Artemis by Andy Weir a review

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.   Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

Artemis. The new science fiction novel by the writer of The Martian, Andy Weir.  I picked it up on Audible and hence listened to it rather than reading it.  It was narrated by Rosio Dawson and ran at just under nine hours which I did in two sessions.  I was greatly impressed by The Martian and a follow up for such a success would be very difficult…so..how was the story?

So, what is Artemis? It’s…a few things, actually. The top of which is, it’s heist story. On the moon. It’s not just that, of course. The protagonist, Jasmine (“Jazz”) Bashara is being offered an opportunity to change her life…we’ll get on to that shortly. What I’m saying is that, though this is a heist story, one where careful planning and unexpected reversals are the order of the day, it’s also a story about a woman looking to make something of herself, and the book is as much about character and personality as it is about chases through vacuum and dubious law enforcement.

The world well, it’s in some ways familiar, in others…less so. The moon is a harsh place, at least externally. It’s cold, dead, and the slightest mistake could kill you. There’s a certain sterile beauty to it, to be fair – but Weir has built a moon which can kill, and emphasises the fragility of life in that environment. The larger part of the world, though, is in the city which humanity has settled. It has a certain retro vibe to it – domes rising out of the moon rock, habitable areas underground as well as above. Relatively small, the cultural cadences of science and technology are interspersed throughout – this is a people who make up for their lack of numbers with intellectual capital and skill. The city bustles and thrives, and the industry around it – aluminium, for example – helps sustain it; it certainly feels both alive, and familiar – and at the same time, ever so slightly strange.

Character-wise – well, the main focus is on Jasmine. I have a lot of affection for Jazz, as she’s known – a smart-mouthed young woman, with a laser-like intelligence and an impressive facility for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, or otherwise putting her proverbial foot in it. Still, she has a sharp tone, and a degree of hustle and charm which it’s a lot of fun to read along with. We pick up some of her history through the text. This lets us explore wider issues as well, like how parenting, or nationality work on the moon, or the role of currency in the context of moon-living. Jazz is energetic and cheerfully self-serving, and if there’s hints of larger issues there – guilt, issues with authority, family difficulties – then they help make a more nuanced character.

Jazz is backed up by a fairly large ensemble cast – from snide EVA instructors who also happen to be ex-boyfriends, to seemingly baffled scientists. Jazz’s father, a man seemingly confounded by his daughter’s ability to do absolutely anything other than apply herself, steals every scene that he’s in, with a combination of pragmatic competence and an obvious love for his daughter that pours off the page. There’s others of course – engineers in life support, and a particularly persistent lawman. I think my only complaint is that we don’t see enough of them. They’re there, and serve the plot rather well, and give Jazz the contrasts and banter in her life that we need to see – but I’d love to have seen them in more depth.

The plot…well no spoilers. But it’s a lot of fun. In some ways it’s a slow burn, as facets of a plan come together. But there’s enough going on at every stage to keep you locked in. When things do kick off, then there’s heart-in-mouth moments aplenty, tension broken with chases, brawls, and the occasional explosion. It’s a journey in exuberant prose, which is taking joy in both the science and discovery of it all, and in the personal dramas, the horrible mistakes, the bare-knuckle recoveries and the personal triumphs.

It’s not The Martian, but that’s a good thing. Artemis is strong enough to stand on its own. It’s clever, fast-paced, tense, and carries moments of sparkling humour and emotional weight. If you were a fan of The Martian, then yes, you should give this one a read. If you’re coming to Weir’s work for the first time – this is very much worth the time.


So that is my review.  I must also mention that the author did an excellent job of ticking all of the diversity boxes without causing any offence which is a hard thing to do. Kudos!

GBS

Bladerunner 2049 as it was for me

“Every civilization was built on the back of a disposable workforce, but I can only make so many.”

I had waited a long time.  I had waited before I knew there was anything to wait for.  Anything to anticipate.  Then when I knew there would be more my heart sank.  For I knew…I knew..that it would bring despair.  That it would fail to emulate what Bladerunner was to me and that was a cornerstone of my artistic identity.  When the date was announced for the new film Bladerunner 2049 I just had to see it.  I had to.  I had to know.  So when tickets came online they were bought and to the cinema I went.

So…how was it?

I will ignore all that has been said about it being boring…you don’t get it.  I will ignore the lack of cinema revenue…who cares it will be a legend.  I will ignore the pedants who laugh at it…no one will remember them.  My thoughts after nearly three hours in the seat is that Bladerunner 2049 is a masterpiece of film making and it restored my faith in the medium.  The best film in a decade.

The universe set up in the original film survived and was expanded.  Atari and the Soviet Union are both still going strong.  The visuals were stunning and the music…souring and epic.  For me the giantess of the virtual billboard was a highlight.

A core tenant in the film was the nature of what it is to be Human and the reactions of the Human with the Enhanced and now the Virtual too.  All too relevant for the world as it is now and as it will soon be too.  After all her eyes are blue but they should be green.

I could wax on for an age.  But I will not.  I loved this film and I will continue to do so.  Do yourself a favour and see it.  Also do yourself a favour and ignore the critics and their screeching about feminism and other issues..they will never be happy.  This film is a gem.

GBS

Baron Book update and snippet one

The Ion Age ended September with a short update on the progress of the fourth book for Patrol Angis namely Baron. Baron was outlined HERE on its blog in an article and during September I had been attending to several parts of the build of the book. This included assembling the play test results of exotic weapons and new equipment as well as organising the feedback from the Alternative Armies Tabletop Wargaming Group on Facebook where we had been chatting it over with IonFans. The selection process for which star systems will be detailed in the book is over and the selection of which Condot Mercenaries will feature is done too. Notes have expanded to form in the story of the Civil War and lastly some very over powered mechanics for the Starvaulters were rejected! Starvaulters are the best of the best but one versus a Battlesuit was a little much.

I want to share with you a little snippet…from the exotic weapons and equipment section which is part of the advanced rules in ‘Baron’. Here are the first few hundred words….

“You want this little sparkling box? You want to try and take it from me? Don’t even think about it. My father gave me this when I joined up. Told me to use it when the time came. It’ll turn you into a wet stain on this grey dirt before you even get your rifle up. It’s my box of tricks.” 
Private Ricky Falacan, 403rd Regiment, Fulton Prime. 4322 IC 

There are places in the Prydian Precinct which were never the remit of Humanity. Places where other creatures ruled and something of their technology remains behind them. Sometimes such things are unearthed or relics from the dim past of the Ban of Prejudice are found. Many of these rare weapons and items of equipment find their way into the hands of far traders, rich nobles or sons and daughters of the original locator. A lot of them are located to the edge of the Precinct that leads to the Galactic Core. Cost in points is given and follow the special rules as laid out. 
Note: If you wish to add any of these items to an existing template type of infantry, infantry scale vehicle or vehicle you can do so using the rules for them if allowed. Simply remove a weapon and its points cost and replace it with your choice modifying the points cost total appropriately. 
Clade Dancers: Often coming up illegally among Far Traders for sale these large slab like objects are too heavy for ten men to lift and are thought to have originated in one now totally ruined and abandoned temple complex on Clade Prime where they were its floor tiles. They are inert and can be fitted into structures or larger vehicles. They have no effect upon machines but they tamper with the complex minds of Humans. When one is nearby to people they describe strange visions of dancing shapes which grow stronger with proximity with an influence much like excessive alcohol when very close. They can be destroyed and are so when the structure (a Hab Dome) or large vehicle (like a Mullo or Taranis) is destroyed. When one is in play there is a chance of losing Activation Tokens during the Initiative Phase…… 

I intend another update on the book at the end of October with another snippet but I hope you enjoyed the above and the pictures too…man I had some fun with the new Cold Climes planetary militia. They use the exact same rules as the typical Planetary Militia which are in The Khanate Return but geared up for Arctic conditions. I want to thank everyone for their support of The Ion Age and my living from it.

GBS

All You Need is Kill or Live, Die, Repeat Review

I treated myself to a night at home not doing any work and rather spending time with my good lady and watching a science fiction film.  I know…how dare I!  Moving on from that the film we choose to buy (I tend to just buy DVD’s as renting them is now very difficult and downloading does not suit me) was Edge of Tomorrow or Live, Die, Repeat or All You Need is Kill.  Take your pick of the title.  Though the last title is the book the film is based upon.  So sitting in the dark with a beer or two how was it?

Well as an adaptation of the book it was quite a bit different which was sad really as the setting in All you need is Kill was to me better than a d-day recreation set in London and northern France.  As a movie though Live Die Repeat was very good with a nice look and a lot of action.  Here is the synopsis:

“The epic action of “Edge of Tomorrow” unfolds in a near future in which an alien race has hit the Earth in an unrelenting assault, unbeatable by any military unit in the world. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously dropped into what amounts to a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage now finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop-forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again…and again. But with each battle, Cage becomes able to engage the adversaries with increasing skill, alongside Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). And, as Cage and Rita take the fight to the aliens, each repeated encounter gets them one step closer to defeating the enemy.”

It is well worth checking out when you have a chance if you are a science fiction film fan.  Also it was good to see Bill Paxton back in the army!

So the book.  I have owned the book since near its English language translation date in the VIS Media edition in 2005.  I always thought it would make an excellent Manga but never thought it would be a Hollywood A lister live action film.  Here is the synopsis of the book:

“The story is told from the perspective of Keiji Kiriya, a new recruit in the United Defense Force which fights against the mysterious ‘Mimics’ which have laid siege to Earth. Keiji is killed on his first sortie, but through some inexplicable phenomenon wakes up having returned to the day before the battle. This continues and he finds himself caught in a time loop as his death and resurrection repeats time and time again. Keiji’s skill as a soldier grows as he passes through each time loop in a desperate attempt to change his fate.  After several dozen loops, he realizes his fate is tied to that of Rita Vrataski. He uses his knowledge of the day to get close to her and her mechanic, from whom he gets a copy of her massive axe, a weapon he learns to use well given the boltgun normal troops use runs out of ammo and jams easily. Realizing he is a fellow looper, Rita confides in Keiji, telling him of the system the Mimics use. There is a central nexus that can loop the day, as well as several antennae, all of which signal the loop to reset. Contact with an antenna is what trapped Keiji in the loop. Only by first killing all the antennae and then the nexus can Keiji escape. The Mimics constantly adapt to Keiji’s attacks, but he and Rita manage to eliminate the nexus, only to have the loop reset. After telling Rita this, she acknowledges that they missed one antenna. On the last loop (#160) they proceed to eliminate the antennae again, and then Rita attacks Keiji, explaining that being trapped in the loop has modified their brains so both of them are similar to the antennae, meaning one of them has to die before killing the nexus, else the loop will continue indefinitely. Keiji manages to kill Rita and then the nexus, and is hailed as a new hero of the Unity Army.”

Its a very original novel and its story works very well as a text, better than as a film if not using a narrator.  Confusion and despair mixed with a foreboding of events that will happen, have happened and will happen again.  If you have the inclination to read the book then you should and do so before you see the American adaptation of the book.

A last mention needs to be made of the alien creatures ‘Mimics’ which are described in the book but the film brought to CGI life.  It is a shame that no ‘making of’ book exists to be bought since I would purchase it.  The work that went into the design of the aliens was large and done in tandem with the designs of the armoured suits worn by troopers in the movie.  I got this information from two short documentaries included on the DVD.

GBS

The Quatermass Experiment – 1st Edition Paperback

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While out and about I managed to get a little steal of a book.  Its an original 1st edition print penguin from 1959 in excellent condition of The Quatermass Experiment by Nigel Kneale.  Its a script not a novel as the Quatermass Experiment was a six part ground breaking television mini-series in the 1950’s broadcast by the BBC.  For those interested in science fiction and especially British science fiction this series was vitally important for the future creation of not only Doctor Who but also films such as Alien and series like the X-Files too.

The book itself is not very impressive by modern standards.  It is very much a product of its times much like the story is.  Drab, plain and poor the book gives off an air of a time when things were grim and tight and also grey.  But it will be great fun for me to write the scripts for its been many years since I saw Victor Carroon slowly change into a monster.   I saw it on TV as a child of some ten years old back in 1980’s and its fair to say it left as big a mark on a young me as Robocop did and Aliens too but in a different way.  A creeping horror of change and alienation too.  The final cathedral scene I know almost word for word.

If you have not heard of or seen Quatermass then I suggest you do.  The book might be hard to get but the TV serial is out there and BBC4 made a single new episode in 2005 which is also very good.

I could not find another of this book for sale online at the time of writing this post but an estimate of its value compared to others of the time would be eighteen to thirty pounds.  So I am very happy and the book is an excellent aesthetic object too.

GBS

Collectormania 2014 Glasgow

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I had a great day on Saturday from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed late on after watching the taped new episode of Dr Who.  Among the highlights I can share with the public the brightest was my trip to Collectormania 2014 in Glasgow.  Its not often I get enough time together to do something like this but the trip had been planned for two weeks and I was raring to go.  Why you ask..well for the chance to meet two childhood heroes of mine and the chance to get some new t-shirts too.

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I got the shirts and as you can see above it was a smaller sized event, nothing like Salute at Excel in London, but that was good for me.  It meant that there was virtually no que to wait in for an autograph and it meant that you could actually spent a bit of time talking to the person too.  Sylvester McCoy is a really nice person and it was great to be able to speak to him.  I did not mention the seventh Doctor once rather it was more a meeting of two men from the former region of Strathcylde.  However for my good lady the star of the show was Dirk Benedict who took a real shine to her!  After that he was quite happy to talk about the A-Team and his time as Starbuck too.

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We got our autographs which my eldest son who came with us found quite funny.  For you see I put no stock in religion or celebrity or anything else that is beyond my normal grasp as a Man.  I take each on its own merits but actually conversing with these two put a grin on my face that he found amusing!  I might well go back next year.  I missed Sophie Aldred as she was only there today and not Saturday.  Shame but there is always next time.

So I will finish on a last picture of my good lady with The Face Man as he was and still is known.  Hands off mate…she’s mine!

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GBS

Going on all three platforms now!

Today marked a grand day for me personally.  A day I have been working towards since last year.  A day that proves if you try hard enough you can actually achieve next to anything.  Do not take that as some sort of self improvement propaganda its simply a plan with a lot of hard work.  Thousands of hours and admittedly a thousand disappointed people (I do have to sleep and see my children) have taken me to this day.  While I will resume my game development and so on soon today is all about the Three Platforms.  Alternative Armies on its new website launched Project Darkhelm, 15mm.co.uk on its new website released the second to last re-mastered code for Laserburn and lastly following up on last month’s awesome early supporter deal my baby The Ion Age ramps up for its One Year Anniversary with another great offer on hover vehicles.  We are back to the situation of one year ago plus more with weekly releases across three platforms or websites and their connected blogs.

Click on the links for details and forgive me not explaining it all here as I have already typed some six thousand words today plus other tasks.

I would actually be interested to hear if anyone out there manages so many different brands and systems and their support.  We could have quite a good conversation I think.  I admire other workers in the industry and enjoy the chats I do have with several of them each week.  So.  A little round of applause for me and a bow, thank you.  I would have posed this yesterday in lead in but I was happily attending my old haunt Glasgow University to attend the graduation of my sister in law Kirsten Loy.  Congratulations girl and well done.  A full post soon on this with my own reflections at returning some 12 years to the day since I myself graduated and not since.

Enjoy the pictures and thanks for all the kind words on Google Plus and other forums too.  I adore you all…really 🙂

GBS

The Ramp Down of Salute 2014

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Here be Dragons!

Salute 2014 is over and I am back in Scotland now.  I got back on Sunday afternoon but its taken until now for me to take care of all the email and other matters to have time to make this posting.  My own blogging comes last on the list and is mainly for my own amusement here on this domain.  That being said I hope the three thousand of you who look at it each week enjoy the read.   Anyway with the dust settled and some time to muse on it…just how was Salute this year for me and as an event?

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Come and look at the table!

For me this Salute was the most easy going ever with the entire event going off without a hitch and even the traffic in London being remarkably light.  I was tired sure but nothing like the mad days of 2004-2010 for this wargames show.  I met a lot of nice people and in among the praise of how much they were loving The Ion Age and wishing it good growth I also took some flak from Flintloque fans.  Did I not know this was the first Salute since the 1990’s that Flintloque did not dominate the trade stand?  Well I did and I did it on purpose; sorry guys!  Makes me think though Flintloque has been ‘me’ for so long now that it did feel a bit strange not to have it there.  We did fine in terms of our sales and I was happy with that and as always we dropped off a stack of ‘collect on the day’ pre-orders.  I want to thank all those who supported us and me and I wish them well.

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The Ion Age in the ‘flesh’ got a lot of admiring looks

As an event this Salute was rather more quiet that previous years.  Less excitement and buzz in the massive hall at Excel and without the bring and buy the gaps between the rows of stands was very wide indeed.  I think attendance was down a bit as well.   Certainly I tend to notice things like this and my notes from 2013 said the same thing down on 2012.  Not to be pessimistic but it seems possible to me with the changing nature of the hobby that such a big show might not continue as it is.   A smaller trade stand suited us and other traders had done the same thing perhaps noticing what I had.  I have not seen this opinion online elsewhere but then maybe I am wrong on this…when I look back at this post in a year I will know for sure.  Just call me Hari Seldon perhaps!

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Perhaps this sign will be gone next year?

Now.  On with life and with business.  Its Malig Madness release week on The Ion Age and its the Maginot Turret kit on 15mm.co.uk and Slaughterloo is back in stock from the morrow on Alternative Armies.  Plus the sun is shining.  Life is mighty fine by the sea here in Girvan and there is a LOT coming your way over the coming months.

GBS