Friday, 16 March 2018

Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

Directed by George Nolfi, 2011

Pros: great acting, interesting story, impactful


A chance meeting between a young senate hopeful and a dancer inspires both of them. But when they meet again their attraction runs the risk of disrupting THE PLAN. So agents of the adjustment bureau are sent to keep them apart.

I loved this movie. It’s very, VERY loosely based on a Philip K. Dick short story, which I read after seeing the film. While I found the story kind of meh, the movie is sweet and sad and makes you want to cheer.

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have so much chemistry, and his plight - knowing what their being together will cost both of them - is heart-wrenching to watch. I also loved Anthony Mackie as Harry Mitchell, the angel / agent who shows mercy to the pair.

I liked that the film left things up to the viewer to interpret. This is the kind of feel good movie that poses some interesting questions whose answers you don’t care about so long as things turn out well. 

[Like most trailers nowadays this one gives away quite a lot of the film, so you may not watch to watch the whole thing if you're interested in seeing the film.]

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Shout-Out: The Future’s Dark Past by John Yarrow

When futuristic soldiers jump back in time to save mankind from a nuclear winter, a modern day FBI agent is reluctantly drawn into their time dimensional battles. His AI technology may be the most effective weapon to avoid The Purge War that destroys civilization in 2098...or it may be the perfect trigger.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Video: Cat Mind Control

Today's video is a quirky cat film, showing the dangers of mind control.  ;P  It's by Aaron's Animals.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Book Review: Dominion by Shane Arbuthnott

Pros: fun protagonist, interesting world

Cons: lack of nuance

Molly Stout has lived most of her fourteen years in the sky, engineer on her father’s airship, harvesting the spirits that control the machines that power the new world. When she helps capture a powerful spirit that talks to her, a skill spirits aren’t supposed to have, she begins to learn that her world is built on lies. 

Molly’s a great character navigating a difficult world. She deals with some terrible consequences, both for the actions she takes and the actions of those around her. As she discovers that spirits aren’t the monsters she’s been taught they are, she’s forced to realize the extent of the slavery and murder perpetrated on them by humans - herself included. 

I was impressed that the book pointed out both the ills of slavery and how difficult it is to dismantle an institution so much depends on. 

This may not bother other readers but I found Molly’s designation of engineer suspect. To me an engineer should know the ins and outs of the machines they’re working with. Molly doesn’t know what all the interior wires and gears do, she simply does exterior maintenance to keep the engine working.

While you don’t learn everything about the spirits, the author does a great job of showing both their powers and limitations in the Earthly realm. I liked that there are more than one kind of spirit, though not much is said about the terrics.

The family dynamics were interesting. The mother dead in childbirth seems to happen a lot in stories, as does the mixture of anger and sadness surrounding the child whose birth caused it. So I found Molly’s relationship with Rory refreshing. I’d assumed he’d be the teasing brother who drove her nuts or screamed abuse at her, and instead he helps her with a later goal in the book. I would have liked to see more interaction (or even flashbacks) with Brigid, and more nuanced interactions with her father, but I liked that the family loves each other but is also disfunctional in some ways. Molly’s emotions regarding her father at the end of the book were realistic given everything that happened.

There’s a lot of adventure - even if Molly manages to get away with more than is likely (I’d still like to know how she left the shipyard considering her route of entry wasn’t an option). But it’s no different from other books for this age group.

One aspect of the ending left me feeling troubled. I’ll deal with it in the spoiler section below.

All in all it’s a fun, quick read, that asks some hard questions and requires some contemplation.


It greatly disturbed me that the spirit who ran their ship comes back to help them after it’s freed, because Molly was nice to it. I found the idea that a creature that was tortured for so long would return, ridiculous. Regardless of Molly’s treatment, Legendermain should have felt nothing but anger towards her family for the years it lost and the lives of its kind they captured and sold. From an outsider’s point of view it’s possible to feel sympathy for the masters - especially children who don’t realize why slavery is wrong - but I cannot believe the slaves themselves feel any such sympathy. As a book for young adults, it’s dealing with themes that apply to the real world, which help teach real world kids how to react to things. And I believe the book dropped the ball here. I understand that the author wanted the family to have a flight capable ship for the next book. But maybe that book could have dealt with the family creating a new friendship and mutually beneficial relationship with the spirits instead, which would achieve the same goal while showing that abusing people doesn’t make them friends, but actual change and hard work can dismantle dysfunctional systems and create systems that work for everyone. Beyond Molly’s dubious friendship (she only freed it when the ship was taken away), what does Legendermain get out of this new arrangement?

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Shout-Out: Patently Absurd by Bradley Schenck

Six stories; forty-four illustrations; 250 pages; one Patent Investigator; one slightly maladjusted robot secretary; and more Mad Science than you can shake a centrifuge at, all from the author/illustrator of Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom.
In the city of Retropolis - which is where the future went, when we got something else - all science is Mad. So scientific laboratories are confined to the city's Experimental Research District. It’s laid out in the zoning laws, but what it really is, is self-defense.
There’s always the danger that something really awful might happen in the District, though: something so awful that it will escape to the city outside. That’s why the Retropolis Registry of Patents keeps an eye on what the inventors of the District are doing from day to day.
At the Registry you might meet Ben Bowman, a patent investigator who’s smart in at least one or two of the ways that are important, and his friend Violet, the robot secretary. Violet is convinced that she ought to be an investigator herself.

Between you and me, she’s not wrong. But she’s had a terrible time convincing one Patent Registrar after another that they ought to promote her; and, strangely, the Registrars never seem to last very long once they disagree.

Out March 13

Friday, 9 March 2018

Celebrating Women's Writing in SFF

I missed International Women's Day yesterday (as I miss most of these things). This morning I saw someone tweet their desk filled with books by female authors, and I thought, I can do something like that.

So here are books I own (physically and digitally), written by women, that I can recommend. It also highlighted a few gaps in my ownership (no Hunger Games or Parable of the Sower??). I've mostly separated them into SF and fantasy, though the fantasy image has a few historical fiction books on the bottom left. Note, I own a lot more fantasy novels in general, as it was my preferred subgenre until more recently, hence the disparity between the SF and fantasy piles.

I hope you find something new here, or something you realize it's time to reread!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Shout-Out: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This book is VERY high on my wish list. Unless I get outrageously busy, I intend to work it into my reading schedule sometime in the next month or two.

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie's Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers-and her growing feelings for an enemy.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Novella Trailer: Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars

This is a trailer for the novella that follows the 3 issue comic series I reviewed the first issue of yesterday. It comes out June 5th. To learn more about the series, check out their website.

And here's the full synopsis:

Once considered humanity’s future home, Mars hasn’t worked out like anybody hoped. Plagued by crime and a terraforming project that's centuries from completion, Mars is a red hell.
Denver Moon, P.I., works the dark underbelly of Mars City. While investigating a series of violent crimes linked to red fever—a Martian disorder that turns its victims into bloodthirsty killers—Denver discovers a cryptic message left by Tatsuo Moon, Mars City co-founder and Denver's grandfather. The same grandfather who died two decades ago.
Twenty-year-old revelations force Denver on a quest for truth, but Tatsuo's former friend, Cole Hennessy, leader of the Church of Mars, has other plans and will stop at nothing to keep Denver from disclosing Tatsuo's secrets to the world.
Hell-bent on reclaiming her grandfather's legacy, Denver—along with her AI implant, Smith, companion android, Nigel, and shuttle pilot, Navya—set out on a quest to find the answers they hope will shed light on the church's true agenda, the origin of red fever, and the mysteries surrounding Tatsuo's tragic death.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Comic Book Review: Denver Moon #1: Murder on Mars

Written by Warren Hammond and Joshua Viola, Illustrated by Aaron Lovett

Denver Moon is a private eye investigating a series of prostitute murders on Mars. But is it really murder if the victims are bots?

This is the first of 3 comic books, which will be bound into a graphic novel entitled Metamorphosis later this year. Issue one is currently on comiXology and will be available in print on June 5th. The comic is based on a short story of the same name, which is a prequel to a novella also out on June 5th called Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars.

This issue is purely set-up. You’re introduced to Moon and the case and a bit of the background regarding the state of affairs on Mars. I liked the artwork which has soft edges and an almost painted look. Scenes outside have a definite Blade Runner Asian/neon vibe. 

As extras, there’s some concept art for the main characters and the first section of the short story, which retells the same things as the comic, only with some added details. I actually found the comparison fascinating: what physical details needed to be included in the written rather than visual account as well as which details were cut for the comic to save room without compromising story.

This is a great start with an interesting protagonist and setting, and I’m curious to see where it goes. 


Friday, 2 March 2018

Books Received in February 2018

Many thanks, as always, to the publishers who sent me books this past month.

Rice Boy by Evan Dahm - I'm not really interested in fantasy quest stories anymore (I've simply read too many of them), though this one does seem to subvert a few of the tropes. It's an indy title and you can check it out for yourself here.
Rice Boy is the "hero" of a charming YA fantasy adventure. He is anything but your typical protagonist of these types of things. He's not especially skilled, no swordplay or sorcery in his family, and no legacy.

He's just a little guy eking out a little rural life, but he's called to start the hero's journey anyway. The action that follows in Evan's sprawling, spacious, 400-plus-page graphic novel is weird, funny, exciting, and stunningly original. While you're furiously turning pages to find out what happens next to Rice Boy, his exhausted mentor known as "The One Electronic," and the endangered kingdom itself, you'll meet some wildly imaginative new creatures along the way like the affable Gerund, the mysterious Tree Keeper, and Bor the Very Large (he's large). RICE BOY is Tolkien-esque in its heft, Saga-like in its driving plot, and wholly unlike anything you've read before.

Semiosis by Sue Burke - An interesting first contact story between human colonists and the sentient plant life of their new home. I've reviewed it here.

Colonists from Earth wanted the perfect home, but they'll have to survive on the one they found. They don't realize another life form watches...and waits...
Only mutual communication can forge an alliance with the planet's sentient species and prove that humans are more than tools.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Shout-Out: Outpost by W. Michael Gear

Donovan is a world of remarkable wealth, a habitable paradise of a planet. It sounds like a dream come true. But Donovan's wealth comes at a price.
When the ship Turalon arrives in orbit, Supervisor Kalico Aguila discovers a failing colony, its government overthrown and the few remaining colonists now gone wild. Donovan offers the chance of a lifetime, one that could leave her the most powerful woman in the solar system. Or dead.
Planetside, Talina Perez is one of three rulers of the Port Authority colony—the only law left in the one remaining town on Donovan. With the Corporate ship demanding answers about the things she's done in the name of survival, Perez could lose everything, including her life.
For Dan Wirth, Donovan is a last chance. A psychopath with a death sentence looming over his head, he can't wait to set foot on Port Authority. He will make one desperate play to grab a piece of the action—no matter who he has to corrupt, murder, or destroy.
Captain Max Taggart has been The Corporation's "go-to" guy when it comes to brutal enforcement. As the situation in Port Authority deteriorates, he'll be faced with tough choices to control the wild Donovanians. Only Talina Perez stands in his way.
Just as matters spiral out of control, a ghost ship, the Freelander, appears in orbit. Missing for two years, she arrives with a crew dead of old age, and reeks of a bizarre death-cult ritual that deters any ship from attempting a return journey. And in the meantime, a brutal killer is stalking all of them, for Donovan plays its own complex and deadly game. The secrets of which are hidden in Talina Perez's very blood.