Author Archive

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…

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

REVIEW SUMMARY: A somewhat entertaining, but incoherent novel.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Fifteen years after the Spacer War, Cesar Vaquero returns to his home station of Ithaca after numerous adventures in a SF retelling of The Odyssey. It’s returning home that’s the greatest challenge.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: An imaginative take on Homer’s epic, with a vivid world replacing the Mediterranean.
CONS: Poor writing and structure completely undermines the story in this novel, coupled with pacing that spikes the action far too soon.

Most of our stories use very old building blocks, and it’s not uncommon to see newer stories incorporating them: just look at the popularity of the Jane Austen mash-ups or John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation to see workable concepts. On the face of it, Spin The Sky looks like it might have a good take on Homer’s ancient story, The Odyssey, updating the story with futuristic warfare and a man trying to return home.

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Adapting Philip K. Dick

Next month, Columbia Pictures will be releasing a remake of 1990′s Total Recall, originally adapted from a story by Philip K. Dick, and author who is incredibly popular in Hollywood.

Over on the Kirkus Reviews today, I take a look at the Philip K. Dick stories that inspired a number of films, from Minority Report to Screamers to Total Recall.

Read the entire post over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog.

Olaf Stapledon: Looking Far, Far into the Future

My latest column for the Kirkus Reviews blog is now online!

This time, I look at English author Olaf Stapledon and his legacy in the genre. Stapledon was an interesting author, and the scale of his works and the themes behind them set him apart from just about everyone. His works also helped to inspire a number of notable authors down the road, such as Arthur C. Clarke.

Read Looking Far, Far into the Future: Olaf Stapledon over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog!

Jules Verne’s Moonshot

My latest post for Kirkus Reviews is now up online, where I talk about Jules Verne’s short novel From the Earth to the Moon! July 20th is the anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11, although in this case, it would be better to think about Apollo 8. Why? Go read Jules Verne’s Moonshot over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog.

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fantastic, character-driven story of alien contact.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Years after Earth is visited by an alien presence, individuals known as Stalkers move in and out of the Zones to illegally collect artifacts left behind. Red Schuhart is one of these Stalkers, and encounters many strange things over his years of collecting.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Fantastic and plausible conceptualization of the nature of alien contact, with vividly drawn characters.
CONS: Pacing wasn’t to my liking.
BOTTOM LINE: A brilliant, thought-provoking novel.

I’ll confess that I’d never heard of Roadside Picnic before it was re-released recently by the Chicago Review Press earlier this year. This new edition is the preferred text, following a dramatic history with Soviet censors when it was first published in the 1970s. This edition has a particularly good introduction by Ursula K. LeGuin. Read the rest of this entry

H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds

This week in the SF History series on the Kirkus Reviews blog, I look at the history behind H.G.’s fantastic novel, The War of the Worlds, and the political tone in England that helped to inspire it.

Click on over and read H.G. Wells and the War of the Worlds over at the Kirkus Reviews blog!

Jules Verne Totally Wrote Fan Fiction

This week in the SF History series on the Kirkus Reviews blog, I look at the connection between American author Edgar Allan Poe and French author Jules Verne, and a common story that they both worked on, decades apart, which helped to set the tone for the science fiction genre moving forward.

This was an interesting point in science fiction history, because it’s an early point where there was a direct influence from one author to another, not just in one work, but stylistically as well.

Click on over and read The Strange Tale of Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne over at the Kirkus Reviews blog!

REVIEW: 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

REVIEW SUMMARY: A deliberate, engrossing read.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the year 2312, humanity has risen to the furthest extents of the solar system in a new, space-faring society, and a series of events force humanity to confront its past, and its future.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: 2312 is a brilliant, epic science fiction novel that spans the width of the solar system in an exceptional future.
CONS: Plot is slightly underwhelming amidst the scale of the story.

Kim Stanley Robinson has long been known for his Mars Trilogy, depicting the massive changes that humanity wages on the red planet, and with 2312 he turns his attention to the Solar System at large. At points brilliant, at others strange, Robinson’s latest novel is a fascinating epic that spans years and billions of miles as two main characters, Swan and Wartham, travel back and forth as they investigate the destruction of a habitation on Mercury and the people behind it.
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Mary Shelley’s Trip to Geneva

Today marks the first of an ongoing series on the Kirkus Reviews blog that will focus on the history and roots of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror literature!

To kick off the new column, I’m starting off with Mary Shelley and her novel Frankenstein, which seems like a fitting place to begin talking about genre history.

Click on over and read A Meeting in Geneva: The Birth of Frankensteins over at the Kirkus Reviews blog!

Weekend Playlist: New Geek Music

There’s been a bit of a flood of some new geek music on the internets lately, and a roundup is in order!
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SF/F Music in the Mainstream

Here’sa group of songs that are particularly well known from their films. You might hear them on the radio, and when you do, you’re pretty sure you know what movie they’re from, right off the bat. A lot of the top blockbusters are released with two soundtracks: the musical score, and then the soundtrack which typically has songs that are plugged for the ending credits.

Here’s a few science fiction-related and fantasy-related songs that fit this catgeory…

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