On My Shelves: Furies of Calderon

The story goes that Jim Butcher – author of the Dresden Files series – was told that one couldn't write a good story based on "lame" ideas. Butcher responded that he could do so with any two lame ideas of the challenger's choosing. The challenger responded with "Lost Roman Legion", and "Pokemon". The result was the Codex Alera series, with the first volume being Furies of Calderon. Speaking purely from the geeky point of view of "how well did he do with those two lame ideas", I have to say… middling. As a combination of "Lost Roman [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Curse of Immortality

I have previously reviewed Jeff Getzin's dark fantasy novel Prince of Bryanae on this site. While Prince rode as close to the dark edge as I'm generally willing to read, that novel is not the only venture into the world of Bryanae that Jeff has provided. I'm going to review all of the stories, but right now I want to review the latest of them. The story is told – as is thus far always the case – from the point of view of a woman who will cross paths with the frenetically cheerful swashbuckler D'Arbignal. Prince of Bryanae takes place in the [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Spider-Man: Homecoming

This movie (plus small segments in Captain America: Civil War) represents the third depiction of Marvel's flagship hero Spider-Man in fifteen years. The first, starting in 2002, was Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3. Andrew Garfield rebooted the role in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Now Tom Holland takes up the webslinging role. Unlike the prior two incarnations, this version of Spider-Man doesn't bother us with the origin story. In that, I think the movie does depend on the viewer having [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Delirium Brief

In the prior Laundry Files novel, The Nightmare Stacks, the UK was invaded by a desperate army of super-Nazi magic-wielding Elves. Fortunately, the army was defeated when the innocent young vampire (er, sorry, PHANG) agent captured the heart of the Elven Princess and the two of them defeated her Evil Stepmother and Evil Overlord Father, thus making her the All-Highest. Of course, all this troperiffic goodness was filtered through the twisted nature of the Laundryverse, but still, it was surprisingly upbeat; eldritch horrors notwithstanding, [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Nightmare Stacks

  Alex Schwartz used to be a programmer for an investment banking group, basically dedicated to finding new, more effective, more profitable, ways to analyze financial data and guide investments. His was a six-figure salary, the vision of ever-increasing bonuses, and a life mostly constrained by in-house geekery and a lot of pressure. Then he programmed something a little too elegant and complex, and summoned something from the mathematical beyond that lurks just beyond the edge of everyone's normal reach in the Laundryverse. That [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Dragonball Super

I have previously reviewed Dragonball and Dragonball Z (http://grandcentralarena.com/on-my-shelves-dragonballdragonball-z/), which in a nutshell I described as "the Skylark series of anime and manga. It has much of the same cheerful, full-speed-ahead energy, the same innocence of the protagonists, the same fairly simple, blunt-instrument approach to moral problems… and the same incredibly-escalating powerscale. It may not be the BEST of its kind, and perhaps many of the pieces were there beforehand, but it was the one that put them all together [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Annihilation Score

Dominique "Mo" O'Brien is a combat epistemologist, expert violinist, and field agent for The Laundry, the same ultra-top-secret bureaucracy that Bob Howard works for. In fact, Mo is married to Bob. Their marriage has had… stresses on it. All Mo has to deal with is her eldritch violin trying to either seduce her or control her (it's hard to say which), being suddenly assigned to run a brand-new division of law enforcement, having to work with Bob's fearsome ex Mhari, the sudden outbreak of superheroes (and villains) popping up everywhere, the [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Persona 5

"We will definitely take your heart!"   The Persona series of JRPGs, the most successful component of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, is simultaneously unique in its approach, and at the same time something of a perfect distillation of what makes console JRPGs work. I have previously reviewed Persona 3 and Persona 4, as well as Persona 4 Arena, a fighting game spinoff of 4 which had startlingly deep story and character elements. Those prior experiences set a terribly high bar for the sequel to clear. It succeeded. Like its [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: RUSH

"In the constellation of Cygnus there lurks/A mysterious, invisible force:/The black hole of Cygnus X-1…"   Many are the rock bands that emerged from the 1970s; few are those who survived the decades since. Even fewer are those that impressed me, not with one or two songs, but with entire ALBUMS that I would collect and listen to most of. My usual music-listening habits involve picking one or two songs out of an entire band's career that I like, which is why I rarely will say I like a given band. But there is one huge exception: the [ Continue reading... ]

The Rhesus Chart

Bob Howard, former eldritch IT manager, now field agent and applied computational demonologist and suit-in-training for the no-such-agency called the Laundry, really isn't having a good day. The strain of being involved in Lovecraftian peril isn't helping his marriage – especially when his wife Mo is also a field agent with a combat violin made by Erich Zann. He's barely got a grip on the responsibilities that are headed his way as the newest member of External Assets on "Mahogany Row". And then Andy, another Laundry employee, unleashes [ Continue reading... ]