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review 2017-06-17 00:45
Am I no longer afraid of robots?
The Wild Robot - Peter Brown

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown has both fascinated me and frightened me for at least 2 months now. I kept seeing the cover when I was shelving or visiting other branches and the image of the single robot standing on top of a pile of rocks kept leaping out at me. I finally gave up the fight when I decided that middle grade fiction was the way to cure my book reading blues. I'm glad that I did because The Wild Robot was a lot of fun to read (and it turns out it's the start of a series!) made even more amazing by the superb illustrations supplied by the author. [A/N Peter Brown is no stranger to creating books as he's a well-known children's picture book author/illustrator but this is his first attempt at middle grade fiction.] This isn't your standard 'robot story' but instead it's a look at climate change, the ever-evolving landscape of our world with the advent of technology, and what it means to be truly alive. In short, it's beautiful, thought-provoking literature. The illustrations peppered throughout enhance the story by adding depth to the characters (I love that they're black and white.). Roz is doing the best she can given her circumstances which is really all that anyone can do. The only difference is that she's an artificial lifeform living on an island without any humans. How will this shape her? Will her presence have any effect on the local fauna and flora? Brown's commentary on our world is perfectly geared for a younger audience but it wouldn't go amiss for the adult crowd either. ;-) I can't wait to see how this story continues to develop as Peter carries on with the series. 10/10

 

For a look at the book from the author's perspective check out this awesome post written by Peter about his process of getting his book published: "The Wild Robot lives!".

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-06-09 04:32
A fun kick-off to a SF adventure series
Project Mothership: space marines, robots, and Captain Crunch (The Prince of Qorlec Book 1) - Ash Gray

Rose is on her honeymoon when she's abducted by aliens -- who have abducted her for the express purpose of having her carry one of the many eggs of a Queen struggling to keep her subjects safe and fighting to prevent an invasion force from completely conquering her planet. And, yeah, if everything goes bad, it'll be good to have some descendants of the Queen running around.

 

A few years later, a woman comes knocking on the door of Rose and her daughter, Quinn, with the news that the enemy is close -- and has been working with the FBI -- to take her daughter from her -- Rose and Zita fight for their escape through human robotic and alien forces, just trying to get off the planet so that Quinn can claim her rightful place helping her people.

 

There's a sense of fun, despite the dangers, and a great pace with plenty of tense moments throughout this. It was an enjoyable read with some good writing, and I'm pretty curious where it goes from here. It's not perfect, I have a couple of complaints that I'm afraid will overshadow things -- I want to stress: I liked this book, I want to read more -- don't think this post is anything but a recommendation.

 

But to start with, other than the weaponry, I'm not so sure I see the difference between Gray's 2160 and 2016 -- it's a shame that Gray didn't work harder on that part of the world he built. I'm not saying it needs to be an unrecognizable reality (although it'd be nice), but we should have moved further than just better guns.

 

One of my biggest beefs in fiction -- TV or books -- are central characters telling their closest family and friends lies to protect them. Yes, I'm looking at you particularly CW DC shows. That's Rose's impulse move, which is understandable, but why not trust those closest to her with the truth? Particularly her husband, clearly head over heels with her. Why make up a ludicrous story to explain what happened to her rather than risk the truth?

 

My last beef was the sex scene -- there's some romantic tension early on that I'm fine with, I thought it worked in the moment. But running for your life, with various enemies on your heels is not the time to take a quick break for a little whoopie. It didn't need to be as graphic as it was (thankfully brief), but really ill-timed.

 

Setting that aside, this was a fun, quick read (I couldn't believe I was done when I got to the end) that really made me want to go grab the sequel. Ash didn't create a masterpiece here, but he told an engaging, entertaining story. Which is good enough for me.

 

<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I received this book from the author in exchange for this post, I appreciate it.</i>

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/06/08/project-mothership-by-ash-gray
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review 2017-06-01 04:15
Visual novel review - Robo-Tea: 1 Sip!

 

[Robo-Tea: 1 Sip! is a short free visual novel, available here.]

 

I had a crappy day at work. I needed to de-stress but couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything, so I decided to give the last full Robo-Tea game I hadn’t yet played a shot (that just leaves one demo, and I’m trying not to touch it since I’d prefer to play the full game once it’s out).

And hey, it worked! I’m still not feeling 100%, but I can concentrate enough to write this review and I no longer feel like I’m at the edge of frustrated tears. The Robo-Tea games are magical oases of sweetness and calm.

Robo-Tea: 1 Sip! takes place sometime after Robo-Tea: 1 Cup! It’s very short and not much happens, along the lines of Robo-Tea: Misten Minicups, but in this case the few choices you’re able to make actually do have an effect on the game. Just like in Robo-Tea: 1 Cup!, you play as Gal. The game only has two choices total for each route. Your first choice determines which robot Gal is on another date with, Vals or Revek. The game only has three endings total, one for Vals and two for Revek (a bit of a bummer for Vals fans, but I’m a Revek girl so ha!). However! One of the choices for Vals results in an incredibly adorable image of Gal, so I think that helps make up for Vals only having one ending.

There isn’t really much more to say. Gal and Vals/Revek drink sparkle shakes together, talk about a future date, and are all generally adorable. I think I preferred Gal + Vals over Gal + Revek this time around, because of that cute picture and Vals’ offer for their next date. However, Gal + Revek was still pretty good. Oh, I love Revek.

If you want a sweet and simple visual novel with cute candy-colored graphics and no wrong choices, check this out. But start with Robo-Tea: 1 Cup! so that Vals and Revek are more than just random robots Gal happens to be dating. A part of the appeal of this game was its continuation of the relationships from the first game. Gal and Vals were definitely more comfortable with each other, and while there was a bit of awkwardness with Revek (depending on which option you went with), it was a nice kind of awkwardness.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-05-09 18:40
Sculpting the future
How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection - David F. Dufty

Longtime readers of the blog will recall that I've had a certain fear fascination with robots and A.I or Artifical Intelligence. You can check out my posts about books like Our Final Invention which details the growth artifical intelligence into super intelligence or In Our Own Image which is a thought experiment about what the evolution of AI will look like in the future to get an idea of what I mean. Today's book is somewhere in the middle. How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection by David F. Dufty covers the creation of a robotic incarnation of the famous sci-fi author which (according to its creators) has the ability to learn as it communicates with humans i.e. it is self-aware. The novelty of this machine was that it was created in the image of a man who was known for his paranoia about 'thinking' machines and that it was an artistic as much as technological acheivement. This book chronicled the creation of the android from its inception including the sculpting of the head and body by Dr. David Hanson through to its programming by Andrew Olney. (Not to mention the many volunteers from the FedEx Institute of Technology in Memphis who logged many hours helping to make this dream a reality without any compensation.) The PKD android was a sensation among scientific circles as well as among laypeople because of his realistic facial features, expressions, and his seemingly intelligent responses to questions. However, I am not convinced that he would have passed the Turing Test which proves that he was a self-aware artificially intelligent machine. Moreover, I found this book was lacking in many areas. Each of the chapters seemed to end without any real resolution and the ending fell flat. Also, one of my pet peeves is a nonfiction book without any endnotes or at the very least a bibliography and this one committed that sin. Overall, I'd say that this book would appeal to someone who hasn't done any significant research into this field and wants to dip their toe into that world but for me it didn't make the grade. 5/10

 

If you want to see the PKD android in action then you can check out the Hanson Robotics website. Be forewarned, if the idea of a seemingly artificially intelligent machine with human-like characteristics freaks you out then you shouldn't go to that website. To see what I mean, take a look at the pictures below. *shudder*

 

Source: Ascend Surgical

 

Source: Philip K. Dick Android Project

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-05-05 18:18
Mockingbird (Del Rey Impact) - Walter Tevis  
Mockingbird (Del Rey Impact) - Walter Tevis

The sexism, it burns.

Not a great book. There's the intellectual smugness, a feeling that the vast majority of humanity is Just Not Worth It. Although the author is able to imagine technologic breakthroughs, he can't conceive of a single piece of art worth the name arising in two hundred years, and everything else is just crap. Mostly plastic crap. There are good drugs, and pot is ubiquitous as the smoke of choice, but there isn't a single new good thing for hundreds of years except the thought buses. Hell, he can't even go so far as to imagine women wearing pants. The smartest human surviving is a woman, but she doesn't get an active role, she's just the passive love interest.

Nonetheless, he did have some very nice things to say about reading, so not entirely worthless.

Library copy

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