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The public executioner at Rome, who executed persons of the lowest rank; hence, an executioner or hangman.

Tag: Science Fiction

Review: Station Eleven

Posted on February 3, 2019  in Books

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books I knew I was going to love in the first chapter. Most post apocalyptic stories these day tend to be dark and grim, even when the hero wins all they have done is survive another day. This book, in spite of the “End of the World” story line, is pretty up beat, it is not just about people trying to not die, it is about people who are genuinely trying to make the world a better place. Not through defeating some evil villain or by trying to bring back the old world in some grand gesture style quest. But rather these people are doing small things, like going from town to town playing music and performing theater, or building a museum in an airport terminal. Don’t get me wrong, there is some action adventure going on and there is plenty of grittiness, it is just not the overall theme of the book. I am 100% sure I will eventually read this book again.

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Tag: Science Fiction

Review: Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards

Posted on January 29, 2019  in Movies and TV

Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards is one of my favorite movies. It is a classic heroes journey tale told by a 1970’s stoner. The movies detractors complain that the animation is awful, the story is uneven, silly characters and it is terribly dated. I agree with only one of these things, the movie did not age well at all. However, I do not think this is a bad thing. Many movies made decades ago are now dated, but still considered classics. The animation of this movies was and is actually very good, it has bright colors and made good use of the tertiary color schemes. The retroscoping was definitely a low point, but really only because it was so different from the rest of the movie.

 

The story on its surface was simply about good versus evil, two brothers hashing out their differences. However under the surface, we see a world that has been devastated by war, pollution and excesses of greed. A world which is once again on the brink of destruction. While much of the movie is in fact a bit goofy, but there are many iconic scenes that pointed to deeper issues. For instance the scene where Blackwolfs army goes to the church and asks the priests to take the prisoners of war, the priests say “Patience. We must first observe sundown and pray.” and then promptly danced and prayed for hours before the soldiers finally killed the prisoners. This draws attention to how often religion does nothing in the face adversity, preferring instead to pray and let god sort it out, rather than taking action. The classic “They killed Fritz” scene is another good example, it is a satirical look at soldiers dying from friendly fire. The whole movie is a commentary on the dangers of war and unrestrained industrialization.

 

While I am talking about iconic things, many of the characters are very iconic. Avatar, the wise cracking, cigar smoking hero. Weehawk, the brave and fierce elven warrior. Blackwolf, the most evil man in the world. Necron 99/Peace, the assassin turned good guy. Then of course there was Elinore, I am pretty sure Elinore played a big part in my life during puberty. I can remember at least one conversation at the time about how sexy Princess Leia was and my comment was, “Yeah, I’d do Princess Leia, but I would be thinking about Elinore.”.

 

In spite of what anyone says Wizards is a great movie, every time I watch it, I see something new and laugh at gags I have seen a dozen times, because they are still funny.

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Tag: Science Fiction

Review: Feed

Posted on December 30, 2018  in Books

FeedFeed by M.T. Anderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Feed was a really tough read for me. It starts out depressing and steadily gets more depressing. I get that it is supposed to be an extension of smartphones and the “People as products” business model of Facebook and Google, but that is really what is depressing about it. I am also not the type of person who needs a happy ending to a book, but when people die, I like there to be a reason for it, I like there to be meaningful in some way. Violets death did not change anything, it did not even change the main character in any way, he ultimately made the same bad choices at the end of the book that he was making at the beginning. While I found the slang language used by the teenagers to be kind of distracting, I do have to say though the descent into the pit of despair was subtle and well written.

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Tag: Science Fiction

Review: The Tripod Trilogy

Posted on December 23, 2018  in Books

The White MountainsThe White Mountains by John Christopher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Tripod series is three books; The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead and The Pool of Fire. The books were written decades ago by John Christopher, who is a tier two, possibly tier three science fiction writer, he did the bulk of his work in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, and was a reasonably prolific writer. Reading his Wikipedia entry, I think he was popular primarily in the U.K..

 

To start with, the things I did not like about the books. First off, these books did not age terribly well. They aged better than your average Heinlein book, but they still come off as very dated. The writing itself is pretty good, its just that the books were obviously written with 14 year old boys in mind, with no thought to appealing to any other demographic, which was pretty standard procedure back then. Remember this was at a time when women science fiction writers had to pretend to be men in order to get published. The story reads a bit like Huckleberry Finn, where a couple of kids go off on a grand adventure and do things no 14 year old boy could realistically do, the characters instead rely on luck to survive. By modern writing standards this falls under the category of seriously Mary Sue writing, however at the time of the writing, this was an accepted story telling mechanic.

 

Now the things I did like. Reading these books from the prospective of the 14 year old boy that lives inside my head, these books were a lot of fun to read. I mean who didn’t want to be the young hero who always got the upper hand on the adults and the super advanced alien race in the story. There were quit a few just straight up fun scenes in the books and what the boys lacked in skill, they more than made up for in chutzpah. They were able to do things simply because no one ever told them they couldn’t. The books show the true innocents of the time and the generally optimistic view of the world that many science fiction writers had at the time. The author also wisely skipped much of the potentially boring stuff, like the process of coming up with a plans to defeat the aliens, instead, this was left up to the adults to do off screen, while the boys only had to deal with the fun and cools things.

 

Overall, this series is well worth the read, I wish I had read them when I was in High School, before adulthood ruined my sense of wonder and my need for adventure. All three books are pretty short and easy to read, I had a lot on my mind in November and December, so it took me way longer to read then it normally would have. I am pretty sure an average reader could get through them in a week or two.

 

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Tag: Science Fiction

Review: The Left Hand of Darkness

Posted on October 11, 2018  in Books

The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #6)The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Admittedly, this was a slow read for me, mostly because of how dense it is with information about the world and its inhabitants. The story was written at the height of the Cold War between the United States and Russia, but unfortunately much of it is very relevant today, we have a trade war with China brewing and we have a mad king of our own who wants to build a wall between us and our neighbors.

One of the things Le Guin does best is world building and she does not disappoint here. As I was reading about this cold world locked in an ice age, I was reminded of my own childhood growing up in Montana and shivering.

The dual gendered people of this world was an interesting idea that the author put to good use to build interesting characters and highlight the differences between the two races without making them TOO different. I also think this might have been an nuanced way of talking about homosexuality without offending the readers of the time it was written and published. I admit though I may be mistaken, perhaps someone smarter than me can chime in on this subject.

Of course the most interesting character in the book I thought was Estraven, not just for his fall from grace story, but because at the beginning of the book, he almost seems like a throw away character, someone who was present in the first few pages simply to set the stage and I was pleasantly surprised when later in the book he become central to the story.

Overall, good read, although now I have to go back and read the other books in this series, as I did not realize this was #6 in a series when I started it.

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Tag: Science Fiction

The original Internet quote

Posted on August 25, 2018  in Books

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. –William Gibson, Neuromancer

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Tag: Science Fiction

Review: The Fresco by Sheri Tepper

Posted on August 12, 2018  in Books

The FrescoThe Fresco by Sheri S. Tepper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a friend, her first comment about it being “I wouldn’t recommend it to most guys – or to anybody conservative”, and of course my first though was, “Oh this is going to be fun!”. About a quarter of the way through I knew why she was not inclined to recommend it to most guys. Let me get this straight right off the bat, this book is not anti men, but the book does depict a certain types of men in a bad light and if you happen to identify with those archetypes, you are not going to like this book much. If you are not of fan of irony and poetic justice, I would not suggest reading this book. In fact, lets just come right out and say it, if you oppose abortion, you will not be amused by this book.

The story is about earths first contact with aliens, instead of landing on the White House lawn or in Central Park, the aliens contact a rather unremarkable person, Benita Alvarez-Shipton. Benita is married to an alcoholic deadbeat husband who beats her, in spite of this she has worked hard all of her life and tried to support her family in spite of the the hardships imposed by her husband. Benita is a unique character among fictional female protagonists. Most female protagonists in science fiction tend to fall into a couple of categories, women who are thinly veiled men, oversexed killing machines and ice queens. Benita has no special ops training, she is described as mildly good looking and does not seem to have much of a sex life. She is literally from the bottom rung of society, no one cares about her and society often places her husbands well being over hers. She is the epitome of unlikely heroes. What Benita brings to the table is a wisdom born out of having lived a rough life, an intelligence that only someone who has been on the edge of the abyss all of their lives could have. She clever and competent, but not unrealistically so. In the beginning of the book she is shown to be out of her depth, but by the end, she grows into her role.

The plot of the book is a bit off the beaten path as well, when the aliens, the Pistach, come to earth, they are not here as an invasion army, but rather to guide earth into the interstellar community and help them become good neighbors. The aliens start solving problems and making earth a better place, some of the things they do are very colorful and the thought process of the aliens is interesting to read. Of course the Pistach are not the only race with interest in the earth, there is also a group of predators who want to make earth their hunting grounds. These predators have no trouble finding human allies who would rather things stayed the way they are, even if it means sacrificing human beings in the process.

Overall, this is a good read, I enjoyed it start to finish. Yes, the book has a liberal bend to it, but it is no worse than the conservative bend you might find in the John Ringo or Larry Correia book. The book has a solid plot, the storyline is tight, it is well written, and the primary characters are interesting. My only complaint about the book is the author does over use some archetypes, and hits us over the head with those characterizations, but this not a show stopper and certainly does not detract from story. I recommend it to anyone who is tired of standard fair science fiction, and are looking for something different, it even has a happy ending.

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Tag: Science Fiction

I wish this were a real thing

Posted on June 21, 2018  in Computers

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Tag: Science Fiction

Sense8

Posted on June 10, 2018  in Movies and TV

If you have not seen Sense8 yet, I suggest you put it on your list of shows to watch. This was some of the best TV I have seen in years. It is well scripted and acted, the story is engaging and the whole thing is very sexy.

Before I go any further, let me say, if you are a cynic who does not want to believe that love conquers all or you do not believe that diversity makes us stronger or you don’t like hot sweaty beautiful sex, then this show is not for you, go back to watching Fox News or listening to Rush Limbaugh or whatever it is that makes you feel better about the world, you will not enjoy this show.

For the rest of you, this show is about 8 people who are spiritually and psychically connected and share their lives with each other. It is surprisingly emotional and intimate. Like many Netflix series, the show is full of nudity and sex that spans the full spectrum of human sexuality, I found the orgy scenes to be be especially arousing. Over the two season of episodes, the story explores how each of these people reacts to the situation and adjusts to having complete strangers with access to their most private moments and how this affects their lives and their loved ones. There is also a big bad leading an international conspiracy, but this is really just a side line to the relationship stories that are played out on screen.

This is probably the best TV show since Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, it is innovative both is characterization and in story telling and it is one of the very few TV shows I consider must watch. So put aside a weekend, get naked and binge watch this show, you will not regret it.

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