Monday, July 03, 2023

Transportation I Feature Highlights #3 I Cities: Skylines II

Ah, transport. If you played Cities: Skylines, you might remember it as the dance of urban planning - sometimes a graceful waltz, and other times a dance akin to stepping on LEGOs in the dark. Who among us hasn't unleashed a chaotic snarl of buses, trains, and trams, creating a masterpiece that resembled spaghetti more than a transportation system? Ah, the memories, and the digital traffic jams.

But my fellow city-builders, Cities: Skylines II is here, and Colossal Order's new video, "Public & Cargo Transportation I Feature Highlights," has given us a sneak peek at what to expect. Buckle up, because we're about to take a wild ride!

The New Symphony of Transport in Cities: Skylines II
Be prepared to channel your inner conductor, because this is one orchestra that needs a steady hand. The good old reliable buses and taxis are back, ready to zoom here, there, and everywhere. They're cheap and cheerful, but beware their Achilles heel, otherwise known as "traffic." For those urban maestros among us who've faced the tragic crescendo of a gridlock, leveling up your public transport is the way to go.

Subways, Trams, and Trains, Oh My!
Subways are the ninjas of public transport - fast, high-capacity, and stealthy underground. Elevated tracks? Yes, please! Trams have the flexibility of gymnasts and can service your growing neighborhoods. Trains? They'll transport people, and not just suburbanites, and play a vital role in cargo transport too.

And let's not forget water transportation. Those bad boys of cargo ships can haul 1000 tons. That's right, 1000 tons of anything - enough to make any mayor's dreams come true.

The Drawbacks and the Irresistible Air Advantage
Sure, planes might be more expensive than a cup of coffee at the airport, and they carry fewer passengers than ships and trains, but speed is the name of their game. Plus, unlike my attempts at dancing, they won't add to road congestion.

Keeping the Rhythm of Your City
With new tools like the Transportation Overview and Infoview, you can find the right tempo for moving people and cargo in your city. Plan, manage, conduct, and maybe - just maybe - your city will march towards greatness.

So here's to the future mayors of Cities: Skylines II. May your transportation networks be harmonious, your cargo bountiful, and your traffic jams a thing of the past. And remember, if all else fails, there's always the joy of watching a virtual citizen miss their bus. Happy building!

Saturday, July 01, 2023

10 Riveting Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian Novels to Dive into After Hugh Howey's 'Wool'

Forest Biome designed for Nyan Heroes by Art Director Pablo Dominguez

Intrigued and captivated by the mesmerizing narrative of Hugh Howey's masterpiece, 'WOOL,' I find myself immersed in its pages for the third time. My first two readings were a decade ago if memory serves me well. While I appreciate the AppleTV+ adaptation and its unique interpretation of Howey's dystopian world (that ending of season one was jaw dropping!), I can't help but acknowledge the darker, grittier, and more terrifying atmosphere that emanates from the book's unyielding prose. With each read, I uncover new layers of suspense, emotional depth (that passage with Jahns and Marnes embracing in the dark...), and profound insights into the intricacies of the human condition.

As I delve into this compelling tale once again, my thoughts wander to the realms of post-apocalyptic literature awaiting my exploration once I finish reading the Silo Saga (again). The excitment of embarking on new literary journeys has always fueled my excitement and curiosity - and my itch to constantly purchase new novels. Eager to discover narratives that can rival the impact of 'Wool,' I embarked on a digital expedition, traversing the vast expanse of the Intertubes in search of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction that resonates just as powerfully. 

After diligent research, I have curated a selection of ten novels that promise to allow journeys to hauntingly familiar and startlingly exotic worlds - none of these I have read, besides the first on that list!

These gripping narratives, deliberately devoid of supernatural elements (apologies to the fans of "The Stand"), provide thought-provoking explorations of survival, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of humanity.

So, without further ado, let's dive into this list together and unveil the next literary gems that will ensnare our senses, leaving us spellbound, just as 'WOOL' has done for countless readers before us!

  1. "Earth Abides" by George R. Stewart: first published in 1949, this classic post-apocalyptic novel follows the life of Isherwood "Ish" Williams, a survivor of a catastrophic pandemic that wipes out most of humanity.

    As Ish explores the deserted world, he grapples with the realization that civilization as he knew it has vanished, and he becomes determined to rebuild society. He gathers a small group of survivors and forms a community, but struggles arise as they confront the challenges of adapting to a new way of life, reconciling the past, and facing the uncertainties of the future. Through Ish's journey, "Earth Abides" explores themes of human nature, societal collapse, and the enduring spirit of humanity in the face of unimaginable loss. (US, UK, CA)

  2. "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel: Recently adapted as a single season TV mini-series, this post-apocalyptic novel portrays a world decimated by a deadly pandemic. Amidst the desolation, a nomadic theater group traverses the barren landscapes, striving to preserve the remnants of art and culture. Through interconnected narratives, the story explores the profound connections between individuals and the resilience of humanity, showcasing the enduring power of creativity in the face of overwhelming adversity. (US, UK , CA)

  3. "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy: In a desolate and grim world ravaged by an unexplained cataclysm, a nameless father and his young son navigate a treacherous and hauntingly barren landscape. With no society left to speak of, they embark on a perilous journey toward the coast, their only hope for salvation.

    Along the way, they encounter scarcity, danger, and the depravity of desperate survivors (it gets really bad...). McCarthy's poignant narrative delves deep into the intricacies of the father-son relationship, examining their unwavering love, the challenges they face, and the unyielding pursuit of hope in a world stripped of compassion and humanity. If you haven't do so, make sure to watch the 2009 movie adaptation with Viggo Mortensen. (US, UKCA)

  4. "The Postman" by David Brin is set in a post-apocalyptic world where civilization has crumbled. Gordon Krantz, a wandering survivor, stumbles upon a postal uniform and begins impersonating a postman. Using the symbol of hope and communication that the uniform represents, he starts delivering mail and spreading messages of unity among the scattered communities. As his actions inspire others to rebuild society, they also draw the attention of a despotic warlord. Krantz must confront the challenges of leadership, face the consequences of his deception, and rally the people against tyranny. This gripping tale explores themes of redemption, the power of storytelling, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. There's also a big screen adaptation that was released back in 1997, starring Yellowstone's Kevin Costner. (US, UK , CA)

  5. "Parable of the Sower" by Octavia Butler: Set in a near-future America ravaged by social and environmental collapse, a young woman named Lauren Olamina develops her own belief system called Earthseed while searching for a safe haven. This gripping tale explores themes of religion, community, and resilience in the face of chaos. Having loved her "Xenogenesis" trilogy, I'm looking forward to diving into this one. (US, UK, CA)

  6. "The Dog Stars" by Peter Heller: In a world decimated by a devastating flu pandemic, Hig, accompanied by his loyal dog and a survivalist neighbor, embarks on a perilous journey in search of hope and a fresh start. Against the backdrop of a desolate and unforgiving landscape, Heller's exquisite prose paints a vivid picture of Hig's struggle with solitude, as he grapples with the haunting absence of human connection.

    Through unexpected encounters and fragile alliances, the novel explores themes of companionship and the quest for purpose in the face of overwhelming adversity. With every step, Hig's resilience and unwavering determination are tested, revealing the depths of human courage and the enduring power of hope in an unforgiving world. (US, UK, CA)

  7. "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood which, by now, most of you should know about. Set in a dystopian society where women's rights have been severely restricted, Offred, a handmaid, navigates a totalitarian regime while longing for freedom and a connection to her past. This haunting and thought-provoking novel explores themes of oppression, gender roles, and resistance. The TV-series, as well as the movie from a few decades ago, paint a dark and desperate existence against the background of a totalitarian state of fanatics. (US, UKCA)

  8. "The Children of Men" by P.D. James is set in a dystopian future where humanity faces a staggering crisis—no child has been born in nearly two decades. As society teeters on the brink of collapse, a disillusioned bureaucrat named Theo Faron becomes entangled in a dangerous plot. When a young woman miraculously becomes pregnant, Theo must protect her and the unborn child from sinister forces vying for control.

    James weaves a compelling narrative that explores themes of hope, desperation, and the lengths to which individuals will go to safeguard the future of humanity. In a world devoid of new life, this thought-provoking novel delves into the profound questions surrounding identity, morality, and the fragility of society. The 2006 movie starring Clive Owen, Julian Moore, Michael Caine & Chiwetel Ejiofor, and directed by Alfonso CuarĂ³n, was particularly well done. (US, UK, CA)

  9. "The Book of the Unnamed Midwife" by Meg Elison, is set in a world devastated by a deadly fever, wiping out most of the population, leaving women and children dead, and childbirth fatal. A midwife awakens to this post-apocalyptic reality and must navigate the ruins of civilization while disguised as a man to survive. As power becomes the currency of survival, she seeks her purpose and discovers a role greater than mere independence—to guide humanity towards rebirth. Elison's gripping narrative explores themes of identity, resilience, and the transformative power of hope in a world stripped of its former pillars. (US, UK, CA)

  10. "The Water Knife" by Paolo Bacigalupi: In a future southwestern United States ravaged by water scarcity and political turmoil, the story follows a "water knife," a hired operative tasked with securing water rights by any means necessary. This gripping and gritty novel delves into themes of climate change, corruption, and the fight for survival in a parched world. (US, UK, CA)

    And I couldn't help adding Hugh Howey's latest post-apocalyptic dystopia...

  11. "Sand" and its sequel "Across the Sand" by Hugh Howey (Blog - Twitter): Set in a distant future where civilization is reduced to scattered communities surviving amidst vast, relentless sand dunes, the protagonist Palmer, a skilled sand diver, yearns to unlock the secrets of this inhospitable world. As he ventures deep into the shifting sands, risking his life to scavenge buried artifacts and salvage remnants of the past, Palmer becomes entangled in a web of intrigue and danger. His discoveries challenge the accepted truths of his society and shake the foundations of his own identity.

    Alongside a cast of intriguing characters, Palmer embarks on a perilous journey of self-discovery, encountering hidden societies, long-buried betrayals, and revelations that will forever change his perception of the world. Howey's masterful storytelling paints a vivid picture of a harsh and unforgiving landscape, while exploring profound themes of exploration, resilience, and the lengths one will go to uncover the truth. In this gripping tale, the pursuit of knowledge carries a hefty price, as Palmer grapples with the consequences of unraveling the secrets buried beneath the shifting sands. (US, UK, CA)
As you can see, these novels offer diverse post-apocalyptic and dystopian narratives, exploring survival, resilience, societal collapse, and the human spirit. Each compelling journey seems to captivate and provoke contemplation of our world's complexities and the strength within us. As I mentioned above, I'm currently engrossed in my third reading of 'WOOL' and eagerly anticipate diving into the remaining novels in that saga next, SHIFT and DUST (which I've only read once though). 

The novels listed above promise unique and thought-provoking experiences and I look forward to diving into them eventually (except for 'Earth Abides' which I've already read years ago). For the immediate future, I've already got my list of books to read for the remainder of 2023 - 10 in total, of which 4 are novels. 

More on those later.