The last few weeks… (I’m back!) – Part 2b – Random Reviews and Recommendations (Books and Music)

Last post for today, I promise.  Just had a lot to catch up on after missing a few weeks.

So I finally got around to reading Ender’s Game.  I’ve heard so many people talk about it for so long and I finally picked it up.  All in all, it’s a pretty good read.  For those who haven’t read it, the basic story line is this.  A child is recruited in the hopes that through training he will be able to lead a fleet of spaceships to destroy an alien threat.  Now obviously, there is a lot more to this book than that, but without giving any of the story away, that’s the story.

After reading this and continuing on with the series, I have noticed that there is a very distinct theme to each novel.  It was also interesting to discover that this book was only written (the novel length version anyway) in order to create enough backstory to allow Orson Scott Card to write the second book in the series, Speaker of the Dead.  Anyway, the major themes of this book are politics and military/war.  This book does a really good job at studying the mindset of soldiers and leaders in war time and what people will do for survival.  On the political side, it gives a neat analysis about politics during war time as well.

The second book in the series, and apparently the book Card was most interested in writing, is only vaguely a sequel to the first book.  The main character from the first book, Ender, is back again, but this story takes place about 3,000 years after the first book, though Ender is only slightly older due to relativistic space travel.

As much as I enjoyed the first one, I like this one that much better.  While it is still a sci-fi story and it’s definitely in the same world as Ender’s game, it could just as easily be a book about the real world.  This time the theme is based around interactions between different cultures and environments, very heavily based on archaeology and ecology/biology.  As someone who has lived for six years in a very different culture and am very much a different person for it, it was really interesting to read about this process.  Card has really done his work here and these cultures and environments are very well thought out and detail rich.  The fact that it’s sci-fi adds even more as the cultures and ecology of creatures and plant life can be even more varied.

I am currently reading this third volume of the series, Xenocide.  This time it is very much a true sequel to the previous book, with only several decades having passed and many of the same characters being involved again.  Can’t give a real review yet, as I am only half way through, however it is very much still an interesting read, although this is by far the slowest read of the three.  The theme this time around is religion, and much like the last book the way different religions and culture interact.  Also this time around, the number of different religions/cultures has expanded quite a bit.

So far, I’m really digging this series.  There are still quite a few books left to read.  A couple more in the Ender’s Saga and then an entire other set of stories.  This second set of stories, Shadow Saga, follows one of the secondary characters in Ender’s Game and they fit inside the chronology of the Ender’s Saga. I will definitely be reading them all.

If you are interested in sci-fi and/or the interaction of different societies and cultures, definitely check out these books.  Also, if you have already read through these books, Marvel comics has recently started turning the world into comics, some based directly on the books and some that fill in in between with new stories.  Having not read many of the books yet, I have only read the Ender’s Game comics, but I enjoyed what I’ve read so far.



Now for the month (March) in music.  Haven’t had a chance to listen to all of this all the way through yet, but here’s what’s good in music this month (that I’ve discovered thus far anyway) with whatever I can tell you about stuff.  Listed (mostly) alphabetically by artist…


co3 – co3

First up, the debut self-titled album from Japanese group co3.  I say this is a debut album, but really that’s not the whole truth.  This is actually Japanese screamo band Fact posing as a new group in order to release an electronic/dance album.  While it’s only 5 tracks plus 3 remix tracks, this is a pretty sweet album.  Covering random genres from breakbeat and drum and bass to dubstep type stuff, this album is a lot of fun.  Definitely check it out.



Fact – Eat Your Words

Next, the companion piece to the co3 album.  With the release of their co3 experiment, Fact has also released a new mini album with a live DVD from their last tour.  From what little I’ve listened to so far, this definitely stands out as their best work since they signed with a major label a few years ago.  I still prefer their indie stuff, but this is getting back to that music again.



Emery – We Do What We Want

Next up, the new album from “Christian” screamo/post-hardcore band Emery.  This album is much heavier than the previous two and maybe even the first two as well.  Now, Emery being a fairly melodic band to begin with, don’t let this make you think this is a heavy album.  I just mean that the screamy bits are quite a bit more aggressive.  Now, having been not too impressed with the last two albums (I’m Only a Man and In Shallow Seas We Sail), and loving the first two (Weak’s End and The Question) this is a great plus for me.  I’m really digging Emery again with their beautiful dual vocal melodies and the punchy shouts in between.



Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)

That’s right, Pharoahe Monch is back!  After four years of waiting and almost a year of delays, we get new music from Mr. Simon Says himself.  I haven’t had a chance to give this much of a listen, but if his older albums are anything to go by, definitely g-g-g-get this album.  Simon says g-g-g-get it.



Protest the Hero – Scurrilous

Next, we’ve got the third release from Canadian progressive metal band Protest the Hero. Again, haven’t really listened well to this, but so far I’m digging it.  More of the usual, crazy time signatures, melodic pieces, hardcore breakdowns, Protest the Hero does it every time.  This time around they have pushed aside the concept album “storylines” from their previous albums, with lead singer Rody Walker taking much of the lyric writing this time making for a much more personal album.



Rise Against – Endgame

New music from Rise Against.  Although I was a little disappointed with their last album, they have pretty much redeemed themselves with this album.  Still following the trend towards more mainstream rock that they started a little with The Sufferer and the Witness (still my favorite Rise Against album) and pushed even further with Appeal to Reason, this is definitely a more polished album than the last one.  Based on a theme of “the end of humankind as we know it” but from a positive angle that posits that maybe “the place on the other [side] of this transition is [a] place we’d all rather be living in”, the songs touch on topics like Hurricane Katrina, LGBTQ teen suicides, and the recent oil spill.



Maximum the Hormone – Greatest the Hits 2011-2011

And now last, but most certainly, not least, the album I’ve been most waiting for, Maximum the Hormone is back with a triple A-side single after no music for three years.  Don’t let the name fool you, this is not a best of album.  The title is a tongue in cheek statement telling fans that “Greatest Hits doesn’t necessarily mean a collection of past titles. We can say these new songs are our best!”  This is also their first release to hit number one on the Oricon charts in Japan.  Not their best in my mind, but as good as they always are, and it always nice to get more music from Maximum the Hormone.  Now all we need is a new full length, please….

Please note, the video below was released before the album as a joke promo for the album, the real song doesn’t start until just before the two minute mark.  Gotta love how even a joke song by them is still a pretty damn good pop song.


Anyway, that’s all for real this time.  I’ll be back later in the week with a board game review and possibly a party review as well.


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