I found this an unusual book. On the one hand it's typical space opera wherein the main character gets a band together and goes on a quest. On the other hand, the cosmology of this book is so abstract that the plot is completely ungrounded, making it completely unaffecting to me, emotionally.
Vivian Liao is a billionaire bitch entrepreneur who gets pulled from Earth by the Empress. The universe she lands in is based on 'the cloud' which is very ill-defined. But that cloud seems to allow for communication, exercise of huge energies, and holds the souls of all people (except Vivian who is said to have no soul). People that are particularly adept at interacting with the cloud can teleport themselves (Xiara does it explicitly); there is constant talk of travelling 'in the cloud'.
My problem with that cosmology is twofold. First, the phrase 'the cloud' is what we call the internet, so it constantly reads as though everything is a simulation online. Second, the author never explains the cloud, even a little. So, after reading the entire book, I still have no idea how the cloud works, what are its limitations, etc. That means that, as a plot device, its just hand-wavery. Need something to happen? Say it's got something to do with the cloud, and leave it at that. It's lazy writing, boring writing, and in the end, emotionally flat writing.
Before I bought it, I saw a dichotomy of reviews. One chunk of readers thought it was brilliant and wildly inventive, while the other chunk felt it was abstract goobletygook. My reading was somewhere in the middle. I respected the author's audacity to throw us into that world without explanation and hit the ground running. I was patient, hoping that my faith would be repaid, but it never was.
Vivian's frenemy, Zanj, was a particularly vexing character to me in that she had what amounted to limitless powers. She could fight any number of opponents and recover from nearly any damage. She could travel through the cloud, and she bore a weapon that had even vaster, less defined powers than she. There was never a question of Zanj losing. She was briefly defeated once, but by then it was clear that the author would find a way to reverse that. He did.
Another way of summing up my complaint about the cosmology was that 'the cloud' was a poor magic system. It had no limits per se, no rules, no cost for usage. It existed as a plot device that solved every problem. By halfway through the book, the cloud had made everything so ungrounded that I lost all sense of tension. I finished the book, but mostly to see where the plot would finally end.
Stylistically, I didn't enjoy Max's psychoanalysis of his characters. He would drop in these long bits of navel-gazing that I started to skim by the latter part of the book. Mostly, it was a character musing on their relationships, usually non-binary ones. Maybe the non-binary nature of a lot of it was supposed to punch up the entertainment value, but it just bored the crap out of me. Vivian, for instance, had no philosophy per se, no parental trauma, no great yearning in her life, except for relentless ambition. So every few pages it was how her relentless ambition impacted this or that relationship. I just didn't care after a while.
Together, the cosmology and the characterization made the book very 'meta' for me--ungrounded, abstract, however you care to say it.
I respected this book for its creativity, but found it nonetheless unsatisfying.
For those of you not familiar with the term, it refers to an evaporative cooler. I live in the desert Southwest where the summer humidity stays between 15-19%. When you blow dry air over water, that air will turn some of the water into vapor. That process is endothermic. So the result is that the hot air is cooled considerably. It also provides a side-benefit or humidification. Perhaps most importantly, for the price of running a half-horse electric motor and some water, you get cooling to rival air conditioning at a fraction of the cost.
Anyway, at the start of the season, one must:
WHENEVER YOU HAVE YOUR SWAMP COOLER OPENED, BE SURE IT IS UNPLUGGED. YOU COULD BE SERIOUSLY INJURED OTHERWISE.
I'm going to assume that everyone can handle changing the pads.
Lubrication is required for the roll cage, the big round thing that the motor drives (via the belt). On either side of the axle there is a small, spring-loaded cap the size of a nail head. You have to hold it open and squirt oil in there. You can't use household oil, you need high-performace machine oil; I recommend the "Zoom Spout" turbine oil that the home stores sell (in the ecaporative cooler area). There is often lots of crud around these ports. Be sure not to let any of it get into the lubrication port. You may have to wipe the area around the port with a rag before you open it.
Each unit has a specification about the belt, but you need to look at it for cracks and check the tension; it should deflect about 3/4 of an inch when you push on it. Belts are like a once-every-five-years sort of thing.
The water system is the thing that that gets a little tricky. Start with an inspection. Remove the three panels and run the unit on "pump only". Observe the water flow out of the water distribution ( "spider" ) lines. If you get a steady flow out of all of them, you're fine. If not, there are two possibilities: the line(s) are fouled, or the pump is bad. In some areas with hard water, you have to change the pump every season.
If your flow isn't good, buy a spider-line snake (about six bucks) at the home store. It's basically a short, thin plumbing snake. Snake each line, starting from the pad side. Then retest the flow. If the flow still isn't good, then you either need to install new lines or a new pump. Usually it's the pump. Installing a new one is literally just one slide-on connection and a plug into an electrical socket. If you have to replace the spider lines, there is a fifteen dollar kit at the box store that gives you everything you need. Consult YouTube for videos.
All of the preceding is pretty generic advice. My personal innovation was to check the flow more technically. I mean, you can eye it and say it seems to look okay, but how do you know if it's providing enough water for your cooler to achieve maximum cooling?
If you look online you can find a temperature chart for evaporative coolers that, given the temperature and humidity of the outside air, will show you the expected output temperature for your unit. My trick is to use an infrared thermometer. They used to be expensive. Cooks like to use them, especially for chocolate work because you can get instant readings from a distance. You put the red dot on the target, and it tells you the temperature. Nowadays you can get one of these thermometers for about twenty-five bucks.
Given one of those thermometers, you can check the output temperature of your swamp cooler by taking the temperature of the grating the air comes out of (make sure its been running long enough so that all the start-up transient effects have worked through). Once you have that temperature, you can compare it to the chart entry for your current weather. It should be within a degree of it. If not, then you're back to troubleshooting. If everything looks otherwise okay, it's likely that your water pump is failing. Don't be shocked. These pumps last maybe two or three years, much less if you have hard water.
The important thing here is to not look at the temperature on your wall and wonder WTF. What temperature your house achieves has a lot of confounding factors involved. Not achieving the desired interior temperature doesn't mean your swamp cooler isn't working. Judge the cooler by its output temperature, NOT room temperature.
The last thing worth noting is that some people don't balance the house air flow correctly. Swamp coolers require that you open your doors/windows to let air flow out of your house. What people often screw up is what they open and how much they open it. Champion recommends that you open a window and hold up a piece of paper to the screen. If the outflow is strong enough to hold the paper to the screen, then your flow is nominal. You can open the window more and more until the paper drops. However, to get cooling into other parts of the house, one usually opens two or more windows and/or a screen door. Air flows towards those openings, introducing cooling. So there is some artistry to cracking a few windows in different rooms to get cooling to flow how you like it. In most cases, its maybe two or three inches per window. The paper rule still holds. Once you've cracked a few windows, you need to make sure the flow is still strong enough to hold a paper on each screen. So you're likely to walk around checking and adjusting until you've got things balanced as you like it.
This is my third season with a swamp cooler. I grew up in the Northeast where the humidity is too high for these things. Natives of the Southwest grow up knowing swamp coolers, but I had no clue.
For those of you transplants to the Sothwest, I hope this helps.
I have a house that is 117-years old. So I am constantly renovating it. I've swapped out all the galvanized plumbing for copper, installed new entry doors, much fencing, a garbage disposal, tile, and on and on. That's just to say I'm not a complete idiot. I'd go as far to say that I'm quite handy.
That said, I found something out the other day that was disturbing to me for just how long it took me to discover a very simple fact: Phillips-head screwdrivers have numbered sizes.
Torx-head fasteners have become very popular here, and often one finds a driver provided inside such boxes of fasteners. Those boxes always say quite clearly the exact driver needed for the fastener, like: #22 Torx. That got me in the habit of never simply grabbing any old Torx driver, but always checking that I had the precise one needed.
So the other day I was mounting some drywall and the driver bit on my drill was camming-out a lot--slipping off the screw head and making that awful noise. Experience had told me that if it were a torx-head, I should verify that I had the correct size, but I was using phillips-head drywall screws. For the first time I wondered if there wasn't a specification for these fasteners. Sure enough, right there on the box was tiny text telling me that it needed a number two phillips head. Taking my glasses off I squinted at the tiny text on my driver bit and was shocked to find that not only was the thing labelled with a number, but I had the wrong one.
I scrounged around in my big DeWalt drill-bit set and found a number two Phillips bit. Surprise, surprise, everything worked much better with the proper driver bit--facepalm.
It's the same old story: RTFM, even if you think you know what you're doing.
Nanites have gone mainstream. We've been reading about them for decades. They've made appearances in Star Trek TNG and Stargate SG-1, but when they are central to a Vin Diesel movie, it's fair to say that they've become firmly part of the public's 'standard' sci-fi elements like warp drive and teleportation.
I had pretty high hopes for this movie, but it is yet another picture that is in that vast grey area between being great and sucking. The production values were very strong. The nanite visuals were something new, like high-tech bullet time. We get a ton of slow-motion shots of Vin's character being taken to pieces only to have his swarming nanites rebuild him nearly instantaneously.
As fun as that sounds, it became a problem because every fight's choreography was dumbed down to have Diesel stand in front of entire magazines of ammo to get those visuals. He's supposed to be this special-forces operator, but forgot about body armor, tactics, etc. It's just one fight after another of him letting guys empty their guns into him before he destroys them. No doubt that lack of concern for his own body is meant as demonstrative of Diesel's character's suicidal determination, but it quickly becomes asinine.
Then there's the story, the absence of it, that is. Diesel's character (Ray Garrison) has no real motivation. He learns early on that what's been driving him were false memories designed to pull optimal performances out of him. After that bubble is burst he becomes just another raging, muscle-bound idiot. I didn't care if he succeeded or not. So tension and suspense? Not so much.
The big-picture plot is likewise weak. There's almost nothing at stake. Guy Pierce is a strong performer as the antagonist, but he has precious little to work with on the page.
Lamorne Morris steals the show as Wilfred Wiggins in the few times we see him.
I'd like to say that Eiza González is more than eye candy, but she's not; she does an admirable job with her martial arts bits, but in the end her character is a cutout who exists to be a hot, empathetic chick who cares for the studly main character, and looks amazing doing it. In keeping with the overall machismo of this movie, women have little agency in this film; they exist only as objects of men's desires. I'm not so offended by it as disappointed. González is talented enough to do a lot more, they just didn't write her a role worth a damn.
Another problem with this movie is the Groundhog Day effect. Vin's character is being manipulated in with the same script to kill people for Guy Pierce's version of Dr. Evil. So we have to suffer iterations of that script. Unlike Groundhog Day, Vin's character doesn't remember them, so there is no building of anything, just a lot of rinse and repeat until a climactic final battle.
So in the end we have a whole lot of cyborg fights (the bad guys have enhancements too) with nothing at stake, and a ridiculous ending that's more laughable than evocative. With a six-pack, this movie is probably awesome.
I had been looking forward to this movie for a long time. I'm old enough to remember (barely) the TV show. The fact that Blumhouse was producing it encouraged me. They've done strong work in the creepy movie space for years now.
The movie turned out to be weak on a lot of levels. As much as I typically enjoy Michael Peña, his performance had none of the gravitas that it needed. Instead of being the confident, powerful, physically imposing Mr. Rourke, he came across on-screen more as a bemused, doughy functionary reluctantly cranking out fantasies.
Structurally, the movie is a mess. They try to weave a macro-plot out of the combination of fantasies running on the island. In principle that's a fine idea, but because all of those fantasies were segregated from one another physically, what we got was a collection of vignettes that they merged towards the end of the movie.
They contrived some ridiculous synchronicity about how the fantasies were connected. I could forgive that if the plot-hole sleight-of-hand resulted in a fun resolution, but it didn't. Once the plot threads merged, the newly assembled Scooby Gang rushes to solve 'the problem' which I won't detail here so as to not spoil the movie for anyone.
A big factor of what made the individual fantasies and the final showdown so disappointing was that the Island itself had no animus. They wrote this script as if the island were an occult mechanism. Worse, they try to garner sympathy for Mr. Rourke. So, by the end, there is no antagonist per se because everyone is a victim and the island has been reduced to a mechanistic prop without any personality of its own. That made the ending more like a bureaucratic parsing of the island's occult framework rather than an emotional experience.
The way I sum it up is to say that the failure of this movie is an emerging pattern I see in Blumhouse movies. They excel at scene-level work, but are much weaker in weaving all that good work into something powerful. Consequently, what you get from Fantasy Island is a collection of occasionally evocative WTF moments, but nothing more.
This movie is in that vast grey area of not particularly memorable movies.
The speculative tech they invent for the invisibility is fine. In fact I think it's far better than an invisibility potion. Likewise, the performances are strong. Where this movie falls down is the story structure.
The story is what you see in the previews: abused woman flees her abuser who decides to revenge himself on her. The problem is that there isn't anything else. There is no back story, nothing to be interested in besides Moss' character's escape.
Yes, there have been movies that have gotten away with that sort of single focus, but what makes it fall down in The Invisible Man is that they don't actually explore that relationship at all. The movie starts with the escape, a tense scene that contains the only appearance of 'the evil man' until the very end of the movie. Effectively there is no relationship on the screen. It is only referenced obliquely as the main character tries to reassemble her life.
So there is no real drama, no character interplay, only a series of random vengeful acts that assail Moss' character. They are done well. Some of them are properly startling and scary, and well delivered. But in the end, that's all there is. There is no character interplay, no rising tension, just a series of well-done jolts presented to the audience.
The ending is satisfying and fun, but it involves an enormous plot hole that destroyed it for me.