krpalmer: (Default)
2017-10-17 06:13 pm
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From the Bookshelf: The Massacre of Mankind

During my vacation in Europe this spring, I managed to find my way back to a science fiction bookstore in Stockholm I'd happened on in my first trip there eight years before. Taking in its mix of Swedish and English-language material of all sorts once more, I noticed a book by Stephen Baxter I hadn't heard of before. The title The Massacre of Mankind did get my attention; seeing it was a sequel to The War of the Worlds reminded me I'd run across a copy of The Time Ships in my university's used textbook store about two decades before. Another continuation of an H.G. Wells novel did seem interesting enough.

I only had so much foreign currency and so much space left in my wallet, though, so I decided I could wait and go looking for this new book on the other side of the Atlantic. Once back from vacation, I checked the nearest bookstore but didn't see it. It was months later before I was surprised all over again to find a North American edition on the shelves there, but that edition being a hardcover did leave me thinking I could save my money and keep waiting. The wait hadn't been that long, though, before there was another surprise in seeing a copy on the new books shelf of the city library; I signed it out at once.
The rout of civilization? )
krpalmer: (apple)
2017-10-11 06:41 pm
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Surprising Stripes

The small shopping mall in my neighbourhood, trending downwards for years even before Target moved in to close down two years later, is scheduled to be demolished and replaced by a self-storage facility, squeezed out of existence by changes in retail. (There are promises the grocery store attached is going to stay open as a standalone building, anyway.) Just about all of the handful of stores left open when I saw that in the newspaper this spring have cleared out, but one of the cell phone stores that were the last new developments is still open, its future location not quite ready yet. One day, I decided I'd look in it on my way to the grocery store to see if it had iPhone 8s on display, and if those phones had iOS 11 running on them. Knowing that new revision of the operating system would mean having to give up some of my oldest games did add just a little bit of reluctance towards upgrading.

On seeing the new phones did have the new operating system, I looked into their "Settings" to see what backgrounds were available; every major revision does seem to mean just about everything there being replaced. As I looked down the list of thumbnails, some rainbow stripes caught my attention. Then, I realised the colours weren't "ROY G. BIV," but rather "green-yellow-orange-red-purple-blue," the order of the stripes in the Apple Computer logo of the 1980s. After that, upgrading my iPod Touch just as a beginning was much on my mind. I was at least a little conscious this had some element of "being influenced by emotions," but "clinging to a different past out of concern" might be being influenced by emotions too.

I did wonder a bit how many other people would make the connection I had, it having been almost twenty years since the stripes were phased out around the time of the very first iMacs. There was the ambiguous thought that at least some of the people who'd used Apple IIs as particular machines with six-colour logos must have clung to their embitterment over the impression that platform hadn't been eked along as long as it could have and found philosophical objections with the Apple products that followed. Still, I can remember a "Macintosh thirtieth anniversary" tribute and a commercial about putting stickers on MacBook Airs that had alluded to the six-colour logo before. I can suppose the next revision of the operating system will take out those backgrounds (I know you can keep an "obsolete" background, but only so long as you don't change it to anything else), but even this much is a small but interesting bit of history returned.
A small bit of evidence )
krpalmer: (anime)
2017-10-05 06:10 pm

2017: My Third Quarter in Anime

Three months ago, as one more "quarterly review" of anime viewed meant working out one more explanation why I'd more or less missed out on what seems the modern game of watching new series on a weekly schedule through official streaming, I was at least thinking things might be different in the summer. In those three months I wasn't away on a long vacation, and yet in just their first week or two I realised I'd once more sit out the game.
The latest explanation, and RWBY )
Starting off at last: Little Witch Academia )
Getting around to it: Ano Hana )
Mirror experiences: Zeta Gundam and Gundam Double Zeta )
One conclusion: Mobile Suit Gundam Char's Counterattack )
A peculiar experience: Chargeman Ken )
Again at last: Love Live Sunshine )
A nostalgic discovery: Star Gunman Bismark )
Another conclusion: Gundam Unicorn )
krpalmer: (mst3k)
2017-10-01 05:45 pm
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Completed Collection Thoughts: MST3K XXXVIII

My copy of the thirty-eighth official DVD collection of Mystery Science Theater 3000 waited a long time to be opened. It had arrived just before the revival of the series got under way, and I suppose I was thinking a bit of potential unfortunate reactions and returning to known experiences as one way to get over them. Fortunately, the revival worked out pretty well for me in the end, and as I finished its last episode I could think ahead to opening the collection at last, and of the plans I'd made while waiting for that.

All the episodes in the collection were "Mike shows," and that did get me thinking of working backwards in episode-number order from the single "Sci-Fi Channel" instalment to the three sixth-season shows, not quite just "for a change." On starting with "Track of the Moon Beast," though, I did find myself thinking there was a sort of "comforting familiarity" to things. Before I could really distract myself considering how it compared to the revival episodes (with no intention of trying to put them down somehow), I was pretty well engaged with the episode's humour as it took on a 1970s monster movie (with an ultimate undercurrent of bleakness I can associate with a lot of the movies from that decade that wound up on the series), and I went on from it to a bonus interview with the actress who'd played the female lead, who did go to slight lengths to say she'd been leery about the whole thing to start with but did seem to have had a positive reaction to the MST3K version.

From there, it was back to the "Comedy Central era" and "High School Big Shot," just about as bleak in its own juvenile-delinquency-meets-degenerate-film-noir sort of way (even including the short subject "Out of This World," which takes a unique theological viewpoint on the delivery of bread) but which seems just about as funny in the series. Its bonus feature was the original movie, which have been included on a few discs before but which are perhaps a bit too much for me to take in. "Colossus and the Headhunters," the "Mike era" echo of the muscles-and-mythology Hercules movies from the "Joel years" (just as the revival included a Hercules movie of its own), was a cheerful change from what I'd just seen, and while a bonus feature where Joel talked about Mike wasn't directly connected to the movie it had some interesting moments, such as Mike's determination as a standup comic and Joel having contemplated the "Best Brain" Bridget Jones replacing him as a "genderswapped Joel" only to be told everyone else had come to their own conclusion. The DVD menu for "Invasion USA" just happened to reference the "host segments" of "Colossus and the Headhunters," which just might be seen as my backwards viewing order paying off in the end. I've seen other people unimpressed with the episode and its Cold War-agitprop movie put together with a great deal of stock footage, but I do have to admit a number of the sixth season episodes can impress me in a "bricks made without straw" sort of way. There's also the memorable short "A Date With Your Family," of course. The extras included a little documentary about the movie's producer Albert Zugsmith, who'd started in Hollywood with this production. (The documentary did mention how just before that he'd represented Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in their attempt to get the rights to Superman back, if not Shuster's later suspicion, reported in Gerard Jones Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangster, and the Birth of the Comic Book that Zugsmith had made his nest egg to finance the picture by betraying his clients...) Following a career path that some of the other documentaries in the Shout! Factory sets have included, Zugsmith went on to make some fairly respectable movies, only to then then step off that path by going back to exploitation (including "Girls Town," which should be included in the next and possibly concluding collection).
krpalmer: (anime)
2017-09-25 06:54 pm
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Manga Thoughts: Bloom into You 3

After taking notice not just of another "girls' love" manga series from Seven Seas but of an unusual yet intriguing interpretation of one of its main characters and her ever-so-slow build towards not just accepting but feeling love, I managed to comment on not just the first but also the second volume of "Bloom Into You." As I bought the third volume, I remained a bit conscious that there's a delicate balance between having been fascinated that some saw something "asexual" about Yuu to begin with and thinking ahead to how traditional for the genre the ending may get. In some ways, I can reflect on my own difficulty with reading romantic connections into fictional characters even faced with others embroidering what might seem the slightest of links, and if I'm putting a weight on Yuu that's just another variant of "since there's no representation of this in media, I'll put it there myself!" Contemplations that maybe this volume would be the one where everything would become familiar and I'd run out of things to say, though, didn't come to pass, although in saying things I can wonder if I'm about to give something away.
What might be given away )
krpalmer: (anime)
2017-09-20 06:32 pm
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Voltron Legendary Defender: Updating in a Pause

Netflix made fewer new episodes of Voltron Legendary Defender available for the show's "third season" than it had for the first and second groups, but as I'm not really into watching lots of half-hour doses of one single program one after another, to the point of noting some trying to pack gluttonous overtones into the perhaps joking term "binge-watching," the shorter season didn't bother me too much. Once I'd watched my way through those new episodes at a measured once-a-week pace, I wound up feeling a bit impressed by how much seemed to have been put into them.
Some of those things )
krpalmer: (Default)
2017-09-15 07:10 pm
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A Farewell to Cassini

The news of it having been forty years since the Voyager missions launched might have helped remind me there wasn't much time left until the Cassini space probe, which has spent over a decade among the moons of Saturn the Voyagers flew through in a matter of days, burned up in Saturn's atmosphere (along with the shielded plutonium some people raised a great fuss about before launch a month short of twenty years ago) to make sure no possible microbes from Earth would make an accidental landing on moons now thought to have some chance to support life of their own. As I took in the features leading up to the final dive, I did get a bit conscious that while the probe has sent back plenty of photos over the length of its mission (making multiple gravity assists through the solar system to end up in a slow approach to Saturn suitable for braking into orbit), after a while I wasn't making the effort to keep up with the mission's official sites. Just this morning, though, with a scant few hours left before loss of contact, I did see an official e-book with plenty of good pictures in it and a few discoveries I hadn't quite picked up on before (such as the "propellors," big chunks in Saturn's rings visibly affecting the particles around them). This wealth of images does have me thinking of the previous gas giant orbiter Galileo, whose main antenna never opened properly (and there I'm conscious of swift and sour reminders this probably had something to do with the probe having been meant to be carried into Earth orbit by the space shuttle and the delays resulting from this) and which therefore couldn't send back many pictures. Cassini, in any case, was a regular presence and will hopefully leave lasting impressions.
krpalmer: (smeat)
2017-09-08 08:14 pm
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Searching Just For Words

While trying to come up with the next thing to post to this journal, I happened to think back to an article in the August issue of Scientific American about "inner speech," talking to yourself in your head. That a part of thought is unvoiced speech is an idea I've seen before, but all of a sudden I happened to wonder about the times I've just been trying to think only to find everything in my mind fragments, breaking off and jumping to something else. It felt a lot less involved than the "dialogues" I remembered seeing mentioned in the article, along with comments that reading dialogue in fiction can key into inner voices. I have been conscious for quite a while now of not reading fiction as regularly as I could. Even going back to the article and seeing a comment that inner speech can be telegraphic in brevity didn't quite help. The question is how to concentrate and stay focused.
krpalmer: (Default)
2017-09-02 08:52 pm
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From the Bookshelf: Red Plenty

The Digital Antiquarian led off an eight-part series on Tetris with an introduction describing the first computers in the Soviet Union (which helps show how plenty of things could be said about that game) and their initial application to cybernetic economic planning. That did sort of surprise me by itself. Aware of how mainframe computers in the West could be viewed with suspicion ("Big Blue," after all, has the same initials as "Big Brother"), it had been easy enough to suppose that had some bearing on things over in the "Mirror World." (As it turned out, though, a later entry in the series did touch on attempts to apply computers to surveillance...)

The discussion that followed that first part made several references to a book by Francis Spufford called Red Plenty, described as a historical novel footnoted with hard research about the Khruschev thaw and the years when it had seemed the Soviet Union was growing faster than capitalism could manage. Looking up more information on the book, I became interested enough to order a copy through the nearest bookstore.
Thoughts on the book and thoughts inspired by it )
krpalmer: (mst3k)
2017-08-28 06:30 pm
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Revival Complete (for now?)

I did take my time watching through the fourteen episodes of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival, which wound up putting me well behind even the measured-out organized discussions I'd seen about them. I suppose I went on to resolve that, as in certain other cases, I'd rather have my first reactions and reflections be my own (although there could also have been the half-acknowledged awareness that a single negative comment disagreeing with my own thoughts, even if not in response to me, can weigh heavier on me than any amount of positive agreement...) Deciding not to get too distracted from taking in the full experience by trying to scribble down memorable "riffs" to go in "episode thoughts" posts also meant keeping most of my first reactions that much more to myself.
General and specific thoughts )
krpalmer: (Default)
2017-08-21 06:28 pm
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Moon in the Way

I knew a total solar eclipse was scheduled to cross the United States before I decided to use just about all of my vacation for this year on a cruise around northern Europe. The thought has come to me this is sliding back from the determination I'd managed to find to head to Florida and try to see one of the last space shuttle launches. However, I have managed to also think that in Florida I did see the Kennedy Space Center visitor centre before the contingency time I was able to visit Disney World with; travelling to even the most historically cloudless area for a few minutes of totality wasn't quite as appealing, somehow. I did, anyway, happen to hear in the final leadup to the eclipse another total eclipse will track across part of my home province in 2024: we just have to make it that far, of course.

While contemplating pinhole projectors and the card-shielded binoculars I'd rigged up for the transits of Venus, in visiting Best Buy to buy some external hard drives I happened to see boxes of eclipse glasses at the cash registers. I bought one of them, and spent a good bit of time afterwards wondering if I could really, really trust them to be legitimate and just would indicate the scratches that would require having to discard them. I did make another simple pinhole projector yesterday, just in case.

With the twenty-four news station always kept on at work showing the NASA feed reach totality over Oregon just as the first chip was taken out of the sun over here, I did take whatever risk the glasses meant, if through one open eye. Beyond the bite in the sun, I really did get a sense of the light dimming outside. While I'm still able to see through both eyes this evening, though, I'm trying to remember having seen instructions to build a simple viewer from dollar-store reading glasses.
krpalmer: (Default)
2017-08-20 01:10 pm
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Four Decades Voyaging

Along with the countdown to the solar eclipse, I've managed to pick up on another occurrence in space by hearing we've reached the fortieth anniversary of the launch of the Voyager probes. This was further distinguished by the probe launched Voyager 2 having been launched on August 20, 1977, only to be passed on the way to Jupiter by Voyager 1, which didn't leave Earth until September.

The Voyagers were "the more detailed follow-up" at Jupiter with Pioneer 10 and 11 having made it past that gas giant's dangerous radiation belts years before the launch we're now marking, and Pioneer 11 took a slow route to Saturn to take a few not especially compelling pictures still in advance of its successors. However, the Voyagers had their own important and impressive part in turning "dots in the sky" into a succession of worlds. I suppose I did experience "these first and once-ever revelations" at Jupiter and Saturn after the fact through National Geographic cover stories (although Voyager 1 had opened up enough of a lead to Saturn the second article only included its pictures, leaving the drama of Voyager 2's camera-aiming gear jamming to books I managed to find later). It wasn't until Voyager 2 got to Uranus (even that had seemed a carefully underplayed "maybe it'll last that long" possibility in the early coverage I've seen) that I was following along in the newspaper. That encounter was unfortunately followed by the fatal last launch of space shuttle Challenger, although getting to Neptune three years later made for a better ending. I have heard Voyager 1 could have been sent to Pluto had it not been sent close by Titan (an important enough target Voyager 2 could have traded Uranus and Neptune for it); in one of the books I've found, though, some program scientists were asked if they "regretted" having taken close-up pictures of a satellite shrouded in peach-coloured clouds only to explain there was more to detect close up than just surface pictures. Whether some pictures of Pluto would have made it harder to dismiss in the next decade as "not big enough to really count, and obviously not interesting," I don't know, but I suppose they wouldn't have been as good as the pictures from the brief encounter of New Horizons.

Beyond that actual ending, of course, the Voyagers have kept sending back information, enduring not just years but decades after their first estimates of longevity to reach uncertain stellar terrain. Beyond that, there's contemplation of the time capsule records attached to them, although I can also consider that in a mere four decades they've gone from "a durable record not quite like one you'd play at home" to "at least they'd long outlast a CD, and they might be easier for even extraterrestrials of unknown mentality to decipher" to "and now vinyl's not just a statement, but an accessible one again."
krpalmer: (smeat)
2017-08-16 08:12 pm
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It's an Attempt

Writing up something for this journal at least once a week "because that's what I've been doing and I don't want to just stop" is a constant challenge even if I'm not that worried by thoughts it might only be writing "notes to myself." In the past few days, though, just saying something more about a "system" or a "construction" (and very often sort of looking back to do that) feels too much like being silent about more important things involving other people, at a moment when being silent seems a troubling choice.

I want to say something in support of decency, equality, and tolerance (with the awareness that like most things, tolerance can't become an absolute) and against "I'm content but I resent your trying to say you're not" and wallowing in offensiveness for kicks. I just worry I'm not articulate enough to be the slightest bit convincing, and I'm also aware of the smug sort of "I know you are but what am I?" dismissals. The most I can do, perhaps, is try to be self-aware.
krpalmer: (anime)
2017-08-10 06:04 pm
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A Two-Way Followup

In acknowledging news of a new and "different" Robotech comic had sharpened a personal interest hardly dulled to oblivion before, I went so far as to say that should I happen to see some of the more amusing alternative covers at a local comic shop, I might go so far as to buy the first issue. It was raining on "new releases day," so I didn't get to the shop until a day later. Once there, I just saw a few of what I gather to be the "regular" cover, perhaps not quite "photorealistic" but a long way from the "anime-esque" variants that had looked more amusing in the previews. I can't say rarer covers hadn't been picked over the day before, but it is easy to suppose there weren't many issues ordered to start with. Even as my previous thoughts bumped against a lack of options, though, with an awareness of disdain from slices of whatever was left of the series-specific fandom and an assumption of unrelieved hostility from the anime fandom just "outside," the thought of buying a copy to form my own independent opinion did wind up unshakeable.
From one comic to another )
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
2017-08-03 05:56 pm
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A Double-Layered Look Back

Every month, I go back to my old copies of the computer magazines 80 Micro (preserved and passed along through my family) and Macworld (which I managed to buy in online auctions for the formative years in advance of us getting a Macintosh of our own) and leaf through the issues from exactly three decades back. Moving through the summer of 1987, I've taken note of Macworld's enthusiastic promotion of the new capabilities of the Macintosh II and Macintosh SE, but 80 Micro's somehow uneasy mixture of technical programming tips for only some of the mutually incompatible computers still in the Radio Shack catalogs seems easier to just skim. Even so, in August that magazine did return to where things had started for it with a cover story marking the official announcement of the TRS-80 Model I on August 3, 1977.
Ten plus thirty )
krpalmer: (mst3k)
2017-08-01 06:10 pm
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The End of One MST3K Road?

As the Roman numerals that take up most of the slipcase fronts of Shout! Factory's official Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD collections have grown ever more elaborate, I've seen the speculation about what episodes might yet be released begin to dwell on a group of "problem episodes," whose rights are controlled by what seems absolutely intractable groups or people. A collection of the "Cinematic Titanic" movies (which I'm afraid I still can't shake suspicion to get around to watching) being released did get me thinking things would be wrapping up with the original series. Then, though, I was surprised to see the announcement of a thirty-ninth collection, but the notice went ahead to say that one of the four discs will be the "host segments" of a dozen episodes from the problem group.

At the same time, the three episodes in the upcoming collection can still catch my attention. It's been a while since I've watched "Girls Town," which seems to stand outside the most generous boundaries of "mystery science" and perhaps doesn't quite feel just like "juvenile delinquency exploitation" either, but has an eclectic cast famous both within and without the MST3K canon. "The Amazing Transparent Man" is more "conventional" at least compared to the rest of the series, but it will mean we'll get the second "Union Pacific safety short," a personal standout for me. As well, if this is to be the end it's appropriate that the super-criminal action (adapted from an European comic) of "Diabolik" is included; it even got me remembering Shout! Factory's first collection had included the previous series-closing-out episode.

With all of that to look forward to, I'm reminded I've been waiting to open the thirty-eighth collection. It had shown up right around when the revival was beginning to stream, and I suppose I'd contemplated the possibility "if I disagree with these new episodes..." That the dark outcome hasn't come to pass yet (even with three revival episodes still to watch) is a little heartening by now.
krpalmer: (kill la d'oh)
2017-07-28 08:40 pm
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The Latest Ambiguous Revival

Not quite two years ago, I watched a "poetic reconstruction" of the scattered episodes of Robotech I'd managed to see "the first time around" three decades before to start me off down a path both long and perhaps a little strange. As I finished that project by at last getting through a parody-sequel video I'd long heard amusing rumours of and had available to watch for a while, though, I did wonder a bit if it might, to stretch the metaphor, either let or just make me step off a path now trailing off into lonely weeds.

After just a little while, though, it didn't seem to matter too much that the remnant of discussions "inside" seemed bitter in a "terrible food, and such small portions" way and the references from just "outside" go through a filter of fixed hostility, because there had been a time when my interest in Robotech had seemed to make me "a fandom of one." Some people can regale younger generations with tales of the days when "fandom" was carried out through the postal service, but even if I'd managed to hear about that before everything turned electronic I hadn't got to the point of trying it myself. After all those days with just one episode on tape, the novelizations, and the drawings in the first volume of the role-playing game, I did find myself still spending some idle moments contemplating the thoughts I'd had back then, and sometimes the reasons why I'd had them, back before everything had got a lot more complicated.
Some things that have happened since then )
krpalmer: (anime)
2017-07-22 03:45 pm
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Manga Thoughts: Vinland Saga 9

After all the dire portents and seemingly narrow escapes just in the English-language publication of Makoto Yukimura's Viking manga Vinland Saga, every new volume's become a relief in itself to see. What with the cliffhanger the eighth volume had ended on, the ninth was that much more welcome. Where I'd just been intrigued before by the introduction of the threatening bear huntress Hild, though, the revelation she'd been an inventor to begin with and had rigged up a circular saw did have me thinking all over again of "anachronism"; the author's note midway through, mentioning a Swedish children's book series that had been animated in Japan and had just happened to include the same invention in its own Viking times, did manage to offer a bit more perspective.

That plot arc's flashbacks, in invoking the violent past the manga's protagonist Thorfinn keeps trying to find a way to leave, did have me thinking we were being reminded of significant parts of the story. Those thoughts strengthened as more old characters returned and Thorfinn got deeper into trouble, although I could begin to wonder if this might end up being turned into a way to keep the story from having to travel all the way through Russia to Byzantium and back before the presumable endgame of heading for Vinland. With the English releases now seeming to be quite close to the Japanese ones, the feeling "this could go on for quite a while yet" was hard to shake. I wouldn't say I'm "weary" of the impressive-looking manga by any means, but the constant tension between Thorfinn's ideals and the reality he's stuck in and the toll that exacts on him can be harrowing in itself.
krpalmer: (Default)
2017-07-16 04:00 pm
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From the Bookshelf: Inverted World

Having managed to read a bit more fiction in the past little while than I've thought with mixed emotions to have got through for some time now, I found myself going a little deeper down a pile I'd bought from a library book sale to begin a science fiction novel that had managed to catch my eye there. The back-cover blurb for Christopher Priest's Inverted World had described a city being winched along tracks laid down in front of it and taken up from behind, struggling to pursue a moving "optimum" with fatal consequences should it keep falling back. I could think of other works of science fiction where humans struggled to survive in inexplicably altered worlds, and wondered how this one would turn out.
At the age of six hundred and fifty miles... )
krpalmer: (anime)
2017-07-11 08:59 pm
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From the Bookshelf: Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Stratagem

The fourth volume of Legend of the Galactic Heroes was one whose translation hadn't been promised back when the first appeared, so it was as welcome as any of them so far to me. I hadn't seen the part of the anime adapting it back at my university's anime club, so while I do have to admit to having managed to see it since then, as I read the book I did have a slight feeling of greater unfamiliarity. At the same time, I did have a sense the story was moving into an ominous endgame as the military genius Reinhard von Lohengramm exploits idealistic exiles and self-centred politicians while colluding with interstellar oligarchs to set up a full-scale invasion of his tottering opponent. I do keep thinking the focus of the series on "the appearance of an epoch-opening genius" can be balanced against "is it also possible a good many 'ordinary' people might only be convinced of that?", but just because a work of fiction raises a question it doesn't have to answer it itself.

Something about the translation did start feeling a bit odd to me as I worked through this volume, and I wound up going back to the earlier books to see they'd been translated by a different person. Whether this amounted to "an unfortunate cost-saving measure" or was just an inescapable necessity, I don't know. I had wondered on the way through if the entire book would amount to "preparations for battle," only for diversionary warfare to break out in the final chapters. This included a hand-to-hand battle between two high-placed subordinates, if one without quite as much significance as some might have anticipated. On getting to the end of the book without a preview page, though, I got to worrying again about this amounting to "everything hinges on how this volume sells if it hasn't already..." Looking a little further, however, did turn up some preorder listings for two further volumes. As I understand it this still won't complete the translation of the series, but there does seem to be a bit more to look forward to at the moment.