Author Archive

BOOK REVIEW: Star Wars and History edited by Nancy R. Reagin and Janice Liedl

REVIEW SUMMARY: A unique and interesting resource when looking at history.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Science Fiction tends to be closely linked with contemporary history in more ways than one would expect. In this collection of papers, historians examine the parallels between real-world history and the Star Wars franchise.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A neat and interesting way of looking at history.
CONS: Oversteps its bounds at points.
BOTTOM LINE: Know a Star Wars fan who’s having trouble with history? This volume might be the best way to get them interested.

When I was in grade school, I had trouble reading early on: the books that I had for my classes weren’t doing it for me, and it wasn’t until my parents gave me a couple of youth mystery novels (Encyclopedia Brown and the Hardy Boys), that my appetite for reading was realized, and I began consuming books with an ever increasing pace. I bring this up because this was the first thing that sprang to mind while reading through this history text: this is THE book for any kid in high school who’s struggling with the basics of history, and simply needs to look at it in a different light.

Star Wars and History examines various types of real-world history by comparing it to the events in the Star Wars franchise, and for the most part it works. As a fan of George Lucas’s franchise and as a professional historian, the mere existence of this book is exciting, because it combines two passions. On the face of it, it looks like a bit of a strange mash up much like those Victorian era novels juxtaposed with zombies or androids. But, the book reaffirms my belief that science fiction is an inherently political and relevant genre at the time of it’s creation: Star Wars being no exception. Cobbled together from a variety of source material, this book links a number of connections between the franchise and the real world. The topics are pretty far reaching, too: subjects such as insurgency and rebellion are covered, women in warfare, the American Civil War, leaders and power, trade and a whole host of others.

Read the rest of this entry

T.H. White’s “Once and Future King”

Recently, T.H. White’s novel The Once and Future King has appeared on my radar quite often, in no small part due to fantasy author Lev Grossman’s repeated efforts to raise its profile. For all the attention that White’s book has received over the years, there’s been little about White himself.

Check out T.H. White’s “Once and Future King” over on the Kirkus Reviews blog.

The Hobbit is upon us. The deluge of marketing was compounded by word that Peter Jackson managed to work out a third film, turning the Hobbit into the Lord of the Rings Prequel Trilogy. If there’s anything that I’ve learned this year, it’s that the SF movie world is turning me more cynical, especially when one is at the receiving end of marketing that really has a disconnect from the finished product.
Read the rest of this entry

REVIEW SUMMARY: A redundant and uninteresting read.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Jack Casey, retired soldier in England’s collaborator army, is brought back to track down a renegade friend in a reverse-colonization novel set in England.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Writing is solid, flows well.
CONS: Boring, redundant, and elements of racism present.

Land of Hope and Glory by Geoffrey Wilson takes its name from the patriotic British song that most Americans would recognize as Pomp and Circumstance (if you’ve ever sat through a graduation, you’ll know it). The association here is linked to a tightly nationalistic one, where a country’s people can band together under a common appreciation for the simple fact that they live within the same borders as one another. Never mind that this is an enormously complicated issue, one that seems to be the driving force behind the first book in this series. In an alternative history, magic is present in the world, and in a stunning twist of fate, England has been colonized by India, where the English find themselves under harsh foreign rule.

Read the rest of this entry

Weekend Playlist: Recent Geek Music

It’s been a little while since we’ve done a Weekend Playlist feature, which has moved to occasional status as we’ve drifted to various projects. There’s been a whole slew of great geek-related music that’s come out recently, and it’s too good to pass by. For your listening pleasure:

Read the rest of this entry

There and Back Again: The Hobbit

With the live action adaptation of The Hobbit released into theaters soon, it makes sense to look at how The Hobbit was written in the first place. That’s what I’m doing at the Kirkus Reviews Blog today.

Check out There and Back Again: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit.

INTERVIEW: Chuck Wendig on “Blackbirds”

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He’s the author of Blackbirds, Double Dead and Dinocalypse Now, and is co-writer of the short film Pandemic, the feature film Him, and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative COLLAPSUS. He lives in Pennsylvania with wife, taco terrier, and tiny human.


SF Signal: Hi Chuck, thanks for taking a couple of moments to talk about Blackbirds with us! To start off, what can you tell us about your background? How did you get into writing in the first place?

Chuck Wendig: Thank you for having me! I don’t know that you… “get into writing” so much as, one day you write and if you like it, you write some more, and if you do that enough eventually someone’s kind enough to read and maybe publish your work. A lot of it is honestly just bouncing around, writing my fool head off. Games, scripts, articles, film stuff, and now, novels. I love to do it and a day writing is, for me, a damn good day.

Read the rest of this entry

J.R.R. Tolkien and the Great War

J.R.R. Tolkien was a veteran of the 1st World War, something that I’d never examined all that closely, and for this week at the Kirkus Reviews blog, we’re examining the impact of his time on the front lines. I found the story of Tolkien and his three close friends to be the most emotional and heartbreaking episode of his life. Interestingly, this piece comes shortly after Veteran’s Day (Armistice Day elsewhere), commemorating the end of WWI.

Read J.R.R. Tolkien and the Great War.

And we’re not done with Tolkien yet, so stay tuned through December!

Some Kind of Fairy Tale: George MacDonald

With October’s Horror duo over with, I decided that it was time to shift gears again to focus on some of the background on Fantasy literature. I came across George MacDonald, a major influence in the early days of the Fantasy genre who inspired numerous authors that came after him. He’s not a household name like Mary Shelley, Jules Verne or H.G. Wells, but he was no less influential in his works, which went on to inspire authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Go read Some Kind of Fairy Tale over on the Kirkus Reviews blog.

Welcome to a new column here on SF Signal: …And Another Thing, a weekly commentary on issues and news from the speculative fiction community! We feel that there’s a lot of news that comes flying out from every corner of the internet on a number of issues: the incident at ReaderCon, the extreme popularity of the summertime releases of Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, to the landing of Curiosity on the surface of Mars. This column will feature a roving band of SF Signal Irregulars and their takes on the world around us.

As John and I were getting ready to launch this, a proverbial earthquake happened: Disney announced that they were purchasing LucasFilm Limited for $4.05 billion dollars in cash and stocks. Almost immediately, my Twitter and Facebook feeds exploded with people excited, freaking out and everything in between. The noise is going to continue for a while, I suspect, and while I was initially skeptical, I realized that this isn’t something that’s unexpected.
Read the rest of this entry

H.P. Lovecraft and the Other

With October a traditionally – horror themed month capped with Halloween, it seemed appropriate to follow up Bram Stoker and Dracula with another notable horror author: H.P. Lovecraft. I’ve found Lovecraft’s stories to be delightfully macabre, and living in Vermont, I can identify with his love of the sheer age of the location, and can see just why this corner of the country is so suited for horror fiction.

Read up on H.P. Lovecraft and the Other over on the Kirkus Reviews blog.

BOOK REVIEW: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

REVIEW SUMMARY: A dark, gripping character novel.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Miriam Black knows how and when you’re going to die, just by a simple touch. When she meets a truck driver who’s death she’s going to be present at, she’s pulled into a plot that will test her gifts and outlook on life.

PROS: Strong, character driven novel, with a vivid, high-speed pace.
CONS: Very dark throughout, overly so at points, with a couple of untied ends.
BOTTOM LINE: Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds came highly recommended by a number of friends over the past summer, and after picking up a copy and reading through the first couple of pages, I can see why. It’s gripping from the get go, and jumps out of the gate and never slows down. While none of the characters in Blackbirds are particularly likeable, it’s hard not to root for anti-hero Miriam as she’s pulled into a plot that twists her around into knots.

With just a touch, Miriam Black can see when and how people will die. It’s a troubling gift, and its kept her up on the road, right on the ragged edge of the Mid-Atlantic coast. She’s used to the deaths that she can’t prevent, but it’s particularly troubling when she comes across a truck driver who calls out her name when he’s murdered in just a couple of weeks. In short order, she finds herself in the company of a con man and tracked by a violent pair of agents for an even scarier individual who’ll stop at nothing to take back what’s his…

Read the rest of this entry

Revisiting Bram Stoker’s Dracula

It’s October, and taking off from the end of September, we’ve shifted gears from Science Fiction to Horror Fiction on the Kirkus Reviews blog, where I continue with Bram Stoker and his famous novel, Dracula.

So, to bring in a dreary and dark autumn, go read Bram Stoker’s Dracula over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog!

Review: Elementary (Pilot)

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A former surgeon, Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is hired to work as a sober companion for a police consultant, Sherlock Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller) after he breaks out of rehab. Holmes begins to consult with the New York City Police Department on a homicide, with Watson assisting.

PROS: Surprisingly entertaining, with Liu and Miller proving to be a good matching.
CONS: Lacks almost all of the brilliance that makes the BBC’s Sherlock so good.

When Elementary was announced last year, the backlash was immediate; the team that brought the BBC’s Sherlock to the small screen threatened a lawsuit if there were too many similarities, and fans everywhere panned the news of another modern-day Sherlock Holmes story being brought to American television. Despite that, Elementary is surprisingly watchable, despite being a lackluster weekly procedural.

Read the rest of this entry

TV REVIEW: Last Resort (Pilot)

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: When a nuclear submarine is ordered to fire on Pakistan, the crew requests confirmation, only to be attacked by another submarine. On the run, the crew takes refuge from their attackers, intending to lay low and figure out what happened before they can return home.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A smart, fast-paced show with plenty of potential.
CONS: A tight story and lower ratings to start mean this could be a limited run.

ABC’s new show Last Resort isn’t exactly science fiction, but it feels like it could be. Taking place aboard the fictional USS Colorado, the show begins with a short introduction to the crew before quickly flipping into high gear: orders come from a back-channel to launch nuclear warheads at Pakistan. Captain Marcus Chalpin (portrayed by a fantastic Andre Braugher) requests confirmation, only to be relieved of command. His second in command, Lt. Commander Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) likewise questions the command, and their submarine comes under attack from another sub, the USS Illinois. Effecting repairs, they commandeer a NATO facility and launch a nuke over Washington DC when they find that they’ve been discovered, and let the US know that they’ve got 17 more if they’re troubled further.
Read the rest of this entry

A Brief History of the Vampire Novel

With Fall approaching and the days getting shorter, it’s time to get into the mood of the season…

This week on the Kirkus Reviews Blog, I take a look at the history of Vampire novels, from 1816 to 2005.

Read A Brief History of the Vampire Novel on the Kirkus Reviews Blog.

REVIEW: Revolution (“Pilot”)

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A mysterious event knocks out the planet’s technology: no more cars, electricity or conventional society. Fifteen years after the blackout, a small band of adventurers venture out of their home community after a death at the hands of the local militia.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A show with plenty of potential and room for growth.
CONS: Bland characters leave this pilot with room for improvement.

NBC’s latest speculative fiction outing aired last night, Eric Kripke’s Revolution, produced by J.J. Abrams, and with a ridiculous sounding plot: a global catastrophe knocks out the world’s technology – mostly. Cars shut down, the lights go out, and planes fall out of the sky. Fifteen years later, the society and government of 2012 has collapsed, with much of the population moving out of the cities and into rural America, where regional warlords have taken over. When militia soldiers kill Ben Matheson and capture his son, Danny, his daughter Charlie Matheson travels to the ruins of Chicago along with Ben’s girlfriend Maggie and friend Aaron, to find her uncle, who might know the key to the blackout.

Read the rest of this entry

Exploring Lost Worlds: Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger

My latest post for the Kirkus Reviews blog is now online! While he’s most famous for his Sherlock Holmes stories, Arthur Conan Doyle was a prolific author who also dabbled in science fiction. His novel The Lost World captured my imagination as a young teenager, and I was surprised to learn that there was more to that series.

 

Read Exploring Lost Worlds: Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger over at the Kirkus Reviews Blog.

Rounding Out the Science Romances

Over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog, we take a look back over the last couple of months to review some of the foundational stories in science fiction: the Science Romances!

Hop on over and read >Rounding Out the Science Romances.

Hugo Gernsback – The Father of Science Fiction?

With Chicon-7 coming next month, I wanted to take a look at the man behind the main event: the Hugo Award ceremony.

Over on the Kirkus Reviews blog, I’ve got a brief history of the man called ‘The Father of Science Fiction’: Hugo Gernsback.

 Page 4 of 8  « First  ... « 2  3  4  5  6 » ...  Last »