Archive for the ‘Hobbies’ Category

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Guitar Legends I – Stevie Ray Vaughn

May 18, 2010

I heard Stevie for the first time a few years ago on an MTV Unplugged session with another guitar legend, Joe Satriani. Although we lost him almost 20 years ago, he still remains one of the best guitar players ever.

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Book review – “Gardens of the Moon” by Steven Erikson (Malazan Book of the Fallen vol. 1)

April 18, 2009

 

The Empress Laseen, who has recently taken the throne of the Malazan Empire, continues the expansion started by her predecessor, through the continent of Genabackis. The rich city of Darujhistan is the objective, but Pale and its mages are on the way of the Malazan 2nd Army. This army counts with the experience of their High Fist (army General) Dujek One-Arm, the “sapper” brigade of the Bridgeburners, and a cadre of High Mages, but the Tiste Andii lord Anomander Rake does not intend to let Pale get captured easily…

 

Thus starts “Gardens of the Moon”, first book of the “Malazan Book of the Fallen” series, pre-reviewed here

 

Despite the apparently standard premiss of the book, as the reader goes through its early stages, many questions arise. What really happened to the previous emperor? Who are Amannas and Cotillion, who seem to be ready to thwart Laseen’s plans? Why are the Gods so interested in Ganoes Paran, new leader of the Bridgeburners? What really happened to the mage cadre during the fight in Pale? What is the secret plan of the Adjunct of the Empress?

 

The book quickly takes a fast pace, and all these threads become caught in each other. It becomes hard to put the book down, as surely something interesting is bound to happen in the next pages!

 

Then there’s a fantastic finale, where several of the book’s protagonists meet and face each other. This ploy, often used by Erikson throughout the saga, is called a Convergence, which basically means that powerful characters get attracted to each other and to powerful events, like moths to a flame.

 

Overall, this book is excellent, and starts my favorite saga since “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever”. If I had to point any negative sides of it, I’d say some of the interesting threads are left loose until later books, and also that some parts of the story are better understood after reading the follow-ups. Mind, this isn’t necessary a negative, since a few of the happenings of the book are described by the “opposing parties” in later books, revealing very interest other-sides-of-the-coin. For example, one of the most “hateable” characters in this book, will become one of the readers’ favorites after at least other books in the series.

 

Final score: 8 (first read – 8.5 if re-read after other books of the series)

 

Best character: The book introduces us to many interesting characters that will have interesting roles throughout the saga, like the mysterious Bridgeburner mage Quick Ben, the consciencious Daru assassin Rallick Nom, or Onos T’oolan the First Sword of the T’lan Imass. But it’s the Lord of Darkness, Anomander Rake, and his highly original sword that becomes central to the magic (pun intended) of this book.

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Book pre-review: “Malazan Book of the Fallen”, a saga by Steven Erikson

March 4, 2009

I’ve been wanting to review Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series for some time but I haven’t yet gotten along to it. You see, this series goes a bit out of normal fantasy parameters, so I feel an introduction, or pre-review, is necessary.

The mythos for this series was created over the years by Steven and Ian Cameron Esslemont (Steven’s friend and also a fantasy author) as a RPG setting. Now these two gentlemen seem to have an awesome imagination and have included little to no stock fantasy in this mythos.

First, this series doesn’t include the usual elves, dwarves, orcs or evil undead hordes. The races are original from physical details to social behaviours. For example, the antisocial Jaghut have too many joints on their arms, greenish skin and tusks. Imass, from which humans are descendant, underwent an undeath ritual to exterminate all Jaghut. Then there’s the K’Chain Che’malle, lizards with hive-mind organization who are adepts of technology and the Tiste, divided in Andii, Edur and Liosan, children of Dark, Shadow and Light respectively.  I could go on and on, but there’s already an entire 17 page wikipedia page on the races alone which is interesting enough.

There is, naturally, magic, in this series. Casters tap their magical energy from warrens. These warrens are not only sources of magic, but they are like parallel dimensions where the characters occasionally travel. These warrens are aspected: there’s the warren of fire, of shadow, of ice, etc etc.

Even the way deities work is unusual. There are Gods without power, Gods that were killed and replaced, Gods that have fallen and have no access to their warren. There’s also ascendants, who are powerful beings who, for some reason or other, have “ascended” to a demi-God status.

There are particularly special characters in these series, and now that I’ve put the mythos on the table, I’ll be able to focus more on them during the book reviews.

Another interesting aspect of the book is the lack of a clear “hero” or “good” or “evil” – even though a few characters are close to the definition. It often happens in the series that, for example, one character is portrayed in a very negative way, and then on the next one, from a different point of view, the character’s actions will seem justified. This is not as sharply noticeable as in George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, but it occasionally occurs.

I shall soon (yes soon, I promise!) write the review for the first book of the series, “Gardens of the Moon”.

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What have I been up to?

December 24, 2008

I know I haven’t written anything in a long time (about 3 months to be more precise!) so it’s time for at least an update:

–> Reading – I’m rereading Steven Erikson‘s “Malazan Book of the Fallen” series, for which I hope to write a review some time soon.

–> Boardgaming – it’s a bit quiet on the boardgaming front, even though in the last few days we’ve picked up our pace with a few games of Carcassonne, Alhambra, Marrakesh, Saboteur and Uno. Also, some inside information from the North Pole leads me to believe that a few Xmas gifts will increase our boardgame collection 😉

–> Gaming – World of Warcraft has replaced Guild Wars as my MMO of choice, and has been the game I’ve been playing lately

–> Blogging – I’ve somewhat “replaced” my regular (?!) blogging with Twitter, a microblogging service. You can follow me on the Twitter sidebar or on http://twitter.com/pedrorq

–> Work – My new job is going great and busy, thus taking time away from blogging – oh well, priorities! 😉

I promise I’ll try to blog more often. In the meantime, merry Xmas everyone!

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Mozilla Firefox Download day!

June 17, 2008

Mozilla is hoping to get a Guinness World Record today for the most downloaded software in 24 hours.

The software is none other than the most recent version of the open standards Firefox browser. So if you’re still stuck with Internet Explorer, do yourself a favor and get Firefox 3 today.

http://www.spreadfirefox.com/en-US/worldrecord

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Book review – “Dawnthief” by James Barclay (The Chronicles of the Raven vol. 1)

April 5, 2008

Right, haven’t had enough time to write on this blog so I decided to start with something non-controversial, like a book review 🙂

Dawnthief, by James Barclay is the first book on the “Chronicles of the Raven” trilogy. The story revolves around a group of mercenaries, The Raven, who suddenly find themselves in a world-saving quest much different from the usual jobs for money they normally take. This might somehow be reminiscent of Glen Cook‘s “The Black Company“, but unfortunately I haven’t yet managed to grab it on this side of the pond.

The setting for the story itself is pretty much a normal fantasy setting with swords, magic, elves, dragons, etc. There is some dimensional travel as well, but it isn’t taken into much detail in this book.

Balaia, the continent where the story develops, is a big rectangular island, with a chain of mountains separating the bad guys (Wesmen) on the West from the good guys on the East. Not the most inspiring of maps.

In terms of magic, there are 4 colleges of magic in Balaia and despite occasional dissent, they are mostly, in this book, in diplomatic terms with each other. The spells the members of each college casts seem to be the same, even though some of the colleges are more prone to cast certain spells – for example ForceCones seem to be used mostly, but not only, by Julatsan mages, and HellFires by Xeteskians. These spells are cast through creation of mana shapes, members of each college having to manipulate their shapes made of a different mana flow visible in a different color – an interesting concept.

The strong point of the books are definitely the characters. The members of The Raven aren’t perfect goodie-two-shoes like Aragorn (Lord of the Rings) or Drizzt (Icewind Dale), nor they’re anti-heroes like Thomas Covenant (Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever) or Inquisitor Glokta (The First Law). They’re humans and mercenaries, so they have their strengths and weaknesses and disagreements like any other human – or elf. Some of the characters that are not part of The Raven, like Styliann, also display an interesting personality and behaviour. Akin to George R. R. Martin‘s “A Song of Ice and Fire“, not all main characters make it to the end of the book, which makes a difference from the fantasy book cliches.

Overall, and mainly because the characters of The Raven are so interesting, I strongly recommend this book. I will soon review the 2nd book of this series which will surely reinforce my point 🙂

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Welcome to my Playroom!

February 18, 2008

Welcome to the first post on Playroom 3!

So what’s this blog about? When I started dabbling in the mystical arts of HTML back in 1994, I created the Playroom, which was a really rudimentary/noobish web page.

A few years after, the Playroom 2 came to life. My University page, which covered mostly my hobbies at the time.

Fast forward into the Web 2.0 era, and a blog seems to be the best way to recreate the Playroom. So the Playroom 3 will cover both technologies (Gadgets, IT, software development, Collaboration…) and hobbies (Boardgames, Reading, collecting…).

So, “welcome to my parlour…” 🙂