Classic Review: Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

Many people consider this to be the best book from The Culture series.  Many more think it’s the most gut-wrenching book.  I am simply amazed at the depth of characters, quality of writing and a story structure that was very difficult for me to read, but ultimately very rewarding.  It is haunting, depressing and beautiful at the same time.  This book cemented the author’s place among the best wordsmiths of his generation.

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Modern Classic: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl is essential reading for the early 21st century.  It deals with incredibly important themes in an accessible and very engaging fashion.  The characters are all well fleshed out, the story is plausible, and the setting is exotic enough for the reader to never feel too comfortable.  I would go as far as to say that the book is prophetic, and it’s up to the readers to make sure this particular prophecy doesn’t come to pass.

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Hugos 2020 – Novelettes

This year, the selection of novelettes did not reach the quality of the previous years.  Back in 2018 and 2019, I was hard-pressed to find my favorite story, and even to select the top three was difficult.  In 2020, only one work was truly superb, and the second best stood high above the rest only due to its novel idea, not the quality of the writing.  For the first time in several years, I had to stop voting before I reached the end of the list.  Here are my views of all the nominated novelettes, ranked from my most favorite one.

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Hugos 2020 – Short Stories

This year, the short story ballot was very strong.  Unlike the last few years, the stories feel complete, gradually tapering off instead of an abrupt ending, and they all made actual sense to me.  I found it quite difficult to rank them according to my preferences, as I felt that the top three were serious contenders for the Hugo award, and another two still showed very high quality.  After overthinking the rankings a little, here is my take on the 2020 Hugo Short Story finalists. Continue reading

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Philip K. Dick vs. Hollywood, Part 2: Paycheck

A blockbuster movie directed by John Woo and starring no less than four A-list actors at the height of their popularity, in a movie based on Philip K. Dick’s short story.  What could go possibly wrong?  Well, a lot of things.  When the dust settled, the movie may have recouped its costs thanks to the international box office, but that didn’t save it from being savaged by the critics.  In the current cultural climate, the critical response may be common for both the movie and the short story, but other than that and the basic premise they aren’t much alike.

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Book Review: The Last Emperox (Interdependency 3) by John Scalzi

The Interdependency series is one of the rare trilogies where each sequel gets better than the previous book, and despite a single linear storyline, each novel has its own distinct character.  I was unimpressed with the first book, considered the second one a good, light read, and was very pleasantly surprised by the depth of the last part, as well as the emotions it managed to drag out of me.  If Scalzi was a new author, I’d think I saw him mature throughout the series, but being a veteran writer, this was probably a deliberate, cynical plot to keep his readers engaged to the very end, and I love him for it.

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Philip K. Dick vs. Hollywood, Part 1: Second Variety

Philip K. Dick’s work had been hot property for Hollywood studios for decades.  It’s not all that surprising to see why.  Most of the works that made it to film feature a novel concept, around which a skilled screenwriter can spin a compelling story.  This works best on short stories, relatively unburdened with Dick’s musings on governmental tyranny, the perception of reality and questions of one’s identity.  But even so, Hollywood’s track record with understanding Dick’s work is rather abysmal.  In this series of articles, I’ll explore the movie adaptations of Dick’s stories, one by one.

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Book Review: Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos

Lines of Departure is the second book in the Frontlines series.  It is a solid piece of military science fiction, with plausible main characters and a story that goes beyond the usual futuristic action.  There is more character development than one would expect from a book of this genre, and despite the well crafted battle scenes, the peeks into soldiers’ lives outside the conflict are far more interesting.

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Book review: Fall; or, Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson

In a sense, Fall is a typical Stephenson novel.  It has all the hallmarks of an author who is constantly evolving, refining his style and endlessly polishing his prose, so that not a single word or comma is out of line.  However, it seems to contain all the wrong elements one would expect from Stephenson.  It’s like the author decided to pick the worst characteristics of his precious works, and manically throw together multiple concepts, none of which he brings to completion.  If this was the work of a lesser author, I’d be afraid he was deranged, but in the case of Neal Stephenson I like to believe that Fall; or, Dodge in Hell is a grand experiment.  Of throwing shit on the wall and seeing what sticks…

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TV Review: Star Trek: Picard, Season 1

It’s quite difficult to describe the latest Star Trek offering, especially to a fan.  One may attempt to say that it boldly goes to where no other Star Treks went before (sorry).  Others may call it an unnecessary fan service or an apology for the disastrous Discovery.  I see it as a hot mess, with too many stories that lead nowhere, but still somehow manages to stay compelling.

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