Monday, September 23rd, 2013 | Author: Casey Criswell

Last night was the Emmy awards and, well, I…don’t really care! I still enjoy TV a heck of a lot though! So, I figured I’d throw out my own personal Emmy award list with four shows that have really caught my attention this summer. There’s no limousines or fancy dresses though, in case you were excited about that.

I’ll freely admit that when I first added scheduled “Broadchurch” to record, it was completely site unseen and due solely to the fact that David Tennant starred in it. Let’s face it; he was a great Doctor Who and a good actor in general from what little I had seen of him outside of the Doctor. I really wanted to see if he could separate himself from the character and shine without the special effects.
Guess what…he really can!

“Broadchurch” is about as far flung from science fiction as you can get, giving us gripping drama that leaves you on the edge of your seat and emotionally floored at time. It’s dark and brooding, as is Tennant’s character and it all flows together so well. The show follows the exact formula of AMC’s “The Killing”, an entire season spent on the investigation of one crime. While “The Killing” itself was pretty great, I’d dare say that “Broadchurch” executes the formula even better. There are so many solid side characters, all with great performances, and the mystery is written so well that it’s taken most of the season to be able to form a solid guess as to ‘who-done-it’.

While I wouldn’t call the ending of each episode a cliff hanger, every episode of “Broadchurch” finishes off with a heavy emotional gut punch that leaves you chomping at the bit for the next episode. Not because you want to see what happens next, but more because you need to.

I had never even heard of “The League” until I saw it pop up on Netflix. Once I became aware of it, I started catching snippets of people talking about it in their usual haunts. Late last week, a friend mentioned that Seth Rogen shows up in it at a later date, so I started to be come curious. I mean, I’ve played fantasy football, I like crude humor and I’m an unabashed Seth Rogen fan. I figured it was something I needed to watch, so Friday night I had some spare time and was caught up on the DVR so I decided to check out the pilot. This morning, I watched the first episode of Season 1 before heading out to work.

In a nut shell, “The League” is hilarious. It’s crude humor, quite offensive at times, but the cast is made up of a great group of lesser known actors and comedians. They all play perfectly off each other and makes for a lot of eye watering hilarity. The tag of “The League” being about Fantasy Football shouldn’t turn you off. It is indeed about Dungeons and Dragons for Jocks, but there’s so much more to it. You don’t need to know anything about Fantasy Football to get the jokes, as they’re most there for setting. The real fun comes with how this group lays into each other with the taunting and slams that I”m sure all of us can connect with in our own friendships. When you find out Katie Aselton can be just as crude and crass as the guys, it gets even funnier. Jon Lajoie’s songs are just icing on the cake here.

“Siberia” has been one of the biggest surprises of the summer season. If you are a horror fan, you really should have been watching this one. The setup is akin to “The Blair Witch” in the way it is presented and used the first person point of view to great effect. Pair this with the fact that these people are on a “Survivor” style reality show and you realize that you’ve been thinking “What If…?” while watching “Survivor” longer than you would have thought.

While the show is far from terrifying, it flows far better than Oren Peli’s attempt at bringing the first person gimmick to TV in “The River”. The editing is well done and works to fool you into believing the reality show setup. Once it starts to flow, it serves to make you feel like you’re uncovering the mystery right along with the contestants that are stuck in the wilds of Siberia. And again, “Siberia” is never really terrifying, but it is confusing, mysterious and creepy all the same. It’s a nice change from the usual attempts at abject terror that this little sub-genre aims for. Plus, the writers lean heavily on historical events, to the extent that actual footage from said historical events show up in later episodes. As a TV viewer, this makes everything even more fun as you sit and try and theorize as to what’s happening here. The show is one part “Blain Witch”, one part “Lost”. Let’s just hope they don’t wind up in Purgatory. I hate when the writers cop-out with Purgatory in these types of shows.

Simply put, “Longmire” is one of my favorite shows on television. While I don’t mind westerns, I don’t consider myself a die hard fan. “Longmire” mixes just enough cowboy with modern sensibilities to make this show a blast. Really, the stories in this show are second to the characters themselves. Walt Longmire is total badass with a humble streak that makes him the polar opposite of Raylan Givens. His past is dark and murky and he’s so humble you can’t help but like him. Lou Diamond Phillips was a bit forced in the first season as Walt’s indian friend, but he’s found his stride in season 2 and really feels like an integral part of the show. Katie Sackhoff is tough as nails, yet endearing. Ferg is a bumbling deputy, but lovable. Branch, Walt’s antagonist is grating and infuriating by design and he carries off the roll well. Even the bad guys are great.

Story wise, “Longmire” is no slouch though. Based off the Craig Johnson novels of the same name, the episodes contain fluid dialog and non-sappy drama. The mysteries are well balanced and well told, with over arching mysteries that grow from season to season. It’s kind of like the “X Files” without the aliens and monsters!

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Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 | Author: Casey Criswell

There once was a song, I’m sure you’re all familiar with it. The verse went something like, “What once was lost, now is found.” Such is my life as a fan of film. The once was, a man who loved to explore the filmscape in search of random treasures, treading through the mire of filth that once happens upon in such a search, and enjoying every smelly kernel of the trip. That film fan was lost though. He became swamped, overwhelmed with the act of keeping up and worrying about things he shouldn’t, such of fans and stats. Said man took a hiatus; he left to find himself, to locate that fan that once lay within him that he celebrated daily. The hunt took some time, but that film fan of old, now is found. The film fan stumbled upon a time where he could once again sit and enjoy a movie because the poster looked cool, of the cast impressive. He apologized to his circle of friends, hoped they would welcome him back and maybe he settled back in, things would go back to the way they once were. Let’s hope the reunion goes better for our intrepid film fan than it did for Yul Perkins in “Hit & Run”.

In my time away, I’d seen trailers for “Hit & Run”. It looked weird; I mean, it featured Bradley Cooper in White Man Dreads! That’s certainly an attention grabber. It also had a cast that caught my eye. I’ve long been fan of Kristen Bell since her days on “Veronica Mars” and Dax Sheppard’s always been hilarious. Knowing that they are real life ‘life partners’ as well, the idea of them working together on screen was a draw. The plot seemed odd enough to be something different, Dax Sheppard plays a former getaway driver who is in witness protection after ratting out is former gang, then falls in love with Kristen Bell in is newly adopted town. Her job situation lands her an interview in L.A., the very town that Dax is sworn to stay out of for his own safety. Thankfully, the contrived setup and stellar supporting cast combined to make a road movie that was at the same time hilarious, rather engrossing and a bit action packed. Really, it all fit together to make a really good story.

As I said, I’ve always found Dax Sheppard to be a solid actor. He’s proven his comedy chops in flicks like “Idiocracy” and he’s proven his more dramatic side on TV’s “Parenthood”. Here in “Hit & Run” he manages to put together a solid character that has a few facets to it. You know he’s done something wrong, yet you still find yourself cheering for him throughout the film. At times, you feel sorry for him and at others, you’re confident he’s going to win the day. He makes a character that’s easy for we the viewers to connect with, which is essential for this type of film. Kristen Bell plays well off of Sheppard. She’s sweet and innocent and you can understand where her frustrations come from when they arrive. You’re engaged throughout her and Sheppard’s ups and downs. Despite Bell’s solid performance though, you find yourself sticking with the film for Sheppard. Seeing as he directed the film, in addition to starring in it, it’s nice to see him stand out so well.

While the main plot of “Hit and Run” was its solid and true story telling, what made this movie so enjoyable for me was the supporting cast. With out this crew, the hilarity of the movie would not rank so high. Tom Arnold, believe it or not, is a scene stealer. His moments are all over the top, but honestly, what would you expect from Tom? Watching him ghost ride his mini van while discharging his fire arm was enough to bring out some loud laughter. When you find out after this fact that he’s actually a US Marshall? Even better. There are some other stalwarts that show up here, such as Kristen Chenowith and Sean Hayes, all of which are great in the short scenes they show up for, helping to round out the movie quite well. Seeing Bradley Cooper play against his stereo type was a nice change. Though his performance was nothing particularly mind blowing, it was a nice change from Mr. Hunky Leading man.

In the end? “Hit & Run” was easy to dismiss form the trailers alone, and I don’t think it fared very well in the box office. The marketing push was short, so I’m not surprised if most readers hear about it and say, “Oh, I remember that flick, Bradley Cooper in dreads…” Thanks to Neflix streaming though, you can go back and give it a watch and I think you’ll find it well worth your time.

So for now, your long lost film blogger bids you a fond adieu. He can’t really say if he’s back full time, or even regularly. He can say that he’s starting to feel his oats once again and that the time away has done him well. The landscape of movie geekdom looks mysterious and new once again, instead of stale and frustrating as it once was. If you’re feeling froggy, he’ll be happy to have your company on the journey once again.

Thursday, August 15th, 2013 | Author: Casey Criswell

It’s 1619, you’re a guy named Raleigh who’s been busted for your nefarious ways and sentenced to death by the King of England. You’re not ready to go out like that though; you still have a lot of life in you. So, you set out for the colonies to make a name for yourself by doing something heroic to put yourself back in the king’s favor. You set your sights on the lost colony of Roanoke where surely you can become a hero in the war against the Spanish and nab yourself a reprieve on that execution thing. Except…the colonies, they’re on Mars. And the Spanish, they fight alongside the Martian Overlords. And you, you’re going to take them all on with your retro-futuristic wooden sky jet-ski armed with lasers!

I know, it sounds nutty right? It certainly is. The story plays directly to fans of science fiction though, especially if you’re a fan of things such as “John Carter of Mars”. Thankfully, this shoot-em-up packs in plenty of action to spice things up and screens full of bullet hell that will keep you on your toes. The controls are tight enough to make these moments of on screen chaos manageable. There are times where Jamestown feels like it might be a bit of an easy mode for the classic shmup fan; Raleigh’s hitbox is very tiny and you’ll find yourself getting away with moves that you know shouldn’t be able to. The game still manages to be a great time though and the story is so far out there, it feels worth pushing through the levels just to find out where they’re going with Sir Raleigh of Mars.

Come find me!

The Bloody Good Horror Podcast: http://www.bloodygoodhorror.com
The 1951 Down Place Podcast: http://www.1951downplace.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CaseyBGH
Steam: http://steamcommunity.com/id/CinemaFromage/

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Monday, August 12th, 2013 | Author: Casey Criswell

I’ve decided to play around with making some game video casts. Not sure where the idea’s going yet, but I figure why not! I play a lot of video games and I make a lot of podcasts…it all seems pretty logical! This first game, Super House of Dead Ninja’s is a lot of fun and I talked about it here on CF last week, so I figured it would make a good test subject to see if I had all the ins and outs of Fraps figured out!

More to come? Probably! I still don’t have a name or anything picked out and as of yet, I don’t even know if I’ll post them at BGH or Cinema Fromage, so stay tuned. You can always find out what’s going on with them on twitter by checking me out @CaseyBGH or on Steam http://steamcommunity.com/id/CinemaFromage/.

Find the free version of SHoDN at Adult Swim Games: http://games.adultswim.com/super-house-of-dead-ninjas-action-online-game.html

Find out more on Megadev and their Projects: http://megadev.tumblr.com/

Find SHoDN on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/224820/

Coming up Next: The Swapper

Enjoy!

Thursday, August 08th, 2013 | Author: Casey Criswell

Back in February, I built a new pc solely for the purpose of returning to the world of PC gaming. Since then I’ve fallen in love with Steam and the multitude of games and bargains contained with in! Some of my biggest enjoyment comes from the plethora of retro style platformers that exist out there as they all feel nostalgic and I find that oddly enough…in my old age, Im actually way better at them than I was a kid! Who’d a thunk? These days, video games have become my vice since I quit smoking and emotional eating, so I go through quite a few games. My nightly ‘unwind’ is to play, which all in all is quite a bit healthier than my old habits! Going along with the games, I’ve gotten in with a great community on Steam and I’ve been having a blast posting random game recommendations on there, so I figured I’d start talking games here in an effort to breathe some life into Cinema Fromage.

If you’re on Steam and want to play some time, be sure to add me! Cinema Fromage on Steam


I’m a little thick sometimes. When I first bought SHoDN during the summer sale, I played it about three times and I didn’t get it. There wasn’t a lot of explanation to the game and with the over stimulation that the summer sale brings, I didn’t have the attention span to sit down and give it a chance. I wound up shutting the game down, vaguely wondering if I wasted $3 and proceeded to waste my time in other things.

Cut to three weeks later, I see people talking about SHoDN on the forums a lot and I figure I paid $3 for it; I might as well give it a shot. The first time through, I thought the keyboard controls were a little cumbersome but I was starting to understand the game concept; score points, extend your time, get us far down the tower as you can. Seemed solid, it was starting to sink its claws in.

Later that morning, I was messaged by someone on my friends list, urging me to submit my scores so they had somebody to compete against on the leader boards. I hadn’t even realized there were leaderboards, so I played through again and submitted. That’s when the claws sunk in even deeper; competing against your friend’s high scores is super addictive. I figured I was in there, so I started clicking around in the menus and that’s when I discovered that there’s controller support in SHoDN! Around this time, a game I thought I might have wasted my money on turned into a full on addiction.

SHoDN is dead simple in concept, but with challenging maps and tight controls it turns into a great little time attack platformer. It’s difficult in all the right ways and its design of getting ever farther down the tower, combined with trying to outscore your friends list makes it a game you’ll return to. It’s simple nature makes it a perfect fit for those times when you want 10 minutes of distraction instead of 3 hours of character development, but there’s a strong chance it’s going to suck you into that dreaded, “just one more try” state of mind.

I’ve yet to try the new DLC that was added this week, but it’s officially on the wish list!

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Monday, August 05th, 2013 | Author: Casey Criswell

With the Quakecon sale kicking off on Friday, I was a bit surprised to see that there was a Quake 4! Sure, I got away from PC gaming for awhile and it had been a REALLY long time since I was heavy into Doom and Quake, but I felt a little funny that I didn’t know this existed! With a cheap price I figured it was a must play for nostalgia’s sake at the very least. I didn’t expect a whole lot out of it, which is good because it turns it’s okay. Not great, but okay.

I run a couple of movie podcasts, so I watch a lot of flicks. The state of the modern shooter in comparison to classic style shooters compares pretty well to the world of movies. Most of the time, you like to watch a movie that’s well put together, highly polished, engaging and engrossing. This translates to your modern shooters in the game world. Games such as Bioshock Infinite or even Deadspace are a different beast than the shooters we all cut our teeth on. They’re deep, they have branching stories, they’re well put together. It’s a production…an experience.

Jumping back to your movie world. you have another class of movie which boils down to your dumb action or horror movies, stuff put out by the likes of Syfy Channel or Asylum. These movies are cheesy with no depth whatsoever. They’re there simply to treat you to explosions and special effects, nothing more than the spectacle. Quake 4 fits in perfectly with this type of movie; there’ s no depth to it whatsoever, it’s there simply for you to run around and shoot aliens. And that’s it.

Much like watching the movies though, sometimes we simply don’t feel like wrapping our head around something deep. We want to munch popcorn and watch stuff explode. Video games are the same way, and Quake 4 is a pretty perfect fit for those moods. It’s a solid through back to the good old days where you’re only concern was checkpoints and finding your way to the rail gun. The story is a nice aside but really doesn’t do anything to suck you into the game. You’re sticking around for the fun of shooting Stroggs and seeing what the weapons do.

There’s some sections in Quake 4 that are annoying. The vehicle sections are slow and clunky which makes them frustrating when you’re trying to dodge. Some of them feel like you’re on a rail shooter without a whole lot to shoot at. The game is way too long for what you’re there for too.

In the end though, things blow up pretty well and it play smoothly while showing it’s age. It’s worth $5 and a Sunday afternoon.

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Thursday, June 13th, 2013 | Author: Casey Criswell

This week, my health coach was out and had to miss our last group meeting for this session. In her stead, I was told I’d be running the group in her absence! (Note that I wasn’t asked!) Everybody expected me to talk about running, but I went a different direction and decided to spend today’s meeting sharing the various sites and apps that I’ve used along my journey! So, I figured I’d go ahead and share that list here for you all as well!

Enjoy!

Learn to Run:
Couch to 5K – http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml
Zombies Run 5k Training – https://www.zombiesrungame.com/
Hal Higdon Training Plans – http://www.halhigdon.com/training/
GPS Tracking:
Run Keeper – http://www.runkeeper.com
Endomondo – http://www.endomondo.com
Nike+ – http://www.nikeplus.com
Strava – http://www.strava.com/
Exercise Tracking:
Fitocracy – http://www.fitocracy.com
JeFit – http://www.jefit.com/
Google Docs – http://docs.google.com
Exercise Training:
EXRX.net – http://exrx.net/
Livestrong.com – http://www.livestrong.com
Starting Strength Wiki – http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/FAQ:The_Lifts
Brain Over Brawn – http://brainoverbrawn.com/ (body weight exercises)
Stumptuous – http://www.stumptuous.com/workout-6 (Female Centric fitness blog, good dumbbell program)
Entertainment:
Spotify – http://www.spotify.com
Pandora – http://www.pandora.com
Audible – http://www.audible.com
Jog.fm – http://www.jog.fm
Calorie and Weight Tracking:
My Fitness Pal – http://www.myfitnesspal.com
Physics Diet – http://www.physicsdiet.com
Sparkpeople – http://www.sparkpeople.com/
The Daily Plate – http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate/
Recipes and Food Info:
Nutritionix – http://www.nutritionix.com/
Sparkpeople – http://www.sparkpeople.com/

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Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

I first discovered Band of Horses with their 2007 album Cease to Begin. That was an album that sounded experimental, filled with haunting harmonies and a solid country/folk/rock sound. It hooked me pretty quickly as it made great back ground music for writing and those late nights when lying awake, unable to sleep. Over the past five years or so, my tendencies towards music have started to drift away from a lot of hard rock and punk and I began to be drawn to a lot of folk and alt-country. Still not ready to declare myself a fan of straight up country, (note: still not ready for that!) but Band of Horses fit in quite well with the new niche of music I was starting to enjoy quite a bit.

Despite enjoying Cease to Begin, I was still not a ‘die hard’ fan of Band of Horses. I’d throw them on from time to time, but they were never a band I would seek out to listen to repeatedly, as I do with some of my favorite bands such as The Old 97′s. In fact, I probably only listened to the band’s next album Infinite Arms two or three times at most. Digging through Spotify for new running tunes, I stumbled across their new release and added it to the play list and set out with open mind. In the end, I found myself enjoying the music, yet still seeing it as good background music by the time I was done.

Mirage Rock is a solid album but aside form the first single “Knock Knock” and two or three others late in the lineup, is packed full of slow melodies and ballads. These songs are still great; the harmonies are outstanding and contain the bands customary haunting sound. For me, I tend to enjoy the up beat alt-country sound that comes with the latter half of the album as the band’s rock roots come to the forefront and show us just how hard they’re able to rock. This isn’t to say I don’t like the slower paced songs mind you; I just happen to enjoy the southern rock sound that the band’s capable of more so and there’s just not as much of that.

Upon repeated listening, Mirage Rock is beginning to grow on me much like Cease to Begin did back in the day, which is a good, good thing. The final verdict? Definitely worth a listen.

You can check out the video for the first single “Knock, Knock” here!

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Sunday, September 23rd, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

There was a time in my life as I went through college and spent many long summer hours hanging out smoking cigarettes and playing hackey sack that Ben Folds Five were my constant companions. My friends like the band well enough, but I felt I really connected with Ben. His songs circled around thoughts that I too shared from time to time such as “Song for the Dumped” or “Jackson Cannery”. This connection lasted for many years, after a couple of live shows and all of the albums. Then the band faded away and Ben went solo and it just wasn’t the same for me.

But now they’re back. Ben Folds Five is back and I’m pretty damn happy about it.

Digging into “The Sound of the Life of the Mind” is a tentative experience at first. For a fan such as myself, you want to be overjoyed that one of your favorite bands are back yet, you want to be cautious in case that those fond memories look better through your rose colored glasses of nostalgia. Then after “Erase Me” is over you realize it’s a bit different for the band, but the talent’s still there and you warm up to the return and the excitement begins to build. Over the next few songs, this feeling of familiarity begins to grow and your toes start to tap and you begin to find yourself lost in the melodies and harmonies and you almost feel at home! And then, it happens: track 6, “Draw a Crowd” starts to hit your ear buds and the moment is complete. Ben Folds Five has returned and looking back over those previous five tracks, you realize they were back all along and all is well.

“The Sound of the Life of the Mind” is a solid return for the band though it takes a bit of time to realize it. From the middle of the disk on, you realize you’re in familiar territory and everything feels as comfortable as it once did. The album has a definite tone to it, one that starts out hopeful and grows into something that sounds near motivating right around the time that “Do It Anyways” hits. Then, the album turns a corner and the tone becomes a bit wistful and ends on a melancholic note that has a hint of sadness that leaves you feeling like you just took an emotional trip with the band, which is good. Because that’s exactly how it felt listening to Ben Folds Five back in the day.

While I’ve only given the disk one listen, I can say for sure that I’ll be back for several more.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the awesome trailer for the first single “Do It Anyway”! It’s got a great cast. Be sure to stay to the very end for nostalgia’s sake as well!

Friday, August 17th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

I love hard science fiction when i can vaguely understand it. I am nowhere near smart enough to understand astrophysics and the like, but I’m smart enough to keep and intuit some ideas. The idea of the cosmos fascinates me as well. Not knowing what is out there, (come on there has to be SOMETHING!) the limits of our technology throwing us further and further into the depths…good far out there hard science fiction is truly amongst my favorite genres to read. Especially when they connect it to our own human timeline, regardless of how far-future and tenuous that line happens to be! With that in mind, the first book Stephen Baxter’s “Xeelee” saga was pretty damn fascinating.

The idea of alien life always entertaining me, especially when that life is REALLY alien. For example, “Blindsight” by Peter Watts plays with the idea that alien life forms may take aspects that are completely new to us. The spectrum of light that the creatures see, their physical make up, the way they think; something completely off the beaten path from any theory that our own alien biologists could ever conceive. I’ve always been a firm believe that any alien life form we do encounter; it’s not going to be anything like life as we know it. So seeing some crazy ideas come to life in a novel is good fun for me. Baxter plays with these concepts quite well in “Raft”, though his creatures are still tangentially related to our earth bound life forms. He has flying trees! Yes, it’s spectacular that they fly! They’re still wood though. He has crazy space whales! They’re still pretty much like our whales when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the creatures makeup. They’re out there enough that they fit well into my ideas of fascinating life forms.

To branch off from that train of thought, one of my reading quirks is that seldom ever read a series of books in succession. Sure, I love the stories but if I read all the books in a series back to back, I start to feel bogged down and become a bit bored. It’s something I’ve always done and sometimes it might be a full year before I circle back to the second book. To wrap this back to the above alien life thought, Baxter stays in fairly familiar territory as far as life forms go throughout “Raft”. At the very end however, he changes things up a great way! It’s great enough that it leaves me thing, “I may have to go ahead and read book 2 just to see what this is all about!” For me, that’s a pretty strong sign. The best part is, the alien stuff? It’s not even the biggest concepts at play in “Raft”. Baxter has created a universe so far flung from our own that at times it’s hard to wrap your head around. The forces of gravity at play are magnitudes stronger than our own. Couple this with the fact that our characters live in a nebula and things get even weirder! His concepts seem fairly smart as well, to one such as myself that is again…not any kind of physicist.

While I enjoyed the hell out of “Raft”, I ultimately gave this one a 4 out of 5, and the reasons lie mostly in the characters and the small political sub-plot that runs the length of the book. While the characters are not bad by any means, most of our side characters outside of Rees are fairly one dimensional. We do get to connect to Rees and root for him throughout, the majority of the other characters feel like set pieces. While that does sound a bit harsh, I just didn’t connect to them much. The political sub-plot felt a bit forced as well, with three locations and three factions all spatting with each other. While I realize the need for this particular thread, it just didn’t come across to well for me. In the width of this fantastic book, it was these political moments that felt sluggish and the only moments that made me wish they’d hurry up and get it over with.

So in the end? I still REALLY LOVE SCIENCE FICTION! I’m also REALLY GLAD I READ THIS BOOK! I am really stoked to move on read more of Baxter’s “Xeelee” sequence and I have quite a bit of hope for the rest of the series. Taking a peak at the other books, things sound pretty sweet indeed.

EDIT: Aww, damn! Further research shows that “Raft” is a stand alone novel! Boo!

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