Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

From “Space Debris” to Poets Of The Fall

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Many years ago, I used to repeatedly play a tracker song called Space Debris, purely because it was brilliant. It was a piece of music created on a 16-bit computer by a young man who went by the moniker ‘Captain’. His real name was (and is) Markus Kaarlonen. Here is the original composition in all its 16-bit glory:

It’s hard, if not impossible to describe to anybody “who wasn’t there” what an accomplishment it was to create such tunes on the old micros. The software was powerful, for its time, but not user-friendly and required a LOT of effort to produce anything half decent. I was suitably impressed.

Anyway, a couple of years back I had cause, for whatever reason, to remember this great piece of music and I found the youtube videos linked to here. In addition I was curious as to what Markus had been up to since (given that Space Debris was created about 23 years ago at the time of writing.) It turned out he was still doing music and is in a Finnish band, Poets Of The Fall, who are now right up there in my favourite bands of all time. Here’s one of their little ditties:

and also the ‘official’ video for what is probably their most well known song, Carnival Of Rust:

I can’t convey how much I was delighted to find out that a) he was still doing music, and b) how he’d continued his cool streak and was now involved in producing such great material. Incidentally, the piece was re-imagined on ‘proper’ synthesizers by an ardent fan who did a pretty fine job of it. Here is that cover version:

Great stuff 🙂

“The Martian” by Andy Weir

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

TheMartian I picked up a copy of “The Martian” to read on the train while I was travelling to France. Having started reading it, I found myself utterly riveted and hardly able to put it down until I finished the book.  The subject matter is intense, personal and up close – this is the story of an individual’s experiences as opposed to a more conventional story with a range of characters. That said, there is a good selection of additional characters to add context to the main protagonist.

The writing style is refreshing – there are several different narrative styles and tenses used throughout which sustain the rhythm well. One of my favourite aspects is the liberal use of dry humour and funny asides which are all very much in keeping with the protagonist as a character. By the time you get to the end of the book you feel as if you have been on the journey with him, and you share a strange sense of intimacy; strange because unlike many conventional books there is little visible backstory to the characters. I think this would have resulted in weaker characters in many books, but this flaw is conspicuous by its absence here.

Science Fiction has earned a well-deserved reputation for predicting future technologies. This book may well prove to do the same, but cleverly it blurs the line between what technology we have today versus what technology lies ahead. As someone reasonably well versed in physics myself, I was delighted to get to the end without noticing a single ‘fundamental error’ in the technology described, nor was I able to clearly identify the delineation between science fact and science fiction. Furthermore the author (who is the son of a particle physicist) exhibits an obvious comfort with a variety of sciences which makes for some satisfyingly clever solutions to some very tricky scenarios.

This is a great, great book and I heartily recommend it to anyone. Apparently there is a film in the works for late 2015. I shall certainly want to see it, although I suspect the book will be better than the film (aren’t they always?). If the film gets anywhere close to the quality of the book, however, it will be an exceptionally good watch.