Saturday, January 31, 2009

Battlestar Galactica - Season 4, Episode 13 - "The Oath"

So after this week, I am officially waiting until the series is over, and then watching the rest of the episodes back to back. I cannot take any more of this cliffhanger business.


****Spoilers ahead*****



My stomach sank further and further as this episode went on - there have been a gazillion mutinys over the course of the show, but this is the first one that might actually stick. When Tom Zarak said "Adama is still alive? That's a loose end..." I felt like I saw the beginning of the end. Zarek has always wanted Adama dead, and now he'll be able to see that goal to fruition.

Thank the gods Starbuck is back - she's the only thing that might hold the fleet together. If this episode was good for nothing else, it made Starbuck and Roslin decided not to give up completely, and it's sure good to have them back.

I'm frustrated with this storyline, because while it is compelling, it doesn't answer ANY of the questions that have been hanging out there. I just feel a sense of impending doom, like perhaps the real end of the series will be humans and cylons all blowing themselves up, with no one left. Wouldn't that be a mind-frak.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ringworld ~Larry Niven

I just reviewed the seminal science fiction classic, Ringworld, by Larry Niven. I've been on a real classic kick lately and am thrilled to finally say that I've read it. If you are interested in my review, check here.

Paris in the Twentieth Century, Jules Verne (1994)

This is the first book I have read by early science-fiction author Jules Verne, and it’s a fairly odd book to first be inducted into Verne’s writings. The first aspect of the book that deserves mention is it’s publication history. The book was originally written in 1863, just after Verne penned his original novel “Five Weeks in a Balloon”, but a few years before Verne wrote his science-fiction works. However, Verne’s publisher did not want to publish the book, as the publisher believed that the book was not an accurate enough depiction of the future. The manuscript was rediscovered, and published, in 1994.

It’s always odd reading older SF books like this – they were written in the past to make predictions about the future, but the future predicted is still in your past. I always feel the need to try and compare the world depicted in the book to my knowledge of what the world was like at that time, constantly asking myself whether this invention, and this depicted society occurred in this manner or not. That said, my lack of detailed knowledge about Parisian life in the 1960’s takes this away from me. The prelude of the book claims that the predictions are startlingly accurate, and my superficial knowledge of the world at the time seems to support this assertion – there are electric lights, facsimiles, an underground rail system, gas-powered automobiles, and other inventions that I am certain were not invented in the 1860’s, but not knowing a lot about France or Paris, I will have to defer to someone else’s knowledge on the makeup of the city, it’s development and history.

In spite of the prelude of the book discussing the accuracy of the predictions, I think that the most accurate prediction by far is the basis of the plot itself. “Paris in the Twentieth Century” is the story of Michel Jérome, a young man living in 1960’s France, which has become a centre of industry and development, and is a paragon of capitalism. All efforts and industry are directed towards earning money, and the world has no place for classical writing, far less for a man like Michel, whom wishes to produce his own original works of literature. For those whom wish to work in the arts, society demands deriviative plays, poems and stories, produced solely to make money. It’s quite a pertinent story – a genuine case could be made that a similar situation occurs today, with writers for a myriad of mediums and genres paid to produce deriviative and unchallenging works. Although I am only a consumer of writing, I sympathise with Michel in his plight.

For anyone who decides to attempt this book, it needs to be said that there are a lot of references to France that are going to go over the heads of those whom have not made an effort in studying the French culture, particularly it’s literature prior to the 20th century - a group in which I include myself. However, unlike some science-fiction novels that I have read that reference classic authors in some contrived manner in order to look more sophisticated, in this case, the references are there because they are necessary to depict the characters themselves, to show that they understand and appreciate their French literature, and does not seem like simple name-dropping. The characters appreciation of the authors and their works provides a contrast to the dreary poems that “celebrate the wonders of industry” that feature in the novel. In any case, the references are not overbearing, and the book can be read and appreciated even with my meagre (read as none) knowledge of French literature.

In short, although I would have gotten more out of “Paris in the Twentieth Century” should I have more knowledge of France, it’s culture and history, the novel is written in such a way that a lack of knowledge in this regard does not detract too greatly from the story, and I cannot ignore the relevance of a story where a man wishing to write original works in a society that fails to reward those that do so. 4.5/5.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Battlestar Galactica - Season 4, Episode 12 - "A Disquiet Follows My Soul"

Another depressing episode in the most depressing show on television.


***Spoilers ahead - stop reading if you don't want to know!**



Of course, the biggest plot reveal in this episode is that Nicky is not truly Chief's son, sending the whole "Nicky and Hera are the future of the new generation" theory up in flames. I think if I was the actress who played Cally, I would be mad, because they seem to make her look worse and worse in every episode, even after she is dead.

Evil Felix is creepy, and once again BSG takes one of it moral backbone characters and destroys him - now the only one left is Helo, so of course I feel I have to worry about what they'll do to him next.

Things are quickly going from bad to worse on the political front, so all-out mutiny seems a pretty sure bet. I really wish someone would have knocked off Zarek several episodes ago - he's such a despicable guy.

And seeing Tigh and the Six holding hands was just weird...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sci Fi and Fantasy Everyone Must Read

There is a sci fi and fantasy meme going around based on a list of Novels Everyone Must Read, from Guardian. I decided to post it on my site and welcome you to do the same if you feel so inclined.

http://www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com/?p=1070

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

GaijinMama's 8 and 9

#8 The X Files, Season 6 Episode 2, "Drive"

Like I said in my last post, Season 6 is where X Files started getting really bloody. In the previous episode it was chests being ripped out, now it's exploding heads. But in so many ways, I'd say this is the best season yet! Right from the get-go, we're treated to some of the best Mulder Monotone and Scully Withering Glare (opening scene: man answers door and asks if they're Jehovah's Witnesses. Scully raises eyebrow and responds, "No, sir. Federal Bureau of Investigation". Mulder, from behind his black Ray-Bans, adds, "But we do have a complimentary copy of The Watchtower for you if you're interested." Scully looks at both of them like they're something she needs to scrape off her shoe.) I am such a geek. I was thrilled to see a couple of my favorite regulars from The West Wing. The local Sheriff was the head of President Bartlett's Secret Service Detail (typecasting much?) and the coroner (Mindy Seeger, with a New Yawk accent in middle America) was one of the White House Press Room reporters, and gets to say fun stuff like, "It's almost like a little bomb went off in her ear. Eeeeeeeew.Rating: 4.5 of 5

#9 The X Files Season 6 Ep. 3 "Triangle"
It all starts out with the credits, with "The Truth is Out There" in German. Hands down, one of the best episodes of this show! Mulder is floating in the ocean and gets pulled out to find himself on a WW2 -era British luxury liner. They're convinced he must be a "Jerry" and throw him in the brig. He's hilariously confused. ("NO, wait, guys! The world's at peace! It's 1998! a little trouble in our White House but that'll blow over!" A couple cute wiseracks about The Spice Girls, too.) I was pleased to see not one but two actors from Pirates of the Carribean here. Greg Ellis, the yummy Lieutenant Groves, and Isaac C. Singleton, the big black gentleman whom I've always envied 'cause he gets to slap Kiera Knightley.) Skinner and Cancer Man both speak German here...I get the feeling that Cancer Man is actually speaking it competently.....and Mulder looks totally hot in uniform. Awesome Lone Gunmen bit about the Bermuda Triangle. These guys are so MARRIED!! Finishing each other's sentences and all.
This is also where Skinner starts to get openly sympathetic and Scully stops being "A good Soldier" and starts telling off her superiors. ("Skinner: "Use your head, Scully. It just might save your a**." Scully: "Save your own a**, sir. You'll save your head along with it." Snort, snort, chuckle, chuckle! In the previous seasons no way would she have used such Language! She even calls the smarmy Agent Spender a "rat bastard." Which he is, of course, but she never would have told him so before. ) This episode gets a 5 out of 5 for the big smacky kiss followed by the quick right hook to the jaw. And the great Wizard of Oz ending when Mulder wakes up...."and you were there, and you, and you...." Priceless!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jumper, Stephen Gould (1992)

Having recently viewed the movie of the same name, based on this novel, which was released in 2008, and been recommended this book in spite of my poor opinions about the film, I approached this book somewhat warily. Would this be simply a shallow, unsubstantial book, thick dollops of action trying to disguise an empty plot? Or would there be something more substantial to the book than this?

I am quite pleased to report that the latter was the case. For those that skipped the movie when it was released, the movie “Jumper” was just a string of exciting but shallow scenes of some people who teleport, fighting other people that don’t like those people that can teleport, all tied together with a basic and mentally unchallenging plot. In contrast, the book contains far more variety and depth than what the movie ever did, and does not follow the same plot outline at all. If only the producers had actually read the book they were adapting… But instead of wasting time lamenting what could have been, let us forget the movie – the less said the sooner forgotten – and let us concentrate our attentions on the novel instead.

The novel Jumper is a story about teenageer, David Rice, who finds out one day that he has the power to teleport to any place that he has been previously. After David runs away from home, he has to deal with a lot of problems that result from – he can’t get a job, doesn’t have any ID that he can use, and can’t earn any money. There are plenty of other obstacles that David encounters during the story – some of these obstacles are related to his powers, how he uses them, and the consequences of this, some are related to his new circumstances, and some are simply related to David growing up and becoming a more mature person. I won’t go into this in any detail, because this is part of why I enjoyed the book so much. Yes, this is a book intended for young adults, but it’s a young adult book with some quite heavy themes and ideas – David has to deal with abandonment, abuse, and revenge, among other ideas, ponder the morality of his actions, and there are some good intellectual discussions there, too. Suffice to say there are lots of different ideas bustling for attention here.

It is an intelligent and exciting book, but Gould also manages to deal with David’s emotions (and the emotions of other characters, for that matter) in a realistic, but not overly straining manner. David does suffer from angst and guilt from the actions that he takes, we are made aware of these emotions and how they affect him, we even sympathise, to some extent, with his situation, but this is not over-played, either, so that it over-shadows the story itself.

In short, I quite enjoyed this book – great ideas, a fast-paced story, well-drawn characters. I must recommended this novel, whether you read books with the “young-adult” marketing moniker on them, and doubly so if you did not enjoy the movie released last year of the same title. 5/5.

The Day the Martians Came, Frederik Pohl (1988)

The book “The Day the Martians Came” is a fix-up of several of Pohl’s short stories, written during the seventies and eighties, with the short stories are put together and edited to make a single novel. The plot of this novel concerns itself with the discovery of semi-intelligent Martians (they look like seals with spider’s legs) which are brought back to earth for protection and scientific study.

It sounds like a pedestrian enough concept – Martians have been found in many other stories – and I am sure that Martians have been brought back to earth previously. Pohl does a different take on this by not simply sticking with the type of people that we would normally associate with this science fiction staple. Pohl does use astronauts and rocket scientists when they are required, but we also get people who would seem to be far-divorced from such an undertaking. We meet characters like a hotel owner, a con artist, a script writer, an ageing labourer, a member of a religious cult, and so forth. It’s an interesting concept, seeing how the everyman is affected by such an event, and Pohl does do characterisation quite well. I also appreciated the occasional reference in one story to previous characters, although this is not done in any way that could be called subtle.

The story is not without its problems, though. The rapid changing of characters means that we can’t really get involved with the characters of the story, being with them only for a chapter or two, and not all of the characters are interesting to read about, which I suppose is inevitable when you are changing through so many viewpoints. The ageing labourer, for example, is a character that I was glad to see the back of, and the effect that the Martians being brought to Earth had on the hotelier was extremely predictable – he gets more visitors for a week or two. I don’t need to read a book to be told something that obvious. On the other hand, the effects that the existence of Martians have on a religious cult, or on a pair of con-artists, makes for extremely interesting reading – I suppose the two opposites do even each-other out.

Apart from the changing characters and perspective, the origins of this novel mean the reader is presented with a variety of good, small ideas, ideally suited for the short story form, but does not leave the same impact as the presentation of several good, large ideas.

All up, “The Day the Martians Came” is an interesting concept for it’s attempt to view a science-fiction staple from an angle it is not normally seen from, but the story does lag at times. 3.5/5.

I, Robot ~Isaac Asimov

I just completed a review of the book I, Robot which I am counting as part of the 42 Challenge. Go here for my review:

http://www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com/?p=1068

Also I added a '42' tab to the top of my blog that is keeping a list of all the items I am counting as part of this most excellent challenge.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Out of This World Mini-Challenge Recap

For this episode of the 42 challenge I offer mini-reviews of 14 science fiction short stories that I read as part of the Out of This World Mini-Challenge this weekend. You can find the post here:

http://www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com/?p=1066

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Battlestar Galactica - Season 4, Episode 11 - "Sometimes a Great Notion"

Like all the other BSG fans, I have been waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting for this moment to arrive- the first episode of the final season. Some people had very high expectations - some, disillusioned by the previous season, weren't expecting much. I just wanted to know what the heck was going on, and this episode promised to answer a whole bunch of questions. So what did I think of it??


Wow.

It's taken me a while to even think about being able to review the episode, because Wow was basically my only reaction for a while. Wow. Those BSG boys sure know how to mess with your head.

It's going to be nearly impossible for me to share my thoughts without revealing some pretty important plot points, so if you haven't seen the episode but plan to, STOP READING NOW!!!


Okay, so here goes. I think this was hands down the most depressing episode of this series, and for BSG fans, that's saying a lot. This is a show known for gritty realism and despair. But watching this episode, and seeing all the characters who have held the fleet together slowly crumble and fall apart was heartbreaking. Laura laying on her bed, clutching the plant from Earth. Earlier, burning the Pythian prophecies page by page. Adama, drinking himself into a crazed stupor, trying to goad Tigh into killing him. Apollo, desperate, trying to find something to say to keep the people from complete despair. And Dee. Beautiful, tragic Dee. Watching her sob on Earth, and then tell herself to pull it together. Watching her move slowly through her life, saying goodbye to the people she loved. Watching her once again give Apollo the strength he needs to do what needed to be done. Watching her remove her wedding band. I'm not sure anything in the history of the show has shocked me as much as this one, single scene. In losing Dualla, the fleet has lost its moral center, its core of strength, and I don't know who can arise to take that place.

And then, of course, there is Kara. Putting her trust in Leoben, allowing him to come with her on her search, and then finding the completely unexplainable. Watching crazy Leoben find something too crazy for him to deal with. Building the funeral pyre, and burning what she found. Lots of people have accused Katee Sackhoff of overacting - being way too emotional and annoying. I thought her performance in this episode was perfect. Honestly, I found all the acting in this episode to be amazing, and am once again appalled that BSG will never be nominated for any of the awards - this was a heartbreaking hour of television, and it deserves recognition.

And then we found out the identity of the final cylon....

Three Short Stories

I read three short stories this weekend as part of Carl's Out of This World Mini Challenge (and also as part of 100 Shots of Short - I love it when these things come together!)

My reviews can be found here.

All in Fun

My weekly review of a short story from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction qualifies for two challenges this week: the 42 Challenge and The Out of this World Mini Challenge that Carl V. is hosting in conjuction with the Dewey's Books Challenge.

This week's story, "All in Fun" by Jerry Oltion isn't exactly the out of the world type of story that Carl is looking for but it's still science fiction. It's grounded on earth, in Oregon and set on Christmas Day. There are no rocket ships, no planets beyond our own, no aliens, no time travel. Instead, there is magic and the power of wish fulfillment.

Toby believes he can have any wish he wants but there's a catch. It will only work if makes it on Christmas Eve as he's falling asleep. In the past he has wished a bully to move away, an exhibitionist to move next door, the Berlin Wall to fall and a peace treaty to be signed. Toby spends all year making notes and thinking of the best possible wish. This year, though, he loses track of his wishes and his last thought before sleep is "'I want to have fun.'" (p. 83)

The powers that be (Toby thinks it's probably Santa and not Jesus going through a rebellious phase) conger up a very strange day for him on Christmas. I'm not going to go into the details of what Toby considers fun but it's along the lines of the sophmoric humor and snarky wishes I've had sometimes myself. The day from start to finish had the dark comedy of Stephen King at his silliest and a few surreal moments that reminded me of Philip K. Dick.

"All in Fun" may not be the out of this world story that Carl had in mind but it does open up the question of just how Toby's wishes could change our world if he set his mind to it. Maybe some year he will end up on another world. Or maybe the world will be forever changed by one of his wishes.

Originally posted at Puss Reboots: A Book Review a Day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

“The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)” versus “The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)”

I recently was able to view the original 1951 movie of The Day the Earth Stood Still, and thought to use this opportunity to contrast the original movie to the newer movie of the same title recently released.

Let’s start with the 1951 version of the movie, as it was the first of the two movies made, and the newer movie is based upon the older movie (although the similarities between the movies are only of the most superficial sort). An alien by the name of Klaatu makes a landing on Earth, surrounded by military personnel and equipment, and thousands of civilians. During Klaatu's initial speech, an action on his part is mistakenly thought to be hostile, he is shot by a police officer, and taken to a medical facility for treatment, under armed guard. Klaatu makes his escape, and becomes friends with a woman and her son. The woman eventually learns that Klaatu is the alien who landed on earth, and his reason for visiting – Klaatu’s race is concerned about the developments of missiles and nuclear technology, both of which could threaten his own race. In the end, Klaatu leaves the Earth, warning us against our current and possible future actions.

I can’t speak about the state of special effects in movies in the 1950’s, but by today’s standards, they are only serviceable – they get the job done with the minimum required effort, but that’s all that is needed for this movie. The movie works around the need for much of the special effects by showing you the effects of what happens, rather than how it happens. In the opening scenes, with the alien spacecraft passing over, we see different scenes of how people might react, and only one or two shots of the actual craft itself. It makes a nice change from the gratuitous special effects that we would normally get with a similar scene in a more modern movie.

Instead of concentrating on special effects and action, the movie is more a study of the three main characters (Klaatu, the woman, and her son), and the ideas surrounding the story – discussions about the Cold War and politics of the time, opinions on how the alien visitor should be dealt with, and an outsider's view of the state that the world is in at the time. The acting on the most part is solid but not noteworthy, although I enjoyed the quiet intelligence and sophistication that Michael Rennie brought to the role of Klaatu.

Now, to the 2008 version of the movie. This version of the movie has a fairly similar plot to the original, except that Klaatu is more concerned with the environment rather than the military – the environment is on a tipping point, and Klaatu feels the need to fix things up. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for us. Anyone who has not been in a coma for the last few years will be able to tell you the environment is in trouble, so having an advanced alien tell you this is not really necessary. There are no specifics of this trouble given either, which is both a good thing and a bad thing - a lack of specifics dumbs down the movie quite a lot, but if this trouble is re-examined later and found not to be such a calamity, it would date the movie terribly. However, I don't think this movie is destined to be a classic, unlike it's predecessor.

So, what are the good points in the movie? As with most movies released after the popularisation of computer-generated special effects, it is a good-looking movie. It has the pre-requisite number of explosions required for current movie-going audiences, it has a swarming, semi-sentient nanobot cloud that has the most perculiar of diets – it eats both metal and bipedal animals, but it cannot harm trees, roads, bridges, or the ground. Exciting, yes, realistic or intellectually challenging, hardly.

The movie seems to be too over-wrought to be credible – consistency and realism is sacrificed for drama. We need thirty people and ten vehicles for a convey to pick up a female scientist, for example. When the military is first encountering a mysterious object that has crashed into the Manhattan park, the military leaders send in all of their best scientists at once, in front of the military personnel, disregarding the risk that this simultaneously poses to all of their best scientists at the same time. I could go on, but you get the point – the movie is dramatic, but such events would occur in an entirely different manner in real-life.

As for the acting, the roles seem to be all the main stereotypes, with little challenges given to the actors or the audience - the military people all need to use lots of different weapons to fight Klaatu and Gort, Klaatu's guard robot, the scientists feel the need to study the two. Keanu Reaves as Klaatu, on the other hand, is actually one of the best casting choices of the movie – probably not the actor with the highest thespian skills, but an alien in the form of a human does not really need to be emotive - it makes Keanu excellent for the role of Klaatu.

So what movie is the better movie, and which movie should you watch? I would suggest you watch the 1951 version of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” for an intelligent, and thoughtfully-portrayed imagining of a first-encounter movie. Watch the 2008 version if you like having a quiet chuckle at unrealistic situations, poor science, and silly ideas. Oh, and like seeing lots of explosions and action.

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951) – 4.5/5
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008) – 2/5

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Dark Knight (Number 6)

The Blurb: The Dark Knight arrives with tremendous hype (best superhero movie ever? posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger?), and incredibly, it lives up to all of it. But calling it the best superhero movie ever seems like faint praise, since part of what makes the movie great--in addition to pitch-perfect casting, outstanding writing, and a compelling vision--is that it bypasses the normal fantasy element of the superhero genre and makes it all terrifyingly real. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is Gotham City's new district attorney, charged with cleaning up the crime rings that have paralysed the city. He enters an uneasy alliance with the young police lieutenant, Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), and Batman (Christian Bale), the caped vigilante who seems to trust only Gordon--and whom only Gordon seems to trust. They make progress until a psychotic and deadly new player enters the game: the Joker (Heath Ledger), who offers the crime bosses a solution--kill the Batman. Further complicating matters is that Dent is now dating Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, after Katie Holmes turned down the chance to reprise her role), the longtime love of Batman's alter ego, Bruce Wayne.

In his last completed role before his tragic death, Ledger is fantastic as the Joker, a volcanic, truly frightening force of evil. And he sets the tone of the movie: the world is a dark, dangerous place where there are no easy choices. Eckhart and Oldman also shine, but as good as Bale is, his character turns out rather bland in comparison (not uncommon for heroes facing more colourful villains). Director/co-writer Christopher Nolan (Memento) follows his critically acclaimed Batman Begins with an even better sequel that sets itself apart from notable superhero movies like Spider-Man 2 and Iron Man because of its sheer emotional impact and striking sense of realism--there are no suspension-of-disbelief superpowers here. At 152 minutes, it's a shade too long, and it's much too intense for kids. But for most movie fans--and not just superhero fans--The Dark Knight is a film for the ages.

My thoughts: Why did Christian Bale grate his way though his alter-ego's dialogue? It irritated me after a while. I thought that he didn't make as much of the character as he could have. I came away from it thinking more about the Joker and Heath Ledgers performance. It was definitely a dark film. 

 



The Dark Knight


Released: 2008


Go to IMDb page


Information © IMDb.com



The Dark Knight


Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Ron Dean, Chin Han,





The Terminal Man: Michael Crichton (Number 5)

 

image 

The Terminal Man: Michael Crichton: Amazon.co.uk: Books

Great book!

Blurb from the back: Harry has a problem. Ever since getting in a car accident, he's suffered from "thought seizures", violent fits in which he attacks other people. He used to be an artificial intelligence researcher, which may explain why he targets anyone who either works on machines or who acts like a machine--mechanics, gas-station attendants, prostitutes, exotic dancers. But there's hope: He can become part machine himself, undergoing "Stage 3", an experimental procedure implanting 40 electrodes deep in the pleasure centres of his brain. The surgery is successful and blissful pulses of electricity short- circuit Harry's seizures. That is, until Harry figures out how to overload himself with the satisfying jolts and escapes on a murderous rampage. One of Crichton's earliest, playing ably on 70s' fears of computers and mind-control...

My thoughts: I just love Michael Crichton's work, it's intelligent, well researched and always gripping. I couldn't put it down. It was written in the Seventies but with the advances in research this is even more relevant today. I saw something on telly recently where a scientist implanted himself with 'chips' so that he could send information back to his house, he was excited about cyborg technology and being the first to try it. I guess for a lot of people, this sort of thing would be the answers to their prayers, but there will always be the opportunity for abuse by the minority. Crichton's always a winner though. Loved it!

Seafarer's Blood

Saturdays I reserve for reading and reviewing something from F&SF. Tonight I reviewed Seafarer's Blood by Albert E. Cowdrey. It's probably more fantasy than science fiction but Cowdrey has written science fiction stories too for the magazine.

When I first started subscribing to the magazine I didn't especially like Cowdrey's writing style but I'm warming to him. It's nice to get the chance to revisit authors to see how they tackle different subjects.

On to the review:

Albert E. Cowdrey and Robert Reed seem to be in a race to see who can contribute the most stories to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Cowdrey's current story is a departure from his usual New Orleans based ones. The seafarer in the title is a Viking.

The protagonist in Seafarer's Blood is a man named Eric. He's not a Viking but he sees them when he sleeps and sometimes when he's awake. He's convinced that he's a shaman and it's the only positive thing in his messed up life. He's going through a messy divorce and most of his life is spent on his old futon vision questing and reminiscing about the better times in his life.

Then something happens. Something always happens. If it didn't, it would just be a short mood piece. As far as I can tell, Cowdrey doesn't go for mood pieces. Anyway, Eric and his wife manage to patch things up and in the process Eric learns the true identity of his father.

Unfortunately there's a downside to all this bliss, a sinister, otherworldly one. The ending is vague and rather like a good Twilight Zone. I read it through a couple of times and it could go either way depending on what mood you're in.



My entire 42 Challenge list is here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gaijinmama's 3 to 7

More TV!! What can I say, I really ought to be reading but this is too much fun.

#3 The X Files, Season 5 Episode 20 , "The End"

This is the one with the weird little mind-reading chess-playing kid. The Lone Gunmen get a good scene and I think this is one of the best cliff-hanger endings ever!5 of 5. ...Foehike in his jammies...hilarious!

#4 Dark Angel, Season 1, Episode 15, "Haven"

This is a depressing episode. I have a hard time watching anything where little kids are hurt (but I'll spoil enough to assure you that this little guy ends up safe) In this one, vigilantes beat an Arab doctor, rape his wife, and then burn them alive since they had the only working generator in town so obviously the locals think they must have terrorist connections. Too scary, and unfortunately too close to actual events in some places. I was tickled to see Ashley Crow from Heroes! (yeah, I'm such a TV geek!)
rating: 4 of 5

#5 Dark Angel Season 1 Episode 16, "Shorties in Love"

All Max wants is a hot shower and it's tragic what she goes through to get it...but I would do the same. Original Cindy actually Gets Some, and even though her partner turns out to be a bit of a baddie, I'm happy to see our gal be more than just the gay sidekick.The ending is kinda gross and horrific but the bad guy sure gets his.
Rating: 4.5 of 5

#6 Dark Angel Season 1 Episode 17, "Pollo Loco"The opening scene is hilarious...Max brings home a live chicken and, when Original Cindy is upset that she intends to kill it, smiles that radiant Jessica Alba smile and says, "Must be my feline DNA 'cause when I look at this bird, I see DINNER!" Then she snaps the checken's neck in the next breath...off camera, don't worry.Then....OMG. Jensen Ackles (a.k.a. the luscious Dean Winchester from Supernatural) without his shirt on!!And Nana Visitor, who played Major Kira, my favorite character from
Star Trek Deep Space Nine...only in Dark Angel she's totally evil and looking fabulous.
5 of 5, if only for the bit with the chicken and the waaaay cool guest stars!

#7 The X Files, Season 6 Episode 1, "The Beginning"As I said, I have a hard time watching little kids get hurt. The poor little mind-reader really gets abused here..Cancer Man drags him out of the operating room right after brain surgery! Funny bit...the guy at the nuclear power plant who is asleep at his post and ends up getting eaten, is named...wait for it....Homer! (chuckle, chuckle) get it? as in Simpson?
This is where X Files starts getting really bloody. It was creepy, but not gross and bloody so much, for the first five seasons. Now I'm remembering why I quit watching part way through season 8. But I suppose motherhood has made my stomach stronger...Geeky Trivia: Rick Millikan, the casting director, gets to play a bit part and have his chest ripped out before the opening theme plays.
5 of 5..but skip it if you have a weak stomach.

The Perfect Infestation by Carol Emshwiller

I'm very excited to participating in the 42 Challenge and to get a chance to contribute directly to the challenge's blog. I am also posting my reviews at my own blog. My first review I originally posted on January 3rd. It is a review of a short story from the January 2009 issue of The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy. They like so many magazines are suffering with the economic downturn and will be going to bimonthly after the March issue. One of my goals for the 42 Challenge is to review 42 of their stories to highlight the talented authors they publish in each issue. I am not associated with them in any way; I'm just a big fan. (I also plan to review 42 novels, mostly by women).

On to the review:

I'm not a dog person. Carol Emshwiller's story "The Perfect Infestation" gives me extra reason to be lukewarm to "man's best friend." They might be a ploy for taking over the world.

Usually in science fiction if the world is about to be invaded, it's done with an attack on mankind. They are infested or duplicated or otherwise turned into pawns. In "The Perfect Infestation" the young sees are told "don't bother with the opposable-thumb creatures." They are there to give pats and keep the seeds healthy and well cared for but they are not the main target.

The story follows one seed who has landed in a host unfortunately named Pussy Cat. He belongs to an opposable-thumb creature who still lives with his mother and is looking for love. Pussy Cat ignores another cardinal rule: don't feel loyalty you shouldn't feel. Rather than wait for the signal to launch the second wave of the invasion, he spends his time trying to bring happiness and love to his opposable-thumb creatures.

"The Perfect Infestation" is an amusing take on an invasion tale. It's also a sentimental look at life on Earth. There are moments of reflection with questions such as these: "Does any other world have dragonflies? A single moon? Butter? Pine needles? Strawberries? Chickadees?" (p. 59).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Stainless Steel Droppings' Post #2

I read and reviewed the short story, The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick and then I went home and watched the film version with the family and wrote reviews/comparisons of both of them in a post that can be found here:

Lunch and a Story, Dinner and a Movie

Would love to have you check it out.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Stainless Steel Droppings' 42 Challenge

I completed my first item for the 42 Challenge, reading and reviewing a short story collection entitled Space Lords by the unsung classic science fiction author Cordwainer Smith. If you are interested my review can be found here:

http://www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com/?p=1046
Here is my first post for this Challenge! Glad to be on board.

#1 Dark Angel, Season 1, Episode 14, "Female Trouble"
watched 1-2-09

Dark Angel was a great show, which sadly died an untimely death after only two seasons. I've been re-watching from the beginning, and will jump in here in the middle of Season 1. Logan (Michael Weatherly) starts seeing a doctor who it turns out, was formerly employed by the evil Manticore and was one of those who did experiments on Max (Jessica Alba). Being unable to walk is enough to make Logan suicidal. Max confronts the doctor and ends up saving her life when Manticore sister shows up to assassinate her. The sister turns out to be pregnant....gosh, doing backflips and jumping thrugh plate glass cathedral ceilings while fighting off morning sickness, that's gotta be rough!All in all, a good episode. A solid 3.5 out of 5. My favorite minor character, Original Cindy (the fabulous Valarie Rae Miller) gets in some great wisecracks and Normal (J.C. MacKenzie) has a great scene where he knocks one of his employees off his bicycle by throwing a quarter at the spokes...and the quarter rolls right back to him! All this proves that it truly is the whole ensemble that makes a great show. While Max and Logan don't have the chemistry of Scully and Mulder or Bones and Booth, they still are pretty hot, and the supporting characters are excellent. The dialogue is fast-paced, smart, sarcastic and streetwise. While the messages can get a little preachy sometimes, the plots are complex enough to hold my interest.Must say....I'm really looking forward to Jensen Ackles (a.k.a. the luscious Dean Winchester from Supernatural) but he doesn't show up till Season 2...drool drool pant pant swoon!

#2 The X Files Season 5, Episode 19 "Folie a Deux"
watched 1-3-09

I really REALLY do not like large insects. The X Files is always creepy and dark, but the idea of being bitten in the neck by a giant praying mantis is darker and creepier than most, to my mind. Also, this episode takes place in a telemarketing firm, which I find inherently nightmarish..."Dial and Smile, Gary!!" booms the Assistant Manager(shudders!!) There were a couple of funny moments. Mulder gets in some good deadpan one-liners as usual, and...well...zombie make-up always gives me a good giggle. Not my favorite X Files, but "Folie a Deux" certainly upholds the overall high standards of this classic show. A 3.5 rating, at least.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Challenge


Officially starts January 1, 2009. Officially ends December 3, 2009. Giving you 42 weeks and 42 days. Unofficially, you can start whenever you join. (If that makes you feel better.) And unofficially you can finish whenever you can--early or late.

Your mission--if you choose to accept it--is to read, watch, listen, and review 42 sci-fi related items. (Items isn't the best word, but how else would you define all that this challenge could involve). What's acceptable? Practically everything: short stories, poetry (???), novellas, novels, episodes of TV shows, episodes of radio shows, movies, comic books, graphic novels, audio books, essays or articles about science fiction or science fiction writers, biographies of science fiction authors. This isn't quite as intimidating as it sounds. This is much more than a reading challenge. It would be intimidating (in all likelihood) to try to read that many books. But when you make each short story, each TV show episode count as individual items, then it is much more manageable I hope! (This challenge could be as easy as watching Season 1 and Season 2 of Stargate SG-1, for example.) 

No lists are needed. Really. If you want to post about the challenge and talk about what you hope to get to that's fine, of course, but no one will hold you to it! 

Save your list-making for later. Please make a post and list each item that you do read/watch/listen/whatever. You can link to your review there on that one post if you like.

Do you have to read anything? If you want to just watch TV shows and movies, that's fine. As long as you list/review them. 

When you say review do you mean "review"? It can be completely casual. Think of it as a one-sided conversation you'd have with a friend. Talk about what you liked, disliked, if you'd recommend it, if you'd want to read/watch it again. You can get analytical if you like. But you don't have to get 'deep' unless you want to. The reviews aren't like writing for a grade. There is no judgement. :)

You can approach this in several ways. You could aim to do something A-Z ish. (Skipping the harder letters). Or you could go by decades and try to touch a little bit of everything. But really you make the rules when it comes to picking what you want this challenge to do for you.

To sign up for the challenge, leave a comment with your email address. Yes, there are ways to leave it where you won't be spammed. laney_po AT yahoo DOT com (for example). But if you feel really strongly about NOT leaving your email address at a stranger's blog...then send me an email. Why the need for an email address??? Well, I want to invite participants to join this blog. They can then post their lists/reviews on this site. (It's fine to also post the reviews on your own site as well.) This way everyone can keep up with everyone else's progress. It's always a good way to get recommendations too! OR you can just make one post where you list (see below) your 42 as you go. So obviously, you'll start out blank...but then the list will fill out as you go.

EDITED: Some people ENJOY reviewing. Others don't. I'm happy for non-review-loving people to join in IF they promise to keep an ongoing list. (See my example).