Cover art for Dan Simmons’ 1989 novel “Hyperion”
I have to admit that I’d never heard of Dan Simmons or his award winning 1989 novel Hyperion until both were mentioned on Mike Glyer’s File 770. Actually, it was specifically the mention that he dared to insult the much vaunted teenage climate change icon Greta Thunberg. I agree that Simmons went kind of overboard on his twitter commentary, but attacking a teenager aside, criticizing Thunberg for any reason has become pretty much the worst thing you can do besides being a “denier.”
Anyway, I became interested in him and his novel, so I checked it out of my local public library and started reading. It wasn’t what I expected, but then again, I didn’t know what to expect.
Hyperion has been loosely compared to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories about seemingly unrelated people. I can kind of see that. Simmons, a former teacher, spared no effort in shoving tons and tons of literary references, many of them aimed right at Keats, into his stories. I’m sure many of them sailed way over my head. I don’t think they added much to the novel.
Cover art for the anthology “The Collapsar Directive
Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this anthology on the condition that I would write and publish a review. I have also had a short story and a piece of flash fiction published by Zombie Pirate Publishing, but none of my stories appear in the anthology I am reviewing, The Collapsar Directive.
Actually, the anthology’s title is taken from a story written by Adam Bennett, co-founder of Zombie Pirates, called “The Sword and The Damocles,” a tale about two interconnected intergalactic spacecraft. Like many of the short stories in the anthology, I found it to be “okay,” but not particularly remarkable. Of course “Collapsar” was published a few years back, and I know that many of the authors have since honed their writing skills.
Mel Newmin’s “Looking at the Face of God” had a nice twist to it, but I objected to the idea of releasing zoo animals back to the wild, since animals kept in captivity often lose their ability to fend for themselves in an untamed environment. Once the big reveal occurs, the results become interesting, but then science fiction does sometimes have the created confront their creator.
Promotional image of the television series “Star Trek Discovery”
Finished watching season one of Star Trek Discovery and the whole thing seems to be based on just about everyone having shocking secrets including Ash Tyler/Voq (Shazad Latif), the relationship between Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), and even Sarek (James Frain). Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) has more lives than nine cats.
About the only person on Discovery who is exactly as she seems is Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman), the endlessly optimistic and hopeful cadet who is finally promoted to an officer at the end of the season.
A significant portion of the show took place in the mirror universe, first introduced in the Star Trek original series episode Mirror, Mirror over 50 years ago. This is where we find out the secrets of Lorca and Georgiou, and ultimately, how the Federation wins the war against the Klingons.
When I reviewed Captain Marvel, I mentioned that one of the competing films released at the same time was Alita: Battle Angel. It’s not a movie I’d ordinarily watch, but because Brie Larson was such a pain in the butt about “Oh, look at me, I’m a powerful female warrior with a lot of victim issues,” I decided to view and compare the two works of art. In my view, Alita wins by a huge margin.
The really big issue is that Alita (voiced by Rosa Salazar) doesn’t have to rise to power by tearing men down the way “Captain Marvel” does. Her “father” Dr. Dyson Ido (voiced by the amazing Christoph Waltz), was a wonderful and flawed father figure. I would have loved a Dad like him, but he’s only a couple of years older than I am.
Everyone in the movie is complex and sometimes difficult to understand, especially Ido’s ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) and Alita’s love interest Hugo (Keean Johnson), unlike in “Captain Marvel” where we’re playing to very specific progressive stereotypes (all women good, all men bad or at least silly, even Nick Fury).
Actors Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Wiseman, and Shazad Latif in a promotional image from the Star Trek Discovery episode “Lethe” (2017)
I wasn’t going to review the first season of Star Trek Discovery episode by episode, but show 6 Lethe, aired almost two years ago, got my attention.
I’m not going through the whole thing, I just wanted to talk about some of the relationships and a few surprise reveals.
It’s no surprise that Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) have become “odd couple” friends. Thrown together as roommates in a cabin aboard Discovery, Burnham’s dour moods and overly serious Vulcan demeanor is counterbalanced by Tilly’s almost oppressive optimism and cheerfulness. Tilly is the kid sister Burnham never had (she had a “kid brother,” but I won’t discuss that here), and the one she tries to mentor, especially in this episode. Of course, Burnham’s telepathic/hallucinatory interactions with Sarek (James Frain) change that. It’s an unlikely friendship until you realize how complementary Burnham and Tilly are.
Promotional image of the television series “Star Trek Discovery”
Disclosure: I rented the first season of Star Trek Discovery as a DVD set from my local public library. For the sake of this blog post, I’m reviewing the first two episodes.
I have to admit, I went into this expecting not to like Discovery. Even when CBS offered the option to watch the first four episodes free through their streaming service, I shunned it. I figured after the whole J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies mess, anything with the name “Star Trek” in the 21st century would be pretty bad and reflexively play to a certain social and political perspective with no thought given to quality stories.
Which is why I’m surprised that I like it.
First things first. The visuals, actually all of the production values, are through the roof. It is a first rate science fiction television series and the eye candy (space, spaceships, tech…I’m not talking about people in this case) is amazing.
Cover image for Neal Asher’s novel “War Factory”
Disclosure: My short story “Joey” appears in the Zombie Pirate Publishing science fiction anthology World War Four. It also features Neal Asher’s novelette Monitor Logan.
Neal Asher’s War Factory is the sequel to his novel Dark Intelligence and the second in his “Transformations” trilogy.
We continue to follow the travails of a plethora of characters, human, Prador, AI, and other, all orchestrated by the dark AI Penny Royal, who has mysterious motivations for manipulating lives and even entire regimes.
Asher remains a top author in the crafting of space operas, interweaving a large cast of players on his interstellar stage, this time upping the game. Penny Royal leads herself, the assassin droid Riss, and Thorvald Spear on a journey to rediscover their beginnings, which for the mechanized members, is a massive space station. “Room 101” was a sapient intelligence who felt a maternal instinct toward her martial creations, and who, when on the verge of destruction, did the unthinkable.
Promotional image for the 2018 movie “Solo, A Star Wars Story”
So I finally got around to watching last year’s Star Wars story Solo starring Alden Ehrenreich in the title role, with Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, and Donald Glover. To be honest, I’ve been avoiding it.
Actually, last February, when I wrote my commentary Jason Reitman and the new Ghostbusters: Respecting the Fans isn’t Misogynistic, I made the mistake of calling out critics of Reitman by tagging them on twitter. I also mentioned that I’d not only avoided the 2016 Ghostbusters remake, but had also never seen Solo for similar reasons.
I was immediately attacked, but fortunately being “small fry” on social media, the twitteratti just as quickly lost interest in me.
However, some of what they said stuck with me including how I probably shouldn’t judge a movie I’ve never seen. I’m still avoiding the Ghostbusters remake, but when I saw that Solo was available as a DVD at my local public library, I figured it wouldn’t cost me anything (except 135 minutes of my life) to watch it.
Promotional cover image of Seth Patrick’s 2013 novel “Reviver.” Note: Not the original cover or title.
I probably wouldn’t even have read Seth Patrick’s novel Reviver (2013), but I noticed on the back cover a small review by SF author Neal Asher. I’m familiar with Asher’s work and even share the Table of Contents with him in a recent SciFi anthology, so naturally I was intrigued.
A few weeks back, I was at the local branch of my little public library, and although I was already reading two books, found myself stuck there with my books and my beloved laptop still at home. So I started wandering the stacks. This library is small enough not to differentiate between general fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, so they are all intermixed. I was randomly strolling through, occasionally picking up and reading the summaries of various novels, when I happened upon “Reviver” and noticed Asher’s name on the back cover. I figured, what the heck.
This is Seth Patrick’s very first novel, and I can only imagine he went through quite a few iterations before he arrived at the final product I consumed. It was a terrific mix of horror, mystery, and a hint of speculative fiction. I know there are purists who detest that sort of thing, but I never was one for the extreme blood, guts, and gore of modern horror. Yes, there is graphic imagery in the novel, but nothing I couldn’t handle, and the psychological horror totally hooked me.
Since I’ve received my copy of The Cloaked Press science fiction anthology Spring Into SciFi 2019, which features my short story “The Recall,” I started reading some of the other stories. The first one was “Black Eyes, Luminous Monsters” by Joanna Maciejewska.
Okay, I hated the title but loved the story. We are taken into a world at war, but it is between the human colonists on the planet and a strange and highly lethal alien biomass called “The Anomaly.” Trapped in a bunker, a medic named Kyara is tending to a wounded and likely dying soldier when the Anomaly attacks. The only way to escape is to retreat to the evac zone, but the biomass grabs Kyara and she knows she has only seconds to live.
The humans have a single defense, beings called Stabilizers or “Stabs” which have the ability to combat the Anomaly. The problem is that the Stabs are just as dangerous, and spending any time in the presence of one could also be deadly. During the fight between the Anomaly and the Stab, Kyara passes out, sure that she’s about to die.