Thursday, 23 November 2017

Shout-Out: Barbary Station by R. E. Stearns

Two engineers hijack a spaceship to join some space pirates—only to discover the pirates are hiding from a malevolent AI. Now they have to outwit the AI if they want to join the pirate crew—and survive long enough to enjoy it.
Adda and Iridian are newly minted engineers, but aren’t able to find any work in a solar system ruined by economic collapse after an interplanetary war. Desperate for employment, they hijack a colony ship and plan to join a famed pirate crew living in luxury at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.
But when they arrive there, nothing is as expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury—they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents and shooting down any ship that attempts to leave—so there’s no way out.
Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the AI met an untimely end, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds.
There’s a glorious future in piracy…if only they can survive long enough.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Video: Justice League "Come Together"

I haven't seen the new Justice League movie, and from what I've heard about it, I'll probably wait until it's on video. This is a sponsored video by Todrick Hall that I really enjoyed. The film depicts his dream Justice League members while they sing a wonderful rendition of "Come Together". It's not often a video gives me chills.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Book Review: Volk: A Novel of Radiant Abomination by David Nickle

Pros: interesting setting, fascinating story, complex depictions of and around black and gay characters

Cons: not particularly scary

Jason Thorn (aka Thistledown) flew planes over the trenches in WWI. After some bad times, he’s landed a job flying post in Africa. But the flight there is diverted to Bavaria, Germany, where an experiment has gone wrong. An experiment with a creature Jason has faced - and survived - in the past.

This is a direct continuation of Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, picking up 20 or so years after that one ends. All of the survivors show up and play major roles in the book. It’s interesting seeing how their lives have progressed, but also sad, as some of them don’t recover from their ordeal as well as others.

It’s very interesting learning more about the jukes and their parasitic nature. Unlike with the first book, when you knew when the characters were under the creature’s influence, in this book characters often reexamine their memories to discover they’ve forgotten things or were completely unaware of them. It make most of them unreliable narrators, but imparts their feelings of confusion and hesitancy very well.

The plot is pretty interesting, trying to figure out what happened to Jason, who and what Orlok is, and whether the Nazi’s will get their ubermensch.

Several of the newly introduced characters are gay, which was handled well considering the location and period the book takes place (Germany and France in the 1930s). One of the gay characters considered it a disease and was looking for a cure, while others were more comfortable with who they were. For the most part the principle characters around them were supportive or, at least, not derogatory regarding them.

Race, obviously comes up given Doctor Waggoner is black and married to a white woman. Again, I was impressed with how that was handled, especially entering Germany. The introduction of the jazz band and the treatment of its members was well done, showing racism in a more individualistic rather than stereotypical manner.

I didn’t find the book particularly terrifying (unlike with the eugenics of the first one) despite the presence of Nazis and some horrible things going on. There are some uncomfortable scenes and the ending was unsettling.


It is a good sequel. It answers a lot of questions raised in the previous book and shows what happens to everyone. It also shows that however much you run, sometimes you can’t escape your past.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Movie Review: What Happened to Monday

Directed by Tommy Wirkola, 2017

Pros: great acting, chilling story, antagonists have realistic motivations, thought provoking, action packed

Cons: a little hard to keep the sisters straight

In a future with gross overcrowding, a law is passed stating only one child per couple is allowed. Any siblings born are frozen, to be brought back when the population is under control. When Terrence Settman’s daughter dies birthing septuplets, he takes the girls and raises them - named after the days of the week - to be Karen Settman on their day. When Monday doesn’t come home one day, the others fear they’ve been discovered by the Child Allocation Bureau.

I’ve always been impressed by actors who can play multiple interacting rolls in a film. Noomi Rapace, playing 7 characters, does a brilliant job. She gives each sister a slightly different behaviour, which, combined with costuming, helps keep them straight. Having said that, I still had some trouble with this when there was a group of them together.

The setting was chilling, and chillingly realistic as a possible future. While Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close)’s one child policy seems heartless, it’s an unfortunate truth that over population is a problem and it’s difficult to come up with humane solutions. I suspect if this sort of policy becomes necessary globally, other social changes would have to come with it (religions would need to de-emphasize large families, social safety nets would need to be improved to help the elderly so they don’t need several adult children to support them, etc.). The film’s dependence on a single policy, without further societal pressures, is untenable.

I loved that the antagonists have realistic motivations for what they’re doing. While the majority of CAB officers are just doing their jobs, Cayman knows what she’s doing, and that it’s an unfortunate necessity. Similarly, when you finally discover why the siblings have been targeted, it does make sense, even if you consider other options may have worked better.

There’s a surprising amount of action - and a diversity of it. There’s a chase scene, explosions, even a bit of romance.


This is a great, thought-provoking film.   

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Shout-Out: The Dark Intercept by Julia Kelier

When the state controls your emotions, how hard will you fight to feel free?
In a radiant world of endless summer, the Intercept keeps the peace. Violet Crowley, the sixteen-year-old daughter of New Earth's Founding Father, has spent her life in comfort and safety. Her days are easy thanks to the Intercept, a crime-prevention device that monitors emotion. But when her long-time crush, Danny Mayhew, gets into a dangerous altercation on Old Earth, Violet launches a secret investigation to find out what he's hiding. An investigation that will lead her to question everything she's ever known about Danny, her father, and the power of the Intercept.

Much like the device itself, The Dark Intercept will get under your skin.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Video: Stranger Things Honest Trailer

With the excellent season 2 of Stranger Things now out, Screen Junkies has done an honest trailer for season 1. It's full of spoilers, so consider yourself warned.



And as a bonus video, if you're old enough to remember Perfect Strangers, Jummy Kimmel brought the actors back and paired them with the Demigorgon from Stranger Things in a pretty awesome mash-up.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Book Review: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Pros: excellent creature building, diverse cast, some tense moments

Cons: several minor items made me lose immersion, minor inconsistencies

Seven years ago the entertainment company Imagine’s ship Atargatis was lost in the Mariana Trench. Video, called a hoax by most, showed mermaid like creatures attacking the ship. Now, a new ship is being sent to find out what really happened.

There’s a great diverse cast. It was interesting seeing the hearing impaired twins interact with and without their translator (though I was surprised more people didn’t consider handwriting or typing notes to communicate with them). I really liked Victoria, and seeing her determination to discover what happened to her sister on the Atargatis. The book had some great friend duos between Victoria and Luis and Olivia and Ray. It’s not common to see close and supportive male/female friendships so it was great seeing those. While I didn’t particularly like Dr. Toth, I loved her mixture of curiosity and fatalism when it came to the mermaids.

The mermaids, or sirens as Dr. Toth preferred to call them, were incredible. They’re both alien and based on deep ocean creatures, beautiful and terrifying. I was impressed that the author makes it clear how they became objects of myth while also being quite different from the stories they inspired. I loved the hypotheses regarding aspects of their biology, mannerisms, and communication. The creature building was brilliantly done. 

I appreciated that the romantic elements came with a healthy dose of communication and a lack of manufactured drama. It came up quickly but felt organic to the story. 

There were several conversations and minor issues that kept bumping me out of the story. This ruined my immersion and lessened the tension. For example, when scientists start boarding the ship Ray and Olivia point people out to each other. Ray sees Luis Martines and knows a surprising amount of information about his life and field of study. He’s even read one of Luis’ academic papers. While I’ll accept that Olivia and Ray were given a crew manifest, he definitely knows more than a cursory search would bring up, even if Martines’ wealth makes him an intriguing subject. But then he doesn’t know who Dr. Toth is, which makes no sense if he studied the crew, considering she’s more famous and important as a subject for their work. 

Another scene with Olivia made me pause when she thought about her family: conservative father, liberal mother. Apparently her mother doesn’t think she should ever have sex due to her ‘condition’, which doesn’t seem ‘liberal’ to me. Had Olivia framed her thought explaining that her mother believed she was liberal but her words to Olivia proved otherwise, it would have made more sense.

I noticed several minor inconsistencies. I’m not sure if other readers will find these as distracting as I did, but I’ll discuss them in the spoiler section below. Thankfully the last hundred pages or so didn’t include any of these so I was able to really get into the action and feel the suspense and horror of the ending.

The book wasn’t perfect but it has some great creatures and the ending is excellent.


***SPOILERS***







At the beginning of the book Victoria remembers her recent break-up, where her ex brought a box of her things to the cafe where they were meeting. While she walked out first, I had assumed that by bringing the box her ex signalled that things were over. But later in the book she thinks about the two reasons she dumped him, Luis comments that she was the one who broke things off, and the ex is shown bitter and vengeful about her leaving him.


A second instance happens with Blackwell. Early in the book he has a phone conversation with Golden, who is unhappy that Blackwell insists on going on the voyage personally. He’s so important Golden would prefer he send someone else. But we see a memo later where Golden tells Blackwell he’s sending him on the ship in part to prove his loyalty to Golden.