Movie Review: Ex_Machina


This morning, while on the treadmill, I watched Ex_Machina. Here’s my quick review.

Title: Ex Machina
Director: Alex Garland
Genre: Sci-Fi

Why I Watched It:
It’s science fiction.  I love science fiction.

Interesting Fact:
It has similar plot elements to the (original) Star Trek Episode “Requiem for Methuselah.”

I wasn’t sure about this movie based on the reviews I read, but this is an excellent movie. I loved everything about it.  It’s great, topical science fiction, with a great story and some fine acting.

Best Thing About It:
Lots, but I’ll pick the actress that played Kyoto.

Worst Thing About It:
I can’t think of anything bad about it.

Rating: ★★★★★

Rotten Tomatos

Classic Sci-Fi Book Reviews: Edmond Hamilton (Part 1)

My wife gave me a Kindle for our anniversary this past summer.  The short review is that I like the technology a lot, but since I’m not interested in much new fiction outside of Cormac McCarthy and William Gay, my use of the Kindle will depend largely on how many older books are released in the Kindle format.  I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few vintage science fiction books in the Kindle store, many of them priced at just a dollar or two.  For example, I found some Andre Norton books.  Her Star Man’s Son, retitled Daybreak 2250 AD, was the first science fiction book I read, and is still one of my favorites.

I also found several books by one of the founders of the science fiction genre, Edmond Hamilton.  I read a few of his books on the Kindle, and then bought several more on eBay and read them.  In the first of a new series of posts, I’ll briefly review some of these books.  Other books by other authors will follow.

My vintage science fiction interest lies generally in books from the fifties through the seventies.  There may be a few outside that range, but they will be the exception, not the rule.

The first Edmond Hamilton book I read was City at World’s End (1950), a book about a city that is blown far into the future by an atomic bomb.   

It’s a good read.  I enjoyed the story.  The character development was good, certainly by pulp sci-fi standards.  The book is the equivalent of a Saturday afternoon B-Movie on AMC or Turner Classics.  Not one of my favorites, but worth a read.

Things got significantly more interesting with the next book: The Star Kings (1947).  This one is about a man named John Gordon, who is mentally contacted by a man from the far future and, out of boredom, agrees to a mind transfer.  Gordon finds himself in the far future, in the body of a  prince and in the middle of a galactic war.  It is a great read.  I liked it so much I bought the sequel, Return to the Stars (1970, 23 years later), on eBay.  The sequel is interesting, but not nearly as good as the first book.  Highly recommended.

Next, I read The Three Planeteers, accurately described on Amazon as the “science fiction pulp classic.”  It’s a short but interesting space opera about three outlaws who are called upon to save the galaxy from the evil League of Cold Worlds.  The writing is similar to The Star Kings, and it is my second favorite of the Hamilton books I have read so far.  It’s a good book in 2008.  When you consider it was written in 1940, it’s even more amazing.

I also read A Yank at Valhalla (1950), an odd book about a guy on an Arctic expedition who winds up in the middle of Norse mythology.  I didn’t like it at all at first, but by the time I finished, I thought it was worth a read.  Lastly, I read The Haunted Stars (1960) (boring, and my least favorite) and The Star of Life (1959) (not great, but worth a read).  There are lots of other Edmond Hamilton books out there, but they are not easy to find.  I continue to monitor eBay and will buy others as the opportunity arises.

Hamilton takes his place as my second favorite vintage sci-fi writer (behind Andre Norton), for now.

As always, I encourage other book recommendations via the Comments.

Next time: a vintage Arthur C. Clarke book that bored me to tears.

One-Post Science Fiction Book Club

My wife recently joined a book club, which seems to be the soccer moms’ preferred social network these days, followed somewhat closely by Bunco groups, which I thought until recently was some sort of organized crime (actually, the more I learn about those groups it may be).

Anyway, my wife joins this book club.  The first thing I noticed is that they read all these nerdy, high falutin’ books like the A Thousand Splendid Suns and whatnot.  Those books are too hard for me.  I’m still at the edges of post-traumatic stress disorder over having almost read Wuthering Heights in the 11th grade.  Thank goodness for Cliff’s Notes.  The second thing I noticed is that a couple of the founding members of this club keep picking books they have already read.  That sounds more like playing school than a book club.  If I was in that club, I’d call b.s. on that the first time it happened.  The second time it happened, I’d start turning furniture over.  But women are too nice to do that.  They either dutifully read the selected book, or they go all passive aggressive and start going to class unprepared.

Anyway, I’m not in a book club.  But I like to read.  Lately, I’ve been in a science fiction phase.  Here are some books I have read or reread lately, and enjoyed.  Other than the first one, I’m going to skip all the obvious must-reads, like Stranger in a Strange Land, Ringworld, etc.

elad First, and as I have mentioned before, I just reread Hyperion, followed in order by its four sequels, Fall of Hyperion, Endymion and Rise of Endymion.  These are all excellent books, and this has become my favorite sci-fi series.  I also reread another old favorite, The Eyes of Light and Darkness by Ivan Cat.  It’s as good as I remember it.  I am currently reading Cat’s second novel, The Burning Heart of Night.  It’s not as good as the first one, but it’s still to early to make a judgment.

I also recently read Robert Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold.  I bought it years ago, because it is in my favorite sub-genre: post apocalyptic, but didn’t get around to reading it.  It was considered pretty controversial when it came out in the 60’s.  I didn’t find the racial elements to be all that interesting, and I thought it was a pretty good story with or without that element.

Lastly, I started to reread the California Voodoo Game series.  When I read these books the first time, back in the 90’s, I thought they were great.  Among my all time favorite science fiction books.  I don’t find them as compelling this time around, but they are still worthwhile reading.

That’s my part.

Now I need some good science fiction recommendations for my next visit to the bookstore.  Can anyone help me out via the Comments?

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A Glimmer of Hope for Jericho?


The Associated Press is reporting that CBS is considering bending to popular demand and bringing back Jericho for a mid-season run.

According to the story, a source close to the Jericho production team says that CBS is reconsidering its decision to cancel Jericho, based largely on viewer calls and emails.  Apparently the fact the Jericho is popular with young adult viewers, a demographic coveted by networks and their advertisers, is a factor working in the show’s favor.

Disgruntled viewers also delivered 50,000 pounds of peanuts to CBS’s New York office, a reference to the word “nuts,” which was used prominently in the season finale.

Jericho was/is a great show, and I hope CBS does the cool thing and brings it back.  This time without the ratings killing hiatus.

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Firefly is a Great Series

fireflytvI just started watching the Firefly season one and only DVDs.  This is a great show- one of many great shows that seem to get cancelled too soon.

It’s odd, since Firefly is a science fiction show, but it reminds me more than a little of Deadwood.  The music is very similar.  The titles are similar, and the cinematography is similar.  There are horses in both opening credits.

David Boyd is the cinematographer for both.

I highly recommend Firefly.  It’s available via Amazon and Netflix.

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Jericho- Looks Very Promising



I just watched the series premiere of Jericho, and so far I’d say it is shaping up to be a great show.  Lots of good stuff in the first episode- that was an intense moment when they realized that Atlanta had been blown up too.

Most shows I like (Surface, Invasion, Threshold, etc.) get canceled almost immediately, so I hope I’m not cursing this show, but I am looking forward to it.

TVSquad has a mixed, but mostly positive review.

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Dwight is Right

Dwight Silverman has come around to my way of thinking about Battlestar Galactica.

I just saw an extended preview of the forthcoming season while watching the first episode of Eureka, and it gave me chills. I watched the preview 3 times in a row.

Here it is for your viewing pleasure. Here’s the link for the RSS feed.

The Sci-Fi Channel has announced a spin-off prequel, which I am looking forward to.

If you haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica, you are lucky, because you have a treat in store.