Attack Of The Lizard King – Rex Stone (author), Mike Spoor (illustrator)

Attack of the Lizard King CoverSeries: Dinosaur Cove, #1 / Dinosaur Cove Cretaceous, #1
First Published: March, 2008
Genre: Children’s Time Travel / Chapter Book
Available: Amazon.com | Amazon UK

Jamie moves to Dinosaur Cove, where his dad is going to open a dinosaur museum in a lighthouse. While out looking for fossils on the beach, he and his friend Tom find a portal back to the time of the dinosaurs.

This is a fun chapter book, and the first in a series. The boys explore the dinosaur world and have a few close encounters (though nothing too scary). While they’re searching, Jamie has a fossil guide that gives him information on the things they find. The book includes a map at the end showing the path the boys took and a glossary of the new words. Recommended for any dinosaur-lovers who are moving on from picture books.

Above World – Jenn Reese

Above World CoverSeries: Above World, #1
First Published: 14th February, 2012
Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction / Novel
Available: Amazon.com | Amazon UK

The breathing technology used by the Kampii (mermaids) is failing. The adults won’t do anything, so Aluna and her friend Hoku travel up to the surface to find answers (young Kampii don’t get their mermaid tails until they’re older, so they still have legs). In the above world, there are unaltered humans, bird people and horse people (among others). They’re under attack from the upgraders (cyborgs).

This book is a fun action-adventure. The world is a dystopian spin on old mythology, without being too gritty. The current situation is one that developed from the founding of the various colonies, so as well as travelling the world, they also have to learn about their past. I enjoyed the contrast between the two main characters – Aluna as a warrior and Hoku as a scientist. It was nice to see Aluna having positive relationships with other girls/women, rather than being the one special girl who hated all the other womenfolk (as so many books with warrior girls/women tend to do).

There were some points that made me pause. Though it’s good that being cool mermaids and so forth isn’t a white person only zone, I wish the racial descriptions had been less ambiguous. There’s mention of brown skin, but that leaves a lot to the imagination in the sort of way where people rewrite in their heads to make everyone white (especially when the character isn’t on the cover). It would have been nice to have some mention of other features, such as hair, facial features and remaining pieces of culture.

I wasn’t too comfortable with what was shown of Dash’s people. They seem rather pseudo-Native American, which is potentially problematic when they’re a race of horse people. Or the suggestion that the desert was an uninhabited area free to be colonised by the genetically changed. However, it’s possible both issues are handled in later books, as these things were told second hand rather than seen.

I did enjoy the book despite those concerns and look forward to the sequel.

Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories – JoSelle Vanderhooft (editor)

Steam-Powered CoverSeries: Steam-Powered, #1
First Published: January, 2011
Genre: Steampunk / Short Story Anthology
Authors: Mike Allen; Rachel Manija Brown; Georgina Bruce; Amal El-Mohtar; Sara M. Harvey; Meredith Holmes; N.K. Jemisin; Mikki Kendall; Matthew Kressel; Shira Lipkin; D.L. MacInnes; Shweta Narayan; Tara Sommers; Beth Wodzinski; Teresa Wymore
Available: Amazon.com | Amazon UK

There were a few stories I particularly liked. “To Follow The Waves” by Amal El-Mohtar was one, set in Syria with dream crafting technology. The post-apocalyptic Western “Suffer Water” by Beth Wodzinski was also a fun story. Overall though, a lot of the stories didn’t really hold my attention.

The Kindle edition has no formatting, making it harder to read. If you’re going to buy it, the print edition is probably a better bet.

Music Videos: Created Partners

Created partners are a classic of speculative fiction. Usually a person hurt or disillusioned with relationships creates a new partner. The theme stems from a fantasy of having the perfect romance with the perfect partner. But unlike a romance novel, there’s a whole layer of creepiness in creating a perfect partner. It raises questions about free will and slavery. The reality may not turn out quite the way people were hoping.

‘Coin-Operated Boy’ – The Dresden Dolls

Inserting a coin into the boy

Music Genre: Dark Cabaret

Video Genre: Dark Cabaret

About the Band: The Dresden Dolls consists of Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione.

About the Video: The lyrics and video sum up the creepiness of the created partner trope. The coin-operated boy (Brian) is the wish-fulfilment partner who won’t hurt Amanda, but he’s also “just a toy” who doesn’t get a say in anything. It has a stage theme, with exaggerated stage makeup and scenery like a stage set.

(Being coin-operated seems like a hassle to me, as you kept having to unlock his coin compartment to get them out. And he’d rattle. But maybe I’m overthinking this…)

YouTube Links:

Coin-Operated Boy

‘The Girl and the Robot’ – Röyksopp featuring Robyn

Robyn meets the robot

Music Genre: Pop

Video Genre: Science Fiction

About the Band/Singers: Röyksopp is a Norwegian musical duo. Robyn is a singer from Sweden.

About the Video: There’s nothing idealised about this relationship, either in the visuals or the lyrics. Flashbacks to the first meeting show a relationship that started well, but grew cold. The robot is not under Robyn’s command, and decides to spend all day working instead of spending time with her. The images of Robyn at home and the robot at work share visual elements, which pulls it together nicely.

Also unusually for the created partner trope, the robot is not designed to look attractive. He’s your usual blocky humanoid robot.

YouTube Links:

The Girl and the Robot (YouTube) – I believe this is the official one, but it’s region locked and I couldn’t check it.

The Girl and the Robot (Daily Motion)

‘Robot Girlfriend Song’ – Rhett and Link

The advert for the robot girlfriend

Music Genre: Comedy

Video Genre: Geek

About the Band: Rhett and Link are comedy duo Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal.

About the Video: This video pokes fun at the robot girlfriend idea, and the male geeks who dream of such a girlfriend. One day, they’ll realise that dating a female geek is a better solution (even if she doesn’t come with built-in Solitaire and may steal your comic books).

YouTube Links:

Robot Girlfriend Song

‘Busy ‘ – Olly Murs

Rose: Painting her eyes

Music Genre: Pop

Video Genre: Fantasy

About the Singer: Olly Murs is a singer from England.

About the Video: For those who like the romantic (if still creepy) side of created partners, this video has Olly creating a dream girlfriend (Rose) out of papier mache. His life with Rose is shown, in a very 70s world (possibly the only time when vomit yellow was fashionable). They hang out reading books, pretending to go for drives and eating popcorn. This one is speculative, but it takes a little while to get there.

YouTube Links:

Busy

Music Videos: Steampunk

It’s time for more music videos with speculative stuff*. This time, I’m dedicating it to steampunk taking over the world! The ones I’ve selected range from classic steampunk to modern. It’ll make sense once you see the videos (hopefully).

‘Eye of the Storm’ – Lovett

Eye of the Storm

Music Genre: Alternative / Rock

Video Genre: Fantasy Steampunk

About the Band: Lovett is an independent band, fronted by Ben Lovett. Ben also works as a film score composer.

About the Video: A mysterious man goes on a journey in his steampunk airship. The cinematic feel is most likely due to how it was created: Ben had friends in the film industry, who worked on the project for free.

The mix of computer animation and live action creates a unique effect. Also, a dragon! Well worth watching.

YouTube Links:

Eye of the Storm
The Making of the Video

‘Westward Backwards’ – [ME]

Westward Backwards

Music Genre: Alternative

Video Genre: Steampunk

About the Band: [ME] (also listed as ME) is a new band.

About the Video: A classic steampunk tale of a mad scientist. No steampunk collection is complete without a mad scientist. The video has a jerky style, which gives the impression of old film.

YouTube Links:

Westward Backwards

‘Airship Pirate’ – Abney Park

Airship Pirate

Music Genre: Pop / Sea Shanty

Video Genre: Steampunk Subculture

About the Band: Abney Park is a steampunk band, featuring steampunky lyrics and steampunk subculture costumes. These are the sort of people you’d find wandering around steampunk conventions.

About the Video: This one doesn’t tell a story. It’s a performance video with the band singing in a club. Yay for airship pirates!

YouTube Links:

Airship Pirate

‘Doncamatic’ – Gorillaz featuring Daley

Doncamatic

Music Genre: Pop

Video Genre: Modern Steampunkish

About the Band/Singer: Gorillaz are a band known for only appearing as cartoons. Daley is a British singer.

About the Video: Daley pilots a submarine through dangerous waters. He receives transmissions of the Gorillaz singing, shown on a screen in his sub.

Modernised steampunk is one of those debatable things. There aren’t gears and steam here, but there is a focus on manual controls, do-it-yourself construction and a brass submarine. As far as I’m concerned, it has a steampunky vibe to it… and even if you disagree, it’s still a fun video.

YouTube Links:

Doncamatic

* The first post like this was back in 2008 (you can read it here: Music Mondays). I called it Music Mondays then, but Mashable has a feature called that apparently. And I didn’t post on Monday anyway. So now, it’s just music videos. Humbug on other people loving alliterations too!