Sunday, 20 May 2018

Kameron Hurley Signing at Bakka Phoenix Books

Yesterday I headed to downtown Toronto to see Kameron Hurley, author of, among other things, God's War, The Mirror Empire, and The Stars are Legion.

I wasn't sure if she was doing a reading so I got there a few minutes late. So I missed the opening of the passage she read from her upcoming novel, The Light Brigade. The book sounds awesome.

After the reading she took questions and then signed copies of her books. Her novels aren't for everyone (they're pretty brutal), but she writes fantastic essays and does a podcast that details the writing life - and its many trials. 

It was a fun event. I've missed going to things like this.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Movie Review: Downsizing

Directed by Alexander Payne, 2017

Pros: good acting, interesting concept

Cons: asked some great questions that it didn’t want to answer, meanders

A Norwegian scientist discovers a way to shrink people as a means of reducing humanity’s impact on the planet. Paul Safranek’s life changes drastically when he undergoes the procedure.

I thought the premise of the film was good. Apparently the writers weren’t sure what to do with the shrinking idea though. The first section of the film concerns the idea of shrinking. Then it’s like a different movie started once Safranek took the plunge. Suddenly it focused on Safranek’s aimlessness and potential love affairs.

The first section posed a lot of interesting questions about what humans are doing to the earth and whether/how this solution might help. I thought the film would go into more discussion about the different options - especially when something goes wrong with Safranek’s shrinking plan - but it didn’t. The film just carries on like none of those concerns matter any more once he’s small. Until the very end when suddenly those concerns are apparently very important again, but only for one group of people. I was also concerned that a new friend of Safranek literally states that his business model requires that he exploit small people in poorer countries, and that’s never addressed. Similarly, while people show mild horror at some of the exploitation and abuses involved with shrinking (prisoners forcefully undergoing the procedure for example) this is largely ignored by the film once it’s mentioned.

My husband pointed out a lot of the physics problems concerning the shrinking process itself - and not just the obvious one that you can’t shrink humans that much without causing major internal issues. Things like - shaving off hair won’t help if bits of hair are still left in the follicles (you’d have to do a full body wax). 

I was rather disappointed that we didn’t see more of how things worked in practice. Some people complained about the economics for those left behind and whether small people deserved equal voting rights. These are fascinating questions and they’re brushed aside as unimportant. 

I enjoyed the first part of the film and thought the rest was a boring meander through stuff Safranek does to pass the time and feel good about himself. 

Not recommended.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Shout-Out: The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

Ninni Holmqvist’s uncanny dystopian novel envisions a society in the not-so-distant future, where women over fifty and men over sixty who are unmarried and childless are sent to a retirement community called the Unit. They’re given lavish apartments set amongst beautiful gardens and state-of-the-art facilities; they’re fed elaborate gourmet meals, surrounded by others just like them. It’s an idyllic place, but there’s a catch: the residents—known as dispensables—must donate their organs, one by one, until the final donation. When Dorrit Weger arrives at the Unit, she resigns herself to this fate, seeking only peace in her final days. But she soon falls in love, and this unexpected, improbable happiness throws the future into doubt.

Clinical and haunting, The Unit is a modern-day classic and a chilling cautionary tale about the value of human life.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Bad Stock Photos of my Job

I saw this on facebook (oddly enough, as it's a twitter hashtag) but it gave me several good laughs, so I'm passing it on.

Type #badstockphotosofmyjob into twitter's search bar and enjoy the delightful mix of bad photos and hilarious captions.

Here are some of my favourites about writers:

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Graphic Novel Review: The Ghost, The Owl Written by Franco and Illustrated by Sara Richard

Pros: gorgeous artwork

Cons: the story jumps around

A ghost girl who doesn’t remember her past is aided by a friendly owl. Meanwhile, the woman who lives nearby is being menaced by an angry man.

The artwork is gorgeous. It’s all flowing waves of monochrome and colour that gives the book a surreal feel. I loved how the waves join objects (like the panel where one eye belongs to the owl, the other to the crow, with the beak being the owl in flight). The animals look realistic, even as the ghost has a dreamy look to her.

The story jumped around a fair bit, bringing in a lot of details but not explaining much. Several things relied more on cliches than development in the story. I did like the idea that your actions can have long term consequences - the owl has helped others and they willingly help him because of that. I was left wondering why the animals didn’t want the owl to help the woman. Sure, they’re different species, but she treats the land much better than the man would.

If you like the cover’s style, the artwork is definitely worth it.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Book Review: Ethiopian Painting in the Late Middle Ages and During the Gondar Dynasty by Jules Leroy

Translated by Claire Pace

Pros: one of the first books to cover the subject, gorgeous reproductions of the paintings discussed 

Cons: at times dismissive of the skill/style

Published in 1967, this is one of the first books to cover Ethiopian painting in the late middle ages and during the Gondar Dynasty. As such, it’s immensely important in bringing examples of this artwork to the attention of the outside world (though Ethiopian history and art still hasn’t gained much Western interest).  

The book consists of two chapters followed by the plates and explanations. Chapter one deals with the generalities of Ethiopian art and architecture for the period. Chapter two deals with specific paintings, the history of Gondar, and outside influences on Ethiopian art and how those influences were modified to reflect Ethiopian traditions.

The bibliography at the back shows just how limited sources on this topic were (and still are). 

While the author admired some aspects of Ethiopian art - enough to write a book on the subject - it’s also clear that he considered other aspects beneath those of Western and Asian artists. On page 24 for example, he writes, “Many Ethiopian paintings of the 15th and 16th Centuries reveal a similar character to that of the Irish miniatures, though with less talent and less subtlety.” Comments like this abound, where he compares the Ethiopian paintings to those of other nations and finds them wanting. 

The book is excellent for pointing out details those unfamiliar with Ethiopian life and Christian tradition might otherwise miss. For example, in images of the Flight into Egypt, a maid is seen accompanying the holy couple. Sometimes she’s carrying the Christ child, others she has a container of injera (flat bread) on her head. 

I found the discourse on how European, Byzantine and Indian art at times influenced that of Ethiopia. It shows that ideas travelled around the world, despite how insular modern audience believe nations were in the past.

While it’s not a perfect book, it is an important one and has some gorgeous artwork. It is out of print, but you may find a university or museum library that has a copy you can read.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Shout-Out: The Poppy War by R. Kuang

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .
Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Met Gala Costumes

I don't normally pay attention to fashion based things, but twitter's exploded with photos from the Met Gala a few days ago, where costumes to the theme of Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.

I'm not sure what the legalities are of posting copywrited photos on my blog, so I'll just be linking to articles where you can see the outfits. Vogue has a great post with all the dresses. Below I list some of my favourites.

Zendaya's Joan of Arc costume (for a front angle, the Vogue article shows it from the back) was my personal favourite. I loved the weightlessness of her faux chainmail. I loved how there are plate mail pieces at her shoulders and hips. While it's in no way practical armour, it is feminine and gorgeous.

Katy Perry went as an angel, with beautiful wings. Cara Delevingne had a stark black lace (?) dress that... while not something I'd want to wear is certainly arresting. I love the geometry of it. It's got a bit of knight and a bit of inquisition going on. I loved the beadwork on Jeremy Scott and Cardi B's outfits. Made me think of Renaissance cleric mixed with a Spanish bull fighter. Priyanka Chopra's red velvet dress with the gold headdress looked amazing. I think her outfit would have paired well with Andrew Garfield's red suit jacket + black bowtie ensemble. Blake Lively's embroidered dress was stunning. Lana Del Rey managed to wear a costume that not only depicts the sacred heart but also a seraphim (with 6 wings) growing out of the halo on her head.

Author Jeanette Ng has a brief twitter tutorial on how to make your own cable tie halo like the one sported by Amber Heard. It sounds like a strange idea but looks absolutely amazing spray painted gold (or black, depending on the look you're going for). If I knew a place I could wear it, I'd make one too. ;)

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Book Review: Medusa Uploaded by Emily Devenport

Pros: fascinating characters, excellent world building, layered mysteries


Oichi Angelis is a murderess and conspirator upon the generation spaceship Olympia. Using a Medusa unit, she’s been taking out key members of the Executive class. But the Executives aren’t the only threats to her mission to overturn the ship’s rigid class system.

The back cover synopsis for this book calls Oichi a ‘worm’, which I’d misinterpreted as meaning she was either a computer program or A.I. of some sort. So I was surprised to discover she was a human, and that ‘worm’ was a slur for low level people on the ship. Oichi is a fascinating character, who’s completely unapologetic about the live’s she’s taken (who are mostly horrible people), that you can’t help but like her. In many ways it’s her connection with Medusa, a partly biological machine, that allows her to be such a good assassin.

The world-building is great. The author manages to explain the ship’s history in ways that felt organic but not intrusive. For example, there’s a scene where Oishi is pretending to study for school while she’s actually doing something else. So the narrative is interrupted by occasional digressions of the video that’s playing on her screen. At other times we learn about the ship as she does, especially with regards to the executives and their dealings. 

There are several overlapping mysteries, all introduced in layers. One mystery is a snippet of conversation Oishi overhears as a child. As she grows up she tries to understand what the Executives were saying, but her interpretation changes as she learns more and more.

Chapters are written in a circuitous way, starting with foreshadowing of what’s going to happen, then a linear narrative leading back to what was hinted at or stated earlier. I was impressed at how well the author managed to guide you through the narrative. There was only one spot where I was confused about when an event happened, and that was cleared up quickly. As Oichi learns more about one mystery, others - so many others - come to light. The book keeps you guessing about everyone’s motivations.

I really enjoyed this and can’t wait for the next book.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Book Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne

Translated by: F. P. Walter

Pros: interesting characters, some cool exploration, a few exciting and tense scenes

Cons: heavy on the science, at least some of the science is wrong, quite dry and boring (especially part 1) 

This is a complete translation, with occasional editor notes, of the French classic science fiction novel.

The year is 1867, and while hunting a mysterious sea creature, Professor Aronnax, his manservant Conseil, and a Canadian harpooner become permanent guests of the underwater vessel Nautilus, taking a tour of the seas of the world with Captain Nemo.

While I’d seen the Disney movie, this was my first time reading the book. It’s an interesting experience as it’s clearly a hard SF novel - with lots of facts and figures extolling theories current at the time of publication in 1869 (some of which were later proved wrong, like the idea that there’s a liquid sea at the South pole), and postulating science that didn’t exist yet (like a working submarine). At the same time, all of the scientific explanations and the long passages detailing the classification of sea life the travellers view in the various seas, is really quite boring (your mileage may vary). I found myself skimming whole pages at a time, wanting to get to the more interesting (to me, at least) plot and character based segments of the text.

From a historical view point I can understand why the book was so popular. This depicts an underwater tour at a time when such a thing really was fiction. Given how much interest there was in travelogues about foreign lands, I can only imagine how quickly people grabbed this depiction of the waters. And parts of the book are quite fascinating. The classification sections would have been more interesting if accompanied by photographs/illustrations, but even without them, if you’ve never seen actual videos and photos of the oceans and its life, this would have been an incredible adventure to read.

Given when it was published, it’s not surprising there’s some amount of racist thought. There are some negative comments about the inhabitants of more ‘savage’ islands as well as Africa. Conseil, though 30 years old, is called ‘boy’ and ‘lad’, which annoyed me. He’s Flemish and sentiments regarding his nation aren’t particularly positive either.  

This translation was quite good. The editor noted certain words that had shifted meanings or which would be unknown to people outside the nautical trades. I also thought it great that he mentioned that ‘Nemo’ is Latin for ’no name’. We’re so used to thinking of it as a name, that it’s easy to forget it actually refers to how he’s refusing to name himself to the narrator, and thinks of himself as a nobody with regards to the outside world. 

The translator also provides a short introduction to the text (which I read after finishing the novel), which goes over some of the errors Verne made with regards to science but also how the book inspired generations of explorers, including Sir Ernest Shackleton and Jacques Cousteau.

The plot aspects were quite interesting. The second part of the book has a lot less exposition and a lot more wonder. There’s also more action, so I enjoyed it more. I can definitely understand reading the abridged version though, as I’m sure it takes out a lot of the dryer - and less interesting from a modern perspective - parts of the novel.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Shout-Out: Whisper by Lynette Noni

For two and a half years, Subject 684 --- "Jane Doe" --- has been locked underground in a secret government facility, enduring tests and torture. In that time, she hasn't uttered a single word. Not even her real name. Jane chooses to remain silent rather than risk losing control over the power within her. She alone knows what havoc her words can cause. Then the authorities put her in the care of the mysterious Landon Ward, and Jane is surprised when he treats her like a person rather than a prisoner. Ward's protective nature causes her resolve to crack in spite of her best efforts to resist. Just as Jane begins to trust him, though, a freak accident reveals the dangerous power she has concealed for years. It also reveals that the government has been keeping secrets of its own. Now Jane's ability is at the heart of a sinister plot for vengeance, and she has to decide whom she will trust ... and whom she will help.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Video: 1374 Drones over the city of Xi'an

Drone operators in Xi'an have created a new Guinness Book of World's Records for the "most unmanned aerial vehicles (UVAs) airborne simultaneously", and it's a gorgeous sight.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Book Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Pros: interesting protagonist

Cons: short

Murderbot is a SecUnit made of half cloned human parts and half mechanical parts that’s hacked its governor module so it no longer has to obey commands. It’s been assigned to provide security for a small survey group looking at a new planet. But the group encounters an unknown hostile life form that wasn’t mentioned in the original survey report, which makes them wonder what else was missed - or possibly removed on purpose.

This is a 100 page novella, so it’s fairly short. That means it’s light on the world-building and character development. While you get to know Murderbot pretty well, the other characters, with the exception of Gurathin (who’s a light antagonist) and Mensah (the group leader) felt interchangeable. Having said that, Murderbot is fascinating and you really get inside its head.

The plot was interesting and quick paced. There are some tense moments, though the ending comes up so fast it didn’t feel particularly climactic (which may be due to my reading the story in 2 sittings instead of all at once).

It’s fun and entertaining and I’ll definitely read the next one.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Books Received in April 2018

Many thanks as always to the publishers and publicists that send me books for review.

Head On by John Scalzi - This is set in the same world as Lock In (my review), which I really enjoyed.

John Scalzi returns with Head On, the standalone follow-up to the New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed Lock In. Chilling near-future SF with the thrills of a gritty cop procedural, Head On brings Scalzi's trademark snappy dialogue and technological speculation to the future world of sports.
Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent's head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are "threeps," robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden's Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it.
Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.
Is it an accident or murder? FBI agents and Haden-related crime investigators, Chris Shane and Leslie Vann, are called in to uncover the truth-and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost, and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.

Fire Dance by Ilana Myer - Sounds interesting...

Palace intrigue, dark magic, and terrifying secrets drive the beautifully written standalone novel Fire Dance, set in the world of Last Song Before Night.
Espionage, diplomacy, conspiracy, passion, and power are the sensuously choreographed steps of the soaring new high fantasy novel by Ilana C. Myer, one woman's epic mission to stop a magical conflagration.
Lin, newly initiated in the art of otherwordly enchantments, is sent to aid her homeland's allies against vicious attacks from the Fire Dancers: mysterious practitioners of strange and deadly magic. Forced to step into a dangerous waltz of tradition, treachery, and palace secrets, Lin must also race the ticking clock of her own rapidly dwindling life to learn the truth of the Fire Dancers' war, and how she might prevent death on a scale too terrifying to contemplate.
Myer's novel is a symphony of secret towers, desert winds, burning sands, blood and dust. Her prose soars, and fluid movements of the politically charged plot carry the reader toward a shocking crescendo.

The Ghost, The Owl Written by Franco and Illustrated by Sara Richard - The artwork for this looks beautiful.

On a cool evening on the swamp, a figure appears dancing across the water. A human figure, but far from a human form. A Ghost, a young girl spirit that seems to have lost its way. A good Samaritan owl decides to help against the wishes of his animal brethren. What mysteries does the ghost girl hold the secrets to and what will happen when she and the owl unlock them together? Will they find out what happened to her? Will she find her way to where she needs to be? What will happen to the animals in the swamp and surrounding forest? An adventure with the most unlikely of pairs, The Ghost, the Owl.

City of Lies by Sam Hawke - The first line of this book is an amazing hook.

Poison. Treachery. Ancient spirits. Sieges. The Poison Wars begin now, with City of Lies, a fabulous epic fantasy debut by Sam Hawke.
I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me...
Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor's charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he's a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor's family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.
But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising...and angry.

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett - I loved his Divine Cities series (starting with City of Stairs) and can't wait to read this book.

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic--the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience--have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Trade Route Maps

There's a pervasive idea the medieval Europe was a self-contained entity that knew nothing about - and had no trade with - distant lands. Two people have set up maps that show how interconnected the ancient and medieval worlds really are.

The first is a map by Sasha Trubetskoy of the Roman roads, done up as if they were modern subway routes. While Rome built roads so as to transport troops quickly, they also facilitated trade. Her map doesn't show water routes, which would have also been extensive, but it's fascinating looking at how far the empire's reach was. She's got some notes at the bottom where she lists the limitations of her map (she sometimes changed or created names, conflated two roads into one, that sort of stuff).

The second is by Martin Mnsson, which shows his third updated Medieval trade networks during the 11th and 12th Centuries. And they are EXTENSIVE. Consider where spices came from and how they were used in cooking. Consider the luxury goods the nobility desired. There's a fantastic book called The Alchemy of Paint by Spike Bucklow that goes into a lot of the exclusive materials used in art and where they were mined (and many came from outside Europe). Mnsson has a link where you can download a high definition version of his map.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Shout-Out: Future Fiction: New Dimensions in International Science Fiction, Edited by Bill Campbell and Francesco Verso

In its brief existence, Rosarium Publishing has worked hard in “introducing the world to itself” through groundbreaking, award-winning science fiction and comics. In combing the planet to find the best in each field, Rosarium's own Bill Campbell has found a fellow spirit in Italian publisher, Francesco Verso. Borrowing from the fine tradition of American underground dance labels introducing international labels' music to the people back home, Rosarium brings to you Future Fiction: New Dimensions in International Science Fiction, a thrilling collection of innovative science fiction originally published by Francesco Verso's Italian company, Future Fiction. Here you will find thirteen incredible tales from all around the globe that will not only introduce you to worlds you may not be familiar with but also expand your horizons and the horizons of the science fiction field itself.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Video: Tofu Legends

This is an interesting video showcasing a grandmother in rural China making tofu for the spring festival. They also show her fetching water, using several old style tools for pounding chilies and rice, cooking delicious looking meals and farming. It’s incredible that people still use some medieval technologies - and how effective they are.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Book Review: Good Guys by Steven Brust

Pros: interesting characters, good investigation

Cons: not immersive, lots of intuitive leaps the reader can’t always follow

Donovan, Marci and Susan work minimum wage for the Foundation’s North American division of Investigations and Enforcement. Their job is to keep the public from learning about the existence of magic by tracking down sorcerers who use magic to commit crimes. When members of their opposition organization, the Mystici, start dying in a mix of what might be magical or mundane means, the three investigate. But if the killer is going after horrible people, does stopping the murders really make them the good guys?

While I loved the premise, I found the execution disappointing. What interested me about the story was the dramatic recruitment story of Donovan, told on the dust jacket and the moral complexities of stopping a killer whose targets you agree should probably die. Instead of starting with a prologue of Donovan’s recruitment or showing it in a first person flashback, the author simply plops it into a rather dry conversation, stripping it of all emotion and impact. And when Donovan questions early on if what they’re doing makes them the good guys, you don’t know the characters well enough or understand the full context of the case, or the history of the Foundation, to even begin to have an opinion. Considering how much about the Foundation and the people working there that Donovan learns about during this case, it seems he doesn’t even know enough about who he’s working for to know if he’s on the right side (which to me sound like the kinds of things to question/learn about before you agree to work for them).

I know I’m getting older because I have a lot of trouble keeping names straight in books nowadays. And having most people go by first names until the end of the book when someone randomly used their last names, threw me. I had to look everyone’s full name to figure out who was being addressed.

The investigation was good though I found myself in that awkward position of sometimes feeling really smart - because I understood Donovan’s cryptic explanations - and sometimes feeling really dumb - because at times Donovan’s explanations jumped some steps that I couldn’t follow.

The characters were all interesting. Donovan’s really clever and I liked seeing him make intuitive leaps (even if I couldn’t always follow them). Seeing how he navigates a racist world was also interesting. I did question his decision to bring suspects to his apartment for interrogation and then just let them go. Seemed a stupid thing to do. Susan was probably my favourite character, being skilled at martial arts and otherwise kind of quirky. Marci felt a bit overpowered as a sorceress, though she does have a refraction period she has to wait between casting more powerful spells.

The world-building was ok. I didn’t quite understand the split between the Foundation and the Mystici, though I did grasp that their philosophy was different. I didn’t understand why slipwalks would cost so much after the initial preparation for the space. I also didn’t believe the accounting error could be found so quickly. 

The ending left me feeling disappointed. There’s a climactic battle that’s completely skipped over, a death that isn’t properly felt, and a resolution with consequences that don’t fit the crimes committed.

The book sounded great, but I wasn’t a fan of the execution.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Movie Review: Radius

Directed by Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard

Pros: interesting premise, good acting, good pacing

Cons: limited answers

Liam wakes up from a car crash with no memory. As he walks towards town he notices people and animals mysteriously dying and fears he’s in a plague zone. But the truth he discovers is much worse.

I went into this movie knowing nothing about it and I enjoyed it a lot. The SF elements are minor but important, and add to the mystery of what’s happening.

It’s heavily character driven, with Liam (Diego Klattenhoff) trying to figure out what’s going on and then realizing that Jane (Charlotte Sullivan) is just as deeply involved. You can feel their frustration and fear as they struggle to get help while not getting caught by the police. The pacing is good, letting them learn/remember enough to keep things interesting.

My husband and I were left with some questions about how Liam’s … powers… worked, which I’ll mention a bit more in the spoiler section below.

The film kept me guessing and had a satisfying ending. 

*** SPOILERS ***

I wondered whether Liam’s powers were tied to him being alive or whether his body would have the same effect. My husband went a step further and asked if parts of his body would have the same effect as the whole. Could his nail clippings hurt someone? A severed finger? If so, would the range be the same or smaller due to the smaller size of the item? Obviously the film assumed that once he died the power died too (even though hair and nails keep growing for a while after death). This could have had an amazing horror ending by showing people drop dead as Rose got further away from him. But I was satisfied with the ending they used.

I found the ending to be a great twist because you really start to like Liam, so the reveals come as a kick to the gut.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Shout-Out: A Tracker's Tale by Karen Avizur

Welcome to the strange and perilous world of Katherine Colebrook: FBI special agent, Los Angeles… Trackers Division.

In Katherine’s world, werewolves, vampires, púcas, and other parasapien species – forced for centuries by human fear and prejudice to live at the fringes of society – have finally come out of hiding to demand their rightful place alongside us. It’s a fragile co-existence, fraught with mutual distrust: a new social contract for which the rules are still evolving. And when those rules break down – usually when a parasapien begins preying on humans – that’s when the Trackers step in. It’s their job to hunt them down and stop them by any means necessary. 
Within this elite unit, Katherine Colebrook is one of the best. Her psychic abilities made her a natural for the Trackers Division, allowing her to move between the parasapien and human worlds in ways that no other agent could. But Katherine’s calling hasn’t come without struggle and losses along the way. As a single mother, she must contend with her teenage daughter, Alexandra, who not only shares Katherine’s psychic abilities, but seems determined to follow the same dangerous path as her mother. 
And so, when Katherine’s latest assignment threatens to bring that danger too close home, she finds herself faced with the toughest challenge of her career: Can she protect her daughter’s life, while battling a ruthless adversary who’ll stop at nothing to destroy her?

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Pros: emotional complexity, fascinating characters, lots of twists, interesting setting

Cons: some issues with the timeline/distances travelled towards the end

When the terrorized daughter of the king witnesses one outrage too many, she steals an artifact that can open diviners to their magical heritage. While escaping, she runs into a young diviner who’s still angry and traumatized by her mother’s execution during the king’s Raid 11 years ago, when magic first disappeared. Together they learn that magic can be returned to the land. But the King sends his son and his general to hunt them down.

There are some great characters in this book. While I didn’t always agree with their choices (especially those of the hot tempered Zélie), I thought their decisions made sense based on their personalities, traumas, and the challenges they faced. I was impressed at the complexity of their emotions and how the author actually dealt with their emotions rather than simply letting the story brush trauma and consequences aside. The book deals with the aftermath of torture, of killing for the first time, of personal failure, of so many harsh emotions and conditions. I really understood the prince’s fear of magic and his desire to please his father, even as he realized what a monster the man was. I felt sorry for him. I also I loved seeing his sister’s growth throughout the book. I also liked how Zélie and Amari slowly learn to trust each other and become friends.

There were quite a few twists and turns, both in terms of the quest, but also in terms of people learning who they are in the face of various trials.

The setting was pretty cool and seemed to draw inspiration from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, particularly the language. Though the country in the book is called Orïsha, I don’t believe the maji religion takes any influence from the Yoruba’s religious practices of the same name (but please correct me if I’m wrong, wikipedia isn’t the best place to get information like this. And as an aside, I enjoyed looking up some of the unfamiliar words to see if they had real world significance. This isn’t necessary to enjoy the book, but why not learn some real culture/history too?). I loved the idea that people capable of magic were physically marked with white hair. The practice of magic itself required a mixture of innate ability and incantations, so it didn’t seem overpowered. I did like that various people questioned the wisdom of bringing magic back, of the problems that could arise if someone evil could wield offensive magic like fire. It treated magic like the dangerous weapon it could be in the wrong hands - or even the right ones.

The world feels very lived in and real. It was quite different from anything I’ve read before and I loved that. I really liked the ryders and wish I could have one. The geography became problematic towards the end, in terms of how quickly people could suddenly travel far distances, which I’ll discuss more in the spoiler section. Though, that’s possibly due to the map being out of scale from the distances the author envisioned.

While they’re not marked as an appendix, after the text comes an author’s note, a ‘behind the scenes’ annotated chapter 57 from the book, and a list of the Maji clans with their powers and the names of their gods. 

While the book wasn’t perfect, it’s unique setting and characters make it worth the read. There’s some romance and a good amount of action, particularly the fight scenes at the end. If you’re looking for a different kind of fantasy, give this a go.

*** SPOILERS ***

Don’t look at the map too closely when following their journey as some of the distances and features don’t make sense. Maps aren’t usually done by the author and tend to be more artistic than accurate, so consider it a rough guide rather than an absolute if, like me, you’re trying to figure out their route.

In terms of the timeline, I can accept that Inan rides like the wind to catch up to the others after leaving his guards behind in Chândomblé, but I was surprised by how willing he and Zélie were to waste a night before going in to rescue their friends at the bandit camp, and that they didn’t even consider sneaking in and avoiding the guards at the gate altogether. And once they befriended the bandits, they decide to stay an extra day for a party, even though they’ve only got 5 days to get to the island? Ignoring the fact that they’re celebrating prematurely, they justify this decision saying that getting a boat in Zaria cuts their travel time in half. Getting a boat in Zaria was always the plan, and it doesn’t cut their travel time down at all, as most of the distance they need to cover is over land. Now, if they took a boat down the river to Jemeta, I’d agree that that would cut down on travel time as land travel is slower and Jimeta would leave them much closer to the island (they do end up taking this route, but overland not by river boat). They’re also ignoring any travel time they’ll need once they get to the island, as the temple isn’t on the coastline on the map. There’s also the problem of how Inan’s men managed to find Zélie’s father and transport him from wherever he was hiding to the island in one day. (Even if you assume the dad was in custody already, he likely wasn’t being held on the East coast, ready to board a boat.) 

On a different note, It seemed a little too convenient for the organizers of the killing theatre in Ibeji to make the winnings so high that they went bankrupt upon someone’s winning the competition. I’m sure they would have kept some of that gold for themselves, enough to create a new cash grab entertainment show. It’s an instance where I thought the book ignored the complexities of life, which was unfortunate as it dealt so well with this in other areas.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Video: Children of the Middle Ages

A lot of fantasy novels seem to ignore children, despite the fact that there would have been a lot of them. With high infant mortality rates (you have several children in the hopes that a few make it to adulthood) and limited birth control methods, families tended to be on the large side.

This documentary shows some of the evidence left behind by children and how historians read between the lines to find out what life was like for them, from the games they played to the work they did.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Shout-Out: How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens by Paul Noth

One thing still lacking in SF are a lot of good middle grade books to get kids between the ages of 8 and 12 interested in the genre. While I haven't read this, it sounds hilarious.
Happy Conklin Jr. is the only 10-year-old who has to shave three times a day. Hap's dad is a brilliant inventor of screwball products, and being a Conklin kid means sometimes being experimented on. So Hap has his beard, and his five sisters each have their own unique--and often problematic--qualities too. And although Hap's dad has made a fortune with his wacky inventions sold via nonstop TV infomercials, all of that money has gone to Hap's tyrannical Grandma. While she lives in an enormous mansion, the rest of the family lives in two rooms in the basement. 
All Hap has ever wanted is to have a normal life, so when he sees a chance to get rid of Grandma, he takes it! He only means to swap out Grandma, but when he--oops!--sells his whole family to the aliens, he wants nothing more than to get them back. He just has to figure out . . . how?

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Fantasy Book Cafe's Women in SF&F Month

Fantasy Book Cafe's doing her annual Women in SF&F month! I love reading the posts each year and adding books to the growing list of recommended books by women. You're allowed to recommend 10 books at a time (and the results are tallied, with books getting more recommendations going higher up the list).

There are a few posts up already, so go check it out!

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Book Review: One Way by S. J. Morden

Pros: interesting characters, fast paced, tense

Cons: a little obvious

In an attempt to save money, XO recruits convicts to man its mission to Mars and build its NASA contracted habitat. But Mars is a dangerous place and ‘accidents’ happen.

I really enjoyed this book. Frank’s an interesting narrator who knows about as much as the reader with regards to what’s going on. A lot of the mystery and suspense surrounds the aspects of the mission that the ‘crew’ aren’t aware of as they’re rushed through training and shipped off to Mars. 

I thought there was a good mix of characters in terms of personality and the reason they were behind bars. I did wonder why Brack was so obviously antagonistic towards the convicts, considering he needed the group to work together. Yes, they needed to stay in line, but he generally did more harm than good with his comments.

The depictions of life on Mars were great. A lot of care was obviously taken to point out the very real dangers of living and working there. 

Due to a lack of attention, it took me a while to realize that the opening quotes weren’t in chronological order as I’d expected. Pay attention to the dates so you can piece together the history of XO’s planning for - and problems regarding - the Mars mission. 

The story is fast paced. While I figured out one mystery quite early, the ending was still very tense and suspenseful. 

Friday, 6 April 2018

Movie Review: Starman

Directed by John Carpenter, 1984

Pros: excellent soundtrack, some incredible acting, realistic human response

Cons: not sold on the romance, one special effect looks terrible

An alien comes to Earth in response to the Voyager welcome message. Shot down by the military, the alien takes on the form of the deceased Scott Hayden and forces the man’s wife, Jenny Hayden, to drive him to Arizona where he’s supposed to meet up with another ship. All the while being hunted by the military and a SETI agent.

I saw this once as a kid and remembered a lot more of it than I expected. While a few of the special effects didn’t age well (specifically the alien growing from a human baby into Jeff Bridges) most of them were low key and so still carry a bit of wonder to them. 

Jeff Bridges does a remarkable job as an alien who can’t walk right, talks with extra clear enunciation, demands explanations of unfamiliar words, and just feels OFF. It’s a challenging role and he sells it completely.

I was impressed how the minimalistic soundtrack ended up emphasizing the theme song - played when the alien uses ‘magic’ or when something sad or touching happens. It’s a masterful piece of conditioning, much like the shark theme in Jaws.

I wasn’t entirely sold on the romance. Everything happens so fast that I have trouble believing Jenny could go from one extreme to the other. Especially considering how child-like the alien is in some ways.

Unfortunately I suspect that if aliens were to visit the Earth this is the treatment they’d get. It’s sad that while we’ve come so far in some ways, we haven’t changed at all in others.

While not a movie I’d watch often, it is worth seeing once. It’s slow moving and character driven, but you really feel for the alien at the end.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

StoryBundle's DRM free World Sci-Fi eBook Bundle

I haven't posted many of these ebook bundles lately, but this one's got some great stuff. I enjoyed Servant of the Underworld (read before I started reviewing) and Prime Meridian and thought the Apex Book of World SF 4 had some interesting stories. The Secret History of Moscow has long been on my 'to read' list.

Basically how these bundles work is you pay what you want (ETA: starting at $5) for the first group of books (in this case 4 titles: The Secret History of Moscow, Servant of the Underworld, The Apex Book of World SF 4, and A Small Charred Face). If you pay more than $15, you get all the other books as well. They're DRM free and in multiple formats (generally epub, mobi (for kindles), and/or PDF).

Check out the StoryBundle page to read more about the books.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Video: New Spice

Electric Lit has a round up of some fantastically funny videos by librarians, including this New Spice spoof on the Old Spice ads by BYU library. The other videos are mostly music video parodies and are very well done. I recommend checking them out (especially the Uptown Funk video).

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Book Review: Archangel by Margaret Fortune

Pros: tense, action packed, interesting characters


Roughly a year after the events of Nova, Michael Sorenson is now a soldier, working to evacuate people from stations and planets overrun by ghouls and squatters (humans infected by ghouls). When he’s offered a job working for research and development, he believes he’s helping save the human race from the alien threat. Then he uncovers signs of sabotage on the station. He searches for the saboteur even as the scientists search for a way to eradicate the ghouls, once and for all.

This is book 2 in the Spectre War series, and while you can read this volume without reading book 1, a lot of Michael’s motivations come down to what happened at the end of Nova. This book has a very different feel, being entirely about the military and how to attack and defend yourself against an incorporeal opponent. While there’s camaraderie, there’s no romance and I was astonished at how willing the author was to show that war means loss.

You don’t learn as much about Michael’s compatriots as I’d have liked, but they are an interesting bunch. The power play interludes between the Chairman, the Admiral, and the Doctor, were also great in terms of showing what was happening with the war outside R&D.

Though a lot of the science goes unexplained (like how ships travel the vast distances of space between planets and stations) there’s some great world-building. Though mentioned only briefly, the Order of the Spectre horrified me, but unfortunately didn’t surprise me as a religious belief system. The planet where R&D is stationed sounded quite beautiful, and I’d have loved to visit, ghouls notwithstanding.

The plot takes several interesting turns, and the ending, though not as shocking as that of Nova, was still unsettling in its implications. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Books Received in March, 2018

Many thanks to the publishers who sent me books for review this month. I've managed to read several of them already and have plans to read others soon.

The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum - I really enjoyed this book and have reviewed it already. It's got a similar premise to the movie The Adjustment Bureau (which is loosely based on a Philip K. Dick short story) but takes it in different directions. If you liked that film, you'll love this.

In this genre-bending novel, there is no such thing as chance and every action is carefully executed by highly trained agents. You'll never look at coincidences the same way again.
What if the drink you just spilled, the train you just missed, or the lottery ticket you just found was not just a random occurrence? What if it's all part of a bigger plan? What if there's no such thing as a chance encounter? What if there are people we don't know determining our destiny? And what if they are even planning the fate of the world?
Enter the Coincidence Makers-Guy, Emily, and Eric-three seemingly ordinary people who work for a secret organization devoted to creating and carrying out coincidences. What the rest of the world sees as random occurrences, are, in fact, carefully orchestrated events designed to spark significant changes in the lives of their targets-scientists on the brink of breakthroughs, struggling artists starved for inspiration, loves to be, or just plain people like you and me.
When an assignment of the highest level is slipped under Guy's door one night, he knows it will be the most difficult and dangerous coincidence he's ever had to fulfill. But not even a coincidence maker can see how this assignment is about to change all their lives and teach them the true nature of fate, free will, and the real meaning of love.

Archangel by Margaret Fortune - As this is book 2 of the series, and its synopsis contains spoilery information, I'm using the synopsis for book 1, Nova, here. I've reviewed Nova already and my review of Archangel will be up next week. Archangel has a more military SF feel than Nova, which felt more young adult. But they're both great books and I'm really looking forward to the next one.

The clock activates so suddenly in my mind, my head involuntarily jerks a bit to the side. The fog vanishes, dissipated in an instant as though it never was. Memories come slotting into place, their edges sharp enough to leave furrows, and suddenly I know. I know exactly who I am.

My name is Lia Johansen, and I was named for a prisoner of war. She lived in the Tiersten Internment Colony for two years, and when they negotiated the return of the prisoners, I was given her memories and sent back in her place.

And I am a genetically engineered human bomb.

Lia Johansen was created for only one purpose: to slip onto the strategically placed New Sol Space Station and explode.

But her mission goes to hell when her clock malfunctions, freezing her countdown with just two minutes to go. With no Plan B, no memories of her past, and no identity besides a name stolen from a dead POW, Lia has no idea what to do next. Her life gets even more complicated when she meets Michael Sorenson, the real Lia’s childhood best friend.

Drawn to Michael and his family against her better judgment, Lia starts learning what it means to live and love, and to be human. It is only when her countdown clock begins sporadically losing time that she realizes even duds can still blow up.

If she wants any chance at a future, she must find a way to unlock the secrets of her past and stop her clock. But as Lia digs into her origins, she begins to suspect there’s far more to her mission and to this war, than meets the eye. With the fate of not just a space station but an entire empire hanging in the balance, Lia races to find the truth before her time—literally—runs out.

Denver Moon #1: Murder on Mars and Denver Moon #2: Rafe's Revenge by Warren Hammond and Joshua Viola - These are the first 2 issues of a 3 issue prequel graphic novel for the novella The Minds of Mars. I've reviewed the first issue already.

A murderer stalks the botsie parlors of Mars, viciously dismembering prostitutes and salvaging their body parts. Denver Moon, P.I., is hired to solve the homicides, but when the victims are robots, can it really be called murder?

Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars by Warren Hammond and Joshua Viola - This is a novella that sounds like a great SF noir. It's out in June.

Once considered humanity’s future home, Mars hasn’t worked out like anybody hoped. Plagued by crime and a terraforming project that's centuries from completion, Mars is a red hell.
Denver Moon, P.I., works the dark underbelly of Mars City. While investigating a series of violent crimes linked to red fever—a Martian disorder that turns its victims into bloodthirsty killers—Denver discovers a cryptic message left by Tatsuo Moon, Mars City co-founder and Denver's grandfather. The same grandfather who died two decades ago.
Twenty-year-old revelations force Denver on a quest for truth, but Tatsuo's former friend, Cole Hennessy, leader of the Church of Mars, has other plans and will stop at nothing to keep Denver from disclosing Tatsuo's secrets to the world.
Hell-bent on reclaiming her grandfather's legacy, Denver—along with her AI implant, Smith, companion android, Nigel, and shuttle pilot, Navya—set out on a quest to find the answers they hope will shed light on the church's true agenda, the origin of red fever, and the mysteries surrounding Tatsuo's tragic death.

One Way by S. J. Morden - I finished this yesterday and it's quite a ride. The last few chapters were especially tense. The book - and my review - will be out on April 10.

When the small crew of ex cons working on Mars start getting murdered, everyone is a suspect in this terrifying science fiction thriller from bona fide rocket scientist and award winning-author S. J. Morden.

It's the dawn of a new era - and we're ready to colonize Mars. But the company that's been contracted to construct a new Mars base, has made promises they can't fulfill and is desperate enough to cut corners. The first thing to go is the automation . . . the next thing they'll have to deal with is the eight astronauts they'll send to Mars, when there aren't supposed to be any at all.

Frank - father, architect, murderer - is recruited for the mission to Mars with the promise of a better life, along with seven of his most notorious fellow inmates. But as his crew sets to work on the red wasteland of Mars, the accidents mount up, and Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all. As the list of suspect grows shorter, it's up to Frank to uncover the terrible truth before it's too late.

Dr. S. J. Morden trained as a rocket scientist before becoming the author of razor-sharp, award-winning science fiction. Perfect for fans of Andy Weir's The Martian and Richard Morgan, One Way takes off like a rocket, pulling us along on a terrifying, epic ride with only one way out.

Dayfall by Michael David Ares - This book sounds very interesting. I'm hoping to get to it in April or May.

In the near future, patches of the northern hemisphere have been shrouded in years of darkness from a nuclear winter, and the water level has risen in the North Atlantic. The island of Manhattan has lost its outer edges to flooding and is now ringed by a large seawall.
The darkness and isolation have allowed crime and sin to thrive in the never-ending shadows of the once great city, and when the sun finally begins to reappear, everything gets worse. A serial killer cuts a bloody swath across the city during the initial periods of daylight, and a violent panic sweeps through crowds on the streets. The Manhattan police, riddled with corruption and apathy, are at a loss.
That's when the Mayor recruits Jon Phillips, a small-town Pennsylvania cop who had just single-handedly stopped a high-profile serial killer in his own area, and flies him into the insanity of this new New York City. The young detective is partnered with a shady older cop and begins to investigate the crimes amidst the vagaries of a twenty-four hour
nightlife he has never experienced before. Soon realizing that he was chosen for reasons other than what he was told, Jon is left with no one to trust and forced to go on the run in the dark streets, and below them in the maze of the underground. Against all odds he still hopes that he can save his own life, the woman of his dreams, and maybe even the whole city before the arrival of the mysterious and dreaded event that has come to be known as.. DAYFALL.

Good Guys by Steven Brust - This superhero novel sounds absolutely brilliant and very topical. Ah, so many great books and so little time. How many weeks does April have?

Donovan was shot by a cop. For jaywalking, supposedly. Actually, for arguing with a cop while black. Four of the nine shots were lethal-or would have been, if their target had been anybody else. The Foundation picked him up, brought him back, and trained him further. "Lethal" turns out to be a relative term when magic is involved.
When Marci was fifteen, she levitated a paperweight and threw it at a guy she didn't like. The Foundation scooped her up for training too.
"Hippie chick" Susan got well into her Foundation training before they told her about the magic, but she's as powerful as Donovan and Marci now.
They can teleport themselves thousands of miles, conjure shields that will stop bullets, and read information from the remnants of spells cast by others days before.
They all work for the secretive Foundation.for minimum wage.
Which is okay, because the Foundation are the good guys. Aren't they?

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Shout-Out: Flotsam by R. J. Theodore

A fantastical steampunk first contact novel that ties together high magic, high technology, and bold characters to create a story you won’t soon forget.
Captain Talis just wants to keep her airship crew from starving, and maybe scrape up enough cash for some badly needed repairs. When an anonymous client offers a small fortune to root through a pile of atmospheric wreckage, it seems like an easy payday. The job yields an ancient ring, a forbidden secret, and a host of deadly enemies.
Now on the run from cultists with powerful allies, Talis needs to unload the ring as quickly as possible. Her desperate search for a buyer and the fallout from her discovery leads to a planetary battle between a secret society, alien forces, and even the gods themselves.
Talis and her crew have just one desperate chance to make things right before their potential big score destroys them all.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Video: Glam & Gore make-up tutorial

This isn't the sort of video I usually post here, but this make-up tutorial for a creature that wears another creature's skin is phenomenal. The make-up artist is Mykie (Glam & Gore channel) and she's recreating a drawing by Alex Pardee.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Book Review: Nova by Margaret Fortune

Pros: good pacing, interesting characters, interesting mystery, light romance
Cons: felt like Lia should have understood a few things faster

For three years the Celestial Expanse and the Tellurian Alliance have fought over rights to New Earth. Now, there’s a cease-fire accompanied by the good-will release of 500 prisoners of war from the Tellurian prisoner of war camp at Tiersten Colony. Among those being released onto New Sol station is sixteen year old Lia Johansen. But she’s actually a living bomb, set to go off in thirty-six hours.

This is the first book in the Spectre War series, and it’s a doozie. Given the age of the protagonist and her search for meaning after things go wrong, it kind of felt like a YA novel. There’s a touch of romance, coming of age, befriending an enemy… But throughout there’s an undercurrent of something else - the same mystery that Lia’s trying to remember.

I thought the pacing was great, with the book teasing out bits and pieces of the mystery. There was one aspect in particular that I was surprised she didn’t grasp earlier. Yes, she is sixteen and it wouldn’t be easy to work around false memories, but it did frustrate me a bit.

The romance elements were great and gave the ending quite a punch. I liked that Lia developed friendships with several women of various ages. Often books ignore the importance of female friendships to female protagonists, so I really appreciated seeing this.

While the story is self-contained, it opens a lot of future possibilities, and leaves you wanting to know what happens next.

Friday, 23 March 2018

3D Metal Model: Kinkakuji

Last weekend I built another 3D metal model, this time of Kinkakuji, the Japanese golden pavilion in Kyoto.

This one contained 3 golden metal sheets for building the model (usually you get 1 or 2 sheets). As far as building went, this was one of the easier models I've done. I did mess up and thought I'd put the phoenix on the room facing the wrong direction so I 'fixed' it. I thought the outbuilding was the front, and once I'd bent and unbent the flaps once I didn't want to mess with them again for fear of breaking them off.

Like the other models I've done this one looks incredible finished. The real Kinkakuji is even more beautiful: