REVIEW: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

REVIEW SUMMARY: A great example of a “Young Adult” book that adults can thoroughly enjoy. Also serves as a great candidate to get teens hooked on science fiction.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Teenage hacker Marcus Yallow takes on the Department of Homeland Security after being falsely connected with a terrorist attack.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Gripping story; conveys the coolness of technology; thought-provoking issues about surveillance and freedom.

CONS: Story periodically stops for infodumps although, to be fair, they are necessary and entertaining.

BOTTOM LINE: A captivating book for readers of any age.

Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother is being met with lots of praise, and I was curious to see if it was justified. I went in with a little skepticism, but I have to say, this book quickly won me over. What I find interesting, though not surprising, is that the book is being marketed as young adult fiction yet it is easily as entertaining for adults.

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Tube Bits For 05/12/2008

  • TV viewership is down, way down in some cases. We can surmise that the writer’s strike chased some people off for good, even from their favorite shows. The Writer’s Write blog conjectures that, even though people may not know their shows are back on (really?), they’ll be back in the fall when the new season starts. Probably so.
  • I know that William Shatner has a lot of detractors. But this article at The Daily Mail, it seems like excerpts from Shatner’s autobiography Up Till Now, does a lot to humanize Shatner. There are some amusing anecdotes about the early Star Trek years, Kirk’s death scene, and a poignent remembrance of his third wife, Nerine, whom he found dead in their pool one evening. If the rest of the book is like these pieces, I may have to check it out.
  • Plenty of Nothing tells us why Battlestar Galactica is good TV and LOST is not. If the roles were reversed, then I could agree. You can’t compare the storytelling aspects of both shows against each other. They are apples and oranges. Galactica is telling a linear, and sometimes plodding, story, while LOST is experiementing with a mosaic style of story, and since the announced end date, you can’t accuse LOST of being plodding.
  • Kristin at E! Online interviewed Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindeloff about the latest episode “Cabin Fever”. If you haven’t seen the episode, spoilers ahoy. Otherwise, read on and enjoy the answers to some of the questions raised.
  • Not really TV, but still funny. What if Nintendo had made Halo? It might look like this:

SF Tidbits for 5/12/08

POLL RESULTS: Marketing Young Adult SF/F

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

QUESTION
Are publishers cashing in on the young adult craze by marketing adult sf/f to young adults?

RESULTS

(60 total votes)

Yikes! Participation was down by 50% this week. I guess YA fiction is not popular with our readers?

Just a couple of comments this week…

“It’s not just SF, though. There are a number of raunchy books out there being called YA when they’re far from it.” – Chris

“I hope that these publishers publish an author’s work based upon the author’s intended audience and not what audience the publishers think the book is suited for. It’s kind of like Hollywood actors being typecast.” – Jim Shannon

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll about your favorite Tim Burton film!

Sunday YouTube: Joe Haldeman @ Google

From November 2007, Hugo-winner Joe Haldeman reads from The Accidental Time Machine as part of the Authors@Google series.

SF Tidbits for 5/11/08

  • StarWars.com has gone all Clone Wars. Check out the Star Wars; Clone Wars trailer. The CGI film is set for an August 17th, 2008 release.
  • Subterranean Press shows off the artwork for Starlady and Fast-Friend, a pair of novelettes to be released in a single volume.
  • Reason Magazine interviews Bruce Sterling on media, design, fiction, and the future: “I’m not really all that interested in what Hollywood does with its stuff. I mean, they’re only the size of the porn industry.”
  • Starship Sofa podcast-interviews Ted Chiang.
  • The latest Cult Pop episode features talkas with author Ben Tanzer and artist Stefan Bucher.
  • PSDTUTS, a resource for Photoshoppers, serves up some nice inspiration ofr Cyborgs, Robots, and Mecha artwork.

SF Tidbits for 5/10/08

This Week’s Freebies from Tor

Tor’s latest batch of freebies includes:

  • Free Book: Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott. (Links to HTML version. Those who sign up also get links to a PDF and MobiPocket version.)
  • Free Wallpaper: Eric Fortune‘s cover art for The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein.
  • Free Wallpaper: Pablo Defendini‘s cover art for The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar.

The wallpapers are only available for one week, so don’t wait to snag ‘em.

Arthur C. Clarke Reads From 2001: A Space Odyssey

This is but one reason why The Zombie Astronaut rocks.

Yesterday he posted a trio of MP3s recordeed from a 1976 LP. (That would be a giant, black cd-looking thing with grooves to anyone who was born in the 80’s or later.) The LP is 2001: A Space Odyssey, the final chapters read by Arthur C. Clarke.

To hear Clarke utter “My God. It’s full of stars!” was chilling and bittersweet.

Go forth and listen.

Friday YouTube: The 1975 Ghost Busters Title Sequence

This blog hasn’t got nearly enough Larry Storch, a problem I am correcting right here, right now.

I guess Ken Berry was too MacLaen-Stevenson-popular to complete the F-Troop reunion..

[via Cynical-C Blog]

Tube Bits for 05/09/2008

  • The creators of Eureka told Sci Fi Wire that season 3 will be lighter in tone and will contain homages to several movies, including The War of the Worlds, The Truman Show and Groundhog Day. It should be interesting to see how they work those into the stories. Season 3 returns this summer.
  • David E. Kelley may be leaving his adaptation of the BBC’s Life on Mars series. Financial concerns are the rumored reason, though its unclear whether that means the show is costing too much or he wants to much to run it. If you can, check out the original series. Even with some thick accents, its a good show.
  • Rumor is that a major character on LOST will die this season. Buddy TV lays the odds for their guesses. Plus potential spoilers!
  • Darth Mojo, the lucky guy, worked on Babylon 5 from the pilot through season 3. And he has set pictures to prove it. Very nice.
  • Many shows today have multi-episode or even season long story arcs. Darknote takes a look at the New Who multi-episodes and explains why, on balance, they are disappointing.
  • Some Speed Racer stuff:
    • Rex Reed of The New York Observer reviews Speed Racer, and it isn’t pretty. However, a big caveat here. From reading the first paragraph, it seems that Mr. Reed is less than enthused by any summer movie, and Speed Racer is definitely not aimed at non-comic/superhero/anime fans.
    • Sci Fi Japan has a ridiculously in-depth look at the new movie. Spoilers abound so be warned!
    • For all you fans of slot-cars (those of us who remember what those are), check out this sweet Speed Racer slot-car set.
  • Sheridan, noooo!!! Has Bruce Boxleitner won a recurring role on Heroes? I guess we’ll find out.

SF Tidbits for 5/9/08

  • Apex shows off the really nice artwork for the latest issue.
  • Interzone posts their 2007 Readers’ Poll Results. (Winning story: “Ack-Ack Macaque” by Gareth Lyn Powell.)
  • Geoff Ryman’s recent BBC Radio appearance is available as MP3s. [via Big Dumb Object]
  • Post-Weird Thoughts interviews Ian McDonald. On Brasyl: “I’d been wanting to do something that expressed, in human terms, the reality of the Everett Many-Worlds interpretation, and, as I said above, Brasil seemed the country that best expressed it.”
  • J.M. McDermott interviews sf author Mary Robinette Kowal about her puppeteering.
  • MSSV has a great summary of a recent talk by Neal Stephenson at a symposium on Science Fiction as a Literary Genre at Gresham College.
  • Wil Wheaton speaks out about the upcoming Star Trek film: “…if this ‘reinventing’ — which is such a loaded term in this post-Episode One world (5-19-99 never forget!) — extends to some of the fundamentals of the Star Trek mythos, and if [J.J. Abrams] wants to make Star Trek more like Star Wars, we could be looking at the biggest geekriot in history.
  • John Scalzi is now blogging at AMC. Here’s his first article, Is Guillermo del Toro the Right Man for The Hobbit?
  • Wired has the scoop on the anime Batman.

MIND MELD: Stories Hollywood Should Film

This year’s summer movie slate is full of sequels and remakes of existing properties. As science fiction/fantasy fans we know there is a wealth of written material that deserves to appear on the big screen or on TV. The recent news that Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos is being adapted for the silver screen is welcome, even as we’re sceptical about the final result. Our question this week:

Q: What other story, or stories, do you believe are deserving of being made into movies and why?
Peggy Kolm
Peggy Kolm is a science fiction fan who can be found, blogging, at the Biology in Science Fiction website.

I like Dune as much as the next science fiction fan, but I find it disappointing that Hollywood keeps remaking the same stories instead of tapping into the wealth of science fiction literature. I’m not sure that every story can be easily translated into film, particularly if it features many non-humanoid or posthuman characters. I also think that there is a glut of action thrillers and SF-horror movies. Keeping that in mind, here are a few SF stories that I’d like to see on the big screen:

– I think Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash could make a brilliant movie, if a screenwriter could be found who could pare the plot down to feature film length without eliminating the humor. What makes it enjoyable to me is that the over-the-top characters and settings – the reluctant hero Hiro, who is an excellent swordsman in both the real world and online, the badass teenaged skateboard messenger, the evangelist who wants to take over the world through speaking in tongues, the mafia-run pizza delivery business, the decaying crowded freeways, tacky strip malls and gated ‘burbs covering Southern California, the giant “raft” of refugee boats drifting along the coast – seem almost plausible. And of course there is the appeal of the Metaverse itself, where computer geeks can don an avatar of their own creation and are at the top of the social hierarchy.

– Connie Willis’s time travel novels are among my favorites, so I’d love to see them made into movies. The Doomsday Book would make a moving drama, with its contrast between young historian Kivrin’s experiences in the medieval village beset by plague, and her colleagues fighting the influenza epidemic in future Oxford. The ending is probably not upbeat enough for a commercial SF movie, though. On the other hand, I think Willis’s much lighter time travel comedy of errors, To Say Nothing of the Dog, could be fun light entertainment. I like to imagine it filmed in the style of a Merchant-Ivory production (maybe my fondness for period pieces makes me different from the “average” SF fan, though).

– The theme of environmental destruction in Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is as timely today as it was in the 1970s, as are the issues surrounding the ethics and technical limitations of cloning. While the multigenerational scope of the novel is probably too broad for a single movie, I think that it would work to focus the story on Mark, one of the few “singletons” in the survivalist colony of clones .

– My choice for an outer space flick would be Frederick Pohl’s Gateway. It’s got dangerous exploration of space and unknown worlds, flawed main characters, tense interpersonal relationships in the close quarters of the alien asteroid spaceport and, and, of course it the dramatic ending with the characters’ ships trapped by a black hole. While the novel doesn’t really have a feel-good ending, it could be combined with “Heechee Rendezvous” to provide a happy resolution to the story.

– Finally, my nostalgic entry is Alexei Panshin’s Rite of Passage. It features a teenaged girl whose coming of age story involves the development of both physical and mental toughness as she fights to survive on an unfamiliar planet. Perhaps it is out of date now, considering it was published 40 years ago, but I include it in my list because it made a big impact on me when I read it as a 13-year-old. It was the first (and one of the few) SF book I read that featured the heroics of a girl, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

– I was going to also suggest Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, but a search turned up that it’s already in the process of being made into film by Morgan Freeman’s production company. I’m looking forward to it.

I actually think that many SF novels can only be faithfully reproduced as miniseries, rather than 90 minute moves. That doesn’t mean that SF novel-based movies aren’t possible, but that they are necessarily something different than the original. Bladerunner is a great film, but it’s only loosely based on Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It’s not just that typical SF stories are sprawling in time and space, but that the speculative part of the speculative fiction is usually cut in favor of action. Personally, I would love to see the SciFi channel produce more original miniseries based on classic SF, rather than filling up their schedule with ghost buster “reality” shows and wrestling, but I’m not holding my breath.

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REVIEW: An Idle King by J.W. Benford

REVIEW SUMMARY: A new author does well in some areas but overall comes up a bit short.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Michael is kidnapped and taken into the future, where he finds himself embroiled in an interplanetary civil war. But things aren’t as simple as they appear, as Michael’s past starts to catch up to him in the future.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Good small-group action sequences and interesting characters that change throughout the book. Middle section was highly enjoyable.

CONS: Writing is challenged at the beginning with text that was hard to read. Ending struggled with a space opera flavor that didn’t work.

BOTTOM LINE: This book by first-time author J.W. Benford is a book I really wanted to like, however there are enough flaws that keep it from being a book I think will have broad appeal. I am looking forward to future efforts by this talented writer.

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Thursday YouTube: Iron Sky Trailer

Space Nazis!

“In 1945 the Nazis went to the moon. In 2018 they are coming back.”

That”s the tag line for Iron Sky, we posted about last October. But there’s new buzz as this trailer is making its way around. Like Jayme, I’m lovin’ the Sky Captain look.

SF Tidbits for 5/8/08

Free eBook: The Serpent Bride By Sara Douglass

For a limited time, Eos is making The Serpent Bride By Sara Douglass available as a free download in multiple formats (Adobe, MS reader and MobiPocket).

Here’s their description of the book:

Tencendor is no more. The land is gone. But a few Sunsoars still remain. And in a distant realm, trouble stirs…

Rescued from unspeakable horror, Ishbel Brunelle has devoted her life to the Serpent cult, but her destiny calls for larger plans, and dark warnings of the Lord of Elcho Falling. Meanwhile, the fabled hero and former god Axis Sunsoar returns from the Otherworld, and the Darkglass Mountain–once known as the Threshold–is waiting, for the Dark God Kanubai rises from his prison in exile.

And don’t forget Eos’ First Looks program, where you can sign up to read early copies of Nightwalker by Jocelynn Drake, The Servants by Michael Marshall Smith, and Anathem by Neal Stephenson.

Wednesday YouTube: Kevin Pollak Does Star Trek

An oldie but a goodie.

[via MilkandCookies

Tube Bits for 05/07/2008

  • The ‘if you blinked you missed it’ FOX show, Drive, starring Nathon Fillian, was canned after only airing 6 episodes. Supposedly, FOX has released the last two episodes, ad free, bringing the total # of episodes to 6. Did anyone watch this show? I caught the first act of the first episode, but that’s it…
  • The British SF-ish show, Spaced, is coming to America (sans Eddie Murphy) in July. This set will contain all 14 episodes on 3 discs. Spaced is from the creators of Shaun of the Dead, if that helps you get a feel for the comedy aspects. Yet another show I’ve never seen.
  • Some casting news for you: Paula Malcomson will be the female lead in Sci Fi’s new series, Caprica. Additionally, Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly will headline the Sci Fi comedy drama (isn’t that an oxymoron?) series, Warehouse 13. The last show sounds more interesting than the former.
  • KOMO TV has posted an interview with Emile Hirsch and Christina Ricci about their newfilm, which you may have heard of, Speed Racer.
  • BoingBoing TV has this really cool interview with Speed Racer‘s visual designer, John Gaets. Once you get over the BMW ad, there is some interesting stuff here, especially the info on how they created the look of the movie.

SF Tidbits for 5/7/08

  • Spinning a thread from his Why YA? post, John Scalzi asks Who Lost Scott Westerfeld? to address Paul Di Filippo’s comment about an author’s young adult book replacing the adult title he could have written in its place. Sez Scalzi: “The reason we might not see another Evolution’s Darling from Scott has almost nothing to do with the fact he’s successfully writing YA, and quite a lot to with the fact that adult SF/F didn’t make it worth his time to continue in the field.” Oh great…now I have this incredible urge to go box-diving for Evolution’s Darling
  • Speaking of young adult, Brian Selznick’s YA novel/graphic-novel Hugo Cabret is headed for the big screen.
  • Interviews and profiles:
  • Chris Roberson shares the John Picacio covers of the Star Trek: Myriad Universes omnibuses, one of which contains his Star Trek novel, Brave New World.
  • Locus Online Features posts Cory Doctorow’s latest article Think Like a Dandelion: “The net is an unending NOW of moments and distractions and wonderments and puzzlements and rages. Asking someone riding its currents to undertake some kind of complex dance before she can hand you her money is a losing proposition.”
  • The Blog of the Zombie Astronaut has posted the audio for one of those “choose your own adventure” type books called Vampires, Spies and Alien Beings. A little hard to follow without the book, of course, but fans of such nostalgia won’t care.
  • James Nicoll points us to this Solar System Visualizer that let’s you see planetary orbits around the sun and the orbits of the moons around the planets.
  • Time Out London revisits The Matrix – ten years later. [via Shadowrunning]
  • Topless Robot offers us a peek at The Dark Knight‘s Two-Face. Waaaaay better than the Tommy Lee Jones version.

A science fiction blog featuring science fiction book reviews and with frequent ramblings on fantasy, computers and the web.