The Wormworld Saga Webcomic

30. June, 2013

The Wormworld Saga” is an epic comic about a boy who discovers a strange painting in the attic of his grandmother’s house.

What I love about the comic is the great care that the author put into characters and paintings:

Welcome to the Wormworld, (C) Daniel Lieske


The pace of the comic is slow. I had a lot of joy watching the boy frolic in the fields around his grandmother’s house. There is almost no violence, no physical fights or blood. The story lives just by being beautiful. The boy isn’t extraordinary – he isn’t mischievous, doesn’t play pranks but he certainly is smart. He’s innocent but not naïve. He’s cautious but not afraid. For example, before he crawls into this strange painting, he first attached some string in the attic to make sure he can find his way back.

The art is amazing. I’ve yet to see one image where you can’t find every color of the palette. You should try this yourself to see how hard it is to make everything fit.

Another impressive feat is the layout. In the web version, each comic is one endless page. Again, have a look before you try to judge this. Trust me, it works perfectly.

Last but not least, you get to see the result before you have to pay for it. All the chapters of the comic are available for free online. On the tablet, you can get each chapter for free or for a small fee. Each chapter is available in four official languages and 21 (at the time of writing) fan translations. You can buy them as books or donate on the web page (just scroll way down after each chapter). I believe this guy really digs the new economy.

So, if you want to step out of your hectic live for a couple of hours and feel like a child again, start reading.

Hyperion and Endymion by Dan Simmons

6. May, 2013

A while ago, I completed reading the four books HyperionThe Fall of HyperionEndymion and The Rise of Endymion.

If you don’t want to waste your time, my verdict: Avoid reading these books.

Still with me? Okay, here goes the critique. Simmons manages to create interesting characters that I actually wanted to root for. They are motivated, each by their own reasons. Some things don’t make sense until you read all four books. For example, there is a reason why Het Masteen is so reluctant to share his story but only the fourth book will reveal the true reasons. The story includes time travel but actually in a way which makes sense. It did evoke strong emotions in me – one of the most important goals of any work of art.

That were the good news. My sore points: The books are deeply depressing. Most characters die one way or the other and the survivors aren’t much better off. No happy end. Lots of abusive relationships on top of incredible flaws in logic. There a few highlights and a few good ideas but everything is drowned in incredibly stupid characters that just plod on, fail to prepare even when they have years to do so, they never learn, most of the time, they are just dragged along by events. Whenever it suits the author, the characters are smart and cunning. And when it’s too bothersome, they are as dumb as a post and completely helpless. Raul knew for years that he would have to start on a dangerous journey. How does he prepare? By staring holes into the air. His love vanished for days. What does he do? Nothing. One day, he is woken by his love and sent through hell. It makes sense from a story point of view but I simply couldn’t fit this with the desperate attempts by Simmons to portrait Raul as a survivor type. It’s as if everyone is constantly on drugs.

And the logic holes. Computers abusing the mental power of all of mankind but too stupid to get rid of a little paranoia? Slagging a chrome-coated killer machine from orbit while the protagonists watch from a few meters away – sure, no one gets hurt. Any time the author has written himself into a corner, the Shrike shows up and kills whoever blocks the exit. The thing is a convenient deus ex machina every dozen or so pages. Resurrection in Endymion takes a couple of days – unless the author needs it to happen in a few seconds. Slagging a sphere with 1 AU diameter in a few hours? Sure, why not. Let’s just ignore the surface area and the fact that even the most powerful weapons would take years to burn more than 1% of that area away. Not to mention that the drives used are visible to the naked eye over millions of kilometers, so there is absolutely no way to a fleet to do surprise attacks: The fleet attacking the world sphere would either have to jump so close that the sensors of the Ousters would have noticed them while the crew was still resurrecting or so far away that the defenders had weeks to prepare. I never had the feeling that the author spent more than a few minutes to plan in most of the fights.

Nemes set a trap for Aenea on God’s Grove. Of course strapping the monofilament directly after the farcaster, too close for the group to avoid it, would be too easy. Instead, Nemes installs several complicated traps but no explanation why this might be better. It was probably beyond the authors ability to come up with a believable explanation. Later, Father de Soya saves the day by slagging Nemes from Orbit. He melts the stone below her feet until she is swallowed in the molten rock. Obviously, the author isn’t aware of the physics involved. The protagonists watch this process from a few meters away with no cover whatsoever. Nemes is protected by her chrome forcefield, so a lot of the energy would be deflected, killing anyone close by. “Close” being several miles in this case. How long does it takes to melt rock? How much energy is necessary for this? Nemes can walk on water but not on molten rock. Okay, she has to struggle to keep her shield up. But how about flicking her hand and deflecting a tiny fraction of this torrent of energy to kill anything within a 1 mile radius? That could have been a strong scene but I simply couldn’t follow the story, I was so frustrated.

Other examples. Aenea sacrifices herself and her followers use some form of telepathy to let billions of humans share her torture. Simmons pictures this process in detail over many, many disgusting pages. I just imagine sitting in a café somewhere on Pacem, nibbling my croissant when I suddenly feel as if I was strapped to a steel frame while evil robots use all their skills to inflict insufferable pain on me while the dignitaries of my church watch the proceedings. What would my reaction be? Would I think “Oh my, this is horrible! We must end this!”? Hell no! I would either commit suicide to get these images out of my head or I would be convinced that this was some evil plot by the Ousters and I would do anything to wipe the bastards out.

So after Aenea has sacrificed her life, most people are either dead or cases of PTSD. I can’t see how her followers could survive the emotional backlash of their actions. And the rest of humanity will be in a mindless rage. Well, the Core will be done for, once and for all: Most humans will be dead and the rest will be mentally unstable. Victory!

More examples? There is no way to get supplies close to the Tombs or get Father Duré out? Are you kidding? We, on Earth, today, can communicate with satellites in orbit, no problem. I guess being able to put space ships into orbit means you can no longer do that. Why? Simmons doesn’t know either. Why not take a comm laser along for a dangerous journey? Or a powered parachute? Or a mirror? Or tell someone to have a look after a few days, just in case. Their ground-surveillance satellites are probably not advanced enough to make pictures of the ground. Yeah. Whatever.

It would be barely bearable if this was published as fantasy: The technology is based more on magic than physics. In a few places, the author starts to paint an advanced, future civilization but it’s always sketchy at best. Space ships don’t make something science fiction.

My conclusion: Frustrating. Avoid.


Speaker for the Dead

11. February, 2013

How would you feel if you had wiped out an entire civilization? Luckily, this is an academic question for most of us. For Ender, the Xenocide, it’s a very real problem and Orson Scott Card again does a wonderful job of letting us share a few years with Andrew Wiggins, his doubts and decisions, his dedication. moral dilemmas and brilliant mind.

Speaker for the Dead” is the sequel to “Ender’s Game” and as captivating as the first book. As usual, every character is driven by a deep motivation and it’s great fun to try to fit the pieces of the many puzzles before Card reveals the solution.

I found scenes like the signing of the Covenant between humans and piggies incredibly moving.

Recommendation: Must buy.

Little Brother

15. December, 2010
Little Brother (Cory Doctorow novel)

Little Brother (Cory Doctorow novel)

When I Write Like told me, I wrote like Cory Doctorow, I had to get one of his works: Little Brother.

Hm … no, I doubt that this was some clever marketing fad — there aren’t enough writers to make this worthwhile. Plus you can download the book.

Marcus is a teenager, going about his life, when he’s “caught up in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco.” What follows is funny, revolting, unsettling, witted, sometimes too realistic not to worry about. And it explains some of the more obscure and ever more relevant concepts of computer security. In a way even a non-geek can understand. And relate.

So if you want to read a few good arguments why it’s not safe to trust politicians and security experts with your security and safety, go get the book.

Recommendation: Buy.

Evolutionary Void

13. September, 2010

I just finished the third volume of Peter F. Hamilton‘s Void Trilogy: The Evolutionary Void. I feel that there isn’t as much suspense in the end as in the last books but all loose ends are tied down nicely and there are a couple of funny surprises (like the identity of The Lady). All in all, a good conclusion to story.

Go. Buy. Now.

Spoiler Warning

My main critique this time is that some guys check space for enemies all the time while some teams seem oblivious to that option. The author should at least have mentioned that they check once in a while and find nothing.

Similarly with the deterrence fleet and ANA. The idea behind the deterrence fleet is great. But I doubt that just hiding it somewhere will actually protect it against being found. Next, I wonder why redundancy was no option. When the “fleet” is rendered helpless, Kazimir’s successor is unable to call any backup. I can accept that only ANA itself knows about the fleet and since ANA is out of the game at that time, they can’t ask but I wonder why ANA exists only once. There should have been a backup. Earth is well protected but not against something like the deterrence fleet.

If something like that would wipe out Sol, they wouldn’t have a lot of pre-warning. So all in all, I like the twist when ANA is disabled but I don’t quite swallow it.


22. August, 2010

I saw the movie “Salt” yesterday. While I don’t enjoy mindless violence as much anymore, I must say that the emotional part of the movie is much more entertaining. In many scenes, I could connect very well to emotional stress that Evelyn Salt must be in. When she jumps on a truck on the highway, her footing is insecure. When she jumps to another car, I notice how she calculates her chances – a mix of fear and determination.

The movie lives from the many surprises that happen. For a long time, you won’t know what is really going on and even in the end, there is a tiny bit of doubt: Did she just say that to get away?

Recommendation: Have a look. But don’t take it too serious.

PS: I’d add an image to this post if I could find one that was safe to use.

Pratchett: Unseen Academicals

9. August, 2010

Just finished the book. One of the amazing things about Pratchett is that he keeps getting better. Other authors eventually level out but Terry keeps on trying new things. This time it’s football and, how a friend of mine once said, a “dramödie” (from drama and Kömodie – comedy) revolving around Mr. Nutt. So like in “Nation”, the story has some depth and not only laughs. Well done.

Recommendation: Buy.


28. April, 2010

I just shut down my PS3 after watching Avatar (Blue Ray disk). Technically, the film is great. The plants, nature, everything looks just amazing. As had been said before, the story is pretty obvious and I was disappointed that there were no surprises at all (except for Pandora’s wildlife).

For example, they should have switched bodies before the attack. When the madman crashes the container, the vaults should have been empty.

The next thing I was hoping for was a surprise attack against the base while all the air support is elsewhere, using some kind of trick to avoid the satellites.

The only reason that I can think of for such a shallow script is that the director didn’t want to drag any attention from the fantastic nature shots. The flight scenes are grand, the surroundings look incredible detailed and believable. If there is an animal, it’s not just some puppet; it moves, it flows, it breathes. This guy found much better words than I:

… about 30 minutes in to the film, you realize that the marketing has undersold the movie. In an era when every great moment of a film makes its way to a trailer, Avatar surprised me with an endless amount of unparalleled optical overload.

Recommendation: Must see. Twice.


8. April, 2010

I just finished reading Glasshouse by Charles Stross.

The book was advertised as the next great thing and it was a nice read. Charles definitely did think a lot of things through like what you will be able to do when you can manipulate matter to the atomic level. As in “manipulate the mind.” We know drugs can change how your brain works but how about you can modify each and every molecule of your brain?

In these terms, the book is a good read. People can backup themselves and if you get killed, you can suddenly find yourself in an odd situation because you don’t knew what happened just that something must have gone wrong. As we software specialists say: Backup early and often.

Overall, I like the book and the presented ideas. Some things don’t seem to make sense but eventually, all puzzles are resolved (with the exception why Robin suddenly wakes up elsewhere; my guess is that he got killed after signing the contract but I’d have expected a message from the people running the experiment in this case which explains the situation to poor Robin).

There is just one glaring bug: The bad guys left a really powerful device in a place where the protagonist has pretty much unlimited, unsupervised access. I understand that high level surveillance wasn’t allowed by the rules of the game at this place but a simple switch which sends a signal “trapdoor is open” would have been more than enough. Of course, the story wouldn’t have worked anymore. Oh well. If you can ignore this, you’re in for some fresh SciFi ideas.

Also, Charles likes deus-ex-machina, so you’ll have several situations where the heroes are in a deadly trap and suddenly, you learn that they did plan for this situation and they get away. Acceptable once or twice but not that often.

Recommendation: Consider to buy.

Nation and the 6th part of the Hitchhiker

1. January, 2010

Just finished reading two books: “Nation” (Terry Pratchett) and “And Another Thing …” by Eoin Colfer.

When I browse through my favorite book store here in Zurich, I’m always looking for something new by Terry Pratchett. I’m a huge fan of his Diskworld series and always torn when there still isn’t another volume out. On one hand, I really miss his witty way to look at the world, on the other, a good thing takes time. So this time, I ambled into the other works of Pratchett but after the the carpet people and “Johnny and the bomb”, I wasn’t too thrilled. But I couldn’t walk away from “Just possibly the best book Pratchett has ever written” (Fantasy and Science Fiction).

And it is. It’s a hugely different setting than Diskworld but as witty and smart as you’d expect. It’s the story of a boy who sets out to become a man and becomes so much more. It’s about standing up against peril, evil and bullies. If you like Diskworld, you must read this, too.

Eoin Colfer was a similar issue: Part 6 of the THHGTTG? You’ve got to be kidding! I loved the stories around Artemis Fowl but The Hitchhiker? Is Eoin out of his mind? Luckily, he asked himself the same questions.

The net result: Definitely not a book by Douglas Adams but also definitely a book from the Hitchhiker series. Ever wondered where the animals come from that want to be eaten and can argue in their favor? There must be herds, right? There are. When Thor (the Norse god) needs some aiming practice, they “provide moo-ving targets”. Just like Adams, Eoin (pronounced Owen) likes to take things to the tip and I mean the utmost protruding electron. It’s a book about a world where all your wishes were granted. And you know the old saying. A fun read and at least one good laugh on every page. To put it another way: The worst thing about the book is its title.

If you’re still worrying whether you should dare to complete the trilogy with part 6, stop and buy.

Recommendation: Buy. Both. Now.

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