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Category: Favourites (page 1 of 14)

Star Wars – The Force Awakens

It’s strange to experience movies like Star Wars in both our connected age today and as a father/adult with very little time for being a fan. After watching the movie several weeks after its release, I am now in the process of consuming more podcasts and written analysis about the movie than all the 7 movies are long1. In that context, it’s also challenging to say anything that is really feels new. On that note, the following review contains spoilers.

Famously, George Lucas drew his inspiration from many movies and particularly those adventures shown in the 1930s. A reoccurring critique of this Star Wars is that it appears to just take elements from the original Star Wars and not much else. To me it is like saying a bottle of water came from Fiji and if you pour it into another bottle it now came from the previous bottle. The question should more be was the new Star Wars successful in channeling the spirit of the originals? Arguably, not doing so for the prequels is what caused them to feel empty2.

Star Wars Episode VII is as much a reboot of the Star Wars universe as J.J. Abram’s Star Trek was to its heritage. In both we revisit the original characters and places, or archetypes of these originals. Star Wars starts on a desert plant, much like Episode IV did. It features a loner protagonist with budding Jedi powers that goes on a journey towards combating evil and finding meaning. The movie entangles its protagonists in a mild romantic relationship—is that the PC way of describing Luke & Leia’s relationship in the originals?—and will undoubtedly remain very subdued in its expression. It features an antagonist wearing a black mask and another one that looks like pure evil (the bad guys always travel in pairs). The parallels are purposefully endless and, to the cynical fan, result in a quite familiar (read= possibly boring) storyline.

But this movie was not written for the fan of the original. It was created for the child in all of us, or a child period. The best way to enjoy this movie is to be in the moment, watch the amazing manifestation of a universe, the planets and characters within it. When you see the first adventure unfolding — a robot looking for its master, a young protagonist falling into the story by seeming accident, old friends rejoining the search, you can’t but buy into this journey. But even so, it made a terrible error in movie logic towards the end (don’t read this paragraph if you don’t want to be spoiled). It woke up C3P0 without any explanation to the viewer. But that’s minor in the xx of the movie and can be explained in future sequels.

As a final note, there is another way that the movie is different from its predecessors. Star Wars falls under the science fiction genre, but is technically a fantasy story, similar to Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. The reason is that Sci Fi is aspirational, it presents a vision as something that may someday happen. That includes societal changes, such as our attitude towards race and gender. The prequels did not push the boundaries in that regard, rather it could be argued that it very much maintained the status quo, featuring certain forms of racism and perhaps genderism as quite normal 3. A New Hope changed this part, by introducing a strong female lead and a prominent black protagonist as well.

To close with a rating, even though this depends entirely on perspective. Did it repay its existential debt to previous installations of Star Wars? Was it well-directed and well-told stand-alone movie? How well it fit within the Disney marketing mantle? In that order, it would rate it as: 1. Somewhat; 2. It worked as a stand-alone film (with minor faults); and 3. Looking at the marketing around it and the record-breaking box-office results, absolutely. I’m excited by the thought of this movie and all the ones that are too follow. This is the new Marvel universe and what the Star Trek movies could have been (let’s wait until movie 3 comes out this year and the tv-show starting in 2016). It will depend entirely on execution, but Disney seems to have this in spades. Very much looking forward to future installments.


  1. Some of these include the Slashfilmcast episodes 346 and 347, The Next Picture Show podcast episodes 9 & 10, John Gruber’s The Talk Show episode 141, and the Incomparable Podcast (too many episodes to count). 
  2. I can see why George Lucas chose to start from a blank canvas for episodes I – III. They were prequels, so they had to bring some originality. And, as a creator, I’m sure that it’s not enjoyable to just repeat the same thing. But the original spark that episodes IV, V, VI had was gone. 
  3. I heard a podcast lecture about Star Wars as a fantasy many years ago. You can read a write-up about the article here

Book Review: Becoming Steve Jobs

I tend to review books like this one in several parts, because the thought-flow is so high per page that it’s simply impossible to capture everything of value. This book is particularly dense. I’m only about 20% into Becoming Steve Jobs (iBooks is not so user-friendly in telling me how far I am), but every page feels like taking a deep breath and only releasing it after the (slight criticism) overlong paragraphs finish. But there is also something else that makes it difficult to skim this book, Steve Jobs’ emotional journey is described in significant depth, which is incredibly immersive, at least to me.

That is really the insight that lead me to write this short review (which may be followed by another). We / I tended to view Apple as this great mysterious black box, something that could be speculated about because it was fun and intriguing. By my count, I’ve perhaps written dozens of times about Apple, without ever really feeling that I understood something deeper than the superficial veneer Apple was comfortable in disclosing.

This book is, to use a terrible term, a game changer. It tells us so much about the man, stuff that was perhaps revealed in news articles here and there over the last 50 years, but all combined to create a persona that we can perhaps, to the extent that it is possible, understand. Steve Jobs (pre-NeXT is revealed as a man that is far less than perfect, who put his vision far ahead of the details, who is used to employing tantrum-techniques to get his way, who managed to burn more bridges than perhaps build them.

I’ve read plenty of other good business biographies over the years (of the founders of eBay, McDonalds, Ikea, Starbucks were the ones that stood out), but this one is different in that it is only authorised after the fact. Steve Jobs, as far as I understood, could’ve picked Brent Schlender to cover his life, but perhaps didn’t because he was much too close, much too perceptive. Isaacson was chosen instead, this historical biographer of great persons like Abraham Lincoln, which is such a Jobs move, at least the Jobs you read about in this book.

The title is of course Becoming Steve Jobs, which is not really a guide to being like the man, but rather a witnessing of the transformation, evolution, descent, or ascent, depending on how you interpret this journey. The tagline reads: “The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader,” which is quite mixed as well. It’s a testament to the unauthorised character of this biography, that it is able to show the dark sides of Jobs as well. An incredibly fascinating journey already in this short portion of Jobs’ career.

Person of Interest has become an incredibly depressing TV show

I’m a great fan of everything coming out of the JJ Abrams camp (Alias, Fringe, Star Wars, yes even Felicity), and Person of Interest happens to be his most current show. It’s a very reality driven story about how we are all increasingly being watched and perhaps controlled by forces in the shadows (politics, policing, and “positronic” AI… the three POs). The show was first about saving people, but has now in Season 4 become about a battle that our protagonist team has basically lost, forcing them to employ guerrilla strategies to fight against all odds. The result is, I find, so sad and so moving, because we see  pure evil trying to destroy people that appear increasingly good.

Unlike Game of Thrones, which I find self-torturous in wanting to watch episode after episode, I watch Person of Interest with a detached fascination for what the writers are intending to move this show to. I seem to remember that Fringe had a period like that also, but somehow they turned it around. I have enough faith in the Bad Robot people to do the same.

In People: Arnold Schwarzenegger podcast interview

It’s perhaps necessary to explain why Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of my favorite people, on par with some of the great leaders of the world. Sure, he’s a republican, but any sensible rich person would be 1, and sure, as the Governator he didn’t do so great, but I don’t know many politicians that are doing great in this age of global crises. To me, he is someone that knew how to execute his career on a strong vision, from winning championships to making movies, whilst keeping his roots and his head present. I didn’t know that in the midst of building his bodybuilding career, he had a successful real estate business, nor was I aware that he worked in construction, both of which he discussed in the interview with Tim Ferris.

What I was aware of was his public persona, the way he conducted himself in Pumping Iron—with purpose, confidence, and the ability to judge and undermine his strongest competitors. And of course his movie career, which contains some of my favorite movies (Terminator being a big one).

In this interview he is surprisingly open about his career: on competing, having vision, playing it safe with investments, following a passion (after-school-programs), keeping investment & acting separate, etc. The most surprising to me was how strong he is still connected to his roots, something that is easily forgotten when you think about what he’s achieved since. I’m pretty sure that this is one of those interviews that I’ll come back to, because it just makes you laugh and gives you energy for the rest of your day.

Well worth a listen!

Notes:

  1. This is a joke! Only in countries like America and the UK are people to choose left or right, and I think there is plenty of room in the center.

Book Review: Earth Sea’s The Tombs of Atuan

I don’t want to go into great depth about The Tombs of Atuan (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 2), simply because it reads so quickly that I think recommending it is enough. It’s not a book for children, unlike the first one, which I thought to be more accessible in that sense. The first 50% of the book describe life for a girl taken hostage to lead a religion. It’s incredibly dark and sad, and you feel how the girl’s identity is replaced piece by piece. Hee darkest moment comes when she is forced to make a decision that has disastrous effects on others (my non-spoilery way of describing that). Book 2 eventually links to book 1, when she meets a character from that book and is confronted with a choice: continue her descent or ascend into a new world. I’ll leave you to find out what that decision was.

What I liked about this book, just like the last one, is that Ursula Le Guin publishes an afterword describing her inspiration and her struggle in writing a book from the female perspective. At the time of writing (1971), there was little published that showed female characters as powerful and heroic and her interpretation was riddled with feelings of guilt and confusion felt by the main character.

Lin火: Why Sherwood Smith chose to self-publish her latest book

Sherwood Smith is the co-author of Stranger and its sequel, the now self-published Hostage, neither of which I have read. I discovered her writing a guest-post on Charlie Stross’s blog. She (Sherwood) gives a revealing insight into the contemporary publishing model—at least in their experience—where the focus is on books as products, rather than literary pieces.

Their first book in the series was published via the traditional model, something they sought not to replicate because primarily the time factor:

But, as publishing often does these days, that process took three years from the time she expressed interest in the project (September 2011) to publication (November 2014). From Viking’s end, it was 2.5 years, i.e. from the time we signed their contract, in March 2012. But from the writer’s perspective? That wonderful “I’m interested” call came after the long period of submission, and then was followed by half a year of contract negotiation.

What the next step looks like from the writer’s end is that, once the offer is made, the writer gets notes that take a few weeks to rewrite or polish or proofread the manuscript before turning it back in to the publisher. Then they wait, and wait, and wait, until the next stage, and then wait again. From what we have been hearing from other writers is that the gaps between getting editorial feedback at each stage of the process may be anywhere from a few months to nine months to over a year—or longer. In those cases, the book’s release may be delayed, then delayed again.

Why the delays? My understanding is that publishing houses have changed a lot in the past forty years, partly because they’ve been scooped up by mega-corporations who regard books as product units, meant to gain instant profit or be dropped. And at minimal cost at their end, which means no more editorial staffs: editors are doing what used to be three and sometimes four people’s full time jobs, which means reading actual manuscripts on their own time. Rather like teachers, who correct and lesson plan on their own time. As I know from my own experience, they are paid for their classroom time, but they put in at least as much unpaid time behind the scenes.

As a result, manuscripts languish unread, or bought but unedited, for years, because one human being can only do so much in a day.

It’s an interesting case study, as you more hear about writers self-publishing their first book, then getting discovered, and entering the more traditional model. Pricing issues aside, which she describes in her blog-post, I think the most telling reason of why it’s easy to make the shift, is that authors are expected to generate their own publicity, something that publishers seem less willing to do. Publicity is already half the battle towards getting name recognition, the production of books, electronically or physically, is notably easier. Take that with the two possibilities of writing a book on your own time/money or funding more complex projects via Kickstarter and other sites, and the role of the traditional publisher is by and large diminished.

In Books: Caliban’s War, book 2 of the Expanse series

I’m nearing completion of book 2, Caliban’s War, in the Expanse series. Initial thoughts include that while I generally think that sequels are not better than their predecessors, this one makes a worthwhile effort. Caliban’s War is more action-focussed than Leviathan Wakes, while at the same time introducing a general insight into the political system and intrigues that have caused many of the events in book 1 to occur. This book starts strong, with a monster of unknown origin massacring an outpost in space. The repercussions on the settlement itself are particularly well-done from the perspective of a single father looking for his daughter. Some of the themes from book 1 seem to repeat itself, with what was formerly Miller looking for a girl being replaced by someone else on a similar mission. And yes, the one-perspective-per-chapter structure, similar to Game of Thrones, is still used in this book, but I found it to be quite fluid.

Btw. The trailer for the upcoming Expanse TV-show can be found here. I don’t have any thoughts on it, except that the characters seem younger than I imagined them from the book. Apart from Lord of the Rings, this will be the first TV-show that I will have watched after reading the books.

In Photography: The Glasses of Holocaust Victims

Somewhat reminiscent of “The Shoes on the Danube Bank,” this is one of those powerful images that transmits the tragedy of Auschwitz succinctly and without filter.

Via The Guardian.

Lin火: Talib Kweli on why he left major labels

Talib Kweli is a hip-hop artists that I’ve known from the band Black Star, a collaboration between Mos Def and him. In this piece he recounts the process of going independent and the kinds of influences he has today.

So the question for the artist who is making a living from their art is: how do you monetize cultural relevancy?

It’s generally agreed that this is a problem for the artist, not the consumer of art, to solve. To find the answer I began to pay attention to indie artists with integrity who still make a good living, and I found myself paying attention to comedians. When Louis CK filmed a stand-up concert and made it available for stream and download on his website for $5, he made a cool million and gave half of it away to charity. I thought it was a genius idea, but when I tried to apply the realities of releasing a hip-hop album thru this kind of platform, the task seemed daunting. Louis CK comes up with jokes in his head and delivers them solo, on a microphone to an audience that is paying for seats. His only costs were probably the filming, the streaming and getting the website built, but the money he made from the concert could have probably covered these things. Louis’ hit show on FX and the success of his past comedy specials did the marketing for him, so he didn’t have to spend a lot of money in that department. He had no producers to pay, samples to clear, studio time to pay for, engineers, musicians, etc. There are no royalties that he has to pay out to anyone once the product is released as well. I scrapped the idea of being a hip-hop version of Louis CK, until singer/producer Ryan Leslie tracked me down to share an idea with me.

Lin火: Zoë Keating on the power of Youtube

What if, for years and years, you use social media as a tool to interact socially with your fans and friends? And what if that tool suddenly presents you with a big fat contract outlining who the boss is? Well, as Zoë Keating discovers that Google is boss, at least where it concerns publishing your content on it. The only problem is that the type of people like Zoë Keating… the type that woud use YouTube because it’s a convenient medium to reach many people… these types of people don’t necessarily believe with that dogma.

I found these words particularly striking.

The catalog commitment is the biggest issue for me. All these years I’ve yet to participate fully in any streaming service although I’ve chosen to give a handful of recordings to a few of them. If anyone wants more and they balk at paying for it, they can always stream all my music for free on Bandcamp(*2) or Soundcloud or they can torrent it (I uploaded my music to Pirate Bay myself many years ago). I’ve heard all the arguments about why artists should make all their music available for streaming in every possible service. I also know the ecosystem of music delivery made a shift away from downloading last year. Streaming is no longer advertising for something else, it is the end product. It’s convenient. Convenience is king. Yup, got all that, thanks.

This is the important part: it is my decision to make.

Is such control too much for an artist to ask for in 2015? It’s one thing for individuals to upload all my music for free listening (it doesn’t bother me). It’s another thing entirely for a major corporation to force me to. I was encouraged to participate and now, after I’m invested, I’m being pressured into something I don’t want to do.

P.S. Zoë Keating is one of those few artists that I bought music from just via her website. Powerful music, maybe not for every moment, but an artists that deserves serious recognition.

Lin火: “Don’t Try to Be a Publisher and a Platform at the Same Time”

Harvard Business Review has an article discussing some of the complexities surrounding hybrid publishing platform or “platisher”strategies:

Typically, publishers are considered to have editorial judgment, while platforms lack it. From this perspective, the Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, and The New York Times are classic “publishers” — they present highly-curated content, and their editors invest a lot of time in its creation. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are classic “platforms” — they distribute other peoples’ content without as much editorial oversight. But these differences are largely cultural. It’s not technologically difficult for publishers to add platform-like elements, and vice versa.

Making these hybrids work over the long term is difficult, because their incentives work against each other. Toward the end of last year, one of the first platishers, Say Media, announced it was selling off its publishing properties to focus on its technological platform. CEO Matt Sanchez explained the decision to jettison its publisher properties as an inability to do both tech and content at the same time.

As more platishers mature, they may find themselves facing similar conundrums. Platform and publisher incentives are better aligned when a platform is new. A new platform that’s intended to host user-generated content has one overriding goal: Attract users and convince them to create content. High-quality, carefully-edited content is great for pulling in an audience. Well-thought-out content can also “seed” the platform for new users, shaping their understanding of how they use the tool.

The answer is perhaps blindingly obvious. Publishing platforms work well, but less so for individuals publishing, like on Medium or most blogging engines. Rather they work well for groups of people forming all the best ingredients for a publication: research, writing, editing, revenue.

I have yet to see a platform encouraging such groups (apart from the basic functionalities) in the form of how-to’s and easy structures taken from traditional publishing houses.

In Food: Aeropress makes espresso with the best of them

While currently I am in the process of making a tasty coffee via the well-established and highly effective (if not very fast) “drip method,” I cannot recommend the Aeropress enough. At my last work, we had an old Italian coffee machine that may have cost 15,000 euro new (one of those bar-mounted full-service devices you see at Starbucks). The makers of that machine will be shocked that I can reproduce coffee as well-tasting in something that costs about 0.2% of those machines: a good 30 euro, including filters.

The Aeropress can best be described as syringe that you fill up with coffee powder and water and use to press out freshly brewed coffee. However, if you know what a French Press is, the Aeropress is basically a more modern version of that, faster and easier to clean.

There are several reasons to use an Aeropress:

  • Compact: you could transport that thing in your jacket pocket and make your own coffee at work.
  • Fast: you’ll have a well-tasting espresso in under 2 minutes.
  • Tasty: comparable taste to the big machines.
  • Cheap: 30 euro, price of coffee not included.
  • Creative: I use the inverted brewing method, however just check out the countless information on the web about the different ways to make coffee with this one.

 

 

 

 

Lin火: an interview with David Grann, New Yorker author

For those that do not know David Grann, he’s a writer for New Yorker and author of The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon (a favourite read of mine), as well as The Devil and Sherlock Holmes. To me, he has the best job in the world, but that’s mostly because I enjoy reading his work so much. In this interview on the Longform podcast, he reveals a lot about his process and how he ended up where he did.

It becomes pretty clear from his words that the news publishing business is not easy. He admits that he is not cut out for the fast writing pace required for certain types of news stories and time is less of an element for his kind of writing. At the same time, it is pragmatic world that revolves around doing as much preparatory work as possible, requires (over)selling your stories to your backers (the publisher), and of course timing plays a role as well. On a personal note, I found it interesting that he comes from a creative writing background, which is different from that of a news writing one—the latter being much more focussed on brevity and speed of writing.

The nature of his stories are very different, but as he highlights, it’s about finding authentic voices, designing a narrative around them, and, of course as a non-fiction writer, of triangulating the truth from what he hears. He discusses several of them in the interview, as well as the complexity around writing these stories.

Wikipedia has a nice overview of the articles he wrote in his career. If you added all of these to your Instapaper, you’d have a nice reading list for the holidays. I greatly recommend The Lost City of Z, an adventurous and romantic tale about an explorer’s fascination with a mythical city in the Amazon and his eventual disappearance.

In Movies: Chef

Chef was a movie that I love and hate. There were old or timeless aspects to the scenes and story, that definitely worked for me. The Cuban sandwiches were mouthwatering! The sights of old New Orleans were nostalgia-inducing. The concept of a food truck was more than romantic. And the story of a father rediscovering the relationship to his son and wife was timeless.

The social media aspect, while a premise for the story, did not work for me at all. I suppose it’s a kind of media fatigue, knowing that everything has a moment of hype, only to be forgotten when the next one comes along. In other words, I wanted a Cuban sandwich to just consist of tasteful ingredients, while the social marketing felt artificial and wrong in the mix. Of course, we would all be happy if such a thing happens to us: anonymous food truck travels the land, is made famous through social media, and everyone is happy.

While conflicted, I would still recommend this movie for the food alone. Trailer below.

In Things: My favourite coffee mug

Christmas is coming and in trying to ignite my creative juices for coming up with present ideas, I thought a good start would be to show my appreciation for some gifts that I received. Starting with the Wild and Wolf Scrabble Tile Coffee Mug!

A piece of kitchenware is perhaps not something that stands on the pedestal of gifts to get for many of you. For me, kitchens are the center of the home, where traditions are made and warmth is found. Thus I wanted to highlight this particular object, because it stands for some important qualities consumer goods must possess: durability, aesthetics, and personality.

This coffee mug is what I start my day with and is my constant companion if I work from home. Lately, I notice more and more cracks on kitchenware, but not with this one. It is extremely robust (microwave & dishwasher safe) and looks as flawless today as it did 1 year ago. For me, Scrabble is something that has personal meaning and that reminds me of that every time I use it. I like the aesthetic too, particularly when I reach the bottom of the cup.

Therefore, a recommended gift idea to end this year with!

On Writing (Lin火): Steven Pinker on Style


In what’s quickly becoming my favourite intellectual podcast,  Radio Open Source’s Christopher Lydon interviews Steven Pinker on his new book “The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.” Having read “The Elements of Style” at least a dozen times (I still haven’t mastered it), I’m interested in reading this supposed counter to the reductive advice given in Shrunk’s guide.

Pinker celebrates the more floral way of writing (in this writer’s point of view), which has its merits, but can tire the mind if over-used. I agree that the key to good writing is to read good (and bad) writing, but believe myself that all good things must be used in extreme moderation. Much like Darwin’s last line in  “The Origin of Species” (quoted in the podcast description), which leaves the reader inspired, but only after reading what I hope is a much more to the point description of evolution.

In Activities: a new innovation in climb training

After my overview of gym training, I’ve been sitting on top of a very long post about climbing as well. It’s an area that I’m very passionate about (yes, a lot more than the gym), because of the physical & mental challenges, and group dynamics. One area, however, that I think is lacking in a lot of science and documentation, is how to train for climbing, outside of the climbing hall/wall. Why you ask, if climbing is such a great sport? Because it’s only partially effective to train for climbing by climbing alone and (a big AND) because every gym training session is quite time-intensive, making it less suitable for someone with a demanding schedule.

So, that paragraph will probably cause more delays in writing about climbing. However, here’s a great new innovation in climb training that you can do outside of a climbing wall. Watch the video to see a brief overview of what tools exist and why this dynamically adaptive fingerboard pretty great. If you don’t climb, this won’t mean much to you, but if you ever consider it, it will.

Find out more information about this fingerboard on www.bamclimbing.com.

Publishing Lin火: “Amazon is doing the world a favor by crushing book publishers”

In a decidedly inflammatory article, Matthew Yglesias writes on VOX:

When all is said and done, the argument between Amazon and book publishers is over the rather banal question of price. Amazon’s view is that since “printing” an extra copy of an e-book is really cheap, e-books should be really cheap. Publishers’ view is that since “printing” an extra copy of an e-book is really cheap, e-books should offer enormous profit margins to book publishers. If you care about reading or ideas or literature, the choice between these visions is not a difficult one. The publishing incumbents have managed to get some intellectuals sufficiently tangled-up to believe that it is. But ask yourself this — do you regret the invention of the printing press? Of the paperback? Do you think public libraries devalue books and reading? The idea is absurd.

I don’t agree with everything he writes here — while one ecosystem is clearly losing ground, is a new Amazon-run ecosystem necessarily better? — but I do find some of the arguments regarding the more empowered stature of authors compelling.

In addition, the increase in authorship also creates a power-distribution problem. A publisher might have been willing to take a risk on a new author a few decades ago, but there is ample supply of writing out there, meaning that publishers become more conservative in their selection. The only reason this is happening is because of the investment that a publisher makes into authors, which is nice, but not if it restricts consumer choice. As is increasingly becoming clear that investment is available elsewhere also and the remaining services that publishers provide to authors can be replaced by a number of alternatives (distribution, marketing) or are no longer as necessary (printing).

In Software: if South Park were to design an iOS app commercial

…Then the NinType 130 words per minute keyboard for iOS 8 would be it. Available on iTunes now.

In Books: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey


There are so many things to say about this book. Though I heard that some people find it a slow book, I read it quickly, aided by the fact that I was reading parts aloud to a child—lazy bed-time story reading if you will.  Leviathan Wakes lays the platform for a series of book (and a forthcoming TV show on Scyfy) , which are some pretty big shoes to fill. The author name, James S. A. Corey is actually a pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the first of which also sometimes collaborates with George RR Martin, author of Game of Thrones (giant shoes).

Similar to the Game of Thrones books, it is also written using the format of one perspective per chapter. The books only covers two perspectives (GoT has ca. 13), that of Holden and Miller, with a small exception towards the end. In a previous post, I described Miller as a nihilistic character, something the authors agree with, while Holden could very much be described as the inverse.

On the interplay between both, the authors write:

”Holden’s my holy fool. He’s an idealist, a man who faces things with this very optimistic view of humanity. He believes that if you give people all of the information, they’ll do the right thing with it, because people are naturally good. Miller is a cynic and a nihilist. He looks at the dissemination of information as a game you play. He doesn’t have faith in anyone else’s moral judgement.”

As I previously noted, these character traits can be an interesting way to move a story forward and the mix certainly makes the journey more interesting.

The story plays in the far future (at least to my understanding), where other planets close to Earth have already been populated and space stations have been built. Most of the story pieces take place on space stations and on space ships. There seems to be a logic in how things work in this universe, with Earth representing an old but still prominent power, Mars a counterbalance to this power, and the “Belters” (inhabitants of space stations) as the new wave of civilisation.

Knowing that this would become a TV show, I was mostly trying to find links to existing space faring shows that I know, mainly Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. Thematically, this felt closer to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series (also an impending TV show, crazy!) in the noir detective story taking place within a space context.

Book one at least did not feel like an episodic TV show, rather more like the laying of building blocks for a future series of stories. I wonder how easily this translates to episodic story telling or if we will instead be presented with the new style of TV shows that tell one whole story over many chapters, a very long movie if you will.

If you like science fiction that is fairly grounded, integrating elements of intrigue, humour, horror, space opera, and written in a clear manner, then this is a good book to read. Expect it to build up slowly, though the action does accelerate in later chapters.

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