Mi cro Rev iew s



January 2002

War for the Oakes by Emma Bull -  Singer Eddi McCandry becomes embroiled in war between the Unseelie and Seelie Courts in Minneapolis.  While this is going on she is trying to get a band together.  At the same Eddi is falling in love with her fairy protector. Can she survive this war and pull the band together?  A great urban fantasy. I like the ties to local music scene. The book is as much about a band's struggles.

Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers (TV Movie) - JMS has put together an interesting crew.  A great chase story.  Overall its nice to go back to the B5 universe. Hopefully this will be the springboard for a new series.  Then again if you need a fix of JMS best place to look is in  Amazing Spider-Man , Rising Stars, and Midnight Nation.

Daria: Is it College Yet (TV Movie) - Daria and the rest escape.  I mean graduate. Its a  fun to tie up the series. Like in the last film the characters (of substance) go through some development.

February 2002

In Legend Born by Laura Resnick (Readers' Group Choice) - The island of Sileria is occupied by the Vandani, one of the most powerful empires in this world.  the Silerians less advanced and factional wish to overthrow their occupiers. The key players are Jossarian, a thief turned rebel leader,  Tansen, a master swordsman who has returned home, Mirbar, one of the mystical Guardians.   It is interesting seeing the Vandani intrigues in holding on to Sileria.  The ending is  a setup for a sequel.  As good as the characters were I will pass on the sequel. Too much sword and sorcery for me.

The rest of  the Anita Blake series by Laruell K. Hamilton - It took me two months but I did it. Overall we get a character who tries to make the best decisions under the most harrowing situations.  They are sometimes the most pleasant choices. Still Anita is always thinks of others particularly her friends and those who depend on her for protection.  The other interesting thing about this series is the development of the werewolf culture. I have not seen this before. It is intriguing seeing the whole werewolf (were creature actually) politics.  A series worth look into.

 Lion's Blood by Steven Barnes - In this alternate world America has been colonized by Africans. The book follows the lives of two men as they grow up in this world.  Aidan O'Dere and his family were captured by Vikings and sold into slavery.  They are taken to Bilalistan (North America) and sold to a powerful family.  Aidan then meets Kai, the son of his owner.  They bond and start a friendship. It is a friendship which will be tested due to their positions in that society.  This alternate world is very well developed.  The characters are fully fleshed out. One of the objectives in this book is to develop three dimensional characters.  Barnes sought to avoid bad characterization of  minorities he saw both inside and outside the SF field.  He has succeeded.  This is a world which demands revisiting.

March 2002

The Getaway Special by Jerry Oliton - Allen Meisner creates a hyperdrive and tests it on a shuttle.  The government tries to clamp down on this discovery. Meisner and shuttle pliot Judy Gallagher escape with the hyperdrive and do some exploring. On the trip they encounter some interesting aliens in the form of butterfly and a tree like being.  The only problem I see in this is the government reaction.  Would they get all paranoid and try to clamp down on the hyperdrive?  Meisner is successful in leaving the plans for the hyperdrive on the Internet for anybody to build.  Still the government tries to imprison him.  Besides that the novel is pretty interesting.

America the Beautiful by Moon Unit Zappa - America, daughter of famous parents, gets dumped by her boyfriend.  She takes it badly.  She learns to deal with it and her feelings towards her late artist father.  The film reminds a bit of Almodvar's film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.  It deals with relationships and all the pain and pleasures they can bring.  Hope Ms. Zappa does some more writing.

Ice Age (Theatrical Movie) - Sometimes I feel like Scrat.  This film shows the humour pioneered by Chuck Jones will live on.  A film which goes nicely with Shrek, Monster Inc. and both Toy Story.

The Quantam Rose by Catherine Asaro - Another story set in the Skolian series. Kamoj, the governor of Argali on the planet Balumil, gets embroiled in intrigue.  She is betrothed to Jax Ironbridge, governor to a neighboring village.  Vyrl, a mmeber of the Ruby Dynasty who is on Balumill incognito, makes an error in paying off a debt which results in Kamoj being required to marry him.  She does and learns the truth about him.  They fall in love.  They have to deal with struggles both on Balumil and Lyshirol, where Vyrl must face his destiny.   Asaro is able to make a romance using the basics of quantam physics as a template.  An interesting combination of hard SF and romance.

Clockstoppers (Theatrical Film) - A fun teen comedy. Seems a bit short. There could have been more develpoment in Zak and Fancesca relationship. The effect were good and consistent. Hope we see more films form Mr. Frakes.

April 2002

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon (Pulitzer Prize Winner) - Josef Kavalier has just escaped from Prague in 1939 and moves in with cousin, Samuel Klayman (later Klay) in New York.  They break into the comic book business with their character the Escapist.  Together they deal with the ups and downs of the comic industry and times.  This recreates the excitement around the Golden Age of  Comics when anything could happen.   Some interesting twists particularly at the beginning of the war.  Chabon does an interesting job turing some Kavalier's and Klay's comic stories into prose.

Sir Apropos of Nothing by Peter David -  Apropos is not born under the greatest of circumstances.  He is a pretty cynical individual.  He goes through the traditional hero tale which includes a beautiful princess who could be an arsonist.  Yet in the end he does the right thing.  This sometimes brings him more grief.  This is the classic fantasy story told from the view of the antihero.  There some interesting tweaks to the traditional fantasy quest plot.  There is future story planned but David promises that future books will be self contained.  This one was (no cliffhanger).

A Caress of Twilight by Laurell K. Hamilton -  Merry Gentry is still trying to bare an heir for her aunt, Queen of the Unseelie court.  Her suitors are members of her aunt's Imperial Guard.   At the same time she has to help a fairy actress trying to have a baby with her mortal lover,  stop ancient powers someone has released into the world and dealing with intrigues from the world of fairy.  Hamilton does an excellent job blending the supernatural with the everyday world.  Merry does a good job trying to cope. It seems in this book the ante has been risen.  Some interesting stuff to be dealt with in future books.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - Directors Cut (DVD) - This is DVD that needed to be made.  The film now looks as it was intended to.  The new opticals looked great.  Only the needed  footage was added this unlike just throwing everything in like on TV.   Commentary and documentaries shed new light on this controversial film.

Warning: Parental Advisory (TV Movie) - The history of Tipper Gore versus the music industry.  A classic story of seeming never ending battle for free speech in America. Griffth Dunne brought the great Frank Zappa to life.  All the cast was great.  Rock on.

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors - Special Edition (DVD)  - This episode is good before this edition.  The new effects were OK.  The Cybermen finally got some shots at the Raston Robot.  The new footage added a little to the story. Best part was the commentary by Terrance Dicks and Peter Davison. Nice to hear how the story was crafted and why certain things happened.  Worth watching.

May 2002

Spider-Man (Theatrical Film) - One of the best comic book films.  It is an equal to Superman and Batman.  Dafoe's Green Goblin is excellent.  He did a good job presenting a split personality.  They could have made the mask better for him though.  The rest of the cast does a good job bringing  the characters to life.  The swinging effects just take your breathe away.  Hopefully Raimi will not abandon this franchise like Burton did Batman.  Eagerly await the next installment.

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (Theatrical Film) - Ignore the critics.  This is a good film.  Lucas and West did a bona fide effort to set up a relationship between Anakin and Padme.  The action sequences are incredible.  Nice to see the Jedi take on the bad guys in mass.  It also interesting to see how the Empire came to be. Only bad thing is we have to wait three years to see how the films are tied together.

June 2002

The Curse of the Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (Hugo Nominee) - Cazaril returns from harrowing adventures abroad and becomes a tutor to the Royesse Iselle, sister to the heir to the throne.  Cazaril has to help Iselle deal with the intrigues that surround her. Good characterization especially Cazaril and Iselle.  There is barely any fantasy element in it.  More of a romance.  It could have used a bit more humor. Its a good sword and sorcery type fantasy.  Not something I would regularly read.

Lilo and Stich (Theatrical Film) - One of Disney's best.  Nice to see a realistic girl with issues in a Disney film. Alien design is pretty good.  Just a fun film. Hope we see more of this new family.

Minority Report (Theatrical Film) -  Speilberg attempts do another serious SF film.  This times he uses a short story by Philip K. Dick.  There is a lot to like in this film.  The future is well designed.  The action sequences are gripping.  There are some nice slow moments where exposition is carried out well.  I like the characterization of Agatha which gives  a view of what it is like to be precog (something the original story lacked).  All the characters are well played out.  There is a major flaw in the plot which propels the film.  Despite this one flaw this world is consistent.   The movie a looks at the concept of Precrime and shows it value and its weaknesses.  The film may have gone too long.  The twist at the end is interesting but like A.I. the film may have been better shorter.  Last year I said A.I.  was Speilberg's most ambitious film.  I am pleased to say he has topped himself this year.

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville (Hugo Nominee) - The setting is the city of New Corbuzon, a dark urban metropolis.  Isaac Dan de Grimnebulin is an amateur scientist researching chaos theory.  His is commissioned to help a Garuda, Yagharek to regain the ability to fly.  His wings were amputated by his people for a violation of their law.  Isaac researches all sorts of flying creatures. One is a caterpillar which turns into a malevolent creature.   It and other like like breed by the government (to be sold to unsavory indviduals) are attacking the inhabitants of New Corbuzon in their dreams.  Isaac must capture these creatures.  At the same time he must keep his chaos engine away form certain groups who would use it for their own ends.  This world is fascinating.  This is work of science fantasy since magic or super science are used.  Plot is complicated but interesting.  Mieville also has some interesting ideas defending socialism using the culture of the Garudas as his platform. Sequels set in this world may be worth reading.

Scooby Doo (Theatrical Film) - A film made in the spirit of the original series (and the continuing series of direct to video stories) while attacking the negative aspects of other incarnations of the show.  The characterization is dead on with the exception of Fred. I never perceived him as narcissistic. Would not mind seeing more of these meddling kids.

The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson (Hugo Nominee) - In the early 21st computer programmer Scott Warden witnesses a large structure materialize in Thailand.  It is monument to the future victory of someone named Kuin.   In the years that follow more monuments, called Chronoliths, appear in other parts of the world.  Whole sections of societies are affected by the Chronoliths.  Scott finds himself tied to Chronoliths. He is enlisted to help scientist Sue Chropa to find out the secrets of the Chronoliths. His daughter gets involved in a Chronolith cult.    Is Scott a key to the secret to the Chronoliths?  Who is Kuin? Are his victories inevitable.  The books asks questions of predetermination and free will. What happens to a generation given proof that their future is doomed?  Is there any hope. Wilson asks these questions and give some interesting answers.

Cosmonaut Keep by Ken MacLeod (Hugo Nominee) -  In the mid 21st century Europe has been conquered by a socialist Russia.  A European Socialist Union  space station, Titov has found evidence of  intelligent extraterrestrial life on a asteroid.  In Britain hacker Matt Cairns accepts an assignment from an American resistance fighter named Jadey.  This leads him to the the Titov which has succeed from the ESU.  In future on an alien planet exobiologist Gregor Cairns helps his family relearn the secret of interstellar flight. A classic space opera.  There is action, adventure, and romance.  There is a little exploration of the nature of freedom in this semi dystopic world.  If you can deal with the switching narrative between Matt and Gregor's time it is a gripping read.

July 2002

Men in Black 2 (Theatrical Film) - Still fun the second time around. Only problem is why Jay has become an idiot when Kay get his memory back?  Can't the partnership work with them as equals.  Would not mind seeing another especially if they do something with the guy who guard the entrance to MIB headquarters.  There is a story with that guy.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman - Coraline is young girl living with parents who do not have enough time for her.  She finds a door which leads to a parallel world with copies of her parents.  These parents are not as disinterested as her real ones.  Coming back she discovers her own parents have disappeared.  She also discovers that others are trapped in the parallel world.  She has to find a way to rescue those trapped and defeat her mother's doppleganger.  Its beautiful.  Coraline is smart and brave.  She finds within herself they way to overcome the challenges that face her.  The classic Gaiman story, ordinary facing extraordinary things and meeting the challenges head on.

Aint it Cool by Harry Knowles (Paul Cullum and Mark Ebener)  - The story of fan making good.  It interesting to how harry became a mover and shaker by starting a website to deal with temporary paralysis. He has some great ideas on how films can get better.  A must read for any movie buff.

Lori by Robert Bloch - Lori Holmes returns for her graduation to a catastrophe.  Her parents have died in a fire.  Lori finds herself in the middle of intrigue.  A psychic dies trying to deliver a message to her.  She has dreams about a women named Priscilla who resembles her.  She turns to a therapists for help.  Can Lori finds the answers before something happens to her.  An interesting thriller done by a master.  There a few minor glitches (written on the sides by a library patron, how annoying).  Good characterization and an interesting subtle injection of a fantasy element.

Austin Powers in Goldmember (Theatrical Film) - If one joke fails another succeeds.  Favorite part was the Osbourne's cameo.  I hope they do another one where go to the 80s and see Myers take on that era.

August 2002

Signs (Theatrical Film) - A great thriller. Bad SF.  When the secrets are revealed, the SF elements do not make much sense. This aside the film is very good movie.  While providing some great scares, one must think of the issues of fate posed in this film.

Through Wolf's Eyes by Jane Lindskold (Readers Group Choice) - A young woman raised by wolves is believed to an heir to a kingdom.  She brought back civilization with Blind Seer, a wolf and pack brother.  Named Blysse, after the  missing heir, she finds herself in middle of intrigue regarding royal succession.   I cannot get into the traditional medieval fantasy.  One of the highpoints of the novel is how Blysse interacts with other humans.  Like the title implies she sees the world as does a wolf.  I also like the image of this beautiful woman being followed by this large wolf everywhere she goes.

 XXX (Theatrical Film) - The male power fantasy.  Cars, guns and women.  Does not get more basic than that.  Its fluff. It is fun fluff though.  Diesel maybe one of the new action stars.  Great performance form Samuel Jackson.  He is perfect as an M for the 21st century.  Asia Argento is great as a femme fatale.

Red Rabbit  by Tom Clancy -  This novel takes place between Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October .   A KGB communication officer discovers a KGB plot to kill Pope John Paul II.  He decides to defect.  Jack Ryan and his allies must make that possible.  An interesting if more standard tale.  More down to earth than he last few novels.  Interesting anachronisms pop up.  He has kids watching Transformers a few years too ealry.  Fits well into the Ryan universe.

He Man and  the Masters of the Universe (TV Series) -  Surprisingly good.  Revamping the series without trashing the old.  No heavy handed morals. A good old fashion battle bewteen good vs evil.  A must watch for the 80s generation.

Simone (Theatrical Film) -  A good send up of Hollywood and our celebrity obessed society.  Al Pacino is great doing comedy. Evan Rachel Wood shows great promise as Lainey Taransky.   A Hugo contender.

September 2002

Rocket to the Morgue by Anthony Boucher - Lt. Terry Marshall investigates a murder within the community of L.A. fandom in 1941.  He is helped by Sister Ursula.  During the investigation Marshall is cuaght up in the weird and wonderful world of fandom.  The book has an interesting twist on the locked room mystery.  Its fun to see fandom being used as a setting.  Find this if you can.

Threshold by Caitlin R. Kiernan - Chance Matthews has suffered a lot of loss with the death of a close friend and her grandparents.   While dealing with this tragedy she meets an albino girl Dancy Flammarion.    Dancy tells Chance she is fighting monsters and needs Chance's help.  Soon Chance, her ex boyfriend Deacon Silvey and Sadie Jasper Deacon's current girlfriend get engulfed is fight against ancient forces.  All of them will face challenges which will test them to the limits.  The characters are intrguing.  They live on the fringe of society. Yet they have the same basic aspirations as anyone else and are capable of being heroes.  There are some really good scary bits.  A good old fashion horror novel.

That was Then (TV Series) -  An interesting variation of Quantam Leap.  I do not know how they are going to keep it up every week.  How long would it take to fine tune one's life.  This would have been better as a feature.

October 2002

Retief by Keith Laumer (edited by Eric Flint) - A collection of Retief stories including the novel Retief's War.  Retief is a diplomat's answers to James Bond.  He is quick with his wits and with his fists when he has to be.  The stories were interesting puzzle boxes where Retief had to find a way to solve a seemingly intractable problem.  More Laumer is on the way from Baen.

Spirited Away (Theatrical Movie) - Extravagant.  Beautiful.  Breathtaking.  If there is any justice Miyazaki will win the Oscar for best-animated film.

Birds of Prey (TV Series) - Promising.  A better premiere episode than Smallville's premiere. Dina Meyer is excellent as Barbara Gordon.  Mia Sara is just scary as the Harlequin.  She steals the show most the time.  Hopefully we will see some of the classic villains and maybe some of the heroes.

The Kiln People by David Brin - Imagine a world where cloning is as easy as photocopying.  You can make several clones of varying quality for recreation or business.  Then download the experience into your own memory before the clone disintegrates (one day limitation).  One follows the adventures of Albert Morris a private detective.  He is commissioned to find a missing scientist working for Universal Kiln, the company which has made cloning accessible to the average consumer.  The case takes to the depths and peaks of this future world.  Morris and his clones will discover a plot, which will not only change the world but the definition of the human soul.  Brin has created a fascinating world.   Brin uses and attacks clichés he has discussed in his non-fiction writings.  Morris is the classic private detective.   Should be on next year's Hugo ballot.

November 2002

Carrie (TV Movie) - The question is why. The De Palma movie was great. There were some nice bits in this. Then that was ruined by the ending. An ending that should have never happened. It was just wrong.

Firefly (TV Series) – OK. A space western and a good one at that. Worth seeing.

Aftermath by Charles Sheffield – Alpha Centuari has gone nova. It released an electro magnetic pulse destroying every integrated chip on Earth in the early 21st century. The story focuses on how people deal with the crisis. The people include a Jewish President of the United States, the first Mars expedition, a serial killer, and a cult. Interesting how these storylines tie in. There are some challenging problems to be dealt with in this world. The sequel is a must read.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Theatrical Movie) - Even better the second time around. A good adaptation at least as I remember the book. Some really good scary bits. Some great lines. A pity the third one will be out in 2004.

Star Trek – The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonian Singh by Greg Cox- Cox successfully places Khan in our real world and remains true to the Trek universe. It is great to see Gary Seven, Isis, Roberta Lincoln, and others mentioned in Trek’s chronicles of the 20th century. Cox does an excellent job capturing the characters described. The plot is gripping and exciting. There are some interesting cameos from inside and outside Trek.

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem – Kris Kelvin goes to the planet Solaris and study its seemingly living ocean. The rest of the scientists seem to have gone of the deep end. Kelvin meets his deceased lover on Solaris. Is this a product of the planet? If so, why does it produce this image? Kelvin explores these questions. The novel gets dense at times when Lem explains the scientific history of Solaris. Still it is captivating. Are we looking for something new in space or do we simply wish to find the familiar. These are many questions Lem deals with.

December 2002

Time and Chance by L. Sprague de Camp – An autobiography of one the Golden Age greats. Very engaging. A great man was lost last year.

Taken (TV Mini Series) – Promising in the early installments. The ending was a disappointment. The villains were way over the top. Can the Crawfords be any more vicious? There were some good scenes but as whole it was a bit of a jumble.

Carter  Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold -  This book give us a look into the life of Charles Carter, a great magician of the early part of the last century.  The main story is in the early twenties where carter gets wrapped into a pulp like adventure.  A fantastic thrill ride from days gone by.  There is not one but two great romances.  There are cameos from the great celebraties of the age.  This book contains more fun and adventure than some offerings in the movie and visual mediums.     

Star Trek: Nemesis (Theatrical Movie) – Has all the strength and weaknesses of any Next Generation film. Tom Hardy was an intriguing villain. Personal quibble, couldn’t they make the Argo’s ground unit look more sophisticated. It is three hundred years in the future, why a dune buggy? This film has interesting similarities with Wrath of Khan. OK overall.  Will this be the last Next Generation Trek?

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Theatrical Movie) – Peter Jackson continues bringing his vision of Tolkien’s world. It is just as breathtaking and faithful as the first. The Ents are spectacular. Great battles. Gollum is the best CGI character ever. Why must we wait a year for the conclusion?

Catch Me If You Can
(Theatrical Movie) – A great chase picture. A great cast. Interesting to read the real story and see what really happened. A great credit sequence. Again Spielberg should have ended the film 10 minutes sooner. The extra time seems to serve no purpose.

 I Will Fear No Evil By Robert A Heinlein - Multi millionaire Johann Smith transfers his brain into the body of his secretary Eunice. The novel shows how Smith and Eunice, who can speak to Smith in his head, deal with this unique situation. It rambled along. No real tight plot. Yet interesting things happened. The future is a fascinating projection of trends from the 60’s. The readers have to determine some elements of the novel for themselves. It is Heinlien. Its worth reading but not for the novice reader.

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