the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘adventure

interstellar movie poster

 

Last Saturday we joined another couple to see Interstellar.  I’ve made this review as non-spoilery as possible, but quick tl;dr is that I absolutely loved this movie.

 

Interstellar, Directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Matthew McConaughey, John Lithgow, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine , Davie Gyasi, and Jessica Chastian.  Rated PG-13

 

The premise of Interstellar is that Earth is doomed. A blight is killing the crops, and no matter what you want to be when you grow up, you’re gonna be a farmer, because it is now everyone’s duty to get as much food out of the ground as possible. Cooper, an ex-test pilot, lives with his father-in-law Donald, his son Tom and his daughter Murphy. His daughter is convinced there is a ghost in her bedroom who keeps pushing books off the shelves, and he tries to explain to her that ghosts and poltergeists don’t exist, she’s got to go about understanding what’s in her room in a scientific way.

Cooper still dreams of flying, and his daughter has inherited his love of astronautics and physics.  I won’t tell you how, but Cooper and Murphy come to the attention of a government agency who has a Plan A to save humanity, and a Plan B.  Plan A involves the cinematographic beauty of the movie: flying a ship through a worm hole and into another galaxy, in the search for another planet for humanity to inhabit.  Along with an old army robot, Cooper and a small crew of scientists take a small ship up to a mothballed space station to start their journey.  Plan B is the twist, and well, that would be a spoiler. Which is too bad, because it’s the big idea of the whole thing.

 

 

Interstellar was a gorgeous movie to watch.  The rings of Saturn, black holes up close and personal, a star frozen in an eternal moment of being on the event horizon of a black hole, the vistas of the planets the expedition lands on, all of the visualizations are stunning to behold. And this might be the best visual representation of we’ve ever come up with for what a black hole might look like.

Sorta looks like a no-ship.

Black hole sorta looks like a no-ship.

 

From the drawings we’ve seen in astronomy textbooks, a black hole is a disk that sucks stuff in, looking almost like the drain in your bathtub, right? but as Romilly explains, thats a 2d representation of something that is 3d. Whats a 3d version of a circle? A sphere, of course. So the  black holes are spheres, which at first blush,  looked to me like a Herbertian no-ships. And just wait until you see the black hole that has a star dying in an endless moment on the event horizon! For more info on that, check out this spoiler free article on how they designed the black holes at Wired.

Why yes, that is a star being eaten by a Black Hole. Looks  amazing!

Why yes, that is a star being eaten by a Black Hole. Looks amazing! oh, and there is a planet orbiting it. Wanna take a look?

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the scroll of yearsThe Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich

published in 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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On the run for murder, the thief Imago Bone and his poet wife Persimmon Gaunt find themselves halfway across the planet. They keep their heads down in the country of Qiangguo, in hopes the Night Auditors won’t be able to follow their trail. They need some friends, and fast, as Gaunt will be giving birth to their son any day now.  If they’d just stop running long enough to see that maybe there’s something bigger happening around them….

 

The parts of The Scroll of Years had so much potential – a scroll you can fall into, the political complications of a royal heir who is a foreigner, creeptastically cool villains, a parallel world where time flows differently, interesting characters, fun world building.  With all those fantastic pieces to work with, it’s unfortunate that the plotting and characters never came together in a  coherent enough fashion for me to really get invested in the story.

 

Let’s talk about the good parts first.

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tropic of serpentsThe Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

published March 4, 2014

where I got: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Tor!)

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This is the second book in Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series. As such, there may be some plot spoilers for the first book in the series, A Natural History of Dragons, which I reviewed here.   This is a case where you shouldn’t worry about plot spoilers, because while the plot of the first book is engaging and compelling, it’s nothing compared to the glorious characterization and detailed worldbuilding.

In her first adventure, I imagine the younger Isabella thought she was being so adventurous, so very daring, so avante-garde (see how I talk about her like sh’’s a real person?). She had no idea how safe she was playing it. She was traveling with her husband on an expedition where everyone assumed she was the dutiful wife who simply had a hobby of drawing. Their assumptions were quickly proven patently false, but it was those exactly assumptions that protected Isabella from the cruelties of her peers.

It’s been three years since Isabella Camherst’s trip to Vystrana. Not yet Lady Trent, she is but a widow with a young son. With few friends, yet class and money on her side, she’s able to continue funding research into the preservation of dragonbone. In this pre-industrial world, there is some sly foreshadowing that preserved dragonbone would make the ultimate material for aeroplanes and other flying machines. With her patron’s granddaughter Natalie at her side, Isabella is nearly as happy as can be.

But she’d be much happier if she could study dragons up close. For the most part, the dragons won’t come to her, so she’s got to go to them. With Lord Hilford’s blessing and funding, a new expedition to the tropical jungles of Eriga is planned. It’s so helpful that there’s a Scirling fort at the bay, so Isabella and her fellows will have at least some compatriots to speak their own language with. But this is far more military force that could possibly be needed to protect some trade goods. Brennan not so subtly  embroils Isabella in the politics of the Scirling colonial intrusion into Eriga. She thinks that her Naturalist and Scholar status insulates her from the politics.

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Let’s kick of Vintage month with something nice and truly old, shall we?

A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

published in 1917 (but serialized earlier)

where I got it: purchased used. This cover art is the version I bought it is from Fall River Press, printed in 2011, with cover art by Kekai Kotaki.

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A Princess of Mars is one of those sword and sorcery / planetary romances that I’ve been meaning to read for ages.  The movie came out in 2012 got mixed reviews, but I loved the visuals, thought the Tharks were great, and gently ignored the plotting that made no sense. Anyone who is anyone has named Barsoom as an influence to their love of science and science fiction – Carl Sagan, James Cameron, George Lucas, and Ray Bradbury, just to name a few.

Blending science fiction, fantasy, pulp adventure and western, John Carter is the epitome of the American Man – strong and independent, intelligent and well spoken, very handsome, keeps his promises and knows how to throw a good punch. Guys wanna be him and girls wanna date him.  If this book had been written today, John Carter would be conceited. He’d *know* he was the hero of the story. In the words and the mentality of nearly a hundred years ago, he’s just a man who does what needs needs to be done with grace and dignity.

This book is nearly a hundred years old.  The statute of limitations has run out on spoilers, so sorry, but I’m going to tell you what happens at the end. Copyright has run out too, and the book is in the public domain now and on Project Gutenberg, and an audio is also available as a  free download on Librivox.

After a mishap in Arizona, Carter wakes up on Mars, also known as Barsoom.  Thanks to the lower Martian gravity, Carter finds he can jump and leap incredibly far, and his muscles, developed for the gravity of Earth, offer him what is seen as super strength on Mars.  Shortly after arriving, he runs into a band of Tharks the 15 foot tall green men of Mars, led by Tars Tarkus, and is taken back to their camp as a curiosity/prisoner. He looks like the humanoid red men of Mars, but he can’t speak their language, and he hasn’t a clue about Barsoomian customs.   A Thark woman, Sola, is assigned to Carter to help him learn their language and customs, and he is guarded by Woola, a watch-dog of sorts.  I thought it was hilarious that Carter can’t bring himself to call Woola a dog, so he calls him a “watch-thing”.

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sidekicksSidekicks!  edited by Sarah Hans

published in March 2013

Where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Alliteration Ink!)

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This anthology is about yup, you guessed it, Sidekicks. And every hero needs a sidekick, right?  Someone who will support them no matter what, help them be the hero of our own story?  Even if you’re not a hero, we all need someone like that in our life.  I was expecting this anthology to be all stories starring super heroes having superhero adventures, cape and utility belt included. I was expecting the collection to be good, but not great, to speak to an audience of Batman and Superman and Thor fans that I just wasn’t a part of.  Hey, guess what? Batman, Superman, Thor, all those heroes that I’m not all that interested in? This anthology isn’t interested in them either. For once, they aren’t in the spotlight.  Sidekicks! wasn’t merely good or even great, it was flippin’ fantastic.

I’m not so interested in superheroes doing superthings and getting superattention, but people who’d rather save the day from behind the scenes? Yeah, that I can totally get into. Most of them are about people doing the right thing (or believing they are doing the right thing), and getting too little credit for it.  Not sure who the sidekick is in the story? It’s the person who is most selfless, the person least interested in the limelight. . . most of the time.    Many of the stories are packed with emotion and depth, others are filled with fear and denial.  In some the characters aren’t sure if they are on the good side or the bad side.  You may not recognize many of the authors in the table of contents, but I guarantee this is a collection you’ll be thinking about for a while.

Enough with the intro, let’s get to talking about just a few of my favorite stories!

Hunter and Bagger, by Alex Bledsoe – This quickie opens with Ellen, who is tied to a chair in a shed.  She realizes she’s been kidnapped by the infamous Headhunter, the serial killer who cuts women’s heads off.  But it turns out The Headhunter isn’t one man, but two.  The two men demand that the woman tell them which one of them is the villain, and which one is the sidekick. Is this a trick question? Does she get to live if she answers right?  But how to tell, since the two men seem more interested in bickering with each other than acting heroic or in this case very villainous?  If she’s going to get out of there, she’s going to have to think fast. And thinking fast is exactly what she does. These have got to be the dumbest, thickest idiot serial killers ever, and Ellen would be laughing her head off, if she wasn’t in her underwear, tied to a chair, in a shed with two lunatics.
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nov is scif month

This interview is part of SciFi Month, hosted by Rinn Reads.  Many of you have a smile on your face right now, because it’s always Sci Fi Month here at Little Red Reviewer (and fantasy month, and new weird month, and all-sorts-of-speculative-fiction month).

Today I’m thrilled to interview Gareth L. Powell, who is best known for his Ack Ack Macaque books. I’ve seen these books at the local bookstore, and every time I do a double take. is that really a gun toting monkey? why yes, yes it is.  Mr. Powell was kind enough to answer my questions, so let’s get to the interview!

ack ack maquace

Q. Please introduce yourself, and tell us a little about your Ack-Ack Macaque series. A fighter pilot who is a cynical monkey? This I gotta know more about!

A. I am the author of four novels – Hive Monkey, Ack-Ack Macaque, The Recollection and Silversands – and the short fiction collection, The Last Reef and Other Stories. I am currently writing my fifth novel, Macaque Attack, which should be out in January 2015.

 

Ack-Ack Macaque and Hive Monkey are the first two thirds of my ‘Macaque’ trilogy, dealing with the exploits of Ack-Ack Macaque, a technologically upgraded monkey who drinks, smokes and swears, and thinks he’s a World War II flying ace. The books are a mixture of murder mystery, thriller, and alternate history cyberpunk.

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the spirit thiefThe Spirit Thief, by Rachel Aaron

published in 2010

where I got it: the library

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The entire internet has been afire about Rachel Aaron’s Eli Monpress series for a while now, and it’s no secret I’ve a major weakness for thieves in fantasy environments, so how could I resist a story about the greatest thief ever?  The first volume wasn’t exactly what I expected, but surprises are always a good thing, right?

The infamous thief (and wizard!) Eli Monpress is certainly the focus of the story, but we learn about the world through Spiritualist Miranda Lyonette. She’s been sent to the Kingdom of Mellinor to keep Eli from stealing an important artifact.  Lucky for us, she’s rather unsuccessful in her mission, otherwise this would be a very short and rather un-fun book.

Upon her arrival at Mellinor, Miranda finds that Eli has completely ignored the artifact and has instead kidnapped King Henrith and is holding him for ransom.  Out of the woodwork steps the King’s brother, Prince Renaud, who claims the throne for himself and convinces everyone that Miranda is secretly working for Eli and against the kingdom.  As Miranda unravels what’s going on, she’ll have to choose which is more important: following the rules, or doing the right thing.

Miranda is a court-trained Spiritualist, which means she’s made binding agreements with the spirits she works with. She offers them physical protection and a portion of her own energy, and in turn she can use their magic upon request. It’s a very formal agreement, and she’d never think of using a spirit against its will, or hurting it in any way.  Wizards who go against their training, who take advantage of the strength of spirits, are known as enslavers, and should be destroyed at all costs.

Eli’s relationship with spirits is completely different. He doesn’t offer protective contracts with them, but he doesn’t force them to do anything either.  He just talks to them, almost as if they were just other people he was having a conversation with. He’s certainly not a spiritualist, nor is he an enslaver. The Spirit Court isn’t sure what to make of him.  And that’s just one reason why there’s a huge bounty on his head.  Eli Monpress, the man who steals everything that’s not nailed down, and when he wants something that’s nailed down, he convinces the nails to give him a hand.

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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.