Hugh Likes Fiction: The Murderbot Diaries

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“All Systems Red”
“Artificial Condition”
“Rogue Protocol”
“Exit Strategy”
Written by Martha Wells
Read by Kevin R. Free
Published by tor.com


The Skinny: A coming of age story told from the killer robots point of view.

In a corporation controlled far future, planetary exploration is considered so dangerous that terminator-like cyborgs called Sec Units are contracted to keep teams safe. Murderbot is one such sec unit, and they’ve recently hacked their own system to give themselves free will. They aren’t finding it as great as they had hoped they would, so they’ve decided to watch TV instead.
The Murderbot Diaries are a collection of four darkly funny novellas about what it means to be human. No, what it actually means to be human. After deactivating the module that demands compliance, Murderbot is free, but in order to not get scrapped, that mostly means they’re able to download endless hours of soap operas to their internal feed. Murderbot doesn’t want to be human, but as they investigate an incident involving an attack on his most recent clients, and their own redacted memory, they may find that they don’t have a choice.
The Murderbot Diaries are a very modern sort of robot story. It’s everything that Star Trek isn’t, with a dangerous, corporate-controlled life amongst the stars and a robotic protagonist that not only doesn’t want to be more human, but actively wants to be left alone. It delves into issues of neuro-diversity and the ubiquity of social media from interesting directions. Prickly, sarcastic Murderbot isn’t ‘likable,’ but they are certainly entertaining.
I listened to these books as a series of audiobooks read by Kevin R. Free. Free’s performance is outstanding, and he brings Murderbot and the other characters to life in a completely engaging way. These are short audiobooks, but this production makes them worth every credit.
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Hugh Likes Comics: Daredevil

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Daredevil #1
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Drawn by Marco Checchetto
Colored by Sunny Gho
Published by Marvel Comics


The Skinny: After recovering from dying (again,) Matt Murdock returns to crime-fighting, but things aren’t so easy anymore.

Matt Murdock is tired. After having come back to life, although in a bit more medically plausible fashion this time, he is hitting the rooftops as Daredevil, but finding that things aren’t as easy as they used to be. With Wilson Fisk the elected mayor of New York, NYPD has standing orders to stop vigilantes, with Daredevil being a major target.
Plus, Matt is rushing things. He’s impatient, and isn’t back to his old self. Like an old boxer, he is wondering if her ever will be, and how long he can rebound before physical injury and infirmity catch up to him.
Chip Zdarsky is hitting it out of the park with another more serious book at Marvel. I’ve already reviewed his writing on The Invaders, and this is a similarly thoughtful take on a character who has seen horrors and how they have internalized them. My favorite line of the issue is when he tells the woman he takes home from a bar not to fetishize his disability. There is a bone-tiredness there that speaks volumes about Matt’s experiences both in and out of his superhero identity.
Marco Checchetto’s art and Sunny Gho’s coloring both serve the story well. I liked Checchetto’s cramped, overlapping page layouts and Gho’s dark and gritty colors both do a great job of establishing an atmosphere and pace to the issue that would be a little unclear without them.
The issue also has a four-page backup story by Zdarsky that is a nearly-wordless short about Matt saving a kidnapping victim that does a great job of showing the events first from an outside point of view, then from Matt’s, using a great visualization of his sensory powers.
Daredevil #1feels very reminiscent of the Netflix series, but this is a very strong return for the character, and I can’t wait to see where this team goes with this direction. You can pick up a copy from your Local Comics Shop, or get the digital version from Comixology.
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Fiction: Party Tricks

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The conclave of the realm’s greatest heroes was well into their cups when they began to argue of who was the strongest. After many boasts and claims, Jeroboam the Holy Wizard claimed he could summon angels.
He was pressed to prove it, and one slurring conjuration later, a tall, winged being hovered before them, dripping and nude.
“This’d better be good, Jerry,” She said. “I was in the bath.” It might’ve ended there, had someone in the back not whistled. The ensuing smiting broke up the party, and the group reluctantly admitted that maybe they weren’t so great after all.

This story originally appeared in Everyday Drabbles, a daily free fiction project on Wattpad. For more free hundred-word stories, click the link. And if you enjoyed the story, why not buy me a coffee?
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Podcast: CCR53 – The Avenger (1963)

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Tonight your hosts, Hugh, Rich the Time Traveler, Opopanax, and Jurd, take on some ripe 1960s Italian sword and sandalery.

Click HERE to listen to the podcast!

And HERE to watch the movie on Youtube!

Chrononaut Cinema Reviews is presented by http://skinner.fm and http://hughjodonnell.com, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

This podcast originally appeared at Skinner.FM on Sunday, February 3, 2019.

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Hugh Likes Video Games: Moonlighter

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Published by 11 bit studios
Developed by Digital Sun
Played on Nintendo Switch
The Skinny: The Daily Grind, in day job and dungeon flavors!

Moonlighter is an old-school dungeon crawler with a twist. The dungeons are randomly generated, with each room comprising a single screen, much like the original Legend of Zelda. Enemies don’t drop money or experience, but rather items tied to the visual theme of each dungeon. During the day, players can sell their findings in a shop simulator, setting their own prices, decorating their shop, and keeping an eye out for shoplifters.
Profits from the shop can be sunk into upgrading your equipment, inviting other shopkeepers who sell things like potions or decor, or expanding the shop itself. The gameplay loop has a nice rhythm, and I constantly found myself deciding to play just one more in-game day to reach a milestone I’d set for myself. The combat is quick and fairly challenging, but doesn’t vary too greatly from dungeon to dungeon. While enemies all have very different looks, they tend to do the same sorts of things. The turrets you face in the golem dungeon have the same sorts of attacks as the seed-spitting plants from the forrest dungeon, for example.
Moonlighter’s gameplay loop can get repetitive, but fortunately, it looks and sounds gorgeous. The high-res pixelated art is charming, and the soundtrack boasts a variety of catchy and evocative tunes as you make your way through the floors of each dungeon and stock your shelves. There isn’t much of a story here though, so if that isn’t enough to keep your interest, this may not be the game for you.
I enjoyed my time in Moonlighter’s tiny village, but I wish the game had given me a few more options in how I arranged and decorated my shop. The items were nice, but I’d have like to have been able to give the place a bit more personality.
Moonlighter is an old school dungeon crawling action game mixed with a sedate but engaging shopkeeping sim. The gameplay loop makes for a perfectly tuned combo in a charming world. You can pick it up for PC or through all the major console eshops.

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Fiction: Tinker

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The stop was like every frontier town: Dusty, with not much visible from the air but the ruins. She set the airship down on the flat expanse of a former megastore.
Her propellers were all the advertising she needed. Within five minutes, townsfolk were congregating, carrying broken-down electronics and walking motorcycles. She’d repair what she could here, buy some of the rest, and take a few orders, in case she found parts someplace else. Maybe they’d be even buy something.
In a week, she’d take off again, headed for the next town. There was still so much to fix.

This story originally appeared as a part of Everyday Drabbles, a daily flash fiction project found on Wattpad. Click the link for a new hundred-word story every day.

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In which Hugh bakes some pies

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It’s the end of January!
And I realized that I haven’t just done a blog post in a really long time. I mainly fill this space with reviews, podcast reposts, publication announcements, and the odd bit of fiction, but I should probably be doing more to actually connect as a person and not a collection of projects and opinions.
So here goes:
This year, I had to extra goals beyond the usual: I wanted to bake more, and have more adventures. And while the dead of winter isn’t so great for the later, it is the perfect time for the former.
This month, I dipped my toe into making pies, and I made one that was successful, and one that was tasty, but also a disaster. Since I work at home, my baking tends to cluster around gatherings: parties, poker nights, etc. And the one with the easiest timing for me is my Monday night table-top gaming group. The only trouble is, one of the players is super lactose intolerant, so lots of things that I cold bake, he can’t eat. But I was going to make a pie, that he could eat, and it was going to be delicious, dammit!
Experiment one: Dutch apple pie


Since I knew I was dealing with a dietary requirement, and because I didn’t want to do absolutely everything, I went out and bought ready-made vegan pie crusts. They came frozen in a pack of two, and were five-ingredients, so I was pretty sure I picked a winner. I also picked up apples and spices. The recipe I picked called for your typical pie apples, but Wegmans was out, so I ended up going with Ginger Gold apples. I wasn’t sure how they would do, and I was nervous.
They turned out to be great! They were sweet and juicy, and they stayed together well. They were also really tasty as slices, because I cut way too much. The recipe I used also called for a topping, but it was a piddly thing, just spots of brown sugar over bare apples. This would not do, not a bit. So I looked up a crumb topping recipe, made a few adjustments, and got it to come together! The pie turned out beautifully, but the weather turned against us, and my husband and I were forced to eat the pie ourselves. Tragic.
Experiment two: Blueberry pie


But I was left with a second pie shell. Later in the month, we went to a brunch serving waffles, and we were encouraged to bring toppings. So, I tried my hand at blueberry compote, and tried turning the leftovers into pie.
The compote turned out well, but didn’t thicken up as much as I thought it should. This might have been because it was another vegan recipe, or it could’ve been because I went by the exact times in the recipe, and not by eye. But they were great on waffles, at least.
The next day, I baked the remaining pie shell, and added the leftover filling. Again, the filling was very wet, but I didn’t think anything of it, and put the finished pie in the fridge, wrapped in plastic.
It ended up not getting any thicker, a right soup of a pie. Worse, the bag leaked in my car. The latest arctic storm has caused me to turtle up, so I haven’t seen the damage in the light of day yet. Next time, I’ll have to make sure the pie sets properly, and take extra precautions while traveling.
So that was my adventure for the month, One good, and one bad, pie completed. Next month I’m going to be doing more shortbreads, and possibly something special for Smoky Writers at the end of the month. If you want to keep up with my baking in real time, I follow me on Instagram!

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