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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Classic Review: Anvil of Stars by Greg Bear

It is not too often that a sequel outshines its predecessor, but Anvil of Stars does it with style and aplomb.  It is expansive, imaginative and still very human.  It presents questions of morality and revenge, features believable character development and operates just as well on the micro scale of a small, isolated community, as on the macro scale of solar systems with trillions of sentient beings.  It introduces realistic warfare with powers beyond the imagination of most people.  The book is also very dark and disturbing, and it will stay on my mind for a long time.

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Book Review: Will Destroy the Galaxy for Cash by Yahtzee Croshaw

The sequel to the supremely funny Will Save the Galaxy for Food leaves a lot to be desired.  It still features more of the same humor, but the worldbuilding has dissipated in favor of action, and the gradual discovery of new, quirky features of this fictional universe was replaced by a non-linear plot that feels all the more linear.  Sure, there is still the feeling of nostalgia and longing for the good old days, and the one-liners are still funny, but this title does not reach the qualities of its predecessor.

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On the Importance of Beds in Science Fiction

Humans spend about a third of their lives sleeping.  Quality of our sleep may vary, but we are creatures of comfort, and prefer a good sleep over a bad one.  This may sound self-evident, but apparently, it’s not always so.  While some science fiction movies and TV shows allow their protagonists to sleep well, others don’t.  This has a great impact on the overall feel of the story.  I believe that the quality of beds in science fiction stories is of greater importance than the quality of spaceships, range of blaster rifles or inventiveness in alien costumes.  Sleep overrules them all.

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Book review: The Forge of God by Greg Bear

The Forge of God is one of the most depressing science fiction books I’ve ever read.  It is apocalyptic in a way a Hollywood movie could never replicate: even though the story takes place on a global scale, the very deep and personal insights into how individuals are dealing with the crisis threatened to tear my heart out.  The plot may not always make sense, but the individual stories of the protagonists sound very believable.  And often very depressing.

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Book review: A Perfect Machine by Brett Savory

A Prefect Machine is sometimes described as a science fiction story.  It is not.  While it may have some sci-fi elements, it’s an amalgamation of young adult fiction, mystery, urban fantasy and cosmic horror.  It creates many more questions than it answers, and as a science fiction reader I felt unfulfilled when I finished it, despite having some of the best visuals I’ve read in a while.

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Book review: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Third in the Wayfarers series, Record of a Spaceborn Few retains the charm of its two predecessors.  Just like the previous book, it is only loosely connected to either of the two older novels, and just as the previous titles, it offers a refreshing new perspective and style.  The book’s subject matter and how the author handles it strikes me as a little more somber, which may be the main reason I didn’t like it as much as the other books in the series.  Still, Record of a Spaceborn Few is a very solid piece of fiction, and a worthy addition to the Wayfarers series.

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