Talked about on today’s show:
1965/1964, Nebula Award, Dr. Bloodmoney, Dune by Frank Herbert, better than Dune?, if books were boxers…, a standard Philip K. Dick book, a lot of religious people, taking the cracker and the juice (communion), religious crises, the smaller ideas, precogs, forgetting the precogs are precogs, writing characters who can see into the future, what this novel has, a certain movie, after chapter 5 you don’t know what is real anymore, actual reality and what we’re seeing aren’t lined up, are we still in the Chew-Z delusion?, a very surreal Dick experiences, it’s a trip, the rhetorical flourish, are they spreading the plague, the questioning of reality, an original idea book (Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?), The Days Of Perky Pat, an improvement of an idea in Perky Pat, a cobbled together book, a collage, Upon The Dull Earth by Philip K. Dick, witchcraft and blood magic, the infection is spreading, Anne’s story (joke) about a cat who eats a steak, transubstantiation, the telepathic martian grandmother jackal beast, the difference, Dr. Bloodmoney is funny, The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch is creepy horror, the colonization of reality, Solaris, 1961, whenever a beautiful young woman says “come with me” she always wants to take you to Jesus, Anne Hawthorne, she’s really an agent for Leo, the rehotrizer, the analog for sin, Nathaniel Hawthorne is the religious American version of Edgar Allan Poe, how evil is Palmer Eldritch?, is he a victim?, claims and undercut claims, what real evidence do we have that he’s evil, the three stigmata, subjective realities, then we would all be your children, childlike evil, coming up with the idea, people playing with dolls, Barbie dolls, that connection makes it a better book, all the men go into the Walt (Ken), all the women go into Perky Pat (Barbie), LEGO, a Doctor Who podcast, little mustaches and little hats, The Game Players Of Titan, playing like kids do, you can no longer have the experience of Barbie in her dream house, if I had Can-D (candy) I could have…, so well realized in the Short Story, the kids are adults and the adults are children, hunting for rabbits, waving to the Care-Boys, Martian octopuses looking to help humanity on blasted earth, adults need toys, from Earth to Mars, Chicken Pox Prospect (CPP), a grim prospect, an escapist materialistic world, landscapes of methane ice, the opiate of the colonists, when Philip K. Dick wrote this book he was banished from the house, miserable in his shack, taking his drugs in his hovel-shack, seeing that huge metal mask in the sky, he’s like the doll, Eichorst or Eidhorst, E-therapy (evolution therapy), “look, I’m a bubblehead”, religion vs. evolution, he beats Palmer Eldritch (or he thinks he does), the opening paragraph is the clue, we’re only made of dust, they way he wrote it that’s the idiosyncratic voice, so he did win, thank you Marissa, thank you Philip K. Dick, the runaway green-house effect, resort beaches in Antarctica, it’s 2016, running around in air-conditioned suits, “his conapt Marilyn Monroe, New Jersey”, 4.62 grables, 1.46 wagners, things were hotter than ever, clanked?, Daybreakers (2009), vampires, a nocturnal society, Mayerson is a shriveled up corpse, Guillermo del Toro, The Strain, a retelling of Dracula, an invasion of New York, Chuck Hogan, Eldritch Palmer, a synthesis of Dracula with The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, that homage, like Babylon 5, Highlander: The Series, flashbacks, it’s fun, he’s really enthusiastic about all the right things, a scary book, seeing the names mispronounced, little details, now is the time when Paul talks about eXistenZ, virtual reality games, deep into the game, take-out from Perky Pat, just like real life, the sting in the tail, are we still in the game?, they’re acting just like characters, a Palmer Eldritch sort of experience, baseline reality, so many levels of reality, out of the rat maze, laserdisc, a gun made out of a bucket of chicken, real-Cronenbergy, it still holds up, sort of Philip K. Dicky, Big Kahuna Burger, identity issues, Felix Blau, how come you keep calling me Leo, “rigid” is a Philip K. Dick keyword, Roog, a good ending, that interoffice audio memo, we’re supposed to infer that he’s not Palmer Eldritch, World of Ptavvs by Larry Niven, don’t be such a Fnool, getting Fnoogled, Larry Niven takes a page out of Philip K. Dick, the most sexist man in the universe, the Kzinti females are non-sentient, he’s wholeheartedly sexist, Ronnie, super-cunning and clever, lots of boobs, plots and plans, nobody ends up at the top in a Philip K. Dick novel, women in his Antarctic colony, Winnie The Pooh Prospect, fluke-pits, it’s a fluke that they lived, homeopapes, just go with it, underappreciated Dick novels, the religious aspect is a really big thing for a lot of people, now you are like Jesus, Americans are baked in religion, Jesse’s students are from Asia, talking about three days in a tomb, fundamental background material, 37 books, Cosmic Puppets, Marissa really liked the virtual reality stuff, Facebook and Second Life, he would have had a lot of fun with Facebook, Palmer Eldritch today is Google, everyone is in the religion of Facebook, Google’s claws are deep, Fallout 3, Tranquility Lane, an evil little girl, a lot of H.P. Lovecraft, if you really want to be a video-game designer you wanna read a lot of this, whoever the nameless game writer are, the Voigt-Kampf tests, Synths, managing towns, an underground railroad for androids, find the Institute (MIT), a robot wants a human body, romance her later, we’re gonna hook up – might as well get straight to it, they all seem to reward re-reading, The Matrix, I’m going to be all the colonists, I’ll be their civilization, playing all the people, SimCity, Civilization, deep into role-playing without the drugs, addicted to evil games, Clash Of Clans, FREE to play, spending $300 on digital skins (for League Of Legends), Candy Crush, I’m going to farm, rejecting the fake world for the real world, The Sims, managing sims lives, micromanaging fake people’s lives, buying virtual goods for an artificial world, sucking up your life, alcohol is a drugs, beer allows escape from the body, the rejection, the kids being the responsible ones, we will make our own world, it’s hopeful, A Scanner Darkly, Facebook is a drug, liking a Bernie tweet, little check-boxes, a long vacation away from man (then share it on Twitter), I was here at these sand dunes, Jesse is stingy with Twitter favourites, favourites are currency, bots, we live in a sick world, digitizing a human need, you can buy 7,000 followers for $50, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, you must!, TV satire commentary, the top video games of all time, the number one game was Twitter, they’re not as good as me, I’m better than you, keeping up with the Morrisons, the Morrisons had more stuff in their layout, their virtual television is at the shop, psychotherapy costs $10 an hour, spinners and squares, a 12 hour flight to New Zealand, 35 hours to New Zealand, Auckland, Helen Lowe in Christchurch.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! = 1973 Soylent Green; Seth misattributes A. Lee Martinez’s The Automatic Detective to Harry Harrison; Harry Harrison doesn’t know anything about science, but he’s big on comedy; Robert Sheckley; the novel’s dark tone; J.G. Ballard’s Billenium also focuses on overpopulation; Seth has never seen Soylent Green; Charlton Heston is the science fiction Will Smith of the 1960s and 1970s; Soylent Green is more a sequel to Make Room! Make Room! than an adaptation; horrible people with money living in nice buildings; crapsack; China’s one-child policy; large families in the South; tilapia is the aquatic chicken, freshwater fish from the Nile; the movie has a greater emphasis on global warming; overpopulation as a trending topic in the late 1960s and early 1970s according to Internet Speculative Fiction Database; environmental issues, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, DDT; slightly alternate history in the novel involving Thailand’s invasion of China; refugees comparable to Vietnam boat people; very little science fiction in the novel; resource depletion as a theme in both book and movie; comparison to Nevil Shute’s On the Beach; comparisons to Logan’s Run, which features a “crapsaccharine” future; the bad guy is us; weed crackers; tilapia symbolic of the devolving food chain; modern China is the wild west of capitalism–you can get eggs without egg; wild fish populations like salmon, cod, and walleye dwindling in our own world; the wastefulness of shark fin soup; Garrett Hardin’s tragedy of the commons; on crowded apartments; the positive impact of contraception and birth control; economic prosperity’s ameliorative effect on population growth; hunter-gatherer societies don’t have pharmacies; “abstinence goes against human nature”; RU486; is religion the bad guy in the novel; Peter, the novel’s religious fanatic; you don’t see old people in Hollywood movies anymore; the endless chase for youth; we now live in Logan’s Run; actors and athletes die at 30; Achille’s Choice by Larry Niven; sexism in Soylent Green, women are furniture; difference in tone between the novel and the movie; in the movie, corruption is systemic; on bribing officials in third-world countries; over interpretation; the book as-is isn’t fixable; secrets in movies like The Sixth Sense and Signs; “you can’t get kids to watch old things”; Charlton Heston has bad politics; 1976 Hugo Awards; the shipyards are a throwback to World War II, resemble floating Roman ruins, made of ferroconcrete; there’s not enough war in this novel; stabilizing influence of war in George Orwell’s 1984; Kim Stanley Robinson’s Pacific Edge; worldwide water shortages; Paolo Bacigalupi’s forthcoming The Water Knife; Robert Bloch’s 1958 This Crowded Earth; Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke on the moon landing; youth culture doesn’t love intelligence; elderly U.S. presidents; Netflix’s Daredevil; Saul is the novel’s most likable character; Andy and Saul, don’t call it a bromance; the movie lacks the book’s humanity; the movie is the cynical Chinatown version of reality; Hollywood used to tackle real-life issues in movies, now all we get is The Day after Tomorrow and 2012; we like John Cusack; Airport 1975 with more Charlton Heston action; the tragedy is that most people don’t recognize parodies; the novel’s resonance with the current unrest in Baltimore; the book and the movie are both good medicine; embrace the silent green–or yellow!
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #288 – Jesse and Mr Jim Moon talk about The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson.
Talked about on today’s show:
1912, The House On The Borderland, a great flawed masterwork, Panther UK, The Ghost Pirates, Carnacki, “you could club a night hound to death with it!”, why you shouldn’t skip the first chapter (or why you should), what’s missing: hey we found this document, the unnamed protagonist(s), a handwritten font, a seventeenth century that never was, the style and the tics, giant paragraphs starting with “and” “yet” “now”, no dialogue at all, the Lady Mirdath, a deliberately clumsy journal, a found footage book, a book to savour, Scott Danielson, mostly kissing, a little spanking, washing and kissing feet, playing the coquette, the Ballantine publication with the Lin Carter introduction, why is Hodgson such a romantic in this book?, Sam Gafford, writing order vs. publication order, The Night Land as the work of a young adolescent man, getting into the rhythm of the language, the Pyramid of the Lesser Redoubt, the 80% mark, the black river, a morass of romance, gender politics, horror?, Lovecraftian horrors in the background, fantasy, adolescent fantasy, a mother and a damsel, fight monsters and capture the princess, honoured as a hero, a classic adventure story, the landscape itself, how does the ecology work?, no sun and no moon, an utterly far future, it retains its plausibility, a new dark age of science and sorcery, a scientifically minded man, a 17th century man, the “earth current”, geothermal energy, when the earth was struck by a comet, pierced to the mantle, the oceans drained away, a dying earth, flying machines, The Night Land is future-proofed, the Earth is tidally locked, Lord Kelvin’s estimate, trees? trees?, the Moon is gone, the stars are gone, an underground world, the other stars have also burned out, billion year old petrified trees?, mega-fauna, at the ocean’s bottom there are lots of predators, moss bushes, living on the little light of the lava pits, the Country Of Seas, the Black River, moss trees?, spiders, scorpions, snakes, the four armed men, the humped men, the great men, monstrous mutations, the Night Hounds and the Watchers are unclean things intruding into our world, damaging the fabric of reality, abhumans, neither animal nor supernatural, Outside forces, the Watchers, converging on the Great Redoubt, you don’t see anything as menacingly powerful even in Mordor, subsisting on isotopes, giant eidolons or avatars of outside forces, pawns of the power of evil shaped out of the landscape itself, the Listening Ear, slow but intelligent, the Thing That Nods, the Earth will be destroyed (in so many ways), WWI, mutating away, all these threats to humanity are symbolized, aeons of encroachment, the Watcher Of The South, the Watcher Of The North-East, the light in the eye, “the essential doubt that is part of myth and legend”, cast iron mythology, the joys of The Night Land, the last of humanity in one building, it won’t belong before humanity degenerates, the grey metal armor, the diskos, a spinning metal weapon wouldn’t work, “don’t hold it that way”, whipping, immature attitudes, whose wearing what, “you’re not eating you pills!”, something real and human, a youth of 17, beneath the constant kissing, the audiobook version, an epic of two characters, the Master Monstruwacans keeping the telescopes warm, the top of the pyramid, the farmers (as usual) are at the bottom of the social pyramid, deep into the Earth, the first proper dying earth, a sequel to The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, a fannish projection, Darkness by Lord Byron, the journey to the far future, the journey through Mordor, C.S. Lewis read The Night Land, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Inklings, Sam Gafford’s hypothesis, the first fully fledged dying earth story, Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique, Jack Vance, a love across time, the dog and the sister, human emotion played out across a backdrop, the last reel of 2001: A Space Odyssey, deep future, TheNightLand.co.uk, why you should read chapter one, they always meet at night, attacked by footpads, boar hounds, pigs, she dies in childbirth, then the crazy stuff happens, it was all mistake and they lived happily ever after, the framing sequence in The House On The Borderland, a journal of actual life and a journal of a future incarnation, “she called me by my pet name”, “I called her Mirdath”, the product of a nervous breakdown, a manic wish-fulfillment, the focus is not on the 17th century writer, deep into the night, the names, powdered food and powdered water, telepathy, mind elements, the night hearing, awesomely hilarious and completely wrong, “the master word”, an authentication against false messages, public key cryptography, discos?, a 17th century man who somehow got a hold of the projector and some reels of Tron (1982), the plot of Tron, an avatar of everyone he knows is in there, The Lego Movie (2014) has the same plot, Small Town by Philip K. Dick, some crazy futurist, Frank Tippler, reincarnated in a computer program, a dreamland, the hypnagogic land, a novel theory, Hodgson is such a good writer that we are doing most of the work, the greater and the lesser, the reflections, what’s going on in the House Of Silence?, why is the nodder nodding?, the road where the silent ones walk, the country from where comes laughter, monstrous black slug creatures, wilderness hazards, capital “E” evil, “Ah, last of humanity.” [licks lips], is the House of Silence the House on the Borderland?, the arena, Hodgson is an amazing power of a writer, retelling of The Night Land, stories set in The Night Land, he has the power of H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, because Lovecraft liked them, the unrecognized part of Lovecraft’s legacy is that he was a fan, oh the really long difficult one, you need to be a mature and patient reader, The Dream Of X, The Shadow Out Of Time, a mind swap through time, Lovecraft was fundamentally uninterested in making money, somebody’s pet project, an artwork, will this be popular?, I wanna make some money, the Carnacki stories were commercial, prog-rock, a concept album, self-indulgent doesn’t necessarily mean bad, “what I really need is a 500 page novel written in 17th century language”, written for his own edification and amusement, nautical fiction, The Boats Of Glen Carrig, The Voice In The Night, horrible and romantic, an infection story, body horror, The Night Boat?, “I just found this it was in an old trunk”, “outshone by the Wellses, Doyles, and Ashton Smiths”, there’s something to this idea, John C. Wright, Greg Bear, screen adaptations, The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes, The Night Land is ideal for film script, giant slug battles, A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs has the same plot, he out-Howards Robert E. Howard, the nobility of masculinity, a male archetype, physical culture, body building, William Hope Hodgson was a hottie, a Hodgson bio-pic would be a winner.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show: We help Jesse clear off his desk by discussing books in paper (dead trees and rags), “like e-books but thicker”; Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan, second in the Lady Trent series, gorgeously illustrated, Darwin meets dragons; why are illustrations dying out, even in e-books?; Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan features good illustrations; The Raven’s Shadow, third in Elspeth Cooper’s Wild Hunt series; how many print pages in an hour of audio?; more from L.E. Modesitt Jr’s Imager series; John C. Wright’s The Judge of Ages, with allusions to Cordwainer Smith; The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, smarter steampunk?; a tangent on translating page to screen; Tam likes more fantasy in his fantasy; a tangent on Game of Thrones; a tangent on Citizen Brick and the expiration of the LEGO patent; The Revolutions by Felix Gilman; science fiction was once planetary romance; The Prestige; Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year vol. 8 edited by Jonathan Strahan, now published by Solaris, featuring a lot of great stories; and we finally reach audiobooks!; The Scottish Fairy Book, Volume 1; the timeless quality of folktales; Classics Lesson of the Day: Ovid’s a boy, Sappho’s a girl; Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear; we try to puzzle out what a stele is; we praise Bear’s interview on Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy; Elizabeth Bear’s Hammered isn’t romance “because fifty-year-olds never have romance”; Without a Summer, third in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories series, expertly narrated by the author; Dreamwalker by C.S. Friedman doesn’t seem to be your run-of-the-mill urban fantasy (suburban fantasy?); Indexing by Seanan McGuire, urban fantasy with a postmodern twist; mimetic incursion and Jorge Luis Borges’s Averroes’s Search; Night Broken by Patricia Briggs, eighth in her Mercy Thompson series; a tangent on midriff tattoos and names for tattoos on other parts of the body; Jenny has created a new genre, Scientific Near Future Thrillers!; in the future, iPods will be merged into our eyebrows; science and technology don’t evolve quite how we expect; Neil Gaiman discusses the influence of Ballard and other classic SF writers on the Coode Street Podcast; Sleep Donation by Karen Russell; Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux; Boswell is Samuel Johnson’s biographer; Afterparty by Daryl Gregory is blowing up on Goodreads; pre- and post-apocalyptic fiction–no actual apocalypse this time; The End is Nigh, first in the Apocalypse Triptych edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey; the tech gremlins didn’t want us to discuss Dust, the third in Hugh Howey’s Silo series; Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor; The Forever Watch by David Ramirez, Jesse thinks the protagonist has too many jobs; “pause resister”, WTF?; Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, already reviewed here at SFFaudio; we struggle to define Pentecostal; religious opposition to the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass; Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s The Edge of Tomorrow (originally entitled All You Need Is Kill), Groundhog Day meets Fullmetal Jacket, film adaptation features Tom Cruise; Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer, a hardboiled detective story on Mars; Noggin by John Corey Whaley; Decoded by Mai Jia; Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones is a refresh of The Arabian Nights; Frank Herbert’s Direct Descent is about a library planet; novella is the best length for SF; Night Ride and Other Journeys by Charles Beaumont, a “writer’s writer” who wrote for The Twilight Zone; Christopher Moore’s The Serpent of Venice is an irreverent Shakespeare/Poe mashup.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #246 – Hypnos by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Mr. Jim Moon. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (23 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, Julie Hoverson, and Melvin Cartegena.
Talked about on today’s show:
An early Lovecraft story, a favourite Lovecraft, getting tangled in the mythos, similar elements, Beyond The Wall Of Sleep, chronology, artists vs. scientists, Polaris, alternative dream realities, a mystic connection to a star, The Dreams In The Witch House, the funniness, a man falls in love with a statue, statuesque features, Greek mythology, He, sudden and instant friends, recurrent themes, a smarter friend, is this the original Fight Club?, The Hound, The Murders In The Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe, not enough drugs in Kent, London, the Fu Manchu Limehouse connection, caffeine and amphetamines, aging, astral projection, ‘a man with Oriental eyes’, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Abdul Alhazred (was a Lovecraft persona), The Nameless City, Einsteinian theory, S.L. = Samuel Loveman, “all the cosmos is a jest”, wordless understanding, The Picture of Dorian Gray, an Olympian brow, Hypnos is the god of sleep the son of night and the brother of death, Charles Baudelaire, The Statement Of Randolph Carter, Harley Warren = Samuel Loveman, Ambrose Bierce, together but ahead, a column of gold, a red light, breaching the chambers of Hypnos, ambiguity, a symbolic or allegorical Tyler Durden, a way to avoid writing dialogue, “control the universe and everything under it”, in dreams you do control the universe, Lucid dreaming, “it’s not like Inception“, certain techniques, dream logic, Seattle, Tetris before bed, documenting dreams, Lucid dreaming is ultimately pointless, Julie’s dreams, NREM vs. REM dreaming, the function of dreams, sorting and practicing, incubating a dream at the temple of Hypnos, Phantasy (one of Hypnos’ sons), plungings and soarings, scary dreams, aether, The Police, Wrapped Around Your Finger, someplace beyond time, drifting, Ovid’s family tree for the family of Hypnos, Death and Sleep look like each other, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Phobotor, Phanatos, Hypnos lived in a cave without a door, at the entrance of the cave were poppies and other flowering drugs, mandragora, old guys at young gay parties, screaming starts happening, if it were written today, who is this story being told to, a confession from an asylum or hospital, a cosmic joke, a schizoid break, his brow was white as of marble, volumes exchanged in a look, Freddy Krueger, dream mythology, Dreamscape, Inception, The Dream Master by Roger Zelazny, Uncle Scrooge in The Dream Of A Lifetime, Sleepwalkers, Naomi Watts and Ray Wise, Guy de Maupassant, a sequel, Masters Of Horror: Cigarette Burns, John Carpenter, many remakes, There’s A Family Of Gnomes Behind My Walls And I Swear I Won’t Disappoint Them Any Longer by J.R. Hamantaschen, weird dubiousness, Masters Of Horror: The Dreams In The Witch House, Wake up Julie!
Posted by Jesse Willis
Review of Brick By Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry by David Robertson and Bill Breen
Brick By Brick: How LEGO Rewrote The Rules Of Innovation And Conquered The Global Toy Industry
By David Robertson and Bill Breen; Read by Thomas Vincent Kelly
Approx. 10 Hours 23 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: June 25, 2013
Themes: / Non-Fiction / Business / LEGO / STAR WARS / Denmark / Copyfight /
I’m not one for business books, and this is explicitly a business book. The closest I’ve come to one, in the last decade, was Joseph Finder’s corporate espionage thriller Paranoia. On the other hand, I really am one for LEGO and Brick By Brick: How LEGO Rewrote The Rules Of Innovation And Conquered The Global Toy Industry is an audiobook about The LEGO Group.
Most of the book is about the recent history of LEGO, how it became unprofitable, and how it, through controlled innovation, recovered from that unprofitably. Along the way there is a fair amount about the company’s history – and even more importantly about the philosophy behind the “system” of The LEGO Group’s core product, the LEGO bricks themselves.
I started with LEGO in the mid-1970s, and barring a few pieces (lost, vacuumed, and stolen) along the way I still have much of it. But, similar to many other AFOLs (adult fans of LEGO) I experienced a decline in interest in LEGO as I entered my teens. As a kid I appreciated that LEGO allowed you to build your own toys, as a tween I programmed my own robotic LEGO creations (LEGO LOGO for Apple II) – but shortly thereafter the corporation seemed somehow go off track – creating products that were less LEGO sytem than LEGO branded toys. That is until around the mid-1990s. And that’s about when my re-invigoration of interest in LEGO started. No coincidence there, as this was also about the same time as the company’s financial revival. It seemed that the more I got more into LEGO the more the company became financially viable – but, of course, it was actually the reverse.
Indeed, Brick By Brick is essentially Robertson and Breen trying to figure out how the company works, where it went wrong, and how it recovered. In doing this they have looked at a number of failed projects, how they came to fail, how the company reorganized itself and how, with help from both adult LEGO fans and child LEGO fans they learned to operate without patent protection.
One of the more interesting comparisons between companies that Robertson and Breen make is that of LEGO to Apple. The parallels between the companies’ aesthetic philosophies (and cult like devotion by their customers) are many. I myself am a committed Apple iPhone user, not because I buy into the ecosystem, but rather because of the sculptured discipline of the technology. Likewise, though Megablocks and other LEGO competitors are making bricks that are 100% compatible with (and cheaper) than LEGO I am scrupulously careful to weed out MEGABLOCKS and other “fake lego” from my collection. The iPhone’s competitors aren’t really competitors, and the LEGO system’s competitors aren’t really competitors.
Back to the book, David Robertson and Bill Breen talk about a number of LEGO lines that I like, particularly the CITY, SPACE, and CASTLE lines but they also explain the thinking behind popular licensed IPs like STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES, and THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Several chapters cover the creation of the successful BIONCLE line (originally conceived as a line called “VOODOO HEADS”), the innovative board game division (that sneakily gets moms to buy more LEGO), and the massively expensive failure of the LEGO UNIVERSE project (an ambitious project aimed at disrupting LEGO’s own core market). And that last one is one of the most fascinating sections of Brick By Brick. By trying to make the experience perfect, by trying to produce a graphically rich massively multiplayer online game without bugs, then charging a whopping $40 to start playing it LEGO screwed up royally. The failure of the LEGO Universe project is all the more ironic in that a lone computer game programmer, Markus “Notch” Persson, came to create a sucessful kind of digital competitor to LEGO system, in the form of Minecraft. Peterson’s success, using almost no resources and no money, make the error of LEGO hierarchy all the clearer. But in an even more ironic move LEGO has since produced a Minecraft set!
In my view the only thing missing from Brick By Brick is talk about the very successful, collectible Minifigures line (now up to Series 10). To my ears Minifigs get very short shrift in Brick By Brick. I’d love to hear a two or three hour audiobook about that alone.
There’s very little to say about narrator. Thomas Vincent Kelly is a relatively new narrator, his reading is clear and precise, like the LEGO system. The occasional Danish place-name pronunciation, and the names of the LEGO products themselves are the only real narrative challenges. Kelly delivers.
Posted by Jesse Willis