Monthly Archives: January 2008

New Thriller Adventure books to read/watch for…Part I

The list below is a collection of new(er) books from favorite authors of mine like Matt Reilly, James Rollins, F. Paul Wilson, and others I have yet to read. Some of these are in my TBR stack, others I don’t have, but are in the same basic action genre that I love, and they look interesting to me. Some are in genres of action/adventure, religious thrillers a la Da Vinci Code, some are more militaristic, and others more political. All I can guarantee is that you’ll find something to interest you if you like the genre at all.

The 6 Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly

“Unlocking the secret of the Seven Ancient Wonders was only the beginning…

After their thrilling exploits in Matthew Reilly’s rampaging New York Times bestseller, 7 Deadly Wonders, supersoldier Jack West Jr. and his loyal team of adventurers are back, and now they face an all-but-impossible challenge. A mysterious ceremony in an unknown location has unraveled their work and triggered a catastrophic countdown that will climax in no less than the end of all life on Earth. But there is one last hope. If Jack and his team can find and rebuild a legendary ancient device known only as the “Machine,” they might be able to ward off the coming armageddon. The only clues to locating this Machine, however, are held within the fabled Six Sacred Stones, long lost in the fog of history.

And so the hunt begins for the Six Sacred Stones and the all-important knowledge they possess, but in the course of this wild adventure Jack and his team will discover that they are not the only ones seeking the Stones and that there might just be other players out there who don’t want to see the world saved at all. From Stonehenge in England to the deserts of Egypt to the spectacular Three Gorges region of China, The 6 Sacred Stones will take you on a nonstop roller-coaster ride through ancient history, modern military hardware, and some of the fastest and most mind-blowing action you will ever read.” Amazon

Antarktos Rising by Jeremy Robinson

“A phenomenon known as crustal displacement shifts the Earth’s crust, repositioning continents and causing countless deaths. In the wake of the global catastrophe, the world struggles to take care of its displaced billions. But Antarctica, freshly thawed and blooming, has emerged as a new hope. Rather than wage a world war no nation can endure, the leading nations devise a competition, a race to the center of Antarctica, with the three victors dividing the continent. It is within this race that Mirabelle Whitney, one of the few surviving experts on the continent, grouped with an American special forces unit, finds herself. But the dangers awaiting the team are far worse than feared; beyond the sour history of a torn family, beyond the nefarious intentions of their human enemies, beyond the ancient creatures reborn through anhydrobiosis-there are the Nephilim. The world races to claim a new continent, only to find it already taken.” Amazon

The Rozabal Line by Shawn Haigins

“The Rozabal Line is a suspenseful novel about modern-day religious tensions. Father Vincent Morgan becomes immersed in a storm of controversy over the ancient tomb of Rozabal in Kashmir, which has contained the body of the saint Yuz Asaf since 112 A.D. Caught in the crossroads between extreme Islamic fundamentalists and the equally extreme fundamentalists of the Crux Decussata Permuta, Morgan must question whether the world-altering secret held within Rozabal should be revealed at all. Religious wrath, ruthless controversy spanning the globe, and the threat of nuclear destruction make for a gripping read from cover to cover.” Midwest Book Review

The Last Oracle: A Novel by James Rollins

Available 6/24/08 – No other information

The Hunt for Atlantis by Andy McDermott

“This is another new author to me and that is because this is his first novel. You would think that a storyline which involved searching for the lost city of Atlantis would have been done to death by now, but this is a very good first novel for the author. The author is very adept at generating excitement and the book is fast paced. Like some of the previous reviewers I found it very difficult to put down.

A young female archaeologist believes that she has found the location of the lost city of Atlantis. She obviously would like to be able to prove this fact. The problem she has is that someone wants her dead. The main character Nina Wilde, the said archaeologist is a believable and likeable person and the reader can relate to her character and her race against time to find lost secret . . .

The book was very enjoyable and I was sorry when it ended. I believe the author has another book in the pipeline called The Tomb of Hercules and I shall certainly be looking out for it when it is published.” Amazon reader review by J. Chippendale

Blasphemy by Douglas Preston

“The world’s biggest supercollider, locked in an Arizona mountain, was built to reveal the secrets of the very moment of creation: the Big Bang itself.The Torus is the most expensive machine ever created by humankind, run by the world’s most powerful supercomputer. It is the brainchild of Nobel Laureate William North Hazelius. Will the Torus divulge the mysteries of the creation of the universe? Or will it, as some predict, suck the earth into a mini black hole? Or is the Torus a Satanic attempt, as a powerful televangelist decries, to challenge God Almighty on the very throne of Heaven?Twelve scientists under the leadership of Hazelius are sent to the remote mountain to turn it on, and what they discover must be hidden from the world at all costs. Wyman Ford, ex-monk and CIA operative, is tapped to wrest their secret, a secret that will either destroy the world…or save it.The countdown begins… ” Amazon

Event: A Novel (Event Group Thrillers) by David Lynn Golemon

“Former Special Ops member Golemon puts his military experience to good use in this promising debut sure to satisfy fans of The X-Files. Maj. Jack Collins, whose career was jeopardized after he testified truthfully before Congress about a debacle in Afghanistan, is given a new lease on life after he’s drafted into the Event Group, a covert organization that hides behind the facade of the National Archives. The group’s shadowy leaders reveal to Collins that they have secretly served every U.S. president since Lincoln, tracking down artifacts like Noah’s Ark in the interest of national security. Collins receives a baptism of fire when the downing of a military aircraft appears to be the work of the same kind of UFOs responsible for the legendary Roswell incident in 1947. While the climactic scenes may be a bit too reminiscent of the parody horror film Tremors for some, the plotting and hair’s-breadth escapes evoke some of the early work of Preston and Child, and the author’s premise offers a rich lode of materials for the inevitable sequels.” Publishers Weekly

Dedicated to discovering the truth behind the myths and legends propagated throughout world history, the Event Group—an agency within the U.S. government that officially doesn’t exist—ensures that mistakes from the past are never repeated.” SFSignal.com

Legend: An Event Group Adventure by David Lynn Golemon

“Golemon’s second thriller fails to deliver on the promise of his first, Event (2006), which introduced the exploits of a supersecret U.S. government agency, the Event Group. The author, a former U.S. Army Special Ops member, draws the reader in with an intriguing prologue: in 1534, explorer Francisco Pizarro and his men, in their search for El Dorado, encounter a vicious creature determined to guard the legendary treasure trove; in 1876, at Custer’s last stand, Capt. Myles Keogh takes to his death a secret from hundreds of years in the past. In the present day, the intrepid men and women of the Event Group follow the trail of Pizarro’s expedition in an effort both to find the lost Incan gold Pizarro was seeking and to rescue the U.S. president’s daughter, who has disappeared while on the same quest. A shortage of well-developed characters and plausible scientific speculation, however, makes this a less satisfying adventure than its predecessor.” Publishers Weekly

Ancients: An Event Group Adventure by David Lynn Golemon

An Event Group Thriller

Available 7/8/08

“Go down a river of no return, toward a fateful meeting with an animal that predates mankind’s existence by ninety million years—after a treasure that has captured man’s desires for centuries. This is what Legends are made of. The year 1533: Sent by Francisco Pizarro, Captain Hernando Padilla and his small Spanish expedition found the legend that men had only dared to whisper.”

“But one soldier survives the bloody savagery and, before dying, shares his story with a lone priest in Peru. A secret the Vatican quickly buried away. The Present: Professor Helen Zachary is searching for a hidden legend, buried deep within the Amazon Basin—a great beast who has survived there since the dawn of time, a being ready to plunge modern science into a world of darkness. And into this darkness, Professor Zachary and her team vanish. Now a letter from a colleague of Zachary’s sends the Event Group, led by Major Jack Collins, chasing down the professor’s lost expedition and into the legendary darkness of the Amazon.” SFSignal.com

The Venetian Betrayal: A Novel by Steve Berry

“In 323 B.C.E, having conquered Persia, Alexander the Great set his sights on Arabia, then suddenly succumbed to a strange fever. Locating his final resting place–unknown to this day–remains a tantalizing goal for both archaeologists and treasure hunters. Now the quest for this coveted prize is about to heat up. And Cotton Malone–former U.S. Justice Department agent turned rare-book dealer–will be drawn into an intense geopolitical chess game. After narrowly escaping incineration in a devastating fire that consumes a Danish museum, Cotton learns from his friend, the beguiling adventurer Cassiopeia Vitt, that the blaze was neither an accident nor an isolated incident. As part of campaign of arson intended to mask a far more diabolical design, buildings across Europe are being devoured by infernos of unnatural strength.

And from the ashes of the U.S.S.R., a new nation has arisen: Former Soviet republics have consolidated into the Central Asian Federation. At its helm is Supreme Minister Irina Zovastina, a cunning despot with a talent for politics, a taste for blood sport, and the single-minded desire to surpass Alexander the Great as history’s ultimate conqueror.
Backed by a secret cabal of powerbrokers, the Federation has amassed a harrowing arsenal of biological weapons. Equipped with the hellish power to decimate other nations at will, only one thing keeps Zovastina from setting in motion her death march of domination: a miraculous healing serum, kept secret by an ancient puzzle and buried with the mummified remains of Alexander the Great–in a tomb lost to the ages for more than 1,500 years. Together, Cotton and Cassiopeia must outrun and outthink the forces allied against them. Their perilous quest will take them to the shores of Denmark, deep into the venerated monuments of Venice, and finally high inside the desolate Pamir mountains of Central Asia to unravel a riddle whose solution could destroy or save millions of people–depending on who finds the lost tomb first.” Amazon

The Judas Strain: A Novel by James Rollins

“The crack, ultrasecret Sigma Force team returns in another adventure that, as usual, unfolds at breakneck speed. Sigma Force, made up of former Special Forces officers trained as experts in various scientific fields (“killer scientists,” one of their number calls them), scours the world for technologies that could help or threaten the U.S. This time the group’s mission involves a devastating bacteriological plague, a mysterious cryptogram that may predate humanity, and the deadly truth about what happened after Marco Polo’s expedition to China. After a handful of Sigma Force novels, Rollins has fine-tuned the formula to precision: characters rendered in broad strokes, punchy dialogue, short paragraphs that propel us headlong through the story. The novels are like prose versions of comic books, or lightly fleshed out movie treatments. But this is not a criticism, at least not completely. The books’ style perfectly matches their subject matter, and it’s impossible not to be swept up by their energy and excitement. Action/adventure fans unfamiliar with Rollins’ work should be emphatically urged to read this series.” Booklist

Solomon’s Key: The Codis Project by R. Douglas Weber

“A smart, intelligent thriller with something for everyone. This new religious conspiracy genre created by Dan Brown has had many knock-offs. None, however, have the depth and scope of Weber’s novel. He peels away the glossy finish you find in most spy thrillers, prying deeply into his two major female character’s motivations, flaws, and past. The visceral action of Ludlum combined with the realism of John Le’Carre’.” The Guardian

Grail Conspiracy: A Cotten Stone Mystery by Lynn Sholes

“On assignment in the Middle East, television journalist Cotten Stone stumbles upon an archeological dig that uncovers the world’s most-sought-after religious relic: the Holy Grail. With his last dying breath, Dr. Gabriel Archer gives it to Cotten, uttering “You are the only one” in a language she’s heard from only one other person–her deceased twin sister.

What begins as a hot news story for the ambitious young reporter soon turns into a nightmare when the Holy Grail is stolen and strange “accidents” befall her dearest friends. Running for her life, she turns to John Tyler, a priest with firsthand knowledge of religious artifacts, for help. An anonymous source leads them to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, where an abominable experiment is underway that–unless destroyed–promises to unleash an ancient evil upon the Earth.” Amazon

Last Secret, The: A Cotten Stone Mystery by Lynn Sholes

“In this riveting follow-up to The Grail Conspiracy, famed journalist Cotten Stone is at the top of her craft until one of her discoveries is proven to be a hoax. Without a steady job, credibility, or a shred of self-respect, the struggling reporter fades from the limelight. A year later at a famous Inca site, she unearths a crystal tablet that predicts the Great Flood and another final “cleansing”-yet to take place-to be led by the daughter of an angel.

According to the Venatori-an ancient sociof spiritual warriors-a series of these sacred tablets exist . . . and the last one holds the key to surviving Armegeddon. Racing to recover this last secret before the Fallen ones, Cotten comes face to face with her terrifying destiny, a legacy to battle the Son of the Dawn until the End of Days.” Amazon

Hades Project, The: A Cotten Stone Mystery by Lynn Sholes

“Forged by the seventh generation grandson of Adam, used to pierce the side of Christ at the Crucifixion, and possessed by some of history’s most powerful men—Constantine, Attila the Hun, Adolf Hitler, Harry Truman—the Holy Lance is about to be used again. The Forces of Evil intend to use the ancient relic to launch the Hades Project and bring humankind to its knees. From the Kremlin to the Vatican to an Ethiopian church housing the Ark of the Covenant, Cotten Stone races to find the Holy Lance. Time is running out as Cotten confronts the man who holds in his hand the destiny of the world, a man who died more than 85 years earlier.” Amazon

Plague Ship (Oregon Files) by Clive Cussler

Available 6/2/08 (Book #5 in the series, Starting with Golden Buddha (2003), Sacred Stone (2004), Dark Watch (2005), and Skeleton Coast (2006)

Deeper: A Novel by Jeff Long

“*Starred Review* In The Descent (1999), Long introduced us to hell: not the biblical hell, but the actual place. Hell, it turns out, is an underground world where a nasty race of humanoids called hadals lived for millennia, occasionally coming to the surface and wreaking havoc. In The Descent, the hadals were wiped out, or so we thought. Now, 10 years later, humans have colonized the Subterrain, but they’re about to find out that some hadals have survived and that you can’t really kill Satan. At least as exciting as its predecessor, this flashy, fast-paced sequel features a motley crew of characters—including one of the human survivors of the last novel, Ali Von Schade, who ventures deep into hell to rescue children who were abducted from the surface. In addition to Ali, the characters include a NASA researcher who spent two years exploring hell and who now has massive physical deformities, including a pair of horns; the mother of one of the missing children, whose journey into the Subterrain takes an unexpected toll on her; a filmmaker who disappeared into hell several years ago and who seems to have survived its perils; and a Navy SEAL sniper. Long has a knack for telling stories with inherently over-the-top premises, but he tells them so well and with such passion that we are brought totally under his spell. His characters are real and complex, his dialogue sharp, and his narrative stylish and frightening. This is one case where readers should be enthusiastically encouraged to go to hell.” Booklist

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston

“In the nonfiction tradition of John Berendt (“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”) and Erik Larson (“The Devil in the White City”), New York Times bestselling author Douglas Preston presents a gripping account of crime and punishment in the lush hills surrounding Florence, Italy.In 2000, Douglas Preston fulfilled a dream to move his family to Italy.Then he discovered that the olive grove in front of their 14th century farmhouse had been the scene of the most infamous double-murders in Italian history, committed by a serial killer known as the Monster of Florence. Preston, intrigued, meets Italian investigative journalist Mario Spezi to learn more. This is the true story of their search for–and identification of–the man they believe committed the crimes, and their chilling interview with him. And then, in a strange twist of fate, Preston and Spezi themselves become targets of the police investigation. Preston has his phone tapped, is interrogated, and told to leave the country. Spezi fares worse: he is thrown into Italy’s grim Capanne prison, accused of being the Monster of Florence himself.Like one of Preston’s thrillers, The Monster Of Florence, tells a remarkable and harrowing story involving murder, mutilation, and suicide-and at the center of it, Preston and Spezi, caught in a bizarre prosecutorial vendetta.” Amazon

The 13th Apostle by Richard and Rachael Heller

“The Hellers, a husband-and-wife team known for their health titles (The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet, etc.) make a thrilling fiction debut in this fast-paced, well-researched adventure, a foray into Da Vinci Code–style papal mystery. American cybersleuth Gil Pearson, a semifamous antihacker, gets tapped to help translate an ancient copper scroll that’s meant to lead to a fabulous treasure. Accompanied by striking, strong Sabbie Karaim, a translator and former Israeli military operative, Gil travels to Israel, where he’s introduced to the dangerous conspiracy that surrounds the scroll, and soon realizes the perilous position he’s gotten himself into; apparently, the scroll contains not just a treasure map but the truth about the life and death of Jesus. As rival factions try to claim the scroll for their own agendas (to protect Christianity, to destroy Christianity, etc.), Gil and Sabbie head on a breakneck quest around the globe trying stay one step ahead of their pursuers while teasing out the secrets of the age-old document. A satisfying, well-structured entry into the still-hot subgenre, the Hellers have a definite crowd-pleaser on their hands—assuming it doesn’t get buried in a saturated market.” Publishers Weekly

The Shell Game by Steve Alten

“Steve Alten proves his versatility in his latest thriller THE SHELL GAME, a tour-de-force thriller tackling oil, politics, and the state of the world. Controversial, shocking, meticulously researched, and sure to raise many eyebrows in Washington, Alten has produced both a dazzling political thriller and to a cautionary tale for our times. Anyone interested in the labyrinthine world of politics, international gamemanship, and the control of oil in society needs to read this book.” Douglas Preston

Rembrandt’s Ghost by Paul Christopher

“There is truth in art. But the truth can kill.

Young archaeologist Finn Ryan is laboring for a London auction house when she gets some unlikely luck. Along with the handsome young nobleman Billy Pilgrim, she’s inherited a house in Amsterdam, a cargo ship off Borneo South Pacific, and what appears to be a fake Rembrandt.

But the fake hides a real Rembrandt portrait, which in turn hides a clue to a centuries-old mystery. Finn and Billy aren’t the only ones who know what is at stake-and what is waiting to be found at the bottom of the South Pacific. Pursued around the globe by ruthless adversaries, Finn and Billy are thrown into the hunt for a forgotten treasure that could change their lives forever-or end their lives in an instant.” Amazon

The Sanctuary by Raymond Khoury

“Here is one of those novels that spans centuries, interweaves stories from past and present, and involves a brave hero trying to uncover the truth behind an ancient conspiracy that unnamed individuals will kill to protect. It’s hardly a new premise, but here’s the good thing: in Khoury’s hands, it feels fresh and exciting again. When archaeology professor Evelyn Bishop is kidnapped, her daughter, Mia, vows to find her and to find the secret behind the artifacts that apparently led to Evelyn’s abduction. Her odyssey takes her into unexpected corners of history, quickly putting her own life at risk. The action takes place mostly in Iraq but also journeys to eighteenth-century Italy and present-day Lebanon. The large cast of characters includes plenty of villainous types, including “the hakeem,” a doctor whose grisly medical experiments seem linked to a centuries-old mystery. There are dozens of ways this novel could have collapsed under its own narrative weight, but Khoury makes the conspiracy feel utterly believable and imbues his characters with infectious passion for finding the truth. A surefire hit with fans of conspiracy-based historical thrillers.” Booklist

Michelangelo’s Notebook by Paul Christopher

“Life may imitate art…but death follows it.

While studying art history at New York University, brilliant and beautiful Finn Ryan makes a startling discovery: a Michelangelo drawing of a dissected corpse-supposedly from the artist’s near-mythical notebook. But that very night, someone breaks into her apartment-murdering her boyfriend and stealing the sketches she made of the drawing. Fleeing for her life, Finn heads to the address her mother had given her for emergencies, where she finds the enigmatic antiquarian book dealer, Michael Valentine. Together, they embark on a desperate race through the city-and through the pages of history itself-to expose an electrifying secret from the final days of World War II-a secret that lies in the dark labyrinthine heart of the Vatican.” Amazon

The Pegasus Secret by Gregg Loomis

“Shortly after ex-spy Lang Reilly’s sister dies in an explosion in her Paris home, a reproduction of a painting by the 17th-century artist Poussin, which his sister bought the day before she died and which includes an odd Latin inscription, disappears from Lang’s home. With police and killers on his trail, Lang embarks on a journey to Italy to uncover the painting’s secrets as well as its connection to his sister, enlisting the help of a former co-worker, the German killing-machine Gurt Fuchs. Somewhat dry excerpts from a medieval account of the Knights of the Temple punctuate the action, hinting that the mystery is more complex than Lang can imagine. The international setting and fast-paced action grip, and fortunately, Loomis’s convincing protagonist possesses the intelligence and emotional depth to carry the reader through some unlikely scenarios (e.g., in an airport bathroom stall, Lang constructs a fake gun out of candy). Though the momentum sometimes lags, each scene is vivid enough to keep the reader engaged. Some may find the book’s secret societies and art history themes a trifle unoriginal, but others looking to repeat The Da Vinci Code experience will be satisfied.” Publisher’s Weekly First of the Lang Reilley books, followed by The Julian Secret and The Sinai Secret (below).

The Sinai Secret by Gregg Loomis

Available 3/08 – from the publisher: “A scientist in Amsterdam—murdered. Another scientist in Atlanta—murdered, and his journal stolen. At first Lang Reilly seemed to be the only connection. After all, both scientists worked for his foundation. But when someone took a shot at Lang to scare him away, it only made him more determined to find the truth.

Lang’s search will lead him along a twisted trail to Brussels, Cairo, Vienna, Tel Aviv…and deep into the secrets of the past. What’s the connection between the murdered scientists and an ancient parchment, recently unearthed? What revelations does it contain, and what powerful group is willing to kill to make sure its secrets remain hidden? With the balance of power in the Middle East at risk, Lang has to stay alive long enough to find the answer to a mystery that has puzzled historians for centuries.”

On the Fifth Day by A. J. Hartley

“In Hartley’s newest, disgraced English teacher Thomas Knight confronts a church conspiracy of silence surrounding the death of his brother, Father Edward Knight, while on a research trip in the Philippines. Looking to make sense of it all, Thomas’s search leads him from Italy to Japan to the site of his brother’s death, all the while narrowly escaping agents of unknown origin who seem hellbent on stopping him. With the distinction between friends and enemies becoming more fluid all the time, Knight falls in with his ex-wife at the State Department, a priestly colleague of his brother’s and a murderous biologist to discover a secret that threatens, yes, the very foundations of Christianity. Not only is Hartley’s novel well paced, with enough twists and turns to keep most thriller fans satisfied, he avoids the missteps of most attempts to cash in on the Da Vinci Code zeitgeist by focusing on the faithful rather than freewheeling conspiracies; his is a welcome take that considers thoughtfully, if at times clumsily, issues of belief and doubt. Though the action occasionally snags on some repetitive character details, this slam-bang title is a very fun, surprisingly satisfying read.” Publishers Weekly

The Messiah Code by Michael Cordy

“At the moment of his supreme triumph, a man of science dodges an assassin’s bullet and loses everything that truly matters in his life. Now only a miracle can save Dr. Tom Carter’s dying daughter: the blood of salvation shed twenty centuries ago.

In the volatile heart of the Middle East, amid the devastating secrets of an ancient brotherhood awaiting a new messiah, Tom Carter must search for answers to the mysteries that have challenged humankind since the death and resurrection of the greatest Healer who ever walked the Earth. Because suddenly Carter’s life, the life of his little girl, and the fate of the world hang in the balance …

After two thousand years, the wait is over …” Amazon

The Magdalene Cipher by Jim Hougan

“From the shadows of history — out of the ancient prophecies and sacred texts — comes a conspiracy so vast, so deep, so earth-shattering that the CIA itself is merely a cover for it.

The ritualistic slaughter of a college professor right under the nose of CIA agent Jack Dunphy has damned the disgraced operative to a living hell of paper-pushing obscurity. But Dunphy’s not ready to surrender his career until he uncovers the truth behind his demotion — embarking on a covert investigation that’s leading him into a world he never dreamed existed. And following a twisted trail of lies, Jack’s about to become ensnared in a monstrous international web spun by a secret society as old as civilization.

Escape is impossible — because the players are too powerful, the consequences are too deadly . . . and what’s at stake is no less than the destiny of the human race.” Amazon

Gates of Hades by Gregg Loomis

Jason Peters works for Narcom, a company that handles jobs too dangerous or politically risky for U.S. intelligence agencies. But when his house is attacked and he barely escapes the smoking wreckage, he knows this new case is out of the ordinary, even for him.

Jason will travel the globe—from Washington, D.C., to the Dominican Republic, to the volcanoes of Sicily—in a desperate race to uncover the ancient secret that lies at the heart of an unimaginable—and very deadly—plot.” Dorchester Publishing

Splintered Icon by Bill Napier

“In this suspenseful Da Vinci Code knockoff from British author Napier (Nemesis), Harry Blake, an antiquarian book dealer specializing in old maps and manuscripts, agrees to help Sir Toby Tebbit translate a 400-year-old journal, written in code, that Sir Toby has inherited from a heretofore unknown relative in Jamaica. The manuscript chronicles the adventures of a young cabin boy, James Ogilvie, who traveled to the Americas as part of a secret mission for the Elizabethan crown. When a mysterious woman approaches Blake about buying the journal, he refuses to sell. Later, Blake returns to the Tebbit household to discover that Sir Toby has been brutally murdered. Teaming up with rival historian Zola Kahn and Sir Toby’s daughter, Debbie, the trio soon join a race to determine the meaning behind Ogilvie’s encrypted text. A trail reaching as far back as the Crusades leads toward a holy relic that could be worth millions—or could be the key to a worldwide terrorist plot. Deftly mixing history, science and fiction, Napier keeps the action escalating toward a satisfying climax.” Publishers Weekly

The Lure by Bill Napier

“In a top-secret research facility, a team of scientists receive an unexpected message from the depths of space.At first, the blizzard of sub-nuclear particles seemed random. But soon a pattern emerges that could only have come from an alien intelligence far more advanced than our own. Now it’s up to Irish mathematician Tom Petrie to decode these messages and unlock their secret—one that is believed to contain an unimaginable technological breakthrough, and has the power to change the course of human history…unless the world’s superpowers succeed in suppressing the truth. Can Petrie and his team unmask the message’s true intent while evading those who aim to crush its extraordinary revelations? A desperate race against time—and through space—is about to begin….” Amazon
“Incredible…extraordinary.” Jeff Long
“Fans of Dan Brown take note.” Jack Du Brul
“Deftly mixing history, science, and fiction, Napier keeps the action escalating…” Publishers Weekly

The Lucifer Code by Michael Cordy

“Lucifer The Light Age has dawned. Light divides the universe into two: day and night. Good and evil. Life and death. Now its power, harnessed by a new generation of optical computers, attempts to answer mankind’s last great question: What happens to us when we die? But this is perilous knowledge, as Dr. Miles Fleming, a brilliant young neurologist discovers. To find the truth he must challenge the certainties of both science and religion, and embark on a journey that jeopardizes his most basic assumptions and beliefs. On reaching the final terrifying revelation he realizes that there are perhaps some things mankind should never know. For shining a light on the truth can sometimes reveal the darkest
recesses of hell itself. ” Amazon

Dark Passage by Junius Podrug

“What if Islamic assassins from the present were somehow able to go back in time to Galilee circa A.D. 30 and target Jesus for termination? Podrug takes this melodramatic premise and runs with it in this gripping adventure yarn that melds elements of science fiction with the big-screen biblical epics of the 1950s. Three unlikely but resourceful characters–an action-film star, an ex-nun who ministers to prostitutes, and an Israeli engineer-convict–are sent back in time in a desperate attempt to foil the terrorists’ plan to change history. The historical details are fascinating–filled with enough sword fights, chariot races, and orgies to make Cecil B. DeMille proud. The one-dimensional modern-day terrorists pale in comparison to the real villain, the wickedly salacious Queen Salome, who pops up now and then to seduce a centurion or torture an unfortunate prisoner. The provocative ending may offend some of the fundamentalist folk, but adventure, alternate-history, and historical fiction fans should find this an enjoyable read.” Booklist

The Medici Dagger by Cameron West

“”Let he who finds the Dagger use it for noble purpose. That was my father’s plan. And now it’s mine.” That stirring cry from Hollywood stunt man Reb Barnett occurs near the midway point of this laughable thriller about the search for a legendary dagger of unbreakable metal forged by Leonardo da Vinci, who hid the weapon and then left clues to its whereabouts in a manuscript called “The Circles of Truth.” Twenty years ago, a courier sent by Barnett’s museum curator father to retrieve the manuscript disappeared; that same night, Barnett’s parents died in a suspicious fire. Now a voice from the past drags Barnett into completing his father’s quest to find the dagger before munitions broker Werner Krell and his sadistic assassin, Nolo Tecci, can get their hands on it. The novel reads like a fleshed-out action film screenplay, with multiple locations, plenty of violent action, outrageously corny dialogue and the usual push-button tics that pass for characterization in Hollywood: Reb courts danger; Reb has a hard time expressing his feelings for his friend Archie Ferris and love interest Antonia Genevra Gianelli. West whose memoir, First Person Plural: My Life as a Multiple, was a New York Times bestseller has written what might be the world’s first stunt-thriller, a novel where at every moment you expect an off-page director to yell “Cut!” and order the real star in to flesh out the second unit shots that the stunt man just walked through. File this one under high concept, low execution. National advertising; 7-city author tour. (Sept. 11)Forecast: Film rights have been purchased. Tom Cruise will star. Enough said.” Publishers Weekly

Secret of the Sands by Rai Aren & Tavius E.

“In the shadow of the Great Sphinx of Giza, two young archaeologists unearth extremely unusual artifacts dating over 12,000 years old. Not only could this change everything we thought we knew about Ancient Egypt, but the exhilarating find is wrong – very wrong. The artifacts shouldn’t be there. . .they shouldn’t even exist at all. The greatest discovery in human history may also turn out to be the deadliest. . . Visit http://www.secretofthesands.com to learn more about the story that opens a window into the past, bringing this previously unknown and startling civilization to life.” Amazon

So have fun reading this round!

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SciFi movie night 4 (final!) – get your popcorn while it’s hot!

Here’s the Final chapter in my exploration of my SciFi DVD collection. As before, the films listed are from my personal collection of DVDs. More lists from VHS, post-apocalyptics, Fantasy, and Kids/anime/animation will be forthcoming. The Saturn Award (for Best Feature Presentation) is from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA, and the OFCS rating is from the Online Film Critics Society, http://ofcs.rottentomatoes.com/pages/pr/top100scifi.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

User rating 6.4/10. Directed by Kerry Konran, and starring Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Gambon, Giovanni Ribisi, Angelina Jolie and Sir Laurence Olivier. “In 1939, an intrepid reporter in New York City makes a connection between the story she’s covering– of famous scientists suddenly disappearing around the world, and a recent attack on the city by giant robots. Determined to find the solution to these happenings, she seeks the help of her ex-boyfriend, the captain of a mercenary legion of pilots. The two are investigating the case when the robots attack the city again, though in a stroke of luck, Sky Captain’s right hand man is able to locate their source. They then set off on an adventure in search of the evil mastermind behind these schemes, who is bent on creating a utopia and destroying the current world.” Apster, IMDB

“The Battle for Tomorrow is About to Begin…” Set in an alternative history 1939, it is notable for being the fist film to be on a digital backlot, blending live actors with computer generated backgrounds. A pulp-action adventure, much in the style of Star Trek: Voyager‘s Lt. Tom Paris’ Captain Proton adventures, but with more style, and updated for better adventure. It draws on the serials of the 30s. Definitely out-of-the-box style film, it’s fun, and due a screening. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_Captain_and_the_World_of_Tomorrow

Sound of Thunder (2005)

User rating 4.0/10, IMDB. Directed by Peter Hyams, based on a Ray Bradbury short story, and starring Edward Burns, Catherine McCormack, Ben Kingsley, and Jemima Rooper. “According to the film, the established rules of time travel are:

  1. Don’t bring anything back.
  2. Don’t leave anything behind.
  3. Don’t change anything in the past.

These rules were established by a businessman who has recently developed a service, based around a newly invented time machine, which offers prehistoric safari trips to wealthy hunters. Travis Ryer has been trained to lead these safaris. On one of these time-safaris, the guides are escorting two men along a path. They are attacked by an Allosaurus and the leader’s gun fails, so the allosaurus does not die when it was scheduled to do so–thus breaking one of the rules of time travel.

Panicked by the attack, one of the explorers steps off the path in an attempt to ensure his own safety. The guides exchange gun parts with another gun, kill the allosaurus and return through the time portal. Unseen to the explorers, a muddy footprint has been left just off the path….Rand [the inventor of the business] does explain that since they altered something in the past, the future will proceed to change in a series of “time waves.” She says that the changes can’t all happen at once, and that they will proceed in order of evolution: first, everything will reset, then the vegetation will change, then wildlife, and finally humans.” Wikipedia

“Some Rules Should Never Be Broken.” While this film has a low user rating, and was critically panned, it suffered from production problems, and other set-backs. It is a decent look at the casual loop of time travel, such as was seen in The Butterfly Effect. Time travel is widely used, but the problems and instabilitesinherent in it’s use are rarely mentioned, much less explored. I feel this film deserves a higher viewer rating, and I would give it at least a 6 to 7. My children liked it o, and they are not fools. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Sound_of_Thunder_%28film%29

Space Station (IMAX) (2002)

User rating 7.3/10, IMDB. Produced and Directed by Toni Myers and narrated by Tom Cruise. “As astoundingly beautiful as it is technically dazzling, SPACE STATION is the first-ever IMAX 3D space film. Audiences will travel 220 miles above Earth at 17,500 mph to experience SPACE STATION – the greatest engineering feat since landing a man on the Moon.

SPACE STATION is the story of this unique partnership of 16 nations building a laboratory in outer space — a permanent facility for the study of the effects of long-duration exposure to zero gravity and the necessary first step towards the global co-operative effort needed if man is to someday set foot on Mars. It is a story of challenges, setbacks and triumphs…and ultimately, the shared international victory of men and women whose dreams exceed the limits of life on this Earth.” http://www.imax.com/spacestation/

“A Select Few Have Been Aboard… Now It’s Your Turn!” This show, originally shown in 3-D in IMAX theaters, is a film presented by Lockheed Martin in cooperation with NASA. The shows details many of the experiments in this “high-flying laboratory.” It includes glimpses of in-orbit construction, and the daily lives of crew members, such as drinking water right from the air in the zero G environment. Great for any armchair traveller who likes a deep-space adventure, and educational for the whole family. A must for any serious SF collector, as it’s one of the few documentaries, along with An Elegant Universe, available to the general public. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0290296/

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

User rating 7.7/10, IMDB. OFCS #30. Won the Saturn for Best Actor (Shatner) and Best Director. Directed by Nicholas Meyer, and starring William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban, Kirstie Alley, and the rest of the crew. “It is the 23rd Century. The Federation Starship U.S.S. Enterprise is on routine training maneuvers, and Admiral James T. Kirk seems resigned to the fact that this may well be the last space mission of his career. But Khan is back. Aided by his exiled band of genetic supermen, Khan–brilliant renegade of 20th Century Earth–has raided Space Station Regula One, stolen a top secret device called Project Genesis, wrested control of another Federation starship, and now schemes to set a most deadly trap for his old enemy Kirk . . . with the threat of a universal Armageddon!” Robert Lynch,IMDB

“At the end of the universe lies the beginning of vengeance.” This is MY personal favorite of all the Star Trek movie, followed by it’s sequel in the three story arc, Star Trek II: The Search for Spock, and then my 3rd favorite, the final chapter, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The last is the one that pokes the most fun at itself. The third Star Trek movie is the most serious, given it’s subject matter, and this one, the most sheer fun! For any trekkie, large and small, old and young, this is THE one to watch. Although there was much speculation about Montalban having a prosthetic chest to give him that incredible muscular look, in his 60s he was fit and trim, and the director, Montalban himself, and the production crew all insist it was real – if so, one can only sigh…Supposedly Montalban took a reduction in pay in order to do Khan again, a character he favored. It is one of the most memorable roles in the Star Trek mythos. I was in the dentist’s office with my youngest, and the dentist, also an oral surgeon who works with my ex, an anesthesiologist, told me they had gotten into a Star Trek trivia contest during an operation recently and that my ex beat him hands down – that’s because of all those years, with only a few channels, and nothing but Star Trek re-runs. Have fun with this one, but be sure to get them all. They provide a complete story arc, and watch for the latest, entitled simply Star Trek, about the young Spock, coming out this year (see SciFI movies of 2008 post).

Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1997)

User rating 8.8/10, IMDB. OFCS # 3. It won the Saturn for Best Film, as well as numerous awards for effects, writing and acting, and won a number of Oscars for the same. It lost Best Picture to Annie Hall. Listed by the American Film Institute (AFI) as the 15th greatest film of all time, and the quote, “may the force be with you” is the 8th greatest. Directed and written by George Lucas, and starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guiness, and James Earl Jones. “In a distant galaxy eons before the creation of the mythical planet known as Earth, vast civilizations have evolved, and ruling the galaxy is an interstellar Empire created from the ruins of an Old Republic that held sway for generations. It is a time of civil war, as solar systems have broken away from the Empire and are waging a war of rebellion. During a recent battle technical schematics for a gigantic space station, code named The Death Star, have been unearthed by Rebel spies, and a young woman who is a dissident member of the Imperial Senate, under the cover of a diplomatic mission to the planet Alderaan, is trying to smuggle these plans to the Rebellion. But her spacecraft is attacked by a vast warship of the Empire and seized. The dissident Senator is captured, but the plans for the Death Star are nowhere to be found. While soldiers of the Empire search the nearby planet Tatooine, a series of incidents sweeps up a young desert farmer with dreams of being a fighter pilot in the Rebellion, as he winds up with the Death Star plans and also the assistance of an elderly hermit who once served as a warrior of an ancient order whose chosen weapons were powerful energy swords known as light sabers. The pair recruit a cynical interstellar smuggler and his outsized alien copilot with an ancient freighter heavily modified for combat to help them reach Alderaan – but the planet is obliterated and now the foursome must rescue the young woman held prisoner by the Empire and lead an attack by the Rebellion against the Death Star before it can annihilate all hope of restoring freedom to the galaxy.” Michael Daly, IMDB

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… ” One of the most memorable opening lines in the history of film, this is THE SciF movie of it’s generation, and of the century. It was exploded across the screen like a bat out of hell, and into our collective consciousness, and left you breathless and sitting, literally! on the edge of your seat. The first to use Dolby Surround Sound to it’s fullest, and the infamous special effects from Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic (created just for this film, and using Adobe PhotoShop, created by designers (later to work for ILM) in the 1980s), it was the only film in its class. Where were you! when you first saw it. If you’re reading this, I bet you remember. I was in my first year of college in the Twin Cities, and I got a call from my parents, who had just seen “this incredible” movie on opening night. Minneapolis/St. Paul was one of the few cities that got the early opening date on it. They called and told me to get over to the theatre the next day. I stood in line for about an hour with my friend, for an afternoon matinee, and still we barely made it in, being one of the last. We had to split up, and as I sat there in the dark, and the first fighters zoomed in from what seemed just over my head, all my childhood readings of Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke came to life, and I KNEW that this was what I loved – space and all it’s glories. Over 30 years later, it’s still a passion for me. Although everyone has seen it, I included it still, as it is iconic, and provides the mythos for our time. I believe I have an earlier post on the Power of Myth and Star Trek. If not, I’ll post one, since I have it somewhere else. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_IV:_A_New_Hope; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_canon.

Stargate (1994)

User ratings, 6.6/10, IMDB. Direct by Roland Emmerich, and starring Kirk Russell and James Spader. “Egyptologist Daniel Jackson is brought to an underground military base where he decodes the symbols on Egyptian cover stones as star constellations. That allows a alien device known as the Stargate to be opened and a team led by Air Force Colonel Jack’ O’ Neil and Jackson to travel across the known universe to a distant planet. Arriving on the planet, they find a culture ruled by someone pretending to be the Egyptian sun god Ra. Soon, Ra captures the team and takes control of a nuclear weapon brought to the planet in case of the discovery of hostile aliens. Jackson and O’Neil escape and must fight Ra and his army of warriors to save Earth from being destroyed by Ra.” timdalton007, IMDB

“It Will Take You A Million Light Years From Home, But Will It Bring You Back?” This is the movie that started the whole Stargate franchise – the TV shows: Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis, and a new one tentatively scheduled for 2008 Stargate Universe, as well as an animated series, comic books, trading cards, games, and fanfic. While it was generally critically panned, it was a box-office success, and was an instant “camp” clasic. Millions will secretly reveal a love of Stargate, but would never publicly admit it. The concepts of the show, and some of the major plot elements were changed in the TV show and subsequent franchising. Originally there were to be three movies, but the producers moved on to Independence Day instead. I enjoy the movie, particularly James Spader, who usually plays creeps, and here plays a dweeb. Fun for all, with an interesting back story and mythology, centering around the Egyptian one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stargate_%28film%29; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stargate (franchise); http://www.mgm.com/title_title.do?title_star=STARGATE (official site)

Starship Troopers (1997)

User rating 6.9/10, IMDB. OFCS #62. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, based on the book by Robert Heinlein, and starring Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, and Dina Meyer. “The time is the future. Johnny Rico joins the military after graduation to become a citizen and for the love of his high school sweetheart. In the war against the bug aliens of Klendathu, the military is a very dangerous place to be. Johnny works his way through several battles and with the help of his friends and comrades, helps turn the tide of the war, and save the human race.” IMDB

“The only good bug is a dead bug.” In a sardonic use of war-effort propaganda vernacular, wholesome young Earth people are drafted by their government’s media machine into a jingoistic invasion of a neighboring planetary system… ,” IMDB. This movie, while on the surface a cheesy bug squashing flick, has a subtle anti-war propaganda underneath. The heroes/heroines (no gender roles here) are heroic, valiant, and with some moral conflicts. It’s fun on the surface – what could be better than an evening watching gorgeous young people battle big bugs! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starship_Troopers_%28film%29

Stealth (2005)

User rating 4.8/10, IMDB. Directed by Rob Cohen, and starring Jessica Beil, Josh Lucas, and Jamie Foxx. “In the near future, the Navy develops a fighter jet piloted by an artificial intelligence computer. The jet is placed on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific to learn combat manuevers from the human pilots aboard. But when the computer develops a mind of its own, it’s the humans who are charged with stopping it before it incites a war… ” IMDB

“Fear The Sky.” This basic humans vs. machines movie is an easy night at the movies – place it with Starship Troopers, or one of the other basic, non-thinking fun ones, and you have a night. There’s not much to it, but I thnk the low user rating doesn’t do it justice. It’s what it is – a basic, solid, man versus machine movie. Nothing more, and it isn’t out to be, an important distinction to me. If a movie purports to be more than it is, then I’m disappointed. But if it sells itself as just what it is, then I’m fine with that, and will enjoy it on that level. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stealth_%28film%29; http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/stealth/

Terminator, The (1984)

User rating 8.0/10. OFCS # 16 (T2is #15). Won the Saturn. Directed and written by James Cameron, and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn. “In the future, Skynet, a computer system fights a losing war against the humans who built it and who it nearly exterminated. Just before being destroyed, Skynet sends a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah, the mother to be of John Connor, the Leader of the human resistance. The terminator can pass for human, is nearly indestructible, and has only one mission, killing Sarah Connor. One soldier is sent back to protect her from the killing machine. He must find Sarah before the Terminator can carry out it’s mission.” John Vogel, IMDB

“The thing that won’t die, in the nightmare that won’t end.” Using the major tagline: “In the Year of Darkness, 2029, the rulers of this planet devised the ultimate plan. They would reshape the Future by changing the Past. The plan required something that felt no pity. No pain. No fear. Something unstoppable. They created ‘THE TERMINATOR,” they said it all. This is the SciFi movie that non-SciFi viewers want to watch, along with Star Wars. In 1984, it seemed like the coolest movie on the planet, with Arnold’s infamous line – “I’ll be back!” resonating from everywhere you went. It was iconic, and had a darn good story-line, that continued through two more movies, a fourth in the works, and the current TV show on the middle years of John Connor. It’s worth it for the special effects, and the heart-stopping suspense when you realize he WILL NOT DIE!. The effects got better in the sequels, but that first thrill was gone – you know they can be killed – it just takes extra effort. The addition in the 2nd sequel of the advanced robot that can change shape and morph into anyone is eerie, and the best innovation for the franchise. Although I have all three, I chose the first one, to shorten the list. Get some popcorn, and sit back, and relive the thrill. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Terminator; http://www.mgm.com/title_title.do?title_star=TERMINAT

THX 1138 (1971)

User rating 6.8/10, IMDB. OFCS #86. Directed and written by George Lucas, this was his first feature film. “The human race has been relocated to a underground city located beneath the Earth’s surface. In the underground city, the population are entertained by holographic TV which broadcasts sex and violence and robotic police force enforces the law. In the underground city, society controls all life, all citizens are drugged to control their emotions and their behavior and sex is a crime. Factory worker THX-1138 stops taking the drugs and he breaks the law when he finds himself falling in love with his room-mate LUH 3417 and is imprisoned when LUH 3417 is pregnant. Escaping from jail with illegal programmer SEN 5241 and a hologram named SRT, THX 1138 goes in search of LUH 3417 and escape to the surface, whilst being pursued by robotic policemen.” Daniel Williamson, IMDB

“Visit the future where love is the ultimate crime.” THX 1138 “depicts an Orwellian future, featuring three residents of a dystopia in which a high level of control is exerted upon the populace through ever-present faceless, android police officers and mandatory, regulated use of special drugs to suppress emotion, including sexual desire.

It was the first feature-length film directed by Lucas, and a more developed, feature-length version of his student film Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, which he made in 1967 while attending the University of Southern California, based on a one and a quarter page treatment of an idea by Matthew Robbins.

THX 1138 shares themes with The Machine Stops, Anthem, Brave New World, [and] Nineteen Eighty-Four… A novelization by Ben Bova was published in 1971.” Normally novelizations are throwaways, but Bova is a top-notch SF writer. It is a bare, stark film, with the usual dystopian features – in some ways it reminded me of The Island, with Ewan McGregor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THX_1138; http://www.thx1138movie.com/

War of the Worlds (2005)

User rating 6.6/10, IMDB. Directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the book by H.G. Wells, and starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning. “Ray Ferrier is a working class man living in New Jersey. He’s estranged from his family, his life isn’t in order, and he’s too caught up with himself. But the unthinkable and, ultimately, the unexpected happens to him in an extraordinary sense. His small town life is shaken violently by the arrival of destructive intruders: Aliens which have come en masse to destroy Earth. As they plow through the country in a wave of mass destruction and violence, Ray must come to the defense of his children. As the world must fend for itself by a new and very advanced enemy not of this world, its inhabitants must save humanity from a far greater force that threatens to destroy it.” mystic80, IMDB

“This Summer, the last war on Earth won’t be started by humans.” This is worth more that the user rating, IMO. It is a great visually exciting, with great special effect alien invaders movie. Independence Daywithout the humor. It had a high budget, and was well received by critics and by viewers at the box office. Other sites, like Rotten Tomatoes give it a higher rating. One of the problems was that Cruise had hired a new publicity agent, and much of the publicity surrounding the film centered on Scientology (see my earlier post: Tom Cruise: Guru or Goner), and his upcoming marriage to Katie Holmes. I enjoyed the movie, and Dakota Fanning played her cute, terrified little girl in best form. Tom Cruise was fairly unCruise-like, and the supporting cast was reasonably strong. Good solid adaptation of the book, although there are some differences, namely the time (present vs. 1898), the fact that the hero was a married father of two, with a different perspective and motives, and the fact that the aliens landed on earth in the book, while in the film, they were buried long in the distant past and awoken by lightening bolts, a plot device never fully explained in the film, but perhaps a later director’s cut or expanded edition may clear this up.

The biggest change was in the origins of the aliens: “The film never says where the aliens are from, unlike the book, where they are from Mars; in 1898, when the book was written, the possibility of life on Mars was considered realistic. This difference in origin shrouds the motive for the attacks on the Earth. In the book, the Martians are escaping from their dissipated planet, searching for a place to continue their civilization, rather than the “extermination” explanation given by a character in the film.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_the_Worlds_%282005_film%29; http://www.waroftheworlds.com/

H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (2005 DVD)

User rating 3.3/10 (few ratings though), IMDB. Directed by David Michael Lat, and starring C. Thomas Howell, Peter Greene, and Jake Busey. A direct to DVD release, one day before Spielberg’s film was released, it never had the following of a big-screen one with a big-name actor.

“The Invasion Has Already Begun”

Changes: “Most notable is that the tripods have been changed to six-legged crab-like machines called “walkers” (a conception that mainly stems from allowing the effects team creative freedom).

The aliens are indeed Martians (though the film never states this, but this is confirmed by Latt complete with an opening credit sequence over shots of the Red Planet’s landscape), but bear almost no visual resemblance to their novel’s counterparts. Whereas Wells described his invaders as bear-sized tentacle creatures, the film’s Martians are insect-like in their appearance with four legs. These aliens also have the ability to spit acid, which melts entirely anyone who is unfortunate enough to be attacked. They also have an appetite for humans as in the novel. In terms of their military action: the war machines are not tripods, but huge resemblances of the creatures themselves with six legs. By all accounts, their fighting machines do not appear to have heavy protection against modern human artillery, leaving their ability to effectively crush resistance unexplained. The aliens do have a substance vaguely similar to the black smoke, which they distribute in shells of some kind, but is more of a green colored gas with a notable inability to rise above ground level due to a similar density, allowing the characters to escape by getting to high places.

The protagonist of the film is named George Herbert, an obvious reference to H. G. Wells. Rather than being a writer, as in the novel, he is an astronomer, perhaps in reference to the character of Ogilvy – in a related deviation, the film does not attempt the voice-over narration that accompanies other versions of the story. Despite these differences, George nevertheless goes through much of what befalls the novel’s protagonist, even up to preparing to sacrifice himself to the Martians, only for them to drop dead of infection before he has to do so. He is also separated from his wife and son with whom he tries to reunite once the invasion begins, and, like the novel, she and their son are alive in the conclusion. George’s brother, a ranger, is less fortunate; he is seen only briefly, after being fatally wounded in the trail of destruction left by the invaders. A major deviation from the text is that the protagonist actually tries to produce a means of stopping the Martians, but the film does not elaborate on whether their eventual downfall is due to these efforts, or whether their deaths simply coincided with his efforts.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._G._Wells%27_War_of_the_Worlds_%282005_film%29

H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (2005 film)

User rating 2.9/10, IMDB. Directed by Timothy Hines, and starring Anthony Piana, Jack Clay, and James Lathrop. “This version was produced by the independent film production company Pendragon Pictures and is distinguishable from the other film adaptations of the novel in that it is not a contemporary retelling, but rather set in the book’s original time period and location. It is also the first film adaptation to be set in the United Kingdom as opposed to the more popular setting of the United States.” Plagued by production problems, and dating back to 2000 as a project. Originally the director wanted to set it in Well’s time, and be faithful to the book, but plans changed, a cast was being put together and the film was just starting production when 9/11 derailed it. Afterwards, the director changed plans again, went back to the original setting and faithfulness to the book, put a new cast together and secretly shot the film. Released only in the U.S. Critically panned for poor special effects, but noted for it’s “faithfulness” to the book. I do not own this movie, and wasn’t aware of it’s existence until I started adding the other two. A film fest of all three 2005 versions, along with the 1953 version, and perhaps the Orson Wells radio narrative would make a fine showing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.G._Wells%27_The_War_of_the_Worlds_%282005_film%29; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0425638/

User rating 7.2/10, IMDB. OFCS #48. 1953 version starring Gene Bary and Ann Robinson, and produced by George Pál, and directed by Barré Lyndon. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_of_the_Worlds_%281953_film%29; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046534/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_of_the_Worlds (book)

Illustration from the 1906 French version of the book.

What the Bleep!?: Down the Rabbit Hole (2006) – Also known as “What the Bleep Do We Know?”

User rating 5.8/10, IMDB. Directed by William Antz and Betsy Chasse, and starring Marlee Matlin. It “combines documentary interviews and a fictional narrative to posit a connection between science and spirituality.[1][2] Computer-animated graphics are featured heavily in the film. The film intersperses interviews about quantum physics and spirituality with the fictional story of a deaf photographer as she struggles with her life. The film employs a panel of interviewees who speculate about the impact of human consciousness on physics and chemistry. Many are affiliated with New Age organizations, and some hold academic degrees.

Among the New Age spiritual community, the film was well received. Members of the scientific community have criticized the film for promulgating pseudoscience. The film presents many ideas which are not supported by science, such as that consciousness and quantum mechanics are related, and that ice crystals can be influenced by thought.[3][4][5] Physicist David Albert, who was interviewed for the film, has accused the filmmakers of selectively editing his interview to make it appear that he agrees with the ideas presented in the film.”

“The next evolution in the ‘bleep’ experience.” See what you will from it, at least it introduces some scientific ideas into a world void of them. It is a hit in the new age world (my ex’s wife loves it, and so does he, having embraced her way of life and attitudes), but hard-core scientists pan it. I think my view falls in the middle – interesting concepts and visual effects, presented in a way that eases them into the conscious mind. It’s worth the time, even if you aren’t New Age, but just an ordinary person, interested in new ideas, and the possibilities that quantum physics MAY hold. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_the_Bleep%21%3F:_Down_the_Rabbit_Hole; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0499596/

So, this is the last of the DVDs. If your favorite wasn’t here -then wait until the next list. Many more will be coming – It’s what I love…

New SciFi movies to watch for in 2008 and on…

Coming soon in theatres near you will be:

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2/14)

“Peculiar things start to happen with the Grace family (Jared, his twin brother Simon, sister Mallory and their mother) when they leave New York and move in a secluded old house owned by their great, great uncle Arthur Spiderwick. Unable to explain the strange disappearances and accidents that seemed to be happening on a daily basis, the family starts to blame Jared. When he, Simon and Mallory investigate whats really going on, they uncover the fantastic truth of the Spiderwick estate and the creatures that inhabit it.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spiderwick_Chronicles_%28film%29; http://www.spiderwickchronicles.com/

Jumper (2/14)

“Throughout time, there have been individuals who posses the power to teleport (or Jump). They have used their abilities for personal gain, to escape from their enemies and to change the course of history. The ability to Jump is a genetic anomaly that has existed for centuries and those who possess this gift have a freedom that most people can’t begin to comprehend. They can transport themselves anywhere in the world at any time, for any reason.” Starring Hayden Christopher (Star Wars).” Based on the novel by Stephen Gould. “A genetic abnormality allows a young man to teleport himself anywhere. He discovers this gift has existed for centuries and finds himself in a war that has been raging for thousands of years between ‘Jumpers’ and those who have sworn to kill them.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumper_(film); http://www.jumperthemovie.com/

The Signal (2/22)

“A science fiction horror film told in three parts from three perspectives in which a mysterious transmission invades every cell phone, radio and TV, turning people into killers. The film was shot in three parts (called “transmissions”) that were made by different directors without input from the other two during the shoot. As a result, all parts feel different: one a visceral thriller, one a black comedy, one a mystery-love story.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Signal_%28film%29; http://www.doyouhavethecrazy.com/

10,000 B.C. (3/7)

“As a member of a primitive tribe during the dawn of man, 21-year-old mammoth hunter D’Leh (Steven Strait) travels through unknown lands on a quest to rescue his people from extinction. D’Leh, leading an army, uncovers a lost civilization while in pursuit of a warlord who kidnapped his love, Evolet (Camilla Belle). D’Leh and his army encounter saber-toothed cats, mammoths and other prehistoric creatures in the journey to save his tribe.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10%2C000_BC_%28film%29; http://www.10000bcmovie.com/

Doomsday (3/14)

“Great Britain, 2007. A deadly plague, known as the “Reaper Virus,” has broken out, killing hundreds of thousands in its wake. In desperation, the British Government evacuates as many survivors as it can out of the infected area, and then builds a wall, preventing the remainder from escaping. Thirty years later, with the wall still up and the victims all but forgotten, the virus breaks out again.”

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (5/1)

“Set seventeen years before X-Men, the film will focus on Wolverine’s violent past, and his early encounters with William Stryker. The Weapon X program and his interactions with other mutants will be explored, including his complex relationship with Sabretooth/Victor Creed. The Blob and John Wraith may also feature, as well as Vietnam War flashbacks. Silver Fox will appear as Wolverine’s love interest.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-Men_Origins:_Wolverine

Iron Man (5/2)

Starring Robert Downey, Jr., and Gwyneth Paltrow. “Weapons designer Tony Stark is in Afghanistan to introduce his new missile design to the Air Force until the unit he is traveling with is attacked and Stark is taken hostage. Injured by shrapnel embedded near his heart, his captors order him to assemble a missile for them, giving him access to a workshop. He puts his creativity to use by assembling a bulletproof set of power armor, complete with pacemaker and flamethrowers, and uses it to free himself. Back at home, he becomes Iron Man, developing a flying suit with the red and gold scheme and advanced weapon capabilities. Stark faces the Iron Monger.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Man_film; http://www.ironmanmovie.com/

Speed Racer (5/9)

“Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is a young man who has natural racing instincts whose goal is to win The Crucible, a cross-country rally that took the life of his older brother, Rex Racer (Scott Porter). Speed is loyal to the family business, run by his parents Pops (John Goodman) and Mom (Susan Sarandon), with Pops responsible for designing Speed’s vehicle, Mach 5. The owner of Royalton Industries (Roger Allam) makes Speed a lucrative offer, and Speed rejects it, angering the owner. Speed also uncovers a secret that top corporate interests, including Royalton, are fixing some of the biggest races to gain profit. With the offer to Speed denied, Royalton seeks to ensure that Speed will not win any major races. Speed finds support from his parents and his girlfriend Trixie (Christina Ricci) and enters The Crucible in a partnership with his one-time rival, Racer X (Matthew Fox), seeking to rescue his family’s business and the sport itself.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_Racer_%28film%29; http://speedracerthemovie.warnerbros.com/

The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian (5/16)

Prince Caspian

“One year has passed in our world since the first adventure ended, but in Narnia, almost 1,300 years have passed, and now it is time for the Pevensie children to return and make history. The villainous King Miraz prevents the rightful king, his young nephew Prince Caspian, from ruling the land of Narnia. Caspian uses Susan’s magic horn that was left in Narnia to summon the four Pevensies to help him and a small army of Old Narnians reclaim his rightful throne..” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Narnia:_Prince_Caspian; http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/narnia/; http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/narnia/blog/

Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (5/22)

“The film is set in 1957, making it nineteen years since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, thus acknowledging the real-life passing of years between films. Indiana Jones is having a quiet life teaching before being thrust back into his old adventuring. He races against agents of the Soviet Union for the crystal skull. “The theory is they are shaped by higher powers or alien powers or came from another world, or an ancient Mayan civilization had the powers,” Marshall explained. Indy’s journey takes him across New Mexico, Connecticut, Mexico City, and the jungles of Peru.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indiana_Jones_and_the_Kingdom_of_the_Crystal_Skull; http://www.indianajones.com/site/index.html

Starship Dave (5/30)

Starring Eddie Murphy and Elizabeth Banks. “A crew of miniature aliens operate a spaceship that has a human form. While trying to save their planet, the aliens encounter a new problem, as their ship becomes smitten with an Earth woman (Banks).” IMDB. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0765476/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starship_Dave

The Happenings (6/13)

Mark Wahlberg will play a man who takes his family on the run when the world turns upside and a cataclysmic natural crisis threatens to end the world.

Incredible Hulk (6/13)

“Bruce Banner is on the run from the United States Army and General “Thunderbolt” Ross, trying to avoid capture long enough to cure the condition that turns him into the Hulk. Meanwhile, a soldier named Emil Blonsky repeats the accident that gave Banner his powers, but when he realizes that he is unable to change back to human form, he blames Banner and seeks his revenge.

Louis Leterrier said that he planned to show Bruce Banner’s struggle with the monster within him. Producer Avi Arad has also said that the Hulk would be more strongly portrayed as a hero than in the previous film, while producer Kevin Feige added the film would explore “that element of wish fulfillment, of overcoming an injustice or a bully and tapping into a strength that you didn’t quite realize you had in yourself.” Arad also said the film would be “a lot more of a love story between Bruce Banner and Betty Ross.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Incredible_Hulk_%28film%29; http://incrediblehulk.marvel.com/

Wall-E (6/27)

Wall-E

“Disney and Pixar have joined forces once again, and thus came to existence Wall-E, the story of the last little robot on Earth. He is a robot and his programming was to help clean up. You see, it’s set way in the future. Through consumerism, rampant, unchecked consumerism, the Earth was covered with trash. And to clean up, everyone had to leave Earth and set in place millions of these little robots that went around to clean up the trash and make Earth habitable again.

Well, the cleanup program failed with the exception of this one little robot and he’s left on Earth doing his duty all alone. But it’s not a story about science fiction. It’s a love story, because, you see, WALL·E falls in love with EVE, a robot from a probe that comes down to check on Earth, and she’s left there to check on and see how things are going and he absolutely falls in love with her.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wall-E; http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/wall-e/

Wanted (6/27)

Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is offered the opportunity to seek revenge in the murder of his father, who was an assassin. Gibson is invited by his father’s partner, Sloan (Morgan Freeman), to follow in his father’s footsteps. Sloan’s second-in-command (Angelina Jolie) mentors Gibson, who follows the death orders issued by the Fates, weavers who read individuals’ destinies in fabrics produced by mystical looms.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wanted_%282008_film%29; http://www.wantedmovie.com/

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (7/11)

“Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a 2008 film directed by Guillermo del Toro. The film is a sequel to 2004’s Hellboy, also directed by Del Toro. Hellboy II: The Golden Army is written by Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola. ” http://www.fanclubsf.net/movies-dvd/some-posters-of-upcoming-movies-2008.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellboy_II:_The_Golden_Army; http://www.hellboymovie.com/

Dark Knight (7/18)

A “superhero film based on the fictional DC Comics character Batman. The film is a sequel to 2005’s Batman Begins, which rebooted the Batman franchise after an eight-year hiatus. Christopher Nolan returns as the director, and Christian Bale reprises the lead role. Batman’s primary conflicts in the film come from his fight against the Joker (Heath Ledger) and his strained friendship with district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart).” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dark_Knight_%28film%29; http://thedarkknight.warnerbros.com/

X-Files 2 (untitled – 7/25)

Due to the highly secretive nature of the project, very little is known about the movie’s plot. It is known that, unlike the first film, the plot will not focus on the series’ ongoing “mythology” and will instead be a standalone thriller/horror story, similar to many of the “monster-of-the-week” episodes that were frequently seen in the TV series.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-Files_2; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Untitled_X-Files_sequel; http://www.xfilesnews.com/

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (8/1)

Starring Brendan Fraser, Jet Lit, Michelle Yeoh and Luke Ford. “In the Far East, trouble-seeking father-and-son duo Rick (Fraser) and Alex O’Connell (Ford) unearth the mummy of the first Emperor of Qin (Li) — a shape-shifting entity who was cursed by a wizard (Yeoh) centuries ago.” IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0859163/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mummy:_Tomb_of_the_Dragon_Emperor

Babylon A.D. (8/29)

Babylon AD

“A young woman (Mélanie Thierry) has been genetically tampered with, possessing a virus that could kill the human race. A mercenary (Vin Diesel) is hired to escort the woman from a post-apocalyptic Eastern Europe to New York City. They are accompanied by a nun (Michelle Yeoh). The film is based on the novel Babylon Babies by Maurice Georges Dantecand it is being directed by Mathieu Kassovitz and stars Vin Diesel.” http://www.fanclubsf.net/movies-dvd/some-posters-of-upcoming-movies-2008.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylon_A.D._%28film%29; http://www.myspace.com/babylonadmovie

Death Race (9/26)

“In a future America, prison inmates are forced to compete against each other in a driving arena. The prison warden (Joan Allen) coerces a prisoner with only weeks before his release (Jason Statham) into becoming a driver. The prisoner becomes a crowd favorite known as Frankenstein.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Race_%28film%29

City of Ember (10/10)

“The story follows two teenagers as the power source begins to fail and the lamps start to flicker, who search for clues that will unlock ancient mysteries about the city.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Ember

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (11/21)

“Voldemort is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry suspects that dangers may even lie within the castle, but Dumbledore is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching. Together they work to find the key to unlock Voldemort’s defenses and, to this end, Dumbledore recruits his old friend and colleague, the well-connected and unsuspecting bon vivant Professor Horace Slughorn, whom he believes holds crucial information. Meanwhile, the students are under attack from a very different adversary as teenage hormones rage across the ramparts. Harry finds himself more and more drawn to Ginny, but so is Dean Thomas. And Lavender Brown has decided that Ron is the one for her, only she hadn’t counted on Romilda Vane’s chocolates! And then there’s Hermione, simpering (sic) with jealousy but determined not to show her feelings. As romance blossoms, one student remains aloof. He is determined to make his mark, albeit a dark one. Love is in the air, but tragedy lies ahead and Hogwarts may never be the same again.” Warner Bros, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter_and_the_Half-Blood_Prince_%28film%29

The Day the Earth Stood Still (12/12)

Starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connolley. “In the original movie, a flying saucer orbits Earth, and lands in Washington, DC, on the Mall. Klaatu (Michael Rennie) steps out and is shot by a jumpy soldier. Gort (Lock Martin), an indestructible robot steps out of the spacecraft and proceeds to melt all the weapons, including tanks, without harming a single human being. Later, the Earth comes to realize that Gort has used very little of his power to make this happen.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0970416/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_the_Earth_Stood_Still_%282008_film%29

Star Trek (12/25)

Star Trek XI

“This will be the eleventh entry in the Star Trek film series, based on the franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. In April 2006, after several years of rumor and speculation, Paramount Pictures announced that the film would be produced by Lost co-creators J. J. Abrams (who is directing) and Damon Lindelof. ” http://www.fanclubsf.net/movies-dvd/some-posters-of-upcoming-movies-2008.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek_%28film%29; http://www.paramount.com/startrek/

The Mutant Chronicles (2008)

Starring Ron Perlman and John Malkovich. “The story is set 400 years into the future (23rd or 24th century) in the world of the Mutant Chronicles role-playing game, where nearly everything is powered by steam, mankind has exhausted Earth’s natural resources. Four corporations have taken over the world in which they are constantly at war with one another, the Bauhaus, the Mishima, the Capitol and the Imperial.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mutant_Chronicles; http://www.mutantchroniclesthemovie.com/

Deathlok (2008)

“A man unwittingly finds himself the subject of an experiment which slowly turns him into a cyborg, with computer and robotic parts replacing nearly his entire body… ” IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0365107/

Ender’s Game (2008)

“Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin is a third – a child born outside of the two child limit with the hope that he will be the one with the talent and the temperment to beat back the Formic, twice near-invaders of a future Earth. When the time is right, Ender is brought to the Battle School, an orbiting military academy designed to mold tomorrow’s youth into the future’s top commanders. But at the Battle School, ones education consists of more than just classes – Ender fights intensely private battles as well as public ones – Zero G team-based combat missions, the center of life at the school. Are Ender’s experiences here a normal by-product of military training in, or are the teachers attempting to plot a greater, harsher fate for Ender?” S.R. Hadden, IMDB. Based on the book by Orson Scott Card. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0400403/plotsummary

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008)

“The war against the Bugs continues! A Federation starship crash-lands on the distant alien planet OM-1, stranding beloved leader Sky Marshal Anoke and several others, including comely but tough pilot Lola Beck. It’s up to Colonel Johnny Rico, reluctant hero of the original Bug Invasion on Planet P, to lead a team of Troopers on a daring rescue mission.” IMDB. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0844760/synopsis; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starship_Troopers:_Marauder

The Road (2008)

Starring Viggo Mortenson, Charlize Theron, and Guy Pierce. “A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food–and each other.” IMDB. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0898367/

Transformers 2 (6/26/09)

“The battle for Earth has ended but the battle for the universe has just begun. After returning to Cybertron, Starscream assumes command of the Decepticons, and has decided to return to Earth with force. The Autobots believing that peace was possible finds out that Megatron’s dead body has been stolen from the US Military by Skorpinox and revives him using his own spark. Now Megatron is back seeking revenge and with Starscream and more Decepticon reinforcements on the way, the Autobots with reinforcements of their own, may have more to deal with then meets the eye.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1055369/synopsis

Watchmen (3/9/09)

“In an alternate 1985 where superheroes exist, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union are at an all time high. The vigilante Rorschach is investigating the murder of the Comedian, and uncovers a plot to discredit and murder various heroes. Rorschach discovers a far wider ranging conspiracy involving his colleagues’ past which could completely change the course of history.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmen_film; http://watchmenmovie.warnerbros.com/

Monsters vs. Aliens (3/27/09)

Plot unknown: Described as a reinvention of the classic ‘50s monster movie as an irreverent modern day action comedy. IMDB. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsters_vs._Aliens

Avatar (12/12/09)

Avatar is also an emotional journey of redemption and revolution. It is the story of a wounded ex-marine, thrust unwillingly into an effort to settle and exploit an exotic planet rich in bio-diversity, who eventually crosses over to lead the indigenous race in a battle for survival” and “We’re creating an entire world, a complete ecosystem of phantasmagorical plants and creatures, and a native people with a rich culture and language.” Directed by James Cameron. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_%28film%29

Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins (2009)

“The plot and storyline of the film takes place after the events of T3 around 2014 and focuses mainly on the war between humanity and Skynet in the post-apocalyptic world. John Connor will continue to be the central character along with a new character named Marcus, who will have “equal presence.” However, other sources say that the film will instead focus on Marcus James Middleton, the associate producer of the film, stated that “It’s really about the birth of a new hero.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminator_4#Terminator_Salvation:_The_Future_Begins

Neuromancer(2009)

Based on the William Gibson cyberpunk novel, and starring Hayden Christiansen. “Case (Christensen) was the hottest computer cowboy cruising the information superhighway, jacking his consciousness into cyberspace, soaring through tactile lattices of data and logic, rustling encoded secrets for anyone with the money to buy his skills. Then he double-crossed the wrong people, who caught up with him in a big way — and burned the talent out of his brain, micron by micron. Banished from cyberspace, trapped in the meat of his physical body, Case courted death in the high-tech underworld. Until a shadowy conspiracy offered him a second chance — and a cure — for a price … ” IMDB. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1037220/

Escape from New York (2009)

“The eye-patch-wearing anti-hero originated by Kurt Russell is resurrected in this reimagining of the 1981 John Carpenter classic, adapted by Black Hawk Down’s screenwriter Ken Nolan and writer/director Jonathan Mostow” Starring Gerard Butler.

Jurassic Park IV (2009)

No details given – delayed in production due to writer’s strike. Secrecy abounds.

District 9 (2009?)

No details available – high secrecy. Peter Jackson to produce.

They Came from Upstairs (no date)

“The script revolves around a group of teenagers who team up to save their Maine vacation home from aliens who have invaded via the upstairs.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/They_Came_from_Upstairs_%28film%29

The Hobbit (2010)

“Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit, journeys to the Lonely Mountain accompanied by a group of dwarfs to reclaim a treasure taken from them by the dragon Smaug.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624/

Logan’s Run (2010)

“A young man at odds with his society’s mandatory death sentence for all those turning 21 plots a daring escape on the eve of his fateful birthday.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0402344/

Sun of Suns – The Light from Within (book review)

I finished reading Karl Schroeder’s SF (only his 4th!) book, Sun of Suns, a few days ago. I was reading it before, during and after A Fire Upon the Deep. Normally I don’t read books at the same time – I get too confused due to short-term memory problems, but I’d “lost” it, needed something to read, found it, lost FUTD, etc.

On Schroeder’s web page, he has a link to a great site, A.C. Radebaugh’s The Future We Were Promised. “Radebaugh was a top-notch commercial illustrator who worked for companies as diverse as Chrysler and Coca-Cola. He was based in Detroit from the 1930s to 1960s, and much of his work anticipated design revolutions in the automotive and other industries. He once described his work as “halfway between science fiction and designs for modern living.”

“Radebaugh’s virtuosic airbrush technique created luminous illustrations which conveyed the sleek, streamlined look of the future. From flying cars to glamorous skyscrapers, his renderings were both pragmatic and fantastical, showing possibilities unimagined, derived from the technology of the day.” – From the on-line museum that features his works, hosted by the Palace of Culture, by Rachel Mackow and Jaren Rosenbaum, artists and musicians. http://www.palaceofculture.org/radebaugh.html. It has some fun stuff from the past, including this picture below, which I, as a reader, loved. Imagine being able to lie back and just read the ceiling! No cramped arthritic hands from holding a small paperback, or heavy hardcover, but easy to read, adjustable print! Now I’m not a fan of reading on-line due to the lighting problems, but this idea should pose no problem to me – my only wonder is why it was never developed?

Electronic Home Library

Sun of Suns is a fairly short book, the first in his Virga trilogy. The next one, Queen of Candesce is out in hardcover. Schroeder has the amazing feat of having his books published in HC first, something not many SciFi authors can lay claim to. And this is only his fourth book, the others being Ventus, Permanence, and my favorite, Lady of Mazes. In just a few books, he has established himself as one of the preeminent authors in the field. He is one of my all-time favorite authors.

Sun of Suns Queen of Candesce Pirate Sun

“In the Virga books, I’ve pushed even further, to create an innovative science fictional world. Once again, it had to be a playground–somewhere I and my readers could revisit in our imaginations long after finishing the books. Virga is that kind of a world.” http://www.kschroeder.com/my-books

Sun of Suns is a fairly short book, 331 pgs in PB form, and set in one of the most innovative “worlds” I’ve yet to encounter, and that’s saying a lot, coming from Schroeder – the master of world-building.

Virga is a planet – where the inhabitants live inside! As the back cover says (but not at the outset in the book – you have to figure it out) – Virga is a fullerene balloon three thousand kilometers in diameter, filled with air, water, and aimlessly floating chunks of rock. The humans who live in this vast enviornment must build their own fusion suns and ‘towns’ that are in the shape of enormous wood and rope wheels that are spun for centrifugal gravity.”

There are hundred of smaller suns inhabiting Virga, all originally powered off the main sun, Candesce. But to the inhabitants, it’s all they’ve ever known – any other life outside Virga is “lost.” Candesce is THE Sun of Suns, larger than all the rest, and providing sunlight for dozens of civilizations. It is the greatest source of heat, and creates the circulation cells of air that cause the nations to migrate slowly inward and outward. The winds drive the nations slowly around, but the stiff winds are normally exposed to the inhabitants only at the edges of the towns, or in the open air, where it could tear you off a “bike” if you were going too fast and not hanging on or tied on. Slipstream (a wandering nation) is a different sort of place. It has a large migrating asteroid that they mine, which is the source of their wealth – their sun is tethered to the asteroid, as are the towns, which are connected both inside and out via a series of ropes. Traffic between towns and within larger ones is done by bike, by hanging on to a rope and walking or pulling yourself along, depending on gravity, and by cable cars. Inside most of Virga and it’s towns and nations is a mass of such ropes.

The towns inside this “planet” are mostly small ones, collectively connected into “nations.” Small ones, like our protagonist’s Aerie, large wandering ones like Slipstream, and even larger ones like Gehellen. The principalities are in “layers” – many close to the Sun of Suns, Candesce, others in the intermediate air, like Gehellen, and still others further out, like Aerie. In between these, are layers of winter – dark and cold, with choppy air due to jet-streams, which make living there hazardous, although pirates roam these areas.

In the lower, more populated areas, spiders weave dense webs, on which floating debris is caught, and eventually weaves itself into mats of grass, trees, and flowers. Birds, fish and insects fly in these areas, which make travel with the large flying boats difficult. Since there is no “vacuum” in the planet, crews can stand outside their ships, call to one another, or sweep aside debris. The only problem is that they have to fly blind – they can’t see in the dark, except with lanterns, nor within cloud banks – they send ahead bike riders, who scout out the area for trouble-spots. But the Admiral has a plan to solve this…

Most 0f the nations in Virga follow the diurnal pattern established by Candesce, but a few rogue states do not, so in more populous areas, it was never truly night. There are of course, no “stars.” In the “winter” areas there are “black suns,’ small weak suns, that are covered, with only portholes to allow a little light to shine – enough for the pirates to work with. Water collects in drops, larger drops, and into even larger pools, sometimes framed to keep a certain shape. Farmers lived in the more outlying areas, and farm the asteroids that collect debris and form soil, and some even live inside larger bodies of water, because they are colder, and allow for storage of perishable items. Most of these people are exiles, with sallow complexions from living without much sunlight. In one of these larger bodies of water, they encounter a “town,” which is entered through a tunnel cut into the bubble of water: it is a normal small wheel town which provides the sought after gravity so desired in Virga. On the outside “walls” of Virga hang giant icebergs, stuck on the inside surface, though occasionally one falls off and presents a challenge for unwary travelers.

The towns, in smaller states, are “seldom more than two hundred yards across, and were simply wheels made of wooden planks lashed together and spoked with roped. You spun up the whole assembly and built houses on the inside surface of the wheel.” In places like Aerie, there were usually never more than five or six of these wheels together. In larger towns, like the nearby Rush, capitol of Slipstream, there are dozens of towns of polished metal. “They were more cylindrical than ring-shaped, and none was less than five hundred yards in diameter! The most amazing thing was that they were tethered to the forested asteroid in quartets, like mobiles; radiating from each cylinder’s outer rim were bright sails of gold and red that transformed them from mere towns into gorgeous pinwheels.” The towns spun, so as to provide centrifugal gravity, a precious resource. In some towns, only the rich are allowed to have access, so that the poor and servant class live in constant free-fall, with accompanying bodily changes and weakness.

In the small towns like Aerie, the gravity is provided for all by taking turns riding “bikes” with a fan at one end and an alcohol burner at the other end. One simply jumped on the bike, spun up the fan with the pedals, lit the burner, and dropped the bike through the open hatch in the floor, and with this being done twice a day, it provided the “spin” that Aerie needed for gravity, a public utility.

Virga is full of air currents, and the towns need the sails to keep themselves in place. There is no electricity, or radios, or much technology of any kind. Travel is by flying boat, bicycle (air), small fan-powered bikes, and other similar conveyances, like cable cars, and “cabs.”

The hero of the story is Hayden Griffen, described as a “very dangerous man.” His parents, part of a resistance movement to rid themselves of the larger state of Slipstream (which, in it’s wandering path, conquered Aerie and took over it’s towns), decided to build their own sun, thus taking back their own world, so that when Slipstream finally moved on, as it naturally would, being a migrating state, they would have a sun to light it. But Slipstream gets wind of this, and comes with it’s flying boats to “snuff out” the new sun, before it has a chance to shine, or to take it: a sun is a highly-sought after prize. His parents are killed in the ensuing fights and executions, and he is left alone. He ends up accidentally cast off from Aerie by a shock wave, when at the last moment, his mother lights the Sun so that Slipstream can’t have it, and he is knocked out into the “winter,” the dark, cold, outside edges of the planet (the inside of the balloon). It is there that he is press-ganged into the pirate trade, later escapes, and returns to Slipstream to avenge his father’s death.

In the process, he gets sucked up into a battle to save Slipstream from a conquering larger nation state that is more totalitarian in nature (and thus dangerous to Aerie too), and an even larger one, Falcon, that is secretly massing forces to take over Slipstream while they are engaged in battle with Mavery, the neighboring state. So he ends up helping the Admiral, the man he has sworn to kill, and the Admiral’s wife, Venera, a noblewoman in her own right, and a master of court intrigue and spying – it is she that finds the hidden “dreadnought” of Falcon Formation, which she persuades her husband and a small fleet to go after, while the rest of the fleet goes to battle with Mavery.

It is she who comes up with the plan to go after a legendary pirate’s treasure which just might hold the key to making this all possible, which is buried in an old sargasso, a collection of trees formed into a ball, but often with toxic air once they have ceased functioned. When the trees are working, and air is being circulated in and out, towns can be built inside. The one they are after, Leaf’s Choir, burned out long ago, but was the stuff of legends in it’s heyday. And then there’s Aubri, a mysterious woman with “secrets” that might just save Slipstream and Aerie from the conquering neighbor and the Falcon Formation.

The titular “head” of Slipstream is “The Pilot,” a king-like governor. Since everything revolves around the flying boats, used for travel and military reasons; instead of true kings, you have Pilots and Admirals. For the most part, the military functioned as a navy, and the government has the Pilot to rule.

The book is an incredible journey through this planet, formed by outside influences, to protect the inhabitants from the world outside (can’t give away too much!), but is still rather “backwards” in its technology. The only true technology is its main sun, Candesce. They have photographs, but not much else that is even remotely technical in nature. In some ways it’s almost 18th century. But the outside world is so much more…

The story builds slowly, as the shape of the world is explored, and the characters built. The characters in Sun of Suns are fully-formed, not cardboard cut-outs, with warts and all. Even the Admiral is a man with conflicts, emotions and ambitions. While it did take me a while to get going, once I got about half-way through the book, it just took off. Much like Ventus is that respect, although shorter. Lady of Mazes was a barn-burner from the get-go. This one is slower paced, quieter, perhaps because it is part of the trilogy, and he needed to set-up the “scene” so to speak.

No-one can beat Schroeder for his world-building skills: his ability to create complete new worlds, with new rules, is amazing. There is nothing else like it out there that I am aware of.

Kirkus gave it a starred review, and called it “outrageously brilliant and absolutely not to be missed.”

Vernor Vinge stated “over the years, science fiction has provided us with awesome environments, the best based on careful logic. there was Hal Clement’s Mission of Gravity and Robert Forward’s Dragon’s Egg. Karl Schroeder’s new novel is in a class with these masterpieces.”

Cory Doctorow says: “Mix in one part thrilling action, one part screaming-cool steampunk tech, and one part world-building and you’ve got Sun of Suns. And oh, what world-building! Schroeder is a master.”

Peter Watts, author of Blindsight said: Not since Middle Earth have I encountered such an intense and palpable evocation of an alien world. Sun of Suns puts the world-building exercises of classic Niven to shame.”

Paul McAuley says: “Schroeder’s deft alchemy fuses scrupulously detailed, mind-expanding world-building with unabashed, rip-roaring pulp adventure…”

For further reading check out Schroeder’s piece in Analog on “The Science Behind the Story: Sun of Suns“: http://www.analogsf.com/0603/SunofSuns.shtml

For a non-editorial review, check out Russ Allbery’s review of the book at (I found it very similar to my own feelings about the book – slow starting, didn’t really like the main character at first, and the setting: wheeled towns, pirates, and swashbuckling battles is not as much to my liking, and it’s not as intellectually compelling as Lady of Mazes, one of my Top Ten SF books): http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/0-765-31543-2.html

Over all, I would give it 7.5/10, or maybe higher after reading the others in the trilogy – to see if it’s just a third of a book, or is a stand-alone, in which case it suffers, to me – too much time needed to set it up, and I’m not a pirate, ship-battle type – no Master and Commander for me. But I always enjoy a Schroeder book, simply because he can write – no matter what the subject, he finds ways to make it interesting to all readers, and his concepts can be mind-blowing, like in LoM.

So pick up a copy – I doubt you’ll be disappointed. If this review is at all-confusing, blame it on the book! : ) It is a complex idea, and one that is hard to describe, without giving away too much.

SciFi movie night 3 – get your popcorn while it’s hot!

Here is part III. The last part for the DVDs. Hope you’ve enjoyed the list. Next up will be VHS, which has some great older stuff on it. Keep tuned. For reminder, I use synopsis from IMDB, and cites to Wikipedia for the movie, and book if appropriate. More lists from VHS, post-apocalyptics, Fantasy, and Kids/anime/animation will be forthcoming. The Saturn Award (for Best Feature Presentation) is from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA, and the OFCS rating is from the Online Film Critics Society, http://ofcs.rottentomatoes.com/pages/pr/top100scifi. Please enjoy. The popcorn’s getting stale…

Last Starfighter (1984)

User rating 6.3/10, IMDB. Directed by Nick Castle, and starring Lance Guest and Robert Preston. “Alex Rogan lives in a trailer court where his mother is manager and everyone is like a big extended family. He beats the Starfighter Video Game to the applause of everyone in the court and later that day finds he has been turned down for a student loan for college. Depressed, he meets Centauri, who introduces himself as a person from the company that made the Game, before Alex really knows what is going on he is on the ride of his life in a “car”; flying thru space. Chosen to take the skills he showed on the video game into real combat to protect the galaxy from an invasion. Alex gets as far as the Starfighter base before he really realized that he was conscripted and requests to be taken back home. When he gets back home, he finds a Zan-Do-Zan (Alien Bounty Hunter) is stalking him. Unable to go home and live, Alex returns to the Starfighter base to find all the pilots have been killed and he is the galaxy’s only chance to be saved from invasion. To defeat the invaders, who are paying the Bounty on him, He must be victorious.” John Vogel, IMDB

“In his wildest dreams Alex never suspected that tonight he would become…The Last Starfighter.” This is an old favorite of mine, and I think the secret dream of young kids playing video games – that somehow, just like in Zathura, you’d be whisked away on an adventure. Robert Preston is his charming best, and Lance Guest is the right combination of spoiled teen-age boy, and courageous young man. A great family movie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Starfighter

Lathe of Heaven, the (TV – 1980)

User rating 7.2/10. Based on the novel by Ursula K. LeGuin. “George Orr, a man whose dreams can change waking reality, tries to suppress this unpredictable gift with drugs. Dr. Haber, an assigned psychiatrist, discovers the gift to be real and hypnotically induces Mr. Orr to change reality for the benefit of mankind — with bizarre and frightening results.” Will Briggs, IMDB

This is the first of two television adaptations of LeGuin’s novel. This first one is a little more confusing than the second, and less faithful to the book, but I still recalled it 20 years after first watching it – it took me years to find it again. saw it first on PBS. The second film is below. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lathe_of_Heaven_%28film%29, (the show) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lathe_of_Heaven (the book).

Lathe of Heaven (2002)

User rating 5.9/10, IMDB. Directed by Philip Haas, from the Ursula K. LeGuin book. Starring James Caan, Lucas Haas, and Lisa Bonet. “His dreams control our destiny, but who controls his dreams?” IMDB. This version is more in tune with the book’s plot and philosophy.

Logan’s Run (1976)

User rating 6.7/10, IMDB. Won Golden Scroll (later Saturn), and nominated for a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Directed by Michael Anderson, based on the book by William Nolan and George Johnson, and starring Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Farrah Fawcett, and Peter Ustinov. “It is 2274. Some type of holocaust has decimated the earth, and the survivors sealed themselves into a domed city near Washington, D.C. To maintain the population balance, the computers that run the city have decreed that all people must die at 30. This system is enforced by ‘sandmen’ black-clad police operatives who terminate (kill) ‘runners’ (those who attempt to live beyond 30). Logan, a sandman, is sent on a mission to find ‘sanctuary,’ which is a code- word used by the master computer to describe what it believes is a place to which runners have been escaping. Logan begins to question the system he serves and after seeing for himself that there is life beyond the dome, he returns to destroy the computer.” IMDB

“An idyllic sci-fi future has one major drawback: life must end at 30.” This was a favorite movie of mine when I was young (19) and I thought it the best thing since sliced bread. I even found a print at a Renaissance faire that reminded me of carousel, and I still have it. I have the book as well. The movie is a sentimental favorite and will always be so. The story is basic, corny, but a little dystopian, but the addition of Peter Ustinov adds the needed bit of levity, and pathos. The styles are a little dated (hair, ‘futuristic’ sets, but the plot is real, and worth a look. It’s also interesting for its forward look at sexual attitudes, back when it was taboo in most SF. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logan%27s_Run_%281976_film%29; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logan%27s_Run (book)

Mad Max (1979)

User rating 6.9/10. OFCS #71. Directed by George Miller, and starring Mel Gibson in his break-out role. “Mad Max: George Miller’s vision of an apocalyptic future set in the wastelands of Australia. Total social decay is just around the corner in this spectacular cheap budget gang orientated road movie. Where the cops do their best to lay down the law and the outlaw gangs try their hardest to defy the system. Leather clad Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) husband, father and cop turns judge, juror and executioner after his best friend, wife and baby are killed. Here we see the final days of normality of a man who had everything to live for, and his slip into the abyss of madness. With its astounding car stunts, unbelievable bike chases and constant ultra violence Mad Max is the antihero on the road to vengeance and oblivion. Powerful. Dynamic. Honest. Brutal.” Cinema_Fan, IMDB

“The last law in a world gone out of control. Pray that he’s out there somewhere.” This is the first of three Mad Max films. I saw Road Warrior when it first came out, and it scared the crap out of me. Another movie I spent in my then-husband’s lap. This one I saw much later, long after I had gotten used to the brutalness of the saga, although the third entry is much tamer. This one is bleak, vengeful, and brutal. The others offer glimpses of hope and redemption. Not for the faint at heart. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Max

Martian Chronicles, The

User rating, 6.8/10, IMDB. Directed by Michael Anderson, and based on Ray Bradbury’s novel, this was a 3-part TV miniseries, long out of print. Starring Rock Hudson, Darren McGavin, Bernadette Peters, Roddy McDowall and Barry Morse. “Earth sends its first manned probe to Mars in 1999, and a jealous Martian murders the two astronauts when his wife has erotic dreams of meeting them. Members of a subsequent expedition are hypnotized into believing that they have landed in the childhood community of their leader and have been reunited with deceased family and friends, and they are poisoned by the Martians. Col. John Wilder leads a third expedition and learns that a chicken pox virus brought to Mars by the first two expeditions has almost eradicated the Martian population. A member of Wilder’s team becomes obsessed with protecting Mars from Earthman and murders some of the others in Wilder’s party, before Wilder kills him. Colonists arrive on Mars to settle, among them priests seeking God, and a lone Martian masquerades as the most desired persons of various settlers. Global war on Earth reduces man’s natal planet to radioactive waste, and most of the settlers returned there prior to the holocaust. Wilder struggles to assemble the remaining humans on Mars, who cope with their loneliness in different ways and will not leave their piece of Mars, before Wilder meets a Martian of past or future who tells him the secret of simple Martian life and convinces him to abandon the Earth lifestyle.” Kevin McCorry, IMDB

I watched this when it first aired, and never forgot it. It took years for a print to be had. At 360 minutes, it’s a long one. Bradbury is reported to have had some “differences” with scriptwriter Richard Matheson (I am Legend), and supposedly said at a press conference that it was boring, so it was shelved for a half a year or so. But it eventually aired and as I said, I still recalled it, as does my then husband, Worth a look and maybe a place in the home library. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Martian_Chronicles_%28TV_miniseries%29 (a “stub” only); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Martian_Chronicles (the book)

Matrix (1999)

User rating 8.6/10, IMDB. OFCS #12. Won Oscars for technical stuff, and the Saturn. Directed and written by the Wachowski brothers. Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss, Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving. “Thomas A. Anderson is a man living two lives. By day he is an average computer programmer and by night a malevolent hacker known as Neo. Neo has always questioned his reality but the truth is far beyond his imagination. Neo finds himself targeted by the police when he is contacted by Morpheus, a legendary computer hacker branded a terrorist by the government. Morpheus awakens Neo to the real world, a ravaged wasteland where most of humanity have been captured by a race of machines which live off of their body heat and imprison their minds within an artificial reality known as the Matrix. As a rebel against the machines, Neo must return to the Matrix and confront the agents, super powerful computer programs devoted to snuffing out Neo and the entire human rebellion.” redcommander27, IMDB

“In a world of 1s and 0s…are you a zero, or The One?” This one I didn’t understand the first time, and only saw part of it. After I went to Hawaii to go to law school, some of my classmates, young enough to be my kids, decided I needed to watch it, since I professed a love of Sci-Fi, and had me over. They sat me between themselves, and Joe and Nate proceeded to provide stereo voice-over narration, line-by-line, for the entire movie. Needless to say, that didn’t help my concentration or understanding. It wasn’t until all three movies were out, and a few viewings later, that I began to unravel its “secrets.” An article on Artificial Realities vs. Virtual Realities helped to cement the job. The Matrix is an artificial reality. Case closed. But they remain a great trilogy, all three indelibly linked due to the unfolding nature of the story, and a must-have for any collector of SF, or those who just like really cool special effects. The effects are now legendary, and have lost some of their wow factor, simply from being copied in so many movies, a loss, really. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Matrix; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Matrix_%28series%29 (the Matrix franchise, including the other movies)

Men in Black (1997)

User rating 6.9/10, IMDB. OFCS #92. Won the Saturn. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, and starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. “In present-day America, Agent K is a member of an organization that has been keeping track of extra-terrestrial aliens on Earth for over 40 years. When K finds himself in need of a new partner, a brash NYPD detective, James Edwards fills the position, becoming Agent J. Armed with space-age technology (which J barely understands) and their razor-sharp wits, J and K investigate a newcomer who is bad news for Earth.” David J. Gannon, IMDB

“Protecting the earth from the scum of the universe.” This send-up, based on the Marvel comics, is one of the best dead-pan TLJ roles ever. He is incredibly funny, and will Smith is at his best. The aliens are funny, kooky, and a bit over the top, but then so is the film. Followed by a sequel, with a very enjoyable opening with TLJ as a postman, these two will remains staples in the SF world. Never copied, or done better, this is one for all to enjoy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_in_Black_%28film%29;

The Men in Black - first issue. Cover art by Max S Fellwalker.

The first comic book cover from 1990.

Paycheck (2003)

User rating 6.1/10, IMDB. Nominated for the Saturn. Directed by John Woo, and based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. Starring Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, and Uma Thurmon. “Jennings (Ben Affleck) is the best reverse-engineer in the business. He is hired by clients to take apart other companies technologies and find out how they work. He is hired to do a special job, against the advice of some of his associates. When the job is completed, all memory of what he has been working on is erased from his mind. That’s when his problem really start to begin. He is hunted for something he has no recollection of doing and has only a little time to work it out. He has sent himself 19 seemingly unconnected objects, before his memory was wiped, to allow him to put the puzzle together and discover just what has gone on and what he has done. But the authorities are after him and time is very quickly running out.” Alan Scott, IMDB

“The future depends on a past he was paid to forget.” This one is a futuristic sort of Bourne Identity is some ways – he has no memory of what happened and has to recreate it based on the clues he left himself, seeming random junk. BUt the pacing is good, the action fast, and it’s a good Affleck movie. You can’t go wrong with a Dick story. Critics say that Woo left out a lot of the SciFi elements to attract a larger audience, and that left the story less than it should be. Panned by critics, and fans of Dick. But still has a decent viewer rating, so it’s worth a screening, at the very least. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paycheck_%28film%29; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paycheck_%28short_story%29 (story); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_K._Dick (Philip K. Dick, writer).

Pitch Black (2000)

User rating 6.8/10. Nominated for the Saturn. Directed by David Twohy, and based on a story by Jim and Ken Wheat. Starrring Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, and Claudia Black. “Set in the distant future, a spaceship carrying some 40 people, mostly ones wanting to settle on other planets from their own, hits a meteor shower and crash lands on a distant planet killing all but about a dozen of them. The survivors, led by the second-in-command Carolyn Fry, find themselves on a hot and humid landscape with constant sunlight from three orbiting suns. Fry not only must help the survivors find food and water, but contend with a deadly criminal, named Riddick, who was being transported to a prison cell on their destination. But every 22 years, the planet’s three suns go into a total eclipse for a month where darkness brings out the planet’s real inhabitants; large, reptilian, vampire-like creatures that come out and dominate the surface in total darkness, killing and eating all life. The Fry and her people then must cooperate with Riddick, who has surgically enhanced eyes to see in darkness, to lead them to safety and off the planet before they all become dinner for the creatures.” Matthew Patay, IMDB

“One Rule: Stay in the light.” This is the first of the Riddick movies, and is pure terror, heart-stopping suspense, with plenty of popping aliens. It doesn’t give as much back-story on Riddick as you might like, and that’s where Chronicles comes in. Still, it was a great vehicle for Diesel, and is similar in set-up to Asimov’s Nightfall. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitch_Black_%28film%29

Predator (1987)

User rating 7.6/10, IMDB. Directed by John Tiernan, and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, and Jesse Ventura. “Dutch and his group of commandos are hired by the CIA to rescue downed airmen from guerrillas in a Central American jungle. The mission goes well but as they return they find that something is hunting them. Nearly invisible, it blends in with the forest, taking trophies from the bodies of it’s victims as it goes along. Occasionally seeing through it’s eyes, the audience sees it is an intelligent alien hunter, hunting them for sport, killing them off one at a time.” John Vogel, IMDB

“It came for the thrill of the hunt. It picked the wrong man to hunt.” Notable for having two governors in it, it doesn’t seem like it could be over 20 years old. It still reads like the great action SF movie it is. And that’s all it is. No pretentions to philosophy, morality, etc. Just pure action, Rambo style. This is a must-have for me, along with AVP, although when it first came out I couldn’t see the pull of it for my then husband. He loved it, and I hated it. With my ‘personality’ change, I grew to love it, and understand it, something you don’t always get on first viewing, the action is so intense. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predator_%28film%29

Road Warrior, The (1981) – also known as Mad Max 2

User rating 7.6/10, IMDB. OFCS #27. Directed by John Miller, and Starring Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, and Virgina Hay. “A former police officer is now a lone wanderer, travelling through a devastated Australia after a nuclear war looking for the now-priceless fuel of petrol. He lives to survive and is none too pleased when he finds himself the only hope of a small group of honest people running a remote oil refinery. He must protect them from the bike gang that is terrorising them whilst transporting their entire fuel supply to safety.” Graeme Roy, IMDB

“In the future, cities will become deserts, roads will become battlefields and the hope of mankind will appear as a stranger.” This is the first Mad Max movie I saw, and I spent much of it in my then husband’s lap. When we came out of the theatre, which opened onto a small street, a group of low-riders came roaring by, forever cementing Mad Amx and motorcycles in my mind. It took me years to begin to get over the violence and appreciate the grittiness, tone, feel, and post-apolcalytic feel of the movie, as well as it’s uplifting ending. “The film’s depiction of a post-apocalyptic future was widely copied by other filmmakers and in science fiction novels, to the point that its gritt…junkyard society of the future look…is almost taken for granted in the modern sf action film.” Richard Scheib, NZ. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Max_2:_The_Road_Warrior

Serenity (2005)

User rating 8.0/10, IMDB. Won the Saturn, and the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Directed and written by Joss Whedon, and based on the short-lived series. Starring Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, and Summer Glau (the current Terminator in The Sarah Conner Chronicles. “River Tam and her brother Simon are hiding out from the totalitarian government that experimented with River’s brain aboard the space-freighter Serenity. Captained by a down on his luck, no faith soldier, the crew of Serenity must take jobs (legal or not) while avoiding the Alliance, and keeping the Tams safe. But when things get out of hand with the true extent of River’s powers, the Alliance sends a new Operative to make sure what River knows doesn’t get out. How will the crew of Serenity deal with this new threat? And what exactly does River know that the Operative is willing to kill for?” Michael Gettings, IMDB

The future is worth fighting for.” Insanely or not, this is one I have not yet watched. Just as I have not yet watched those remaining un-aired episodes from the DVD set I own. I tend to hoard, and once it is gone, it’s gone forever, and this is one series I loved with all my heart. I adore Whedon’s work, and will admit to being a Buffy and Angel fan. His witty dialogue sparkles, like an amped up Gilmore Girls in another universe, and so as I loved the series, I know I will love the movie, and I know many fans of the show that love this move. I only wish I had the guts to watch it, but my heart says to save it. Curious, but true. For a long time I had the words to the series’ title song printed out and hung on my wall, while I was in school, shortly after my divorce – they seemed dark and appropriate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_%28film%29; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefly_%28TV_series%29 (series)

Silent Running (1972)

User rating 6.7/10, IMDB. OFCS #82. Directed by Douglas Trumball and starring Bruce Dern and Cliff Potts. “The loner crew member of a spaceship harbouring Earth’s last nature reserves goes renegade when he is instructed to jettison his beloved forests and return home. Accompanied only by three robots, he ponders the fate of his last pocket of nature and the murders of his fellow crew members in this far-looking speculative film.” Keith Loh,IMDB

“Earth’s last battle will be fought in space.” This was a long-time favorite of mine, and ‘lost’ during the years of only 3-4 channels and no VCRs. It was one of the first movies I bought on Betamax, yes Beta, still a superior format! And is still a sentimental favorite as he goes about tending the last of Earth with Huey, Dewey, and Louie. It’s a bit of a hanky one, and a family movie to some extent, although for older children, because some of the elements might puzzle the younger set. Watch it and use your discretion. Nothing graphic. Check the parental advisory on IMDB for full info. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Running

Check out the final Part 4 coming soon to a theatre near you… and remember, if you don’t see a favorite, it may appear on my VHS list, or on my list of favorites I DON’T own!

SciFi movie night 2 – get your popcorn while it’s hot!

Part II of my SciFi DVD collection. Again, I’ll use much of IMDB for the synopsis, and use cites to Wikipedia. I will try and note if it won a Saturn Award, (for Best Science Fiction Film, unless otherwise noted). The Saturn is given out by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA. Also I will try and note it’s rating on the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS): International Critics Group Celebrates a Century of Sci-Fi With List of the Top 100 Films from the Past 100 Years (2002).

So starting out with the D’s:

Dune (miniseries) (2000)

User rating 6.8/10, IMDB. Directed by John Harrison, based on Frank Herbert’s novel of the same name, and starring William Hurt and Alec Newman. “It is a distant galaxy in the far future. Arrakis is a desert planet and is the only source of Melange, a vital drug used by the Guild Navigators for space travel from star system to star system. The corrupt Emperor Padishah Shaddam IV sends the Atreides family to Arrakis to take charge of the mining operations of Melange, once controlled by the Atreide’s rival family, The Harkonnens. Duke Leto Atreide’s son Paul becomes fascinated by the native Freman’s culture and learns he has a special powers and he can see images of the future. But the Emperor is in league with the evil Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and the Baron and his loyal army attacks, taking control of the mining operation on Arrakis and Duke Leto is assassinated. Paul and his mother Lady Jessica flee in the desert, where they are befriend by the Fremen. Adopting his Fremen name “Maud’Dib”, Paul vows vengeance on Baron Harkonnen and the Emperor and he unites the Fremen and forms a army of warriors and leads into battle, as he sets out to defeat the Harkonnen family and put a stop to the Melange mining operation, as Paul sets out to fulfill his destiny, as he becomes the prophesied all-powerful Kwisatz Haderach.” Daniel Williamson, IMDB

This 3-part SciFi Channel mini-series is the best interpretation of a book I have yet to read. I tried many years ago, but the intricate plot, court intrigue, and bizarre setting, with “spice” left me out in the cold. I saw the movie version, was intrigued, but no less clued in. Since I am not a die-hard Dunebook fan, I can’t comment on how well it sticks to the book, although that is not usually a concern of mine, since movies and books are apples and oranges to me. I thought this version better exemplified the court side of the book, explained “spice” and gave meaning to “Muad’Dib.” Some tend to like certain actors in roles better. Most agree that Kyle MacLachlan was a better Paul, but many like the side characters in this miniseries better. With a running time of 265 minutes, or over 4 hours, it’s got plenty of time to delve into the story and come out a winner, IMO. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune_%28TV_miniseries%29; http://dunenovels.com/ (Official Dune novels website); http://www.scifi.com/dune_2k/ (SciFI channels website)

Dune (movie) (1984)

User rating 6.5/10, IMDB. Directed by David Lynch, based on Frank Herbert’s self-titled book, and starring Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides, and Sting, Jose Ferrer, Virginia Madsen, Linda Hunt, Patrick Stewart, Max von Sydow, and Jürgen Prochnow. “The desert planet Arrakis – we enter the year 10191 and the whole universe depends on the spice Melange which exists only on this dry and desolate planet. The natives of this planet await the arrival of their Messiah who will lead them into a holy war against the evil Harkonnen empire. This is the film adaptation based on Frank Herbert’s cult novel.” Harald Mayr, IMDB

“A spectacular journey through the wonders of space and the mysteries of time, from the boundaries of the incredible to the borders of the impossible.” The movie version, which feature a much better Paul, is shorter by far (137 minutes v. 265), and thus can’t begin to explore the subtleties and complexities of Herbert’s novel. It’s confusing to me, but if you are a fan of the book, you might just like this one better.

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

User rating 7.1/10, IMDB. OFCS #85. Directed by François Truffaut, based on Ray Bradbury’s book, and starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie. “When fireman of the future Montag comes home from a hard day of book burning, his wife is totally engrossed in a screen that fills a wall of the living room. Here she gets her entertainment and all the information the people in charge want anyone to know. A few days later Montag is intrigued by a woman he sees on the monorail who looks very much like his wife. But this woman’s eyes suggest that she has an active mind. She is a subversive, hoarding books. And he learns from her why books are so dangerous they have to be burned. People will want to think for themselves.” Dale O’Connor, IMDB

“What if you had no right to read?” This movie, while it has a discordant, jarring, dated ’60s soundtrack, and dated furnishings, clothes, make-up and hair, is still one of my favorite movies, perhaps because of its subject matter. The ending is truly a must-see for all book lovers – that people would go to such lengths to save a single book is truly a tribute to the power of the written word. Although later Bradbury states that the true purpose of the movie was not about book-burning or censorship, but instead about the power of television to take over lives. Since the wife is a “slave” to her wall-screen family, it’s clear that the movie uses TV to subdue the masses. But the movie was made in 1966, and the book was written in 1953, before the true advent of a TV in every home. His remarks about the power of TV were made in 2007, and his codas to the various editions of the book before that date suggest censorship was a prime concern then. “Over the years, the novel has been subject to various interpretations, primarily focusing on the historical role of book burning in suppressing dissenting ideas. Bradbury has stated that the novel is not about censorship; he states that Fahrenheit 451 is a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature, which ultimately leads to ignorance of total facts.

Bradbury has stated that the entirety of his novel was written in the basement of UCLA’s Powell library on a pay typewriter. His original intention in writing Fahrenheit 451was to show his great love for books and libraries. He has often referred to Montag as an allusion to himself.” See my earlier post on “Fahrenheit 451:…” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahrenheit_451_%281966_film%29 (the film); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahrenheit_451 (the book). There is also a new film version coming out in 2009.

Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars (2004)

The Peacekeeper Wars

User rating 8.1/10, IMDB. Saturns for Best Actress in TV, Best Actor in TV, and Best TV Presentation. Directed by Brian Hensen. Its a miniseries based on the TV series on SciFi Channel, intended to tie up loose ends after the show was cancelled in 2002, and starring Claudia Black and Ben Browder, who went on to the Stargate franchise on SciFi. “When a full-scale war is engaged by the evil Scarran Empire, the Peacekeeper Alliance has but one hope: reassemble human astronaut John Crichton, once sucked into the Peacekeeper galaxy through a wormhole. Crichton’s task: Get the entire Peacekeeper race to safety before the last war of an era brings an end to the universe.” smatthew-2, IMDB

“John Crichton may not have started the war – but only he can end it.” Since this is based on the show, the plot is too complex to sketch, and you really have to be a fan to watch it; although it can stand alone, you get much more out of it if you are knowledgeable about the Farsacpe mythos. Much like Firefly’s Serenity, this mini-series exists because of massive fan support. “Henson and others have attributed the return of Farscapeto the on-going campaign of fans. Fans mounted a massive letter, phone, e-mail, and advertisement campaign and hoped to pressure Sci-Fi into restoring the show or another, more financially solvent, network to take over.” Similar campaigns rage over the TV show Surface, and Invasion, as well as a few others. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farscape:_The_Peacekeeper_Wars

Fountain, The (2206)

User rating 7.6/10, IMDB. Directed and written by Darren Aronofsky, and starring Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz and Ellen Burstyn. “Three stories – one each from the past, present, and future – about men in pursuit of eternity with their love. A conquistador in Mayan country searches for the tree of life to free his captive queen; a medical researcher, working with various trees, looks for a cure that will save his dying wife; a space traveler, traveling with an aged tree encapsulated within a bubble, moves toward a dying star that’s wrapped in a nebula; he seeks eternity with his love. The stories intersect and parallel; the quests fail and succeed.” jhailey, IMDB

“What If You Could Live Forever?” Originally set to star Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, Pitt left, and production shut down for several years. It was revived with Jackman, and Weisz. “[It] follows three interwoven narratives that take place in the age of conquistadors, the modern-day period, and the far future. Jackman and Weisz’s romance exists in all three time periods. The Fountain explores the themes of love and mortality, drawing influences from Mayan mythology. The film is framed with visual language by using transition scenes, light, and shapes.” A visual stunning, but complex and at times confusing movie – I found it necessary to watch it several times in order to understand the interwoven themes fully.

Galaxy Quest (1999)

User rating 7.2/10, IMDB. It won the Saturn for Best Actor. Directed by Dean Parisot, and starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shaloub, and Alan Rickman among others. “Eighteen years after their sci-fi adventure show “Galaxy Quest” was canceled, actors Jason Nesmith, Gwen DeMarco, Alexander Dane, Tommy Webber, and Fred Kwan are making appearances at sci-fi conventions and store openings in costume and character. They’re wallowing in despair and at each other’s throats until aliens known as Thermians arrive and, having mistaken the show for fact and consequently modeling their entire culture around it, take them into space to save them from the genocidal General Sarris and his armada.” Jeff Cross, IMDB

“The show has been cancelled…but the adventure is just beginning.” This classic and goofy send-up of the Star Trek franchise down to the Red Shirts is a hoot. Red shirts, for those of you who have managed to escape Star Trek’s reach, are those extras in the show, who have only first, last or no names, and are always the first ones to die. Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of “Guy” the Galaxy Quest character with no last name, who becomes convinced he is the first to die is spot-on. He eventually is given a last name to calm his fears. The movie is a must-see and must-have for all fans of the genre, who don’t mind poking a little fun at themselves. Tim Allen does William Shatner to a T. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galaxy_Quest

Gattaca (1997)

User rating 7.7/10, IMDB. OFCS #52. Directed and written by Andrew Niccol, and starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Jude Law. “Vincent is one of the last “natural” babies born into a sterile, genetically-enhanced world, where life expectancy and disease likelihood are ascertained at birth. Myopic and due to die at 30, he has no chance of a career in a society that now discriminates against your genes, instead of your gender, race or religion. Going underground, he assumes the identity of Jerome, crippled in an accident, and achieves prominence in the Gattaca Corporation, where he is selected for his lifelong desire: a manned mission to Saturn. Constantly passing gene tests by diligently using samples of Jerome’s hair, skin, blood and urine, his now-perfect world is thrown into increasing desperation, his dream within reach, when the mission director is killed – and …. the police start to close in, with extra searches, and new gene tests. With the once-in-a-lifetime launch only days away, Vincent must avoid arousing suspicion, while passing the tests, evading the police, and not knowing whom he can trust… ” Cynan Rees, IMDB

“There Is No Gene For The Human Spirit.” This movie seems that it can’t be that old. It isn’t dated in the least, and is a great uplifting tale of one man’s quest to fulfill his dream, in a world ruled with an iron fist. Since he is inferior, he can’t do what he wants, but he finds a way around it, celebrating man’s ingenuity. A must-see, and a great movie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gattaca

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The (2006)

User rating 6.6/10, IMDB. Directed by Garth Jennings and based on the book by Doug Admas. Starring Martin Freemna, Mos Def, Bill Nighy, and Sam Rockwell, among many others. “Waking up one morning, a British man named Arthur Dent awakes and find his house is going to be demolished. But for Arthur, the demolition of his house is only the beginning, Arthur’s friend eccentric Ford Prefect reveals to Earth that he is not human and he is a alien from a planet called Bettleguise and is a researcher of a electronic book called “The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. Ford saves Arthur when Earth is wiped out by the Vogons who have demolished the Earth to make way for a new intergalactic motorway. Embarking on a intergalactic adventure, Arthur and Ford are joined by two-headed former president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, intelligent human woman Trillian and Marvin, a depressed android, travels across the galaxy on-board Zaphod’s stolen spaceship “Heart of Gold”. Where they set out to discover the meaning of life and travel to the newly constructed Earth II, where Slartibartfast reveals the truth about the original Earth, that was destroyed by the Vogons.” Daniel Williamson, IMDB

“Don’t Panic.” “The movie begins with the narrator (voiced by Stephen Fry) explaining that dolphins, the second most-intelligent mammals on Earth (humans being the third and mice being the first), have been trying to warn mankind about the impending destruction of Earth. Their backflips and swimming patterns, according to the Guide, are their way of communicating with humans. Considering their mission a failure, the dolphins decide to leave, after passing their final message ‘So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.'” That about sums up this wild ride through the galaxy. Based on the original book and then the TV series, this is a short version of what is really a complex, twisting journey through the Galaxy, and if anything, just remember “42.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy_%28film%29; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy_%28book%29 (the book); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy_%28TV_series%29 (the 1981 BBC cult classic TV series).

I, Robot (2004)

User rating 7.2/20, IMDB. Directed by Alex Proyas, and loosely based on the book by Isaac Asimov. Starring Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell, and Bruce Greenwood. “It’s the year 2035, and the community now has the help of robots. These robots have three laws integrated into their system. One, they cannot harm a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Two, they must do whatever they’re told by a human being as long as such orders don’t conflict with law one. Three, they have to defend themselves as long as such defense doesn’t conflict with laws one or two. One day, the writer of the three laws, Alfred Lanning, apparently jumps out of the tenth-floor window of U.S. Robotics. The majority of the Chicago Police Department believe that he committed suicide, but Detective Del Spooner (Smith), who hates robots, thinks he was murdered, and the number one suspect is a Nestor Class-5 robot who calls himself Sonny. However, if it was Sonny, then that means he would’ve had to have broken the three laws. With the help of Dr. Susan Calvin, Spooner must now discover the truth before it’s too late.” Ridley Lavine, IMDB

“Laws are made to be broken.” This is a classic from the start. It has become my 14 yr old’s favorite movie, and she is picky. I too love the progress that Will Smith’s character makes as he progresses from skeptic to believer. The three laws of Robotics could have been given more screen time, since they are the heart and soul of the story, and a generation of SF writers have based their robots on those laws, and robotics engineers have too. However, “[t]he tone of the movie upset some fans of Asimov’s works, which are almost devoid of scenes of explicit violence. The movie is largely an action-oriented story, involving police and mobs fighting or evading hordes of rampaging robots. This “Frankenstein complex” or “robot as menace” type of story was something that Asimov disliked. Asimov’s robot stories, in contrast, were the first to treat robots as useful, exploring the effects they would have on lives and their interactions with people. Rarely do Asimov’s robots break the Three Laws (for instance, by harming a human being) and, if they do, they are generally rendered inoperable as a result.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%2C_Robot_%28film%29

Asimov however saw the “need” for violence in what he called eye-science-fiction, or SF movies. “The purveyors of eye-sci-fi cannot assume that their audience knows anything about science, has any experience with the scientific imagination, or even has any interest in science fiction.

But, in that case, why should the purveyors of eye-sci-fi expect anyone to see the pictures? Because they intend to supply something that has no essential connection with science fiction, but that tens of millions of people are willing to pay money to see. What is that? Why, scenes of destruction.

You can have spaceships destroying spaceships, monsters destroying cities, comets destroying the Earth. These are called ‘special effects’ and it is what people go for. A piece of eye-sci-fi without destruction is, I think, almost unheard of. If such a thing were made, no one would go to see it; or, if it were so good that it would indeed pull a small audience, it would not be thought of as science fiction of any kind.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%2C_Robot_%28film%29; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%2C_Robot (the original Isaac Asimov book); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Laws_of_Robotics (the Three Laws of Robotics)

Island, The (2005)

User rating 6.9/10, IMDB. Directed by Michael Bay and starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. “Lincoln Six-Echo is a resident of a seemingly Utopian but contained facility in the mid 21st century. Like all of the inhabitants of this carefully controlled environment, Lincoln hopes to be chosen to go to the “The Island” – reportedly the last uncontaminated spot on the planet. But Lincoln soon discovers that everything about his existence is a lie. He and all of the other inhabitants of the facility are actually human clones. Lincoln makes a daring escape with a beautiful fellow resident named Jordan Two-Delta. Relentlessly pursued by the forces of the sinister institute that once housed them, Lincoln and Jordan engage in a race for their lives to literally meet their makers.” bondish, IMDB

“They don’t want you to know what you are.” This is a good, solid under-rated thriller SciFi movie. Nothing special, no super visual effects, no eye-popping violence or terror, just good suspense and thrills. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Island_%282005_film%29

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

User rating 4.7/10, IMDB. Directed by Robert Longo and based on a short story by William Gibson. Starring Keanu Reeves. “Johnny is a data trafficker who has an implant that allows him to securely store data too sensitive for regular computer networks. His brain can carry nearly 80 gigabytes worth of data, or 160 gigabytes if he uses a doubler. Johnny uses this implant to act as a courier between contracting parties. On one delivery run, he accepts a package that not only exceeds the implant’s safety limits (and will thus kill him if the data isn’t removed in time), but also proves to contain information far more important and valuable than he had ever imagined. He has to remove the data and avoid being killed by assassins sent after him by the company who owns the data.” Wikipedia

The hottest data on earth. In the coolest head in town.” This is classic cyberpunk. The movie, along with Blade Runner that best exemplified this sub-genre of SciFi. William Gibson’s short story provided the framework for this movie. It’s fast, furious, and dangerous. Packed with thrills, heart-stopping suspense, and the coolest tech imagined this side of the millennium. Must-have and must-see. Seriously under-rated. It’s dark, dystopian, but exciting and imaginative. “It portrays Gibson’s standard dystopian view of the future with the world dominated by large corporations and with strong East Asian influences. There is one major difference in the film and that is in inclusion of NAS. “Neural Attenuation Syndrome (NAS) is a fictional diseasein the film, which is not present in the short story. NAS, also called “the black shakes”, is caused by an overexposure to electromagnetic radiation from omnipresent technological devices, and is presented as a raging epidemic affecting the world in the future. The plot of the film revolves around the one pharmaceutical corporation that has found a cure but chooses to withhold it from the public in favor of a more lucrative treatment program.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Mnemonic_%28film%29; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Mnemonic (the short story).

Jurassic Park (1993)

User rating 7.7/20, IMDB. OFCS #29. Won the Saturn for Best Director, Best Writing, and Best SF Film. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and based on the Michael Crichton novel. Starring Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Sir Richard Attenborough. “On a remote island, a wealthy entrepreneur secretly creates a theme park featuring living dinosaurs drawn from prehistoric DNA. Before opening the attraction to the public, he invites a top paleontologist, a paleobotanist, a mathematician/theorist, and his two eager grandchildren to experience the park — and help calm anxious investors. However, their park visit is anything but tranquil as the park’s security system breaks down, the prehistoric creatures break out, and the excitement builds to surprising results.” Richard Lynch, IMDB

“An Adventure 65 Million Years In The Making.” This is THE dinosaur, lost island adventure. We took our oldest daughter to it when she was six. She was terrified that the dinosaurs were real. I spent several hours that night, calming her down, explaining about special effects, and how they made the movie, etc. Eventually she began to creep down the stairs to watch bits when it came out on VHS and finally became one of it’s biggest fans, and collected all the figurines and sets; it’s still a family favorite, along with Lost World: Jurassic Park II, and Jurassic Park III. Supposedly, Jurassic Park IV is scheduled for release in 2009 (which looks right now, if they stay on schedule, which might be a problem with the strike, to be a banner year for SciFi).

See Part III for more of the DVD collection…

SciFi movie night – get your popcorn while it’s hot!

This is my second attempt – the first, almost done, disappeared into the depths of cyberspace, after a day of work. This is actually be the first of several installments on SciFi movies – this one is from my personal DVD collection (and will in several parts, alphabetical, due to length), the next will be from my VHS collection, then those that are based on comicbook adaptations, one on post-apocalyptics (so you’ll see ones like Mad Max, and On the Beach missing from this list), one for Kids, Anime, and Animated, and one for those movies I don’t actually own (sigh…). And maybe later, one of TV series on DVD. Keep in mind that as this is a list of those in my collection, there are many I am missing, and some I have are not the “best.” But for whatever reason, I have them, and so they will be included. All of them are available in DVD on this list.

Whenever possible, I will pull up the place on the list from the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS): International Critics Group Celebrates a Century of Sci-Fi With List of the Top 100 Films from the Past 100 Years. http://ofcs.rottentomatoes.com/pages/pr/top100scifi. Also, the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA puts out a Saturn Award each year, and I will try and note it if the film wins the award for Best Sceince Fiction Film of that year.

I will pull most of the information from IMDB and also include Wikipedia cites. For more information there is the Online Film Critics top 100 SF movies: http://ofcs.rottentomatoes.com/pages/pr/top100scifi, and SciFi Movie reviews: http://www.scifimoviepage.com/movies.html.

So here goes- get the popcorn, dim the lights, and enjoy the show:

Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The (1984)

User rating 5.9/10, IMDB. #93, OFCS. Directed by W.D. Richter, and starring Peter Weller, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd and John Lithgow. “Neurosurgeon/Rock Star/Superhero Buckaroo has perfected the oscillation overthruster, which allows him to travel through solid matter by using the eighth dimension. The Red Lectroids from Planet 10 [evil creatures from the 8th dimension (all named John)] are after this device for their own evil ends, and it’s up to Buckaroo and his band and crime-fighting team The Hong Kong Cavaliers to stop them. Jon Reeves and Greg Boles, IMDB

“Expect the unexpected. He does.” A cult favorite, inclduing mine, it’s a non-stop, rollicking adventure, campy and very ’80s, but a riff on SciFi. Do not make the mistake of trying to understand it, or take it seriously – this is just popcorn fun. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adventures_of_Buckaroo_Banzai_Across_the_8th_Dimension

AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)

User rating 6.8/10, IMDB. #25, OFCS. Directed by Steven Spielberg, from a short story by Brian Aldiss. Won the Saturn. Starring William Hurt, Haley Joel Osmont, and Jude Law. “In the not-so-far future the polar ice caps have melted and the resulting raise of the ocean waters has drowned all the coastal cities of the world. Withdrawn to the interior of the continents, the human race keeps advancing, reaching to the point of creating realistic robots (called mechas) to serve him. One of the mecha-producing companies builds David, an artificial kid which is the first to have real feelings, especially a never-ending love for his “mother”, Monica. Monica is the woman who adopted him as a substitute for her real son, who remains in cryo-stasis, stricken by an incurable disease. David is living happily with Monica and her husband, but when their real son returns home after a cure is discovered, his life changes dramatically. A futuristic adaptation of the tale of Pinocchio, with David being the “fake” boy who desperately wants to become ‘real.'” Chris Makrazohopoulos, IMDB

“David is 11 years old. He weighs 60 pounds. He is 4 feet, 6 inches tall. He has brown hair. His love is real. But he is not.” This is a box of kleenex movie. A good tale, with a nice classic Spielberg ending: think Close Encounters. Definitely worth a look, if not a place on your shelf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AI:_Artificial_Intelligence

Alien (1979)

User rating 8.5/10, IMDB. #10, OFCS. Directed by Ridley Scott. Won the Saturn. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, and John Hurt. “When commercial towing vehicle Nostromo, heading back to Earth, intercepts an SoS signal from a nearby planet, the crew are under obligation to investigate. After a bad landing on the planet, some crew members leave the ship to explore the area. At the same time as they discover a hive colony of some unknown creature, the ship’s computer deciphers the message to be a warning, not a call for help. When one of the eggs is disturbed, the crew do not know the danger they are in until it is too late.” Graeme Roy, IMDB

“In space no one can hear you scream.” This was once my bug-a-boo movie, along with The Exorcist. My then boyfriend (now my ex) took me to it for my birthday, and I can only say I say up until the dining table scene and the rest was spent lying down in his lap. After the movie, we went a few days later to my mom’s for dinner, and she gave me a Russian onyx carving she had picked up – a bird-liek creature coming out of an egg. Needless t say, I was horrified, and had to explain it all. It’s now a family joke. Years (20+) later, I got over my horror film panic and began to enjoy the genre to some extent, and this became one of my staple films, along with Aliens, and the rest of the set. I only wished I could have bought the nine-volume quadrilogy set. I ony have the set in a silver boxed edition. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_%28film%29

An Elegant Universe (2003)

User rating 8.3/10, IMDB. A 3- part series originally aired on NOVA, it’s a documentary based on the self-titled book by Brian Greene. “Eleven dimensions, parallel universes, and a world made out of strings. It’s not science fiction, it’s string theory.” Worth a look for background information on SciFact.

Astronaut’s Wife, The (1999)

User rating 4.8/10, IMDB. Directed by Rand Ravik, and Starring Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron. “Astronaut Spencer Armacoust was on a mission when he suddenly lost contact. When he got home, to friends he was the same, but to his wife he was different. She becomes pregnant, but as time progresses she begins to feel like the lives inside of her are not of this world.” Brian Levin, IMDB

“How well do you know the one you love?” This one is just pure entertainment and Depp value – nothing more. It’s not deep, visually exciting, but is your basic SciFi thriller. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Astronaut%27s_Wife

AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)

User rating 4.8/10, IMDB. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, and starring Lance Henriksen and Sanaa Lathan. “The satellite of a company owned by the millionaire Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) locates in Antarctica an unidentified source of heat and a pyramid with indication of three different primitive cultures built six hundred meters below a deactivated whaling station. Weyland hires expertize, including an archeologist and an electronic engineer, and organizes an expedition leaded by Alexa Woods (Sannaa Lathan). When they reach their target, they realize that the place is indeed the stage of an ancient war between two breeds, and humans are only kettle in this game. They pick a side, based on the saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Claudio Carvalho, IMDB

“Whoever wins… We lose.” This gets a much lower user rating than I would have given it – I LOVE this movie. It’s the culmination of the Alien movies and Predator, which also took me time to enjoy (oh, all those lost years of watching…). It’s a classic battleground flick, where you have to pick a side, the one you think is less dangerous, and if you pick wrong, you lose. This is pulse-pounding sherr fun. A persoal favorite, that will always be on my shelf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AVP:_Alien_Vs._Predator

Black Hole, The (1979)

User rating 5.5/10, IMDB. Directed by Gary Nelson for Walt Disney Productions, and starring Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins, and Ernest Borgnine. The voices of the main robot characters in the film are provided by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens. “The crew of the spaceship Palamino stumbles across the ”lost” ship U.S.S. Cygnus, hovering on the edge of an immense black hole. Once aboard, they find the ship is manned by robots – it’s only human inhabitant, one Dr. Hans Reinhardt; an eminent scientist, missing for the past twenty years. His plan – to enter the Black Hole . . . Whether Dr. Reinhardt is a genius or a mad-man, one thing is for sure, he will not be denied his life’s dream. What lies beyond the Black Hole? Immortality . . . or, Oblivion . . . ? ” Mark Harding, IMDB

“A journey that begins where everything ends!” Although not a serious science fiction work, it had notable special effects for it’s time, and was the first Disney movie not to have a universal rating (G), which led to the development ofTouchstone Pictures and it’s more adult oriented division. For it’s time, it’s a good film, a little dated now, but still worth a look in context, since it was revolutionary, but eclipsed by the earlier Star Wars movie. A sentimental favorite for those of my generation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Hole

Cell, The (2000)

User rating 6.1/10, IMDB. #72 OFCS. Directed by Tarsim Singh, and starring Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaugh, and Vincent D’Onofrio. Won the Saturn. “Catharine Deane is a psychotherapist who is part of a revolutionary new treatment which allows her mind to literally enter the mind of her patients. Her experience in this method takes an unexpected turn when an FBI agent comes to ask for a desperate favour. They had just tracked down a notorious serial killer, Carl Stargher, whose MO is to abduct women one at a time and place them in a secret area where they are kept for about 40 hours until they are slowly drowned. Unfortunately, the killer has fallen into an irreversible coma which means he cannot confess where he has taken his latest victim before she dies. Now, Catherine Deane must race against time to explore the twisted mind of the killer to get the information she needs, but Stargher’s damaged personality poses dangers that threaten to overwhelm her.” Kenneth Chisholm, IMDB

“This Summer… Enter The Mind Of A Killer.” This one is a bit strange, and requires an extra viewing to really “get” it, at least for me, but it’s worth a look just for D’Onofrio, who is a favorite on mine for his work on Law & Order, Criminal Intent’s Det. Goren. He is an intense actor, and the perfect casting for this part. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cell

Chronicles of Riddick, The (2004)

User rating 6.3/10, IMDB. Directed by David Twohy, and starring Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Judi Dench, with Thandie Newton and Colm Feore. “Five years ago… Escaped convict Richard B. Riddick escaped from a desert planet with his two companions, religious man Imam and runaway teenage girl Jack. After five years wandering across the outskirts of the galaxy and being hunted by bounty hunters calming the bounty on his head, Riddick arrives on the colonized planet New Mecca, he learns Imam placed the bounty on his head and Jack has been imprisoned on the prison planet “Crematoria” for murder. Riddick learns from Aereon, ambassador of the Elemental race is seeking out Furians, a race of warriors in a bid to balance the universe, as a warrior army known as The Necromongers led by the evil undead Lord Marshal are invading every planet in the galaxy and cleansing all of humanity in their goal for universal conquest. Beliving Riddick is a Furian warrior, Aereon decides to hire Riddick believing he is the one man who can stop The Lord Marshal and the Necromongers. When the Necromongers attacks New Mecca, Riddick is captured by cocky bounty hunter Toombs and his crew and he is transported to Crematoria, where he reunites with Jack now named ‘Kyra’, where Riddick and Kyra escapes to the planet’s sun ravaged surface, where Riddick helped by Necromonger warrior Vakko and his sexy wife Dame Vakko, sets out to defeat the Lord Marshal and save the universe from the Lord Marshal’s rule and save the rest of humanity from being converted into Nercomonger warriors.” Daniel Williamson, IMDB

“There is no future until you settle the past.” This is a much more sumptious Dune than it’s prequel Pitch Black. Full of court intrique, prison scenes reminiscent of the earlier Outlander, and plots, counter-plots, and twists and turns. Still a good, solid movie for Vin Diesel fans, and the final race against time is worth it. It’s on my must-have list. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Riddick

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

User rating 7.8/10, IMDB. #8 OFCS. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, and Teri Garr. “Cableman Roy Neary is one of several people who experience a close encounter of the first kind, witnessing UFOs flying through the night sky. He is subsequently haunted by a mountainlike image in his head and becomes obsessed with discovering what it represents, putting severe strain on his marriage. Meanwhile, government agents around the world have a close encounter of the second kind, discovering physical evidence of otherworldly visitors in the form of military vehicles that went missing decades ago suddenly appearing in the middle of nowhere. Roy and the agents both follow the clues they have been given to reach a site where they will have a close encounter of the third kind: contact.” mlohner, IMDB

“We are not alone.” A landmark SciFi film, not only for it’s special effects, but also for it’s portrayal of aliens as benign, rather than the War of the Worlds type that had sterotyped generations of movies. For years, we mounded our potatoes into the classic Devil’s Tower shape, whcih we had visited many times as a kid before the movie, which came out a year after I graduated from high school (which didn’t stop the mashed potato thing). And the five note scale became a device used by many – that math would be the universal constant, along with music (mathematically based) that would allow aliens to connect with us. Indeed, much of what was sent out as a greeting to space consisted of mathematcis and music. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Close_Encounters_of_the_Third_Kind

Addendum – comments on my Fire Upon the Deep post

Below is a response to my comments/criticisms to A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vine that I think bear repeating (and I have his permission)! I am also inserting my return comments in order to clarify my thoughts on it. Just a filler while I think about whether I really want to redo many hours of work on my SciFi movie night post that I somehow deleted by accident. It was the first of several, this one being from my DVD collection. How I hate computers sometimes. In pen and paper days you could at least dig through the trash!

“I appreciate the thought and effort that Kristin has put into this discussion on Fire Upon the Deep, the Singularity and Transcendents.

I didn’t have a lot of problems with the Zones of Thought, first because I recognized them as a writer’s device to tell a story, but also because the idea seemed plausible. There was an implication that Transcendent technology relied heavily on advanced computing technology. In fact, the micro-jumps depended on the ships’ computers being able to make the calculations. What is wrong with the idea that a field of some sort can slow down the electronic interactions necessary for advanced computing? I’m not a physicist, so I can’t supply an explanation, but the idea is not implausible.”

I guess I never thought of the Zones of Thought as being a literary device. I saw it as an extension of his Singularity ideas, and therefore found it lacking. As a writer’s device, it can of course be anything he wishes, inconsistencies and all, although I still wish he had gone into a deeper explanation, since he can’t hide behind the “it’s too complex” thing. So he could have given us lots of cool stuff to spark our imaginations and soar.

“Also, I didn’t have a problems with the Tines as a race that had shared minds. I think Vinge handled that concept rather well. If we look at a race that has shared intelligence, obviously if you add more members the
intelligence increases until you get something Godlike. But, the personalities would seem to put a brake on the interaction, as well as just the basic noise of communications. So, Vinge put a limited of 10-15 individuals per pack so he could have many individuals.”

I didn’t either by the end of the book – they turned out to be an interesting device, once I got over my animal race/medieval setting dislike that smacks of fantasy.

“I agree that Vinge did not do a good job in explaining what a Transcendent society or being might be like. I think that that is an inherent limitation in the concept.. Read Vinge’s classic paper on the Singularity at
_http://mindstalk.net/vinge/vinge-sing.html_
(http://mindstalk.net/vinge/vinge-sing.html)
and you can see that he is proposing that a supra-human entity (whether a pure machine intelligence or a human-machine hybrid) would not be bound by our same instincts and social mores, and would become very difficult for us to understand, just as we are very difficult for our dogs to understand.”

Chris

I still disagree with Chris about this to some extent – see my comments in “Final Thoughts.” I do believe that if you come up with the idea, that you must have SOME idea of what these Transcendents would be like – or how else can you predict their existence? And he does make some references to some of their powers – tech stuff that comes down, Powers beyond the Powers, the fact that they CAN be overcome by something greater than they, that was created by lesser beings (the Blight), etc. This will always be an agree to disagree between me, Chris and others, and Vinge.

My only regret is that he created something innovative and marvelous in its thought, but because of its intrinsic nature, he can’t/won’t explain any more. My personal “idea,” pernicious as it is, is that he just doesn’t want to explain it – that it’s his idea, and if he gives too much away, others will use it, as they have the basic premise. I do believe that secretly he has some ideas of what these beings are – we are more than dogs, and to compare us to them is not an apt analogy to me, although it has some merits. We are reasoning individuals, so I personally think, IMVHO, that we CAN begin at least to understand things beyond us. Many have a concept of God, and he/she is surely beyond them? Isn’t that a better analogy? That these god-like creatures, as they are described, can be understood in that context? Surely, as thinking, reasoning beings, which dogs are not, we can conceptualize them? Although in terms of development, we are probably like the dogs in terms of evolutionary steps. But being higher up the evolutionary plane, and being “human” and able to create and that’s the operative word, a higher order of things, we should be able to have some understanding of them and be able to write at least something about them. Otherwise, it’s just an academic exercise and should have stayed so, not become a fictional device. I just really dislike things that are not explained, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now!

Final thoughts on the Singularity, Zones of Thought, and A Fire Upon the Deep

Warning: as it is final comments, there are a number of BIG spoilers, so if you plan to read the book, and don’t read the endings first like my mother, put it aside and read when you are done with the book, or if you have short-term memory problems like me, go ahead and read it – you’ll forget it all by the time you read the book. : )

A Fire Upon the Deep

I just finished the book about 1am today (Friday). I took some time, due to the scale of the book, and the thought processes it took. For some reason, the complexity of ideas made me think, and when I think, I close my eyes, and when I close my eyes, well, zzzzz…

So, here it is, in order of thought as I went through, arranged in reading order, not in order to make sense, at least until the final summation. For those of you who love this book, my final thoughts are better than the first ones, although I still have some comments/complaints. I DO know how hard it is to see a favorite book “torn apart” by someone – I had that happen to me with a favorite SS (Nine Billion Names of God by Clarke) from ages past that I reread periodically – it was trashed, and didn’t truly hold up to the light of day (although I still think it’s better than most of that short a length), and I was crushed. Hurt.

Although I still think the one I couldn’t get many to read, “The Star” (Clarke), DID stand the test, and looking back on it, it was one of the crystallizing forces for my beliefs – they did not change because of the story – but put a face on them, and made sense of them, so I could better understand not only my rational responses, but my visceral responses as well, which had been largely ignored by me.

That said, here goes:

I still have trouble with the “Zones of Thought” – and did throughout the book. For example – how can a computer, made in the Middle Beyond, get “dumber” as the book calls it, the lower (or closer to the core) they go? And what is with the “depth” of the zones vs. the closer to the galactic core? I know someone tried to explain, but I’m still obtuse about it. The book talks over and over about the galactic plane, and how the Slowness and the Deep are close in, but they also refer to it as depths. I know space is 3-D, so what gives? Am I that much an idiot on geometry? I also know there is some extension up and down from the plane, but in reality, the book talks about the plane and the Depths as one.

Automation stopped working or became slower in the Depths. Same question really as before. How can automation, which sems to be a done deal, unless it uses unknown forces, change within the Zones? What properties of the Zones allow this change? I know the machines were made higher up, but why do they change? The people don’t, so why does the machinery? Why do the ultra-drives stop working, and only ram-scoops work? Why can’t “modern” machinery work down in the slowness, and why/how must the races there be “trapped”, since many make it out, or there would be no Lower, Middle or High Beyond, let alone Transcend.

Vinge says we can’t begin to understand about Transcendents, nor can any writer truly write about them, but yet he SPOILER HERE!!!!!
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states there is a “glimpse of evil on a Transcend scale” when he talks about the Skroderiders, and what was done to them. How can we “glimpse” this evil, and understand the Skroderiders, as they are well discussed/described in their perversion, if they come from the Transcend (or higher)?

The book talks about operating at Sjandra Kei’s “altitude” in the beyond – does that refer to the height they were in the sense of the Beyonds, or something else?

I don’t know much about video streaming, but they talk about video (although partial and dredged from old videos with voice/animation patched in), being possible in the Slowness at 4000 bits/sec. Now I know that I download at some kilobytes per second, and it’s slooow. Wouldn’t video be almost impossible at that speed, or am I reading the KB v Bits wrong? Or is this just another “error” from old computing in the 90’s?

He talks about Slowness being thought of as “the domain of cretins and mechanical calculators” several times – yet he seems to have admiration for the race (Tines) he created for that “depth” but then he says that there was “something to that” [meaning the cretins and calculators]. Why did some of the stuff that Ravna (I remember her name now) used to help Steel work? Was it strictly stuff the old races used to help move out of the Slowness, or were they more of the creation of the Beyond, which means in his parlance, they shouldn’t work. And why does much of the ship still work; even though it has been retrofitted to be like a bottom-lugger, there must still be systems from Beyond, or how else could Pilgrim fly it – it can’t all be a mechanical calculator.

And after the Surge, her wrist display had only a “few alpha-numeric” lines – if it was just a mechanical calculator in concept, shouldn’t it not work at all? And the “landing boat”, the flier, could still be flown although contrary to the Zone it “worked with electronics that were barely more than glorified moving parts.” But they still were electronics, as were the radios. And agrav worked. Now there was little discussion on how that (agrav) worked, but I would think it more than “mechanical.”

And Dataset, obviously electronic, has worked all along – now I know it’s necessary for a plot device, but doesn’t it’s existence in the Slowness directly contradict the Zone rules? And Greenstalk’s new Skrode, although clearly base in design, must have some kind of technology if it is to serve as an interface for her – without it she is nothing more than a lesser Rider, as will be her descendants, when her Skrode fails. So how can the Skrode either be an interface (and thus clearly defying the Zone laws), or a simple mechanical wheelchair, which mean she can’t have the ability to keep memories, which she does, although to a lesser degree. She is still making memories, at least from the text of the book.

At the end of the book, the Queen talks about how the agrav will fail within a few years and be unable to be replaced. Yet Pilgrim thinks they can bypass a hundred years or so of development, and have working space-flight, and eventually escape the Slowness, which now encompasses a large part of the galaxy, (a wedge perhaps?), all the way up to the Transcend and into it. So they would have to move across the plane into non-affected areas. But how do they eventually “make” stuff that can move them out if the Zone doesn’t allow it? Do they “think” themselves out of it? I just don’t get the laws. They seem contradictory.

More BIG SPOILER ALERT:
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And how did there come to be “Powers” BEYOND the Powers? If we can’t begin to understand the Transcend, or write about it, how on earth can we even know about a race beyond it, or speculate about it as creating the Counter-measure? “Cloud People”?? Who on earth on they? And he writes: “Oh, the ghost of the Old One is amused. Seeing beyond the Powers was almost worth dying for.” So, he knows something about the big T.

And Pham brings down the Beyond, to move the Blight closer, then creates the surge that pushes it back into the Transcend, according to the end of the book, and effectively trapping the Blight in the Slowness. How. I know it’s the countermeasure, but i wish it were better described. I know, you can’t describe something you don’t understand, but then how can you create the idea at all? To create you must have some idea. And if so, then share it!

Now for the summation – putting aside all my questions about the Slowness and the Zones of Thought, which I thought were poorly conceived, and executed. BUT, a big BUT, I did begin to like the Tines, even though I hate dog/wolf/owl races, and medieval times (although I liked them well enough to study them as English History…weird), but as an alien race, I came to a better understanding of how they worked later in the book (in one line they were described as at long range as looking sort of like a spider – which would have helped 600 pages before!), and their distributed intelligence, which was better explained and executed in the finale I thought, with the Flenser fragment separating miles with the radio cloaks abilities, and with the merging of Amdijefri.

And I liked the ending – happy – most loose ends tied up, but with possibilities still intact, although since he’s said no more space-operas, I guess there won’t be any more “explanations.” I liked Greenstalk’s end, the way the “two-legs” and Tines worked better together, although it appeared that the Tines came out on top of that deal. And the den-mother for librarian Ravna was an okay ending – something to hold on to in the endless exile she faces. With no human man/adult around, she will be alone forever. And that was not addressed – her loneliness – the kids will grow up and merge with the packs and the other cold-sleep kids, but who will she have? She didn’t seem close to anyone but Pilgrim maybe (and that was only late in the book when she met him, and he is with the Queen). So there is no pack for her to meld with.

She is truly the only one alone. Even Greenstalk will have her children and with her shallow memories, will be okay, although she has fond memories of Blueshell. So, being alone myself at a time in my life when I should be happy with lots of family, I feel for her future. What will she do – they are cut off from the net (her job/life) and the archives forever, or until the move up, at which time she will be dead. Will she just be a den-mother? But the kids will grow up. Will she become a librarian of all that the packs/tribes know? But it’s all in their heads, for centuries – will she transcribe it – I wish they had given her more attention – after all it was her determination that got them there – since they needed the Skroderiders in the end, she was instrumental.

So I’ll try the prequel, but since I didn’t really like Pham, don’t like the name, and don’t like pirates/medieval settings/war, It’s a big question mark.

Again, sorry for the length, but I wanted to see if some of these thoughts would be addressed by anyone, and points cleared up or given an interpretation that I missed, which I wouldn’t get on my blog.

So, my score? Probably 8 or 7.5 for the Zones. But the story itself was satisfactory and had some interesting turns and twists and “fun” stuff, like “god-shatter,” Skroderiders, the early concepts of the Net, and the way packs changed over long periods of time, yet retained their “soul.” But it is dated, IMO. The fact that it relies on computers so much, and the format the messages are “delivered” in reminds me too much of earlier computing days. Some of those comments/complaints are in the earlier post. But when you skate near the edge of the future, without going over – in other-words, stick too close to the rules, rather than make them up as you go along, you run that risk – of being shown wrong. Of having the technology develop beyond what you wrote about, supposedly centuries/millenia later.

When one limits the imagination to extrapolation in SciFi, that can be the ultimate demise of the book. I have a feeling, that in 20 years time, it will not be standing next to 2001, or I, Robot, but will just be another good, old favorite. To me the best way to handle SciFi is either to make it near-future, if you want extrapolation of existing science (i.e. no FTL), OR make up your own rules, and science be damned. I personally, since I’m not a scientist, don’t hold to the same rigid standards as some HardSF readers do. I prefer books that stoke my imagination, and I simply cannot find that in-system settings, which is about as far as you can go, unless you use a generational ship, and those can get boring to me.

I want a Star Wars future – full of aliens, and cool things, but also full of ideals, ideas, and fun. I want Chindi, or Lady of Mazes, or Flux. I want to be amazed, to be delighted and to close the book with sigh, rather than just a “done with that, where’s the next,” knowing that with my memory, much will be forgotten by next week (although the blogs help cement some of it). But I wrote one on Rainbows End, and already much of it is beginning to disappear. Only the best and the brightest stay with me to any extent, and even then, it’s a mish-mash. I envy some, like a friend on the HardSF group, who can seemingly pull almost any book, author, plot and comments out of his endless memory – how wonderful that must be. I used to keep little index cards on each book I wrote, with title, publishing date, author, date read, rating, and small summary. That was many years ago, but I read about the same then as I do now, so I bet I could do it – just need to get in the habit, and find a cute old card catalog drawer set to put them in – I still have the old ones from 25 years ago!

Is 1984 just a little late, or is the Future here?

In some research I was doing I came across this bit of rather astounding recent (1/17/08) news:

Can Machines Issue Islamic Fatwas
http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=7&id=11493

“He [Dr. Anwas Fawzi] describes the device [Asharq Al-Awsat] as “a very large capacity computer on which all the information that is relevant to a given [historical] figure is uploaded; everything that has been mentioned in history books or chronicled documents that indicate his/her responses and attitudes towards all positions adopted in his/her life. Through a process that relies on AI, the computer then simulates responses based on the available data so that the answers are the expected response that the person in question would give if they were alive,”

And a discussion of it at technovelgy (where science meets fiction – an interesting site):

“Electronic Mufti’ May Issue Machine Fatwas: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1415

AND

I read about this in SF all the time – a favorite tech device of writers lately, but was sort of shocked to see it on Dvice (SciFi Channel’s science/tech news) and through Technovelgy – has the future arrived? New song: “And she’ll have fun, fun, fun, ’til her Daddy takes the lenses away”…

Here’s the Technovelgy article:
Circuit Contact Lens, Presaged By Niven, Barnes and Vinge:
http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1409

Here’s the University of Washington original story:
Contact lenses with circuits, lights a possible platform for superhuman
vision
:
http://uwnews.washington.edu/ni/article.asp?articleID=39094

Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Womanuse bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes — visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go. The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.“The UW engineers used microscopic scale manufacturing techniques to create a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with imprinted electronic circuits and lights. If used by human beings, a pair of contact lenses with circuits and lights would be the perfect display for augmented reality systems.
(Contact lens with circuits close-up)

‘Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside,’ said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering. ‘This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it’s extremely promising.'”

Here’s the DVice article:
Bionic vision contact lenses being developed :
http://dvice.com/archives/2008/01/bionic_vision_c.php

And for what’s out there now, check out this headset that is a VR set, with mini screen that mimics a real computer screen in front of your eyes – sort of an early lens prototype: http://www.vrealities.com/poma.html

And 1984 may be late, but Big Brother is here! – see the following articles:

Australasian Intelligent Speed Adaptation Initiative – Big Road Brother – A way to make cars slow down after a warning is given, and even stop them.
http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1402

“The technology uses GPS and a database that identifies speed limits on all roads and operates on three levels.

Drivers get an audible warning they are over the limit at level one.

At level two, the device cuts power to the engine to prevent the driver from speeding, but the system can be adjusted or overridden.

At level three, the system cannot be switched off or adjusted and all speeding is cut.

The device could be fitted to repeat speeding offenders, or to all vehicles.” Big Brother speed control to be trialled: http://au.news.yahoo.com/080108/2/15gt9.html

And in a Terminator take – FBI Demands SkyNet, Uh, Server in the Sky: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1405

“The FBI supports Server in the Sky, an international database of biometric data accessible by law enforcement officials in countries allied in the ‘war on terror.’

Although the database would be used to hunt criminals and terrorists, it would contain biometric information like iris scans, finger prints and facial images about ordinary citizens whose names have come up in criminal investigations. The FBI told the Guardian (a UK news organization):

‘Server in the Sky is an FBI initiative designed to foster the advanced search and exchange of biometric information on a global scale. While it is currently in the concept and design stages, once complete it will provide a technical forum for member nations to submit biometric search requests to other nations. It will maintain a core holding of the world’s ‘worst of the worst’ individuals. Any identifications of these people will be sent as a priority message to the requesting nation.’

Although the FBI proposes to establish three categories of suspects, the lowest category includes ‘subjects of terrorist investigations.’ Don’t forget that warrantless wiretapping projects target vast networks of innocent civilians as well as the few real suspects in an investigation.

The FBI hopes to have a pilot project up and running by the middle of this year.”

If your paranoiac streak is not fully satisfied by this story, see also:

DNA Fingerprint Database for Worker’s Gattaca-Style Proposed: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=640

“Do we need a national DNA or fingerprint database for all American workers to address the immigration problem? New York’s Republican mayor Michael Bloomberg has gone on record advocating such a plan – a biometric identification system [http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Technology-Article.asp?ArtNum=12] that would be compulsory for all workers.”

and in “Minority Report” style – “Precrime” Database For London Homicide Prevention Unit“: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=843

“Criminal profilers working for the London Metropolitan Police’s Homicide Prevention Unit are putting together a list of 100 future murderers.

I believe I am reading these reports correctly; they are not simply keeping a list of, let’s say, murderers who have done their time in prison and are now at large. This pilot project seeks to identify people who will in the future commit serious crimes.”…

“Instead they are using databases. It appears that the Unit is creating psychological profiles of likely offenders to predict patterns of behavior. Statements from former partners, information from mental health workers and details of past complaints are being combined to identify the 100 men most likely to commit murder in the near future.

Once an individual has been identified, police would decide whether to begin arrest proceedings, or alert social services who could steer targeted individuals into ‘management programs.'”

See “FBI wants instant access to British identity data“: http://www.guardian.co.uk/humanrights/story/0,,2241005,00.html

Tuesday January 15, 2008, The Guardian

Iris eye recognition ID cards
Each person’s iris is as individual as their fingerprint, but with 266 identifiable features is much more detailed. Photograph: Science Photo Library “Senior British police officials are talking to the FBI about an international database to hunt for major criminals and terrorists.

The US-initiated programme, ‘Server in the Sky’, would take cooperation between the police forces way beyond the current faxing of fingerprints across the Atlantic. Allies in the ‘war against terror’ – the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – have formed a working group, the International Information Consortium, to plan their strategy.

Biometric measurements, irises or palm prints as well as fingerprints, and other personal information are likely to be exchanged across the network. One section will feature the world’s most wanted suspects. The database could hold details of millions of criminals and suspects.”

Microchips To Be Implanted In UK Convicts: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1403

“RFID-based microchips will soon be used to tag prisoners, according to a Ministry of Justice official in the United Kingdom.

(VeriChip RFID tag for human implantation) I’m assuming that they want to use something like the VeriChip, which is a very small Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag about the size of a large grain of rice. It can be injected directly into the body; a special coating on the glass case of the chip helps it to bond with living tissue and stay in place. A special RFID reader broadcasts a signal, and the antenna in the VeriChip draws power from the reader and sends its data. The VeriChip is a passive RFID tag: since it does not require a battery, it has a virtually unlimited life span.

Officials want to use the technology to reduce overcrowding in prisons. The tagged prisoners would be released and then tracked.”

And for some crazy ideas, check out these futuristic techs:

Plasma-based propulsion is just one of OSU’s crazy projects for DARPA: http://dvice.com/archives/2008/01/plasmabased_pro.php

Plasma-thrusters.jpg
“The big brains at DARPA are at it again, this time teaming up with Oklahoma State University to develop unmanned aerial vehicles that will be small enough to fit into a soldier’s pocket. The heart of the project is the experimental propulsion system that has no moving parts and utilizes plasma thrusters. The need for such a tiny UAV comes after the realization that most of the unmanned reconnaissance vehicles used at the moment are poor indoors and in urban areas. OSU’s UAV would allow all soldiers to carry UAVs and see what they’re getting into before hand.”

Sound cloak is boon for concert halls, submarines: http://dvice.com/archives/2008/01/sound_cloak_is.php

sub_cloak.jpgWe’ve all heard the high school lesson about wave interference — like when sound waves hit an object, bending around it and crashing into each other to create a whole new pattern when they reach the other side. Now researches say that it might be possible to create a “cloak” for an object that would make the sound waves pass and emerge from the other side like they were never disturbed.Such a cloak is only theoretical at this point, but engineers at Duke University say they’ve come up with a “recipe” for an acoustic material that would make anything within disappear from sound waves, much like that invisibility cloak did for microwaves. Anyone designing a concert hall would love to have that recipe so they could negate the acoustic effect of structural components like beams. And if you could make it big enough, the cloak would even hide a submarine from sonar.”

See also: Tecnovelgy’s ‘Inaudibility Cloak’ Is Theoretically Possible: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1401

and the press release from Duke University, Invisibility Cloaks’ Could Break Sound Barriers: http://www.pratt.duke.edu/news/?id=1193

And for one I see truly cool applications on this one for mobile use in business, military or simply home environments:

Mighty morphin’ shipping container transforms into house in 90 seconds flat: http://dvice.com/archives/2007/12/mighty_morphin.php

illy-push-butto_front.jpg

“It starts off as an ordinary shipping container, but throw a switch and ninety seconds later the Illy Push Button House has magically expanded into a five-room abode. Architect and designer Adam Kalkin created this jack-in-the-box-like dwelling, whose sections are unfolded by powerful hydraulic cylinders controlled by a computer in the kitchen section. The house is made out of recycled materials, and has a dining area in the center, surrounded by a bedroom, living room, library and kitchen.”

So, is Big Brother just around the corner? And what do we want? Technology, with it’s “anything goes” attitude, or a check on it? When technology goes rampant, we see both the good AND the bad. I wouldn’t mind a folding house, or a device that would slow my car to prevent a ticket, but I’m not sure about some of the more military style things, like the tiny “airplane,” which although it has great safety uses, it also can be used for spying, both military and non-military, the latter being more troublesome – either private or governmental use has some definite legal ramifications. As does the invisibility cloak, shades of Harry Potter.

So have some fun – I will write more about a few of these and the issues that surround the application of them later.