REVIEW: The Exile Kiss by George Alec Effinger

REVIEW SUMMARY: A good read, but I was expecting more.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Marid Audran and his crime boss, Friedlander Bey, are exiled to the Arabian desert for a murder they did not commit.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: The flavor of prose is very enjoyable and easily consumable; colorful characters; the Budayeen is a great setting.

CONS: Weaker first half; pacing issues.

BOTTOM LINE: This late-blooming story did not quite match the enjoyment levels of the previous two books; if you haven’t read them, start there.

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POLL RESULTS: SciFi Channel Progress Report

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
How well is the Sci-Fi Channel doing as compared with last year?

RESULTS

(40 total votes)



Be sure to vote in this week’s poll on upcoming Sci-fi on TV and Film!

EW Reviews SF/F

Issue #889 (August 4, 2006) of Entertainment Weekly offers some brief reviews of science fiction and fantasy books. Here’s a snippet.

A Separate War and Other Stories by Joe Haldeman

For Fans of: Starship Troopers or Haldeman’s classic, The Forever War.

Lowdown: Whether spinning old characters into new tales (“A Separate War”) or tackling issues like terrorism, homosexuality, and global warming, Haldeman remains a nimble, necessary figure in sci-fi’s pantheon.

Grade: A-

Farthing by Jo Walton

For Fans of: Robert Harris’ Fatherland or Philip Roth’s Plot Against America.

Lowdown: A stiff-upper-lip whodunit boasting political intrigue and uncomfortable truths about anti-Semitism.

Grade: B+

Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel

For Fans of: Surreal David Lynch and Wim Wenders films.

Lowdown: The book doesn’t define a genre you’ve never heard of so much as blur the line between sci-fi and mainstream.

Grade: B+

The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

For Fans of: Vampires, wizards, and philosophical ideas.

Lowdown: Urban and sleek where Anne Rice is parochial and ornate, it’s a promising entry into what could be a modern horror epic.

Grade: B-

SF Tidbits for 7/30/06

Lost Superman II Footage

Now that Richard Donner is getting a chance to make his version of Superman II, there will be changes. Access Hollywood aired a preview of the changes which found their way to YouTube. One difference: Lois throws herself out of a Daily Planet window. Silly Lois! You’re supposed to do that before the whole “Can you read my mind?” bit!

YouTube also offers a collection of deleted scenes from Superman and Superman II.

[via Cinematical]

The Top 50 Movie Endings of All Time

Film Critic offers a spoiler-laden list of The Top 50 Movie Endings of All Time. Some genre entries of note:

  1. Batman Begins (2005)
  2. The Terminator (1984)
  3. The Thing (1982)
  4. Back to the Future (1985)
  5. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  6. Brazil (1985)
  7. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  8. Planet of the Apes (1968)
  9. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  10. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

[via Cynical-C]

SF Tidbits for 7/29/06

SF Tidbits for 7/28/06

First Impression: Who Wants to be a Superhero

O Loyal Reader, we are nothing if not subservient. We like to think of ourselves as the protectors of common decency. That is, when we aren’t going on and on about supermodels and licking super heroes.

Speaking of superheroes, tonight was the premiere of the SciFi Channel’s new reality show Who Wants to be a Superhero, created and hosted by comic book legend Stan Lee. In an effort to shield you from Galactica 1980-like atrocities, I’m taking one for the team and subjecting myself to its promise of suckage.

Here, then, are my impressions.

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5 Things Science Fiction Fans Love to Hate

Science fiction fans the world over are known for their easy-going, acceptance of sci-fi shows and movies.

Kidding! Do you know any other group so vehemently outspoken about the things they hold dear? It occurs to me (as things often do once in a while) that are a small handful of things that far exceed sf fans’ already-low tolerance. And never you mind that we have added to the whining chorus on this very blog. We know you love it.

  1. Television Executives – There used to be a time when a network, committed to airing a television show, would air a full season – A full season! – before deciding to axe it for bad ratings. The theory (archaic by today’s standards) was that a show needed time to build a fan base. Welcome to the 21st century where a show can be pulled after 3 episodes. Worse still are when the shows canceled have exhibited some sense of quality or style. The TV Suits make the list for pulling the plug on shows like Firefly. What the world really needs is another reality show. Apparently.
  2. The Sci-Fi Channel – Let’s give the science fiction fans exactly what they want: a round-the-clock channel of horrible monster movies and wrestling! To be fair, the channel is headed in the right direction with shows like Battlestar Galactica and (so far) Eureka. And, true, 24 hours a day is a lot of time to fill. But seriously…Mansquito?
  3. Hollywood – What’s the quickest way to tick off a science fiction fan? Flick him in his glasses? Insult his imaginary girlfriend? Nope. Adapt his favorite novel for the big screen! While you’re at it, ignore the original material, the author that made it a much-loved classic, and any semblance of plot that it contained. But keep the name. You wanna really tap into the built-in market segment.
  4. Rick Berman – Star Trek fans, unite! Unite against the man who is singlehandedly credited with bringing down the Trek franchise. (Never mind that people had no other suggestions for reviving the show other than the Space Fleet Academy premise.)
  5. George Lucas – You would think that the man who gave us one of the most-loved films of all time (that would be Episode IV in geek-speak) would be able to get a little slack from fans. However, good taste can only be pushed so far. Even Mother Theresa – God rest her soul – would be the target of derision if she gave us Ewoks, mitichlorians and Jar-Jar Binks. Personally, I think the whole Greedo Shoots First re-take was Lucas giving his cry-baby fans a big raspberry. From his multi-billion-dollar mansion, of course.

SF Tidbits for 7/27/06

Upcoming SF on TV and Film

Because of this article in USA Today, thoughtfully provided by John in today’s tidbits, I thought I’d take a quick look at the films highlighted in the article as well as take a quick look at the upcoming SF(ish) shows on TV.

First up, the movies that are supposedly reclaiming Hollywood.

  • Children Of Men – take a SF idea (human race can no longer reproduce) and then explore the ramifications when a woman discovers she is pregnant. I’d say this is SF in the same vein as Margret Atwood’s stories are SF with minimal, but present, SF ideas but an emphasis on the characters. Still, not a film that’s jumping out at me.
  • The Fountain – is this really SF? I’d say it’s really romance/fantasy that happens to have one setting in the far future. Not on my list to see. Ever.
  • Mimzy – Based on the short story, “Mimsy Were The Borogroves”, by Lewis Padgett. I’ve never read this one so I don’t know how SF-ish it is. It could go either way as a box of toys from the future could have a lot of SF elements to it, or just devolve into a horror/creep fest. I’ll keep my eye on this one.
  • Logan’s Run – The on again/off again re-make by Bryan Singer of the X-Men movies fame. Do we really need to update the classic Micheal York vehicle? I don’t think so. How about something fresh and not another remake?
  • Star Trek XI – The latest in the Star Trek franchise, this time directed by J.J. Abrams. Supposedly set during the Academy days of Kirk and Spock. Now, I like Kirk and Spock, but to me, Star Trek is about more than just the characters. Sure, they play a large part, but its also about discovery and exploration. I’d like to see a return to the fiver-year voyage and see more ‘new life and new civilizations’. Please.

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JMS News From Comic Con

That would be J. Michael Stracynski of Babylon 5 fame. It seems that JMS dropped quite a few nuggets of information at the recently completed San Diego Comic-Con. In short order, here are the juicy bits:

  • JMS has sold a movie to Ron Howard set in 1920’s LA. It’s supposedly a myster/thriller (and not the Michael Jackson variety). Did you know: Ron’s dad, Rance, played John Sheridan’s father on B5.
  • JMS did a radio drama series for the CBC called The Adventures of Apocalypse Al. Still no word on an air date.
  • Sam Raimi is developing JMS’ Rising Stars comic series as a TV series. Too bad the NBC look-alike series Heroes will beat them to the punch.
  • Another JMS comic property, Midnight Nation, is being bid on by two movie studios. One shudders to think what Hollywood will do to the story.
  • And the biggest news of all, if you haven’t seen it yet: There will be more Babylon 5 stories! Maybe on network TV, but most likely to be shot straight to DVD. Babylon 5 – The Lost Tales will be a bunch of short films detailing many different stories set in the B5 universe. The first three will be about three of the main characters. Seeing as how Richard Biggs and Andreas Katsulas have passed on, the pool of characters is that much smaller. I’m there whenever these are released/aired.

That’s a lot of news. I really liked Rising Stars and I wondered, given the success of comics on film recently, why it hadn’t been picked up. It’s not your typical superhero tale. Tim pointed out that it reminds him of George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series and I agree with that too, along with the Heroes series.

As far as B5 is concerned, I hear that Sheridan will be one of the characters JMS will cover. I’d like to see Garibaldi and Vir as well, although Ivanova would be fun too. If they can get Claudia Christian to do it.

REVIEW: Best Short Novels: 2006 edited by Jonathan Strahan

REVIEW SUMMARY: More hits than misses.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Anthology of nine novellas from the year 2005.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: 6 stories ranging from good to excellent, the best being a fantasy piece.

CONS: 3 stories mediocre or worse.

BOTTOM LINE: A good assortment of stories from 2005, 3 of them award nominees.

Jonathan Strahan’s Best Short Novels: 2006 aims to collect the best science fiction and fantasy novellas from 2005; whether or not it meets that goal is left up to interpretation, of course. While I can say there were stories from 2005 that I enjoyed better than some of the entries, there are still quite a handful of really enjoyable stories in this volume. As with any anthology, your mileage may vary.

The least enjoyable stories for me this year were hovering in the realm of fantasy. This is not surprising, really, given my preference for science fiction. As I mentioned with last year’s volume, the varied genre selection turns out to be a double-edged sword for readers like myself who may not find a particular genre suitable to their tastes.

That said, I was absolutely blown away that the most enjoyable story was indeed a fantasy: “The Cosmology of the Wider World” by Jeffrey Ford. This story worked on so many levels for me and really made me think hard about why I sometimes do not enjoy fantasy. That fact alone makes it a stunning achievement.

Statistics-wise: Three of the stories in this volume turned out to be award nominees; two for the Hugo (“The Little Goddess” and “Inside Job”), one for both the Hugo and Nebula (“Magic for Beginners”). I had already read all of these as part of my Hugo and Nebula Award nominee reading projects.

Reviewlettes of the stories follow.

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SF Tidbits for 7/26/06

More Kids Reading, Thanks to Harry Potter

Call him Harry Power. The Book Standard article Harry Potter and the Positive Impact shows how the Harry Potter books have persuaded children to turn to books.

More than half of kids ages 5-17 say they did not read books for fun before the Harry Potter series came along, according to the report, which surveyed 500 children and 500 parents nationwide. Among parents, 76 percent say reading the series has helped their child perform better in school, while 65 percent of children agree.

The Harry Potter study found that the average age at which readers pick up Harry Potter is 9, and many older children will read and re-read the books as they get older. This good news follows the findings from Yankelovich’s The Kids and Family Reading Report, released in June, which found that after the age of 8, the number of kids who read for fun significantly drops.

This is great news. I wonder, has any science fiction book had as profound an effect? Ender’s Game maybe?

Another Literary Debate

Author Will Shetterly asks: Is “literary and genre” a clumsy distinction? The post is interesting and the comments even more so. They touch upon some of the literary-type discussions we’ve had here.

There are many statements this post that resonate with me: Story and style crossing genre boundaries; not liking a book of a certain type; reading fiction to be entertained, and Rebecca Ore’s sentiment that [paraphrasing] “If writing stories that show technology and science…is worth doing, it’s worth doing…well.”

As I ponder more and more about this, I am reminded that the reader play a crucial role as well. My own moods play into my enjoyment of books and stories. Sometimes I am in the mood for slam-bang action and sometimes I’m looking for something literary. (Deferring the quagmire of a discussion of exactly what that means, I will say that I am currently reading the fantasy story “The Cosmology of the Wider World” by Jeffrey Ford. It’s literate and likable and a story which is helping me pinpoint my hit-and-miss track record with fantasy. More to come in a later post.)

Anyway, it’s always entertaining to read Another Literary Debate as it pertains to science fiction, eh?

SF Tidbits for 7/25/06

POLL RESULTS: My Favorite Heinlein

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Which of the following is your favorite Robert A. Heinlein book?

RESULTS

(66 total votes)



Does anyone else notice the bell curve of Heinlein’s writing career? I tried to pick a range of career-spanning work to see if there was a trend since I hear many people say (or few people often say) that Heinlein’s later stuff is lame. It seems his earlier stuff may also be the least-favorite as well. I wonder what the “other” novels were?


Be sure to vote in this week’s poll: SciFi Channel Progress Report!

UPDATED: SF Tidbits for 7/23/06

UPDATED: with NPR link.