Saturday, 21 May 2022

Chasm City

Chasm City

Alistair Reynolds
ISBN-13‏: ‎ 978-0575083158

Following the announcement of the release of Inhibitor Phase and then Elysium Fire I’ve been rereading some of the previous Revelation Space novels to pick up the thread. First time around I found Chasm City a dark story and it was no different the second time, but I got so much more out of it. I also remember losing the thread towards the end the first time, but not this time!

As with most of the series, the thread of the main story is inconsequential to the main Revelation Space arc. It’s the other aspects of the story which tie up with other Revelation Space events which make this such a fantastic book. By the time I read the last page I knew that Sky's Edge was named after the edge Sky Hassausman had over the other ships in the flotilla which settled the planet. I knew that the war had started between the ships of the flotilla and what they were fighting about. I knew how the Melding Plague had got to Chasm City and how it was discovered and spread. I knew that Sky had met Khouri, who is an important character in the main trilogy. And more, much more! I wish I knew how the Melding Plague came to be though.

I read the second half of the book in about two weeks. I just couldn’t put it down!

Sunday, 8 May 2022

A Review: Incineration Fest 2022 - Metal is back!

Overall I really enjoyed Incineration Fest and would go again if the line up is right for me. What was really great was seeing metallers back at gig with no restrictions and doing what we do best!

Winterfylleth

I completely fell in love with Winterfylleth when they played Bloodstock on the mainstage and even more so when they released the set as a live album. They are incredible and totally deserved to be opening proceedings at the Roundhouse for Incineration Fest. Actually, they deserved to be much higher up the bill. They’re a solid outfit, played what I wanted to hear and ended, as I always think of them ending from the live album, with Chris saying this is the last song “as time is short and our songs are long!” I need to see them do a headline set in a venue with a great PA soon.

Tsjuder

Tsjuder was the wildcard for me. I didn’t really know them and had heard only a few things on Spotify before, although what I heard was really good. I had no idea I was going to be blown away. They sounded incredible from the first note, which was even more impressive given that they are only a three piece and the PA in the Roundhouse wasn’t turning out to be great for definition.

Bloodbath

Bloodbath was really the reason I was at Incineration Fest. I’d missed them at Bloodstock ten years before as one of my sons was being born and I hadn’t had a chance to see them until now. Of course now Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost) rather than Mikael Ã…kerfeldt (Opeth) was on lead vocals.

I was very, very excited and from the moment I heard that trademark crunching guitar sound I was even more excited. They played for a full hour. Unlike the Black Metal bands on the bill there was more riffing and solos and a slight different drum sound.

They’re an odd band to watch. For reasons I don’t understand, the bass player and two guitarists would often turn their backs to the audience to face the dummer. The band didn’t seem to interact much with each other on stage and even less so with Nick.

Nick’s deadpan humour was present when he did speak to the audience. He introduced the band as being from Sweden, then added from Halifax almost as an afterthought! During the set he admitted he couldn’t see and dispensed with his sun glasses as they’d apparently been a good idea backstage. After breaking the microphone he enquired if it would be added to his bill at the end of the night.

Emperor

Emperor hasn't released any new material (that I know of) since 2001 and, if I’m honest, I barely listen to them beyond the live album these days. I’ve seen them at least three times before, the first time being in 1999 in a small club in Bradford on my birthday - it doesn’t get much better than that. I’m more of a fan of Ihsahn’s solo stuff these days and I still really enjoy Samoth’s Zyklon whenever I play it. Emperor, not so much anymore.

They played for the full ninety and for the most part were solid as you might expect. Whether or not Faust plays with is of no consequence to me and I certainly didn’t need to covers they played with him towards the end of the set. There was lots I knew and lots I enjoyed, but I wouldn't make an effort to see Emperor again.







Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Devin Townsend at the Royal Albert Hall (again)

Leprous

There’s an obvious pull for me towards Leprous due to the association with Ihsahn and prog, but rock bands generally do little for me these days. I listened to a little of Aphelion before the gig, but it didn’t grip me.

They’re an odd live band and some of the time the cello player looked a bit out of place when he was without his cello. The sharing of the keyboards among various band members, often in the same song, was also weird. The singer was wearing a waistcoat and doing some very odd dancing and his voice can grate. For a prog band the lack of any guitar or keyboard lead breaks was also weird.

However, I quite enjoyed Leprous!


Devin Townsend

We’d only seen Devin Townsend a few months ago (in the summer at Bloodstock), but my wife loves him so we went again. We should have gone the night before as he played loads of songs we knew, in contrast to the night we went where he played nothing we knew! Most of it, I am reliably informed, was from the Ocean Machine and Infinity albums.

Devin still plays brilliantly and it was great to see him again with the session musicians he’d teamed up with for his Bloodstock performance. He creates a fantastic wall of sound and engages with the crowd like few others. I’m sure we’ll go and see him again, after all we’ve not heard Hyperdrive live yet!

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Learnings from Decapitated

When am I going to learn? 

The first two times I saw Decapitated, Bloodstock and then supporting someone in Norwich at the Waterfront, they were incredible. 

In early 2020 in London they sounded awful and we left. Last night in Norwich they sounded terrible again. 

I don’t know if it was them or the sound system, but there was no definition. It was all drums, vocals and not much else, so we gave up halfway through. 

I’m hoping the new album will be amazing, they’ll play at the UEA and it will be amazing. However, if I am going to learn, then I won’t be risking it.

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Galactic North (a review)

Galactic North

Alastair Reynolds
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0575083127

Galactic North is a group of short stories set in the Revelation Space universe starting at it’s very beginning and stretching right to it’s end.


Great Wall of Mars


I reread the Great Wall of Mars after the Inhibitor Phase to remind me of some of Warren Clavian’s back story. It didn’t disappoint. I should have read Great Wall of Mars again before Inhibitor Phase, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. At least I’ve remembered why Nevile hated his brother and how he was betrayed by him, why Nevile defected to the conjoiners and how Felka fits in. One small story explains so much of why things happened in several of the other stories including Absolution Gap.


Glacial
 

Glacial adds little to the overall story, but does help to explain how the relationship between Clavian, Galiana and Felka developers and how it becomes so strong. Glacial is really an opportunity for Alastair Reynolds to explore the concept of a thinking, possible sentient planet.  He does this, as always, by hinting throughout at the bigger picture and keeping you reading.


A Spy in Europa

 
Not sure what I think of this one. Seemed a bit pointless. Not very nice characters who all stabbed each other in the back. Some interesting science tho and provided a backdrop and context for Grafenwalder's Bestiary.


Weather

 
What a fantastic standalone story this is with some great characters who demonstrate that not all Ultras are cut-throat. There’s lots more detail about conjoiners here and the secret of how C-drives are managed is revealed, but that’s not the darkest secret.


Dilation Sleep

 
I was disappointed in this story until I read the notes at the end and realised it was the first story written in the revelation space universe and that it introduced some key aspects, such as Chasm City. It doesn’t really add anything to the overall story, but has some interesting insights into refersleep.
 

Grafenwalder's Bestiary

 
Some of the best stories are those which are difficult to read due to the behaviour of some of the characters. When they do things you can’t understand the motivation for and could not imagine doing yourself. In this story it’s cruelty, deception and revenge and I loved it.


Nightingale

I do wonder how Alastair Reynolds thinks up these horrors, but they are glorious. This story is particularly horrible at the end. The evil computer was far worse than anything in the Resident Evil series, with undertones of Hal 9000. There’s exploration in the story, battle, weapons and the sort of intrigue which makes it difficult to put down. 


Galactic North 

This should be expanded to a novel, or at least a novella. There’s scope for so much evolution, especially with the greenfly and how they come to take over. I couldn’t put this down, and wouldn’t have done it if my Kindle hadn’t died a few pages before the end!

In some ways it’s a shame that Alastair Reynolds has put a hard limit on the timeline of Revelation Space, but I loved it! I reread Galactic North to understand the comments at the end of Inhibitor Phase and the Nest Builders. I should have read it first. And I should have a Revelation Space timeline on my wall.


Tuesday, 22 February 2022

A review: Inhibitor Phase by Alastair Reynolds

Inhibitor Phase
by Alastair Reynolds
 
 ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0316462761

* * * Warning Spoilers * * *


To say I was excited at the prospect of another core Revelation Space novel, more than a decade since Absolutely Gap, wouldn’t come close. In preparation I reread Absolution Gap and loved it on the second reading.

I wasn’t inspired by the description of the Miguel character hiding from the Wolves on an unknown planet, but it turns out this was just a minor distraction at the beginning and that The Inhibitor phase plays a major part in advancing the story. The scope and breadth, as you would expect from Alistair Reynolds is vast and intricate.

I was a little disappointed that the characters were ping ponging between some of the same old worlds, Ararat and Yellowstone, and the evolution of some of the survivors from Redemption Ark into Merpeople, but this didn’t detract in any way. It either wasn’t clear or I missed what happened to Ana Khouri - maybe she’s still on Hela. It was sad, but probably necessary to see the end to the Nostalgia for Infinity. I also missed how, following her death on Mars, Glass and Warren had reencountered each other and swum with the pattern Jugglers prior to Sun Hollow.

Overall I loved this story. I literally could not put it down! Alastair Reynolds is the master of descriptive exploration and constantly hints at more facets to the story I just have to know and have to keep reading for! The Inhibitor Phase does of course leave questions unanswered and sets up the next story, which I cannot wait for either!
 

Sunday, 6 February 2022

A Clash of Kings a Review


A Clash of Kings: Book 2 (A Song of Ice and Fire)

George R.R. Martin

ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0007447831

I loved the Game of Thrones TV series Even the way the final series ends. Although I’m not sure I would have chosen the eventual king. I was looking forward to reading the books and understanding the stories in more depth and, to an extent, that was the case. More so with the first book than the second.

A Clash of Kings just has too much irrelevant detail and quickly becomes laborious to read. A part which stands out is after one of the battles where there are many pages given over to a list of knights who were awarded honours. The vast majority were in no way relevant to the story and just prolonged getting to the end. Fortunately the last 3% (I was reading on kindle) was given over to an appendix so I was able to skim that.

There were a number of key events from the TV series, not least of which Bron lighting the wildfire with an arrow, which I was looking out for and were disappointingly missing. Of course the book is the original and these events were invented for the TV series, but still.

I’m told the books get better from the third one onwards, so once I’ve got through Inhibitor Phase, Dune and one or two others I’ll be back. I’ve started now, so I need to finish.

Monday, 3 January 2022

Find My Tea: A technical journey through new product development (online 1st February 2022)

What: Find My Tea: A technical journey through new product development

When:
Tuesday, February 1, 2022 7:00pm to 8:30p (GMT)

Where:  SyncIpswich (online)

RSVP: https://www.meetup.com/SyncIpswich-Ipswichs-Tech-Startup-Community/events/281991960/

 

 

After what feels like an age I’m getting back into speaking and of course I’m speaking about Find My Tea! This time it’s technical!

As well as online with SyncIpswich I’m also doing the ACCU Conference, nor(DEV):con and one other:

    ACCU Conference - 4pm 8th April (Bristol) - 90min version
    nor(DEV):con - 24th & 25th June (Norwich)
    TBC - July

Find My Tea: A technical journey through new product development

There is more to having a great idea for an app than just building the app. You’re not only required to be a full stack developer (whatever that means), which doesn’t usually include the skills for building an app, you need to understand and be competent in ‘Ops’ (there’s really no such thing as DevOps) and the automated pipelines used for testing and deploying the app, it’s backend services and supporting applications. And there is so much to choose from!

In this session I will take you on the journey of discovery from having an idea, to choosing, rechoosing and choosing again the different technologies and platforms I used to build and release a new product from scratch.

This session will be focussed on the technology choices made and the reasoning and not on the product itself - although of course this will feature. This will include the mobile technology, the technology used for the web applications, backed services, hosting and development pipelines.

You can download the Find My Tea app here: https://findmytea.co.uk

 

Paul Grenyer

Husband, father, software engineer, metaller, Paul has been writing software for over 35 years and professionally for more than 20. In that time he has worked for and in all sorts of companies from two man startups to world famous investment banks and insurance companies. He has built and run three limited companies, none of which made him a millionaire and two of which threatened his sanity on more than one occasion.

Paul was a founding member of both SyncNorwich and Norfolk Developers, two of the most successful tech and startup based community groups in the East. He created and chaired the hugely successful Norfolk Developers Conference (nor(DEV):con) for seven years bringing in speakers and delegates in the sphere of software engineering from around the globe.

Paul is currently a Senior Software Engineer at Bourne Leisure, the owners of Haven caravan parks, and the founder of the tea finding app, Find My Tea. He loathes the word Entrepreneur, not least because he struggles to spell it and it reminds him of Del Boy from the 80s sitcom Only Fools and Horses. He sees Entrepreneurship as a side effect of the creative process of problem solving, rather than a career path in its own right.

Despite having dealt with the world of business from directors of the board down, Paul has kept both feet firmly on the ground even when his head has been in the clouds with healthy doses of Heavy Metal, Science Fiction and Formula One and long hair until it started falling out in 2013.

Oh, and he loves good tea too!