Book Review: Blindsight by Peter Watts

From the realm of hard and dark science fiction comes a book about … space vampires?  Well, not exactly, but I had to get it out of the way.  This book does include vampires, but that’s just a small part of this very densely written first-contact adventure between aliens and a crew of psychopaths.  Watts spins a dark story of a depressing future world, incomprehensible and terrible aliens, and the exploration of human consciousness.  Had Blindsight been a little better paced, it would have been an instant classic.

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Book review: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Dispossessed is one of the most awarded science fiction novels. It won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards, and has been widely recognized even outside its sci-fi genre. With a good reason, I may add: the book crosses over genres and at times feels more like a philosophical diatribe than a science fiction novel. However, it can also be confusing and difficult to read, especially for people not prepared to deal with such a radical departure from traditional sci-fi. I was one of such readers, and I can unequivocally state that I did not like this book.

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Modern Classic: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The notion of “uplift”, intelligent species genetically modifying animals to sentience, has been tossed around science fiction for quite some time, but never gained much prominence.  Save for the first work credited with uplift, The Island of Doctor Moerau by H. G. Wells and the Uplift series by David Brin, written science fiction has had fledgling success with the concept.  Children of Time has revived uplift with its great worldbuilding, awe inspiring scope and brilliant writing.

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Classic review: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness is considered one of the most important works of modern science fiction.  Published in 1969, it opened up the world of sci-fi to the concepts of gender fluidity, and is widely considered one of the first feminist sci-fi works.  Since then, the book had been studied by academics and feminists alike and is often prescribed as required literature in schools.  Maybe that’s why I was never compelled to pick it up until now, nearly 50 years after its original publication.  Even from a modern perspective, I found this book superb.  It is descriptive to a poetic level, it’s got strong characters and excellent worldbuilding.  I was able to thoroughly enjoy it even though I failed to detect any of the feminist elements people talk about.

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Movie review: Upgrade (2018)

From time to time a low budget movie gets released that doesn’t feel like low budget at all.   Upgrade is one such movie.  Featuring innovative camera work, good action sequences and a believable future, this movie was surprisingly entertaining.  A little dark and depressing, but still very much fun to watch.

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Modern Classic: Will Save the Galaxy for Food by Yahtzee Croshaw

Chances are, you’ve never heard of this book or its author, but if you read science fiction over the past decade you came across works by John Scalzi.  The short version of this review thus could be that Yahtzee Croshaw’s book, WSTGFF (sorry; I won’t copy/paste the entire name every time) is more intelligent and funnier than Scalzi’s space romps.  But that would still be shortchanging this title.  WSTGFF is a fun space romp, full of adventure, confusion and strange characters.  It is very melancholic and funny at once.  And you can say it’s got a soul.

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Warren Ellis: Superstar of science fiction in comics

For many people who don’t read comic books, comics is largely about superheroes.  In some cases, there have been sci-fi subplots to create superheroes (Fantastic Four, for example), but until the recent crop of Marvel movies featured a band of merry space adventurers (Guardians of the Galaxy), the mainstream saw comics as fantasy with weird people having weird powers, beating the crap out of each other.  Those who read comic books knew better, though: science fiction elements have been an integral part of comic universes since its classic days, even if we disregard Superman as being an alien whose space ship crash landed on Earth.  Jack Kirby created the New Gods of the DC universe in 1971: an alien race of superpowered beings.  Marvel has multiple alien races.  The Skrull were created in 1962; the Kree in 1967, just to name the most prominent ones.  However, all those comic worlds are still at heart about superpowered beings, no matter how they gained their powers.  The work of Warren Ellis is different.  It focuses on sci-fi elements, explores futuristic societies and often features normal, or only mildly abnormal humans.  More importantly, his books are fun and insightful at the same time and should be considered among the best sci-fi works in comics.

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Modern Classic: The Border by Robert McCammon

Alien invasion books are a dime a dozen. Post-apocalyptic alien invasion books are almost as numerous. So, it’s difficult to come up with at least a semi-original premise, and package it into a refreshing and gripping story. McCammon manages to do both and presents us with a gritty science fiction horror with a good story, solid characters and excellent worldbuilding. The Internet is full of lukewarm reviews for this novel. This is a far more positive one.

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Book review: The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

The End of the World Running Club is a living proof that quality literature can survive and thrive, even if it starts without a publishing deal. Originally self-published, this book was later reprinted by Del Rey Books and eventually found its way to my reading den. But as much as I tried to be upbeat about this work, it left me lukewarm. Walker presents a very compelling apocalyptic scenario, but I found his characters to be flat and unlikeable, and the author eventually betrays my trust. The Internet is full of glowing reviews of the Running Club. This is not one of them.

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Movie review: Extinction (2018)

Another from a growing line of Netflix sci-fi movies, Extinction is a refreshing change to the overused alien invasion trope. While not perfect, it is a solid TV movie that I found more entertaining than the dreary Titan or Anon. Unfortunately, it relies too much on its twist ending, and this relegates the movie to a “see once” status. The visuals, acting and story itself do not warrant a second look.

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