Book Review – The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells

Thanks to the discovery of an anti-gravity metal, Cavorite, two Victorian Englishman decide to tackle the most prestigious goal – space travel. They construct a sphere that will ultimately take them to the moon. On landing, they encounter what seems like an utterly barren landscape but they soon find signs that the planet was once very much alive. Then they hear curious hammering sounds from beneath the surface, and come face to face with the Selenites, a race of insect-like aliens living in a rigidly organized hive society.

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First published as a complete book in 1901, The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells is the author’s 9th novel in a career of many. While his bibliography is much vaster than I realized, finally reading this book is significant to me because it belongs to a quintet of his books that, as far as I can see, continue to be fairly well-known to this day. The other four are, to a greater extent, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and The Island of Dr. Moreau. These are all significant to me personally because it was Wells that first got me into reading outside of what I was familiar with, my late grandparents nurturing this interest by purchasing three of these books for me. The First Men in the Moon is one that I’ve always remembered but never got around to picking up until very recently.Read More »

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Comic Book Review – Aliens: Dead Orbit by James Stokoe

Summary

A Weyland-Yutani crew investigates an unmarked vessel in high orbit containing a team in cryogenic sleep, a ship in ruins, and parasitic monsters waiting to attack.

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Aliens: Dead Orbit is a newly released trade paperback (April 3, 2018), collecting all four issues of the miniseries of the same name. Story, art, and lettering are by James Stokoe. I’ve been a big Aliens fan for most of my life, so when I first heard buzz about this book over half a year ago I decided to jump on the opportunity to read another good story in the franchise when it became available. While there are a lot of comic books written about the Xenomorph—the fan name for the titular alien creatures featured within—this book is completely standalone. Though some prior experience with the franchise may help with understanding the context of some background details, this could be someone’s first experience with the franchise entirely.Read More »

Movie Review – Pacific Rim Uprising

Summary from IMDb

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.

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Pacific Rim Uprising is a science fiction action film directed by Steven S. DeKnight and starring John Boyega as Jake Pentecost, the son of Marshal Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) from the first film. 10 years have passed, with Earth having enjoyed relative peace since the sealing of the breach, an act that stopped the monstrous Kaiju from invading. Through a series of mishaps trying to sell machine parts on the black market—salvaged from Jaegers, the giant robots that humanity used to fight the Kaiju—Jake is forced to rejoin the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC) to instruct new recruits as Jaeger pilots. An attack from a powerful rogue Jaeger reveals that times are not as peaceful as they thought and that a plot is brewing to restart the Kaiju invasion once again.Read More »

Short Story Review – Komodo by Jeff VanderMeer

Summary

Meet your cast of characters: Angels and ghost frogs, transdimensional komodo dragons and secret forces using luna moths for surveillance. Want to traverse space and time to avoid the komodos tracking your scent? All you have to do let yourself be devoured by a giant undead bear. Confused yet? You should be. But this is the secret world our nameless narrator has stumbled into, ever since being rescued by the angels from an exploding airplane. And she’ll make sense of it for you, or die trying.

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“Komodo” is my first foray into the writing of Jeff VanderMeer, known for his Southern Reach trilogy. It was while I was looking up those books that this digital “novelette” first came to my attention. This is one of those situations where the title and cover hooked drew me in significantly. I’m a sucker for reptiles. The promise of a weird science fiction story involving “transdimensional komodo dragons” sold me completely.Read More »

Movie Review – Annihilation (2018)

IMDb Summary

A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don’t apply.

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Annihilation is a science fiction horror film written and directed by Alex Garland, based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer. The film stars Natalie Portman as biologist and former soldier Lena. Her Army Special Forces husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) mysteriously returns home after having gone missing during a mission nearly a year before. Soon afterwards he becomes violently ill and slips into a coma. They are taken by government forces to the secretive Area X, which studies a shimmering electromagnetic field that has engulfed a wide area of land after an object from outer-space struck land. Lena finds out that this is where Kane disappeared and joins an expedition team led by psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), along with paramedic Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), physicist Josie Radeck (Tessa Thompson), and anthropologist Cass Sheppard (Tuba Novotny), into “the Shimmer” to find answers.Read More »

Podcast Series Review – Within the Wires Season Two

Summary

The hit audio drama Within the Wires returns with a new story told through found audio from an alternate universe. Season two, “Museum Audio Tours,” tells its story in the guise of ten audio museum guides. Over the course of a decade of worldwide exhibitions, these walkthroughs unravel the complex story of a mysterious disappearance of an artist’s mentor.

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Within the Wires season two is a fiction podcast produced by Night Vale Presents, written by Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson, and starring Rima Te Wiata as Roimata Mangakāhia. The first episode of this season released on September 5, 2017, and concluded with episode 10 on January 9, 2018. I may not write about fiction podcasts very often, but I continue to be a big fan of the medium. I love that audio-only storytelling is returning in such a way, distinct from audio books, their creators doing much more with the format to tell their stories.Read More »

Book Review – Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

Summary

JOIN THE ARMY AND SEE THE UNIVERSE!

In one of Robert Heinlein’s most controversial bestsellers, a recruit of the future goes through the toughest book camp in the Universe—and into battle with the Terran Mobile Infantry against mankind’s most alarming enemy!

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Starship Troopers is a 1959 military science fiction novel written by Robert A. Heinlein, following Juan “Johnny” Rico through his military career in the Mobile Infantry (M.I.) of the Terran Federation, set against backdrop of an interplanetary war between humanity and a species of intelligent “pseudo-arachnids,” or simply “Bugs.” This is the first Heinlein book I’ve ever read, and the only one I’ve ever been compelled to pick up thus far. He is among other science fiction authors, such as Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke, whom I always remember as important but don’t really go out of my way to read. Admittedly what drew me to this book was my history with the 1997 film adaptation of the same name directed by Paul Verhoeven. Having been released nearly four decades after the book, I wanted to see where it came from.
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Movie Review – Blade Runner 2049

IMDB Summary

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

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Blade Runner 2049 is a newly released neo-noir science fiction film, directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Ryan Gosling as Officer K and Harrison Ford reprising his role as Rick Deckard from the original 1982 film. I’ve grown to enjoy and appreciate the original Blade Runner in my adult life more and more, so the idea of a sequel coming out left me instantly curious, yet cautious. On the one hand, the idea of a new sequel to a popular or well-known film long after the original frequently doesn’t bode well. I could not help but think that the decision was motivated by “brand recognition.” On the other hand, I do have a hard time imagining the general movie-going public clamouring at the mere notion of a sequel to this particular film — reactions not being something I usually go out of my way to look for lately, so I hadn’t seen this either.Read More »

Movie Review – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

IMDB Summary

A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a 2017 French science fiction action/adventure film, written and directed by Luc Besson. It stars Dane DeHaan as Valerian and Cara Delevingne as his partner Laureline. It is based on the French comic book series Valérian and Laureline, which was first published in 1967, with a final installment released in 2010. A decorated and influential series in European pop culture, its impact can be felt here as well, where echoes of the series’ ideas can apparently be found in other science fiction films and franchises such as Star Wars.Read More »

Dissecting my Feelings on Rogue One

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was a highly-anticipated film, and its plain to see why. It works hard to recapture the look and feel of the original trilogy, being set just before the events of A New Hope, and it promised a grittier, more war-torn take on the franchise. Force-users and the Jedi are largely absent, instead giving us a better look at everyday combatants in the Rebellion and the insurmountable tasks they had to accomplish against a vast Empire.Read More »