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Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RONG-“Shrugging at the Dearth of Discourse” (2019).

Every year Lars Gotrich publishes his list of favorite music in an NPR podcast called Viking’s Choice: The Year In The Loud And The Weird.  I always listen to these songs because I’ll never hear them anywhere else (he mostly seems to scour bandcamp for unknown music.

One that he especially liked was by the band Rong from Boston.

He says:

Just bonkers. Boston’s Rong channels the joyous chaos of Japanese punks Melt-Banana and the aggro skronk of Brainiac with a tad of Deerhoof’s weirdo-pop hooks, in what sounds like a swarm of bats fighting a comically large industrial fan… and the bats win. Dissect the noise and you’ll find some truly athletic guitar interplay, held together by a sturdy rhythm section and Olivia W-B’s vocal acrobatics.

This song starts out with Olivia screaming quickly and almost inaudibly while the drummer thrashes away on every surface nearby.  There appears to be two guitars each playing their own riff that seems irrelevant to anything else. It’s a chaotic statement that will likely make most people turn the song off.   After 30 seconds one of the guitars plays a riff and at 35 seconds the riff is actually really catchy and Olivia sings along with it.  Wow.

And the song is not even one third over.

After a few more rounds through similar styles things really slow down around 1:45.  It is just bass and drums and vocals for a bit before two separate solos happen at once.  About five more parts occur before the song ends at 3:11.  This includes a riff that is repeated a few times and a absolutely berzerk ending.

That’s the first of 8 similarly eclectic and, yes, bonkers, songs.  Finding the melody and connections between the parts is rather strangely rewarding.

Incidentally, the final track on the album is called . ༼ ༎ຶ ෴ ༎ຶ༽   In a bigger font, that’s:

༼ ༎ຶ ෴ ༎ຶ༽

[READ: Summer 2019] The Long Cosmos

The “Long Earth” Tetrology is complete.

This was a series that was pretty much impossible to end.  I mean the very premise is that there is unlimited exploration to be had in the various “Earths.”  So how do you end it?  Well, really you end it by following the main protagonist of all of this, Joshua Valiente to his logical conclusion (or something like that).

This book also serves as a kind of reconciliation for many of the estranged characters, but, thankfully does not resurrect any dead characters (well, except for Lobsang–whatever he may be).

The Foreword to this book answers a question that I had: If Terry Pratchett died in 2015, did he have anything to do with this book which came out in 2016?  Baxter explains that indeed, he and Pratchett had created drafts of the final three books by August 2013.  Terry and Stephen worked on the book together as late as autumn 2014.  Then Baxter dealt with final editorial and publishing stages.  So that makes me happy.

I am, as always with this series, puzzled as to what Terry’s contributions were to the books.  I haven’t read anything else by Baxter, so I don’t know if this is a Baxter book with Pratchett sprinkled in or if it’s a combination of their writing styles   The one thing is that this series is never really all that funny (with one huge exception later).  Not to say that Pratchett had to be funny, but it was certainly what he was known for.  Maybe I’ll try a Baxter book one of these days to see just what his works are like.

But back to the concluding chapter of this long series.

This book opens with the invitation: JOIN US. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FALHA COMUM-“Film Do Mundo” (2019).

Every year Lars Gotrich publishes his list of favorite music in an NPR podcast called Viking’s Choice: The Year In The Loud And The Weird.  I always listen to these songs because I’ll never hear them anywhere else (he mostly seems to scour bandcamp for unknown music.

One that he especially liked was by this band Falha Comum, a duo from Brazil.

He says:

The Brazilian post-punks scaled down to a duo, but opened a festering third eye. The psychedelic noise receptors of a previous decade (think Raccoo-oo-oon and Gowns) run throughout Rakta’s Falha Comum, but in levels below, the sinister grooves and cackled reverb inhabit a life all their own with primal incantations to spirits unknown.

The album is like a few things and nothing else that I’ve heard.  There’s elements of krautrock–but not sterile and efficient, more groovy and cool, with a warm bass and seemingly wild, improvised vocals.

This particular song is 7 minutes long and opens with a spoken word section (presumably in Portuguese).  There are synths and screams behind the speaking and then everything starts pulsing as the vocals echo and echo.   The music–a simple repetitive drum and bass (I guess) line, keep a terrific groove going while on top, the high notes (vocals and other synths) skitter and flit about.

Midway through, the song goes through a phase shift–it sounds like it’s been transported somewhere else, and that’s when the bass gets cleaner and the vocals grow a bit more intense.  But the groove remains.

Somewhere around 6 minutes, the groove changes slightly–a brief shift in notes suddenly gives the song a brief moment of extra melody.  The following keyboard frenzy keeps it from getting too comfortably melodic though.

It’s an unexpectedly interesting and cool record.

[READ: Summer 2019] The Long Utopia

This was the fourth book in the Long Earth series.  I brought it along on vacation thinking it would be a fairly slow and leisurely read like the others—something I didn’t mind putting down and picking up a few days later.  But this book changed that pattern entirely.  It was fast paced and quite exciting and my favorite book of the series so far.

The previous book about the Long Mars seemed to be more than anything else, a distraction.  Not a lot happened, although there were some cool ideas in it.  The one big thing that book 3 did that effects book 4 is the cable/elevator thing—which I still don’t understand [see yesterday’s post about book 3].

This book also introduces a new concept in Stepping.  Typically Stepping is described as moving left or right, east or west through the Earths.  But suddenly, in this one world, it seemed like a person could move…north.  Into an entirely different world—night instead of day:  “No stars exactly, it was like he could see the whole galaxy…from outside.”

This book is set in 2052.  Protagonist Joshua Valiente:

will be 50 years old. He has been stepping for 35 years and has been all over the Long Earth.  But some things are still unsettling—things that he can feel in his bones or his head.

The reason for his feelings date back to 2036 in New Springfield.  Cassie Poulson had been digging a basement for her house when she hit some kind of opening.  Not a cave or anything natural, but some kind of manufactured tunnel or the like.  When she poked her head in,  what poked back was a humanoid metal beetle.  Obviously she freaked out and covered up the hole. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FIRE-TOOLZ-“mailto:spasm@swamp.god?subject=Mind-Body Parallels” (2019).

Every year Lars Gotrich publishes his list of favorite music in an NPR podcast called Viking’s Choice: The Year In The Loud And The Weird.  I always listen to these songs because I’ll never hear them anywhere else (he mostly seems to scour bandcamp for unknown music.

One that he especially liked was by this band Fire-Toolz.  He says:

When I try to describe the simultaneously fantastical and obliterating sounds of Fire-Toolz to folks, I usually throw my hands up — not out of frustration, but from awe. Angel Marcloid has clashed New Age synthscapes, clubby raves, jazz fusion and metal shrieks for a few years now, but Field Whispers (Into the Crystal Palace) goes beyond the mash-up, into an idiosyncratic master’s pure creation.

The album credits indicate: Angel Marcloid: voice, drums, electric & acoustic guitar, fretless bass, virtual studio technology, field recordings, circuit-bent junk, composition, lyrics, recording, production, mixing, mastering.

The only other musician is Ian Smith: who plays what can only be described as a smooth-jazz saxophone solo.  Oh, and her cat, Breakfast, gets a vocal turn.

I have listened to some of the whole record, (a lot of tape manipulation on track 2), but nothing sums up the project like the first song, “mailto:spasm@swamp.god?subject=Mind-Body Parallels” (yes, that’s the title).  In 2 minutes and 11 seconds, she includes more genres than I can name.  And the amazing thing is that unlike other artists who squeeze many genres into one song (there are those who do this well and those who do not), these shifts feel at once hairpin but also natural. 

The song starts with a skittery electric melody that almost sounds like digital pipe organ.  It’s very new-agey, but with heavier drums than you might expect.  The quiet death metal growling is certainly unexpected, but somehow it doesn’t feel out of place (and is low enough in the mix to feel more like another sound than vocals–I have no idea what she’s saying).

After the first verse the music shifts to a kind of jazzy new age followed by a punishingly fast electronic drum and a scorching heavy metal solo and the song devolves or crescendos with inhuman growls.

Welcome to 2020!

[READ: May 2019] The Long Mars

I found the first book in this series rather compelling–almost surprisingly so given that it’s not a fast-paced book and, to be honest, not a lot happens.

But it was really well written and the things that do happen are compelling and fascinating.  And I couldn’t wait to read more.

In the first book:

A man creates an invention (The Stepper) which allows one to step into a parallel world that is next to ours.  There are a possibly infinite numbers of parallel worlds in each direction (East or West).  The worlds that are closer to ours are almost identical to our Earth (known as Datum Earth).  The further you go, the greater the differences.  But none of them have experienced humanity before Step Day (aside from earlier hominids).

The main character is Joshua Valienté.  Joshua is a natural “Stepper.”  He doesn’t need the device to Step from one word to the next, nor does he feel the nausea and other side effects that most people feel as they travel.  Most of the book follows his exploits.

The Black corporate has a ship with an entity known as Lobsang who claims that he was a human reincarnated as artificial intelligence.  Joshua is sure that Lobsang is a computer, but Lobsang’s human skills are uncanny.  This ship has managed to Step as an entity, meaning everything in the ship can go with them.  Normally you can only bring what you can carry (aside from metal).

The novel more or less is an exploratory one with Joshua and Lobsang Stepping through millions of Earths.  Not a lot happens, but the novel never grows boring.  The interactions between Joshua and Lobsang are often funny.  And the writers have infused the Earths that they stop in with just enough differences to make each stop strangely compelling (this must be Baxter’s hard science leanings).

I found the second book less compelling on a story level, but no less compelling on a conceptual level.  There was still some cool stuff going on.

Joshua Valienté has settled down in a town called Hell-Knows-Where.  He has a wife, Helen, and a child, Daniel, and lots of regrets about what happened at the end of book one.  He is embedded with the rest of the community.  They show off what a successful community can be way out in the Long Earth.  It is more or less cut off from Datum Earth, which means that everyone needs to work for the community to survive.  Since trust and companionship are key to survival, people don’t really try to take advantage of others and crime is pretty much nonexistent.

This independence is a major concern for the governments of Datum Earth.  In fact, some of the more thriving distant communities (like Valhalla) want to declare independence from Datum Earth altogether.

Another issue is human (or alien) rights.  The trolls from the first book have become a part of most communities at this point.  And yet, the way they are treated seems largely dependent on who they are with.  Some are welcomed like family members, other are treated like animals, slaves or worse.   And the mistreatment of a mother and son troll are what set a series of events in motion.   Maggie Kauffman is a new character introduced to speak on behalf of the trolls.  Before their otherwise peaceful nature gets pushed too far.

Another plot line (and there are quite a few) concerns Roberta Golding, a young genius who goes on an exploratory mission with the Chinese.  The Chinese are exploring the “East Earths” (most of the other travelers went West).  Roberta is an odd child, who anticipated jokes and therefore finds nothing funny. She is cold and emotionless.  Her story remains unresolved by the end of the book.  But her crew managed to get to Earth East 20,000,000 with the crew.

When Sally tries to get Joshua involved in an adventure once again, he is reluctant, but Helen is the one who spurs him on–as long as she and Dan go with him. This adventure is a bit of backtracking, though–an attempt to use Joshua’s name and status back on Datum Earth–where he is not welcomed by everyone.  He tries to prevent the government from harming trolls–because he knows what is at stake if the trolls grow angry.

In their adventure, they also encounter a race of beings known as Beagles.  It is a pretty dark and disturbing world, with Joshua getting tortured and Sally and Monica being the only things keeping him from a brutal death.   There’s a lot of brutality now, which is not unexpected given the reality of the situation, but it does often seem rather harsh

That’s a lot of summary to prepare for Book Three.  But book three does continue the saga, just another twenty years or so later.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RAMONES-“Pet Sematary” (1977).

A lot of the music I listen to is weird and probably creepy to other people, but I don’t necessarily think of songs as appropriate for Halloween or not.  So for this year’s Ghost Box stories, I consulted an “expert”: The Esquire list of Halloween songs you’ll play all year long.  The list has 45 songs–most of which I do not like.  So I picked 11 of them to post about.

Ramones are the least punk punk band ever.  Sure they are essential to the history of American punk, but they were basically playing fast rock n roll songs. They were awesome sure, but compared to the viciousness of British punk, Ramones were just guys in leather jackets singing harmonies.

By the time they released “Pet Sematary” in 1989 they were more of a pop metal band.  This song is stupidly catchy.

It’s got a complex (for them) opening guitar riff and quickly moves into power chords.

The chorus (with all kinds of backing vocals) is one of the poppiest things around.  If it weren’t for the lyrics

I don’t want to be buried in a pet cemetery
I don’t want to live my life again

it could easily be a radio friendly pop hit (and I think it was anyhow).

This song actually works very well for Halloween, even if it isn’t particularly scary, because of the lyrics.

Under the arc of a weather stain boards
Ancient goblins, and warlords
Come out the ground, not making a sound
The smell of death is all around

The moon is full, the air is still
All of the sudden I feel a chill.

I never realized that the song was literally about the book/movie.  I knew it was for the movie but the lyrics reference Victor the main character, which I never knew).

I suppose if you were a fan of the first four Ramones album and then never heard another song until this one, you might find it frightening how far they’d traveled from their origins.

[READ: October 22, 2019] “A Defense of Werewolves”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. and Ghost Box II. comes Ghost Box III.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

Oh god, it’s right behind me, isn’t it? There’s no use trying to run from Ghost Box III, the terrifying conclusion to our series of limited-edition horror box sets edited and introduced by Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, I’m going to read in the order they were stacked.

This story was first published in 1948 and wow, did I dislike this.   The first time I read it.

It’s pretty short so I read it twice.  This story is written like a treatise.  It is high language and rousing, I guess.  But honestly it really has nothing to do with werewolves and is actually more about the fantasy genre and keeping it safe from “the querulous, muttering voices of the plain.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WEEZER-Tiny Desk Concert #837 (April 1, 2019).

Weezer is surprisingly polarizing for a band that writes fairly mundane pop songs.

I can’t help but think that this Tiny Desk Concert will just add fuel to the fire.  It’s the four Weezer dudes (Rivers Cuomo: lead vocals, guitar; Brian Bell: guitar, vocals, keys; Scott Shriner: bass guitar; Patrick Wilson: drums) on acoustic instruments.

Why polarizing this time?  Because they play unexpected songs.  They don’t play Africa, nor do they play any of their popular songs.  They also don’t play fan favorites from the first two albums (well, sort of).

They open with “Longtime Sunshine,” a 1994 track that’s only appeared as a Rivers Cuomo home recording on bootlegs and compilations, and on the deluxe edition of Pinkerton.  With piano and acoustic guitars, it really sounds nothing like Weezer, except that it is clearly Weezer (the lyrics, that voice).  Rivers plays the guitar solos and there’s some surprisingly loose bass work.

They sound good, but a little less than perfect, which is cool.  As the blurb notes

This is probably the loosest you’ll ever see Weezer. Known for meticulously produced — and electric — live shows, frontman Rivers Cuomo and the rest of the band settled in behind the Tiny Desk for an entirely acoustic set without the in-ear monitors, click track or vocal separation they usually employ to stay locked-in and tight for bigger performances. The result is surprisingly intimate, with songs that feel lived-in and rumpled, like an old flannel shirt from the ’90s.

They follow that up with a new song.

Then the band performed a stripped-down version of its electro-pop song “Living in L.A.,” from Weezer’s new self-titled “Black Album,”

I actually don’t know the proper version of this song (but I do know a lot of people don’t like the electro sound of the new album). So maybe this version (which is really good) will make them wish the recorded version were more like it.  Bell adds another acoustic guitar and the riffing is pretty heavy (for acoustic guitars).

For everything that polarizes people about Weezer, the one thing people seldom talk about is their musicianship.  All four of them (Bell in particular) are very good and even if they are loose hear, they still sound right on.

I was pretty excited to hear them play “Across the Sea” from Pinkerton, since the certainly don’t play this much.   I never really understood the lyrics all that well, but i enjoyed singing the parts that I knew.  The blurb puts it well:

It’s a song Cuomo originally wrote in his early 20s, inspired by a fan letter he’d received from a young woman in Japan. While beloved by many Gen-Xers who’d first heard it on 1996’s Pinkerton, the song’s lyrics haven’t aged terribly well.

But if you can look past that (I think it’s only the one line that’s uncomfortable-making), the version sounds great.  I especially like the combination of Rivers playing the solo and Bell playing the other guitar.

It’s nice that they were allowed to play four songs.  They play the new song “High as a Kite.”  I didn’t know this song either and I actually can’t imagine it done in any other way.  It’s quite a pretty song.  I’m very curious to hear the recorded version.

There’s a moment n the song where it shifts gears where it sounds like they screwed up, but I don’t think they do, it’s just a little clunky in this format.  Again, I want to hear what it sounds like on record.

Weezer is known for being kind of goofy, so it’s easy to expect them to do something fun, but they are all business.  Aside from this goodbye, “We are Weezer, from the planet Earth. Have a nice life!” they don’t really say anything or break from playing straightforward songs.

The blurb, again, puts it well. It says the song “High as a Kite,” is a

song of innocence and escapism, Cuomo sings about daydreaming and how he wants to disappear — which is exactly what the band did once the song was over.

Longtime fans of Robin Hilton will know that he loves Weezer.  I never found out how he reacted to this Tiny Desk.  Was it polarizing for him as well, or was it just cool to see this side of an otherwise very polished band.

[READ: April 9, 2019] The Return of King Doug 

I have had this book on my bookshelf for a decade, apparently.  I’m not even sure where or how I came to have it although the Oni Press label is a good indicator.

The book starts twenty-five years earlier in the Magical Kingdom of Valdonia.

Valdonia is made up of strange-looking creatures.  Part of this is also because of Wook-Jin Clark’s really odd drawing style.  It took me a while to get used to and enjoy the way he draws and even now I still find it a little off, somehow.

Two centaurs are speaking about the Dark Queen and how she will not rest until she has defeated their kingdom. Balthazar shows off their one defense, the Magical Heart of Agnon.  They just need someone pure of heart enough to wear it.  And Balthazar has heard that one of the Tumtums, Feldspar, has met a stranger–a human child–who might just be that pure being.

The human is Doug and he found his way into their village.  He also bears the mark of the prophecy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Memorial Stadium, St John’s, NL (December 03 1996).

This is the 17th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. First 4 songs missing.

Even with the first four songs missing, this tidy little 30 minute set is quite enjoyable.

It opens with “Four Little Songs.”  Dave says that Don Kerr on the durms, he invented this beat (a simple snare/bass 4/4).  Then Dave messes up the 4-3-2-1 intro!   But they start over and rip it out.  When it comes to Tim’s part, he says, “Song two if you’re keeping score.  Tim changes the lyrics a bit from

This lady’s shaped like the Tour de France.
A thousand wheels besieged the city of romance.

to

This lady’s shaped like the Tour de France.
A thousand wheels besieged her underpahnts

And after the jaunty “you cant go wrong/you can’t go wrong”, Dave shouts “UNLESS” before Don’s “Huge creatures plowing the streets tonight, right, right. / The mighty puffin sets the sky alight.”

I learned a fascinating thing during this show.  In Canada, the corn dog is called a “Pogo!”  “While you’re picking yourself up a pogo or a root beer you may want to check out the CD with lovely cover art by Martin Tielli as always.”

Up next is “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” in which Martin jhits some amazing high notes by the end.  It jumps to “Feed Yourself.”  The end rocks with some great feedbacking.  Tim comments: Way to go Dave.”  Dave replies “Way to go Tim” as they start “Bad Time To Be Poor” which is “for all the green sprouts.”  They thank the Tragically Hip for bringing them to Saint Johns twice.

Then they end the set with “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”  It sounds great–Martin’s vocals and guitars, everything is great.  The high notes at the end are wonderful.  And even though at the end, he sings the opening lyric, he catches himself and sings the proper ending.  Great stuff.

[READ: April 2, 2019] Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules

Boy do I love Delilah Dirk.

These stories are wonderful–fun, fantastical, exciting, witty and historically inaccurate (mostly).

I have totally embraced Cliff’s drawing style.  He has wonderfully subtle, expressions and his command of faces is amazing.  I absolutely love his amusing “action” words when one of the characters does something: “Skid,” “Grab,” “Hoist,” “Scramble.”

But like with the first two books, it’s the story that is really wonderful.

This book opens in 1812.  Delilah Dirk and her companion Erdemoglu Selim are in Turkey waiting to help a ship in Adalia’s harbor.  They are trying to protect the ship from the local tyrant Küçuk.  We see Delilah mingling at Küçuk’s party (and her expressions of distaste are wonderful).

Things do not go as planned, but the end result is the same–success for Delilah and humiliation for the tyrant.  Of course, it’s the not-going-as-planned that makes all the fun. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO-Tiny Desk Concert #834 (March 20, 2019).

I feel like I’ve been hearing Alejandro Escovedo’s name for years, and yet I know very little about him.

I assumed he was a kind of folkie guy.  So I was pretty surprised by the loud sound he brought to the Tiny Desk.  And even more surprised to read

The musician, who once opened for the Sex Pistols … seemed to appreciate the difference between being pelted with spit and debris by punk rock fans and being showered with loving appreciation in the NPR Music office.

Escovedo came  in a leather jacket and a large band.  And even though I thought they were loud, apparently they intended to be louder.  They even started the show with “one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four Go Alejandro!”

Escovedo and his backing band known as Don Antonio set up behind the Tiny Desk, their first sounds were blistering loud. That’s when we broke the news: We wouldn’t amplify Alejandro’s voice. We got a slightly sullen look from the band; but despite the toned-down volume, they were all still amped up.

A little research into Escovedo, though shows that he has, indeed, played folkie/alt-country music.  But that his sound has evolved over the years.

Escovedo pulled the three-song set from The Crossing, the most recent chapter in his ongoing odyssey and a typically hard-rocking, literate saga about two teenagers looking for their American Dream of rock and roll and beat poetry.

“Teenage Luggage” opens kind of quiet with one guitar and quiet drums, but soon enough a sax and keyboards are added, then comes some bass and the second saxophone and the roaring lead guitar.  As Escovedo sing/speaks his story.  Then comes the catchy chorus:

You think you know me, you’ll never know me you’re just a bigot with a bad guitar.

By the end, everyone is rocking out with mini solos from Perinelli on saxophone and a raucous guitar solo from Gramentieri

The close quarters of the Tiny Desk allows for a kind of backstage insight into the musical and visual interplay between Escovedo and the veteran Italian band Don Antonio [Antonio Gramentieri: vocals, guitar; Denis Valentini: bass; Matteo Monti: drums; Nicola Peruch: keyboard; Gianni Perinelli: tenor sax; Franz Valtieri: baritone sax]. Lead guitarist Antonio Gramentieri is the perfect foil for Escovedo, who adds a heavy dose of edginess to the sound with his power strumming.

“Something Blue” is slow with a dominant organ sound (reminiscent of Bob Dylan).  It sounds like an old-school rock song and his delivery sounds more than a little like Warren Zevon.

He says that “Sonica USA” goes out to Don since Wayne Kramer from the MC5 played on this.  It has a great raw rock feel with Escovedo’s punky vocals and the chanted chorus of “Sonica USA.”  The soloing section is great with the two saxophones playing on top of Gramentier’s wailing solo.

It’s a really fun garage rocking set.

[READ: Summer 2018] The Long War

I found the first book in this series rather compelling–almost surprisingly so given that it’s not a fast-paced book and, to be honest, not a lot happens.

But it was really well written and the things that do happen are compelling and fascinating.  And I couldn’t wait to read more.

In the first book:

A man creates an invention (The Stepper) which allows one to step into a parallel world that is next to ours.  There are a possibly infinite numbers of parallel worlds in each direction (East or West).  The worlds that are closer to ours are almost identical to our Earth (known as Datum Earth).  The further you go, the greater the differences.  But none of them have experienced humanity before Step Day (aside from earlier hominids).

The main character is Joshua Valienté.  Joshua is a natural “Stepper.”  He doesn’t need the device to Step from one word to the next, nor does he feel the nausea and other side effects that most people feel as they travel.  Most of the book follows his exploits.

The Black corporate has a ship with an entity known as Lobsang who claims that he was a human reincarnated as artificial intelligence.  Joshua is sure that Lobsang is a computer, but Lobsang’s human skills are uncanny.  This ship has managed to Step as an entity, meaning everything in the ship can go with them.  Normally you can only bring what you can carry (aside from metal).

The novel more or less is an exploratory one with Joshua and Lobsang Stepping through millions of Earths.  Not a lot happens, but the novel never grows boring.  The interactions between Joshua and Lobsang are often funny.  And the writers have infused the Earths that they stop in with just enough differences to make each stop strangely compelling (this must be Baxter’s hard science leanings).

At the end of the book, the anti-steppers attempt a massive, deadly protest.

(more…)

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