Among the Stars” by Andrea Phillips
    • “On the Matter of Meroz” by Rosanne Rabinowitz
    • “Alien Thoughts” by Eric Kaplan
    • “The Reluctant Jew” by Rachel Swirsky
    • “To Serve… Breakfast” by Jay Caselberg
    • “The Farm” by Elana Gomel
    • “Don’t Blink” by Gon Ben Ari
    • “Nameless and Shameless” by Lois H. Gresh
    • “The Ghetto” by Matthue Roth
    • “Excision” by Naomi Alderman

    And they cover a wide range of styles and subject matters. Two of them (especially the firs one) made me laugh, some made me really interested in the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism in general. Some (often the same) made me wonder what the historic experience of the Jews in the diaspora really was like, since most I know about it concerns the years from 1933-1945. Other stories in the anthology are highly esoteric and the aliens in there are very different from the ones more commonly encountered in science fiction.

    All these factors make the anthology a very unique and highly entertaining, almost addictive read, even without the Jewish perspective. This perspective adds another cultural and in some of the stories mystic dimension to the tales which is used in different ways.
    Sometimes, as I said, for comic effect (the stereotypical Jewish Über-mom in the very first story is great) sometimes to offer a different view on biblical tales (!), but almost every time the Jewish perspective enriches the reading experience.

    This „almost every time“ is the one thing I have to criticize: I think in two of the stories the fact that the protagonist is Jewish is just coincidental, the story would have worked just as well, if the background of the central character would have been anything else, the Jewish heritage here adds nothing to the plot. Still, those two stories were not badly written, either.

     

    To sum up: Jews vs. Aliens is very different science fiction. The premise of the anthology makes it a very unique and intriguing reading experience one is unlikely to have had before, and every single story is rather good.

     

    Eight out of ten Zeppelins

     

    All proceeds of the sale of this anthology go to support the UK charity Mosac.


  • Review: Mr. Strange – The Wonderful World of Weird

    Right, let’s get this thing done, shall we?
    Mr. Strange’s minion Gary already contacted me in April and suggested for me to review Mr. Strange’s latest album, The Wonderful World of Weird, which is exactly what I will do now, though it is by far an easy task.

    X - Mr. Strange Album Cover

    The Wonderful World of Weird is my most difficult music review so far. The tracks cover a wide range of different styles and sounds, often within the same track.
    Psychedelic tunes go hand in hand with chilled electronic sounds only to be followed by pure industrial music. This makes for a very unique listening experience, especially, when the distorted lyrics enter your ear.
    I found the rapid change of styles also rather confusing, but it compliments the theme and title of the album really well. The Wonderful World of Weird is truly a weird listening experience, particularly on your first encounter with the album. It keeps you on your toes and surprises you with every track. You really do not and cannot really know what to expect next.
    I also found some of the music rather disquieting for some reason. Maybe I was half afraid some psycho was about to crawl out off my speakers.
    Truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
    To sum up:
    No track like the other, every new track a surprise and a kaleidoscope of styles used.
    If you are into chilly tunes, Steampunk sounds, industrial and psychedelic music,or simply crave something new and unique, The Wonderful World of Weird is definitely an album you should check out.

    7/10 for the music

    10/10 for creativity and uniqueness.

    And now, please have a listen:

    You can find Mr. Strange at his official website and of course on Facebook.


  • 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: War of the Worlds: Goliath

    Not since Iron Sky have I anticipated the release of a movie as much as War of the Worlds: Goliath. I have been following the developments surrounding this movie since 2010; I was thus overjoyed when I was contacted by people involved with the project if I would be interested in reviewing War of the Worlds: Goliath.

    War of the Worlds: Goliath - Cover

     

    Set in 1914, 15 years after the first invasion and subsequent defeat of the Martians (as per original War of the Worlds), the earth has rebuilt and utilised salvaged technology from the tripods of the first invasion to bolster its own military strength and form a multinational force of elite troops, A.R.E.S. (Allied Resistance Earth Squadrons), to counter any new threat from Mars. The chief scientist of A.R.E.S. is none other than Nikola Tesla and he has discovered signs of a second invasion being underway, and in deed, the Martians attack again.

    The main story line follows the exploits of the most elite crew of the A.R.E.S. ground forces in their Achilles-class tripod Goliath as they strive to repel the invading Martians. Other story lines take place around the  A.R.E.S. airship battle squadron in their fight for the sky. Naturally, I dare say, the A.R.E.S. fighter forces are led by none other than the almost mythical Baron Manfred Von Richthofen.

    Even better:

    War of the World: Goliath also features a badass Teddy Roosevelt who personally leads his troops in the Battle of New York wielding a heat-ray.

    Overall, War of the Worlds: Goliath is one action-packed fun anime in best late 1980’s tradition: Epic battles, over-the-top characters, heroism, and love. Bonus: Time has moved on, so politics, just a pinch, has been sprinkled in for flavour.

    The artwork is superb, starting from the subdued, haunting ink-sketched intro scenes to the Roosevelt’s rallying-speech right at the end. Sometimes, the traditional animation and the CGI effects do not blend seamlessly, but War of the Worlds: Goliath was never equipped with a blockbuster-budget, I did not expect it to be as slick and smooth as something done by Pixar.

    War of the Worlds: Goliath is one fun, action-packed masterpiece of an independent anime. The movie goes by in a flash and is just the type of entertainment a Steampunk can enjoy with his favourite snack and recreational beverage.

    And another bonus: One of the characters is voiced by Adam „Jayne Cobb“ Baldwin. Here’s a few stills and some members of the cast:

     

     

    9 out of 10 Zeppelins

     

    War of the Worlds: Goliath is a film every Steampunk should have in their collection.


  • Review: Escape the Clouds – Moments EP

    The fifth longplayer by Escape the Clouds, and this one is a little bit different; it is purely instrumental and it is also regrettably short, only six tracks all in all.

    Front cover of Moments EP by Escape the Clouds

    The content of the EP can be described rather adequately by one sentence: The joy of air travel distilled into music. I am aware that Mark Rossmore (the songwriter and producer behind Escape the Clouds) is an aviation enthusiast and he has managed to put his enthusiasm into this EP. The enthusiasm is contagious. The tracks on Moments invoke images of flying in some majestic, possibly piston-engined, plane. Fact is, I had quite an epiphany while listening to Moments on the way home. Sadly, I was only on a shuttle train and not on a plane, but:
    The countryside here is rather flat and there is a stretch of fields which the train crosses. It so happened we crossed this stretch right when the sun went down behind the horizon, so I got a view of an orangy evening sky and an illuminated horizon. This image, combined with House of the Sun in my ear was enough to send a shiver down my back and made me wish to sit in the pilot’s seat of a Curtiss P-40.

    So, Escape the Clouds has again delivered an excellent (semi-)longplayer. Music to dream to and perfect to listen to on a plane, or simply for dreaming about flying one.

     

    9 out of 10 Zeppelins (I only got into one of the tracks after the third or fourth time I listened to it)

     

    And here are two official videos which also capture very nicely what i was talking about:

     


  • Review: Steampunk Style

    The stream of books about the look and feel of Steampunk continues: Steampunk Style is the latest of this kind that has found its way into my humble abode and it is something special: It is from Japan, to be exact, the first genuine Japanese example of Steampunk (other than music) I have held in my hands.

    Steampunk Style serves a double purpose: It displays the magnificent art and it gives instructions to build some of the works of art, decorations and equipment yourself.

    The displayed art is just magnificent and, being from Japan, you are unlikely you have seen it before. For some reason, I have not seen it on any blog or website in the English, French, german or Spanish speaking Steampunk internet world. I have included some snapshots below, and it is only a fragment of the wonderful contraptions presented in Steampunk style:

     

     

    Just because of the art and the unlikeness of the average western reader having come across any of it, this book is a must have, especially when you consider the really modest price tag for something as visually impressive as Steampunk Style. The distinct Japanese flavour is also something you should not miss out on.

    It is the DIY section which constitutes the second part of the book which leaves something to be desired, though. While a great range of different items (including the magnificent Steampunk body armor) are listed there and the instructions are a step-by-step guide, the guides are not very detailed. You get each step as a picture of what it should look like, but not much is being said on how to get there. Some experimenting on your part is required (with potentially devastating results for the project).

    Still, Steampunk Style is an absolutely visually stunning book and highly recommended reading!

    8 out of 10 Zeppelins

     

    Steampunk Style

     


  • 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.