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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Classic review: Way Station by Clifford Simak

It is difficult to find a more enjoyable, wholesome and indeed delightful science fiction book than Way Station.  One of the most deserving Hugo winners, this short novel is full of inaction, takes place in a tiny setting that barely extends beyond a single log cabin, and yet is very overreaching in its concepts and introduces many science fiction elements that were adapted by other authors in their more recent works.  In the era of solar-system-sized artificial structures, military action, unabashedly fun and fast-paced space operas, zombies, vampires and other monsters, but also highly pessimistic outlook on the future of mankind, nothing feels better than to sit down with this quiet, unassuming and gentle story and spend a quality evening reading and digesting it.

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Guilty Pleasure: Ghosts of Mars

Ghosts of Mars has been universally panned by critics and earned only about half of its budget in the worldwide box office.  It’s safe to say that this move has been a miserable failure.  Despite this, I consider it a fun movie to watch and rewatch every so often, with great cast and a simple story that doesn’t require me to think too much.  Ghosts of Mars is one of my guilty pleasures.

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Book Review: The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin

The 2015 Best Novel Hugo Award is a controversial book.  Some hail it as an excellent work of art, which truly deserves the Hugo award, while others see it as mediocre at best, not deserving the recognition.  I’m part of the latter group.  I found the book to be, for the lack of a better term, childish and naïve.  But as I explore past Hugo winners, I didn’t want to skip this one and would like to say a few paragraphs about this title.

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Movie review: The Last Man

Hayden Christensen just can’t get a break.  After his universally panned performance as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episodes II and III (I’d argue that his performance was the result of the perfect storm of miscasting, poor script and directing, in addition to his own lack of experience), he bumbled from one bad movie to the next.  His next big vehicle was Jumper, which not only got trashed, but where I also felt he was miscast.  This was followed by sporadic roles in mediocre to really bad movies.  His last attempt to reinvent himself as a gruff anti-hero misfires once again.

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