Friday, 30 June 2017

My trip to #Dublin part 3

Day 3, and shockingly enough feeling surprisingly fresh after another night on the Irish pop. After a quick walk up the road this morning we had ourselves breakfast in a little cafe near our flat called 'The Cloud' which was a lovely experience, doing things ranging from porridge and cereal to more interesting egg based concoctions and really tasty fresh coffee.

This morning's plan was to meander down the railway station and catch a train from Connolly station to Killiney Hill, a small pebble beach with some sort of monument on the top of said hill.

I love getting the train, and it was straight forward enough to get tickets in Conolly station and to get on the right line etc. Not too expensive either. Got to read my book on the way there and back whilst intermittently taking in the views of the Irish countryside.

The stop at Killiney hill is only small; the station has a little coffee shop and there are hotels and houses around but that's pretty much it. The rest of the scene is taken up by a lovely and serene pebble beach. It was beautifully tranquil, and as my friend's footwear dictated we decided not to ascend the hill but instead to have a calming walk over the smooth pebbles taking in the sights, smells and sounds of the seaside. Beautiful stuff and completely recommended if you're not after something touristy.

Afterward, trained back to Dublin and had another aimless wander around exploring the shops and spending our Euros until dinner time. We stumbled across some nice book shops, and found a quiet bar to play countdown until our evening meal.

We'd be so besotted by Cornucopia the day before that we went back. Food was just as delicious, especially the coconut, cauliflower and tomato soup. I had a slightly different mix of salads, whilst my buddy had a bake type thing. Not really selling it, but it was really tasty again.

Knowing we'd have to be up at 4am for the plane journey home, we had a relatively early evening, and spent some time in our air bnb relaxing, packing and watching Bojack Horseman.

The plane journey back was equally painless, and I very much enjoyed stocking up on miniature whiskeys from the duty free. I was so proud of my friend for sitting on her own - for cheaper seats you don't get to choose where you sit - and surviving the journey as she's very anxious about flying. Kudos to her!

In all, albeit an expensive one, it was an excellent weekend and I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone who hasn't been. If I went back it would probably only be for another extended weekend rather than a full blown holiday. The people are friendly, the atmosphere is accepting and it's fairly easy and cheap to navigate the town centre, with plenty to do for us geeky tourists.

Have you been to Dublin? Have you done any of the things we did? Different opinions? Let me know!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

#StarWars Rogue Planet mini review

Rogue Planet is set after the events of Episode 1. Anakin is fast approaching his teenage years under Jedi tutelage from newly appointed master Obi Wan Kenobi.

In the story we are witness to Anakin really battling with his conflicting emotions of what he knows to be right and proper and the ways of the Jedi, to the fear and anger that seems to come so naturally to him and that actually grants him a hefty amount of power.

As punishment for ignoring his master and for thrill seeking on the Jedi Temple's city world of Coruscant, Anakin and Obi-Wan are tasked with investigating what happened to a previous padowan, sent to the mysterious world of Zenoma Sekot and mysteriously gone missing. The unusual and unknown planet is rumoured to be home to the creators of the fastest ships in the galaxy - a glorious conglomeration of biology and technology where ships are not made but grown or born.

Whilst the pair of Jedi investigate both the ships and the disappearance, power hungry General Tarkin enlists the support of equally power mad and creator of war machines such as the deadly Tie-Fighter, Raith Sienar, to go to the planet themselves and retain their unique technology for use by the Republic, descending ever further to the corrupt and evil empire it will eventually become.

An intriguing story, highly detailed and absorbing, largely due to the strange systems in place on the planet where the inhabitants work with the life forms to blend technology with life to create unique and blindingly fast crafts in such an unusual way.

The tale of Anakin's inner turmoil and Obi Wan's struggle to be a competent master really help lay the foundations for their relationship in a way Episode 1 doesn't approach. There are moments of levity between the two, as Anakin who is obviously the naturally the stronger of the pair in the force butts heads with his Master who is evidently the more controlling and balanced of the two.

The tale of intrigue and deceit is full of interesting characters; Tarkin and Seinar, whilst both working for the supposedly good Republic are both corrupt and politically evil striving only to make gains for themselves within the emerging new order.

The story is exciting and moves at an excellent pace, making it a real page turner. As more is unveiled about the planet the more you yearn to discover, and as the republic begin to encroach a patchwork of events from shady abductions by assassins to interstellar space battles all keep things suitably gripping.

It leaves a lot open ended for the possibility of a sequel, but this novel is an excellent bridge between Episode's 1 and 2, being an exciting, interesting and well written read throughout. Recommended.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

#StarWars Episode 1 Movie Novelisation by Terry Brooks mini review

Unlike the vast majority of Star Wars fans, I don't hate the Episode 1 movie. It feels almost nostalgic to re-watch the film now and I remember fondly all the hype leading up to it's release to the world. I don't deny it's flawed it doesn't stop it being an enjoyable  adventure in a galaxy far, far away. If you discount Jar Jar Binks, of course... 

The novel by Terry Brooks is an accurate retelling of the plot from the movie, in which the planet of Nabboo is subject to a trade embargo by the cowardly and greedy Trade Federation. The Jedi travel to negotiate with the trade federation and are instead greeted with the beginnings of a plot to invade the peaceful world below forcing the young queen of Nabboo to sign a treaty making their illicit actions legal. 

In their initial escape of the planet, the Jedi, queen and accompanying crew find themselves marooned on Tatooine in the Hutt controlled Mos Espa which is just as much a hive of scum and villainy as we've come to expect from the desert planet. Encountering Anakin Skywalker, a young boy so evidently strong in the force, the troop have to rely on the boy to help gamble their way to escape, by entering him the popular but deadly pod races...

When they accompany the Queen in her return to the planet, they set in motion a plot to defeat the trade federation and their invading droid army, teaming up with the comical Jar Jar Binks and his fellow Gungans and taking on the mysterious and presumed destroyed dark lord of the sith. 

The story is written in such a way to add little bits of extra insights into characters feelings and emotions, for Anakin's obvious infatuation with Padme is definitely more apparent than in the films. The action sequences are really well written and kept me glued to the story throughout. 

Subtle nuances in character action, such as nods or winks are alluded to add to the reality of the conspiracies intertwining. The locations, vehicles and weapons are well detailed and I feel the book is what the film would've been with a little more time spent on it. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and recommend it to anyone interested in the canon of Star Wars stories and novels. 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

#SpeccyNation by Dan Whitehead mini review

The ZX Spectrum is before my time, but that doesn't stop me from appreciating the prog rock to my pop in my world of gaming, with it's crappy rubber keys and mysteriously beautiful rainbow stripe.

Dan Whitehead however, is definitely a retro gaming origins expert having been into video games since 1982 and writing for a variety of gaming publications and getting stuck in with many gaming related endeavours.

Speccy Nation is a collection of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright horrendous from the history of the Spectrum, include entries about popular releases and obscurities.

What is excellent about this book is the ability for Dan to understand the positive elements about all games, talking about all of their qualities without simply residing to the fact that a game is rubbish, instead discussing the merits or at least the interesting features a game has to offer, from social nuances to the soundtrack to simply the concept in it's own right.

Dan Whitehead clearly has a massive love for the Spectrum, and it's a joy to read about all these different titles from somebody who appreciates them for what they really are, and who understands how they paved the way for modern gaming. Retro gamers, go forth and buy this book!

Monday, 5 June 2017

#Nod by Adrian Barnes mini review

Nod is told in a series of journal entries by aspiring author Paul during this unique concept of an impending apocalypse. Set in Vancouver, the global populace bar a select few are suddenly unable to sleep. The few remaining 'sleepers' all share the same golden dream. Groups of children also sleep, but become silent and introvert and the nature of their dreams is not apparent to anybody. 

Living in a flat in a seemingly functional relationship, the world around them begins to slowly descend into madness, beginning with general irritability and over the days becoming more and more dystopian as people struggle to function on the little sleep they have. The 'awakened' eventually break into strange cults and factions, developing psychosis and unusual social regimes and rituals to help function as they slowly but surely deteriorate.

Paul meanwhile has to navigate the alien landscape without being persecuted by the awakened, so jealous they are of his ability to sleep. It feels like a 'Walking Dead' scenario, made interesting by Paul's relationship and exploration of language and words, using unusual imagery to represent the events engulfing him. 

The story is often tense, and you really feel for Paul tiptoeing over eggshells with the ever devolving awakened. As the people change or at least reveal their true natures Paul is witness to ever more shocking and depressing acts, and it feels genuinely and believably hopeless at times. It definitely isn't a life affirming book. The human race portrayed here stirs a real disgust for our species as they resort to ever more twisted coping mechanisms. 

There is no neat and tidy conclusion to this story, leaving it very open to interpretation at the end and whilst disparaging it's truly a unique concept and extremely well written. Completely recommended.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

#StarWars The Old Republic - Annihilation Mini Review

Annihilation is the fourth story in The Old Republic series of novels, Despite being of Jedi heritage, our lead character Theron Shan posses no natural affinity or command of the force, yet is talented in other methods of combat and subterfuge in his role as a republic spy. 

Shan teams up with Jace Malcom, commander of the republic military to help neutralise the Ascendant Spear, a new type of imperial battle cruiser captained by aspiring Sith lord Darth Karrid. Karrid is being considered for a role within the Dark Council, the old republic's dark side version of the Jedi council. As Darth Malgus' old apprentice, the council have their reservations, and Karrid is constantly striving to prove herself more capable and worthy of the title of Sith despite her heritage and history. 

Throughout the tale if intertwining characters, all of whom have interesting back stories and histories, the story is often tense, exciting and detailed in it's retelling of these events of the galactic war. The cold war elements of infiltration, spying as well as more traditional combat based affairs help this book stand out from the crowd, and the fact that our main character is of Jedi descent without being proficient in the force makes it all the more interesting. 

There's quite a lot to take into consideration here in terms of continuity, and the book does a good job with previous source material tying tidily into previous Old Republic novels and video games. This only serves to add to the expanding Old Republic universe and makes the history feel more rich and believable. Any story that manages to do this whilst still maintaining a good, exciting pace throughout is definitely one I'd recommend to any other Star Wars book lovers out there. 

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