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Category Archives: Sci-Fi

“Vampire Hunter D: Tale of the Dead Town” – H. Kikuchi

This is a review of the fourth book in Hideyuki Kikuchi’s series about the Vampire Hunter D.

You can find the reviews of book one, of book two, and of book three here.

The City, a tiny metropolis of a few hundred sheltered souls, floating serenely on a seemingly random course. It has long been thought safe from the predation of the marauding monsters on the ground. It seems like a paradise. But it is shattered when a n invason of apparent vampires threaten the small haven. While D struggles to exterminate the scourge, the brash John M. Brasselli Pluto VIII is up to something. And when the city lurches onto a new and deadly course, D’s travails are just beginning.

Although there wasn’t much development in D’s personal story, there was more than enough things about this story to keep it interesting. The flying town, secluded and insular as it is, made for a perfect setting. Mayor Ming’s dream and philosophy was definitely worth exploring more, but otherwise the characters themselves were excellent.

The sherriff and his cronies were a bit stereotypical, but Mayor Ming was much better. He had a depth and a desire to his dream for what the flying town should be and represent, and it was almost freaky to see just how far he was willing to go to make it happen.

Pluto VIII was a joy to read about, and he definitely needed more screen time in the book. He could have been so much more of a hindrance and a help. What was truly a joy was that for once there was a female character who wasn’t raped or lusted after by every male around her. Lori Knight is so far the strongest female character in the series, and Dr. Tsurugi was an excellent addition with a tiny little detail that harked back to the very first book in the series.

The freakiest thing was the vampire-infection and the dead Nobility cemetary where the experiments ended up. That bit had so much potential to be down right freaky and frightening, and it needed more screen time.

There isn’t actually much really back to say about this particular story.

Granted, things could have been explained better, and more time could have been used on really getting the mood and the setting just perfect, but there were only two really bad things that were noticable:

1) An entire conversation with a doctor that introduced important characters and relayed information that is somewhat important, seems to have been entirely skipped. Either it was just bad writing by the author, or the translator forgot this bit and then no one caught the mistake.

and

2) Mayor Ming having lived for two hundred years in a world where only vampires can do it, and no one bats and eyelash? It does not make sense. There was a single hint given as to how he could be so old, but it came far too late. And the explanation as to what he was could have been given more backstory as to how it was possible.

Other than that, this was the best Vampire Hunter D story I have read so far!

I really recommend this book!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2019 in Action Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

 

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“Pitch Black” – F. Lauria

This is a reivew of the novelisation of the movie “Pitch Black“, the novelisation being written by Frank Lauria.

A rogue comet spears a commercial spacecraft, causing it to crash on an unknown planet. Other than three suns and a slight oxygen deficiency, a search party discovers that the planet isn’t much different from Earth… until they stumble across a ghostly settlement littered with the human remains of geologists who mysteriously perished exactly 22 years ago. A solar eclipse darkens the skies and with only hours before total blackout everyone must unite in a race to fix the geologists’ abandoned ship before the blood-thirsty monsters escape their underground toombs.

I am a big fan of the Riddick franchise, so when I found out that there was a novel version I knew that I had to read it at some point. This will also be quite a short review since I am going to focus on the novelisation rather than the movie itself.

So, first things first. This is a direct retelling of the movie, literally going scene by scene. It doesn’t really add anything to the world created in the movie, there is no sudden revealed depth to the story or the characters. In fact, several times the attempt to add depth to the characters feels more than awkward and actually manages to be detrimental to the characters themselves.

There are some odd skips in the writing. It is as if the author was trying to merge two scenes but skipped some of the dialogue, or just did an incredibly bad job segueing from one scene to the next. It was just awkward.

There were several spelling mistakes and even mix-ups about names – especially about the Chrislam pilgrims. Also, the leader of the pilgrims was referred to as Imam as if it was his name rather than actually the title it really is.

The one good thing that came out of the book was a little bit of extra information about Riddick’s past, and also about the bioraptors.

Generaly speaking this is a totally okay novelisation. It’s a quick read, and it doesn’t try to push depth on characters often enough to become annoying. It is an interesting way to relive the movie, and is actually worth the read for a fan. I enjoyed it despite its shortcomings.

I recommend this.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2019 in Action Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi

 

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“All Systems Red” – M. Wells

This is a review of “All Systems Red” which is the first book in the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

In a space-faring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by company-supplied security robots, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern. On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their company-supplied bot – a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself as “Murderbot”. Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to watch daytime dramas. But when a neighbouring team of scientists are killed, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

It is a fast paced book with a rather narrow view of the universe and the planet that the characters find themselves on. The author gives off small hints of the grander scale of things without revealing too much, and that keeps interest high. The shortness of the book actually works with the story and the writing style.

It is hilarious that a murdering robot is hooked on drama series and stands facing a wall when it feels uncomfortable with human attention. The mystery of its hacking its own governor module and its past, is enough to keep one interested and reading future books.

The other characters might seem a bit bland, but the book is short and everything is seen through the eyes of a robot. It might be that to a robot all humans seem bland until one of us does something spectacularly different. Dr. Mensah is the only one to really stick out from the crowd as the leader, and Gurathin the augmented human is reminiscent of the android Ash from the original Alien movie.

There isn’t much bad to say about this book, and it is more nitpicking than anything else.

The Murderbot seems a bit too human. Even with a cheap education module and hacking their own governor module and gaining access to entertainment of all sorts, it feels like it ought to think more like “avian creatures with such and such wings and colouring” rather than “birdlike things”. The same goes for emotions. Exactly how does a made robot understand emotions, or even feel them? As it is, the Murderbot seems more like an augmented human than a bot.

There is a distinct lack of descriptions of the surroundings. We only get the very bare minimum, and sometimes that means that things that the Murderbot apparently noticed earlier seem to spring out of nowhere. Granted, this is all seen through a robot’s eyes, so describing the surroundings in more detail than “thick jungle” or “rocky plain” might not be needed for the robot’s perceptions.

This is definitely a good book and worth the read, and I will continue reading the series.

I recommend this!

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2019 in Sci-Fi

 

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“Vampire Hunter D: Demon Deathchase” – H. Kikuchi

“Demon Deathchase” is a review of the third book of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s series Vampire Hunter D.

The review of the first book can be found here.

The review of the second book can be found here.

When a desperate village elder learns that his daughter has been abducted by a Noble, he turns to D to save her. He also employs the Marcus clan, a dangerous and renegade family of Hunters as infamous for killing their competition as they are for getting their man. D’s task becomes ever-more daunting when the fleeing Noble enlists a horrific cadre of human/monster half-breeds. Can D prevail against the force of sheer numbers of his advesaries – both human and not?

Excellent adventure as usual. It is undeniable, Hideyuki Kikuchi writes very good adventure stories.

Fascinating to learn more of the world it is set in, and just how much of the old folklore about vampires that the author has incorporated. Like being unable to cross running water unless there is a bridge, how earth actually enhances their regenerative abilities giving them an interesting reason to carry earth with them.

Again there are small hints about D’s parentage that are doled out. And though it is quite obvious who his father is, the way the hints are scattered about and never actually come out to say it, still make it more interesting. The sunlight syndrome is a curious but welcome weakness when it comes to D, and even if he does get over it remarkably quickly it will be interesting to see if it does show up again in later books.

Leila Marcus is a strong female character, who fights and isn’t a fraid to come face to face with monsters. Although she does wobble a bit when it comes to D and a female dhampir, she still comes up on top at the very end, which is truly enjoyable. Leila’s waning interest in monster/vampire hunting is also a good – though very subtle – touch to her character. Charlotte, the girl who ran off with a Noble, is strong but in a more quiet way, and her bravery doesn’t show much until the very end.

The writing is a bit annoying with the omniscient author who keeps asking questions as if he were a storyteller with an audience rather than a book. It breaks the flow of the story, stopping it up and throwing the reader out of it. The author seems to be getting into a rut with these questions since there were fewer of them in the first book.

Also, the fact that there have been people who suddenly change into rapists without logic or hints of it earlier in the book, bring the quality of the book down. The Mayor in book two, Kyle in this book (although all of the Marcus brothers are revealed to be rapists in the end). The story would have been a lot better without this, and especially if the insta-love/lust people feel around vampires and D had been just a tiny bit less emphasised.

The movie “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” has to be mentioned since it was based on this book. Apart from the general changes in the story to make it simpler and more concise, the movie actually manages to follow the book very closely. The movie does away with the insta-love Leila feels for D and the Marcus-brothers being rapists, which is good. But Mayerling has no trouble going through quite a deep, fast flowing river in order to cross to the other side, and that was an annoyance.

They also use a lot of Christian symbolisms in the movie which never appear in the books – most notably the cross. In the first book it is noted that the Nobility made humanity forget about crosses and how much they affect vampires, and they keep maintaining this ignorance even now – whether by a world-covering spell that is tied to the symbol of the cross, or by enchanting humans who try to use the cross against them whenever they actually come across one such person. D has also used a drawing of a cross to check if someone is a vampire, and no one reacts to it as if they recognise it.

Several things that happened in the book never happened in the movie, and some characters exist only in the movie world – most notably Countess Carmilla Elizabeth Bathory. The ending of the movie differed with the ending of the book, both being perfect in their own way, and the movie presents a good story that is more concise and at times more logical than the book is.

All in all, this third book was definitely not my favourite of the stories so far, but I will continue reading a few books more if nothing else.

I still recommend this series!

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2019 in Action Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

 

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“Vampire Hunter D: Raiser of Gales” – H. Kikuchi

This is a review of “Raiser of Gales” the second book in the Vampire Hunter D series by Hideyuki Kikuchi.

The review of the first book can be found here.

The village of Tepes lies in the shadow of a Nobility castle, but the Nobility is long gone. Or so it appears until four children disappear, only for three to return with no memory of what happened. Ten years later vampires who can walk in daylight have appeared, and are terrorising the villagers. Only the vampire hunter known as D can solve the mystery… but the answer may be more horrible than anyone can imagine.

Learning more about this weird wild west sci-fi world was fascinating. The plot was good, and though it was a bit obvious what had to have happened to the one child that never returned, it was less clear what had happened to the three that did. Not to mention that their final fate – though a bit disappointing after the build-up – was a complete surprise. There was also a tiny epilogue with a very nice touch about one of the minor characters, Marco.

It was excellent to find it out more about D and his ancestry, and also for hints as to why he does what he does. Only hints were revealed in the story, leaving a lot of mystery surrounding D, and that is an excellent reason to continue reading the other books. The author is very good at scattering hints and information about his main character.

The cruelty of the Nobility gains a deeper level other than just keeping humans as food or slaves. The sheer callousness of the experiments performed on countless children and grown humans, and then the failsafe that activated ten years after the experiment was over and it was obvious that it had failed, was chilling. It makes the Nobility more horrifying, and it’s more understandable why humans are so terrified of them beyond even the possibility of being turned into a vampire.

The writing is better all over, and there are far fewer mistakes in this story. It could be because the author has learned in the two years between the first (1983) and second book (1985). Or it could be because the translator is getting better – or it could be (and most likely is) both of those at the same time.

There are no more info-dump paragraphs of world history like in the first book. Now everything is vital to the story, and the paragraphs of information are shorter and more concise. However, Kikuchi hasn’t suddenly become perfect at his craft, and there are still some bad things about this book.

It was not fun to learn that Lina wasn’t being smart on her own merits, but made smart by whatever it was that the Nobility did to her years before. She was a strong female character, but this revelation kind of ruined her entire character. The same with her sudden change into someone willing too have sex with the other three people who had been kidnapped – although that could have been due to the Nobility’s tampering.

There is a sudden change in the personality of one of the characters. The Mayor suddenly being all obsessive about Lina, and forcing himself on her. When did that start? There were no hints of it up until it happened, and that was a bit too much. The author also has a tendency to make most of his male characters rough and very eager for sex. Yes, they live in a difficult world and the Nobility has managed to eradicate all possible disease brought on by inbreeding or STDs, but not everyone who is shown needs to be a sex obsessed and disgusting bad guy.

In general the fact that most characters who are turned into vampires suddenly become very promiscuous is a bit weird. The change is very abrupt and it happens right after the bite/the character being turned into a vampire. No grace period whatsoever. Very few humans who get changed aren’t suddenly focused on sex, and neither are (most) born Nobility and D himself. At least both men and women go a bit crazy when they get turned, so it’s an equal opportunity thing.

Despite this, the story was very good and fascinating, and I am eager to begin the next book in the series.

I recommend this book!

 
 

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“Vampire Hunter D” – H. Kikuchi

This is a review of “Vampire Hunter D” which is the first book of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s series about the dhampir D.

It is the year 12,090 A.D. The world has ended, ravaged in a firestorm of man’s wars and madness. Humanity managed to survive the calamity… but they are not alone. Doris Lang knew what her fate was the second the vampire Count Magnus Lee bit her – an agonizing transformation into one of the undead, to be hunted by her fellow villagers, or cursed to become the Count’s eternal bride and thirsting for human blood. There was only one chance, one hope for her: hiring a vampire hunter named D.

The world that is created in this book, is vast. It is complicated and has a lot of history, and there is a need for a good deal of infodumping in order to actually understand what is going on. There is not a single bit of infodumping that isn’t needed or tied to what will happen next, or later on in the book.

The characters in the book can surprise you. Doris and Larmica aren’t weak at all, and Dan is tough. The sheriff and the old doctor and all the people of the little town just do their best to survive in a rather hostile environment. Greco is a force of chaotic neutral who is allowed to be as bad as he wants to be, Rei-Ginsei is someone I would have loved to return in another book. The Count is a bit of a stereotype, but the sci-fi elements of the story help to lessen that considerably.

And as for D himself, he is made to be what we consider today as a Gary Stue, but he is so quiet in action and in speech that this isn’t as painfully obvious as one would think. Even if both Larmica and Doris fall for him instantly, he doesn’t pay either of them any attention, and he is even killed by Rei-Ginsei at one point. There is enough mystery around D to keep reading.

This was a book written all the way back in 1983, and storytelling was different then. This sort of omniscient author wasn’t rare, but at least Kikuchi actually gives us breaks in the infodumping and omniscience with sharp episodes of action and fun. The action scenes are very good, and one can see them happen like in a movie.

The storytelling was, well, not perfect at all. This could be either because the author wasn’t actually all that good, or the translator wasn’t quite up to the task, or a mix of both. Japanese can be a difficult language to translate if one isn’t used to it, so some turns of phrases didn’t quite work out. The author is also an omniscient storyteller with more telling than showing, and that can get a bit annoying.

While not perfect writing, the setting and the mystery surrounding D are very good. The book is also very short, so it doesn’t take long to read. I already have the next four books on order, eagerly waiting to get my hands on them.

I do recommend this!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2019 in Action Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

 

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