I haven’t done a book review in a while, so this week I’m taking a look at February’s Sword & Laser Book Club pick. Also, on top of the earlier review, I do get into some spoilers regarding the plot’s reveals in the second half of the video, if you want something more in-depth.

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The Akudama of Akudama Drive; Clockwise from Top: Doctor, Courier, Brawler, Cutthroat, Hacker, Hoodlum. Not pictured: Ordinary Person/Swindler

We occasionally get new Cyberpunk anime every now and then, though usually, the protagonists of those series have some degree of… license by the establishment. The Major in Ghost in the Shell is a government agent. So are the protagonists of Cyber City Oedo 808. The Knight Sabers from Bubblegum Crisis are superhero mercenaries who contract with the government. Rare are the cyberpunk anime that have protagonists who work for hire, not only outside the law but in violation of the law. Akudama Drive is one of the series that fits that theme, and utterly nails the concept.

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In the past I have reviewed several works from creators who are problematic, whether having previously committed sexual assault (David Eddings), or who have said very racist things and have endorsed genocide by a totalitarian dictatorship (Cixin Liu and the Chinese government’s oppression of Uyghurs), so it’s time for me to have something of a discussion of what goes into decisions of what I’m reviewing going forward, and my policies for reviewing works from problematic creators.

Also, for the record, Trans Rights are Human Rights. Black Lives Matter.

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Matter is my first step into the world of The Culture. I’ve heard bits and pieces about it through a variety of other sources, from the absurd ship names, to the concept of Outside Context Problems, to the absurdly high tech level – but I’ve never actually read a novel in the universe. While Matter is not the first book in the series, it is a pretty good jumping on point to the series.

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After completing Super Robot Wars V a year or so ago, I decided I wanted to watch some of the anime series from that show, particularly before moving on to X (along with wanting to watch a couple of the shows from X as well to set up the story for comparison). That, combined with the fact that I’d been watching various anime series on weekends with my parents, and that my mother had watched the original first season of Space Battleship Yamato while growing up in Hawaii, lead me to bump the reboot of that series up on my list.

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Cover of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order Omnibus 1

Battle Angel Alita ended – sort of – on an interesting note. Due to health issues, the mangaka, Yukito Kishiro, somewhat rushed the manga’s conclusion, quickly moving the story into the floating city of Zalem, before blitzing through the city coping with the revelation that everyone in the city has computer brains – and Alita ultimately ending up in control of the city. The sequel, Last Order, starts there, before going into an oddly different direction.

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Excerpt from the art of The Electric State.

The Electric State is very much a different book from Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood. Those books had a retrospective narrative – the point of view for those books was from the viewpoint of someone looking back on events with a sense of nostalgia. The Electric State, on the other hand, has a more conventional narrative, while still having significant themes of memory, but definitely without the warmth of nostalgia.

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A while back, when I had started my fanzine with the intent of getting established science fiction fans, in particular, those who read fanzines (a demographic that is generally more likely to vote and nominate in the Hugos), to watch and nominate speculative fiction anime – I started with a list.  I gave a list of anime series that had come out since the turn of the millennium which I thought literary speculative fiction fans would enjoy. Among them was Bodacious Space Pirates, a science fiction anime which I felt took the sense of adventure and wonder that was a fixture of ‘50s and ’60s YA Space Adventure science fiction, kept that, and dropped the obsolete political and social views that fill so many works of that period. Astra: Lost in Space is the next anime that tries this and pulls it off spectacularly.

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