John Hurt (1940 – 2017)

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Ola: Sir John Hurt – who hadn’t seen him? Unforgettable Elephant Man, Ollivander from Harry Potter franchise, the dictator Adam Sutler from V for Vendetta and Winston Smith from 1984, Kane from Alien – and from Spaceballs – Trevor ‘Broom’ Bruttenholm from Hellboy, Controller from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Gilliam from Snowpiercer and, for one-hour special episode (and a little bit more, to be precise), War Doctor from Doctor Who. And many more, of course. He was the rare actor who with equal dedication and equanimity accepted roles in contemporary dramas, costume movies, horrors and science fiction flicks. And his presence was always felt.

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Mike Carey, The Devil You Know (2006)

I’m a bit tired of Urban Fantasy. A few years ago, tired with Epic Fantasy, I picked up Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series and it was the start of my flirt with this particular subgenre. Now my focus is on different stuff, but I’m still following a few authors (Jim Butcher! Publish some Dresden novels! It’s been years!!). And sometimes something new, or at least previously unknown to me, comes my way.

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The Devil You Know by Mike Carey is not exactly new, having been published in 2006, but somehow escaped my notice until recently, when, in despair, I was searching for some Urban Fantasy that would not border on paranormal romance. I don’t really want to read much more about magnetic effect overly muscular wolf-men have on women.

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Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire (2014)

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Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire, the first installment in her Worldbreaker Saga, came to my attention when Adrian Czajkowski recommended it on his blog. If not for his short review, I doubt I would have even known the book existed. And it would have been a missed chance, because even if it’s not a masterpiece – and to be frank, it’s not, not by a long shot – the book’s worldbuilding and the sheer size of the what-if exercise poured onto its pages is something definitely worth acquainting oneself with. Just look at the gorgeous cover! 🙂 Angry Robot really knows how to do them.

Hurley creates a world teeming with poisonous, semi-sentient plant life, and a variety of wizard priests, whose power is derived from one of the natural satellites circling the planet. There are four main moons, and four types of magic associated with them. Every talented person can pull on the power of one satellite: Tira, Para, Sina or Oma. Rarely, there are people able to pull on more than one magic. But as the satellites circle the planet on their respective paths, their magic waxes and wanes, according to their position on the sky. The most mysterious and dangerous of them all is Oma, the black moon, or maybe just a black hole, giving unearthly power to those who are able to wield it, and raining destruction on the worlds as she nears them. Oma is the harbinger of death and profound change; once she passes, the world is never the same. And – yeah, you’ve got it – she is coming, much earlier than any of the star gazers could have anticipated.

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If this is not complex enough for you, let me add the twist: there are many worlds like this, each a reflection of the world described in the novel. There are changes, of course, but even the people are the same on every world. Which means that if one is to move through a rent between the dimensions to another world, his or her mirror twin needs to be dead.

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Rogue One (2016)

Long time with total radio silence… has ended 😉 It’s been a busy few weeks, pretty hectic and full of work – after all, the end of semester is near and students finally wake up from their usual slumber. And now the before-mentioned and hopefully long-awaited review of the latest installment in the Star Wars universe is finally here :).

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Ola: I’ve written a few words about Rogue One before, promising a longer review later on. Now, after almost everyone who wanted to see it had actually see it, we can safely present our spoiler-full review ;).

Piotrek: Well, I waited two weeks to see Rogue One and I really can’t remember what was that important to prevent me from doing that earlier… because the movie was great, a perfect end to my best year ever (cinema-and nothing else-wise). Now I consider the statue of limitations expired.

Ola: Rogue One is the first in the already announced plethora of tie-ins to the main Star Wars movies trilogies, reaching back to the time before New Hope, when a group of daring Resistance members stole the plans of the mysterious new weapon employed by the Empire – the Death Star, thus enabling the events of New Hope to happen.

Piotrek: A movie built upon a few sentences from New Hope, and settling some age-old controversies. The gods of canon have spoken.

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Other Men’s Flowers

Or women’s, as it happens to be the case, but I simply love the phrase. One of the most distinguished British military commanders of the Second World War, Lord Wavell, published a popular selection of poems by no means limited to martial tropes. A very good and wide selection that I like to browse every now and then.

Here I’m referring to two very interesting posts, not poems, but worth a while nonetheless.

a) 10 Discworld Quotes You’ll Desperately Need for the Next Four Years

This is, of course, political. And not even that innovative, a selection of quotes recognizable to every Pratchett fan. Including some of my personal favourites.

A few look as if they were written especially to honour Mr Trump’s ascension:

Commander Vimes didn’t like the phrase “The innocent have nothing to fear,” believing the innocent had everything to fear, mostly from the guilty but in the longer term even more from those who say things like “The innocent have nothing to fear.” – Snuff

She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you. – Equal Rites

And, while it was regarded as pretty good evidence of criminality to be living in a slum, for some reason owning a whole street of them merely got you invited to the very best social occasions. – Feet of Clay

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things. – Jingo

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Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017)

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Zygmunt Bauman, Polish-born sociologist and philosopher of a globalized world, the author of renowned books on modernity and Holocaust, on liquid modernity, rootless life, immigrants and terrorists and inequities of the contemporary world, a Pole, a Jew, a whole-hearted European, a communist, a soldier, a patriot, an erudite, one of the most influential and thoughtful contemporary thinkers and (ironically, as he was never an anti-globalist himself) an anti-globalist icon, died today.

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A few thoughts for the New Year.

Oh, it seems we had quite a break, after last New Year’s Eve post. Some of our authors are skiing, me… I’m reading non-genre lately and none of the earlier reads comes to my mind strongly enough to warrant a review.

There isn’t even any new loot to share, I have three books ordered back in November from Amazon Marketplace I’m still waiting for. I blame post office being overloaded in the Christmas season, but if they don’t arrive next week I’m filing formal complaints.

So, for lack of better things to write about, I’ll make some commitments. With TBR list measured in hundreds, I don’t make very specific reading plans. For 2017 I have two main ideas: more non-fiction, and more classics. I’m stocked up already, I just need to read. For starters – collection of lesser known Kafka, Gravity’s Rainbow, Joseph Campbell, some history…

But one serious, no, three serious series watch me from my bookshelves:

They mock me a little, while I read pulpy classics, and so I swear to read two out of three before the year ends. Starting with Cook, but then… I’ll see. That way, when the world deteriorates even further into chaos, I’ll still have something good going on.

Volume won’t change much, for the last few years I get about 30K pages of reading done each year, and I hope to keep it up for the rest of my life, there is no need to go beyond that.

And since in 2016 I bought almost exactly twice as many books as I’ve read, I’ll try to limit my purchases. Although I will continue completing my Robin Hobb collection… and now I’m screwed, because writing this post made me buy another one.

Well, it’s the first one this year, so I’m still ahead. And it was a bargain.

Happy 2017 🙂 May GRRM finally finish WoW 😉 And may Trump continue be a reliable source of inspiration for comedians, and not future archaeologists investigating the fall of our civilization…