REVIEW: Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory

REVIEW SUMMARY: A combination wacky pop-culture alt-history and moving portrait of mental illness


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Del has to try to understand the demons that are possessing him and plaguing the world.


PROS: An excellent integration of fun, plot, and emotion.

CONS: Some of the fun may be padding.

BOTTOM LINE: An excellent effort by an already polished author.

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To Spore or Not to Spore

With apologies to the Bard…

I’ve been looking forward to the new PC game, Spore, for awhile now. I even went so far as to purchase the Spore Creature Creator to get a taste of the game. (Result: Needed more info than was provided to me, but I’m slow)

The hype just kept building, but a few chinks in the damn appeared this past week, with a couple of European sites giving Spore less than awesome reviews, citing a general lack of gameplay as the main reason. Sure, all the stages of the game are interesting in concept, but the actual ‘fun’ was left out to some degree. I see the Metacritic score is rather high from the review sites, but a lot lower from the actual gaming public. Strike one.

Then along came word that Walter John Williams actually wrote all the dialog and some of the space situations for the game. A real life SF writer writing real life, SF for a game. Awesome! The count is now: 1 ball, 1 strike.

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Books Received: September 8, 2008

We get books. Here are the ones we received this past week.

SF Tidbits for 9/8/08

Tube Bits for 09/08/2008

  • And now for the J.J. Abrams/Fringe portion of our bits:
    • Wired has a really nice interview with Fringe co-creators Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci. They talk Fringe, Star Trek and a bunch of other stuff they’re involved in. How does one get that gig?
    • MovieWeb also has an interview dealing with Fringe, this time with Abrams himself and with male lead Joshua Jackson. I do like, however, Abrams saying the storied in the show are not influenced by the politics of the times, just the science.
    • Fox is going high-tech to measure ad effectiveness during the premier of Fringe. During a test screening of the pilot, a group of viewers were outfitted with a biometrics vest to measure heart rate and respiration, indicators of ad effectiveness. It’s just one more step from there to VR suits, but who knew it would be the commercials leading the way?
  • Would you let your kids watch Stargate: Continuum? Wired Blogs has a handy parents guide to the movie to help you decide!
  • Masi Oka banned from Scrubs finale, by NBC. I guess being on a rival network will do that.
  • Having played The Force Unleashed demo, I can now say, “I’m in!” See a cool TV commercial below:

Star Wars Video Game Retrospective

I have fond memories of the vector graphics Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back arcade games. So it was a trip down memory lane to see that Game Trailers has a 9-part (so far) retrospective of Star Wars video games.

Here are the first 3 “episodes” of that retrospective, and links to the rest:

Episode I:

Episode II:

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Sunday Cinema – Journeyman, ‘The Year of the Rabbit’

Dan helps a young woman faced with 20 years in prison; while stranding his wife at her gala fundraiser.

Don’t worry, the show is slowly building its way towards the more interesting episodes…

SF Tidbits for 9/7/08

REVIEW: The Force Unleashed (Graphic Novel) by Haden Blackman, Brian Ching


In case you’ve been under a rock, LucasArts is about to release a new video game called The Force Unleashed. This game takes place between Episode III and Episode IV, about 2 years before A New Hope. As you might expect from the Lucas, the marketing juggernaut is out in full force with both a novelization and comic adaptation of the game. Yes, a novelization based on a video game based on a movie franchise. Sort of a media-tie-in of a media-tie-in.

Having never been a big comic guy, I decided to go ahead and get the graphic novel and give it a run through. Maybe my lack if comic experience is coming into play here, but I had some issues with the story, as presented in comic form.

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SF Tidbits for 9/6/08

I, For One, Welcome Our New SciFi Overlord…

I’ve got a new post up at SciFi Scanner today:

SciFi Fans, You Have a New Overlord and His Name is J.J. Abrams

Watch as I denounce as driving sources in science fiction:

  • George Lucas (easy)
  • Ronald Moore (bold)
  • Steven Moffat(brave)
  • [Gasp!] Joss Whedon (foolhardy)

Drop a comment over there if you want to set me straight.

[UPDATE: SciFi Scanner interviews Abrams and asks him about my proclamation of him being SciFi’s new overlord. Heh-heh…]

Friday YouTube: Star Trek Love Boat

[via Topless Robot]

4 Reasons to Visit Artist Mark Bryan’s Site

Here are 4 reasons to visit surrealist artist Mark Bryan‘s site…

[via Posthuman Blues]

SF Tidbits for 9/5/08

The Spore Hype Continues

Spore is the new ‘God’ game from Will Wright, where players get to create their own alien creatures and guide them from humble beginnings all the way to galactic conquest. We’ve mentioned that National Geographic will be airing a documentary, How to Build a Better Being, about the game on Sept. 9th. IGN has an exclusive clip from the show about the evolution of eye sight and how it will transfer to evolution in the video game. Rather interesting how the eyesight of the creature affects the display on screen.

I was all set to buy this as soon as it came out, however its been receiving wildly divergent scores so I’m not sure anymore. Anyone else out there buying this one?

Free eBooks: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and Odalisque by Fiona McIntosh

For a limited time, HarperCollins is making two books available as a free download. Formats provided include Adobe Digital, Microsoft Reader and Mobipocket.

The first book is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and is available for online reading or as a free download (though that link doesn’t quite work yet, as per Neil). The book is described thusly:

Richard Mayhew is an unassuming young businessman living in London, with a dull job and a pretty but shrewish fiancee. Then one night he stumbles upon a girl lying on the sidewalk, bleeding. He stops to help her, and his life is changed forever.

Soon he finds himself living in a London most people would never have dreamed of — a city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels.

The second book is Odalisque: Book One of The Percheron Saga by Fiona McIntosh.

Captured by slave traders in the inhospitable desert, Lazar fought his way to freedom, earning the coveted position of Spur of Percheron. Charged with protecting his adopted city from enemies on both sides of its walls, he has led a charmed life as confidant to and protector of Zar Joreb for many years. But now Joreb is dead…

Though Joreb’s well-intentioned fifteen-year-old heir, Boaz, will take the title of Zar, the balance of power lies in the hands of his beautiful and cruelly ambitious mother, a former harem slave who rose to power by the Zar’s favor. Aside from Lazar, whom Boaz trusts and respects, the young Zar’s only friend is Pez, the court jester, a misshapen dwarf whose tricks and diversions are accepted only because he is known to be mad.

When a stunning young girl is brought to the palace to fill a space in Boaz’s harem, both Boaz and Lazar are surprised by their unexpectedly strong reactions to her. But Ana, the odalisque, finds the closeted world of the harem stifling and unbearable. And unbeknownst to all, the gods themselves are beginning to rise in a cyclical battle that is just beginning, and will enmesh everyone in the palace in a struggle for the very soul of Percheron

Don’t dawdle…these offers expire on October 31, 2008.

Tokyo After the Apocalypse

tokyo5.jpgPink Tentacle (oh, tentacles!) points us to these fantastic images of Tokyo after the apocalypse, all overrun by nature. The two big ‘geek’ centers, Akihabara and Shibuya get the apocalypse treatment. It’s depressing to think about all the cool tech gear going to ruin in those areas. Note to Tokyo: Try to avoid the apocalypse if at all possible, and Godzilla too if you can. Thanks.

Apparently, they are photoshopped in various ways by Tokyo Genso (Tokyo Fantasy). Seeing as how I don’t speak Japanese, and I don’t trust the Google translator, I’ll take their word for it. In any case, some of the images are really cool. They have a very anime-ish feel to them, not surprising seeing as anime is a distinctly Japanese animation style. They remind me of Neon Genesis Evangelion, minus the giant robot fights. Which, if you think about it, could have laid waste to Tokyo and caused the eventual ruination of the the city. Cool!

Here’s one more cool pic. Visit the links above for more crunchy, apocalyptic goodness.


REVIEW: Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

REVIEW SUMMARY: The 5th book in a series, this novel keeps up the quality work seen in previous efforts with a darker tale.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: England is threatened by invasion from France while our heroes are outcasts for refusing to engage in genocide and being branded traitors.


PROS: Great battle sequences, characters take the forefront again

CONS: Doesn’t really break new ground.

BOTTOM LINE: I enjoyed this book despite a viewpoint becoming somewhat jaded.

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The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom

I stumbled upon this really interesting student created game called The Misadventrures of P.B. Winterbottom. It has a really nice 1920’s vibe to it and all wrapped up in a black and white, silent film aesthetic. But what’s it about? I’ll let the creators tell you:

Create Your Own Paradox for the Love of Pie!

Enter a macabre and comical silent film world filled with mischief, time travel, and delicious pie. Record yourself and harness your time bending abilities to cooperate, compete against, and disrupt your past, present, and future selves. Winterbottom’s debut misadventures present whimsical spin on the notions of time, space, and play.

The best part? One of the ‘features’ is this: Record your Actions to Create Time Clones in a Silent Film World.

That has to be one of the best game features, ever. But what does it look like? Feast your eyes on the trailer:

The ability to interact with your ‘time clones’ is really impressive. It’s taking the time travel ability from games like Prince of Persia and Braid and going to a whole new level. Insane yet cool, and all done by students at USC Interactive Media department. The game industry should take a look at what these students are doing. Original and unique, unlike most of the video games industry. (Hmm, the same could be said about Hollywood. Coincidence? I think not.) Where was this type of stuff when I was going to college? I’d be all over a B.A. in Interactive Entertainment.

Sadly, I don’t know if this will ever make to a PC or console near you. It seems perfect for something like Steam or Xbox Live Arcade. They’d get my money.

Tube Bits for 09/04/2008

  • Are you tired of the current campaign for President of the U.S.? Are you looking for something new but haven’t been able to find it? Never fear, the Tigh/Roslin ticket is here! At least with Tigh, you know you’ll be getting a one-eyed, drunk Cylon as President. And really, who wouldn’t want that?
  • However, I think we’ve found one person who won’t be voting a straight Cylon ticket this November: Glen Larson. He says he isn’t a fan of the new Galactica. Is anyone shocked by this?
  • If you’re worried about the new Trek movie, perhaps this will reassure you: there will be plenty of gadgets onscreen. Because, as we all know, the original Trek was all about the gadgets.
  • If you’ve been keeping up, then you already know that NBC’s webseries, Gemini Division, has new episodes posted. If you haven’t, then, uh, they have new episodes posted.
  • BuddyTV is worried that LOST, when it finishes, won’t answer some of the questions the fans have. I think they’re reading too much into what the producers have said. I expect all the major questions to be answered. The four toed statue? Maybe not.
  • All you Dr. Horrible fans can rejoice, the soundtrack for the show is now available in DRM-infested, Apple iTunes format!
  • BuddyTV video interviewed actor Yancy Arias about his role on the new Knight Rider series. See it below: