The Emperor’s Blades


Holy Hull. This was an awesome book. It kicks off real simple at first, the emperor is dead, and two of his three children are unaware of it: One trains to be a badass assassin, and the other, the heir, invests his time getting buried alive, haul stones, getting cuffed at the back of his head, and drink tea, to reach a state of Nirvana.

The book opens with a prologue that shows you the meaning of rot, and then the following chapter paves way to a graphic scene of a corpse. I should say the chapter had me hooked and I was curious enough to keep on reading until things unraveled.

I have no problem with graphic violence in the stuff I read and watch. But what bothered me in “The Emperor’s Blades” is how it’s all the women getting butchered in graphic detail. The inclusion of one kick-ass woman in the book doesn’t help elevate that. 

Beyond this, the book was a great read. I loved the description and the prose. I loved the pacing, despite being a long book, everything moved at a fast and clear pace. 

There are three main POVs, each of the emperor’s children, but we spend most of our time with the two boys – the assassin and the monk – and only about three chapters with the eldest, the daughter. Though from a certain perspective I can understand why she had so few chapters and I can only imagine things will change, fast, in the next two books when shit gets real.

As the characters are scattered throughout the empire I felt there was deep immersion and how large the world is. Each one was so different from the others. So different when something shook up the status quo, it felt like a threatening alien presence.

After this book I’m pretty much sure I’ll read everything Brian Stavely, the author, writes. For now, onward to Book Two: The Providence of Fire!

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Now, this is my type of galaxy


One of my bosses in my day job was invited to an event in Singapore to learn more about Samsung’s newest tablet, the Galaxy Book.

It’s a device that’s designed to go head-to-head against the Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro.

I got my hands on it for a little while and the first thing I noticed was how heavy it is for a tablet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good portable device and lighter than laptops. And, according to my boss, comes with its own stylus and keyboard, unlike Apple where you need to get the Pencil and the Smart Keyboard separately. 

The keyboard that ships with the Galaxy Book is without its flaws. But it’s something you can really type with on the get-go. From my experience, the early moments of the Surface Pro and the iPad Pro’s keyboards were a little jarring and I needed to get used to it, much more than other foreign keyboards I’ve worked with. It also has those satisfying clicks whenever you punch them down.


It also runs on a Windows 10 platform, something I’m familiar with. Though it’s likely 1000x susceptible to malware infection, depending on your online activities. But that’s more of a cybersecurity matter. 

In Philippine peso it’s priced around 40K, about a little more than $1,000. It’s almost carries the same price tag as an aged Apple MacBook Air, which I still consider a really damn good typing machine.

In any case, I like the Galaxy Book. Consider this Certified DAMN!

Press release follows:

The Galaxy Book is Samsung’s latest offering in the workbook segment boasting of combined power and mobility for the go-getters. Working on the go will be a breeze as this workbook is powered by Windows 10 Operating System, pre-installed with a Microsoft Office Suite, and comes with a full-keyboard cover case.


If you’re one who loves taking notes down old-school style, you will surely love the S-Pen. The Galaxy Book’s Advanced S-Pen has a fine 0.7mm pen tip for precise note-taking and drawing. Its high-pressure sensitivity provides a realistic writing experience that will surely delight he writers out there.

The Galaxy Book also helps you keep that corporate style on point. No need to lug around your bulky laptop in that extra bag. This new innovation comes in an elegant all-metal body–only at 8.99mm thin, and lightweight at 648g.

Grim Company

I just finished reading Luke Scull’s “Grim Company” 2am last night. I ended up waking up real late and having to explain to my boss about my tardiness, especially on a day when important stuff was about to happen.

In any case, it was worth it. I spent about three days reading through the book, with about a total of seven hours. Not a record breaker or anything, except on day three, when I started reading at around 9pm.

I enjoyed the background. Magelords risen up to gods, the corpses strewn on the land, where magic is harnessed and all the other cool shit happening. It was a massive thrill ride from start to finish. The characters were interesting and full of so many flaws, so many you can’t help but actually appreciate them for it. One of the main character, Davarus Cole, well, let’s just say he’s a dick, but he always meant well, despite himself. And, even someone like him actually becomes a fun character to follow around.

I really have no idea what else to say about it. It’s fun, full of action, there’s an amazing background, the characters are awesome, and there’s so much more happening behind-the-scenes. No, not another game of politics, this one swings the action and doesn’t let up. There are looming threats that we’re all familiar with.

Prose is great! Though I’ll be a little direct here. Scull isn’t on the level of George RR Martin or Steven Erikson, when it comes to piecing words together in the most stylish and thought-provocative way. But Scull delivers full clarity, with images bursting into your mind as you read through the pages. It’s glorious writing when you lose yourself in the words and just find yourself sitting in the middle of the entire book like you were just watching an IMAX film.

Wrapping this up, “Grim Company” is one of the best damn books I’ve ever read in recent years. And I’m eager to get started with book two “Sword of the North” as soon as possible.

 

Wonder Woman


I’ll keep this brief: “Wonder Woman” is the most amazing superhero film I’ve seen yet.

It isn’t something built on hype. If anything, Warner and DC didn’t put as much marketing effort as it had with “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and still “Woman Woman” was an explosive powerhouse of great action and great storytelling.

I say great storytelling because “Wonder Woman” tells more than one. It’s a coming-of-age tale where Diana comes to understand her purpose, it’s a heroes’ journey, it’s a story about World War I, it’s a love story, it’s a story about gods and mortals, and most of all, it’s a superhero story.

I look back in previous superhero films and not one of them came close to actually being a superhero. In 2008 with “Iron Man,” Tony Stark developed his suit first to escape captivity, and then again, to destroy the weapons manufactured by his own company on enemy hands. “Thor” was just a spoiled battle hungry god who got a time out from his dad and was just making penance. And good ole “Captain America” was a weapon of the United States to punch the hell out of HYDRA. 

I’m not bashing Marvel here. I love their films but you’ve got to admit, the first fight scene with Diana coming out as Woman Woman for the first time, where she went out of her way to help people in desperate need, that’s a superhero moment there. She was willing to abandon her mission and her own safety to save lives. Literally save lives – civilian lives – out of immediate danger between the trenches of World War I.

That moment where Diana rose up that ladder: It was glorious. Of course the music helped stirred my emotions but it was no less the most epic thing I’ve seen in a superhero film. I had to dig way back in the attic of my mind to find something similar, and what came out was Sam Raimi’s own “Spider-Man 2” where our friendly wall-crawler stopped an overspeeding train.

The heroics doesn’t stop there. At some point every supporting character had done something heroic and things continue to build up to the final closing scenes.

“Wonder Woman” is an excellent example that DC and Warner can produce excellent superhero films within their Extended Universe. It tells a clear and comprehensive story with just the right amount of humor and excellent action. That’s why “Woman Woman” succeeded. It’s going to be a tough act to follow up but here’s to the future of “Wonder Woman.” 

Now let’s see if “Justice League” is on par with “Wonder Woman.”

LG plays safe with the G6

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This 2017 there is a spectrum in flagship phones. Both Samsung and Huawei have recently played their cards and are topping the Android industry. Sony is about to show off their newest contender, while HTC just announced theirs in high hopes to make a comeback in the hall of smartphone champions.

What about LG? Year after year they have been giving us excellent phones, though with gimmicky features. The G2, for instance, rocked the industry by placing its home button at the back. (Something that has been replicated in more recent phones, like Asus and Huawei.) The G4 gave us a leatherback with a somewhat curved design. I don’t know what the G3 brought to the table, despite having owned one for a while, I’m guessing it’s the 2K screen. And of course, the G5 introduced modular features that absolutely went nowhere, and that last one was a bad hit for LG.

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So what about the new LG G6? It’s safe to say that this is LG’s safest phone yet. A simpler design and well-built. It comes with hardware you’d expect from a flagship device. Though the chipset used here isn’t the latest one, which is quite a head scratcher, really.

Let’s break things down, rating each of them.

Design: 4/5 

If you ask me, I love the simpler design the G6 has over its predecessors. It has no curved screen, no disgusting leatherback, no modularity with expensive modules, no nothing. Just a great-looking phone with nice specs and other staple things.

This is an era where we are getting regular-sized phones with larger screens. The bezels of the G6 is almost nonexistent, a testament to the screen’s durability over years of development. It’s a tall phone with a tall screen and a width so much slimmer than the G5. It’s a great phone to binge on Netflix and just chill the F-Out.

While the frontal design of the G6 is nice and swell, the rear, should be smooth and, well, nice to touch. The G6 unit I managed to get my hands on was covered with a protective film, and that could only mean the darker colored G6 is a fingerprint bitch. As far as I know, without the protective layer, the back is an all glass panel built with Gorilla Glass 5. And as far as my experience goes with LG, they have sturdy phones. My G3 unit had a lot of bad drops. So did my LG G4 Beat. And before those, I had an LG L70, which underwent a ton of accidental waist-high drops. Oh, there were scratches and some dents, but the fact remains, the screen was intact and fully operational.

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The volume rockers are found in the left side of the phone that allows left-handed users to thumb through the volume. Right-handed users can go finger them with the index finger. SIM tray goes to the right side, a Type-C USB port for fast charging and fast transfer speeds, and a headphone jack. (Go suck it Apple, we want our wired headphones!)

Specs: 4/5

Display: 1440×2880

Screen size: 5.7-inch

Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
RAM: 4GB

Memory: 32GB and 64GB

Dual cameras: 13MP (Both)

Front camera: 5MP

Battery: 3300

Water and dust resistant with IP68: Hell yeah!

If you look at it like that, it’s not so bad, right? While some phones kick balls with six gigs of RAM, the G6 maintains a stronghold for 4GB, and that’s not really a bad thing, as the phone is blazing fast as it already is. The difference would have been only fractions of a second.

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What bothers me here is the chipset. While most flagships use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or an 831, at least, the G6 uses an 821. Phones that use this are: Google Pixel and Pixel XL, Xiaomi Note 2, OnePlus 3T, and Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe. All of those phones are well regarded with excellent performance, so I wouldn’t think twice about how well of a performer the G6 is.

That wasn’t to say the 821 chipset is bad. It’s just a little outdated. But make no mistake, the 821 fires up all the G6’s cores and runs all the apps you’ll ever need without flinching.

Software: 4/5

Who cares about software? It runs on Android 7 Nougat. LG’s own Knock-On has returned without a doubt. If you’re unfamiliar with that, you just double-tap your screen to awaken the phone. LG has this since the G2 and it’s been a nice addition. Though, I’m not sure if it’s the unit I have right now, or if there’s some flimsy code on LG’s part, but the Knock-On feature doesn’t always respond. The same goes with my pressing of the rear home button.

The Always-On Display, which is seen in some phones today, is present in the G6. So if you rely on your phone to check the time, you no longer have to open your phone to view it. Other notifications and battery status are always on the screen despite the phone being locked.

Camera: 3/5

Let’s get this down before the initial knee-jerk reaction. The G6’s camera is excellent. The colors are accurate, vibrant, and sharp. It has nice gestures that allows you to take selfies without pressing the shutter button. You can switch between its two rear cameras to get different aspect ratio contrasts and depth. It has the usual staple: Time-lapse, filters, slow-motion, among others. The dual rear cameras firing at 13MP each and the frontal 5MP, are absolutely fine and deserves to be in a flagship phone. However, compared to other phones out there, the G6 lags behind by a hair.

Here are some sample shots.

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Conclusion

Unlike other phone makers: Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and OPPO who all introduce their flagship phones alongside a bigger “Plus” version, LG sets aside their big-ass phone for a couple months. I’m talking about the LG V series. Last year the LG V20 received a warmer and more loving welcome than the main G5 had. While I do love the simpler G6, it’s hard not to hold my breath for a few more months before making up my mind, the next LG V phone is just across the horizon, after all.

Alien: Covenant

I didn’t know what to expect from “Alien: Covenant.” I had hoped it would be similar to the older films that were each directed by Ridley Scott and James Cameron. A friend and colleague from GameGulp, a gaming and film website I’ve helped a little to procure content, had claimed it was a good film.

In a lot of ways, “Alien: Covenant” pays homage to “Alien” and “Aliens,” by re-using old elements from both films. And these elements that played out were so strong, it’s impossible not to smile and think back about those moments that made the franchise fun and terrifying.

At the same time, “Alien: Covenant” feels so alien that it is more “Prometheus” than it is to the main series. And I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, or even be complaining about it. I imagine, studio executives, enforcing the call to slap the popular brand into the title rather than simply call it: “Covenant.” (Especially that, there was a film called “Covenant” released in 2006 and it was horrible.)

By the time the credits started rolling, it felt like a chestburster had come out between my ribs, leaving me in hollowed silence. What I’m getting at here, this is a pretty decent film, but it could have been better, had it been more intelligent and clever.

I understand that “Alien” and “Aliens” were galleries that shows in sequence the consequences of making bad choices. The characters’ panic and hysteria were so emulated in Covenant which, from the outsight, made them look the stupidest bunch ever. It was almost as if, these films are saying, you need to be punished for your bad decisions.

I have watched the first four films a small number of times. Covenant steers clear from this and has, instead, provided a series of answers. Though none of them bridges the gap to “Alien” as what people seems to be clamoring about. And if the internet is to be believed, Scott intends to bring out two more Alien prequels before bridging it with the first film. We’re so much closer now to the first film more than ever.

The first half of the film was engaging. You have a crew that is responsible for the safety of the entire colony. And the second half just falters with countless mistakes and random acts of stupidity. Were the characters afraid, which is why they made all these mistakes? In some cases, yes. However, there were those who were actually bold enough venture out into the dark and just be plain stupid.

“Alien: Covenant” at most, is a B film with triple A budget. I really wanted to like this film since I grew up watching these. Not to mention “Alien” had been my introduction to horror and space when I was a kid. But I just couldn’t find any more reason to. I’ll still be a sucker for all future films though.

UPDATE: Reflecting back on the film. Covenant doesn’t only take elements from the first two films, but also from the climactic scenes in “Alien 3.” I probably missed a lot more, so I’ll just wait for the Blue-ray.

Reckoning of Dragons: Dragon Killer

I think Rob May, author of the trilogy “Reckoning of Dragons,” is a talented author. I think he’s a great writer and he tells an intriguing story. I got the entire trilogy upon a recommendation by a friend.

Now, I finished the first book, titled “Dragon Killer” and decided to set aside the next two books for a while. While I had just praised May’s writing skills, I found “Dragon Killer” could have had a few more edits to deliver a far more polished product.

By edits: I don’t mean fixing grammar, cause May has that under control. “Dragon Killer” has a beginning, middle, and an end. However, somewhere halfway through, the middle and the beginning jumbles up. It’s as if, May suddenly decided that he wanted to tell a story in the same vein as Patrick Rothfuss in his “The Kingkiller Chronicles” or Anthony Ryan’s “Blood Song.” It could had worked and I think it would have worked. I found Kalina Moonheart an interesting character: Strong, fierce, and clever. And her relationships with other characters are seems fascinating. But we never really get the chance to see that develop.

The novella would have had a more fluid storytelling to it without the first several chapters. I have a couple other more comments but I’m dwelling in on that pit where I’d rather just stay quiet and know my place. Nothing too drastic anyway. Just how I would have done things differently. For instance, the first three or five chapters would had focused on Kalina, on us, getting to know her. And then we swoon backwards, digging through her history, picking out the tiny but interesting details that culminated to who she was into the current timeline of “Dragon Killer.”

Overall I’m somewhat satisfied with the novella. I read the first chapter of the second book, “Roll the Bones” and I have thoroughly enjoyed that so far. So I’ll reserve any other comments when I’ve finished the next two books.

Thus far, I’ll say “Dragon Killer” is a little decent read. Just skip the entire “Part One” as from Part Two onward, you’ll be revisiting events from the first part, in a shorter and more interesting way.