You are viewing sawyl


Recent Entries

You are viewing the most recent 10 entries

May 20th, 2015

08:06 pm: Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony
With the fourth novel, Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony, Eoin Colfer introduces demons — a group of fairy-like creatures with a strong affinity for the moon — and gives Artemis a new and worthy rival.

Having come up with a method for determining the periodic arrivals of demons on Earth, Artemis Fowl is able to put himself in the right place in time to witness the latest appearance and to get caught up in the time distortion its arrival triggers. Artemis prediction, which turns out to be more precise than his fairy friends, seems to indicate that the spell keeping the demons' island of Hybras outside normal time has started to decay.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the veil on Hybras, a young demon called No 1 is starting to suspect he might be the first demon magus to appear for ten thousand years; something that causes the demons' leader, Leon Abbot, to mesmerise him into a trip to the volcanic crater at the heart of the island and a one-way trip to 21st century Earth. Arriving on Earth No 1 is promptly abducted by 12 year-old genius Minerva Paradizo. Working with Captain Holly Short of the LEP Recon, Artemis and Butler set about recovering the young demon from the French girl's chateau only to for one of Minerva's minders to go radically off-script.

With the situation suddenly complicated by the involvement of a group of human thugs, Artemis manipulates the villains into a meeting at Taipei 101. After a high altitude standoff and chase, during which they finally resolve the mystery of what happened to the group of demon magi who cast the original spell to place Hybras outside time, No 1, Artemis and Holly travel to the demons' island to deal with Leon Abbot before the spell fails and pushes the demons back into normal time and space for once and all.

One of the most amusing conceits of The Lost Colony is its attitude to growing up: Artemis has started going through puberty and consequently smitten by every girl to cross his path, but self-aware enough to release what is happening; while No 1, who seems to have been waiting to warp into a soldier demon forever, is beginning to accept that he may simply be different to his fellows. Minerva is a fun addition to the cast and a worthy rival to Artemis, it's just a pity she doesn't go on to have a greater role in the rest of the series.

Tags: , ,

May 19th, 2015

06:36 am: Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception
The fourth novel in Eoin Colfer's series, Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception, draws on events of the very end of the third book when, despite extremely careful planning and countermeasures, Artemis Fowl and his bodyguard Butler have their memories of the Lower Elements — all manner of fairies, dwarves, centaurs and fantastical creatures — magically excised from their memories.

Deprived of the steading influence of his friends, Artemis Fowl has reverted to his larcenous ways and come up with an audacious plan to steal a famous painting. Meanwhile, far below the Earth's surface, pixie mastermind Opal Koboi has managed to slip out of the secure clinic where she has been in a coma since the events of The Arctic Incident. Determined to revenge herself against her enemies — Captain Holly Short, Commander Julius Root, Foley the Centaur and, yes, Artemis Fowl — Koboi sets cunning traps for all of them.

Fleeing to the surface, Holly helps Artemis escape Opal's machinations only to discover that the pixie has beguiled a human scientists into launching a seismic probe that threatens to expose the fairy city of Haven to the entire human world. Racing against time Holly calls on the assistance of criminal dwarf Mulch Diggums, who also happens to hold the keys to Artemis' and Butler's missing memories. Using Mulch's token to recover his memories, Artemis suddenly realises that not only does he have friends, but that he has already lost one of them to Opal's desire to settle the score.

The Opal Deception is solid middle book which shows just how far Artemis has come from the days when he was a lone super-villain. The two parallel crimes that open the book — Artemis' theft and Opal's escape — are extremely enjoyable and in the best traditions of Hollywood. Opal Koboi is an enjoyable dangerous and unstable adversary whose revenge comes at a terrible cost to one of the central characters — a cost which Colfer, to his credit, doesn't shirk or invalidate with a casual bit of magic.

Tags: , ,

May 18th, 2015

06:31 pm: Walk from Hartland Quay
Having decided to walk the North Devon coastal part, we left Exeter early in the afternoon and after a somewhat tortuous route across country, arrived at Hartland Quay at around four. It was a beautiful day for walking, despite seriously gusty winds, with brilliant yellow gorse flowers, little ragged robins, foxgloves, and all manner of flora I couldn't identify. Here are a few highlights from the walk — the full album is over on Google+.

Rocks in the surf at Hartland Quay

As soon as we arrived we were struck by the weather: driving Atlantic winds and louring clouds alternating with strips of brilliant sunlit sea. The tidy was coming in as we arrived, driving the sea onto the rocks in front of the quay.

Hartland Quay Hotel

Looking east, with the cliffs framed by the hotel and the visitors' centre.

Setting out from Hartland Quay

Spectacular rock formations on the other side of the from the hotel. As we set out, an intrepid soul was getting out of the water after his afternoon swim.

Rocks like knives...

Two flat planes of rock sticking up out the surf like knife blades. Not a good place to land your boat...

Eve watches the breakers

E watching the waves break on the rocks. We spent a great of time trying to match these rocks to information in the guidebook, only to discover much later on that the section of the book we'd been using referred to stuff west of the quay, while we'd spent our afternoon walking east...

A good spot for climbing...

A popular spot for climbing, judging by all the anchor points at the top...

Walking towards the sea

Walking back towards the sea after a short inland section to loop around a small stream.

Waterfall on the North Devon coast

A beautiful little waterfall marking the outflow of the little stream on to the pebble beach.

Hartland Point Lighthouse

Hartland Point Lighthouse with the island of Lundy in distance.

Cliffs of Hartland Point

The cliffs of Hartland Point, up from the lighthouse, with the shot carefully framed to exclude the less than photogenic Coastguard Station.

Realising that the original plan to walk to Clovelly and back was somewhat over-optimistic — the signs indicated it was 10 miles in each direction! — we walked as far as the headland east of Shipload Bay and turned to retrace our steps. As we were walking back, the sun broke through the clouds, granting us some truly spectacular views of the path we'd just walked.

Looking west from Hartland Point

Looking west from Hartland Point on the on the return leg of our journey, with the sun catching the face of a huge wall of rock.

We got back to Hartland Quay at around ten to nine, arriving just in time to put in a food order before they started to wind down for the night. After a lovely pub supper — just what was needed after a walk of 8-9 miles with plenty of ups and downs — we hopped in the car and headed back to Exeter. This time we ignored the satnav's advice and went via the A39 to Bideford, the winding A386 to Okehampton, and the A30 for the last leg into town. We got back at around twenty past eleven — slightly later than planned! — but if we'd come back any earlier, we'd've lost the setting sun breaking through the brooding clouds to catch the cliffs in all their glory.

What a wonderful way to spend a perfect spring Sunday...


May 17th, 2015

11:27 pm: The North Devon coast path
Spontaneous trip to Hartland and a longish walk along the the North Devon coast path. Supper at the Hartland Quay, arriving just before they finished serving, followed by the long journey back south via Okehampton.



May 14th, 2015

06:19 pm: A rest day at last
Completely exhausted thanks to a combination of work and several days of non-stop activity. Fortunately today is finally a rest day, leaving me free to put up my feet for the evening, kick back with an unchallenging novel, and go to bed before the sun has dropped below the horizon...

06:11 pm: Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code
Onward to the third of Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl books with Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code.

Surviving the Russian mafia has changed Artemis Fowl Senior beyond all recognition, with his criminal personality giving way to a desire to put his family on the straight and narrow. And while Artemis Junior fully intends to follow suit, he can't quite bring himself to forego his last scheme: an attempt to extort money from billionaire industrialist Jon Spiro using fairy technology. But the shakedown goes wrong, leaving Butler, Artemis' bodyguard, critically injured and putting the C-Cube, a computer reverse engineered from fairy technology, into Spiro's grasping hands. But when Spiro discovers he can't use the cube without Artemis' unbreakable eternity code, he sends a couple of mob heavies to capture the boy genius.

The fairies, meanwhile, have been thrown into crisis by an unknown scan of their subterranean city. When Captain Holly Short is dispatched to investigate the cause, she finds Artemis Fowl and his now-lost C-Cube behind it. Reluctantly she agrees to team up with Artemis and Butler's sister Juliet for a raid on Spiro's fortress-like Chicago headquarters to recover the computer. Working in concert with Juliet, aided by Foley the centaur's latest inventions, and the almost supernatural bodily functions of Mulch Diggums, the most famously dwarven criminal in the underworld, Holly and Artemis carry out heist with more twists and turns than a mountain road.

The Eternity Code's cat-and-mouse game between Spiro and Artemis works well, with each working several moves ahead in an attempt to out-think the other. With Butler out of the action his impulsive sister Juliet, who may not be as flaky as she is in the first book but who still lacks her brother's focus, comes along to provide protection despite not having completed her training with the legendary Madame Ko. The book also marks a significant shift in Artemis' attitude to others: not only does he feel bad about going against his father's wishes, but he finally starts to realise that Holly, Foley, Mulch, and even Commander Julius Root, have actually become solid friends. Which makes the fairies' final decision to wipe his and Butler's memories of the Lower Elements all the more poignant.

Tags: , ,

May 13th, 2015

10:15 pm: Trying the navy problems...
Evening of trying the new bouldering problems set for today's navy flash competition. There were a good mix of problems; we managed the stuff up to 6a without any real trouble and made good inroads into the harder stuff but without really crushing.

06:08 pm: Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident
As part of my on-going enthusiasm for YA coupled with an all too sadly necessary book write-up amnesty, here are a few very brief thoughts on Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident, the second in the series about his eponymous criminal mastermind.

Artemis Fowl has discovered that his father, lost some years before when the ship he was on was sunk by the Russian mafia, may be be alive after all. Coming up with a cunning plan that involves a combination of magic and technology, he comes up with a way to sucker Holly Short and Commander Julius Root of the LEP Recon police into helping him.

Midway through the mission to a particularly radioactive part of the arctic, things go horribly wrong in the fairy city of Haven when all sorts of clever bits of technology invented by pixie industrialist Opal Koboi suddenly stop working. Forced to put the mission to recover Artemis Senior on hold the group call on the help of criminal dwarf Mulch Diggums, who has been living it up in Los Angeles after faking his own death in the first novel, and set about infiltrating the impenetrable fortress that is Koboi Labs.

The Arctic Incident marks the first of the books were Artemis and the fairies find themselves forced to put aside their differences and work together and rather to their mutual surprise, they get on well together and turn out to have skill sets that dovetail rather nicely. The recovery of Artemis Fowl Senior plot feels a little bit of afterthought at times, but the utter barminess of Opal Koboi more than makes up for it — as does Foley's entertaining response to Opal's attempts to scapegoat him as the book's Big Bad.

Tags: , ,

May 12th, 2015

06:05 pm: Artemis Fowl
In need of easy reading of late, I've been coasting with a bunch of YA including Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl, the first in his series about a young criminal mastermind.

Artemis Fowl, hyper-intelligent 12 year-old and super-villain, lost his father some years before when the mafia took exception to one of Artemis Senior's trade deals and now it looks like his mother Angelina is succumbing to madness following her husband's disappearance. Needing a quick way to boost the family's funds Artemis and Butler, his fanatically loyal bodyguard, come up with a desperate plan. Artemis tricks a fairy into giving him access to a book that explains the supernatural world and then traps a elf, in this case LEP Recon officer Holly Short, knowing that her people will ransom her back.

With Holly captive, her friends from the fairy community — her irascible but good-hearted boss Julius Root, the tech-genius centaur Foley, even Mulch Diggums, a kleptomaniac dwarf with the ability to tunnel through almost anything — set about trying to get her out, even going so far as to stop time around the Fowl Estate. But for almost every move the fairies make, Artemis has already worked out a counter-move to defeat it (a notable exception to Artemis' prescience occurs when Mulch Diggums experiences a bout of flatulence — a serious matter for a rock-eating dwarf — which temporarily puts Butler out of commission)

Artemis Fowl is a fun read with some extremely charming characters — the impulsive but warm-hearted Holly is particularly good — and an excellent anti-hero; because while Artemis' behaviour may be ruthless, his reasons for doing so — a desire to save his parents — raises his actions beyond the merely villainous and gives him plenty of room for character growth. The setting is well realised, with the fairies using both technology and magic to keep themselves hidden from humans, but with a set of unbreakable rules which draw on tradition and explain how Artemis is able to survive outsmarting the fairies with his tricksy plan.

Tags: , ,

May 11th, 2015

09:58 pm: The Machine Awakes
I've been enjoying a chance to return to Adam Christopher's Spider Wars universe with The Machine Awakes. This takes place a little while after the events of The Burning Dark and there are a couple of side remarks early on about the Shadow Protocol mission — some of which give away the nature of the mission — but by and large there aren't too many connections between the two novels; they certainly aren't direct sequels and each strikes a different tone, but they are both equally excellent and enjoyable.

After opening with a short prologue set on a mining station in orbit around Jupiter, which principally serves to set up some mysterious coordinates, the book drops us straight into the head of Caitlin Smith, one of the two principal protagonists. Formerly an outstandingly talented psi-marine cadet, Caitlin dropped out of her training program following the death of her twin brother Tyler, a psi-marine sergeant, in a Spider attack on a distant world. Having had intermittent telepathic communications with her brother since his death, Caitlin has come to believe that he is still alive and, consequently, has allowed herself to be drawn into a conspiracy which promises to unmask the Fleet's greatest secrets in exchange for the small matter of a political assassination.

But given what we know about the Spiders universe, Caitlin's belief in her brother's continued existence can't be taken at face value. From The Burning Dark we know that the universe possesses a subspace dimension filled with things beyond imagining, creating the chance that Tyler might be some sort of horror risen from the depths to torment his sister. Equally from the short story Cold War we know that some Spiders seem to be able to mimic the psi abilities of marines, opening up the possibility that Caitlin's brother was absorbed by the creature who killed him and his psi echo used to deceive his sister into carrying out a murder intended to weaken all of humanity.

Our second protagonist, Von Kodiak, is deep undercover on an a space station run by a notorious crime lord when his old partner, Mike Braben, appears with orders to drag him back to Earth. Arriving home, Kodiak finds the Fleet Bureau of Investigation in a state of frenzied activity. Fortunately Commander Laurel Avalon, Bureau Chief and Kodiak's boss, is there to bring him up to speed: Admiral Sebela, ostensible head of the Fleet, was assassinated during a memorial service, mere days after being stripped of actual power in a bloodless coup by Admiral Zworykin; a move Zworykin justified on the grounds of the almighty screw-up that was Operation Shadow, the mission at the heart of The Burning Dark. Needless to say, practically everyone in the Bureau believes the Admiral's murder to have been an inside job.

Unable to work under his own identity, intentionally tarnished to give him a way into his previous mission, Kodiak is assigned a cover as a junior analyst and given the sort of off-books work that neither Braben nor Avalon can be seen to be doing. Thus, when Avalon is unable to access a key database showing the movements of Fleet personel on the day of the murder, it is Kodiak who sneaks in to download the data and who generates the analysis that indicates the involvement of Marine Smith. When Caitlin's tracker triggers for the first time in the months since she left the Fleet, Braben and Kodiak raid a warehouse in Salt City, a slum that has grown up around the city of New Orem, where the find the apparently impossible: Caitlin's impossible-to-remove transponder has been removed and has fallen into the hands of a creature how simply shouldn't exist.

Where The Burning Dark was a haunted house story in the middle of a space opera, The Machine Awakes is more of a classic techno-thriller; and while the eventual solution may be very clearly telegraphed by the title, it is the journey to the solution and the discovery of the identity of the titular machine that matters more than the awakening itself.

The double stranded narrative works well, with Kodiak and Caitlin well placed to view the same story from different ends. Caitlin, a pawn in the conspirator's game, gets to see the low level details of the plan and to observe the fault lines that run through the group, coming to realise that each of the factions has a different reason for her involvement. Kodiak, meanwhile, provides a law enforcement perspective from the viewpoint of an outsider — his cover identity means his actions come under less scrutiny than Avalon's or Braben's, allowing him to bend the rules, while his recent period in the wilderness in apparent disgrace makes him unlikely to be a conspiracy mole.

Set in New Orem — Utah having become the Fleet's capital following the destruction of much of the southern hemisphere in a devastating Spider attack earlier in the war — The Machine Awakes gives a much clear idea of what life outside the Fleet looks like for a polity at war. The slums of Salt City are filled with a combination of refugees and Fleet rejects, left to their own anarchic devices by the police except whether they directly impinge on the world's security. Through the involvement of the Jovian Mining Corporation we get to see that uber-capitalism with all its amoral excesses also seems to be alive and well at the heart of the military industrial complex — something that, even from the prologue, hints the eternal willingness to sacrifice a humanity for a quick buck.

Tags: , ,
Powered by