So, I'm pretty psyched about Ridley Scott's Prometheus. It's a space opera following the crew of the starship Prometheus. And unless Scott has lost it, it'll be a thoroughly enjoyable sci-fi adventure.
I have a thing with sequels: I like continuity. Re-casting an actor takes me out of it. Sometimes a "movie reboot" is the solution to whatever ailed the old series; other times it's a death-knell to a flawed diamond. Turns out there's a third option: the pseudo-reboot.
JJ. Abrams Star Trek (2009) was created in such a way that if you were new to Star Trek, you could disregard 40 years of baggage. On the other hand, if you were a trekkie1, the movie gave you a straw to grasp at which would acknowledge those 40 years of continuity. Star Trek did the impossible — provide an entry for new movie-goers yet satisfy (the majority) of the trekkies, all the while actually being a good movie! I don't even need to explain to you what exactly Star Trek did to respect the old continuity, that's the point. If you didn't pick up on it, it's because you don't need to worry about it.
Now watch this:
That's continuity. If you want it to be. Did you get it? You might prefer not to read on.
Turns out Prometheus is a pseudo-reboot of Alien. Peter Weyland is the co-founder of the Weyland-Yutani corporation, the evil conglomerate and eternal nemesis of Ripley. Which means, if you're an Alien fan, you can consider Prometheus a successor to Alien. If you like, also Aliens. Perhaps even Alien 3, but I would expect most of you to disregard Alien Resurrection (whose only good part was the whiskey cubes). On the flipside, if you don't care about Alien, you're unlikely to watch the above viral video. You're probably unlikely to even care. But there's a chance you might go watch Prometheus anyway because every effort has been made to convince you it's its own thing. The continuity is optional, and I like that.
The Star Wars Blurays are out. I’m not getting them. And not because Darth yells “Nooooooo” or because Greedo shoots first (or whatever). Simply, I’ve seen them enough times now. I’m done. No, not done in that smug, grown-up “Star Wars is for kids” kind of way, trust me I’m as juvenile as ever. I still love lightsabers, I giggle like a schoolgirl whenever someone says “titmouse”, and I listen to the Mega Man 2 soundtrack on repeat. I’m right down with you nerds. I’m just at a point where I’m thinking it’s perhaps time to throw my love on something else.
The amount of energy spent by the Star Wars fan community discussing the Bluray edits is astounding. One fan (or several, I wasn’t paying attention) is taking it upon himself to restore the “non special edition” of Star Wars in HD:
Note how R2s hologram is actually white in the original version, vs. slightly bluish in the “enhanced” version. I totally cancelled my Bluray preorder when I saw this. George Lucas, you ruined my childhood!
That would be me if not for the fact that I discovered other sci-fi television. Turns out, if you have 400 hours to spare, instead of restoring the original version of Star Wars to HD, you could watch every episode of Star Trek ever made! Think about that for a moment.
Don’t get me wrong, Star Wars was good. Especially Empire. That whole Cloud City thing was way better than what they did in Star Trek. Here’s Cloud City:
And this is Stratos from “The Cloud Minders”:
Still, once you’ve seen Cloud City, you’ve seen Cloud City (that is to say, once you’ve seen Cloud City in all three four versions, you’ve seen Cloud City — but don’t worry if you haven’t, they’re pretty much the same save for a tibanna gas refinery). And say what you will about Star Trek, but that Kirk got down with the ladies, even green ones. And not one of them were his sister!
You could also get into Buck Rogers (just pretend season 2 never happened). Listen to them crunchy grooves:
But wait, there’s more. Here’s Erin Grey as Col. Wilma Deering:
… and let’s not forget Pamela Hensley as the evil Princess Ardala. Always trying to score with Buck. Silly girl, didn’t she know Buck preferred good girls? And damsels in distress? And Amazon Women? Occasionally bad girls. But not Ardala! Except of course when he was brainwashed, but that’s another story:
That may not be a metal bikini, but it sure deserves being restored in HD more than the original Star Wars does.
Next time you get an irresistable urge to spend 400 hours on restoring Star Wars to the way it was meant to be, consider if maybe that time was better spent watching Star Trek or Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (season 1). You could also watch Space 1999. Or UFO. Or even the original Battlestar Galactica — heck, any Glen A. Larson show. You could even watch Patrick Duffy as The Man From Atlantis! Patrick Duffy! (It’s all in this pamphlet).
You must do what you feel is right, of course. But sometimes we must let go of our pride and do what is requested of us. It all starts with a choice. A choice to spend your credits not on more Star Wars. Instead, roll up your blinds and let in the light! Then roll them down again and put on Buck Rogers. Season 1.
As humanity struggles to fight the Inhibitors, a moving cathedral circumnavigates the remote world of Hela in an effort to always keep the gas giant Haldora at its zenith at all times. The celestial body and it’s mysterious behavior has caused entire religions to emerge on the planet below.
As a ragtag band of survivors on board the lighthugger Nostalgia for Infinity travels to Hela in a desperate search for a weapon against the Inhibitors, a special girl from the badlands of Hela, Rashmika, seeks out to find her long lost brother — a journey that takes her to the largest of the moving cathedrals — as it prepares to cross the Absolution Gap.
Absolution Gap oozes cool. It’s brilliant, hard sci-fi on every level that matters and Alastair Reynolds grasp of the subject is masterful. Absolution Gap is, perhaps, even more cool than my previous favourite in the Revelation Space series — Chasm City (Absolution Gap is the chronological last book in the series).
Alright, it was a bit slow in places — these books are long — but this level of cool deserves no less than five hearts.
It seems like just a few weeks ago; I watched the season 5 finale of Lost. It was only after the final LOST logo came on to the screen that the reality of a 9 month wait started to sink in. So, impatient as I was, I decided to speculate my way to a series conclusion. Because Lost is the best thing to happen to television since color. Lost is why cave-men painted shows on walls.
Now I've had 9 months to speculate on these mysteries, and for the very same reason, this post will be massively spoilerful (unless I'm completely off the mark and even then). Do not read this post unless you have seen every available episode of Lost first. Otherwise, you'll be ruining a great experience for yourself.
Warning! Don't ruin this for yourself.
Still here? Okay, I trust you have, in fact, seen Lost. So read on.
Nevil Clavain has lived for four hundred years and he has seen his share of war. As the depth of a new threat awakened decades ago — The Inhibitors — becomes clear, Clavain is forced to reconsider his allegiances. Meanwhile, the mysterious Ilya Volyova has plans for her cache of self-aware doomsday weapons.
Redemption Ark is a superb sequel book. It’s littered with cameos and direct storyline continuations set up in both Revelation Space and Chasm City (and even some of Reynolds’ short stories such as Galactic North). Yet it is also a great story in its own right and you could, if you wanted to, read it without having read any of the other books.
It’s hard sci-fi and clearly the work of a working scientist; the result is super-modern space opera sci-fi, the kind which probably isn’t disproved until centuries from now. It features mindboggling ideas and bunches of BDOs i.e. all you could ever want from the genre. Redemption Ark is a bit on the long side, but it’s still a pleasure to read.
The chronology of these books is a bit confusing. While Revelation Space (2000) was the first “in-universe” book Reynolds wrote, it’s storyline was set after both The Prefect (2007) and Chasm City (2001) (both standalone novels). As such, Redemption Ark is the first direct sequel to Revelation Space. It is followed (story-chronology-wise) by Absolution Gap (2003).
The inhabitants of the Ringworld are adapting to the effects of Louis Wus world stabilization efforts. As such, various homonid species find themselves with unlikely allies, uniting against the surging common vampire enemy. On the other side of the world, Louis Wu, now an aging and ill man reunites with his old friends as he is captured by a Ringworld Protector.
The Ringworld Throne continues the adventures of Louis Wu on the spinning Ringworld in this sequel to Ringworld and Ringworld Engineers. It’s clear, rather early on, that the main effort of this book is to give a sense of the sheer scale of the ringworld, Larry Niven trying to author grand adventures on the inside of a ring which has 3 million times the surface area of Earth. Perhaps this grand scale is simply too much for Niven, as the end result is, unfortunately, a rather dull affair.
Tanner Mirabel is a security specialist bent on revenge. In the chase of his prey, his travels take him to the plague-ridden Chasm City where things are no longer as they used to be. As his journey winds down, flashes of memories begin to haunt him.
Chasm City is nothing less than steam-punk sci-fi. That is, while set in a high tech future, Chasm City has reverted to using steam-driven machines and archaic tools to power their various devices. That is a feat, and part of why this is a very readable book. Add to that some very modern and “up-to-date” sci-fi and some delicious twists and turns and you have a very good book.
Chasm City is a pseudo-sequel to Revelation Space and Absolution Gap — set in the same universe but with different main characters.
During a trip to Sicily1 last week, I read the first two books set in Larry Nivens Ringworld space epos.
Louis Wu is a 200 year old explorer, enjoying unnaturally long life by boosterspice. For his experience, he is recruited along with a colourful set of teammates to journey far outside Known Space to explore a mysterious artifact spotted on long range telescopes. The artifact turns out to be a massive ring circling a sun, providing outwards gravity to the soil and water on the inside. The habitable area of the Ringworld is three million times that of Earth.
Classic BDO sci-fi at its best, Ringworld is a must read for any true SF connoisseur. Extra points for the book being a delightfully quick read, as opposed to most modern brick-sized verse-building desert-walks.
The Ringworld Engineers (1980)
It’s been 23 years since Louis Wu visited the Ringworld. As Louis is once again drafted for an expedition, he learns that this mission is no longer one of exploration, but one of repair. The Ringworld is slowly drifting out of its circular orbit around the sun. Unless something is done, the artifact will be destroyed, brushing against the G3 star in only a few years.
In the introduction to The Ringworld Engineers, Niven points out that he initially had no plans for a sequel. So when he finally decided to write one, it was as a dedication to the fans that—fascinated by the artifact—had actually done the math and found flaws in the theoretical construction of a ringworld. One very clever gentleman had pointed out that a spinning ringworld must be rigid due to its outward spin-induced gravity—rigid and hence vulnerable to being pushed out of it’s orbit. “Fixing” this and other such … issues … seems to have been the main focus of Engineers. While Niven succeeds to do so without the use of retcons, Engineers can’t top its predecessor in imaginative storytelling. Even so, it is entertaining and—like its predecessor—a very quick read; for that, it’s well worth a four heart review.
Ringworld and Ringworld Engineers are followed by The Ringworld Throne (1996) and Ringworld’s Children (2004), both of which are in my reading queue.
Revelation Space tells the story of Dan Sylveste, an archaeologist in the far future who uncovers a startling find on a desolate planet called Resurgam. The find points way back in the past and warns of dangerous world-changing events that happened, and might happen again.
Being the first book in a series of 5, Alastair Reynolds sets up his universe of the same name. It’s a ‘verse populated by intricate characters who lead very long lives; be it through medicines, nanotechnology or machine consciousness. Super-high technology and multiple identities permeates the entire series, of which I’ve also read Chasm City—book 2. While other authors, both Arthur C. Clarke, Greg Bear and Larry Niven have explored these areas of science fiction, Reynolds details it in a depth I haven’t seen before. Which works really well.
Revelation Space is an alright book. It’s fairly easily digestible, and the cover of the book has a space-ship on it. It’s the kind of book that you’d buy prior to a long flight or train ride. That earns it 3 hearts. For the potential this holds for subsequent books (a potential I sneakingly know will be fulfilled already in book 2), it’s very much worth reading, more so than the three hearts suggest.