Review: Gradisil by Adam Roberts

MY RATING:

Gradisil is, to me, the magnum opus of hard, mundane science fiction. The book tells the story of three generations of the Gyeroffy family, set against the backdrop of humanity’s colonization of low Earth orbit, with heavy doses of revenge and revolution thrown in to the mix. First and foremost, the amount of thought that Roberts has expended in building the setting of Gradisil is very impressive. In Roberts’ vision of the future, amateur rocketeers are the vanguard for permanent human presence in space. Foregoing the use of chemical rockets, which are bulky and costly, they instead rely on ships that pull themselves into orbit using the Earth’s magnetic field. The pratical upshot of this being that most launch facilities are placed as close to the poles as possible for the best grip. Roberts uses the Norse idea of Yggdrasil , the world tree, as a metaphor for the use of the magnetic field as pathway to space. And the title of the book, Gradisil, is a young girl’s attempt to pronounce Yggdrasil. This use of Norse mythology fits brilliantly within the confines of the story, giving the reader an easy and memorable way to grasp the idea of ‘climbing’ up the Earth’s magnetic fields.

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Star Trek: Of Gods and Men is a three-part unofficial mini-series that stars many actors from the Trek universe, some reprising their roles:

The series was directed by Tim Russ (Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager) whos also stars as Tuvok. (See the Making Movies blog’s interview with Tim Russ.) Also reprising their roles are Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov), Grace Lee Whitney (Janice Rand), Alan Ruck (Captain John Harriman from Star Trek: Generations). Other Trek actors also appear, though not as their original characters: Garrett Wang (Ensign Harry Kim from Voyager), Chase Masterson (Leeta from DS9), Lawrence Montaigne (Stonn, a Vulcan, from the classic Trek episode “Amok Time”) and Gary Graham (Ambassador Soval from Enterprise). Star Trek veterans also appear behind the camera.

Here’s the trailer:

[via Boldy Go]

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SF Tidbits for 5/18/07

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Rest In Peace: Lloyd Alexander

Sad news…

Author Lloyd Alexander has passed away.

Author Lloyd Alexander died 17 May 2007. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 30 January 1924, he was a children’s fantasy author for half a century (though he did also write several adult novels). He won the 1970 Newbery Award, and was a National Book Award Finalist, for The High King.

His books include three well-known series—The Chronicles of Prydain, The Westmark Trilogy, and The Vesper Holly Series—as well as at least 24 other books. His latest, The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, is scheduled to be published by his long-time publisher, Henry Holt, in August 2007.

See also: Wikipedia entry

[via SF Scope]

Filed under: Books

Sanctuary: SF TV For The Internet

Sanctuary is a new, online only science fiction show starring Amanda Tapping of SG-1 fame. Having only watched the trailer, all I can say is it looks to be a mash-up off science fiction and horror/supernatural genres. What did impress me was the production values and the SFX, which look to exceed any SciFi Original movies. I bet the story will too, but I can’t say for sure.

Additionally, the creators have a blog and a dedicated fan site so that viewers can interact with the actors and producers of the show. Now, many TV shows have this already, LOST and Heroes come to mind, but Sanctuary seems to have been created with the fan community in mind. I think I read somewhere that the fans may be able to have some impact on the show’s direction. That might be an interesting thing.

I’m also interest to see how the producers plan to make money so they can make more episodes. I’m not sure who’s bankrolling them or how they can afford to pay the actors and post-production companies. But if they can make money, I think we’ll see more of this kind of production. If there is money to be made by releasing your show directly on the web, then the floodgates will open. This will be like the introduction of cable and it’s 100′s of channels, only much bigger.

Just think, there are many TV show concepts that never make it to the pilot stage. With an alternate release stream, we could see hundreds of new shows all over the web and all free from the constraints of studio meddling. SF TV stands to gain quite a bit from this as there are lots of things that should be on the air but aren’t.

I realize this may not happen for a long time yet, but I’d certainly like to see it happen. Otherwise, we’re stuck with SciF (now with more monsters and wrestling!) for the foreseeable future….

Filed under: TVWeb Sites

Hollywood Wears Its Geek Cred with Honor

Well, some of them do anyway…

Despite recent aversions to being rat-holed into the sci-fi genre, some Hollywood names embrace their science fiction labels:

It’s officially cool to like science fiction and fantasy now. Shows like Heroes and Lost are in the top 10 and the biggest movie opening of all time is a comic book.

Even the stars are into it, as attendees at the 2007 Saturn Awards proved. The show, honoring achievements in genre movies and television, attracted glamorous nominees and guests who revealed their affinities for material that used to get kids beaten up in school.

The article goes on to quote actors about their love of genre. Admittedly, these are people being interviewed at a genre awards ceremony, but I still find it refreshing to hear people voice their love of science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Filed under: MoviesTV

Here’s another installment of the IMDB game

My job: I went to IMDB and looked up 10 movies. Listed below are four official “Plot Keywords” for each movie.

Your job: Name these movies!

  1. Friendship / Hiding In Closet / Quarantine / Bicycle
  2. Violence / Sociopath / Invented Language / Eye
  3. Graphic Violence / Cyberpunk / Toxic Waste / Human Android Relationship
  4. Dystopian / Totalitarian / Illegal Immigrant / Hope
  5. Science Runs Amok / Theme Park / Tropical Island / Child In Peril
  6. Science Runs Amok / Theme Park / Evil Robot / Gunslinger
  7. Gang / Feral Child / Muscle Car / Australian Outback
  8. Kidnapping / Asylum / Animal Rights / Time Travel
  9. Interdimensional Travel / Escaped Mental Patient / Rocket Car / Watermelon
  10. Lincoln Memorial / Totalitarianism / Ice Cave / Man Hunt

SPOILER WARNING: The comments will contain some of the answers as people make guesses. When all titles have been guessed successfully, I’ll post the them in the comments as well.

Filed under: Movies

SF Tidbits for 5/17/07

Filed under: Tidbits

The Gamera Theme Song

Nothing lifts the spirits out of the middle-of-the-week doldrums like a giant, space-traveling turtle!

“Come on, Space Monsters! Bring it on! Let’s cut and poke! Okay, go-go-go…”

[via PoeTV]

Filed under: Movies

SF Tidbits for 5/16/07

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Harry Potter And The Well Behaved Readers

Yahoo! News has a rather interesting article detailing how J.K. Rowling is asking HP readers to not spoil the ending for those who haven’t read the book yet.

We’re going on three months until Deathly Hallows is released, and you can bet that some people already know what happens. I’m looking at employees at the publishing house, and, of course, the editors, among others. I can imaging the temptation that some might feel to be the first to release the info on who gets the whack. But, really, who can they blab to?

The HP sites, as stated in the article, aren’t going to broadcast that information. I’m thinking that the smaller blogs will be willing to release the Whacked List in the interest of generating hits. I’m almost positive that big media won’t release any info either, unless, of course, the monetary value is perceived to be worth it.

So, the question for our readers who have pre-ordered and/or will have the last book on release day: How do you plan to avoid being spoiled over the ending?

I’m thinking it may be fairly difficult if you access HP web sites frequently and are engaged in HP discussions. You know, typical fan type things. I’ll be trying to avoid spoilers as well since the enjoyment will much greater that way. Then I can tease my son: “I know a secret! Mwuahahahaha!” But that’s just me.

And if you haven’t participated in our Harry Potter Outreach Program yet, you can go to our post and contribute. I’ll be tabulating the results so far for a future post.

Filed under: Books

REVIEW: Legend by David Lynn Golemon

REVIEW SUMMARY: Golemon can write action sequences with the best of them, and he lands a solid uppercut with this book. The depth of the science fiction lies under the surface for the most of the work, but is surprising and ingenious none the less.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Following in the footsteps of Gonzalo Pizarro, the Event Group finds itself searching for El Dorado in the hopes of saving the lives of innocent college students caught up in a secret plot involving nefarious agents out to capture the surprisingly more modern wealth to be found there.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Enjoyable plot, science elements surprisingly deep, excellent action scenes

CONS: Strains believability at times, characters mostly wooden and static

BOTTOM LINE: Legend is a fun, action-filled romp through the jungle with just the right mix of combat and science. If you’re a fan of the science fiction written by Clive Cussler or Michael Crichton you will have a blast reading Legend.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: A fun book for hardcore SF fans, but of marginal interest to others.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A dictionary of science fiction terms that shows definition and etymology.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Tons of information for hardcore SF fans; fun to browse.
CONS: Much of the content overlaps with the website from which it was born.
BOTTOM LINE: This book will consume more of your time than you might think.

Reference works like Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction are not meant to be read cover to cover. Instead, they exist as go-to sources of information. And while this book will certainly serve that purpose, hardcore SF fans (the intended audience) will more often find a casual browse turning into an official time-consuming activity.

Such page-flipping yields some interesting trivia as well. See if you can answer these trivia questions based on some of the book’s entries:

QUESTIONS

  1. What’s the earliest use of the term “prime directive”?
  2. Which author used the pseudonyms Eric Rodman and Calvin M. Knox?
  3. Who is attributed with inventing the term “slidewalk”?
  4. Who coined the term “ansible”?
  5. A.E. van Vogt coined the term “videophone” in which of his novels?

[Answers appear at the end of this review.]

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Jack Vance Video Interview

Tim Mortiss has posted a 12-part video interview with SF legend Jack Vance (Ports of Call and Lurulu).

Here’s part 1. Follow the YouTube trail for the rest.

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SF Tidbits for 5/15/07

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Heroes Spinoff: Origins

NBC has announced their new Fall schedule and it looks like Heroes, their only hit this season, will spawn a spinoff next season. It’s called Heroes: Origins and introduce a new character each week. Viewers will select which one stays for the following season.

Between the two series, there will be a total of 30 new episodes combined. Remember when that was the number of episodes in a single season of one show?

Filed under: Heroes

Do You Like Wonder Woman?

Michael May really, really wants to like Wonder Woman, but just can’t. Check out his excellent post, (Part 1 of a promising series) that explores the reasons why.

Wonder Woman should be the Sean Connery of her gender: men should want to be with her and women should want to be her. When Connery played Bond, he walked around every setting he found himself in as if he owned the place. Didn’t matter if it was his office, a hotel, or the villain’s headquarters, he was completely comfortable with himself. That’s how Wonder Woman should be.

Not aggressively so. Not, as my friend Alex would say, “strident.” Connery never had to convince anyone through aggression that he was competent. You knew it by just looking at him. Wonder Woman should be the same way.

Filed under: BooksTV

Show Us Your Stack!

A few days ago, BoingBoing posted about a Flickr set for “reading stacks”.

I finally got around to taking a snapshot of my own reading stack…by which I mean just one of the stacks that’s not stored in one of the boxes that I use to hide my biblioholism. Also, this does not include any books received from publishers.

My contribution is shown in this post’s image…click the image to see the larger version.

How about it, SF Signal readers? Show us your stacks!

Filed under: Books

The 11 Most Influential Visual-Effects Films of All Time

The Visual Effects Society has posted The 50 Most Influential Visual-Effects Films of All Time.

Here are the 11 films that occupy the top 10 spots:

  1. Star Wars (1977)
  2. Blade Runner (1982)
  3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and The Matrix (1999)
  4. Jurassic Park (1993)
  5. Tron (1982)
  6. King Kong (1933)
  7. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
  8. Alien (1979)
  9. The Abyss (1989)
  10. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

If you check out the complete list in PDF, you’ll notice the tie for #50 between The Fifth Element (1997) and…Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1958)!

Filed under: Movies

SF Tidbits for 5/14/07

Filed under: Tidbits

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