Tag Archives: sci-fi

District 9 was surprisingly good

For some reason, I was expecting District 9 to be bad. I might have been harboring resentment due to the fact that I wasn’t sure what it was about. Sometimes that happens, and then I forget why I was originally down on the film. Maybe it got grouped with Cloverfield in my mind, which I also think is bad despite never having seen it.

District 9 was a great sci-fi flick, telling a story that’s a little different than the norm. When an alien ship arrives on Earth over South Africa, the aliens don’t make contact. Their ship just sits their in our sky. Eventually we find them malnourished and seemingly lacking knowledge of their ship. Instead of the aliens being more advanced or looking down on us, humans house them in a slum. The aliens are basically a liability and dependent on us. It’s a bit of a different sci-fi story. Technologically more advanced alien race somehow dependent on us. It also deals with speciesism with humans feeling superior to the alien race. The film is told as a documentary looking back on past events. There’s talking and learning about the situation and relations, but there’s also plenty of action.

It’s based on the actual relocation of citizens of District Six in South Africa under the apartheid regime. The best thing science fiction can do is to comment on the past or present and get people thinking. It puts those events in a new context, which is especially good for people who might not be very familiar.

I don’t know why I wrote the film off when it was released, but I’m glad I’ve watched it now.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Having recently finished Journey to the Center of the Earth, I can say that it’s fairly entertaining once the characters get somewhere interesting! For the first section of the book, which felt like roughly a third of it, the explorers were simply traveling to the point at which they were going to begin their descent into the Earth. Following that section, they begin their descent through an inactive volcano, hiking down tunnels. This part as well drags for quite some time. Truly it’s only the final third or so of the book that deals with interesting discoveries, and once I reached that part, the rate at which I read greatly increased.

There’s something about an underground world that seems strangely exciting. We see it over and over in literature and other media. Reading this novel continually made me want to play Dungeons & Dragons. I can’t say exactly why, because I’ve never played in a campaign that featured much underground exploration.

The choice of narrator in the novel is particularly useful in framing the story in a context that’s sympathetic to the reader. While Axel’s uncle, Professor Lidenbrock, continually believes in the validity of their journey and never waivers, Axel questions it constantly. He believes in the accepted science and doesn’t think they’ll succeed. There are times that he flips his feelings and gets excited, but he’s still the voice of the current knowledge and status quo.

It took me a while to finish the novel, but I’m glad I did. I probably won’t be reading more Jules Verne immediately, but I’d be happy to read some of his other novels in the future.

The Human Division concludes with Earth Below, Sky Above

In episode 13 of The Human Division, Scalzi concludes his tale with Earth Below, Sky Above. It was one of the most exciting and emotional episodes in the novel. Earth Below, Sky Above didn’t answer all my questions, but it definitely satisfied me and left me wanting more.

The episode really brought things full circle. There were mentions of the main characters being the B-team, referencing the first episode, The B-Team. Before reading Earth Below, Sky Above, the second episode, Walk the Plank, seemed completely out of place. While it seemed like it could eventually relate to the plot, it hadn’t yet in any way. That changes in Earth Below, Sky Above, and suddenly the odd episode becomes central to the plot. It was positioned perfectly as the second episode of The Human Division.

I mentioned in previous reviews that the plot was building oddly. If the last episode was going to be a large confrontation, surely a substantial reveal must come before that. By the end of the novel, Scalzi still doesn’t answer all the big questions, but the story concludes rather nicely anyways. The structure of the plot progression made a lot more sense once it was clear that we weren’t getting those answers.

If I thought the universe was ending with The Human Division, I’d be rather frustrated. However, upon finishing novel, I had no doubts that Scalzi would be continuing. I immediately tweeted at him asking him for the reveal of the next Old Man’s War book. This morning he revealed on his blog that there would indeed be a second season!

The Human Division worked extraordinarily well. I’m sad to see it end, but I’m looking forward to a sequel. Even if you haven’t read the other novels in the series, it would be enjoyable, but I highly recommend you read the other novels first to get the full experience. As always, Scalzi continues to impress and amaze me.

The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads brings us nearly to the end of The Human Division

The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads CoverI was expecting the twelfth episode of John Scalzi’s The Human Division to finally reveal who has been behind the acts of war described so far. While The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads provides some great new information, we still don’t know who the antagonists really are. Danielle Lowen, who you might remember from episode nine, The Observers, is back in the United States. She witnesses a terrorist attack and while trying to puzzle together who could be behind it, receives some interesting information.

I’m happy to hear that the final episode next week will be double-length. This was an exciting episode, but it didn’t have much of a cliff hanger. We get a nice reveal at the end, but it’s only about one aspect of what’s been happening and still doesn’t show us who did it. I expected a big reveal in this episode so that we could be left salivating at the resolution in the final episode. Scalzi hasn’t let me down yet; I’m still excited to read the finale, but The Human Division’s structure has been building oddly to the climax.

The Colonial Union and the Conclave discover a possible mutual enemy in A Problem of Proportion

Scalzi’s eleventh episode of The Human Division has the Conclave and Colonial Union meet in an officially unofficial backchannel discussion. Unfortunately, they’re both attacked. It seems likely that whoever set the attack wanted each side to think it was the other. While they investigate who was behind the attack, they come across some interesting finds aboard the enemy ship.

Any episode that features the Conclave is interesting because it’s a different side than that which we normally see. Not only do we get the Conclave in this episode, but we get Conclave interaction with the humans, which is always interesting. While we still don’t know who’s behind the attacks or their motivation, we’re getting closer. Now that the Conclave and Colonial Union each realize that someone is attacking both of them, I expect the tensions to rise. Of course, the fact that there are only two more episodes left in The Human Division make that even more evident! I suspect we’ll get very close if not find out directly who it is and their motivation in the next episode. If only Tuesday could come faster.

The Human Division #9: The Observers

In Scalzi’s ninth episode of The Human Division, The Observers, some Earthling observers come aboard a Colonial Union ship and watch Abumwe handle negotiations with an alien race. Unfortunately, one of the Earthlings dies and it appears to be a murder. If they can’t figure out what happened, it could be bad for the Colonial Union.

We’re nearing the end of The Human Division with only four more episodes, and we still don’t know who’s causing all the trouble. However, there’s definitely an overarching plot, and we see it here again. This episode continues the juxtaposition of Earth and the Colonial Union, which is one of the most interesting aspects of the Old Man’s War universe. In addition, we see the continued escalation of the unknown threat. Of course, we still have a number of questions. Who would want to kill one of the Earthlings? Who posed as Earthlings and wanted to blow up the ship previously? Who killed the radio host on Earth? Who tried to set up the CDF to look like the aggressors in the first episode? I’m hoping for some basic answers to these soon so that we have a few episodes full of action. We’ll see what we get tomorrow.

Scalzi’s The Sound of Rebellion sets focus on tension

In this week’s episode of The Human Division, The Sound of Rebellion, John Scalzi contrasts last week’s humor with a captive soldier and a lot of tension. We might not see the main characters, but we get some cool Colonial Defense Forces action!

The Sound of Rebellion continues the trend of giving clues as to who the antagonists are without revealing it just yet. Without spoiling the plot, I can also say that we get another interesting look at the abilities of the CDF and of BrainPals in general. One of the most fascinating aspects of Scalzi’s Old Man War universe is how Scalzi has explored what having a powerful, implanted computer in your mind would allow you to do.

Hopefully next week we’ll get a little closer to finding out just who is fighting against the Colonial Union.

The Time Machine

I decided to reread The Time Machine recently because I hadn’t read it since high school. I finished it yesterday, and I was very impressed with the novella. Most people probably already accept the fact that it’s a classic, so I don’t think I need to discuss its merits here.

However, I particularly like some of H.G. Wells’ notions on time travel that I forgot. For example, one of the time traveler’s guests remarks that if the machine simply travels along the fourth-axis, time, faster (or in reverse), shouldn’t they still see the machine sitting there? The time traveler responds that just a fast moving thing barely makes an impression because it moves through your vision too quickly, a time machine traveling through time doesn’t make a deep enough impression on three dimensions to be seen.

In addition, Wells makes some interesting observations about class structure in societies and human progress. What’s our goal? Can we go too far? I don’t have answers, but they’re good questions to ponder.

Ally Condie reaches her conclusion in Reached

In Reached, many questions about the Society, the Rising, and other peoples are finally answered. The title and cover art are very appropriate with Casia breaking free in her red dress. In fact, if you’ve never paid attention to the covers to the previous books, you really should!

Things don’t go as smoothly for everyone as they would have liked, and there are some large changes in play for the population. I repeatedly wondered how there could be a happy ending for everyone. This is something that plagues any story of a love triangle in which you care about all three. Not every character gets his or her happy ending, but many do.

Condie answers a lot of questions, but she leaves some unanswered. She does, however, reinforce Casia’s grandfather’s statement that it’s okay to wonder. Are there other far away countries, and if so, what are they like? What’s the final outcome? Casia’s story comes to a nice conclusion by the end, but everything isn’t spelled out for the reader. There’s plenty more about which to wonder, which is, I suspect, just how Condie wants it.

And who knows? Maybe she’ll write more in this universe!

Cross-posted on Goodreads.

The Dog King delivers a large dose of humor to the Scalzi’s The Human Division

Scalzi’s seventh episode of The Human Division, The Dog King, returns to the main characters of the novel, Wilson, Schmidt, and friends. When the diplomatic team gets a new assignment and Wilson is assigned to watching a dog, he gets into a bit of trouble.

The episodic nature of the Human Division allows Scalzi to use a different tone in each episode. While the novel and the Old Man’s War series as a whole has always had some humor, the Dog King seems like more a comedy than previous episodes. I think it’s great that with the Human Division we get a variety of types of episodes. Consider that “Everyone dissolved into a puddle of awwwww” is an actual sentence you can read by experiencing the Dog King. Awesome, right?

Crossed by Ally Condie

Following the dysopian future shown in Matched, Crossed explores the fringes of that society. More importantly, it shows what’s outside of that. While it was exciting, a story becomes less dystopian once it’s outside of the society proper.

When I discussed Matched, I compared it to other novels in the same genre. The series especially reminded me of The Hunger Games. Fortunately, things deviated. First, there was the secret. I won’t give it away, but it raises the tensions a bit. Second, the ending of Crossed definitely paves the way for Reached, the final book, to be quite exciting (and different)!

I’m starting Reached tonight.

Scalzi’s The Back Channel reveals the Conclave

With the sixth episode of the Human Division, Scalzi finally gave me what I really wanted. He showed me the Conclave.

While the Back Channel shows humans as well, it really showcases alien members of the Conclave and the Conclave itself as a political unit. More than anything in the Old Man’s War universe, that’s what I wanted to see next, so I was thrilled to find myself before a large political body of the Conclave.

The Back Channel raises some tension in the story while reaffirming that while the Conclave might be at odds with the Colonial Union, they’re not villains (at least not to the readers). Without giving anything away, we also see that we still have a missing puzzle piece.

Matched by Ally Condie

I finished Matched by Ally Condie this morning. Matched is a dystopian teen novel. I caught glimpses of The Giver in it but also a lot of the Hunger Games, which was published two years earlier, as well.

Cassia is a member of the Society. Everything seems to be going normally for her when she’s matched for marriage by the Officials just as all married persons are. However, things start to go awry as she develops feelings for another and begins to see the flaws of her Society.

Dystopian fiction is always particularly interesting to me. Besides making for entertaining stories, they serve as philosophical thinking points. What if the government could predict things so accurately that they take all the guesswork out of life? Would that be good? What if they could eliminate most suffering, but it came at a cost? I particularly liked seeing what culture was destroyed in this future and what culture was preserved.

Compared to other similar works, Matched takes place in a nation that seems a little more connected than most. Family members communicate despite being far away, and people still take trips in planes. In fact, vacations to distant places are even mentioned once. At the same time, things seem even more restricted in Matched than in others of its genre. I could see it almost being accepted more easily by the population than the civilizations in similar novels, which makes it that much more interesting.

Luckily for me, the sequel, Crossed, and its sequel, Reached, are already released. I know what’s next for me.

No more Disneyland

disneyland valentine's day

Our Disneyland Annual Passports are expiring, and thanks to the holiday weekend, Friday was the last day we could go that wasn’t a blockout day. We managed to go the Matterhorn Bobsleds for the first time since it reopened, which was a relief. gem really wanted to go on it last time we were at Disneyland, but they kept closing it temporarily.

We also went on Star Tours a number of times. Since it reopened as Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, we always get the same second scene, Naboo. We’d seen both introductions, two of the three first scenes (never having seen Kashyyyk, two of three transmissions (never having seen Yoda), and only Naboo for the final scene. We decided to spend our final time at Disneyland going on Star Tours again and again in an attempt to see the rest. We got to see Kashyyyk, which was cool, and finally, on our last ride, we saw the Death Star in the final scene. No, we never did manage to travel to Coruscant, but this will give me something to do in the future!

The fireworks show was cancelled, so we didn’t get to watch that unfortunately. We did, however, get an apple pie caramel apple. Then, on our way out of the park, we stopped at the front to get our picture in front of the “True Love” sign!

I miss my annual passport already. I don’t want to spend the money on it right now, but I doubt I can stay away for too long.

Tales From the Clarke, the fifth episode of The Human Division gives a fresh look at a known character

Tales From the Clarke continues Scalzi wonderful episodic The Human Division. This time we see a familiar face from the first episode, Captain Coloma. Scalzi chooses a great protagonist by following a character with whom we’re already familiar but who was not a major character.

She’s tasked with showing off an old ship to delegates from Earth. The Colonial Union wants to rebuild Earth’s trust, so this is a critical mission. However, everything isn’t as it seems. By the end we see some resolution but with more tantalizing questions to propel us into the remaining episodes of The Human Division.