The Next Book I’m Reading

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Cover image for Dan Simmons’ novel “Hyperion”

After Dan Simmons lambasted teenage climate change darling Greta Thunberg on twitter, and came on the radar of Mike Glyer’s File 770 (which must still be experiencing technical difficulties, since I haven’t received any email notifications of new posts in quite a while), AND finding out that his signature novel Hyperion is a Hugo Award winner, I’ve been dying to read the book and learn more about him.

Yes, I think he went too far in his insults of a little teenage girl who is clearly being manipulated by adults, but he also stood up to the more leftist powers that be in social media and the science fiction creators and fandom community, and occasionally, they need to be stood up to. So I put a hold on it at my local public library and today it became available.

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Book Review: “The Collapsar Directive”

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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.

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Film Review of “The Abyss: Special Edition” (1989)

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© James Pyles – DVD cover for the 1989 film “The Abyss”

I hadn’t intended to watch a film on Sunday evening, but saw a DVD of the 1989 film The Abyss and said, “why not?”

Actually, this is the special edition, so it’s expanded quite a bit from what folks saw in the original theatrical production.

The movie opens aboard the USS Montana, an Ohio-class U.S. Navy sub. The sub encounters some strange light apparition near the Cayman Trough and, caught in its wake, is dragged across a rock formation, fatally damaging the sub.

With Soviet ships closing in to salvage the nuclear submarine, the Navy commandeers a private, underwater drilling platform operating near the Trough that’s led by Foreman Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) and crewed by a bunch of roughneck oil drillers.

Brigman’s estranged wife Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who designed the drilling rig, accompanies a group of Navy SEALs commanded by Lieutenant Hiram Coffey (Michael Biehn) down to the rig just before a hurricane hits, in an attempt to reach the Montana and search for survivors.

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Film Review: “Escape from L.A.” (1996)

© James Pyles – photo of DVD case for the movie “Escape from L.A.”

I saw John Carpenter’s 1981 film Escape From New York starring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, and Adrienne Barbeau when it was first in the theaters and then a few times on disc later. It’s what I consider a “high functioning B movie.” That means it’s a lot of fun, but in spite of the quality actors in the movie, it would attain no higher level than “cult classic.” It’s a good way to waste two hours.

I’ve been aware of the 1996 sequel Escape from L.A. for years, but never had the desire to see it. However, yesterday at my local public library, I found it on disc and figured “what the heck.”

Actually, given the quality of the story of the original, and that sequels almost never live up to the original, I expected to either be bored or to hate it.

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Fiction’s and Real Life’s “Bad Guys” and Stereotyping

I’ve been thinking a lot about villains lately. Actually, this particular File 770 “Pixel Scroll” first brought the topic up in my mind. If you scroll down to item #4 “AUTUMN LEAVES” and to “Watchmen” just below that, you can read:

Oct. 20, 9 p.m., HBO
Confession: I know nothing about Watchmen. Never read the comic or saw the (polarizing) 2009 film. I had to pause many times while watching the pilot so I could look up characters and backstories on Wikipedia. With that said, I can’t wait to see more. Set 30 years after the comics, Watchmen takes place in a world where police hide their identities due to terrorist attacks and a long-dormant white supremacist group wants to start a race war. The show is expensive-looking but not hollow. There’s a humanity to the characters that is often lacking in comic book adaptations, due in large part to the exceptional cast, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and Don Johnson. Hardcore fans will have to make up their own minds, but this novice is intrigued. [emph. mine]

I know I wrote a blog post sometime ago about adult-oriented comic books and how they are now themed to emphasize social justice, but I can’t find it again. I do remember that, thanks to Donald Trump, most, if not all of the villains are straight white men, and specifically alt-right white supremacists.

No, I’m not defending racism, white supremacy, bigotry, or anything like that. My wife and children are Jewish, so I specifically take a dim view of antisemitism as well as other forms of prejudice and bigotry. Yes, some of my political views are unpopular to certain demographics but I don’t advocate for hate.

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Well, That Was Fast – “Tales From the Southwest” Featuring My Short Story “The Strangers” is Published.

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Promotional image for the anthology “Tales of the Southwest.”

Right now, as the editor/publisher John Green says, all roads lead to Lulu.com. He says if a book gains enough interest, he’ll publish a digital version on Amazon, but the authors don’t make much from that. If you like western stories, classic and otherwise, please buy and read. Let me know what you think.

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My Short Story “The Strangers” is Being Published in “Tales of the Southwest”

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Promotional image for the cover of John Green’s anthology “Tales of the Southwest”

Yes, “The Strangers” is the eleventh story accepted for publication in an anthology this year and it has a slightly unusual history. I originally wrote it for a different publisher and it was rejected. “Ouch,” yes it always stings. However, I read that John Green was looking for stories to be included in his “Tales of the Southwest” anthology on Facebook. I happened to casually mention that I had a story that might fit but A) it’s set in Idaho (not exactly the southwest) and B) it has aliens. He told me to send it to him anyway.

He liked the story, but asked if I could change the location from Idaho City, Idaho to Cedar City, Utah. I did the research and although the presence of the Mormon church in late 19th century Utah complicated things a bit, I made the edits.

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Film Review of “Alita: Battle Angel” (2019)

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).

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Star Trek Discovery: The Episode “Lethe” and Relationships

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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.

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Film Review of “Star Trek” (2009)

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Promotional image for the movie “Star Trek” (2009)

Just for giggles, the other night I re-watched J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek (2009). Yes, I saw it in the theater ten years ago with one of my sons, and what I pointed out was wrong with the movie then, is still wrong with it now.

Oh, it’s a fun romp. There’s great action, poignant moments, and some good (and not so good) acting, but let’s face it. This isn’t your Dad’s (or Granddad’s) Star Trek.

Of course Abrams, who was selected to relaunch the franchise, went on record that he always felt like (Star Trek was) a silly, campy thing. I remember appreciating it, but feeling like I didn’t get it. Roddenberry must have been spinning in his grave.

The franchise deserved a director who grew up loving Star Trek, but it got Abrams instead. Go figure.

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