Favorite albums of the year, part I

I whine about there being many books and little time quite a lot. But it’s also true that there’s a ton of wonderful music (okay, mostly metal) I listen to every year. This year brought me some anticipated progressive metal releases and some pleasant surprises.

Kamelot – The Shadow Theory

Okay, to me this album sounded like a second pressing of Haven– which is my favorite Kamelot album, but I didn’t feel like I learned anything new in The Shadow Theory. The compression in the production is a bit much. But there’s amazing guitar work, synths, and the vocals are fantastic. Add in the cool science fiction story and it’s worth a listen if you’re already a Kamelot fan.

 

Chthonic – Battlefields of Asura

I discovered the band this year, and they already have a special place in my heart. The frontman is my grandmother’s congressperson. Weird and awesome, right? Chthonic show the world the tumultuous 20th century history on the island of Taiwan and that the struggle for democracy is something recent and special. This album makes me hopeful for the future. Also, the music. It doesn’t quite sound like any other band. Worth a listen for anyone interested in traditional Taiwanese music or any kind of metal. Also deserves some distinction for the lone woman in the band not being the singer.

 

Light the Torch – Revival

Howard Jones got eaten by stress and diabetes. Being a vocalist has its own perils because of all the touring, and that the instrument is so delicate. So in the past six years, Jones has apparently gotten control of his blood sugar and is back with Light the Torch. Revival is their third effort (this band was previously known as Devil You Know and changed its name when it changed some personnel). I enjoyed the elements of metalcore, prog, catchy choruses, and of course Jones’s amazing big voice.

 

Angra – Omni

Angra offer something other power metal bands generally don’t: awesome South American folk elements. Bittencourt and co.’s latest offering holds together better than most of their other albums. The band tries a little of everything while still making a cohesive listen.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Inherit the Stars by Laurie A. Green

The time and place

I assume from the author’s blog that it’s our future, and the place is deep space on several radical ships and less awesome planets.

The suspension of disbelief

There are various humanoid races. Space travel exists, and spaceships have combat capability. There’s all sorts of cool technology around that I won’t spoil.

The quick summary

Sair’s been a tribute slave to another race since before adolescence. He manages to escape the palace where he serves, but needs a way offworld. He finds a beautiful prototype ship and convinces the captain, Drea Mennelsohn, to take him aboard and drop him off somewhere safer. As he grows more fascinated with Drea, he finds that she and her mission are more complicated than he could have guessed. Together they could change the fate of known space.

My squees

Our couple make sympathetic rebels against the evil Empire. Sair is grieving. Learning to let go is never easy, and just because he likes, wants, and is grateful to Drea, they can’t commit until he releases his guilt. This is handled in a way that feels natural and relatable, even if I don’t know anyone whose losses are as awful as his. He wants to do right by the people he feels he left behind and those he cares about. I would treasure a friendship with him. Drea is a fascinating character. She has a disability that many potential partners would blanch at, but she makes the most of her limited life. That Sair is willing to work through it even though he thinks it’s difficult speaks well of him. I would love to pick her brain. The way she experiences events and space must be breathtaking, even if she finds it lonely. She bears a complicated burden, so wanting something for herself is rather risky.

The ship’s functionality and technology are introduced gradually. We learn about the Specter’s combat systems and cool features as they’re used, so it does not feel overwhelming and we can savor each nifty invention. There’s a scene about droids mating that I would have blushed at, were I physically capable. I didn’t know inorganic interactions could be that hot.

The epilogue ties up all the loose ends a reader wants to know about. Everyone gets what they deserve.

My grumbles

Drea and Sair are immediately attracted to each other, and as soon as she sees him she knows she’s going to take him on her ship. Uh, why? Because she felt a spark? Fate? The story is told from Sair’s perspective, though we get some of Drea’s at the end of the book. He finds her helpful and attractive, she does unprecedented things regarding him just from a first meeting. It seems impulsive and at odds with the rest of her behavior.

Drea has a brother named Ry? What was their father thinking? Dreary?

I enjoy learning new terms as they fit into a world, especially when they are not things I have names for now: spectro-drones, neuraltron, microcell. However, I am confused why there are new terms for units of time in this book: calendars, haras, tempas. If they are just years, hours, and minutes, using a new term makes me have to exert effort to stay immersed in the book. I assume everything’s being translated to English from several alien tongues for our benefit, so why weren’t the words for units of time translated as well? If they are different concepts, I’d like to know how they differ. The most disruptive word for me, though, is ‘gerabunga.’ It makes me think of heroes in a half shell, breaking my reading trance. That it’s the last word of the book following an emotional scene feels disorienting.

Read if you

  • Are curious about neural interfacing involving spacecraft and geek out over fighter jets and the like
  • Want the tortured hero’s perspective
  • Like your space opera vast and sweeping

Skip if you

  • Can’t stand dead baby jokes- there are dingoes in this book
  • Avoid fictional situations involving sexual slavery
  • Find instant attraction infuriating

Disclosure and final thoughts

I won this book in a raffle, but review it unsolicited. It’s available as a three-part serial, but I prefer to read complete books. I found several aspects of the world and characters to be original and fresh, and the author surprised me more than once.

Author site: http://www.laurieagreen.com

Resources: Goodreads / Amazon / Amazon serial