What do reverse cyborgs want? A review of David Marusek's Glassing the Orgachine

In First Contact, Book 1 of David Marusek’s (previously) science fiction series Upon This Rock, an alien being crash lands in a remote corner of Alaska, not far from a family-cult of preppers for the end times, and the alien exploits the beliefs of the family patriarch by posing as an angel sent to earth to initiate the final conflict. Rooted deeply in contemporary Alaskan landscape and culture, the novel is funny and painful, part satire and part serious exploration of a particularly unfortunate instance of first contact. The novel ends on a cliffhanger, leaving many questions unanswered. Read the rest

Jeff "Sweet Tooth" Lemire's new horror comic Gideon Falls is spooky af

Jeff Lemire can do weird-spooky (see, e.g., his Twilight Zonish graphic novel Underwater Welder) and he can do gripping (see his amazing, post-apocalyptic Sweet Tooth), but in his newest graphic novel from Image Comics, Gideon Falls, he shows that he can do spooky-verging-on-terrifying, with a tale of supernatural mystery that combines avant-garde graphic treatments with outstanding writing to create a genuine tale of terror. Read the rest

Free game: What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch is free this month from the Epic store. I downloaded it last night and couldn't stop playing until I was done. It's a detailed, polished walking simulator that clocks in at 3 hours, so tightly orchestrated it feels like a genuinely interactive movie.

It centers on Edith, a high schooler and the last surviving child of a family "cursed" by generations of tragedy. After her mother's death, she inherits the cosy yet unsettling manse she grew up in and sets out to uncover the family's secrets. This is to say, she wants to know why so many Finches died young and why her mother didn't want the stories told.

It's obviously from the outset that something is deeply wrong with the family even as it is clearly a family full of love. The wrongness hovers at the margins of reason. It's reflected in the house, normal at the ground level but an alarming mass of ramshackle additions up top. Surely that would be dangerous, you ask yourself.

Some of the family death vignettes really got under my skin. They're all elaborated in the telling to the point of magic realism and beyond, but when you sit and think about what was shown they unravel to mundane parenting failures, one after another after another. The elaborations thereby become part of the problem. But now I'm in danger of spoiling the game's secrets.

Edith Finch maintains a tension between modern gothic mystery and the suggestion of a damaged family that mythologizes its subtly self-destructive currents. Read the rest

Hannu Rajaniemi's Summerland: a midcentury spy thriller, with the afterlife

Hannu Rajaniemi is the Finnish-Scottish mathematician and science fiction writer whose debut, 2012's Quantum Thief was widely celebrated; now, in Summerland, Rajaniemi delivers new kind of supernatural historical spy procedural, set in a 1938 where the afterlife has been discovered, colonized and militarized. Read the rest

Why Do Birds: Damon Knight's amazing, underappreciated science fiction novel about putting all of humanity in a box

In 2002, a mysterious man is arrested for illegally occupying a hotel room: he says his name is Ed Stone, and that he was kidnapped by aliens from the same hotel room in 1931 and has just been returned to Earth, not having aged a day; the aliens have told him that Earth will be destroyed in 12 years and that before then, the entire human race has to put itself in a giant box (presumably for transport to somewhere else, though Ed is a little shaky on the details), and to help Ed with this task, the aliens have given him a ring that makes anyone who touches it fill with overwhelming good feelings for him and a desire to help him. Read the rest

These boots from GORUCK are crazy comfortable

I wish I could wear running shoes, but I shouldn't. When I was a teenager, I tore all of the ligaments in my right ankle. Six weeks of physiotherapy and now, close to 20 years later, I'm still walking around on wobbly scar tissue. My ankle loves to roll out from under me, for any excuse at all. So, for extra support while I'm out strutting around, I wear combat boots. They tend to last longer than comparably priced hiking books and, depending on the boot, can be gussied up for special occasions. The downside to wearing combat boots is that even the lightest among them can still be pretty heavy.

Enter GORUCK's MACV-1. They call it a "Jungle Rucking Boot," but it's not at all dissimilar to the lightweight duty boots from companies like Magnum or 511 Tactical that I used to wear to work. Available in black or coyote brown, they ride just above the ankle and, at 14 ounces each, are one of the lightest pairs of boots I've ever lashed to my footies. Despite their light weight, they seem, so far, to be well made. The majority of the boot is made using full grain leather, which comes out of the box already holding a shine. It didn't take me long to wear the shine down to nothing, but it's the thought that counts.

The rest of the MACV-1 is comprised of 1000D Cordura and, for extra ankle support, a strip of 2" nylon webbing that runs down the back and side of each boot. Read the rest

Calexit: a fractured California, where militias and the DHS battle the resistance in Trump's future America

The first time I encountered Matteo Pizzolo, Amancay Nahuelpan and Tyler Boss's comic Calexit, I was skeptical: California separating from the USA is an incredibly stupid idea, predicated on innumerable misconceptions (including the idea that the state that gave us Nixon, Reagan, and Schwarzenegger is uniformly progressive, and also the idea that "the world's sixth largest economy" wouldn't radically contract the instant it lost access to the rest of the country, including the Atlantic Ocean). But when I found the first Calexit collection on the recommended table at the 100% reliable LA comic shop Secret Headquarters, I decided to give it a chance. Read the rest

Paper Girls 5: fate and free will (and dinosaurs and monsters)

For two years now, Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang have been knocking my socks off with their Paper Girls graphic novel, a mysterious, all-girl, Stranger-Things-esque romp through 1980s pop culture, time travel, conspiracies, clones, paradoxes, and you know, all that amazing coming-of-age/friendship-is-magic jazz. Now, the pair have released the fifth collection, and it's a doozy. Read the rest

One More For the Road: The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats are back!

Back in 2007, Adam "Apelad" Koford created a marvellous, funny, weird alternate history for the then-viral phenomenon of LOLcats, running-gag memes of cats whose superimposed dialog had many odd grammatical quirks: the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats," a pair of comic-strip hobo cats straight out of the 1930s, who found obscure and clever ways to riff on our contemporary LOLcats. Read the rest

The Fifth Risk: Michael Lewis explains how the "deep state" is just nerds versus grifters

Michael Lewis is a national treasure, whose gift for explaining how finance grifters think and operate has spawned a whole genre, which he dominates with books like Liar's Poker (an insider view of the S&L crisis); The Big Short (a character-driven, crystal-clear explainer on the financial engineering that led to the 2008 crisis), and Flash Boys (the shitty math and bafflegab behind high-speed trading); and now, The Fifth Risk: an astounding and terrifying book about the experts who fill the ranks in the US government and the Trump-administration grifters who are destroying the work they do to keep us from dying of tornadoes, nuclear accident, food poisoning and a million other dangers, large and small. Read the rest

The winners in a massive roundup of the 100 Best Pens are surprisingly affordable

The writers of New York Magazine's Strategist tested "dozens upon dozens of gels, rollerballs, felt-tips, ballpoints, and fountain pens" and published a ranked list of the top 100 pens in existence. Read the rest

"Privacy Not Included": Mozilla's guide to insecure, surveillant gadgets to avoid

"Privacy Not Included" is Mozilla's Christmas shopping (anti)-guide to toys and gadgets that spy on you and/or make stupid security blunders, rated by relative "creepiness," from the Nintendo Switch (a little creepy) to the Fredi Baby monitor (very creepy!). Read the rest

Winners Take All: Modern philanthropy means that giving some away is more important than how you got it

Anand Giridharadas was a former McKinsey consultant turned "thought leader," invited to the stages of the best "ideas festivals" and to TED (twice), the author of some very good and successful books, and as a kind of capstone to this career, he was named a fellow to the Aspen Institute, an elite corps of entrepreneurs who are given institutional support and advice as they formulate "win-win" solutions to the world's greatest problems, harnessing the power of markets to lift people out of poverty and oppression. Read the rest

Review: The Oneplus 6T is almost as nice as a flagship handset for a fraction of the price

When I need to futz with an Android device, OnePlus is the company that I typically turn to. For the money, you won't find a more capable handset in North America. The OnePlus 6, thanks largely to its zippy performance and Android Oreo's being a joy to use, was the first Android device I was able to live with as my daily driver. The OnePlus 6T is, with the exception of a few minor tweaks, very much the same handset as its predecessor. I'm very OK with this.

Under the hood, there's not much to see: OnePlus has used the same Snapdragon 845 processor. The version of the 6T that I took for a spin comes packing 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It's a speedy-feeling set of specs that served me well with the OnePlus 6 and now, the 6T. Apps, fly open, I've yet to see any interface lag and I've no complaints about how quickly either smartphone does anything.

With the OnePlus 6T, users get a 3,700mAh battery. Given that I've grown accustomed to the low level of battery that my aging iPhone 7 Plus leaves me with at the end of the day, I was pretty pleased with how much juice was still left in the 6T when I set it down for the night. While it might not come with wireless charging baked into it, the OnePlus 6T's Dash quick charging technology more than made up for its absence. I'll take a rapid charge over the simplicity of not having to plug a cord into my hardware any day. Read the rest

America, Compromised: Lawrence Lessig explains corruption in words small enough for the Supreme Court to understand

Lawrence Lessig was once best-known as the special master in the Microsoft Antitrust Case, then he was best known as the co-founder of Creative Commons, then as a fire-breathing corruption fighter: in America, Compromised, a long essay (or short nonfiction book), Lessig proposes as lucid and devastating a theory of corruption as you'll ever find, a theory whose explanatory power makes today's terrifying news cycle make sense -- and a theory that demands action.

I love the Garmin Tactix Charlie, so it'll likely get lost or broken

I destroy Apple Watches. It's not intentional. It just kinda happens. The first Apple Watch was a Series 1 piece of wrist candy. I loved how it kept reminders for me to take my medication, pay my bills, and all of the other things that my PTSD-addled brain refuses to keep track of on my wrist. I hated how slow it was to respond to requests and that it wasn't possible to hide apps that I never used from its interface. It died in a torrential downpour.

Same thing for my second Apple watch. It was a Series 2. While it was a little bit faster and the OS was a tiny bit more agreeable, it was unable to avoid being smashed by a passerby at a street market in Costa Rica. From the impact, it looked like it had met with a single, focused impact, like the tip of a knife or another object that wouldn't be agreeable to have in my body. I'm sure that it's over reacting to say that my Apple Watch saved my life, but I think about this often.

I am not made of money. I cannot afford to buy watch after watch (although that's kind of what I've ended up doing). Smartwatches provide me with a level of utility that makes my life a lot more manageable. It took some time, but I came to the conclusion that the best smartwatch for me was one that I could not kill.

Enter the Garmin Tactix. Read the rest

#SAD: Doonesbury's collected Trump strips afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted

Since 1987, Doonesbury has been pricking Trump's bubble, and Trump hates it; Trump even instructed the ghost writer on "his" "book" Surviving at the Top to devote several pages to denouncing Trudeau as unfunny (you can read all of Trudeau's Trump strips in last year's Trump retrospective collection, Yuge!). Read the rest

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