Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Way of Shadows

Assassins, secrets, magic, plots & betrayal. Those are the key parts of this book by Brent Weeks. The books was a Christmas present but it's taken me a while to get around to reading it. The story of a young boy with dreams of becoming an assassin who eventually manages to become the apprentice of the very best in the land. They train while the king and various other families with some claims to the throne all scheme and plot against each other. Of course the assassin become part of these plots but also have their own agendas. This was a great book full of twists and turns and unexpected developments. It's not entirely perfect though. While all the parts directly related to the assassins were great there were a few moments where all the feuding families got a little mixed up and I couldn't remember who was with who. That's only a minor flaw though, I still gave it four out of five on Goodreads. The book is the first part of a trilogy and I've now picked up the other two books. I'm looking forward to reading those next.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Goodbye House

After eight years on our screens House has finally come to an end. It has been one of the lucky shows that had the opportunity to choose its own end. Although I think that most viewers have seen it coming for a while now. Things had not been the same since the Cuddy situation and while season eight has had some great moments overall it's not been as good as the previous seasons. This year has been the least about the actual cases as its ever been and it seemed to have lost focus with all the major cast rearrangements. All the best moments came from the House & Wilson bromance which is the one relationship which has stayed strong throughout. While Wilson's fate seems a little mean on behalf of the writers it did produce some really powerful moments in the final few episodes. The final episode itself ended up being one of the slightly odd concept ones they've made a few times but I thought it worked well and enjoyed seeing how everything turned out. I've not been on the House train for the entire time. I jumped on the bandwagon and caught up somewhere around when the forth or fifth season was airing. I'm definitely glad I did. There is one good thing about the end of House though. Although the names Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie have always been famous in the UK it's only in recent years (thanks to House and QI) that they've become famous in the US. So now that Laurie isn't tied up with House anymore they're talking about doing a new project together. I don't see how that could be anything but a good thing. House we'll miss you but we can always re-watch on disc. On that note can we have a fancy complete box set on Blu-ray please?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Extremely Early Maiden

Of course only one of them is still in the band but I recently came across these pictures from the very very early days of Iron Maiden. I wonder what they think of themselves looking back now. More here

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hello Computer

There be whales here! Or there could be if Commander Scott happened to need to transport any whales to the 24th century. In the film (Star Trek VI) Scotty trades his knowledge of Transparent Aluminium for some standard plexiglass and now we've finally figured out the formula. A company in Massachusetts has been researching the subject for some time but are now actually producing it for use in things like armoured windows. Yay for the future, now we can do the windows for the Enterprise but we're still going to need an anti-matter injection system. More details in this article

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Botanical Gardens

In Sheffield we have a fairly famous Botanical Garden. While I've walked straight through it plenty of times I've never actually stopped and properly visited it until today. There is a full gallery of photos you can view here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Completed: LA Noire

This actually happened last week as I tried to tick some games off this list before Diablo 3 arrived but then I never found a moment to fit in a post about it. Overall I really enjoyed this game. The world of forties LA looks fantastic, the clothes, the cars and the buildings all fit together well and feel pretty authentic. I'm sure they've had to take some liberties with the road layout but having never been to LA in the forties or otherwise I would notice. The city feel adequately large and is fun to just drive around in sometimes, with the siren on of course as speed limits are boring. The driving mechanics work surprisingly well. While the static art is all excellent the character work still has room for improvement. The joins between different animations are quite stiff at times and although the MotionScan face capture technology is a pioneering thing for gaming the results here are over exaggerated to the point of making you laugh sometimes. So while a success in technical achievements the biggest problem I ended up having was with the story. There will be some spoilers coming up. The game is divided into four sections as we play ex-marine Cole Phelps in his career with the LAPD, going through: Traffic, Homicide, Vice and finally Arson. The first three sections were excellent but I found myself disappointed by the final one. You're demoted to Arson after the final events of Vice and things get a bit strange from there. No longer the star of the precinct the overall story doesn't seem to revolve around you as much anymore. It gets so bad that Phelps recruits old comrade Jack Kelso, now working as an insurance investigator, to help. Then all of a sudden you're playing half of the game as a new character who you barely know. You're switch between the two as they work the main case from different angles but it feels odd and rushed. It makes sense for the story they're telling but why choose to tell it that way? Then in the final action sequence Phelps saves the day but ends up drowning in the process for a very lame death. We then end at his funeral and find the half of the corrupt officials seem to have gotten away with everything. It was a very unsatisfying end. If there is one thing I learned from this though, it's that I would be complete rubbish as a detective doing interrogation.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It's So Yellow

Adding to my emerging collection of signed first edition hardbacks this week is News From Gardenia. Following Peter Hamilton and John Green comes Robert Llewellyn. That's three very different authors. This was published in a non-traditional manner which definately encouraged me to help. It's been released via a company called Unbound which works similar to Kickstarter. An author sets up a page for their book and if the users like that idea they donate to the project. If the project is funded by a deadline then the book it printed, otherwise money is returned. So I reserved a copy a long time before it was printed. Usually donating more gets you additional benefits, like in my case a signed copy along with a free ebook and audio book version. It's an interesting method although obviously unless you're already an Internet star with a following, like Llewellyn's 85,000 Twitter followers, it would be hard to drum up the necessary support. I'm looking forward to reading this.