Tag Archives: sci-fi

Dragon Seed (Archemi Online #1)

Title: Dragon Seed

Author: James Baldwin

Series: Archemi Online #1

Hector is dying of an artificial virus, but he’s determined not to go out quietly. When he receives a message from his estranged brother, he returns home to find an unexpected opportunity to extend his life via the first full virtual reality game. The only problem is that the game’s still in progress. Still, Hector decides it’s worth the chance, and plunges into a fantastic world with the goal of becoming a dragon rider . . .

This has amazing characterization. From the very beginning, Hector’s reckless personality shines bright, and the various humans and NPCs he runs into are equally compelling. (I’m not totally ditching the “this is actually another world” plot twist, but for now they do appear to be actual NPCs).

Hector’s start in the game is plagued by some disturbing glitches. He’s dumped straight into a nightmare-grade quest, the safety measures that the devs assured him were in place don’t seem to be working for him, and he somehow caught the interest of one of the local gods (which really wasn’t supposed to happen given the game’s background lore).

Of course, my absolute favorite character is Cutthroat, the dinosaur-like mount used to haze the newbies, which of course ends up as his gifted steed. Cutthroat has all the tricks of a bad horse and then some, and her antics frequently had me laughing out loud.

Given where this ends, the next book is going to be really entertaining.

The litRPG element is fairly light, with most of the game elements confined to the character creation scene. Most of the rest of the book plays out like a more typical fantasy adventure, just with a few skills to use during battles.

Overall this was a very fun book, and I’m eager to see where the series goes from here. I rate this book Highly Recommended.


Planet With (Anime)

Title: Planet With

Episodes: 1-12 (Complete)

Soya has no memories of his past, but he’s intensely interested in the weird UFOs that have suddenly started appearing in the world. A group of mysterious heroes shows up to fight them—but Soya’s companions, the maid Ginko and the gigantic cat Sensei, have asked him to fight. Fight the heroes, that is. It turns out Soya may be the key to this odd invasion of Earth. But whose side is he fighting for?

This is an odd little show. Despite only being 12 episodes, there’s enough packed in to feel more content-rich than some 26+ episode series I’ve seen (although really, did they HAVE to include a hot springs episode?).

If the amnesia plotline bothers you, at least there are enough twists that it’s not totally standard. Soya is male, for starters, and the dream he’s having in the first episode is a big clue as to why he lost his memory—shock. Soya isn’t from Earth, and neither are his two housemates (well, that’s patently obvious once Sensei shows up, even before he turns into a giant robot). But the details of the alien conspiracies, Soya’s history, and why that matters, get doled out bit by bit.

In particular, the moment when Soya finally broke down and started crying as he expounds on his true feelings was powerful. The show is too short for anything to get excessive time, but I like how the plot humanized everyone. Soya’s grief, anger, and confusion in particular come through loud and clear.

He’s also got an extremely colorful cast of characters surrounding him. Whether it’s Takamagahara of the difficult name, the normal and not-so-normal hopes and dreams of the Grand Paladins who all have their own hangups that the UFOs target in interesting ways, the tangled relationship between cat and dog . . . There’s a lot of humor, but also a lot of good character moments, as people wrestle with ideas about power, responsibility, duty, and forgiveness.

Overall this was an enjoyable ride, and given the extremely short length it’s easy to watch in a session or two. I rate this show Recommended.

Your Name (Movie)

Title: Your Name

Format: Movie

Taki lives in Tokyo, and Mitsuha lives in the country. They’ve never met, but one day they begin waking up in the other’s body. They want to find each other, but it’s difficult when their swaps are their only clue, and the memories fade like a dream . . .

This was an interesting movie. It’s kind of a romance, but the main characters have never actually met. They get to know each other through friends and family, setting, and living each other’s lives. Eventually they start leaving notes for each other to try to keep the other person aware of the important things going on, but they haven’t directly talked.

I liked the twist of why the comet is so central to the story, and what that means for the two of them. And what Taki, especially, tries to do about it.

I watched the movie in English. One surprising touch is that this meant the music RADWIMPS provided ended up playing with English lyrics as well. That helped during some of the dramatic scenes, where the lyrics were just as important as the sweeping melody. The voice actors were also good. I liked how Taki sounds more feminine when Mitsuha is in his body, giving him a vocal tic as well as the physical ones to indicate he’s not who he used to be.

Overall, even though I’m not sure why it got as popular as it did, this is still something I would watch again. The sci-fi angle on this unconventional romance is fun, and the movie is something that can be enjoyed by anime fans and non-fans alike. I rate this Recommended.

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)

Title: Rogue Protocol

Author: Martha Wells

Series: The Murderbot Diaries #3

Murderbot isn’t having much luck with its grand escape plans. After interfering with a human conflict while trying to learn its own history, it needs to get away again before more awkward questions come up. But when an opportunity arises to probe more deeply into the corporation that nearly killed it, Murderbot arranges for a personal visit to an abandoned terraforming base . . .

I liked this one a lot better than the previous two. The story is finally long enough to feel more satisfying, and the cast is small enough to flesh out all the major characters.

Murderbot is also dealing with new emotions this time around. When it meets Miki, a robot who likes humans and calls them friends, all sorts of confusion results. To Murderbot, there’s a divide between human and AI that goes far beyond physical capabilities. To Miki, that wall may as well not exist.

I liked the way the battled played out in this book as well. Particularly the way Murderbot can split its attention between multiple parallel tracks, or the way bot “biology” means that brains are in the torso, not the head, which changes fighting styles a lot (headshots aren’t useless, but they’re definitely not fatal).

Overall this is a good continuation of the series. I rate this book Recommended.

Parasyte (Movie)

Title: Parasyte
Format: Live-Action Movie

Shinichi wakes up one night to a bug in his room—one that burrows into his right hand and replaces it with an intelligent parasite. Now Shinichi and Migi must learn to live together, in a world where both humans and parasites pose a threat to their continued existance.

The live-action movie is probably best seen after (or in addition to, at any rate) the anime. Although the story preserves some of the main highlights, cutting down 12 episodes to one movie means a lot of the more extended character development just doesn’t have time.

That said, it was fun. The CG worked out better than I expected, and Migi looks suitably more creepy in a closer-to-life format. The parasite battles also looked more understandable than a lot of the similar fights in the anime.

I think what bothered me the most was taking Shinichi’s dad away. They probably decided to do it to give more pathos between Shinichi and his mom, but one of the more interesting parts of the anime to me was contrasting the way Shinichi and his father both handled the major event. And Shinichi’s concern for his father drove a lot of his later decisions.

Overall, if you liked the anime, or are just curious about the series and don’t feel you have time for the whole anime, this was a decent movie. But it doesn’t offer a whole lot above and beyond what the anime already did, so I would recommend if the movie interested you at all, then check out the anime too. I rate this movie Recommended.

Parasyte – the maxim – (Anime)

Title: Parasyte – the maxim –

Episodes: 1-24 (complete)

Shinichi wakes up one night reflexively slapping at a bug that then proceeds to burrow into his right hand. Only quick thinking saves his life . . . but in the morning, his right hand starts talking to him, and he realizes he’s now unwilling partners with a bizarrely intelligent parasite. But Migi isn’t the only parasite that’s shown up in Japan. And most parasites eat humans.

I liked this a lot more than I expected. Shinichi changes a lot over the course of the series: from a nervous, wimpy guy who freaks out easily to a shell-shocked survivor of extreme situations to someone who takes everything that happened and actually comes out stronger.

I do disagree with Shinichi’s assessment of himself being unable to cry as a sign he’s not human. It’s very clear why he would believe that, but this also strikes me as an extremely normal reaction to the kinds of violence he’s been exposed to and involved in. He comes off to me more as a state of shock or PTSD, where he’s gone numb in self-defense since he doesn’t have the luxury of breaking down if he wants to survive.

The violence is mostly short, sharp, and brutal. A lot of the messier scenes are more implied than shown, and Shinichi and the others exposed to it are dealing with the consequences long after the actual events are over. I really liked the drawn and haunted look Shinichi has after a certain major event—he’s physically, mentally, and emotionally at the end of his rope, and you can tell just from looking at him.

And Migi is great. I loved how his viewpoint differs so drastically from Shinichi. They may share the same body, but they’re complete opposites. Migi is powerful, coldly logical, and only interested in his own survival. Migi sees nothing wrong with killing anything that gets in his way. Shinichi keeps flailing around with what the definition of being human actually is, and trying to prove he’s different from Migi’s criticisms. But the show isn’t about proving Migi right with his animalistic evaluation of humanity. Migi makes some good points, but so does Shinichi, and both of them end up adopting parts of the other’s viewpoint.

I can’t say I found Kana to be compelling, though. I hated her from pretty much the moment she shows up, as she’s standing there with a bored expression watching her friends beat the crap out of some poor guy, and then joins them in mocking Shinichi when he ineffectually tries to get them to stop. Even if Shinichi weren’t trying to explore a relationship with Murano, I would’ve been mad if he’d started dating Kana, who clearly has her own self-interest ranked much higher than any kind of empathy.

So when Kana makes a stupid decision in episode 12, I found this hilarious rather than heartbreaking. All the romantic comedy shenanigans between Murano and Kana are mixed with the slasher-horror story that is Shinichi’s life, and that kind of crossover was hugely entertaining for me. Especially since Shinichi is responsible for a fair amount of the killing himself. Or rather, Migi is. So the typical girls-getting-mixed-signals is not because the guy can’t choose between them, but because a lot of people are dying and Shinichi can’t extricate himself from bad situations.

I’ve heard complaints about the later half of the series, and I don’t entirely agree. The show as a whole does stumble a bit at several points, in both halves. It’s a bit too focused on over-explaining some things, some characters die in pointless ways, and the random serial killer at the end was out of the blue. But it’s not as though I wasn’t engaged during the second half of the series, and there were still some very good moments (Shinichi’s confrontation with Gotou particularly…. He’s shocked by what ends up working, and I was laughing hysterically). Actually the thing that bugged me the most was Migi’s decision at the end. It felt like a bit of whiplash with him in the last few eps, and hearing what he decides makes little sense.

But for all that, I was still looking forward to each episode, and I enjoyed my time with the show.

Overall, this is definitely a series for more mature viewers who don’t mind a bit of violence. I think the series handles this without glorifying all the slaughter, as it keeps coming back to the negative effects on those who encounter it. And for all that it can be a brutal series, it manages a mostly-happy ending, so it comes off more as dark fantasy/dark sci-fi than horror. I rate this show Recommended.


Title: Overgeared

Author: Park Saenal / Translator: Rainbow Turtle

Chapters: 774 (Ongoing)

Location: https://www.wuxiaworld.com/novel/overgeared

Grid is a mediocre player in the immersive VR game Satisfy. But when his persistence unlocks a legendary class, his luck seems to be changing. Only he’s been saddled with Legendary Blacksmith, when he really wanted a combat class. The Legendary Blacksmith’s unique feature is the ability to equip any item, so he devises a plan to become the greatest through using items.

This is an extremely funny book. Grid isn’t familiar enough with games to know how to play effectively, and he’s also cursed by RNG, so things that even average players could do come with a lot of trouble for him. As an example, when he finally challenges a dungeon that recreates your greatest trials in the game, he’s fighting the rabbits in the starter town, because it’s the enemy he lost to the most.

Although my favorite bit of humor is Piaro. Grid runs into an insanely powerful NPC in the course of doing other things, and later when he needs more people remembers Piaro exists and recruits him. Piaro, having lived in the wilderness to avoid pursuers from his previous life, is dressed like a peasant, and Grid doesn’t bother telling anyone his true class or abilities, so everyone mistakes him for a farmer. Grid thinks this is funny and waits for everyone else to figure it out, but Piaro treats farming like training and pours all his considerable ability into it . . . leading to the creation of a legendary farmer who has a reputation for beating up strong people and then requiring them to work in the fields with him. “Happy Fun Training Times” indeed. Grid is, hilariously, extremely put out that Piaro’s potential got “wasted” on FARMING. He was hoping for Piaro to become a legendary sword saint like Piaro originally wanted.

And then Grid tries to complete Piaro’s revenge quest and comes back with another warrior . . .

Some bits of the book do drag a bit. For example, the second national competition was far too long. And no, I don’t buy that the viewership was that high, especially for things like an 8 hour blacksmithing competition. Most people would tune in right at the end to see the result instead of watching 8 hours of people hammering at forges. Even the Olympics don’t have that kind of dedicated attention.

It also seems odd to me that Satisfy is so popular when it features such things as using your real face instead of allowing you to create a character who’s totally unlike you. And it’s highly unbelievable that the executive team has time to sit around watching various players. Even more unbelievable is the mantra of “The game has no bugs and we refuse to interfere.” (As someone who works in software, the idea that any software has no bugs leaves me laughing hysterically.)

And some bits are probably going to rub some readers the wrong way. Grid is not only a terrible player at the beginning, but a terrible person. He’s a 26-year-old manchild who acts like he’s 13. But in the course of learning to love work, make friends, and find a purpose for his life, he starts growing up (of course, the story in its latest chapters is almost pushing it too hard in the opposite direction—but then Grid will do something utterly selfish and prove he’s not entirely reformed).

So overall this is a bit of a mixed bag, but the story is just so much fun I kept staying up way too late to read just one more chapter, even if I did end up skimming most of the real life segments in favor of the more entertaining game segments. I rate this story Recommended.