the Little Red Reviewer

Bicentennial_man_film_poster

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Bicentennial Man is a 1999 film directed by Chris Columbus, and stars Robin Williams, Embeth Davitz, Sam Neill, Oliver Platt and Hallie Kate Eisenberg. It’s based on the 1993 novel The Positronic Man by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, which was an extension of Asimov’s 1976 Hugo and Nebula award winning novelette The Bicentennial Man.  I’ve read a lot of Asimov (and a middling amount of Silverberg), but I haven’t read either the award winning novelette or the later written novel. So this review will be just of the movie, I can’t even speculate what scenes from the books the screenwriters skipped or expanded upon.

 

200px-The_bicentennial_manThe story opens with an android being delivered to the Martin residence. Through the young daughter’s mispronunciation of the word android, the robot gains the name Andrew.  Only Mr. Martin is excited by their new “gizmo”, and after the daughters both try to damage Andrew, the new family rule is that Andrew must be treated with the same respect due any member of the family. Soon the girls start treating him like a visiting cousin: someone who can help them with their homework, but someone they shouldn’t bother unnecessarily. After all, he is a “household robot”, he was purchased to help with housework, clean, garden, and fix things around the house. as the years pass, the youngest daughter, whom Andrew refers to as Little Miss, forms a special bond with him. (And yes, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are very quickly presented, but never dwelled on).

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Asimov’s guesses about the future were entertaining and fascinating for me. The opening scenes take place in 2014, and commercial androids are commonplace and becoming popular for wealthy families to have at home.  But there are no cell phones, no digital cameras, no facebook, no big screen tv’s, no home computers, very little digital technology. Even later in the movie, as the decades pass, flying cars and holograms make an appearance, but no mention of suborbital anything, or smart phones, or genetic modifications, or social media. And as the decades go by, even robots go out of fashion.

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species imperative big

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Thanks to Julie Czerneda’s publishers, I’ve got a copy of the Species Imperative Omnibus to give away to one lucky reader!  Scroll to the bottom of this post for more information on the give away.

RegenerationRegeneration (Species Imperative #3) by Julie Czerneda

published in 2006

where I got it: purchased used

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It’s hard to get into the plot of Regeneration without spoiling things that happened in the previous books, so I’m going to try to keep  the plot-talk very light. The super quick oversimplified plot introduction is that in the not too distant future we have become part of the Interspecies Union, which is exactly what it sounds like. Thanks to no-space transit technology provided by the multi-dimensional Ro, and the Sinzi who administrate it, hundreds of galactic species can travel all over the place.    Brymn, a Dhryn researcher, seeks out the Earthbound salmon researcher Dr. Mackenzie Connor (Mac to her friends), for help with how to save his species.

 

In Regeneration, the final book of the Species Imperative trilogy, while most governments are trying to figure out a weapon of mass destruction (or extinction) that can be used against the Dhryn, Mac and her team are asking questions that are more along the lines of *why*?  Why do the Dhryn have this biological urge? What is their biology anyways? Have they always been like this? How and where did they evolve? Can we trust our sources of information? I wish all scifi books had this much science in their fiction.  Give this series to a high school kid, and watch them fall in love with biology.

 

Underneath the superb characters and the smart dialog, and the hella fun aliens (whose biology makes sense!), and the political intrigue and the race against time are some heavy questions:

 

How do we handle an invasive species, especially if that species is intelligent and space-faring?

 

How do you study a species that most people (human and alien) have been taught to shoot on sight?

 

How do you get a panicked population to calm down? How do you get someone to work against their biological urges (or what they’ve been lead to believe are their biological urges?)

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I’ve been looking for a new job lately.  no worries, it’s cool.  I’ve had some really good interviews, gone to some great networking events, and read about a bazillion websites on how to make your resume fricken’ awesome.  After looking through a bunch of sample resumes of different styles, I starting wondering what fictional characters’ resumes might look like. What would they highlight as their accomplishments? How would they make their mundane jobs look awesome? How would they “brand” themselves? What kind of e-mail address would they have? How much information about themselves would they put on their resumes?  Might I be competing against some of these people at my next interview?

generic image stolen from the interwebs

generic image stolen from the interwebs

 

I ended up making resumes for Paul Atreides, Miriam Black, and Locke Lamora.  Much fun and silliness was had. Observe!

 

Paul Atreides
The Keep
Arrakeen
Arrakis (Dune)
email: kwisatzhaderach@arakkis.com

Experience

 

Emperor
Proven track record of excellent leadership abilities by  completing complex projects by bringing multiple parties and departments together. Fostered team atmosphere that promoted diversity and respected environmental concerns.
– Relocated Imperial Capitol to Arrakis
– Exposed  inefficiencies in outgoing leadership.
– Organized the tribes towards a uniting goal
– Developed and implemented new system of power and currency

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Duke’s Son (heir)
This position included extensive training in Mentat capabilities, weaponry, music, and diplomacy.
– Completed challenging training modules
– Promoted a self starting and enthusiastic attitude with associates
– Conscientiously observed Duke Leto to best understand the Landsraad

 

Education
Homeschooled, privately educated.

Additional Skills
Licensed on Ornithopters and Carryalls of most makes and models (VFR and IFR)
Highly proficient with crysknife and lasgun
Prescient

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datlow-yarbro

 

The World Fantasy Convention was held earlier this month, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  Her name will be familiar to fans of historical fiction, as she’s the author behind the famous Saint-Germain Cycle. The first novel in the Cycle, Hotel Transylvania, was published in 1978, and there are now over 25 volumes.   She’s written over 80 books, and over 70 works of short fiction. No stranger to awards either, she’s received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, the Grand Master award from the World Horror Association, and she was the first woman to be enrolled as a Living Legend of the International Horror Guild.

Quinn3J

 

Chelsea was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her busy day to answer a few of my questions on her famous series, music, and the occult.  Wanna learn more about this amazing author? I do! let’s go!

LRR: Your bio briefly mentions you are also a musical composer. Could you tell us a little more about this? Personally, I believe there are a lot of connections between music and other means of communication. Have you found any similarities between writing music and writing fiction?

CQY: There are many things that cannot be said with words, and it seems to me that’s where music comes in. When I get worded – out, I do music to deal with all the things that words cannot express. Words and music are powerful communicators, but they communicate different kinds of things. So while composition and writing are at the opposite end of the communication scale, they serve the same basic purpose. At least that’s my opinion.

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I’m over at SFSignal today, reviewing Steven Brust’s newest Vlad Taltos novel, Hawk.   This is the 14th book in the series, but a surprisingly good spot for new fans to jump right in.  Still on the fence? Click here for a review I wrote a while back for The Book of Jhereg, which is comprised of the first 3 short novels of the series.

hawk

 

Even though Vlad spends most of the book saying “hello” to people, the entire novel has an undeniable underlying fatalism, an inescapable feeling that he’s really returned to Adrilankha to say “goodbye”. Vlad isn’t stupid. He knows there’s a chance he’s not going to make it to the end of the book. A really good chance.

Fatalism aside, Hawk allows me to say something I haven’t been able to say about this series in ages: For readers brand new to the Vlad Taltos series, this is an excellent place to jump right in and get a feel for Brust’s wry writing style, the way he does world building and characterization, and everyone’s favorite sarcastic semi-retired assassin, Vlad Taltos.

 

Read the rest of the review HERE.

2014-11-15 09.03.57Inside Outer Space:  Science Fiction Professionals Look at Their Craft, edited by Sharon Jarvis

published in 1985

where i got it: friend gave it to me

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My friends know I’m drawn towards the obscure, and they also know I really like the “behind the scenes” of everything. A friend found the perfect gift for me: an obscure book of essays by spec fic professionals, published in 1985. What value is there in a book of essays from 30 years ago? More than you’d think.  Editor Sharon Jarvis curated a short list that included her friends and a few authors she’d been referred to.  She assigned people to write on a topic such as humor, or war, or fandom, or small presses, told them approximately how many pages she wanted, and left them to it.  The resulting essays from luminaries like C.J. Cherryh, Marion Zimmer Bradley, George Alec Effinger, Parke Godwin, Ron Goulart and others are more like having a casual conversation with someone, or listening in on an unscripted panel discussion, rather than reading a manicured essay. They are completely casual, with the authors being completely comfortable calling out people they disagree with (most notably, Harlan Ellison, who everyone wants to pick on).

 

I picked this book up completely on a lark, I needed something read while waiting for something else to happen. Something I could put down at any moment, something with short little bursts of information seemed perfect. Well, the first essay was addictive and hilarious, so I kept reading, long after the stuff that I was waiting for had happened.   So why was a book of essays from 1985 so intriguing? Because it felt like a time capsule.  And of course I was intrigued to see what had changed in 30 years, and what really hadn’t. Some conversations we are still having, and some we *should* still be having.

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Vintage SF badge

The first snowflakes have already landed, you’ve pulled out the fuzzy socks and the heavy coats, the holiday shopping ads are everywhere, Thanksgiving is almost here.  You know what that means, right?  It’s time to start thinking about Vintage Science Fiction month!  Since 2012 I’ve dedicated the month of January to reading “older than I am” science fiction, and invited the entire blogosphere to come with me on an interstellar journey across the stars and into our own minds. We’ve met trickster aliens, ridden dragons, won wars, negotiated with hive minds  and tried to understand androids. We’ve read satire, space opera, high concept metaphysics, alternate histories and impossible futures. We’ve gone to Venus, Mars, the center of the Earth, and beyond the edges of the galaxy.   Beyond books, bloggers have talked about radio programs, movies, and TV shows.

You should come with us this year!

See that Vintage SciFi Not-A-Challenge tab up at the top of the screen? Click there to see some of the history of Vintage Scifi Month.

Let’s talk a little about the what, the how (how do you find this stuff, anyways?),  the why, and the but wait, there’s more!

The What:

Anything or anyone who created science fiction, or something speculative fiction-ish that was published (or recorded, or put on TV or the silver screen) before 1979.  It can be hard scifi, or not. Have aliens, or not.  Fantasy is OK too.  Jules Verne is perfect, so is Mary Shelley. Or maybe War of the Worlds, original Star Trek, C.L. Moore, Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton, Cordwainer Smith, Clifford Simak, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kurt Vonnegut, James Tiptree Jr, A.E. van Vogt, Frank Herbert,  I can go on forever here.

The How:

How the hell do I find crusty old books!?   More of this is still in print than you’d think. Not ready to sink $17 into the newest printing of Stranger in a Strange Land? No problem, head over to your local library or any new/used independent bookstore and get ready for an adventure in browsing!  Keep an eye out for “Daw Yellow Spines”, which are exactly what they sound like. They aren’t all pre-1979, but a lot of them are, and the cover art is usually pretty nuts.

Paperbackswap is another option as well.  And if you make a good case for yourself, I could be tempted to loan out some of my vintage titles.

Only want to read on your e-reader/kindle/tablet thing? again, no problem.  Head over to Project Gutenberg for a ton of free classics (just search for science fiction). More and more publishers are releasing e-books of older titles and finding a healthy market still exists for these titles. I recently discovered Open Road Media, an all e-book publisher.  I was pretty impressed by their collection of older stuff.  Plenty of Andre Norton, and a bucket of John Norman, the Fritz Leiber Lankhmar collection, even some Robert Silverberg, James Brunner and H.G. Wells.

 

The Why:

Why? because everything came from somewhere. Your favorite spec fic author was influenced by someone, who was influenced by someone, who was influenced by someone, and so on.   Movements and changes in what’s popular, what we wish was popular, or what we’re sick of is a reaction to what came before.   Personally, I just really like knowing what came before, it helps me understand the foundations of something that has brought so much joy into my life.  Another way to put it is that reading older science fiction is like finding an ancient city buried underneath a modern one.  You suddenly know why your city was laid out the way it was, and why some things were done different, because now you can better see what came before.   Vintage science fiction is where we came from. Those novels and short stories are the steps we took to get to where we are now.

 

and the But Wait, There’s More:

I’m looking for guest posts,  anything from book reviews, to TV show or movie reviews and/or discussions, to a cover art gallery, to why you appreciate a particular vintage author.  If you’re interested in writing a guest post, tweet me at @redhead5318 ,  or e-mail me with that same handle, but to the gmail place.

 

Are we ready to rock ‘n roll this January or what?

 

 

2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.