Tuesday 31 May 2011

The Speculative Spotlight | A Word With Elspeth Cooper (Part 1)

It's been an almighty while since we did one of these, hasn't it?

Well, in my absence, I figured all the other bloggers kinda had it covered. But upon reading Songs of the Earth a couple of months ago - my full review of which will be going live, at long last, sometime tomorrow - there were questions I don't mind saying I wanted answers to; questions only Elspeth Cooper could answer. Questions which, furthermore, I wasn't sure anyone else would ask, if I didn't step up to the plate.

So I did! :)

We talked for a good long while, Elspeth and I. She's really a lovely lady - not to mention a tremendously promising new genre novelist. She has cats, and a Kindle, realistic expectations, and a refreshingly frank and frankly refreshing perspective on the business of publishing. This from a woman whose fantasy debut has been likened to The Name of the Wind - and not just by optimistic marketing muchacos.

But let's get the ball rolling in earnest. In this first half of our chat, Elspeth and I get right into it, discussing the role of social media as it pertains to the industry today, particularly to the new novelist. Thereafter, there's talk of e-reading, book hoarding, and neither last nor least, the sort of great expectations Songs of the Earth has been burdened with.

Or is burdened the right word? Are unbidden comparisons to some of the greatest success stories of recent literary history a blessing, or a curse?

Let's find out!


Hello there, Elspeth. 

Hello Niall! Thanks for taking the time to interview me. There's a long-time-listener, first-time-caller joke to be done here; I've had you on my blogroll for yonks. 

Why that’s very kind of you, Elspeth. And on the ol’ Twitter, too! Why earlier today you were telling me you’d downloaded a sample chapter of FAITHFUL PLACE to your Kindle on the back of a certain someone’s recommendation. To wit, I wish you good reading. 

But there we are already. My oh my, things have changed a great deal of late, haven’t they? With blogs reaching farther and wider than ever, myriad social media bolstering authors new and old... don’t even get me started on the awesomesauce of e-reading. 

So how is it, coming into the industry at a time like this, with everything in flux? Exciting, or terrifying? 

Coming into this industry at any time is exciting and terrifying, period. Only the ratio between the two varies.

The internet has made everything so much more immediate, and with social media like Facebook or Twitter we can reach literally thousands of people we'd never otherwise know. This can be fantastic if you catch the mood of the moment with an interesting or provocative post: viral marketing campaigns have been very successful, because there's always someone awake and at the keyboard/Blackberry/iPhone, somewhere in the world. But it also lets you make a fool of yourself on a global stage, and when that goes viral, oh boy. Because not only does the internet never sleep, it never forgets. Once upon a time, a bad book review in the press on Friday was wrapped round Saturday night's fish supper, and then landfill by Monday. Not any more.

To me as a newbie, the whole e-book thing is quite daunting. There's so much going on: piracy on the rise; agents getting bullish about royalty rates; customers complaining that the price is too high and accusing publishers of using "agency pricing" as a way to bolster sales of dead-tree-books; you can't open a newspaper (do people still do that?) or click on a news site without seeing another story about someone selling 100,000+ copies of their novel on Kindle and flicking the vees at traditional publishers... Scary scary stuff.

Fright-o-meter: E---------|-T

But the flipside of all this is the tremendous opportunity this state of flux presents. Someone once said that an obstacle is just an opportunity in a dirty mac (I paraphrase). Take Kindle as an example: you can download a free sample of a book you're thinking about buying, like I just did with that Tana French. How cool is that? Once upon a time I would have had to get dressed, go into town and loiter furtively in Waterstones to read a few pages and get hooked. Now I can browse from a deckchair in the garden. I don't even have to change out of my jammies! It's effortless. And the easier it is, the more likely a sale will occur; it's just a couple of clicks.

Fright-o-meter: E-|---------T 

It’s never been easier to be a reader, agreed, nor more exciting. There’s a lot to celebrate, a lot to be grateful for. But to be an author and stand to make something of a living from your efforts... has it ever been harder, I wonder? For even as social media and e-publishing and so on appears to narrow it, I fear the gulf between us widens with every year. With more choice, an upswing in cynicism, ever more competition, and demand after demand on your time in the hope you might make a mark in some imagined mindshare; these are terrifying times, too. 

And into this climate, enter Elspeth Cooper. 

Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself, Elspeth? 

I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1968. I grew up something of a solitary soul, completely happy in my own company, or with my nose in a book. My parents encouraged me to read, and I quickly developed a voracious appetite for stories and storytelling - even in primary school, my "What I Did on My Holidays" essays were six or seven times the length of anyone else's. Looking back, of course, this should have been A Clue.

Although I excelled academically, I chose not to go to university. I did my A-Levels right in the middle of the teachers' strike, and I was frustrated and bored with formal education, so I eschewed the college scarf and Lennon specs in favour of a job with a local software house, which somehow became a 20 year career in IT. I'm not quite sure how that happened.

I've always had a creative streak. Gardening, cooking, carpentry, cross-stitch - anything that lets me make stuff or grow stuff. But what I really wanted to do was create stories. I never imagined that I'd ever be published - quite frankly, I didn't think I was good enough - but there was a flame burning way down inside that never went out. And I fed it words. Every book I could get my hands on, and long hours of my spare time, scribbling and scribbling, falling further in thrall to What Happens Next.

A couple of years ago, my worsening health meant I could no longer sustain a job with a long commute, and I escaped the world of IT to become a full-time writer. I live in Northumberland with my husband, two cats, and every book I've ever bought. 

You’ve not gotten to the point yet where you have to start parting ways with old favourites, then, or else buying houses with room enough for all your beauties? Elspeth, I envy you already! 

Anyone who attempts to part me from any of my books, even the ones I didn't enjoy very much, is likely to get hurt. We're fast approaching breaking point, though. The shelves are full, and there's little room to put up more. Much as I hate the idea, I may have to start thinning the herd... 

So we come to that eternal question, the thrall you spoke of a moment ago: what happened next? How did you go from devout scribbler to published author? 

My route to publication wasn't one of endless rejection, heartache and strong liquor. It was more a case of chronic self-doubt, editing 'til your eyes bleed, and sheer good fortune.

I'd been kicking around some ideas for a story since about 1992 or 1993 - I'd go and check but the files are all on 3.5" disks and not one of the numerous computers in this house has a floppy drive - but I hadn't really got far beyond some names and places and the odd disconnected scene. I hadn't even admitted to myself that I was thinking about writing a book.

The catalyst was breaking up with my then-fiancé in late 1997. In the midst of all that rage and hurt and sleepless nights I started writing as a form of therapy. I wrote about a young man, naked in the dark, with a force inside him that he didn't understand and could barely control, and it was getting stronger. I didn't know who he was or how he'd got there, but I knew I had to find out.

Over the next decade the story progressed in fits and starts. The closer I got to the end, the more motivated I became to finish it. Up to this point, no-one had read it but me, because I was so afraid it was rubbish. I put some samples up on a couple of writers' websites, and the feedback blew me away. People liked what I'd written. One lady - who's a friend to this day - complained that the story was so engrossing she'd let a pan of rice boil dry on the stove for one more page. She still won't let me buy her a new pan.

Mixing with other writers gave me the confidence to give the manuscript a good hard edit, and in 2009, armed with my trusty Writers & Artists Yearbook, I drew up a shortlist of eight agents who handled fantasy and got to work on submissions. The first one rejected me, but with a complimentary handwritten note. The second one rang me at work and requested the full manuscript. Two days later he offered to represent me, and I accepted. Two weeks later Gollancz offered me a three-book deal.

And the other six agents? They all said no, but by then it was far too late! I sometimes wonder if any of them have realised what happened, and are kicking themselves... 

I’m sure they are, Elspeth. Certainly Gollancz seem beside themselves to have you a part of their storied roster. It’s not every book that comes adorned with such a bold statement as that in caps on the cover of the ARC of SONGS OF THE EARTH. 

Speaking of which, how does it feel to have written the fantasy debut of 2011? The bar’s been set dizzyingly high, hasn’t it? 

I nearly swallowed my tongue when I saw it. No pressure, right? Wow. I mean, this is just some stuff I made up in my spare time. Voices in my head. In any other line of work I'd be medicated for that.

Obviously, it's a sign of how much Gollancz believe in me and my book. As an author, that degree of faith is overwhelming. Reassuring, supportive, but still overwhelming. If I try to be dispassionate and look at it in purely business terms, as a debut author I represent a significant investment for them, and they're working hard to make sure it pays off, which in its own way just cranks the bar up another few notches. *Shades eyes, squints at sky* Is it snowing up there?

I can't help but feel I've got a target painted on my back now, too. I worry that if someone doesn't like the book (and someone won't) they'll use that line as a stick to beat me with. "Call that the fantasy debut of 2011? You must be joking" etcetera. It raises expectations, and not everyone in the market is going to feel those expectations have been met when they read the book.

But really, being totally sensible about it, it's just words on the cover. What counts is what's inside, and people can make up their own minds about that. 

I’ll readily confess: the day before we started chatting, I wrote up my own review of SONGS OF THE EARTH for TSS, and was almost exactly as predictable - if in a different direction. A proclamation along those lines... it must be affirming, in a sense - as you say - but a target is exactly what it will seem, to some. If that’s how Gollancz hope to sell your debut, then the question has been begged, you know? It’s over to critics and reviewers to zero in on what makes it so, or not so, or something entirely its own when removed from the hyperbole. 

I suppose it’s all you can do in such times, to take the long view, as you intimate, Elspeth. Because of course, there will be criticism. Already there’s been criticism, and we’re months out from release yet. So now that your baby’s a book and the book’s poised to sail the seven seas, if you will, how ready do you feel for that? How has the letting go gone? 

Is a debut author ever truly ready? I've never been here before. It's all new and daunting and exhilarating and freakin' terrifying all at once, like riding a rollercoaster for the first time. The last 15 months or so have been the slow crawl to the top of the first hill, then at the turn of the year we hit the apex, six months to go, and now it's hands-in-the-air-oh-dear-god-I'm-gonna-die-wheeeeeeeee! all the way down to June. If you see what I mean.

I think I'm as ready as I can be. There's no point working myself into a tizzy about it, is there, because there's nothing I can do to influence how the book will be received. It's up to the readers now.

Letting go wasn't as hard as I thought it might be. I knew when the story was finished and ready for submission, because it resonated; I got that quiet, contented "Yes" in the back of my mind. So when it came to the edits that Gollancz requested, I was able to be quite detached and objective, almost as if I was looking at someone else's book. It wasn't "my baby" any more. Baby's all growed up and on his own. 

Well fare the wean well on his travels!

Of course, now the real work starts – isn’t that what they say?


But wait! There's more!

Except I'm saving the rest for Thursday, because honestly, Elspeth and I talked a lot.

In the meantime, stay tuned for my review of Songs of the Earth tomorrow - and come back the day after, when The Speculative Spotlight returns. Among the discussion to come: Elspeth expounds on how the personal feeds into the professional, we talk contemporary women's fiction, planning, chilli chocolate...

...and oh! The book, too. ;)

Monday 30 May 2011

Book Review | The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell

Buy this book from

The Alliance has been fighting the Syndic for a century-and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is Captain John "Black Jack" Geary - a man who's emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized beyond belief.

Now, he must live up to his own legend...


It's military science-fiction, Jim, but not as we know it!

Wait, no, scratch that. The Lost Fleet: Dauntless - book the first of a series of six and still counting - is military science-fiction exactly as we know it. And that's no slight, in itself... though Jack Campbell's genre debut certainly has its drawbacks. There's a [certain] carelessness to the prose, a sense of redundancy about some of the action, and characterisation is simplistic throughout; the ingredients of a terrible tale, all told. Yet Dauntless is actually pretty decent. Somehow or other, the author - which is to say the pseudonym of retired Naval officer John G. Hemry - hurls all those things in a pot, and comes up with roses. Space-posies.

Speaking of flowers... what thoroughly masculine science-fantasy this is. This is thin ice to tread upon, I understand, but at the risk of mildly slighting the ladies among us - I mean you no harm! - let me take a moment to clarify that assertion: Dauntless is about conquest, survival, and the glory of sacrifice. It's Starship Troopers the first-person shooter, the book, with little in the way of ornamentation. There are explosive space battles, nail-biting near-misses. Imagine Battlestar Galactica without the bleeding heart. And though of course there will be exceptions, that, I think, is rather the preserve of geeky dudes.

Of which I am one - reporting for duty, Sir, and proud as punch to serve! I began the first novel of The Lost Fleet with no expectations at all, and came away in much the same state, albeit having had a flurry of an evening with Captain John Geary and his crew, who find themselves fleeing en masse through the universe carrying a key that could mean the end of a centuries-old intergalactic war. They are "a fleet decimated in battle and trapped, facing overwhelmingly superior numbers," (p.21) and pursued at every turn by relentless Syndic forces who will stop at nothing to show Geary's battered ships a good time by way of their grapeshot cannons.

Thematically, Dauntless is concerned with heroism; with what it means to be a hero, above all else. Everyone seems to think John Geary is a hero, for instance - long thought dead after a glorious space battle which went down in history, but in truth only sleeping (in stasis on an emergent shuttle). That is to say, everyone... except John Geary. When he's rudely awakened to find his reputation preceding him a hundred years after his last command, the century having passed by in the blink of an eye, "Black Jack" - so-called - cannot believe himself equal to the legend the books have him as. An early loss - of one of his own descendants, no less - shows him the true measure of heroism, and Geary finds himself sorely lacking.

All of which makes for a fairly diverting conflict: a character arc that, though predictable, grants Dauntless a modicum of import where otherwise it would go in want.

Anyway, when you get right down to it, Dauntless has precious few aspirations in that regard. It's a bit of military SF fluff for the boys, a harmless escapade of the old guard perfectly content to putter about in its own modest corner of the genre. If I were to recommend you read the first book of The Lost Fleet, it would be with all that in mind...

...but then, we all have our guilty pleasures. And I dare say The Lost Fleet might now number among mine. Dauntless is quick, competent, and utterly undemanding: you'll know if it's for you within a few sentences, and if it's not, well, so what?


The Lost Fleet: Dauntless
by Jack Campbell

UK Publication: February 2011, Titan Books
US Publication: June 2006, Ace Books

Buy this book from
Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com /
IndieBound / The Book Depository

Recommended and Related Reading

Sunday 29 May 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 29/05/11

Met the old BoSS? Well, let me introduce you to the new BoSS - same as the old BoSS, more or less... except less is more. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

All caught up? Good. Let's get on with it, then.

No nonsense this week, even, since I'm so woefully behind on accounting for all the books that have come and gone since the last time the BoSS reared its butt-ugly head. So. On with the show!


The Book of Transformations
by Mark Charan Newton

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 03/06/11
by Tor

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: A new and corrupt Emperor seeks to rebuild the ancient structures of Villjamur to give the people of the city hope in the face of great upheaval and an oppressing ice age. But when a stranger called Shalev arrives, empowering a militant underground movement, crime and terror becomes rampant. The Inquisition is always one step behind, and military resources are spread thinly across the Empire. So Emperor Urtica calls upon cultists to help construct a group to eliminate those involved with the uprising, and calm the populace.

But there’s more to The Villjamur Knights than just phenomenal skills and abilities - each have a secret that, if exposed, could destroy everything they represent. Investigator Fulcrom of the Villjamur Inquisition is given the unenviable task of managing the Knights’, but his own skills are tested when a mysterious priest, who has travelled from beyond the fringes of the Empire, seeks his help. The priest’s existence threatens the church, and his quest promises to unweave the fabric of the world.

And in a distant corner of the Empire, the enigmatic cultist Dartun Súr steps back into this world, having witnessed horrors beyond his imagination. Broken, altered, he and the remnants of his cultist order are heading back to Villjamur. And all eyes turn to the Sanctuary City, for Villjamur’s ancient legends are about to be shattered . . .

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Oh, yes. Yes indeed; it's all coming back to me now...

I'll admit I didn't adore Nights of Villjamur so much as most folks seemed to, though City of Ruin - a more polished novel than its predecessor by all accounts - really did tickle my ivories, so it was with no small amount of grinning that I met the arrival of book three of The Legends of the Red Sun.

Now most of the talk about The Book of Transformations to date has hinged on its foregrounding of a transgendered character; an interesting and progressive choice for a protagonist, make no mistake... but I wonder if the attention paid to Lan hasn't given short shrift to all else about this third volume of The Legends of the Red Sun.

I suppose we'll see soon enough! Expect a full review of The Book of Transformations from The Speculative Scotsman early next week, or sooner still.

Shadow Chaser
by Alexey Pehov

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 12/04/11
by Tor

Review Priority
2 (It Could Happen)

The Blurb: Saddened because they have left one of their number in a grave in the wilderness, Harold and his companions continue their journey to the dreaded underground palace of Hrad Spein. There, knowing that armies of warriors and wizards before them have failed, they must fight legions of untold, mysterious powers before they can complete their quest for the magic horn that will save their beloved land from The Nameless One. But before they can even reach their goal, they must overcome all manner of obstacles, fight many battles... and evade the frightful enemies on their trail.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: No. Just... no.

I mean, I suppose it could happen - there's always the chance, but probably not. I really did not enjoy the first volume of this plodding Russian fantasy series. Here's why. In fact, I'll admit to some surprise that book one was enough of a success to justify the translation and publication of this second chapter of The Chronicles of Siala.

But I don't really care, so.

The Five
by Robert McCammon

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 31/05/11
by Subterranean Press

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: The Five tells the story of an eponymous rock band struggling to survive on the margins of the music business. As they move through the American Southwest on what might be their final tour together, the band members come to the attention of a damaged Iraq war veteran, and their lives are changed forever.

The narrative that follows is a riveting account of violence, terror, and pursuit set against a credible, immensely detailed rock and roll backdrop. It is also a moving meditation on loyalty and friendship, on the nature and importance of families those we are born into and those we create for ourselves and on the redemptive power of the creative spirit. Written with wit, elegance, and passionate conviction, The Five lays claim to new imaginative territory, and reaffirms McCammon's position as one of the finest, most unpredictable storytellers of our time

A Scotsman's Thoughts: I've talked about The Five hereabouts already.

Despite owning Swan Song, The Five is actually is my first Robert McCammon, and what I've read of it, I've enjoyed a great deal. However, I'd like to take my time with it, the better to appreciate it as I sense it should be appreciated, and as this edition of The BoSS will testify, a bunch of books have arrived of late that I get the feeling you'd all like to hear about sooner rather than later.

So I've put The Five down - but only for the moment. I'll be picking it up again the very second I've cleared the decks.

by Kaaron Warren

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 02/06/11
by Angry Robot

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: Marvo is a stage magician. His magic is real. Marvo grows up without knowing his parents, without knowing his heritage, without knowing much about life. The magicians have always been with us, since the beginning of civilisation. They fill our heads with the mist, keeping us from witnessing the stark reality of existence. But are things so bad that Marvo will bring it down on all of us, forever? Marvo begins to understand those around him, and his place in the world; he discovers that his remarkable powers can be put to good, or to evil. He only has to choose.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Hey, I've been blurbed again! Well, isn't that nice?

I'll answer my own question: it most certainly is. And twice as nice because Walking the Tree really was a tremendous novel, from an author as generous as she is, undeniably, talented. I dare say I've been looking forward to Mistification for a year or more. And not for nothing: from a gloss of just the first chapter, Kaaron Warren's approach to magic and fantasy is already putting me in mind of K. J. Parker - another of my very favourite authors.

Methinks I'll be reading and reviewing Mistification just as soon as I've put The Book of Transformations to bed, so.

The Order of the Scales
by Stephen Deas

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 19/05/11
by Gollancz

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: As the various factions fight for control of the Adamatine Palace, mankind's nemesis approaches. The realm's dragons are awakening from their alchemical sedation and returning to their native fury. They can remember why they were created and they now know what mankind has done to them. And their revenge will be brutal. As hundreds of dragons threaten a fiery apocalypse, only the Adamantine Guard stand between humanity and extinction. Can Prince Jehal fight off the people who want him dead and unite their armies in one final battle for survival? 

A Scotsman's Thoughts: The third volume of a trilogy I'm ashamed to say I've read none of, yet here The Order of the Scales is - in this week's round-up despite some serious cherry-picking.

That's because I've every intention of reading Stephen Deas; not if I can find the time to start this series from the start, but when. For the one thing, Wert really quite likes his work, and it seems to me - from what little of his fiction I've encountered - that Stephen Deas is a woefully under-appreciated fantasy author.

So. Better late than never, no?


Oh, so many books I've been looking forward to! And so little time...

The idea is to start in on The Book of Transformations tonight, graduate on to Mistification when I'm through with that, and then return triumphant to The Five.

I should be so lucky...

So what're you all reading at the moment? Come across any gems lately, or are you as caught up in this glorious glut of genre fiction as I?

Saturday 28 May 2011

Smash Hits | Not The Psychic Scotsman

Local interest (at least for me) meets mad science in this report from Medical Express, by way of Salon Futura's Cheryl Morgan.

Did you know scientists at the University of Glasgow have figured out how to read minds? Apparently by decoding the patterns of certain brainwaves, some odds and sods about the Institute of Neuroscience & Psychology have figured out which patterns represent which emotions, in a series of experiments which equate to expensive games of join the dots with value-added electroencephalography.

For instance, take a gander at this here beast:

What this remarkable news means is that now, after centuries of ignorance, scientists will finally be able to tell whether you find this here Jack Russell adorable, or terrifying.

They will be able to do this... eventually. Probably.

Let's all of us say it at once: God love Scotch science! :)

All kidding aside, this could very well be important-ish news, in due course. Mostly I was just looking for an excuse to post that puppy picture. Because the internet can never have enough puppies, am I right?

Or is it the other way round?


Source: Medical Express

Friday 27 May 2011

Film Review | Limitless

So there's this pill.

NZT, they call it. It's not FDA approved or anything, but it's not quite a street drug, either: NZT will run you about $800 a pop, after all, and what it does - one of its various effects, I should say - is to give you access to the 80% of your brain you aren't otherwise able to take advantage of. Swallow one down and your memory improves a hundredfold, your processing power skyrockets, and colours seem that much brighter. Pretty cool, right?

Well, it is until you start losing great whacks of time. And God forbid you ever run out of pills! That way lies all the aches and pains of withdrawal, up to and including an untimely full stop on the ass-end of your existence. And though the prohibitive expense of the drug might discriminate, its effects are the same whether you're from the corners or Wall Street proper...

...which just so happens to be where one yuppie user, Bradley Cooper off of Alias as Eddie Morra, ends up when in a series of unfortunate events he comes into quite the quantity of NZT: flying high with the high-flyers, including Robert DeNiro as moneyman Carl Van Loon.

Don't see this movie for the performances. Don't not see this movie for the performances, either - the leads are able enough, and their support, in the shape of Abbie Cornish and a dowdy Anna Friel, is fine. But only that.

I went into Limitless not at all sure about Bradley Cooper as a leading man, and I've come out of it with my opinion unscathed. Though he equips himself well enough as a superior sneerer in the Wall Street scenes - which would put me in mind of The Social Network if The Social Network hadn't been brilliant, or Limitless had been more than the fluff it is - he's significantly less convincing as the greasy no-luck novelist pre-NZT, and one thing cancels the other out.

Nor can technological trickery save the day. The technique on display in the opening titles, and on several other occasions throughout Limitless, whereby director Neil Burger employs a sort of "endless zoom" in the mode of experimental French filmmaker Gaspar Noe, proves nauseating rather than neat; a fancy trick better left to those who can do it justice, or else on the cutting room floor.

Equally as successful - which is to say not terribly, in truth - are those very David Fincher moments where text and numbers are overlaid upon the world, presumably to represent Cooper's new and much improved perception of the world. This isn't even a new trick, yet still it sticks out like a sore thumb.

But on balance, I'd say... see this movie. Fluff or not, it rolls with a interesting idea ripped right out of the work of one Philip K. Dick - though the credits insist Limitless is based on a book by Alan Glynn, and perhaps it is. And while it goes in all the directions you imagine it will, and the destination is a tacked-on epilogue so pat as to seem an insult to our intelligence, so too does the ride have its exhilarating moments scattered here and there throughout its hundred minutes; moments when you can see past Limitless' lukewarm script and tepid direction, and the liquid crystal purity of the pill-popping premise stops you dead in your tracks.

Would that those moments were higher on director Neil Burger's list of priorities. As is, your patience need not be limitless to take some passing pleasure in this popcorn-friendly and surprisingly prescient irrelevance... but it sure wouldn't hurt.

Thursday 26 May 2011

The Best Things In Life Are Free | Songs To Test By

Well it seems GladOS is back in the big chair - where she should be! - because yesterday, someone finally tested some sense into the great and glorious cabal that is Valve, insisting that they release some of the awesome music from Portal 2.

And when I say "awesome," I mean awesome.

I confess, when I first heard that there'd be a sequel to Portal, I had my doubts. But from the moment that first trailer was released on out, I was all in - and in no small part thanks to the exhilarating electro the resurrection of GladOS was set to.

Nor did the game disappoint in that respect... in any respect, truth be told. The soundtrack was but one of Portal 2's innumerable high points - the perfect music to read or perhaps even write some bonkers sci-fi by - so it was cause for something of a sad face when I realised there was no way I could buy it.

Apparently that was only so Valve could give us the thing, piece by piece. Strike my complaints from the transcript, please! Composed and arranged by the Aperture Science Psychoacoustics Laboratory, Songs to Test By Volume One is the first of three free CDs' worth of songs from the stupendous Portal 2.

And it is, as I may have mentioned, somewhat awesome. I'm only on my first listen and already I've heard a wealth of music that wasn't in the game proper - or else was, and I missed, because I'm such an obedient little test subject. I hear I missed a wealth of dialogue too, by solving puzzles before Wheatley or some such could complain I wasn't testing fast enough.

...oh well. Replay! :)

In the meantime, you'd be well advised to hit up this link forthwith, and getcher gosh-darned download on.

Not only, but also: please, consider the comments of this post a Portal 2 spoiler section. I'd say the time to be respectful of those folks who haven't had the time or the inclination to beat Valve's latest masterpiece is officially at an end. Besides, I'm practically dying to discuss some of the late-game events of what has to be the best game of the year to date with you all.

In fact, I'll get the cube ball rolling and everything...