My New Favorite Anime

I can’t believe how good this is!

Don’t let the cutesy visuals throw you off. This is not a show for kiddies. I just finished watching Season 1 on Amazon Prime, and I’m digging into the manga as we speak!

The story centers around Riko, an aspiring cave-raider, and Reg, a robot boy who has lost his memory. The titular Abyss is a massive hole in the center of an island. No one has been to the bottom, and generations of explorers have tested their mettle against the trials found within it. Riko burns to reach the bottom of the Abyss and hopefully find her mother.

The world building is astonishing. The anime drips with lush visuals of the interior of the Abyss – strange plant and animal life; an upside-down forest; mysterious relics of unknown origin and powers. My co-author Julia likes to talk about ‘mystery boxes’ we leave to tantalize the readers. Well this story is rife with them, each one of them egging you on to dive deeper into the Abyss.

Getting back to the world building. The city around the Abyss grew up in the margins of the island, perched on the edge of a bottomless pit. Needless to say, space is at something of a premium. Look at this!

abyss classroom

Behold the power of showing vs. telling. The classroom is vertical! Look at those rope ladders! (It’s been a while since any story has made me so happy!) ‘

Again, Made in Abyss is definitely not a show for kids, despite the cute character designs. (Without too much spoiling, I think I can mention elective amputation, mercy killing, and robot penises.) Please give it a look if you’ve got a free half-hour to kill, I think you’ll find the story incredibly layered and engaging.

Broken

Last year I showed up late to the buffet and absolutely devoured The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Name of the Wind. This year I finally found Six of Crows on audio book, and I may have tried to drive the long way around to work to get through it faster.

In Six of Crows, Kaz Brekker, thief extraordinaire of Ketterdam, leads us through a serpentine heist plot set in a gritty criminal underworld ruled by greed and profit (truly, they have a literal God of Commerce.) Is Kaz a thief with a heart of gold? (Spoilers!)

In a word? No.

He’s horribly broken, his emotional makeup riddled with scars from his first experiences as a helpless podge on the dirty streets of Ketterdam. Within a short time of entering the city, Kaz and his older brother are bilked of their entire inheritance and left utterly bereft and homeless. Kaz sees his brother crumble under the crushing realization that they have lost everything. At the same time, a terrifying plague lays the city low, stacking the dead like firewood in the streets. Sickened by the spreading plague, Kaz finds himself piled onto a barge of bodies, pinned next to the lifeless body of his brother.

This, my friends, is what it means to turn the dial up to eleven.

Kaz returns to Ketterdam, his fractured psyche patched together with equal parts rage and a burning desire for revenge. It’s his devastating origin that makes Kaz such a great character for me.

He surrounds himself with a clutch of thieves, each one broken in his or her own way and together they form a family of sorts. You want Kaz to heal, to truly enjoy the camaraderie and love of his new family, but he’s had to mortgage so much of his own humanity just to get here. Every so often, Kaz shows the barest glint of his previous humanity, just enough to keep you hoping, before smoothing a thick layer of scar tissue over it and hiding it again from the world.

“Suffering is like anything else – live with it long enough,
you learn to like the taste.”
– Kaz Brekker

I’m nearly done with this duology, but tantalizing hints have been dropped about the previous stories, and I look forward to digging into the rest of Bardugo’s Grishaverse.

Want an extra?

So cool.

Dani Clode, a graduate student at London’s Royal College of Art has designed a prosthesis meant to augment, rather than replace a body part. Take a look:

That’s just pretty fricking awesome.

And of course, it immediately makes me think of these guys:

Because the xenomorph is a great example of augmentation. Two thumbs on each hand, an extendible secondary jaw, the prehensile tail. Man, it’s just the complete package.

Is your brain safe from attack?

I listen to a few podcasts, and one of my favorites is Stuff to Blow Your Mind. They recently did a great show on neurosecurity, and spent about a good portion of the show talking about the possibility of hacking prosthetics!

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At first glance, I thought they were going to talk about the neural hacking in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, where one of the characters figures out how to access the brain’s underlying ‘machine language’ and subvert your learned, cultural programming. Alas, the show is much more practical, speaking to present day issues, and a discussion of near-future aspects of what is sure to be a prevalent problem in our ever-wireless society.

While I was a little bummed that they didn’t talk about Snow Crash, I was thrilled to hear them talking about quite a few prosthetic devices I have a lot of experience with. They mentioned both the iLimb hand, and the Lynx knee-ankle system, both of which can connect via Bluetooth to your phone to make everyday adjustments.

And for the most part, they got it right. They do make the mistake of referring to the prostheses as “mind controlled” which isn’t quite right. What we have currently is prostheses that are controlled by reading the muscle signals in the remnant limbs.

The real potential for hacking is when the man/machine interface really achieves direct brain control. Then you’ve got something implanted in you that is directly reading your brain signals, and sending sensory data back to your brain as well. (A future post on feedback from your prosthesis!) Having that transceiver in your head opens up a whole world of worrying possibilities, from scanning your mind for data, to influencing you to act in certain ways.

Would you do it? Would you take a neural implant that augments your natural abilities, or returns the function of a lost or damaged limb? Is the risk worth the reward?

Nostalgia

Blade Runner is one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s got it all: the hard-boiled cop, renegade androids, and the hypnotic cyberpunk backdrop.

I was pretty worried when I heard about the proposed sequel. Harrison Ford has been known to do a turkey of a sequel now and then.

And then the full trailer dropped.

Pretty sexy. We’ve got our noir detective, the human/android conflict, and the neon-drenched cityscape. There’s the eye imagery, ziggurats, and sexy women. It definitely calls out a lot to the original. Although there is also precedent for not doing that too much either (hey, another movie with Ford!)

Right next to Blade Runner, for me, is Ghost in the Shell (the anime, mind you.) Both movies evoke a lot of the same emotions for me, and both have a similar feel, where the city itself is a large part of the storytelling. So far, the trailer tells me they got the visuals right, so that makes me feel better about it. Guess I’ll have to fork out my $15 to see if they got the story-telling right.

First Post!

Hey there!

However you managed to find me, thanks for stopping by to visit. As you can see, it’s bare bones around here for now. Eventually there will be content related to my writing and sci-fi interests, especially up and coming prosthetic technologies.

For now, please visit my co-author, Julia Vee, for the latest updates and news on our upcoming sci-fi serial novels.