When I was a kid, I enjoyed James H. Schmitz's tales of telepath Telzey Amberdon. But a few years ago, I read all of them back to back within the span of a week, and realized that life with all those nifty powers was actually pretty grim and lonely.
I find myself in violent agreement with the other commentators. Where the first movie was charming and whimsical, the second was ponderous and overstuffed. Unless the reviews of the new film convince me to give the series a second chance, I think I am done.
@3 Now that you mention it, that dragon did look a bit like the one summoned by the Dragonballs! 🙂
Excellent essay. A number of times during the movie, I thought, "That looks familiar," but couldn't pin my finger on the source.
The tai chi moves were instantly recognizable. "Oooh," I said every time I saw one of the moves I know, which probably got on my son's nerves as we watched the film.
You make an excellent point about the final battle. While the dragons and monsters were cool, the humans became sidekicks in their own movie.
No love for Kimball Kinnison's classic outfits?
@13 I'd not read Drake's Belesarius series, which he cowrote with Eric Flint, being a bit burnt out on military SF when it came out. And I was also put off by the fact that it sounded like an alternate history rehash of the General Series. But maybe I'll have to give that one a look.
The MCU usually does a good job with military details, but Killmonger appears in a 4 star admiral's dress uniform, which he continues to wear even after being hired as Stark's head of security. What's up with that?
Howard did a good job with her Mandolorian episodes, and appeares quite comfortable following in her father's footsteps. With a good story like this, the results should be excellent.
@1 I agree completely.
@4 I think the first mention of Belisarius in modern science fiction was in Sprague DeCamp’s Lest Darkness Fall, and since then, science fiction writers have become fascinated with the character. I wonder what Belisarius would think of all the yarns spun from his life story.
Someday, I need to read historical accounts on the real Belisarius, and see what all the fuss is about!
I love real hardback books the most. But I have to admit, for ease of reading and toting, trade paperbacks do have advantages. Trade paperbacks just don't hold up well over time, though, and since I mate for life, it is hardbacks for me.
The real size issue, though, is length. Books that exceed 100,000 words tend to be wordy, overstuffed, and take too long to get to the point. Not to mention they get so thick, they tend to hurt your wrists when you read them.
And electronic books just do not work for me. Call me a luddite if you will, but there is nothing like a real, paper, book.
One of my favorite moments in cinema was the end of Pacific Rim, when the jaeger pilots don't kiss. Same with Rogue One.
Rosimund Pilcher was the master of short romance stories. She could get you emotionally invested in a character in just a few hundred words. Brilliant.
This site is invaluable for those who want their spacecraft to behave with at least a modicum of plausibility. I have never found another source that packs so much useful information in one place. Highly recommended.
I hate horror movies and zombie movies in particular, and only watched this because I am an MCU completist. But while I expected to dislike it, the humor kept it kind of enjoyable. And when it got too grim, I could just say to myself, “It’s not real, it’s only a What If story.” (Come to think of it, that means in my heart of hearts, I think of the Marvel Universe as something real, which is kind of disturbing.)
The only thing I didn’t like was the ending, which was very abrupt, like they had more story but just ran out of time. Just as our heroes were feeling a bit hopeful about what they could accomplish, they showed us zombie Thanos, gave us a tag line, and that was that.
@3 I think it was in the Agent Carter show, but I remember Peggy having a picture of Steve on her desk or bureau, and it was skinny pre-formula Steve. She loved the soul, not the body.
I have always connected with Steve's journey. I was on the small side in my youth, and very shy. Then I grew an entire foot in high school, and was suddenly one of the largest people in the room instead of the smallest. It is very interesting to have a small person's perspective in a tall body.
This was a good essay. Even though gender roles were upended in the What If universe, it did not dampen the love between Steve and Peggy. It reminded me of a line from the son on Schitt's Creek. "I like the wine and not the label."
My family adores this show. I am not a vampire fan, and was not so sure of it at first, but have grown to love it myself.
@3 Thanks for the info on Mr. Wold. I didn't know much about him, and the internet provided less help than usual.
@5 Easily digested adventures make for excellent summer reading!
The point of divergence from the mainstream MCU was not Christine's death. The divergence was that, with his hands intact, Strange never learned humility. And from then on, events moved inexorably in the direction of "the pride goeth before the fall."
Vernor Vinge's Peace War and its sequels come to mind. He does a great job taking the idea of stasis fields, and extrapolating what the technology might lead to.
I'm looking forward to this coming to fruition. Too much time has passed for a direct sequel, and this sounds like a good way to revisit the story.
This was a great episode, with lots of clever dialogue, clever twists and turns, and some great voice performances. Being freed from the constraints of continuity and the need to bring the characters back unscathed in the next episode, "What If?" comics were often more interesting and entertaining than the mainstream adventures, and it looks like we are getting the same from the MCU incarnation. Having the "twist" that made the world different be a mystery to be solved was a clever variation on the theme.
I didn't mind the events occcurring in a single week. If, unlike the other gospels, the book of Mark could pack many of the pivotal events in the ministry of Jesus into the final week of his life, we can certainly accept similar liberties from the writers of the MCU.
I find my tastes vary by season. Shorter, more adventure-oriented stories in the summer, and longer, more thoughtful books in the winter.
The Tick was one of those shows my son and I bonded over back in the day. Watching it again brings back great memories. "Can't...do...plaid."
Having grown up on magazine SF, novellas and novelettes are my favorites. Authors today can natter on for volumes without saying as much as their predecessors said within half an Ace Double.
Looks like a fun one. Tom Holland has become my favorite live action Spidey of all time.
I loved last week's Cap episode, but this one was even better, and wicked funny to boot. Chadwick Boseman was a delight in the more comedic version of the character. He will be missed.
Those Fleisher Superman cartoons were awesome. I was so excited to find them collected on a disc a few years ago.
And Duck Dodgers is the pinnacle of SF cartoons.
I also can live without the Flash Grordon-type topless cowl. A cowl that can't look good without CGI would be a bane to the cosplaying community. Just goggles would be fine with me.
@ 7 That "shake off the dust of your feet" moment was a favorite scene of mine also.
@8 I have never seen a conflict between religion and science. To me, science is how God's creation is revealed to us I was crushed last year to hear a youngster say she didn't like church because she believed in evolution and science, and if you believed that, you couldn't believe in religion, too. Rigid world views on the extremes tend to obscure the fact that there is a large middle ground between faith and reason.
The Bad Batch show is still finding its legs. Like the "beardless Riker" episodes of Star Trek TNG and the Commander Sinclair episodes of Babylon 5, the show is still establishing its characters and doing its worldbuilding. In fact, the characters in Bad Batch could still at this point be more accurately be described as caricatures. Going forward, I hope we get to see the members of the group growing into more well rounded people, as they leave their rigid clone roles behind them. I think Omega will be fascinating to learn more about, as her tactical abilities and encyclopedic knowledge of military issues implies that she has been programmed or educated for some special role. And she is already the Jiminy Cricket of the group, providing a conscience and moral compass to the others.
One thing that may not be apparent to some is how the Star Wars shows and movies are incorporating large chunks of the Legend continuity into the new canon. There is definitely a master plan at work to build a very comprehensive overall narrative for the saga, tying all the movies, cartoons and TV shows together. For example:
TROS and its subplot of the Emperor returning as a clone, and establishing a new base for forces more powerful than ever is a clear callback to the comic book miniseries Dark Empire. And that secret fleet in TROS in some ways resembles the Katana fleet from the original Thrawn trilogy.
A piece of concept art showing the mountain where the cloning was taking place was reportedly labeled as Mount Tantiss on the planet Wayland, a clear reference to the secret imperial military storage and cloning facility in the original Thrawn trilogy where Luke battles with a mad clone Jedi, and a clone of himself. And uniforms in the Bad Batch and the Mandolorian shows show this facility is connected in some way with Grogu. It looks like the unexplained re-emergence of the cloned Emperor in TROS is about to be explained, and in some detail.
The show's strength so far has been the action and adventure sequences, and the Easter eggs. Going forward I look forward to seeing more personal development of the characters, and maybe more ordinary folks for them to interact with. And I am intrigued by those Easter eggs, which are looking like not just unconnected information, but signs that the producers are playing the long game, with a single master plan behind all of their projects.
@1 I agree. It was a phase 3.1 movie.
@2 I am sure going forward that all contracts will address the streaming issue.
This is welcome news. Mackie is one of the most engaging actors working for Marvel. And I hope Stan is onboard as well.
I remember a 1990 book called Lifeline by Doug Beeson and Kevin Anderson, where three space colonies, inexplicably untouched by a worldwide atomic war, struggle to survive. The stations were US, Soviet and Phillipine. Great story, although the relatively poor third nation having a massive space colony struck me as improbable.
@17 Memory is a funny thing. Now that I am in my sixties, I swear my memory recall is controlled by a random number generator, which only occasionally spits out what I need. :-)
Good article. The problem of stealth tends to disappear in stories that feature things like FTL travel and reactionless drives because of what might be called the "handwavium threshold," the point beyong which natural laws become mutable, and driven more by plot than science.
Some have mentioned the Vorkosigan saga above, but I'm not sure anyone outshines Miles. It's just that Bujold imbues all her characters with such vivid personalities that they all feel like they belong on center stage. And I loved the fact that the series was long enough that many of those supporting characters got their moment of glory.
I would nominate any human protagonist in Rendezvous with Rama as being outshone by the massive spaceship. But then again, maybe Rama IS the protagonist.
Nice article on a topic close to many reader's hearts.
And talk about coincidences. The next book I'm reviewing for TorDotCom is A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr., a book I started about 50 years ago, and only finished last week. So I know a bit about leaving a book in the TBR pile.
One thing I have learned over the years is not to shop for books based on price. When I buy a book because it is a bargain, it will almost certainly end up on the TBR pile. If I really want to read a book, I will buy it when it is published, and pay full price for it.
@2 I like that tag line!
Clone Wars got so darn good in the last few seasons that I hated to see it go. Bad Batch has picked up the story quite well, with a fun core cast. Plus, they are exploring the earlier days of the Empire, which is a fascinating time. I'm looking forward to seeing more.
@12 Dig Allen. Now there's a name I've not heard in a long time. I had one Dig Allen book, and loved it--always wished I could have found more.
@6 Both books are available for free from Project Gutenberg. There is a link in the About the Author section of the review. I think you will enjoy reading them!
@3 No ads, other than a page at the end of one extolling the virtues of Pocket Books.
Jeremy Renner has been underused in the Marvel movies to date; I'm looking forward to seeing more of him.
I have enjoyed Whitaker's run, and will miss her. What I would like to see from the next Doctor is something more whimsical, and not just from the actor, but reflected in the writing and direction. Too much grimness and too much emphasis on massive stakes and destruction in the past few incarnations of the doctor..
Most of the fiction I enjoyed about early days of the space program has become alternate history.
@17 You are correct, I am embarrassed to say. I made some errors in collecting the list of Stainless Steel Rat books, which I didn't catch when reviewing my work.
I love audio books for when I am building and painting models in my basement. I used to listen to them in the car, but I am retired now, with no commuting time to fill any more. Even more than audio books, though, I like audio dramas, with multiple actors playing the parts.
One thing I never understood is treating a book like a precious piece of treasure, to be admired, but not touched or used. In the world of comic books, I see people delighted to have bought a classic issue hermetically sealed in plastic, with a label giving an official grade of the condition. Crack open the plastic, and you invalidate the grading. I can think of nothing more foreign to me. But then again, when I buy a Funko Pop or action figure, I immediately take it out of the box.
My wife loves books on current affairs, but is too impatient to read them, and likes knitting. So I have been reading one to her as she knits recently, a chapter at a time. And I am actually enjoying the experience. I had forgotten how rewarding it is to read to someone.
Different strokes for different folks, as Sly and the Family Stone used to sing when I was young.
The good news is that Anansi Boys is a compact, coherent story with a small cast, so it shouldn't go off the rails like American Gods did. I imagine something that lasts 8-10 episodes, and has a definitive ending. And the Mr. Nancy of Anansi Boys felt different from the Mr. Nancy of American Gods, so I have no problem with having another actor cast for the role. Someone who is a good-natured ladies man who likes to party, a loveable rogue who isn't afraid to embarrass his kids.
I have heard a lot of people wishing Marvel had gone further with Loki and his gender fluid nature in this mini series. I am reminded of the old saying that even the biggest journey starts with a single step. Even though it is a hesitant step, Marvel has begun the journey.
@11 The whole Angelina thing was problematic enough before Harrison revealed the reason she became a serial killer (SPOILER: she was born a homely person). I think Harrison was trying to play that one for laughs, but it definitely didn't work for me.
My son talked me into going to a reading by Gaiman at a Noreastcon many years ago, and he was reading chapters from Anansi Boys, then still being written. I fell head over heels in love with the story, and Gaiman's work in general. I am looking forward to this project.
I seem to remember a TV show from half a century ago that spent a lot of episodes with the characters trekking from star to star while wrestling with non-interference rules. But I can't remember the name...
I saw pix today from filming in Glasgow, but given all the American flags, I think Glasgow was playing the role of another city.
All in all, it was kind of a low-key ending for the series.
After the delightful chaos of the last episode, this one was kind of meh. Lots of gloomy talking, and like you said Emmet, in a world of infinite possibilities, too much squishing down of possible courses of action into either/or choices. And I agree that having only one female Loki, and her in the end being there for romantic conflict, was kind of off key.
Meeting Kang was kind of like getting to the end of a Scooby Doo episode, the gang unmasking the bad guy, and it is someone no one has ever seen or heard of before. A good mystery leaves clues for the viewer so the ending doesn't come out of nowhere.
And this was not the Kang who wants to rule worlds, this was a weary and depressed version, who didn't seem to care whether he lived or died. Not the flashy and megalomaniacal character who exploded into the narrative of the comics whenever he appeared. Meh.
I did like that, in the end, Loki was in an alternate timeline where Mobius doesn't recognize him, there are no Timekeepers, and the TVA has a statue of Kang on display. And I finally realized that Miss Minutes is voiced by Tara Strong, who I fell in love with years ago while watching My Little Pony with my granddaughter. No wonder I loved that character.
This episode could easily have had a bit "To Be Continued" tagline at the end (which it kind of did, with that stamp that said "Loki will return in Season Two," or something like that). Not a very satisfying ending to a series I had mostly enjoyed. I am hoping that, at the very least, this gives us to see more of characters I enjoyed, like Kid Loki, Croc Loki, and Mobius.
Looks intriguing, and Bao was a wonderful piece, so I am looking forward to this.
I really enjoyed it, and so did the friend and family who saw it with me. It is rare that we are all so positive coming out of a movie.
It had a small cast of excellent actors, a self contained plot, and lots of tie ins to the rest of the MCU that were easter eggs and not essential to the plot. It was accessible to old fans and newbies as well. Yelena was totally awesome, and I loved the twist on Taskmaster.
It is too bad the old leadership of Marvel stood in the way of this movie for so long.
@11 I envy your collection of the juveniles in their original form.
I have read that David Gerrold's tribbles were similar enough to Heinlein's flat cats that the producers of Star Trek got concurrence from Heinlein before filming the episode.
In legend, Loki turned into a female horse who gave birth to the eight-legged Sleipnir, so alligator Loki doesn't feel like too much of a stretch (and I found him hilarious). My son told me that Frog Thor appeared somewhere in the bunker scene. I am sure there were lots more comic book references in there as well.
I loved Richard Grant's take on the classic Jack Kirby version of Loki.
Usually, Emmet and I have similar reactions to shows, but not this time. Overall, I am enjoying the show. There have been a few moments where I couldn't see where it was going, but then later caught on to the direction the writers were taking. I am looking forward to the finale.
Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky, which qualified in last week's column on travel between worlds without spaceships, also qualifies as a castaway survival story.
And I would also have Vinge's The Peace War on my short list of excellent castaway tales.
@1 There’s not much in The Poison Belt to appeal to middle school readers (I think that’s when I first read it–I appreciated it much more the next time around).
@2 John Rhys-Davies was one of my favorite actors to play Challenger, he fit the role quite well. I had liked Claude Rains (one of my favorite actors) in the Lost World movie that appeared in the 60s, until I read the book and realized how little he matched the original Challenger. But that movie was marred with dinosaurs played by lizards in closeup, which looked dumb. (And thanks for giving us the links to electronic versions to all the stories.)
@3 I will look for that story, it sounds fun.
@4 I have always found that Doyle was careful with details, whether it was the dinosaurs in The Lost World, drilling techniques in “When The World Screamed,” the depictions in his excellent historical novels (The White Company remains one of my favorite books of all time), or the various details upon which the Sherlock Holmes adventures turned. He did his homework.
@6,7 That TV show started with promise, but deteriorated rapidly in quality. In my opinion, it wasn’t cancelled as much as put out of its misery.
Don't forget Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky.
@1 and @10 The Liaden and Qeng Ho were my first thoughts also. And don't forget Star Wars, which according to The Phantom Menace, was all about blockades and taxation of trade routes.
Glad folks are mentioning Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky. My personal favorite slower-than-light star-spanning adventure. And one of the rare times I liked a prequel!
@37 Both the TVA and TVA are vast bureaucracies that have been involved in large and morally ambiguous secret projects (the Oak Hill nuclear weapons project in the case of the real world TVA), so I can see how they would be confused. ;-)
@1 Someday I will find that collaboration with Hamilton, looks interesting.
@2 The re-read was definitely worth my time.
@3 Brackett does an excellent job evoking the pathos of doomed cultures. It is part of what lifts her work above that of many of her contemporaries.
I'm looking forward to a new series of Lost Fleet books by Jack Campbell. They are among the few military SF books I still read. The last series got more fun as the focus shifted from battles to exploration, and this looks like more of the same.
I'm also looking forward to the Star Wars High Republic book. Exploring a new period in the Star Wars universe has been a lot of fun.
A bit heavy in exposition, but a good start to the new series. There was a lot of scene setting to do, especially for those who forget some of the stuff that happened in the last two Avengers movies, but it was done pretty well. And the acting was very good from all concerned. Owen Wilson is a perfect foil for Tom Hiddleston. And I enjoyed Wunmi Mosaku as the "tough cop."
They should be paying royalties to Terry Gilliam for using the "look and feel" of the movie Brazil as inspiration for the TVA. As well as royalties to Spielberg for copying the Jurassic Park "Dino DNA" cartoon explanation sequence (but come to think of it, Spielberg borrowed that from old Disney cartoons, so maybe not).
It may be that the TVA will collapse, leading to the multiverse approach to storytelling they use in the comics. Or perhaps the TVA is deluded, and the timeline they have been managing is only one of many. In any event, I don't think the TVA will be in the driver's seat by the end of the series.
Oath of Fealty was terrible. Biased, heavy handed, preachy, and clunky. Niven and Pournelle's fiction usually had enough science and enough adventure that you didn't pay too much attention to the politics. Not this one, though.
TLJ is my favorite of the new trilogy movies, and I loved Rose. Luke played a role similar to Obi Wan, living as a hermit and then sacrificing himself to save the next generation. I would have enjoyed a final movie that built on TLJ's foundation, rather than fighting and undoing it.
I'm late posting because as soon as Leah said go into this book tabula rasa, I bailed on reading the review. But now that I've read the book, here I am.
I loved this book. Better than Artemis, maybe even better than The Martian. Normally I don't like authors who spend too much time "showing their math," but Weir makes that part of the fun. The idea of spacefaring organisms was fascinating, as were the implications of their energy-storing capabilities. I loved the twists, loved all the plotlines, and loved the way Grace grew and became a better person via his adventures (heroes being heroic gets boring after a while). There was a lot of heart in this one, and Weir did a great job showing a convincing friendship between unlikely companions.
Spider Robinson's Telempath had as its premise previously undetectable airborne jellyfish-ish creatures going to war with humanity.
@1 Jack of Shadows is another good example of the unlikely hero.
@3 Thanks for those observations on motorcyclists; my knowledge of the community is limited to watching them drive past me on the highway. Regarding the movie, I have read that it was supposed to be released before Star Wars, and the studio execs expected it to be the big sci fi blockbuster of the year, not the film by that young upstart Lucas. Shows what they knew...
Looks like a lot of fun. Johnson and Blunt are both adept at action and comedy. This might be my first foray back to the theater!
Here Comes Mr. Jordan is a gem, quirky but with a lot of heart. Claude Raines was perfect as the enigmatic title character. This film is yet another reason he is one of my favorite actors of all time.