Things That Make Me Smile No.175: Eerie Music

A fun, if eerie, music video with an excellent sense of pageantry and minimalism, I give you Alice’s Night Circus – Penny Dreadful (Mr Strange). Enjoy.

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5 Interesting Links for 08-02-2019

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Innovation (Caregiving)

A new program in Minnesota is offering disabled people who require care the opportunity to stay in their homes with a trained roommate while also providing housing for caregivers in need of new living arrangements. It is an option with a lot of potential.

Tea (Fun)

Something as simple as a tea bag seems pretty fixed with minor variations. I’ve never seen something like this before, though: (Via Victoria L. Szulc)

Health (Hobbies)

Hobbies can have more than the immediately apparent benefits, including improvements to your quality of life, if you choose them by following your instincts rather than what others tell you to do.

Research (Leadership)

Research first completed in 2012 and recently updated indicates women are rated stronger in leadership skills based on the perceptions of those around them.

Covers (Marketing)

An odd approach to book cover comparison, this interactive map of 5,000 covers allows you to zoom in and look at the grouping in your genre. You can explore from a variety of perspectives as simple as the general color choices to the type and fonts for the title text and everything in between. The selection logic is linked below the image. (Via Jane Friedman)

Beneath the Mask (Uncommon Lords and Ladies, Book 1)

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Fogbound: Empire in Flames by Gareth Clegg

The talents of this author shine in his debut novel through the tangible world building and bevy of fascinating characters. We are thrown into a post-apocalyptic alternate London whose Queen Victoria lost the battle against Martian invaders. It’s a post-apocalyptic world, though, so the invaders are long gone, leaving behind devastation and strange plant life to trouble the survivors.

The world comes to life in both its familiar aspects and those that have been twisted beyond recognition. It absorbs the reader into a somewhat horrific steampunk environment only worsened by the entrenchment of Victorian Era class, wealth, and status struggles. I’ll admit it felt as though more than four years had passed since the invasion based on the radical social and structural changes. However, I remember seeing a TV special about how quickly all sign of humanity would vanish even considering a modern, overbuilt world and must concede the point.

The sense of place and interesting characters–whether an old boatman, a bounty hunter, or a somewhat befuddled inventor–kept me reading despite a slow build and delay in revealing a main plot to coalesce around. There were so many characters, whether given the point of view (POV) or just mentioned in passing, I started losing track of them, unable to figure out their place within the story. It’s often unclear whether they are there to aid or hinder, or even if they are main characters or random cameos. The trouble came when these extras resurfaced much later as just a name without context but the story expected you to know exactly who it was and what part they were involved with.

There were many POV characters in the beginning, increasing this issue, but once the viewpoint settled on Simmons for a long enough chunk, I started to make sense of some things. The greater plot is hidden from Simmons as well, though, so no help through his eyes. I found the way the POV allowed Simmons to force Bazalgette, the inventor, to simplify the purpose of his latest design was brilliant. Whether or not I would have understood the technical explanation, it would have slowed the narrative and dissolved into a technobabble info dump. This choice of the best perspective for the moment worked well, though Bazalgette gets his own POV at times.

The story is not written so you become a participant, but then neither are the characters in active pursuit of an aim for most of the book. More, they are going about their various lives, doing seemingly unrelated things, only to discover there’s a greater meaning they’ve been working toward in ignorance. This is an action thriller at times with Simmons stalking murderers through areas invaded by zombie-like dead then a weird melancholy celebration of the good old, pre-invasion times as well as an opium den of twisted dreams. The action worked for me in the short term while the melancholy helped build a deeper picture of the past and specifically of Simmons. The opium dreams only confused me even after I had learned enough to understand their actual meaning. The distinction between reality and dream is unclear even once you know what’s going on.

While part of me found the gotcha of twist after twist audacious, the rest felt frustrated by the lack of true seeding. I knew only enough to sort of make sense of the specific events after they came about, but often without the clues necessary to anticipate the greater meaning. That I enjoyed the twists at all is charged by my true affection for the various main characters who had strengths, flaws, and a real sense of different personalities that sprang from their circumstances.

Writing a novel requires a variety of skills. It is far from a simple task. There is room for Gareth Clegg to grow as a novel author, but his debut work has enough going for it to entertain and enough potential to give hope of greater works to come. Fogbound lacks nothing where it comes to complex characters or sense of place. The error, if it can be called that, in plotting is largely one of scope. The plot is so complicated it can be overwhelming and attempts to incorporate many different aspects of the backstory while lacking the subtle notes to bring the reader along rather than having them always tagging behind. There’s enough material crammed into this long novel to fill out a trilogy, and perhaps that greater space would have fixed the plotting weakness. But even as it stands, there’s much to enjoy in this imaginative and immersive take on the aftermath of an alien invasion in a steampunk world.

P.S. I received this ARC from the author in return for an honest review.

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Things That Make Me Smile No.174: Kinetic Art

A glimpse inside L’Univers du poete ferrailleur, a quirky museum full of kinetic sculptures that should appeal to your sense of the fantastic. This reminds me of one of my favorite exhibits at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Last time I was there, the exhibit had been removed though permanently or temporarily I don’t know. It was a kinetic sculpture of a man and his cat having a cup of tea while they flew through the sky in a ship propelled through bicycling. It’s more windpunk than steampunk, but draws on similar creative elements.

Posted in Art, Music, Crafts, etc., Smiles, Steampunk | 2 Comments

5 Interesting Links for 07-26-2019

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Accessibility (Beaches)

A Canadian beach has made an effort to make the sand accessible for those with mobility concerns in several key ways.

Innovations (Interesting People)

A father turned his creativity to designing bed sheets stamped with educational games for hospital use to ease hospital boredom.

Camp (Music)

The experiences and enthusiasm of participants in an all-girls rock camp is fascinating.

Young Adult (Reading)

Is age the defining factor in young adult literature? This essay shows evidence to the contrary and looks at what draws readers of all ages to the category.

Pluto (Space)

A recent analysis of 2015 data from New Horizon as it passed Pluto offers the possibility of organic material surviving in Pluto’s underground ocean despite the distance from the sun. (Via Author Pat MacEwen)

Shafter (Seeds Among the Stars, Book 1)

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