2017-18 Masterpost & Retrospective

in #steemit5 years ago (edited)

As promised in my review of The Lies of Locke Lamora, this will be my masterpost for everything I have written and published on Steemit up to the date of posting, everything I have written and published during the years of 2017 and 2018.


Because I am linking to everything I did, I figured, may as well provide my thoughts at the present on what I reviewed back then, see how my thoughts have evolved.
2018 retrospective.png
Meh. Interesting year, but mixed. The peaks were too few in number, the valleys too deep. My brief period working at McDonald's was depressing, disappointing, and I hated it. My trip to Chicago was fantastic, one of the best experiences of my life. My position at the Library I enjoy.

I've read many, many good books and even, possibly for the first time, a couple that I didn't like so much, because I now read enough that reading a book I don't enjoy - regardless of the good things I've heard about it, regardless of how much I like the concept - is something that can happen simply because I read enough books that it's something that can happen.

I've heard a lot of good music, and even written a couple pieces. Compositionally this year hasn't been the most active for me. My composing is something I generally don't really talk about much at all here on Steemit, which I regard as a platform better suited to my reviews, but it is something I do. But I have gathered lots of ideas. I have many projects to be doing next year. If this was the most inactive year of composing for me since I started, next year is looking to be the most active, ever.

2018 was an interesting year. Here in America we took an incremental step towards a check on our domestic fascist movement, which is very much a good thing. And I'll call that the extent of my political commentary.

Right. So how are we going to organize this?

Not chronologically - at least, not entirely. Soundtrack reviews will be ordered chronologically (except where they are part of a series of reviews). Each item will be linked too, located on a bullet point, with commentary following.

Book reviews, the second section, will be organized slightly different, by series, regardless of whether or not those reviews were out of sequence (that is to say, interrupted) or not. Magazine reviews will be included in this section, but placed at the end.

Film reviews, few as they are, will follow, and they will be chronological.

The miscellany will follow - these will be the Videogame Scores series', my Game of Thrones op-ed, my introductory post.

Where my thoughts have not really changed, no commentary will be provided. Let us begin.

soundtrack reviews.png

It is interesting to see how much approach to soundtrack reviewing has changed. I've gotten shorter. Thank god. I don't know I'd rate this quite as highly now was I did then - it's a variable, mixed score and, though there's plenty that's very good, there's less that hits excellent.

My thoughts on the Saturn adaptation are basically the same - conversions disappoint, original tracks are "meh" and sound more like Shimomura then Tamawari. My favorites remain "SEQ41_03" (in retrospect, my review underrated it) and "SEQ43_03." I can only assume that a lesser composer was given instructions to try and keep similar to Tamawari's style. Poor fool!

I wonder if I wasn't too forgiving of Shiono because his later Lufia work was so much better then this. This bears a truly awful soundfont and there are many mediocre, dull compositions. "Cave" too busy, "Spirits of Hades" dull, the battle themes uniformly dull, guitar solo in "Battle #3" excepted.

Even so, among all the pieces Shiono brought back later on, it's a shame that "Parting" was included.

I can't say my thoughts have changed much. ActRaiser is still an impressive achievement, though too cinematic, and the Symphonic Suite doubly impressive for how little it changes from the original game. I think I may've overrated Soul Blazer. It is true that Yukihide Takekawa came with an impressive, unique vision of game music; it is also true that in many places it sounds like dated 80s music. That seven - out of twenty tracks - are excellent, and a further six out of this are rather good, though, ensures that its peaks more then match its valleys.

Of Illusion of Gaia I haven't really altered my opinions. There are good tracks, but the soundfont is thin and Kawasaki's formula for writing tracks becomes repetitive. Terranigma is, of course, still a genuine A-tier classic. My thoughts on the remaining games have not changed at all.

These both still hold up. Chaos Seed is very, very good apart from Hayashi's utterly bizarre tracks and with a touch less reliance on those various ethnic instruments this would've been A-tier material. Energy Breaker is still an impressive, sprawling, busy, ambitious mess.

I don't return to Bounty Sword that often anymore, but I still adore Rudras.

It's fascinating, the contrast between Naoki Kodaka on the NES and SNES. On the NES, he was a talented action composer - in Albert Odyssey, it's his action music that disappoints.

In retrospect, my sole critique is that the City of Prague Philharmonic doesn't sound as rich as even the studio orchestra (or samples) Djawadi has, and by no means is Djawadi's studio orchestra particularly full.

Would that Djawadi's music could've been played by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic!

Yeah, this is still one of the more ear-grating soundfonts.

book reviews.png

I now own a copy of this! So if I so wanted, I could provide the Internet with a much higher quality scan of the cover. It is still unfortunate that Schonberg didn't provide a bibliography, or sources, and too that Schonberg didn't return to revise it. It alas comes to an end in the 60s. I'll quote:

How much of a dissonant chord will it strike you to see Bernard Haitink, Colin Davis, István Kertész - at the time, though it surely would've been impossible to believe, only six years out from his unfortunate drowning in 1973 at the age of 43 - and Claudio Abbado referred to as "prominent young conductors"?

My opinions haven't changed at all: this is still my favorite fantasy series, ever, and Daniel Abraham is still my favorite author. Would that Abraham's fantasy would get the commercial success it deserves. I really can't wait until his next work in that genre.

I might try and re-read this one day, but probably not. It's not a brand of fantasy I really enjoyed, at least the way Abercrombie presented it - witty but dull. Witty but dull! How does one manage that? Abercrombie isn't a bad author. Far be it for me to say it. He deserves all the praise he gets.

To return to phrase I use often - he's good, but he's not my kind of good.

This is one I'll re-read, eventually, maybe, I dunno. I plan to read the rest of the books. But this book didn't quite hit the right blend of weird and mundane to work for me.

God, I hope this series is reissued in hardcover with new cover art, preferably by Stephan Martiniere who did the covers for LPQ. Otherwise my opinions remain, largely, the same. I expect to get many happy rereads out of this series (and out of LPQ). (The Series Retrospective and its Addendum are also listed in the Miscellany.)

Probably something for me to reread before taking on the rest of the series, but don't expect it soon.

I do, actually, plan to come back to this eventually.

The Prince of Nothing series and the rest of the Second Apocalypse sequence are right after Gentleman Bastards on my TBR priorities list.

One day I'll reread Stormlight Archive again, try an analysis post... it's just such a massive, massive series, and I often feel like it doesn't need to be as big as it is.

Still one of my absolute favorite biographies, and I get the feeling that even as I read more and more, that opinion isn't going to change.

Really looking forward to nr. 2, Hope Rides Again. This is a very, very fun series, and whatever extra-political thoughts etc., there's no denying that it's fun.

One day I'll get a copy for myself, one day...

Another to purchase copies of, one day.

film reviews.png

I intend, alongside my girlfriend, to watch (and, for me at least, read) everything Errol Morris has done and when I actually get around to doing the Everything Errol/the Errol-through, I'll be re-reviewing this, I expect.

So much could've gone right! And instead it went wrong. Oh well.

Lakeith Stanfield was still brilliant, though.


I have, alas, proved disloyal to these early words: nothing yet on the subject of manga, of anime, of videogames (divorced from soundtrack), of typography, of classical music, of history of anything. One day, perhaps.

The sole project of excess ambition that got released to the public. Suffice to say it has not yet got off the ground, and I do not expect it to.

Still a fascinating bunch of links!

In retrospect, this series makes me badly wish I could read and type Japanese, as that would've made research easier.

I never finished The Red Knight - I got bored quickly, I slogged through to the halfway point, I realized that no, I'm not even really enjoying what I am reading enough to want to push through the end, so I quit. Why continue? Why indeed.

Did not finish The Complete Sherlock Holmes, though I expect to return to it many times, especially whenever I finally decide to try and start writing my pastiches. Nor did I finish Jerusalem, though it, too, I one day want to return to, ideally with tea beside me and Bach's Brandenberg Concertos playing.

Did not finish or even really start with The Faery Reel.

I actually rather enjoy taking photographs.

I am still ludicrously chuffed that, when I shared the retrospective on Twitter and tagged Abraham in it, he retweeted me. Looking back, I can see there's an angle I hadn't even considered - Geder as the childish, teenage "nerd"-type. I mean, it fits! He reads speculative essays, he badly wants revenge against those who he has perceived to have hurt him, he has a twisted moral compass. He embodies the nerd bullied at school and coddled at home. Yes, genuinely cruel things happened to him, but his reaction is totally disproportionate.

Unlike LPQ, Abraham says he hasn't felt he smoked this world down to a filter. (There was room left for an eventual sequel - Inys, the last dragon, seeking his workshop to rebuild the dragons; Master Kit and the actors' leaving for Far Syramis. Even so, a direct sequel, I think, would be a poor idea.) I do hope for more one day, but if I never get one, whatever.

There were two main reasons I read this book: 1: it had an interesting premise, and 2: Auster is a really, really cool name, especially when you place it right behind Paul. It's a name to catch the eye. How boring would that name be if his name had been Paul Austin! I have no shame in admitting I would not have picked it up if Austin was on the spine instead of Auster. (Austen is a different story. It would depend on the phase of the moon.)

I seriously need to reread this one - and its premise means there are different ways of reading it. I could read all four side-by-side, 1.1 and 1.2 if I so wanted, or I could proceed one Ferguson at a time, 1.1 and then 2.1 and then 3.1 and so on until I finished and then go to 1.2 and 2.2 and 3.2 and so on.

Once I own a copy...

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There was a great deal that I watched and read without reviewing, sometimes because I did not feel adequate to the task of reviewing, other times because too much time had passed from reading. When you read a very great deal, it takes an extremely good book to stick in your head. It takes a book that is great above great, truly, the greatest of the great.

So! Let's see. I've read Errol Morris' Believing is Seeing and The Ashtray, both of which I've mentioned. I've received four issues of F&SF since subscribing; I am currently three issues behind in my reading because I read so many books. I read a biography of Alice Sheldon, aka James Tiptree Jr. I actually did reread Stormlight earlier this year during my brief and miserable tenure at McDonald's.

I've read In the Land of Invented Languages, a wonderful history of constructed languages from the earliest to roughly the present day. I have read Word by Word, a marvelous, fascinating, funny book about working at Merriam-Webster as a career. It seems many have objected, in the past and the present, to the way their dictionary lists words:

Their dictionary is descriptive, which is to say that they list words in a way that reflects how they are used in real life. A dictionary is not the ultimate arbiter or authority - the users and speakers of words are. Many think - wrongly - that the dictionary is, or should be, proscriptive, that it should tell you how words should be used. The former approach, which I prefer, tells you how words are used.

I've read Auster's Winter Journal very recently and it has stuck in the mind as an extremely powerful work of autobiography. I also read his novella Travels in the Scriptorium.

Oh, Ada. What else have I read? There's so much. I've become such a voracious reader. I need to start tracking it somehow - I tried Goodreads, didn't work, didn't remember it, too time consuming. Might just print out a table-format sheet of paper, use that.

I am currently reading Robert Caro's The Power Broker, his biography of Robert Moses. I have on hand Mary Jane Phillips-Matz's Verdi: A Biography. Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl is in that same pile. I have a fascinating looking book Mutants which is about genetic mutants. Tear Down This Myth is a marvelous read about the mythology of Ronald Reagan as a great President who should go on Mt. Everest - psst. He shouldn't. Frankly, even TR shouldn't be up there.

These are just library books. Sitting on my bedside is also Shimmer 2018: The Collected Stories.

And there are many, many books I own that I have not yet read: Aliette de Bodard's The House of Shattered Wings, George R.R. Martin's Dreamsongs volumes one and two, Judith Chernaik's Schumann: The Faces and the Masks, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 edited by N.K. Jemisin, How Long 'Til Black Future Month? which was written by Jemisin, Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy, Memories of the Ford Administration by John Updike, three collections of Solar Pons stories, George R.R. Martin's Fire & Blood, The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka, Caliban's War (book three of The Expanse) awaits a re-read of both of its predecessors...

This hasn't been a big year-and-a-half. Wormwood, by Errol Morris, was watched twice - it is genuinely a work of art and quite possibly the invention of a whole new way of telling stories through the medium of film. I keep wanting a soundtrack release! I hope there's a Blu-ray release. God it's good.

Abstract: The Art of Design, also on Netflix, has become something of a favorite. I am rewatching Orphan Black alongside my girlfriend who is seeing it for the first time. (We have also been watching Game of Thrones together - depending on the season my second or third time, for her, the first.)

I watched an episode of the last season of Mozart in the Jungle and it didn't quite latch on to me the way the previous seasons had. Everything I'd loved I suddenly disliked.

Musically I'm still, slowly, working my way through Octopath Traveler. Deltarune Chapter One was also a thing though it has, perhaps naturally, not made quite the same impact as its predecessor did, but its existence and the fanfare it has created indicates that when the full, complete Deltraune game (and soundtrack) is released that they will make a very big splash indeed.

Seeming's two albums Sol: A Self-Banishment Ritual and Madness & Extinction are the only pop-type of album I actually enjoy and have purchased. I have also rather enjoyed Sufjan Stevens' by way of Michigan.

I've listen to a bit of contemporary classical, though this remains something for me to dive into more deeply when I have a chance. Nico Muhly, Max Richter, Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nils Frahm... all waiting.

I got the complete string quartets of Franz Schubert for Christmas, so that was pretty cool.

[This is an edit from Jan. 8th.] I forgot to include this in my original post, but there were two really cool things this year in which the broader Steemit took notice of me. I'm very bad at interacting with the rest of Steemit because, well, not much of what's posted here interests me.

Firstly, in June, with regards to the first part of my I-promise-it's-not-dead Journey Through Lovecraft, that post was featured in a weekly post exhibition from @alexandrias-lib, the Alexandria's Library Project.

Secondly, just in December, @curie - a curation bot that has been very generous in upvoting me quite a lot - not only upvoted my review of The Lies of Locke Lamora but featured it in their Author Showcase from December 27th, 2018.

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More of the same, I expect.

Happy New Year!

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