Micro Reviews


January 2000

Fantasia 2000 (Theatrical Movie:IMAX)- A triumph. A worthy successor to the original. Hopefully they will return to the original idea and reissue it every year with some new features.  I thought Rhapsody in Blue the best segment , probably since New York was still fresh in my mind due to the Burns PBS documentary (which is also dynamite).

Silk by Caitlin R. Kiernan- A mysterious woman named Spyder leads a group of outcasts in Birmingham.  Is she helping her friends or leading them down a dark path which may lead to destruction?. Finding out the answer is pretty interesting. The characters are pretty well thought out.   There are some real scary moments.  Pretty good overall.

Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite- In the small town of Missing Mile, N.C. strange things happen. Jason aka Nothing discovers his vampiric nature and discovers the group that sire him.  Steve and his friend Ghost will have to confront these vampires to save Steve's on and off girlfriend Ann.   Brite has an incredible use of language.  Ghost exemplifies the classic hero. He is the kind of guy who will do anything, including unpleasant things, to help his friends.

February 2000

The Green Mile (Theatrical Movie)- An example of  how one should adapt a Stephen King book.  The movie is about people working and living under incredible conditions.  Its about doing the right thing even when can cost you everything. Its also about not being able to do the right thing and the consequences of that.

The Sixth Sense (Theatrical Movie)- An eerie little film.  It has an incredible plot twist at the end.  Well executed.

Bloom by Wil McCarthy (Reader's Group Choice)- An nanotech infestation has overrun the inner solar system. Humanity has escaped to the moons of Jupiter and the asteroids.  A journalist goes with an expedition to the heart of infestation to place probes to monitor its progress.  Interesting change to see the downside of nanotech.  The expedition members are well fleshed out. There is possibility of a sequel. I would probably check it out.

March 2000

The Veiled Web by Catherine Asaro (Reader's Group Choice) - Ballerina Lucia del Mar finds herself in the center of intrigue.   After an attempted kidnapping she finds herself married to high tech businessman Rashid al-Jazari and taken to his home in Morocco.  In Morocco  she discovers Zaki, an AI Rashid has been developing that everybody wants.  It was OK. There was nothing new with the AI stuff.  The Moroccan culture was described in detail. It was intresting to see another culture used as setting in SF.

The 10th Kingdom (TV mini series)- Your classical fantasy quest story.  The cast was great. I loved the Snow White bit.  They could easily cut some of it out.  The Peepville went on a bit too long.

The Garden of Stone by Victoria Strauss (Reader's Group Choice)- In this pre industrial  world  telepaths rule non telepaths.  Years earlier Bron stole the Stone an object of power from the garden of the Fortress and disappeared. In his absence his enemy Jolyon has risen in power.  Cariad, Bron's daughter, and Konstant infiltrate the Fortress to find what happened to Bron and discover the source of Jolyon power.  This is the second in series but Strausss does a good job explaining the backstory.  This world is thoroughly explored particulary the relationship between the telepaths and non telepaths.  One can also see an interesting contrast when  Konstant finds himself in world of non telepaths.

Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt (Reader's Group Choice)-  Ages ago civilization collapsed as a result of a plague.  Humans remember their ancestors as the Roadmakers.  Years ago an expedition went to look for Haven, a mythical sanctuary where the Roadmakers have preserved their technology.    Only the leader returns from the journey. After he dies he leaves Chaka, whose brother died on the expedition, a copy of A Connecticut Yankee in King's Arthur Court a lost treasure. She decides to mount a second expedition to find Haven.   A good post apocalyspe story.  McDevitt conveys the sense of wonder his characters experience when they see the ancient marvels during their journey.  Its also nice to see a writer tying everything up at the end.

April 2000

Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre- Snake is a healer in a post-apocalypitic world.  Her dreamsnake is killed by ignorant villagers she was trying to help. The dreamsnake is the key to her healing power.  She goes on trying to find a new dreamsnake.  Snake is compelling character who does the right thing no matter what the cost. She refuses to give up despite the fact that the chances of finding a dreamsnake are almost impossible.  The books shows how something tragic can lead to something great.

The Silver Wolf by Alice Borchardt (Reader's Group Choice)- Regeane is caught in the middle of intrigue in 8th century Italy.  She is betrothed to a mysterious lord for political reasons.  This is further complicated by the fact she is a werewolf.  I am not sure how accurate the history is on this one.   There are some interesting characters and the plot is well paced.  Might be tempted to read the next one in the series.

Forever Free by Joe Haldeman- A sequel to The Forever War. Mandella and his wife Marygay wish to leave their colony planet, Middle Finger and the group mind called man which has encompassed most of humanity.  They plan to leave and return within a space of 40,000 years while aging only 10.  On the journey mysterious things occur and force them to return earlier than planned.   Haldeman  explores other ways for mankind to organize themselves other than traditional government.  At the end of the book humanity is forever free in every possible way.    The book takes the need for freedom to the source.  The answers are scary and wonderful at the same time.

The Humanoids by Jack Williamson - A group of robots called humanoids are built "To Serve and Obey and Guard Men from Harm".  The proposition seems all right at first until they restrict man's intellectual endeavors. A group of humans try to rally against the humanoids.  A masterpiece.  One is left thinking whether the humanoids are mankind's saviors or wardens. Will read the second book as soon as possible.

Stardoc by S.L. Viehl (Reader's Group Choice)-  Dr. Cherijo Grey Veil decides to leave earth and her domineering  father.  She goes to the planet Kevarganzangia 2, a backwater planet inhabited by several races.  She faces challenges being one of the few humans on the colony and the secrets of her past.  Overall the book is OK. My only problem with it is the alien design. The writer may have been going for effect rather than realistic design.

Frequency (Theatrical Movie) - Original premise for a movie.  Its about love of family.  The movie reminds of Richard Matheson work. There is small glitch in the film's end.  The film's strong plot and characters makes one ignore the error.

May 2000

The Harry Potter Series: The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (Hugo Nominee)- Orphan Harry Potter discovers he comes from a family of wizards.  He goes to a school where he learns how to use his powers. At the same time he makes friends and fights mysterious threats.  All the books  are page turners.  Ms. Rowling has created a very interesting universe.  The books emphasize positive values such as loyalty to ones friends, toleration for those who are different, and courage.  The people who see something evil in the books because they discuss magic should get a life and be beaten with a wet stick.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (Hugo Nominee)- Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse works on decoding enemy cyphers during World War II. This leads to a series of events which will effect his grandson Randy.  Randy is involved in an enterprise which create a data haven, a safe place where information can be stored away from prying eyes.  Stephenson creates a Clancy like plot flipping between World War II and the early 21st century.  Stephenson pulls together what seems like completely unrelated plot threads. The only problem is that he sometimes get obsessed with minutiae.

The Arabian Knights (T.V. mini series)- Beautifully filmed.  I like the change in the reason for Scheherezade telling the tales.  Instead of mere survival, she is trying to save the soul of the man she loves.

Jason and the Argonauts (T.V. mini series)- Again another good twist in the retelling of this story. I like the fact that the fleece has no real power and Jason has to make his own destiny.  The special effect as usually are excellent.

A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge (Hugo Nominee)- Two group of humans arrive at On/Off star, a sun which goes dark and lights up on a  regular basis.  Orbiting this star is a planet of intelligent arachnids.  The groups are the traders known as the Queng Ho and the Emergents, a more authoritarian group who have created a process called focusing. When one is focused they become highy specialized in one area and completely oblivious to other things. The Emergents attack the Queng Ho and enslave the survivors.   They plan to stay in the system until the Spiders come to a technological level which can help them. On the planet, the Spider Sherkaner Underhill is trying to push new technologies which allow his people to live openly when the sun goes dark.  This is an incredibly complex novel. It is well crafted.  The narration shifts form the humans to the Spiders.  Both Underhill  and Pham Nuwen, the main human character, are both trying to liberate their people.  The novel explores the nature of freedom.  Can focusing be the key uniting humanity?  How can technology empower a race?

June 2000

Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear (Hugo Nominee)- A flu like disease attacks expectant mothers and their children.  Is this a disease or the next stage in evolution? Molecular biologist Kaye Lang and anthropologist Mitch Rafeslson must overcome personal problems in order to find the answers. When they find out what is happening they must fight hostile authorities who are trying to maintain the status quo.   Bear takes the reader to the edge of biological science.  He is able to explain what is going on without  dragging the plot.

Lord of the Isle by David Drake (Reader's Group Choice) -  A group of four from an isolated island find themselves in the center of intrigue.  This is your typical fantasy quest.  It tended to drag at some points.  The best part of the book when Cashel the shepherd discovers his true destiny by becoming  a wizard.  Not real eager to read the rest of the series.

A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold (Hugo Nominee)- Miles has fallen in love with widow Ekaterin Vorsoisson.  He has a cunning plan to woo her.  At the same time Miles has to deal with court intrigue.  I have not been keeping up with the Vorkosigan saga. I really regret it since this book was so much fun.  The plot flows easily.  Bujold has a great knack for comedy.  You find yourself cheering at the end.

Titan A.E. (Theatrical Movie)-  Nice to see a major American animated feature with out any musical numbers.  It is a classic space opera.  The alien design is great,  particualrly the Goug (sp?) and the Drej.

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (Theatrical Movie)- It was a goofy TV show.  So they made a goofy movie about it. It rocks.  The film uses the same humor used on the show including the dreaded pun.  It was great to hear June Foray's voice again. If it does not leave a smile on your face, you are a cruel and evil person or you were abused as a child and must get help.

July 2000

Telezey Amberdon by James H. Schmitz (Reader's Group Choice) - This is collection of stories done by Schmitz  in the 60s focusing on teenage telepath Telezey Amberdon.  Telezey find herself in center of intrigue and learns how to use her powers to get out of trouble.   Most of the stories were pretty good.   A very interesting look at telepathy. I had some problem getting through the "The Lion Game".  The quality of the others stories makes me want to give "The Lion game" a reread.

The Empire Stone by Chris Bunch (Reader's Group Choice) - Jeweler Peirol is sent by a wizard to retrieve the infamous Empire Stone.  He is confronted by several challenges before he secures the stone.  This was a surprise.  I thought it was going to be a ponderous quest story.  It was saved by the character. Peirol is a guy with a talent who is trying to get by.  Using his charm and his talent Peirol is able to solve his problems.  The plot moved well.  An OK fantasy and it may be stand alone.

X-Men (Theatrical Movie)- A film I have been waiting for 15 years.  It was worth the wait.  Its a film for fans and non fans.  Non fans can learn the story about the X-Men without being confused. Long time fans have fun looking at the details in the film (The Mansion's address, cameos at the school).  Jackman is Wolverine and rest of the cast was excellent.   I am eagerly awaiting the sequel.

Against the Fall of Night by Sir Arthur C. Clarke -   Alvin, an inhabitant of the utopic city Dispar, wishes to leave the city  to discover his race's past.   He discovers mankind's lost legacy.    This is classic Clarke.  Alvin's search invokes the classic sense of wonder.   There is great satisfaction when he puts mankind back on track to take their rightful place among the stars.

The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein - Engineer Dan Davis is betrayed by his girlfriend and business partner.  They put him into suspended animation  for 30 years.  Fortunately for Dan time travel has been developed and has a way to get back at his enemies.  This novel shows Heinlein expertise in the area of the time travel. Heinlein is able to maneuver around paradoxes in an interesting way.   The good guys as always are competent and reap great rewards and villains are efficiently thwarted.  Engaging and fun at the same time.

Knight Life by Peter David - King Arthur returns to present day New York.  The best way to fulfill his destiny is to run for mayor.  Along the way he encounters old friends and foes.  Peter David has fun with the Avalon myth and at the same time takes a poke at the political system.

Scary Movie (Theatrical Movie)- A bit over the top.  Still it was a good send up of Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Sixth Sense among others.  It could have been toned down a bit for my taste.

Nuremeburg (TV mini series)-  It was great to see the real trial of the century brought to TV.  Brian Cox did an excellent job of recreating Goering.  The only problem was Jackson's (Alec Baldwin) romance with his secretary.  It seemed to be a distraction to kill time.  The trial scenes however were breath taking especially Jackson's cross examination of Goering.

The Flying Sorcerers by David Gerrold and Larry Niven -  On a distant planet exists a primitive society exists which still believes in magic.   A stranger from another world comes and threatens the authority of  local wizard Shoogar.  Shoogar sabotages  the stranger's vehicle which wipes out most of the village.  The village inhabitants migrate to an area which seasonally cut off from the mainland.  The stranger is there and proposes to build a flying machine to get back to the mainland and escape this world.   The book shows the pressure that radical change can put on a society and how people will do anything  to hold  on to power.   The plot never drags.  It is great to see the plan for building the flying machine unfold.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling- In his fourth year at Hogwarts Harry is entered into an international wizard competiton.  This is the turning point in the series.  Like Babylon 5, things will get darker before they get better.  However Harry shows he has what it takes to be a hero.  He is getting ready  for a final showdown with the forces of darkness.  Rowling again dazzles the reader with her creativity.  The characters are evolving and learning crucial values like loyalty and tolerance.

August 2000

Ripping Time by Robert Aspirin and Linda Evans (Reader's Group Choice) - In the future time travel allows people to tour their favorite portions of history.  One group goes back into time to solved the Ripper murders. At the same time their is political turmoil at the time stations.  I found the Ripper stuff more interesting.  The stuff in the future was hard to get into since it had to do with a continuing series.  The book also ends abruptly and a sequel is on its way.  I do want to read the sequel to see how they resolve the Ripper story.

Ultraviolet (TV mini series)- Prime Suspect meets Vampire$.  It works. I like combining the British crime show with vampire hunting.  There are some great twists and I like how the vampire myth is established in this world.

The Waiting by Frank Robinson (Reader's Group Choice) - Arthur Banks discover an ancient race of humanity still exists and will stop at nothing to protect the secret of their existence.  It was well plotted and the science is pretty sound.  It reminded me of of Darwin's Radio from another angle.  I had a problem with the ending and the race's motivations.

Moonwar by Ben Bova - Sequel to Moonrise.  Moonbase tries to win its independence from Earth.  They have to do it without spilling blood.  I did not think that there could be such a thing a bloodless revolution. Bova proved me wrong. Bova's colonists use every scintilla of intelligence to accomplish their goal.  Need to make time for the rest of Bova's solar system.

The Empire of Isher by A.E. van Vogt (Reader's Group Choice) - Originally two books, The Weapon Shops of Isher and The Weapon Makers. In the future mankind's freedom depends on delicate balance of power between the ruling family of Isher and the Weapon Shops.  The Weapon Shops provide the people with weapons that can only be used in self defense.  The books deal with the struggle between those agencies. We are  given an incredible plot which nothing less than the freedom of man is at stake.  Van Vogt can take these far out plots and makes it plausible and make us want more.  This is why van Vogt is a Grandmaster. .

Is it Fall Yet? (TV Movie) - Quinn gets a brain. Daria shows she has heart . Jake finds his sense of humor.   All of the characters of substance in Daria grow in this film. Something that is nice to see in American animation.

September 2000

The Callahan Touch by Spider Robinson - The gang reassembles at Mary's Place since the demise of Callahan's.  As always strange and wonderful things happen.  Bad puns are made.  A fun romp as always.

Household Gods by Harry Turtledove and Judith Tarr (Reader's Group Choice) -  Nicole Gunther-Perrin has a very bad day and wishes to live in a simpler time.   She wakes up to find herself in the Roman frontier in 170 A.D.   She learns the hard way the past is not all its cracked up to be. The writer describe the time in painstaking detail. Nicole learns to deal with the situation and the experience helps her deal with problems in the present.

Doctor Who Audio Adventures: The Genocide Machine (7th Doctor and Ace) and  The Apocalypse Element (6th Doctor Romana) (Audio CD) - The Doctor is back on audio.  These are fully fleshed out original adventures. These 2 stories feature the Daleks.  The Daleks have never been more menacing.  The stories are great and they no longer limited by a budget. There more CDs that feature the 5th and 8th Doctor.

Through Alien Eyes by Amy Thomson (Reader's Group Choice) - The second part in a first contact story.  Dr. Juna Saari returns to Earth with to representatives of Tendu race. One is her adopted son Moki and Ukaoten an elder.  They aliens encounter the best and worst humanity has to offer.  Its an excellent first contact novel. The Tendu were well defined. Its great to see human culture through Moki's and Ukaoten's perspective.

October 2000

Lodestar by Michael Flynn -  This is the third installment of Flynn's near future series.  Hacker extraordinare Jimmy Poole tries to discover who built the firewall for LEO station.  Christaan Van Huyten is planning revenge to those who wronged him. One sees the next generation of space pilots in training.  A threat from the skies finally manifests itself.  Flynn does an excellent job of fleshing out this future. One is given believable characters who are in an intense situations.  If only the real world would progress as fast in Space as they do in Flynn's.

Wilderness by Dennis Danvers (Reader's Group Choice) - Alice White has been living a solitary life.  The she meets college professor Erik Sommers who turns her life around.  The only problem she is a werewolf.  Alice and Erik have to deal with this and other mundane relationship problems. An interesting interpretation of the werewolf myth.  It is also good seeing the complexity connected with human relationships.

Colonization: Second Contact and Down to Earth by Harry Turtledove - A sequel  to the Worldwar series.  It is the early 1960s, twenty years after a reptilian race tried to conquer Earth.  The alien colonization fleet arrives.  This brings native flora and fauna and the females of the Race.  A truce enforced by nuclear weapons have been established.  The main world powers are the United States, the Soviet Union, and the Greater German Reich (which still occupies Western Europe).  The aliens occupy most of southern hemisphere dealing with insurrections in the Middle East and China.  In this world technology is more advanced due to alien influence.  There are plots and counter plot everywhere as human and aliens deal with situation. An engaging read.

The Burning City by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle - This takes place in ancient Los Angeles in Niven's The Magic Goes Away. The fire god Yagen-Tep controls Tep's Town.  Nothing can burn without his permission and every few years the city is razed ny its underclass called Lordkin during the Burning.   Whandall Placehold, a Lordkin,  grows up and longs for something better.  His hope for a better life lies outside of Tep's town and with Morth, an Atlantean wizard responsible for the death of Whandall's father.  An interesting adventure with some interesting social commentary.  Made  me interested in investigating the rest of this universe.

November 2000

Callahan's Legacy and Callahan's Key by Spider Robinson - The last 2 installments of the Callahan saga.  In both the old gang have to save all of creation.  We learn about Doc, Long Drink and Fast Eddie.  Unfortunately Mary's Place gets shut down at the end of Legacy.  In Key, the gang decide to escape Suffolk County, Ny and go to Key West, FL.  Jake starts up the Place.  Its a great road trip which includes a stop at Kennedy Space Center to watch a launch.  The gang also joined by Pixel Heinlein's last cat.  Fun is had by all.  Makes me want to forgive the punning.

Midnight Nation (Comic Book Mini Series)  by Joe Straczynski (story) and Gary Frank (Art)- Police officer David Grey has had his soul stolen by an evil entity.  This entity lives in a world where the discarded members of society live.  He has to find it within a year or he will become one of the entities minions.  A mysterious woman named Laurel is guide in this world.   A decent but flawed man has to fight to stay that way.  A classic quest story.    The art is some of Frank's best stuff.

A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton - Fairy princess Meredith is hiding out from her aunt, the Queen of Air and Darkness, as a private detective in Los Angeles.  Soon her cover will be blown and she will be forced to face her aunt.  There plots within plots as she deals with the intricacies of the Unseelie Court.   There are some interesting twists. There are some pretty well written sensual scenes. The novel sets up this world were fairies co-exists with humanity very well.  Hopefully one will see more of this world in future books.

Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp - In the late 30s scholar Martin Padway is transported to sixth century Rome.  he knowledge of the period allows to him survive.  He decides to take steps in order to prevent the Dark Ages.  He does by build a printing press, a crude semaphore telegraph system and involving himself in the conflicts and politics of the time.  De Camp took great care in describing this ancient world.  It also great to see someone taking the initiative to improve the world.  Padway encounters great challenges and he meets them head on.  A great work from a great writer.

December 2000

The Humanoid Touch by Jack Williamson - The humanoids have become a mythic memory to a colony of free humans.  Krth Kyrone  tries to warn his people of humanoid threat. Humanity's final hope may lie with the aliens of the planet Malili.   The humanoids are one of the scariest threats ever presented. They are uncompromising and unrelenting.  Solutions are found but are not the easiest. A work of a master.

 GalaxyQuest (Theatrical Movie-DVD) - OK for a space opera. had its funny bits. Some see as a posittive view of fans and fandom. I feel That is a bit of a stretch. I just cannot see this being better than its competiton for the Hugo.

Being John Malkovitch (Theatrical Movie-DVD) - A film with a daring and original idea.  It is well excuted and consistent.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman - Goldman did an excellent job adpating his own novel to film.  The novel was a bit more cynical than the film.  The wit which the film stand out came from here. Need to check more Goldman films and novels.

Unbreakable (Theatrical Movie) - One of the best superhero films in years. M. Night Shyamalan uses some intresting techniques to tell his stories (filming certain charcters in reflection for one).  Its a grea idea a man discovering he has extraordinary gifts and using them for the greater good.  The twists at then end works. The best SF?Fantasy film of the year.

Dungeons and Dragons (Theatrical Movie) - Its a typical fantasy quest nove brought to life. The design of the film is excellent.  Some great camoe by Richard O'Brien and Tom Baker.   It seems though the film was badly edited.   Scenes critcally to plot seem to be missing.  The film unfortunately has a typical Holloywood cliche (the handling of minority charcters) Still worth watching. Sequels could proof interesting.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Theatrical Movie) - Ron Howard succesfully answers the why the Grinch stole Christmas.  I also like the idea of making Cindy Lou the brideg  between the grinchg and the town. A new Christmas heroine.  Jim Carey does a great job under Rick Baker's make up.  I will not mind seeing this every December

The Emperor's New Groove (Theatrical Movie). - Disney trying to do Chuck Jones.  It kind of works. It has an odd feeling to it though. It works most of the time.  I was laughing at the appropiate time especially during Cronk's scenes.

Orphans of the Sky by Robert Heinlein - A compilation of 2 shorter works "Universe" and "Common Sense" which take place on a generation starship.  Hugh Hoyland disocover that his world is actually a spaceship. he tries to explain this to other but is tricke into keeping silent by corrupt official. Evnetually he rebels and tries to bring to his people the truth.   Some great action in this one.  Heinlein demonstrates the desire for those in poweer to stay in power no matter what.

Robots and Empire by Isaac Asimov - This is a bridge between the robot series and the Galactic Empire trilogy.  R. Daneel Olivaw and the robot Griskard try to stop the Spacer Amadiro from inflicting harm on Earth.  As usual most of the action is of stage and there is alot of talking in the novel. The good Doctor always gives them something interesting to say.   A good intermediate novel.

Castaway (Theatrical Movie) - Hanks does a good job doing most of the movie by himself and a volleyball.  Only bad thing about this film was the trailer.  It gave away too much so the ending  does not have the impact it could have had.

Playing God by Sarah Zettler (Reader's Group Choice) - Dr Lynn Nussbaumer is trying to save an enitire planet.  Unfortunately she meets challenges from with out and within. The planet All-Cradle has been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides will prevent her from doing her job in order to gain advantge over the other side.  It is more difficult when her friends on All-Cradle get caught up in the intrigue.  Its a book about making hard decesions in a difficult situation. Nussbaumer does her best to do deals with it in order to accomplish her job and clean up All-Cradle. Zettler does a great job in creating a conflict with no clear good guys and bad guys. Her alien design is great.

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