Archive for September, 2005

I Am A Leaf On The Wind Or, Review: Serenity

REVIEW SUMMARY: This is what a SF movie should be. Anyone who enjoys a good movie should see Serenity, not just Firefly fans.

MY RATING:

PROS: Strong characters, believable dialog, snappy humor, answers some questions about the ‘Verse.

CONS: Weak-ish ending, lackluster music, cheap SFX.

BOTTOM LINE: See it. Now.

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A Little Smallville Never Hurt Anybody

I watched the season premiere of Smallville last night. (The wife Season-Passes it on Tivo – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) A coworker (Dan’s mom’s son) once called Smallville Dawson’s Creek with super powers”. (As an aside, months later I saw the same phrase in print in Entertainment Weekly. Litigation is still pending.) I’m afraid I’ll have to agree with Dan’s assessment. There is a teen-soap-opera-ish quality to it all.

But there’s also the Superman mythos part of the show and I find that part very entertaining. Last night’s premiere featured the Fortress of Solitude, super-criminals (I assume Ursa and Non from Superman II), the Phantom Zone, and a new criminal who I thought would be General Zod but have since learned is Braniac. In the past, they showed a young Barry Allen (the Flash) and Perry White. For the uber-geek in me, I also like it that one of the show’s stars (Annette O’Toole) played Lana Lang in one of the Superman movie (the horrid Superman IV ) and that the occasional voice of Jor-El is that of Terence Stamp, who played Zod in the excellent Superman II.

Anyhow, the Superman mythos part of the show is interesting to me, an avid reader of the comics when I was growing up. (If it says anything about me, I was a DC Comics kid, not a Marvel kid.) While some of the comic book elements are presented the show, they are in no way silly. In much the same way Battlestar Galactica has worked to earn the “re-imagining” label, so, too, has Smallvile . Although the teen soap aspect of the show is a drawback, and one that keeps me from watching every week, when I do catch it, I find the mythos aspect to be a welcome element of the show.

Just thought I’d share.

SF Tidbits Part XIV

Welcome to another installment of SF Tidbits!

Foxit PDF Reader

I’m not saying that the PDF document format sucks, but it does. OK, maybe I am saying that. The point is that my biggest gripe with PDF is the slow load times and Acrobat Reader loitering around in memory long after the doc is closed.

The solution? Foxit PDF Reader.

It’s small (I found it listed as a USB drive utility) and quick and kicks Acrobat’s a@@. A one-time file association fix made when it first runs and now PDF files load in an eye blink. Take that, Adobe!

Orson Scott Card’s New Web Mag

Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, due in October, is a new web-based magazine put together by the sf author himself. The mag proposes to “really use the power of the web” and will feature audiobook fiction. The mag also proposes to break the limitations of a print magazine by adding content to any given issue up until the next issue is published.

Top 50 SciFi Shows

Boston.com ran a list of Top 50 SciFi TV Shows of All Time.

Save yourself the Next-Button-thon…here’s the list:

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REVIEW: Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds

REVIEW SUMMARY: Another excellent book by Alastair Reynolds.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: 23rd century archaeologist Verity Auger meets up with Detective Floyd in an alternate Earth to solve a mystery or two.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Captivating blend of hard science and engrossing mystery; engrossing story; cool settings; lots of action; fast and evenly paced .

CONS: One or two minor questions left unanswered.

BOTTOM LINE: An excellent ride.

Alastair Reynolds is known for his dark, science-based space operas (see his Revelation Space sequence and the related Chasm City) but his latest book, Century Rain, is a fast-paced hard science adventure mixed with an old-style murder mystery.

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POLL RESULTS: 2005 Fall TV Season (Part 1)

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Which of the following 2005 TV shows pique your interest?

RESULTS

(475 total votes)

Price Waterhouse has verified that there may have been some form of ballot-stuffing with this poll. For those who took the time to stuff, thanks for showing we were worth the effort.

SFSignal Update

Just a quick update to let all our readers know what is going on regarding posting over the next week or so. As you may or may not know, the majority of posters to this site live in the Houston metropolitan area. Hurrican Rita is expected to make landfall just east of Houston sometime Friday night or Saturday morning. As a result, I haven’t been looking for neat SF info to bring you. I’m assuming the others have been busy as well. I’m also expecting us to lose power sometime in the next day or two so posting will be light if not non-existant until things return to normal.

I know that myself, Tim and Scott are all staying. I think Kevin is as well and I’m not sure about John. Things looked very scary last night as the hurricane track had Rite coming right over Galveston and on into Houston. The tracks now have Rita coming ashore further east, which is decent news for us in the NW Houston area. We’re hoping it keeps going that way so as to spare us the brunt of the winds.

So, I may be able to post something later on today or tomorrow once I’ve gotten all our preperations taken care of and it’s become a waiting game. Until then, stay safe everyone.

Update: For a really cool Google Earth hack using hurricane location info, check out FLHurrican.com. Very cool. But don’t trust their projected paths. I’m not sure how they do that, but it doesn’t fit with the NOAA guys.

Currently the storm is projected to make landfall east of us, nor forecasted to be near Port Aurthur, along the TX/LA border.. That’s good news for us in NW Houston as it means less high winds, according to one local weather guy, Harris county can expect sustained winds of 45+MPH with gusts upwards of 60 MPH. We’ll see if the storm keeps moving as it is.

Firefly Soundtrack

Has now been released by Fox. It’s a downloadabe ‘ealbum’ and costs $10. You can also listen to each track. I will say that, aside from the opening theme, I can’t remember any of the music. That’s either good or bad, I can’t decide.

The music didn’t strike me as being a disappointment, like Sky Captain’s did, but it wasn’t that memorable either. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever bought a soundtrack for a TV show. It’s just been movies. Hmm, I smell a poll for John….

Thanks to the A Quick Word From The Farside Of The Galaxy for the link.

Google Sued for Copyright Infringment

From Yahoo:

An organization of more than 8,000 authors accused Google Inc. Tuesday of “massive copyright infringement,” saying the powerful Internet search engine cannot put its books in the public domain for commercial use without permission.

The lawsuit asked the court to block Google from copying the books so the authors would not suffer irreparable harm by being deprived of the right to control reproduction of their works. It sought class-action status on behalf of anyone or any entity with a copyright to a literary work at the University of Michigan library.

The Author’s Guild, a New York-based non-profit organization, said its primary purpose as the nation’s largest organization of book authors was to advocate for and support the copyright and contractural interests of published writers.

Free Audio Excerpts

Holtzbrinck Podcasts is offering free audio excerpts of some Tor titles as well as titles from other publishers. This week’s 26-minute podcast features the science fiction titles Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and The Precipice by Ben Bova.

[Link via Locusmag]

Wal*Mart to Sell Episode III w/ Bonus DVD

Not that I troll Star Wars sites or anything, but TheForce.net is reporting that Walmart will be selling Revenge of the SIth with an exclusive but undescribed bonus disc titled The Story of Star Wars.

POLL RESULTS: The Best Years of Science Fiction

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Which years produced the best science fiction?

RESULTS

(36 total votes)

SF Tidbits Part XIII

Welcome to another installment of SF Tidbits!

REVIEW: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

REVIEW SUMMARY: A modern-day Alice in Wonderland story with solid imagery and interesting plot.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Richard is a young office worker in London who goes on a mystical adventure when a strange girl falls bleeding onto the sidewalk in front of him. She ends up taking him into a world of in-betweens and undergrounds – the people between the cracks of modern society.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Neil does a great job painting a picture of the underground world and drawing the reader in. He also has some innovative ideas on what goes on there.

CONS: Unfortunately it was hard to identify with any of Neil’s somewhat one-dimensional characters. Richard supposedly grows and changes as a result of his experiences, but because I never believed he was a real person it was hard to notice. The ending is a bit ackward as well.

BOTTOM LINE: Neil’s debut novel isn’t up to the high standards set by later works such as American Gods and the masterful Good Omens (co-authored with Terry Pratchett) but is still an enjoyable read.

REVIEW: The War with Earth by Leo Frankowski and Dave Grossman

REVIEW SUMMARY: A quick and fun read with some plot pacing issues.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The real wartime adventures of a soldier symbiotically connected to an intelligent super-tank with virtual reality capabilities.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Easily digestible writing style; interesting blend of military sf and virtual reality.

CONS: Pacing issues caused failure to deliver on-time the promise on the title.

BOTTOM LINE: Worth the read if you liked A Boy and His Tank.

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Book Store Splurge

Half Price Books is having a 20% off sale this weekend, which means, mathematically speaking, that it’s more like 60%-Off Books. As if I needed another reason to dump money in their coffers.

Tonight I stumbled across the Easton Press Collector’s Edition of Hyperion by Dan Simmons. For those who don’t know, Easton Press publishes hoity-toity, leather-bound version of books with gilded pages and a built-in bookmark ribbon. Mmmmmmm…biblioholic goodness…..

I carried it around the store in a biblioholic fugue for a while even though I had no intention of buying it. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) I have never read Hyperion so it was questionable to me that I needed a Collector’s Edition. I remembered that both JP and Kevin swear on their mothers’ knickers – which, creepily, is the same pair – that it is a very good book, so I I started thinking. (Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!) The price tag on the book was $10, meaning it would ring up at $8 + tax post-sale. Surely, 8 beans is but a pittance to pay for a book recommended by both JP and Kevin. The new mass-market paperback sells for the same price so why not get a leather-bound, gilded-paged, bookmark-ribboned hardback that I know sells for $40 or more?

Not that I needed the nudging but I splurged and bought the book. Actually, I ran from the store, book clutched to chest, giggling like the school girl that I am.

Is biblioholism covered under medical insurance?

New SF On TV

I finally decided to post my impressions of the new crop of upcoming SF TV shows, if no other reason than to stop John’s incessant whining about when I would write this. I’ll be using SciFi’s SF TV Review Pt. I as a guide.

And now, on with the show!

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Paperback Swap

A new website called PaperbackSwap promises to build the largest library in the world.

It’s an online book club where you list books you want to trade to get credits which you in turn use to get books from other members. You don’t pay for anything except postage – when another member requests your book, you mail it to them (~$1.50 in postage). There is currently no fee for this service, but there will be one eventually. The video and small print on the website explains it in more detail.

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