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All posts for the month July, 2016

Book Review #001 – “Software” by Rudy Rucker

Published July 21, 2016 by GravediggerNALK

Some spoilers are present. You have been warned.

Review:

The main characters of Software feel like actual people.  They deal with their own personal problems, they enjoy things normal people do, and they behave the way most people in their situations would.  Many stories have characters that act logical 100% of the time, even when they’re supposedly out of their minds, and do not respond and react to stimuli the way an actual person would, but that is not Software. Dr. Anderson willingly gives up his body for a new one, knowing a fair amount of what that would entail, because he doesn’t want to face his own mortality. Most sane people wouldn’t want to face their inevitable demise if they felt that they still had things they wanted to do, and he is no different. After getting his new body, one of the first things Dr. Anderson does is see if he can still enjoy the effects of alcohol. Sta-Hi doesn’t break his drug habits cold-turkey just because of all of the things happening in the story, either. The characters act and behave like they would if they were actually real, and that’s something I do not often see.

The setting isn’t explored too much, but a basic knowledge of the location (Florida) and a little bit of imagination does wonders for it. Like most cyberpunk works from the same time, the setting is a 1980’s envisioning of what the not-so distant future of our own world would look like under X circumstances. In this case, robots designed using Asimov’s laws are adapted to have free will, the inevitable chaos that follows the reveal of sentient AI happens, the sentient robots go to the Moon, and something about senior citizens being given Florida as a “sorry” about Social Security being pissed away.  Other than the background details, the setting isn’t too far removed from . . . 1980’s Florida, but with a lot more senior citizens and new drugs. Rucker’s slang for the youth of the future, while off-putting at first, is used with such regularity that it became easy to understand what it meant, and that is something I appreciate.

The story feels more like an extended-short story than a novel. I am doing this review before reading the rest of the tetralogy, so I can only assume this, but Software reads a bit like Asimov’s first Foundation novel in the sense that it is the foundation (no pun intended) that the rest of the series will be building upon. With the story mainly centering around Dr. Anderson, the man responsible for the robots attaining their free will, Software feels like that foundation.  Having read this after experiencing tons of media inspired by it, the existential themes explored in Software seem rather basic, but, like I said, I have read and watched a lot of the media released in the 30 years since Software‘s release that has expanded upon the ideas touched upon in it. The ideas presented in Software weren’t even new at the time of its release, but it is a well-written story based around those concepts.

Software is a fun read that I’d recommend to any fan of 1980’s cyberpunk literature. The short adventure of Dr. Anderson and Sta-Hi was enjoyable the entire way through.

Scoring:

  • Characterization: 10/10
  • Setting: 7/10
  • Story: 8/10
  • Overall: 8/10

Information:

Title: Software

Released: January 1982

Author: Rudy Rucker

Genre: Science Fiction (Cyberpunk)

Anime Review #008 – Fate/Zero

Published July 3, 2016 by GravediggerNALK

Preface: This series is prequel to Fate/stay night, and was made with the intention of it being watched after it.  I definitely recommend watching/playing Fate/stay night or, at the very least, watching Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works before watching Fate/Zero. Watching Fate/Zero before pretty much ruins Fate/stay night. Even the countdown timer present in the title card for each episode of Fate/Zero shows this; the timers aren’t counting down to Fate/Zero‘s climax or the ending, but to the “beginning” of the Fate/stay night story.

Please do not be a buster: Watch Fate/Zero after finishing Fate/stay night in some way or another.

Review:

It needs to be said: this series is a different genre from Fate/stay night. This is usually what causes the shock for people going from one to another (besides, you know, watching this first like a heathen). While Fate/stay night is a romance fantasy series with bits of action, this series is more like an “action tragedy with fantasy elements.” Fans familiar with writer Gen Urobuchi’s recent work on Psycho-Pass will probably feel the similarities between the two than with Fate/stay night.

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The story is really a “how did we get here?” prequel for Fate/stay night more than anything. What is the Einzbern’s goal? What is the story between the Tohsakas and the Matous? Who is Kiritsugu Emiya? Why is Rin the way she is? What happened in the Fourth Holy Grail War to cause the abnormalities in the Fifth Holy Grail War (Fate/stay night)?  Without seeing Fate/stay night first, it’s a bit hard to care about many of the characters since Fate/Zero gives the audience no reason to care about them.

The story mainly focuses around Kiritsugu Emiya, his hunt for the grail, his past, and his ideals, and Kirei Kotomine, his search for his own self, and his new obsession with Emiya. Entwined in all of this, is Gilgamesh’s story prior to Fate/stay night, Rin’s motivations to be a mage, Saber’s coming-to-terms with her past, and a young mage Waver Velvet finding meaning in his life with the help of his servant Rider.

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Knowing that Shirou Emiya’s drive comes from Kiritsugu, among other things revealed in this series, Fate/Zero does a fine job setting up the Shirou/Rin/Saber vs Kotomine/Gilgamesh conflict from Fate/stay night using Kiritsugu and Kotomine’s conflict to understand each other and themselves.

The animation is definitely a step-up from that of Studio Deen’s Fate/stay night, but is not quite as nice as Ufotable’s later TV adaptation of Unlimited Blade Works. That being said, the CGI for cars and other vehicles looks much better than UBW, albeit not that great overall. Other than Saber’s motorcycle and Rider’s chariot, Ufotable’s vehicle CG seems to be stuck in 2006.

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Scoring:

  • Plot: 8/10
  • Animation: 8/10
  • Japanese Voice Acting: 8/10
  • English Voice Acting: 8/10
  • Overall: 8/10

Information:

Title: Fate/Zero

Released: October 2011 – June 2012 – 25 Episodes – TV series

Director: Ei Aoki

Original Story: Gen Urobuchi/Type-Moon

Studio: Ufotable

Licensed by: Aniplex of America

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