Micro Reviews

1999

January 99
February 99
March 99
April 99
May 99
June 99
July 99
August 99
September 99
October 99
November 99
December 99

January 1999

Babylon 5: A Call to Arms (TV Movie)-Pretty good action adventure. A great set up for Crusade.   Great design for the Excalibur.   The music is different but good.  Now if only Crusade debut was not months away.

In Dreams (Theatrical Movie)- A weird little film. Very intense.  It had an ending I was not expecting.  Very well filmed particularly the underwater sequences.  All in all pretty good, but may not be for everyone.

Purgatory (TV Movie)- A fantasy Western. Its about redemption and doing the right thing. A great old fashion gunfight at the end.

Batman Beyond (TV series):  Batman for the 21st Century.  Brought to us from the same team that gave us the  Batman and Superman animated series.  The tradition of good art and story telling continues.

The Galactic Empire Series: Pebble in the Sky, The Stars, Like Dust, and The Currents of Space By Isaac Asimov- Great stuff from Isaac Asimov. Still holds up well after 40 years.  Each novel is filled with typical Asimov intrigue.

She is All That (Theatrical Movie)- Cinderella teen film.  Reminds one of all the people you liked or hated in high school. Decent film.

Shakespeare in Love (Theatrical Movie)- If you love Shakespeare you will love this. It lives up to the hype. This has all the elements of both the Shakespearean comedies and tragedies.  Great performances from all.
 

February 1999

October Sky (Theatrical movie)- Breathtaking. Inspiring.  A great film about people taking control of their lives rather than let outsides forces do it for them.

The Probability Broach by L.Neil Smith(Reader's Group Choice)- A novel about a police officer who slips into an alternate world where America is an extreme libertarian democracy.   It shows the pros and cons of such a society. It also shows that our own world is not so bad since we did not degenerate into the authoritarian world the police officer comes from (this was written in 1979 and takes place in the late 80s).

Dilbert (TV Series)-  A good interpretation of the comic strip of the 90s.  A humorous look at the modern workplace.

The 60s (TV Mini Series)- This seemed superficial and cliched.  Not a good representation of one of the most important decades of the century.  Good soundtrack though. For a real feel of the 60s read Harlan Ellison's  essay "Song the Sixties Sang" in the Harlan Ellison's Hornbook (Edgeworks 3).

Rocketship Gaileo by Robert A. Heinlein-  The first of the juveniles.  A scientist with a bunch of teenagers builds an atomic rocket and go to the Moon.  Some of the social stuff is a bit clunky but it still a good adventure.

Prophets for the Ends of Time by Marcos Donnelly(Reader's Group Choice)- Two men are put in charge of the Apocalypse, a charismatic religious leader and cold blooded genius.  It was an easy read but a bit uneven. There are some funny bits with the angels.

On a Darkling Plain by Richard Lee Byers-  A vampire novel set in south and central Florida.  This uses the background of White Wolf's Masquerade game.   Two ancient vampires fight each other,  using their respective clans as players in a chess match.  A fun read. Gives you everything you expect from a gothic/vampire novel.

Storm of the Century (TV Mini Series)- Does what King does best, scare the hell out of you.  Linoge is one of the scariest villains of all time.  An ending which can be interpreted in many ways. Did the town make the right choice.? Did they have a choice.

Office Space (Theatrical Movie)- A bit disjointed. There are some good laughs in it.  Like Dilbert, it makes fun of the insanity of the modern workplace.

Alice in Wonderland (TV Movie)-  A bit disjointed too. I have not read the two books so I can't tell how true to the books the film was.   It was visually impressive and had good casting.  It did give that sense of wonder one should get from a fantasy.

A Siege of Eternity by Frederik Pohl(Reader's Group Choice)-  Humans, their clones and aliens return from a space station.  With them they bring advance technology and a war between two alien races fight for control the eschatron, the moment of the big crunch (the end of the Universe). Earth tries to decide the best way to deal with this situation. The second novel of a series.  It holds its own but ends on cliffhanger. A good first contact story which shows the problems connected with a world government.

March 1999

Expecting Someone Taller by Tom Holt(Reader's Group Choice)- A continuation of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung. Macolm Fisher gets the ring and everyone from Norse mythology wants it. It is pretty funny seeing how these mythological characters function in the modern world. What I like is that Malcom gets ultimate power and for the most part uses it wisely.

I am Legend by Richard Matheson- Robert Neville tries to survives in a world where a plague has turned everyone into vampires. Matheson goes into great detail on how Neville lives from day to day in this nightmarish future. He also tries to explain the vampire myths scientifcally. This excellent example of combining the genres of SF and Horror.

Timescape by Gregory Benford(Reader's Group Choice)- Scientists from 1998 attempt to use tachyons to send a message into the past in order to avert an ecological diaster. This book shows how science, in this case physics, is practiced. We see both scientists in 1998 and 1963 solving the problems presented to them.

The Rage: Carrie2 (Theatrical Movie)- More of a clone than a sequel. Rachel a young teen with telekinetic powers is the target of abuse by the "in" corwd. It is a simple teen revenge fantasy and its OK. Not as good as the original movie or book.

Cruel Intentions (Theatrical Movie)- I never got around to see any version of Dangerous Liasons so I cannot compare with previous versions. Bored rich kids manipulate and seduced others to amuse themselves. There are some good performances particularly from Sarah Michelle Gellar (interesting to see her play evil).

The Ringworld Throne by Larry Niven- Another journey through one of the greatest artifacts created in SF. The first part of the novel deals with a coalition of Ringworld races fighting an infestation of vampires. The second part deals with trying to bring stability to the Ringworld power structure. Both plots were handled quite well. One kept wondering what was going to happen next. Some of the questions regarding who will control the Ringworld are answered while some reain open. I hope we do not have wait long to see how these loose ends are resolved.
 

April 1999

Rogue Star by Michael Flynn- The sequel to Firestar.  Mariesa Van Huyten continues to promote space in order to provide Earth with an asteroid defense.   The book continues with a realistic vision of the future.  We see this on all levels from the policy makers to the riggers who are constructing a permanent space station.  Hopefully some of these ideas will be executed in the real world soon.

Horatio Hornblower  (TV Mini Series)- I never had a chance to read the books but some friends told me it was pretty faithful adaptation of Hornblower's early adventures.  The stories were good and they did a good job of recreating the era.  Hopefully more will come soon.

The Matrix (Theatrical Movie)- Pretty good action-SF film. The ideas seem plausible and well thought ( some did think the part of humans as batteries was a stretch).  Keenau Reeves did a decent job and made up for Johnny Mnemonic. Laurence Fishburne was excellent as the leader/teacher.  I can see how they could do a good sequel focusing on the war between the AIs and humans.

The Dragon Lord  by David Drake(Reader's Group Choice)- Two warriors fight in Arthur's army to conquer the Anglo Saxon in Britain. Along the way the secure the means for him to control a dragon.   I did not like the negative way Drake presented Arthur, Lancelot and Merlin.  The plot seemed to crawl in some places.  The battles were OK.  Not one Drake's better books.

10 Things I Hate About You (Theatrical Movie)-  A nice little film. Very episodic plot wise but I was laughing. Pretty good soundtrack.  Hopefully it will help people get into Shakespeare.

Janissaries by Jerry Pournelle(Reader's Group Choice)- A group of soldiers fighting in Africa get rescued from certain death by a flying saucer. They are taken to fight for an agrarian society on a distant planet in order to grow a much needed crop for their alien benefactors.  The plot was pretty good. Pournelle shows again what free men can do.  I also like the fact that Galloway, the leader of the mercenaries, tries to help natives rather than lord over them with their superior weapons.
 

May 1999

The Mummy (Theatrical Movie)- It has the all elements of the old movie serials and the pulp magazines stories: an implacable hero, a beautiful/brainy heroine, a bumbling henchman and a seemingly unstoppable villain.  The story is OK.   Some of the effects seem to pay homage to Ray Harryhausen. A fun movie.

The Children of God  by Mary Doira Russell (1999 Hugo nominee)- A sequel to The Sparrow.  On Earth, Jesuit priest Emilio Sandoz recovers from his ordeal on the planet Rakhat.  At the same time we see what happened to Sofia Mendez,  the only other survivor from Sandoz's expedition who is still on Rakhat.  She assists the Runa fight against the Jana'ata, who use the Runa for food.  The novel deals with issues of faith in an intelligent and respectful way.  The novel examines the old question, how come bad things happen to good people in a world with a Judeo-Christian God.  Russell does a good job of  explaining what happened in the first book without interfering in the plot.  It is easy to understand why it was nominated.

A Case of Conscience by James Blish-  Members of a survey team come to different conclusions about the planet Lithia,  a seemingly idyllic and peaceful world.   The Jesuit on the team sees it as trap set by Satan, one sees as the ultimate phase in social evolution and another wants to exploit the planets resources to make fusion bombs. The book holds up well after 40 years. Again like in The Children of God all the arguments are examined and presented logically. All views are treated with respect.  Some of the answers questions raised in the novel are left for the reader to answer.

Great Expectations (TV Mini-Series: Masterpiece Theater)- An excellent adaptation of the Dickens novel.  Captures more of the subplots than last years movie adaptation did (although that was OK).  Ioan Gruffudd does a good job as Pip.   The sets and costumes are great to look at.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Theatrical Movie)- It was great.  I am one of the few who found Jar Jar Binks to be endearing.  The moments between Amidala and Anakin are great.  I also like how Lucas has three battle going on at the same time (the ground battle, space battle and the duel).  This movie is a set up for things yet to come. Cannot wait for episode 2.

A Midsummer's Night Dream (Theatrical Movie) - Another good adaptation. The look of the fairies is great.  The performances are also good especially Callista Flockhart's.  A great film for the Shakespeare and fairy lovers.

The Passion of Ayn Rand (TV Movie-Showtime)-  This film focuses on Rand's affair with Nathaniel Branden.  I guess its reasonably accurate since the woman who wrote the book the film is based upon help promote it. Helen Mirren is interesting as Rand.  The film does discuss some of the ideas of Objectivism and Rand's works, Atlas Shrugged in particular.  I always felt Rand brought up some interesting ideas in her books.  The film shows both the positive and negative sides of Rand. Hopefully it will stimulate discussion of her theories.

The Garden of Iden by Kage Baker(Reader's Group Choice)- A Spanish young girl is rescued from the Inquisition and made immortal in order to assist people in the future to save lost historical treasures. While in Elizabethan England, she  falls in love with with a native.  The plot  dragged in the middle.  The rules set up for time travel are interesting and so is the concept behind the corporation she works for.. Overall it was OK, but I find no real urge to get the sequel.
 

June 1999

Dragon's Winter by Elizabeth Lynn (Reader's Group Choice)- A war between two brothers in a fantastictal past.  A well plotted fantasy. There were some interesting characters including a female shape shifter. Its a typical sword and sorcery fantasy.

Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson (1999 Hugo Nominee)- In 1912 the entire continent of Europe is returned to a primitive state.  Photographer Guilford Law participates in an expedition to this new savage Europe. There he discovers the truth about the transformation.  At first it seems to be an alternate history story but turns into something else.  The book asks what does one want from life. What does take to make one happy and content?

Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me (Theatrical Movie)- It had a lot of lulls for me. The Springer bit was priceless though. There were some other good bits, but not as good as the first one.

Tarzan (Theatrical Movie)- The best Disney animated film of the post-Little Mermaid era. Its beautiful to look at.  It was faithful to the spirit of the book if not the word.  Unfortunately political correctness has made telling some parts of the novel impossible, still would it have killed them to say that Tarzan means white skin in the mangani (ape) language.

The Pirates of Silicon Valley(TV Movie-TNT)- This film shows Gates as a thief and Jobs as a psychotic.  I do not know how true either accusation is. Seemed to focus on the seedier side of the computer industry.  I think one can find a better history of the computer revolution in Triumph of the Nerds from PBS.

Brothers to Shadows by Andre Norton (Reader's Group Choice)-  An exiled member of a martial order finds himself body guarding an alien researcher who has invented a device to view living history.  Although it uses SF devices it feels more like a fantasy.  There are some good action sequences but there are questions about the order which remain unresolved.  An average space opera.

July 1999

Distraction by Bruce Sterling (1999 Hugo Nominee)-  In the mid 21st century Oscar Valipariso, a political spin doctor and campaign manger for a U.S. Senator,  tries to save a federal laboratory from being shut down.  Sterling projects where politics is going in the information age.  Valipariso is a savvy political operator.  He is able to get things done.  In the novel he learns how to have a personal life.    Despite all the crises this future U.S. is facing, Sterling shows there is hope that we can overcome problems.

Howling Mad by Peter David- A wolf is bitten by a werewolf and becomes a man on the night of the full moon. He finds himself in New York and falls in love with an animal rights activist.  Peter David takes a classic story and turns it inside out. Its filled with humor throughout.  Its great to see David in his own universe.

Factoring Humanity by Robert Sawyer (1999 Hugo Nominee and Reader's Group Choice)- In the early 21st Earth has been receiving a signal transmitted form Alpha Centauri. Heather Davis, a psychologist, is part of worldwide effort in trying to decipher the message. At the same time she has to solve a problem which is tearing apart her family.  Its interesting how the novel ties these two main story lines together.   Sawyer brings some interesting concepts in this first contact story.

The Smithsonian Institution by Gore Vidal- T. a math prodigy is invited to the Smithsonian Institute to help the U.S. nuclear program in 1939. After hours the exhibits come to life. T. focuses his research on time travel and tries to prevent the oncoming war. This causes some other problems. A weird little novel. Vidal comments and satirizes certain parts of American History.  It was interesting but not as good as some other satires I have read.  I would recommend Vidal's Lincoln and his collection of essays instead.
 

August 1999

Midnight Blue by Nancy Collins - Sonja Blue, a woman turned against a vampire against her will, hunts other vampires and fights her own dark side.  This a compilation of three books.  Collins has an interesting take on the vampire myth.  Sonja is great.  I also like the part of the seraphs and their part in the great scheme of things (I have to be a vague since I feel this is a spoiler).

Iron Giant (Theatrical Movie)- Great animation.  The way the made the robot move was just beautiful.  Story was OK.  They said they modified it from the source material.  Whether this was improvement or not I do not know since I never had a chance to read it.  It reminded me of Johnny Sokko(sp?). I would like to know why the robot landed on Earth.

Mystery Men (Theatrical Movie)- If you love super hero comics you will like this film. It has fun with all clichés we grew up on and accepted.

Macross Plus (Video)- Two pilots(one human, the other Zentreadi) trying to win a government contract for their companies reunite with a woman from their past on the planet Eden.  Old feelings stirred up again.  There is some great mecha animation in this one.  As always in the Macross series there great art, story and music.

The Blair Witch Project (Theatrical Movie) - It was interesting.  I think the whole concept was original and fascinating.  The filmmakers created an alternate world where the events truly happened. Parts of it where detailed elsewhere (web site and SF Channel special).  I would like to know what really happened though.

The Drowning Towers (aka The Sea and the Summer) by George Turner- In the 21st Century economic collapse has occurred and created  new class structure in Australia.  The book focuses on two brothers who are on thier way to be have-nots or Swill and how they attempt to escape their situation.  We get to see many aspects of this future with multiple viewpoints first person narration.  The social structures shown are well described. Its a warning novel showing what could happen if we do not take care about certain problems now.
 

September 1999

The Destiny Makers by George Turner -  A police officer is assigned to guard a man who is important to the government. Like in The Drowning Towers Earth faces a bleak future. The dystopia is well constructed.    This time we look at the policy makers.

Never Been Kissed (Theatrical Movie)- It was OK. I found it a stretch to believe Barrymore's character was that dopey.  I liked the young lady who befriended her.

The Ideal Husband (Theatrical Movie) - Great cinematography and costume design.  Its great to see a story about integrity.

The Winslow Boy (Theatrical Movie) - Another great looking film. I never got this play.  I mean was it wrong to pursue the case and nearly bankrupt the family or were they right to keep going.  Never saw a clear cut answer to this one.

Stir of Echoes (Theatrical Movie) - I can't tell if this was a good translation of Matheson novel. It was well made. It had some real chilling bits. Everyone especially Ileana Douglas puts in a good performance.   I like the message that all people have worth.

Heroes Never Die by Matthew Woodring Stover (Reader's Group Choice) - In the 21st century people are sent into a parallel world for the entertainment of the masses back home. On of these "actors"  Caine is sent to recover his former lover. He gets involved with the internal politics of the parallel world.  The politics is interesting and the characters are fully fleshed out.  The references to Heinlein are cool.

The Snow Queen by Joan Vinge - Moon Dawntrader becomes the center of  intrigue on the planet Tiamat. She becomes the hope for her people to escape the control of the Hegemony which is withholding  advanced technology from Tiamat.  This is a great space epic and its only part one.  Want to read the  next one.

The Circuit of Heaven by Dennis Danvers (Reader's Group Choice) - In the future one can download oneself into a computer and live in a virtual world called the Bin.  Nemo refuses to enter this world until he meets Justine at his parents Bin home.  Although she has a great secret we she is not aware of.  Its a love story mainly.  Some aspect of the ramifications of the Bin were not thoroughly explored in my opinion. Pretty good overall.
 

October 1999

Imzadi II: Triangle by Peter David (Star Trek Novel)-  This explains everything that happened to Worf, Deanna, and Riker in the time between Generations and Worf's appearance on DS9. David tells an engaging story about love and is able to make sense of Trek's inconsistencies.

Top 10 by Alan Moore, George Ha and Zander Cannon (Comic Book Series)- Moore returns to super hero comics with four titles from America's best comics.  Top 10 is a police force in a city completely inhabited by paranormals.   Its Hill Street Blues with everyone as a super hero.The characters and the plots are interesting.

The Face of Apollo by Fred Saberhagen (Reader's Group Choice)- A young man is entrusted with an artifact which gives him enhanced abilities and takes him on a strange quest.  There were some lulls in the plot.  What at first seems to be a standard fantasy turns into something else.  Its OK but I am not going to read the rest of the series.

Roswell (TV series) - Dawson's Creek with aliens. This will succeed if they have have a long term plan like Babylon 5 or Buffy.  There is only so much angst people can take.

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler (Reader's Group Choice)- The body swapping Doro finds Anyanwu, a shape shifter, and has her join his colony in America. In time they will engage in a battle of wills for lives of the colony members.   This was kind of interesting since I realized I had read the sequel a few years ago, Mind of My Mind.    It was interesting to see these to strong willed individuals confront each other.  At the same time we got a new look at old SF concepts like telepathy and genetic engineering.
 

November 99

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis- This is a collection of  letters written by a senior devil named Screwtape to a neophyte devil Wormwood.  Screwtape explains to Wormwood how to proceed in seducing one from God.  If you wish to understand the true meaning of evil from the Christian perspective this book is a must read.  Its not the lies one hears from the televangelists.  Lewis shows that evil is more subtle  and shows how the devil is totalitarian in nature.

Dogma (Theatrical Movie)- This film deals with faith in a thoughtful way.  All sides of the faith question get their say.  To lighten it up Smith gives his usual brand of humor which consists of people saying and doing interesting things.  Alanis did a great job as God.

Sleepy Hollow (Theatrical Movie)- I never got around to reading the story but I heard Burton took some liberties.  Still it was a fun film. It just looks beautiful. As in The Mummy, there is no nothing more scary than an unrelenting force. The only problem is that Burton gives the plot in spurts.

Princess Mononoke (Theatrical Movie: Animae)-  Hayao Miyazaki gives us a tale of love and honor.  Ashitaka is a hero who is trying to diffuse conflict and trying to restore the balance between man and nature. The best scene for me is Ashitaka getting San out of  Iron Town despite being shot and having a giant door blocking his way.  There is nothing more inspiring than an unrelenting hero.

The Starfarers by Poul Anderson (Reader's Group Choice)- A group of explorers go on a journey which will take over 10,000 years while only aging about a dozen years.  They meet aliens who help them understand the technology in crossing great distances.   Anderson gives us an interesting array of characters who are willing to take the journey.  Anderson questions whether a desire for stability will beat out the desire to venture to the unknown.  Its old school SF at its best.

Toy Story 2 (Theatrical Movie)- The gang is all back and they kick ass.  Its a nice little send up of the collectors culture.

The World is Not Enough (Theatrical Movie)-  There were interesting twists in this one.  The opening sequence was worth admission.  There were some twists in the plot I did not expect. Only sad note is that it was the last one with Desmond Llwellyn as Q.
 

December 99

The Bicentennial Man (Theatrical Movie)- An excellent adaptation of the classic Asimov story. Unlike Starship Troopers which took the plot and trashed the themes, this film did the exact opposite. The filmmakers took liberties with the story, including a love story for one thing, the kept the central theme of  robot becoming a man intact. Robin Williams does a good job both inside and outside the suit.  Embeth Davidz also does a good job at playing 2 roles.  The whole movie has an Asimovian feel.

Minerva Wakes by Holly Lisle- Ordinary couple Minerva and Darryl Kiakra must rescue their children from fantastical foes and must do so by using the artistic talents they have neglected for years.  I always like a book where normal people get wrapped up in incredible events. I also like the message in the book about not giving up your dreams for short term material success.

Jumper by Stephen Gould- Young Davy discovers he has the ability to teleport. He uses this power to escape an abusive situation. This book thoroughly explores the possibilities of being to travel almost anywhere and what one can do with the power (not all of it good).  It had a pretty good plot which explored such areas as child/sposual abuse and terrorism.

Pop Tart by Liz Langley (Non-Fiction)- A collection of interesting observations on our culture by an Orlando writer.

Man on the Moon (Theatrical Movie)- One of the most interesting biographical movies I have seen in a long time.  Told in a wacky style the Kaufman would have used himself. Carrey did an eerily good job of playing Kaufman.

Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carrol- Cullen James has a perfect family life during the day but at night in her dreams she is helping her son  in a quest to help rule this fantasy world.  Its cool how Cullen dreams and real life start to overlap.  Carrol has a pretty good prose style and constructs realistic characters.

Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein - Thorby starts off as salve on distant world. He soon becomes at the center of intrigue when he discovers who he really is.  The story in itself is a pretty good adventure.  Heinlein shows a full understanding of the bureaucratic mind when Thorby is dealing with the authorities.  Heinlein know how to get through the red tape and accomplish something.

Waldo and  Magic Inc. by Robert A. Heinlein- Two short novels by Heinlein. In Waldo, Waldo F. Jones suffering from muscular atrophy lives in space and solves problems for those down below.  While solving one problem he discovers something extraordinary. In Magic Inc. one is taken to an alternative world where magic exists and sees how that world works.  The plot deals with an organization trying to strong arm the magic industry.  One sees how politics and labor would be changed by magic. Both stories are interesting but I liked Magic Inc. more since Heinlein treated magic like any other science with it own rules and limitations.

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