Finished: Gridlinked, by Neal Asher
Finished: The Line of Polity, by Neal Asher
I'm going to treat these more or less as one. I bought The Line of Polity first, accidentally thinking it was stand-alone (or perhaps the first book in the series). Once I realized my mistake, I went back and found the first book.
This series didn't particularly do anything for me. It's sort of a combination of secret agent tales and space opera, and I suppose it's fine for all that, but none of the characters really connected to me and I saw many of the events coming, and, for the most part, I read just to get through it. I did notice that one of the main personality characteristics of the main character, from the first book, seemed to have been completely brushed aside in the second... and while I didn't much like him then, I don't think the best approach was to make him even blander.
It's kind of a sad commentary on the series that my favorite character in it is an artificially intelligent shuriken that never communicates to others or indicates its thoughts to the reader or anybody else in anything but the most limited ways.
Maybe I'll give the series another chance somewhere down the line, but I don't think I'm going to be reading the rest anytime soon.
Finished: Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card (reread)
One of my all time favorite books (and yes, I know, many of the author's political views are abominable, but the book rises above it... I can hold it against the author, but not against the book), and I just felt like reading it again, especially because the movie'll be coming out this year.
Finished: The Lady of Mazes, by Karl Schroder (reread)
I've read this before, but I still really enjoy this. I'll do a bit longer here, behind the cut, because I just reviewed it on Goodreads, too and I might as well copy and paste.
It's rare that a prequel is not only better than the original, but also completely stands alone to the point you don't need to have read the other book. Lady of Mazes is one such book. Although set in the universe of Ventus and hundreds of years before, although the antagonist (to use the word loosely) is the same, the main characters and setting are completely different.
Livia Kodalay's world, hidden from the rest of humanity to chart its own path, has been invaded and everything she knows is being torn apart. Her only hope becomes to seek help among the rest of the human civilization, although she's not even sure if her enemy is from them or not.
This is a book filled with ideas, not just about technology but about different ways to live, and what may make our lives meaningful and relevant, about how technology doesn't just define our values, but actually mediates our reality. Just as technology allows us to interact with things, like radio waves, that exist, but wouldn't otherwise affect our lives, become extremely important to us, it can also allow us to edit our senses and make things that are real, even potentially dangerous, not affect our lives at all. Each option is potentially as much an illusion as the other... unless we live naked in a cave, we choose the technology and the illusions it drags along (and in the end, the cave, too, is technology, that mediates our reality by making the weather something that can be occasionally ignored, and therefore not nearly as deadly).
One of the things I've noticed about this particular author over and over again is that rarely he includes true villains... in many cases, it's just conflicts between different points of view, of people doing the best they can... and it's much the same here, where even with the entity/group that's suggested as the big bad, you can see why some of the people choose that path, and of the many types of societies, I honestly don't know which I think is the more appealing path... there are aspects of both types that delight and terrify me a little. I've read this book several times, and each time I do, I go through this shift in my point of view, back and forth, not just seeing but agreeing with both sides and being left more than a little uncertain... which is great. I suppose that's expected a little when the main character's greatest strength is explicitly stated, not as skill with a sword or weapon, but the ability to see and empathize with other points of view.
This has become one of my favorite books and I'm sure I'll be reading it again.
Started: Ender's Shadow, by Orson Scott Card (reread)
Started: Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge (reread)
Also, last book foo, in a short story collection (Year's Best SF 15), there was one thing that I wanted to quote, just because I liked it, but I forgot to. Well, now I'm remembering. It's from the story Collision, by Gwyneth Jones:
"Down all the millenia, people like you have said science is 'challenging the Throne of God.' The funny thing is, your 'God' doesn't seem to mind. Your 'God' keeps saying to us, Hey, wonderful! You noticed! Follow me, I've got some other great stuff to show you--"
Okay, off books, and onto TV... I don't have a lot to talk about. Walking Dead starts again this Sunday, which is cool. I've also been lately getting into Leverage in reruns... it turns out to be a lot of fun (and a lot of SF people in it). And I've been watching Tabletop online. Oh, Wil Wheaton, if someone had told me years ago you'd become my favorite TNG cast member (okay, maybe just behind Patrick Stewart), I would have thought they were crazy. It's a lot of fun, but I especially like the games where there is some roleplaying involved, and indeed think they should do a spinoff that is just RPGs (I never watched Being Human, either version, but Sam Witwer from the US version is clearly not just a gamer, he's apparently also a GM so I like him now, too.)
But the main show that I think we need to talk about is Fringe.
Fringe... what happened to you, man? You used to be cool.
(major spoilers for the series will be behind the cut... spoiling pretty much the whole last season... no, wait, the WRITERS spoiled the last season).
In the end, I'm so disappointed in Fringe that I wish it was cancelled, not LAST season, but the season before. Yes, they screwed the pooch so much that I wish we could undo that last two seasons. And maybe a few minutes or seconds before the end of the finale before that (just to better wrap it up rather than leaving on a surprise dangler).
Now, I'm not all that opposed to drastic shifts in direction... but it should at least leave you with something better, and more novel than before.
Instead, in this final season, we completely abandoned the whole "conflict with a parallel universe" storyline that was driving much of the rest of the series, and had the Observers invade and conquer the world... and become like pretty much every other evil space nazis in pretty much any other science fiction show.
That was bad enough. Just the sheer poor idea of abandoning a novel SF plotline (okay, long-historied but still relatively new, at least for television) for one done A BILLION TIMES BEFORE, is bad enough. But no, they also had to do it in the most awful way possible. A handful of resistance fighters... going up against SUPER-INTELLIGENT TIME TRAVELLERS WITH MIND-READING POWERS... and holing up IN THEIR OLD LAB THAT THEY USED TO USE BEFORE THE INVASION THAT IS SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF OCCUPIED TERRITORY. And yet, again and again, managing to slip by. And a long plot of putting together pieces of a plan left behind in the area, which should have been found by them, but for no good reason the bad guys decided to not bother de-ambering the Lab of their greatest enemies and see if they might have left behind anything useful. And the alternate universe gets completely ignored except for one episode where they turn out to be slightly useful to one particular plan. All that, all of that...
to push the reset button.
To do what most other SF shows will do over the course of an episode or two: a dystopian future that must be averted, which is done, sending things back to the start with no (or almost no) change and no (or almost no) memories of what really happened. THAT'S how you finish your series?
No. %!@#%! you. NO. YOU ARE HACKS. HACKS.
And that's not even the worst of it. It doesn't even make sense. The plan revolves around going to the time period the Observers were first created (because that'll never be guarded), with the "empathic Observer child" to prove to the scientist creating them that you don't have to sacrifice emotion for intelligence, making them no longer exist as they were and so they would no longer invade and sending time back to the moment they were invaded, where Walter will disappear because he brought the child.
Except... WTF? The observers were impacting the whole history of the show. If they no longer existed, it should have wiped out ALL of that, not just from the moment of their big invasion. What's more... THE OBSERVERS HAD INVADED THE WORLD THAT EXISTED BEFORE THEY WERE CREATED. They've already overwritten the history of their own creation, because they weren't created in a world where the Observers had taken over the world centuries previously and remade the atmosphere more towards their tastes. IT MADE NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. Particularly in a show that is full of alternate timelines. It's less consistent and worse than Marvel comics time travel. YOU HEARD ME. WORSE THAN MARVEL. YOU FAIL.
Yes, the show was decently acted, but when the writing is that terrible, that doesn't count for much. This is why I hold anything by JJ Abrahms or his "crew" (they may not be directly linked with him, but they all seem to suffer the same problems) with dread from now on, because thats what I can expect... well-acted hack-writing.
I'd rather end the show with the uniting of the two universes. Season 4 I was willing to suffer through, but really, they abandoned almost all the characters we loved and gave us slightly different versions of them... I'd rather have stuck with the people I watched for three seasons. It would have been acceptable if they were going somewhere useful. Instead, we got this. No.
On a similar vein, and moving from TV onto movies, we have the movie Looper.
Looper has a silly premise. I'm sorry, it does... "Time Travel gets invented... but it's only used by the mob... to dispose of bodies! Because there's nothing else that can be done with it!"
is silly on the face of it. But you look past it... and some of the silliness that comes with stylistic choices... and it's actually pretty enjoyable. Well acted, tense, and even introduces a few plot elements out of left field that don't automatically fit in with a time travel movie, but made things a little cooler. And they went to some very dark places, with a lot of ambiguity. And then... that ending (major total spoiling spoilers behind cut)...
The laziest possible time travel ending, the one they teach you in grade one if science fiction was a part of our core curriculum in our schools (as it should be): When you have a character who is the future of another character, and they are in conflict, it is the most obvious trick in the world to end it by having the past version of the character die to erase his future elf from existence. It's not novel. If you try to use it, everything else about your story had better be PHENOMENAL.
And Looper wasn't, it was merely pretty good. So the ending lowered it from "pretty good, despite some dumb premises" to "meh, worth a watch if you turn your brain off a little".
Also watched The Dark Knight Returns Part 2. Still don't get why this was two movies. Put the runtime of both together, no special features, and you get an hour and a half of movie. But it was enjoyable, and I liked it a lot more than reading the comic (I didn't like the art). I know it's heresy, but I actually think they should make a sequel... The Dark Knight Strikes Back, in animated form. Except... don't do the sequel Frank Millar actually wrote. Just take the best ideas in it and write the sequel it SHOULD have been.
I think that's about it. I've got a few other recent new (on DVD) movies but I never get around to actually watching them.