Mi cro Rev iew s


January 2003

Beauty by Sherri Tepper (Reader's Group Choice) - Sleeping Beauty is the focal point for all of our myths.  She crosses through time and becomes the ancestor for Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.  She goes to the realm of faerie and hell.  Its has its moments but it a bit of mess.  The tone is very pessimistic.  I also think its unfair to stick horror writers in hell.  

The Hound of the Baskerville's (TV Movie) -  A decent rendition of the Sherlock Holmes classic. The CGI hound was OK.  Real good filming the location.  The moor itself was a character.  Makes me want to review the other versions.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (Theatrical Movie) -  For some perverse reason I want to believe this is true. Good combo of biopic and spy film. Everyone is great.  Sam Rockwell was especially good as Chuck Barris.  I really enjoyed this stuff.

February 2003

The Depths of Time by Robert  MacBride Allen (Reader's Group Choice) - Capatin Anton Koffield made a tough decesion. As a result he became a pariah.  In order to protect  the time stream Koffield closed  a wormhole and thus cut off a world from the interstellar continuity.  In the process he strands his crew in the future.  Some time later Koffield is sent on a mission.  The ship he is on is sabatoged. Koffield is stranded in the future again.  Koffield tries to slavage the mission and attempts to help the planet Solace which is suffering a catastrophic environmental crisis.  There are some interesting bits here . Like how interstellar travel works in this universe.  The answer to the mystery is obvious although there is a twist.  Might read the sequels.

Reign:The Conqueror (TV mini-series) - A interesting take on life of Alexander the Great.  Peter Chung (Aeon Flux) did the character design.  Its interesting but there are parts where I was scratching my head.

(Theatrical Movie) -  Cliffnote's version of  35 years of Daredevil.  It works.   I only wish they could have stuck in the Stick, as his blind sensei. Love the funeral scene.  All the actors get the characters right.  Cannot wait for sequels and an Elektra spin-off.

Technogenesis by Syne Mitchell (Reader's Group Choice) -  In the near future the Net dominates all aspects of life. Jasmine Reese, a data miner,  is cut off from the Net due to equipment malfunction.  She notices how more acute her faculties are away from the Net.  Jasmine also sees how actions of the connected seem eerily coordinated.  This leds Jasmine into a conflict. Something is in the Net. Something some people want to protect and some want to destroy.  This combines the idea of living being in the Net with the idea that being interconnected may benefit humainity.  All sides are presented. Jasmine has to make difficult choices.  The final solution is a good compromise between the two camps in this book.   

The Lone Ranger (TV Movie) - This a perfect example of  direspect for the source material.  The change the Ranger's name form Dan Reid to Luke Hartmann for no good reason.  The inclusion of modern music seems out of place (particularly the techno version of "William Tell Overture". I really hope this does not make a series from this.  

March 2003

 Slant by Greg Bear - In the mid 21st century great social and technological progress has been made.  Nanotechnolgy and psychotherpy have been perfected.  Yet is there something sinister lurking in this ideal world?  There seems to be a wave of mass hsyteria.  The apparent suicide of a powerful magnate sets events in motion. Mary Choy's investigation leads to a conspiracy of monstrous proportions.  Bear return us to world introduced in Queen of Angels.  It is an incredibly designed future. The idea of therapy being treated as critcal field of study fascinating.  Bear is able to take three independent storylines and have them meet with the force of dynamite.

Crota by Owl Goingback - In Logan, MO an ancient powerful force has been released.  A creature once banished by the the local Native Americans has returned. When conventional means to stop this menace prove ineffective, Sheriff Skip Harding  relies on Jay Little Hawk to guide him through
this crisis.   A classic monster tale.  Parts of it leave you on the edge of your seat. A scary read.

The Big Heat (Theatrical Movie) -  A very intense little film.  Interesting characters.  Interesting to to see how things have changed in 50 years.  Still one sees why Fritz Lang is one of the great directors of all time.

Children of Dune (Mini Series) - It may be diffcult for the uninitiated.  Very faithful to the novels.  Good design.  Seeing this makes me think it may possible to do the latter novels which were very philosophical.

Illegal Alien by Robert Sawyer (Readers' Group Choice) -  Humanity makes first contact with a race called the Tosoks.  A delegation arrive on Earth to get materials to repair  their ship.  A human member of the Tosoks entourage is killed.  The Tosok Hasker is charged with the murder. Civil rights attorney Dale Rice is asked to defend Hasker.  A interesting combination of a first contact story and court thriller.  Sawyer has woven a complex mystery.  There are some great twists in the story. Thrown are some interesting comments on the American judical system.

Rurouni Kenshin (TV Series) -  Another great anime brought to American TV.  The characters particulary Kenshin are interesting.  The only thing that bothers me is some of Kenshin's speech pattern.  A true representation of his speeche or translation flub  

Riverworld (TV Movie) -  Philip Jose Farmer's world is faithfully recreated in this movie.  The plot is engaging but it feels incomplete.  This was to be a pilot for a Riverworld series.  Rumor has it that it may not be picked up as a series.  This would a pity.  The movie set up what could have been an interesting series.

Guardian By Joe Haldeman -  Rosa Coleman (aka Rosa Tolliver)  escapes with her son from an abusive husband in the late 19th century.  She journey to the west and later to Alaska to escape him.  Along her journey she helped by a raven.  What first seems to be an ordinary tale becomes a story which takes one to ends of the universe.  The story shows how small choices can change the future of the world.  Rosa has joined the panthenon of formidable women in science fiction.

April 2003

Trigun (TV Series) - Another attempt to do a Western in a SF setting.  This one works.  I like the idea of a character trying to escape chaos but keeps being drawn to it.  There is a great supporting cast especially Millie.  

Witch World by Andre Norton - Simon Tregarth was on the run from dangerous individuals.  He escapes into another world.  A world where sorcery and science co exist.  Tregarth finds himself in the middle of another conflict. Good plot.  Interesting combination of science and fantasy.  One can see how a series spawned from this.

Cerulean Sins  by Laurell K. Hamilton -  A serial murderer is on the loose in St. Louis.  At the same time a powerful vampire from Europe has arrived unexpectdly. Now a Federal Marshall Anita Blake must deal with both these problems.  As usual the problems are coming  in fast and furious.  Anita as always tries to make the best decesions to keep everyone in her circle alive.  The book is a little bit uneven.  Focusing more on the vampire politics and Anita's new powers while the serial killer storyline is dealt with quickly.  Still the series continues to be engaging.

Napoleon (Mini Series) - The acting and production looked good.  Weak in that area of history, so I do not know how accurate it was.  Interesting to see Napolean as a person.

The Scar by China Mieville (Hugo Nominee) - Bellis Codwine leaves New Corbuzon by ship at the end of Perdido Street Station.  Her ship is attacked by the forces of the Armada.  The Armada is a floating city made up of captured vessels and people.  To some life on the Armada is liberting.  For other like Bellis it is a prison.  Bellis is lead into intrigues which in turn takes one to some of the most unusual places in this world.   Mieville continues to dazzle the reader with this world. Characters are well developed.  All of them represent all the levels of Armada society.   Good plot twists.  Another excursion in this world could be fun.

May 2003

Cowboy Bebop:Knocking on Heavens Door (Theatrical Film)  -  Great to see the guys on the big screen.  The cast is used well.  The plot is intense.  The film retains the humor and style the show had yet doing something bigger.  Would be nice to see another film.

Lagaan (VideoTape) -  Beuatifully shot.  Show that some themes are universal.  Its is a sport film from the east.  

The Years of Rice and Salt  
by Kim Stanley Robinson (Hugo Nominee) - In this alternative earth, Europe lost 90% of its population to the plague.  As a result China, India and Islamic states rose to power.  China disocovered America or Yingzhou, the ocean contininets.  The book examines this world for ten generations.  It is a fascinating world.  It is not perfect but there are some improvement to our world.  Its fascinating to follow the progress of this world from the middle ages to the prsent day.  This is the most ambitious of this years Hugo nominees.  Nice to see a another world view.

Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick (Hugo Nominee) - Time travel has been discovered.  Its primary use is to explore the time of dinosaurs.  One team of researchers get stranded in the distant past.  In the present, in order to help this team the rules of time travel must be violated.  This novel has multiple personalities.  The book wants to be time travel novel dealing with causality and at the same it wants to do Hunt for a Dinosaur for the 21 st century.  It did not make sense that time travelers from the near future would come back to interact with present.  I did not see it being practical.  The book does have some nice bits.  Like how the researchers learn how to work together and survive the past.

Matrix Reloaded (Theatrical Movie) - Its interesting.  I like the parts with Persephone and  Merovingian.  Some of the pther parts leave your head scratching.  The action sequences are good.  cannot wait for the conclusion.  Really want to know what is the deal with Smith.

Hominids by Robert Sawyer (Hugo Nominee) -  In another alternate world, Neanderthals became the dominate species. Neanderthal scientist, Ponter Boddit gets  sent to our world as result of experiment going haywire.  He arrives in a Canadian research facility.  Ponter is helped by the scientists to deal with his new situation.  Ponter's research and social partner, Adikor Huld finds himself accused of murdering Ponter.  If Adikor cannot prove his innocence, he and his immediate family members will castrated.  The characterization is great.  The Neanderthals come off as believable aliens.  The humans are also well fleshed out.  This is part of a trilogy.  It  will be interesting to see more interaction between humans and Neanderthals.

Zulu Heart by Steven Barnes -  This takes place a few years after The Lion's Blood.  There are tensions between the Egyptians and Abyssians in Balalistan (America) and abroad.  Kai makes offer to Aidan to find his sister.  In exchange Aidan must get a decoding device for Kai.  Aidan must also go back to being a slave to accomplish his his goal.  At the same time Kai has to deal with a second wife and trying to help his people's political position. Its great to come back to this interesting world where Africa is the dominant continent.  The political/military situation is fascinating.  Interesting charcters abound. Great to see more Bubante, Kai's teacher and general wise man of the novels.  There so much going on here in this world we need more to tell the story.

Finding Nemo (Theatrical Film) - Pixar still rules.  The beautiful art, story, and character are realized again.  It confirms my theory of what fish go through in a tank.  I also like the fact there are no real villians in this one. 

June 2003

Dune by Frank Hebert (Reader's Group Choice) -  Orginally read this before the Lynch movie came out.  It has aged well. None of it seems dated.  Interesting the things I did and did not remember.  I forgot about Feyd attempt to kill the Baron.   It is one of the classics.

Animatrix (DVD) - Interesting expansion on the Matrix universe.  The only story I had a problem with was "The Second Renaissance".  What bothered me is that we could convince ourselves that blotting out the sun would be a good thing.  Really liked "World Record","Kid's Story:" and "A Detective Story". They were nice personal tales.  The images in the "Program" were great.  It was great for the creators to let others play in the Matrix.

Hulk (Theatrical Film) - This is a good film.  The Hulk is up on the screen.  I think the set up was needed and it pays off.  I like the fact that Ang Lee used some of Peter David's psychological stuff.  We see classic Hulk duking it out with the U.S. Army.  The cast was all top notch.  Hopefully we will get a sequel with the Leader.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling -  It is Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts.  He is being harassed. The powers that be do not want to believe Voldermot is alive.  Harry and Dumbledore are being discredited.  Mrs.  Umbridge is sent to Hogwarts to see the Ministry of Magic educational decrees are enforced.  Harry is under pressure and loses his temper on a few occasions.  Harsh Lessons are leanred along the way.   There is a lot of growth in this book for  most of the charcaters.  Teenagers behave like teenagers here.  My only complaint is that we have to wait till the next book to how Harry did on his OWLs (Ordinary Wizarding Levels).

July 2003

Julius Caesar  (Mini Series) -  Not the play but a straight bio pic of the legendary Roman.  Caesar is very well developed.  The play shows as a man and what drives him.  He is fallibale.  Great cast and design.  Great to see Richard Harris one last time.  Another winner from TNT.

The Big O (TV Series) -  I like this noirish anime.  The bits with Dororthy are great.  I also like Datsun.  I like the one good cop in a corrupt city. Its great Cartoon Network sponsored more episodes to tie up the loose ends. We may will find the truth of Paradigm City.

Terminator 3 - The Rise of the Machines (Theatrical Film) - A mixed bag.  The story is OK and  completes a cycle.  Still I do not like a central message of the movie that we are trapped by fate.  Effects were cool although some of the car chases were over the top.  Still it would be interesting to see Conner as grwon up war leader.

Comic Superheroes Unmasked (TV Documentary)  -  Excellent. Science fiction needs this type of documentary.  Two nit picks.  One there should have been a more detailed mention of the independent boom of the 80s.  All they talked about was the rise of Image. Second, the Japanese influence was not discussed.  The art style has seeped into America comics for better or for worse.  It should have been discussed.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Theatrical Movie) - I saw this and I kept asking why?  Why they did do this or that.  It is Kevin O'Neill's art style on the screen but little else comes from the comic.  At least they try to do character development during the crossing of the Mediterrean.  Still it seems such a waste.  they had good material and  use maybe 10% of it.

Spider-Man (TV Series) -  The show represents Bendis art style which I do not like.  The animation is odd.  Characters are OK.  Stories are also like the Marvel Ultimates.  This is not of the quality of MTV's animation heyday with The Maxx, The Head and Aeon Flux.

Teen Titans (TV Series) -  Interesting to see these charcaters in anime style.  Its fun and has possibilities.  The charactesr seem right although in Raven's case toned down.  Hopefully the story arc will come to something.  It would also be nice to see some other DC characters dropping in once in awhile.

Where the Late Sweet Brids Sang by Kate Wilhem - An ecological diaster has devasted the human race.  A group of humans in the Shenandoah Valley (Virginia)  survive using cloning.  The clones eventually dominate the community.  The book follows the rise and fall of the clone culture.  Wilhem seems to to showing the strengths and weakenesses of the collective.  It feels very 70ish but the novel  still has an impact.  The age old question of the individual vs the collective is given a fresh glance.

August 2003

The Truth by Terry Pratchett (Readers Group Choice) - A newspaper comes to Ankh-Morpork.  The fun starts from there. There is tabloid journalism, corruption roamnce, action and two interesting psychotic thugs.  Despite the fact this is part of very long series, the book was quite easy to get into.  Pratchett is firing joke after joke with great success.  Discworld may be a fun place to drop into once in awhile.

FLCL (TV mini series) -  Odd.  A fun odd though.  Need  to see it on DVD so I can see what they cut out.

Blue Gender (TV series)  -  It is a bug hunt.  Better written and executed than Veerhoven's Starship Troopers.   Parts of it remind me of  Mospeda.  Its very character driven.  Good action.  Good alien design.

The Woad to Wuin by Peter David - The continuing adventures of Aprapo.  After Aprapo  inadvertently pisses of his only friend, his bar burns down when said freind returns, and he becomes a powerful ruler overnight.  It turns out having power is not as great as it seems.  As always there are laughs and Aprapo leans a little more about himself.  If Aprapo is not careful he may become a hero. 

Red Thunder by John Varley - In the near future a savant discoveres a source of incredible power. His fomer astronaunt cousin and his new freinds decide to use this power to build a spaceship to beat the Chinese to Mars.  This is a great homage to Robert A. Heinlein.   This combines Rocketship Gaileo and "Solution Unsatisfactory".   The only sad thing is a new technolgy is needed to makes this work.  What is good is Varley deals with the ramifications of having such power.  It is also cool to have the story set in Florida.

September 2003

Callahan's Con by Spider Robinson - The gang is back and thriving in Key West.  This time Jake and the gang has to face  mobsters and bureaucrats.  There are some laughs and some tears. It is always a blast.  More so since it is in Florida.

Clarke County Station by Allen Stelle (Readers Group Choice) - A sheriff on a space station has to handle terrorists and a cult devoted to Elvis.  A lot is happening in this novel.  Most of it interesting.  This Stelle's first work and one can see the need for polishing.  The church of Elvis is hysterical.  Its OK but Stelle has written better.

Teeth of the Tiger by Tom Clancy -  A new generation is taking the fight in Clancy's fictional world.  Jack Ryan's son and his two cousins are fighting the bad guys.  The working for a group called the Campus which answers to no one and take out the bad guys when discovered.  Any seconds thoughts are gone when terrorist  gun done bystanders at malls in 3 cities.  Its a disturbing book.  The fact the the Campus believe its OK to bypass the people in this matter for what is thought of a greater good is frightening.   This is book that  could only exist after 911.  There is discussion about the issues but it is settled after the attacks.  The book seems to have stopped in an awkward place.  Sequel may arrive soon.

Humans by Robert Sawyer -  The second part of The Neanderthal Parallax is even more fun that the first.   A cultural exchange is set up between the two worlds.  Ponter and mary see more of each other and their relationship develops.  Can it overcome the barriers of theses different cultures?  Its interesting to see the two different world viewpoints and courageous individual on both sides who want this exchange to succeed.   I wish Sawyer did not have to break it up and gives the great novel we are getting piecemeal.

American Splendor (Theatrical Film) -  A masterpiece. To me Pekar is a hero. He is cynical and abrasive but aside from stealing some White Castle burgers from his friend is never mean to anyone. He is trying to get through life the best he can with what he has. Great stuff with the narrative. Like the seamless blend with the real and movie Pekar. This film should get some Oscar nods.

Underworld (Theatrical Film) -  A nice little cult film.  I  liked the look of the film and the fact the it is almost shot in the dark.  There is a story full of plots and counter plots with room for more should the film succeed. Actually I would not mind seeing this universe franchised in book form.. I think there are certain authors who could have some fun in it.

October 2003

Neuromancer  by William Gibson (Reader's Group Choice) - Case is a down on his luck cowboy hacker.  He is recruited by a mysterious benefactor to perform a hack.  If Case does not perform it he will be poisoned and be back to where he was before.  Along the way Case meets AIs and a beautiful cybernetic enhanced women named Molly.  This book started the cyberpunk movement and coined the word cyberspace.  It paints a fascinating world.  Its a gritty and harsh world.  Technology is everywhere.  The upper and lower parts of this world are thoroughly explored.  The imagery of cyberspace still kicks ass.  It holds up rather well after nearly twenty years.

Kill Bill Volume 1 (Theatrical Film) -  A tribute to the old martial films of the 70s.  It is fun but not everyone's cup of tea.  Not for one who dislike excessive violence.  Cool seeing women wielding Japanese swords.  The animation sequence is beautiful if disturbing.  The second volume cannot come soon enough.

The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner - The world is suffering from ecological disasters.  Major seas like the Mediterranean are dead.  Filter masks are need to breathe in major cities in the United States. Food supplements sent to starving countries causes people to go mad.  The government is indifferent and says that the people who criticize them are disloyal.  Austin Train an environmentalist who tried to warn people of the coming problems is underground and people are perform acts of defiance in his name.  This is a scary world.   Written almost thirst years ago, it is still page turner.   Hopefully we may be able to keep this book a work of fiction.  We still have serious problems to deal with but we are better off than the world portrayed in the book.  The book reminds us to take responsibility for what is going on in the world.

November 2003

Land of Unreason by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt – A diplomat gets whisk away to world of faerie.  He goes on a quest on behalf of Oberon and Titania.  It is a fun adventure.  Even anything I felt it ended abruptly.  Wanted more.

Matrix Revolutions (Theatrical Movie) -  It is over, for now at least.  The film had some of the best live action science fiction battle sequences.  The fact the story ended in a surreal way was interesting.  It would have been easier to give it a happy ending.  This ending makes one think.

Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (Original DVD) -  A new crime fighter has come to Gotham City.  One who is reckless and  targeting  operations of Rupert Throne and the Penguin.   Onece agin the WB animation team shows they know how to do Batman.  Its a good mystery trying to figure out who batwoman is.  However do not go to the scene selection menu it gives it away.

Witch Hunter Robin (DVD Animae series) -  In a world were the paranormal exists there is a organization which monitors magic practitioners that go rogue.  A fifteen year old girl with pyrokinetic powers, Robin Sena comes to work for the Japanese barnch of this organization.    The show has an interesting feel to it.  The other operatives are just as interesting as the lead.  I like the use of forensic science in the series.   The show has some of the feel of the worlds created by Laurell K. Hamilton.

Looney Tunes: Back in Action (Theatrical Movie) -  A fun movie.  Great seeing the classic Warner Brother characters doing there thing.  Seeing the classic villians versus Bugs and Daffy was great.   The art museum chase sequence was brillant.  Steve Martin was fantastic as an over the top villian. Major kudos for having  Daleks in the film.

Joan of Arcadia -  Great cast.  The family is not perfect but they are not a disaster.  They feel like a real family.  It seems theologically sound.

December 2003

Rainbow Mars by Larry Niven - Niven's great venture into time travel which he believes is pure fantasy.  The book is a collection of stories centering on Hanville Svetz, a time traveler from the far future.  This future is an ecological disaster.  Svetz is task to find extinct animals in the past for the Secretary General.  This trips lead into some interesting adventures.   These trips usually involve explaining certain myths like sea monsters, unicorns, flying broomsticks and the various races of Mars discussed in classic SF (Heinlein's Martians were not used being to powerful).  Its great fun.  All for a good laugh.

Battlestar Galactica (Mini Series)  -   This was a pleasant surprise.  Let's face it the original was a bit of mess.  This movie shows a more well thought out universe. Ron Moore has done a good job taking what was good in the series and making it better.  Changing the sex of a character did not bother me as much as race.  The original had two strong African characters who are gone.  A lot to like in this.  Good stuff for a new series.

The Jericho Iteration by Allen Steele (Reader's Group Choice) -  St. Louis suffered a major earthquake.   As a result the government sent in the Emergency Relief Agency (ERA) and instituted martial law.   By the start of the novel martial law has been going on for eleven months.   A down on his luck reporter, Gerry Rosen, stumbles on big story which the ERA and their leaders want suppress.  Rosen has become a target.  Can he survive to tell his story.   A lot of action in this one.  Some interesting twists.  Rosen is a good narrator.  A nice little SF thriller.

Hybrids by Robert Sawyer - The conclusion to The  Neanderthal Parallax.  Mare and Ponter make decesions about the future of their relationship.   There is a plot to wipe out the Neanderthals.  A disovery is made tying religious belief to something biological.   A lot goes on in this novel.  Great heroics shown both races.  Its a book that makes you think.  The series ends in good place, the bonding of Ponter and Mare.  There is room for more though.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Theatrical Movie) - Its finally over and what a blast it was.  The first great fantasy film series of the century has come.  Jackson shows what one can do if they make film with skill, love and integrity.  He deviates from the specific events  a bit but keeps the main ideas in the books intact.  Will have to wait till extended DVD comes out for whole movie.

Big Fish (Theatrical Movie) -  Perhaps Burton's best film.  The most character oriented of his films since Ed Wood.  Its a story about an extraordinary life.  Everybody is just so great in this film.  For Oscar and Hugo time it should be a slug fest between Burton and Jackson.

The Martian Child by David Gerrold - A new version of Gerrold's award winning novella.  A autobiographical story of Gerrold's adoption of his son Dennis (now Sean).  The shorter version concentrated on the element that Dennis belief he was a Martian and could make wishes come true.  The novel deals with this and the hardships in the realtionship.  Its a novel about parenting.  Its about heart wrenching in some parts.  At the end it works out. 

Blood and Fire by David Gerrold -  A new Star Wolf novel based on an unproduced Star Trek: The Next Generation script.  The Star Wolf finds the Norway infected with blood worms.   Captain Parsons violates standing orders in order to save Commander Korie, his team and the Norway survivors.  Is this right decesion?  Can the people be saved without risking the Star Wolf.   These are question encountered by the crew.  Gerrold has produced another exciting story.  Hopefully a TV series of this material will be produced.  For now we got some exciting books to tide us over.   

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