Review: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother
Cory Doctorow
Tor Teen, 2008

Despite the praised heaped upon Little Brother upon its initial release I let it slip under my radar and off of my “to be read” stack.  Which, as it turns out, deprived me of one seriously entertaining and thought-provoking read.  In an Orwellian and disturbingly familiar future Marcus, also known as w1n5t0n, is a techno-geek who uses his skills to side-step school rules and surveillance that infringes on his privacy.  When a terrorist attack destroys an important bridge in San Francisco Marcus is caught and held for suspicion of terrorist activities.  Upon his release he finds a changed world (or at least changed San Francisco) where the DHS has begun to use scare tactics, witch hunts, and various methods of technological surveillance (particularly using RFIDs) to monitor and “police” the city’s population in order to, supposedly, protect them from terrorist threats.  In order to combat these offenses against personal privacy and the Bill of Rights rebels and vows to bring down the people responsible for his wrongful imprisonment. Continue reading “Review: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow”

The Best Comic You’re Not Reading

My first experience with Chuckles was G. I. Joe: the  Movie; a film that gave birth to the horrific Cobra-La, the kind cool but not really Nemesis Enforcer, the snake-faced Cobra Commander, and the death of Duke.  Thankfully the Chuckles seen in G. I. Joe: Cobra is nothing like the briefly glimpsed animated version.  No this Chuckles is an ice cold, charismatic, undercover badass sent on a mission to infiltrate Cobra from the ground up.  His handler, another familiar face, Jynx his only contact to his superiors.

While the rest of the IDW reboot of the G. I. Joe hasn’t got me really excited this comic has been the kind of update the series needed.  The cartoon Cobra has always been a bit silly, to put it mildly, so turning them and their larger than life characters into an actual threat isn’t the easiest of tasks.  While the main series is currently tasked with fleshing out the Destro/Baronness relationship (with really bad scottish dialects that I can’t quite get into) the real grounds eye view of Cobra as seen through Chuckles’ eyes is the first time I’ve ever truly believed that Cobra could be a living, breathing terrorist organization.

We’re only four issues into the series and we’ve seen a handful of fantastic updates on classic Joe elements including the BATS and the Crimson Guard.  It was a bit of a sedate start, but in a good way, slowly building up to some amazing plot twists and hardcore action.  Christos Gage and Mike Costa have absolutley nailed the behind enemy lines vibe.  Artist Antonia Fuso manages to impart that same oppressive atmospher with his art while at the same time pencils some exciting actions scenes.  This is some great stuff and if you were a Joe fan growing up you won’t want to miss out.

If you don’t have a nearby LCS you can always buy from IDW direct.

Review: The Stars My Destination

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

The Stars My Destination
Alfred Bester
Vintage Books, 1996 (orig. 1956)

While something of a genre classic my introduction to The Stars My Destination was somewhat roundabout since I first heard the book mentioned on the video game/humor-centric podcast from the guys at Mega64.   Co-founder of Mega64 Derrick “Derek” Acosta seemed pretty impressed with the title and his description of the plot sounded interesting.  I circled the title for almost a year before finally breaking down and buying a copy, and man am I glad I did.

The Stars My Destination begins with that uneducated, potentially intelligent though unmotivated Gulliver “Gully” Foyle stranded and struggling to survive amongst the wreckage of a spaceship.  Hope is briefly kindled as he flags down a passing ship, the Vorga, but is brutally extinguished as the ship passes him by.  Vowing revenge on the ship and its crew the suddenly motivated Gully Foyle springs into action and embarks upon a bloody course of revenge with more than a little amount of colattoral damage.

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Review: Haze by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Haze by L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Haze by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Tor, 2009

I first came across L. E. Modesitt Jr. while reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series mainly since both Modesitt and Jordan featured covers by Darell Sweet.  While I read an enjoyed The Magic of Recluse I didn’t continue on with other books in that series.  Not too long ago I read and enjoyed the first three books in the Corean Chronicles which had a real strange blend of dying earth/frontier world that I particularly enjoyed.  So when I saw that Modesitt had a new sci-fi novel coming up I was interested to see how he would handle a different genre.

Haze starts on a Federation ship near a planet nicknamed with the same name; a name earned by the strange gray barrier impervious to sensors that surrounds the planet.  Keir Roget, a Federation Intelligence agent is dropped to the planets surface in order to determine who or what is down there.  At the same time Roget reminisces about an earlier assignment on Earth and the book alternates between the present day exploration of Haze and flashbacks to Roget’s experiences in a backwater Norram (North American) town.

Haze is a rather strange book.  On the one hand it gives an absolutely fascinating overview of the political and economic future of Earth.  Roget’s Federation is a Chinese dominated government with strict almost Orwellian methods of watching its populace.   Through Roget’s exploration of Haze we examine an alternate culture, vaguely socialist in nature, and completely pragmatic in its governance that stands at odds with the very top-down power structure of the Federation government.  At the same time, during the flashback sections of the book, we examine a third cultural milieu that of the backwater, religious fringe (apparently religion is mostly frowned upon in the Federation government).  All three are interesting, well thought out, and certainly thought provoking but I’m not sure that they make explicitly compelling fiction.

Continue reading “Review: Haze by L. E. Modesitt Jr.”

Eden Log & Dance of the Dead

Eden Log
Eden Log

So I’ve got two interesting movies that you all might be interested in.  I’ll start with the first, and likely the more contentious, of the movies.  Eden Log seems to be french film director Franck Vestiel’s feature film debut and was released on DVD in the States under Magnolia/Magnet’s 6-Shooter Film Series.  It isn’t the easiest film to describe but I’ll give you the official description:

A man regains consciousness at the bottom of a cave, with no concept of how he arrived there, nor any idea who the dead man is at his side. Only one thing is certain – he has to escape the menacing creature that s pursuing him. His journey back to the surface takes him through a cemetery – like world that’s been abandoned by a mysterious organization called Eden Log.

Though that doesn’t quite cover everything this film does. Eden Log isn’t a movie that will win awards for  dialogue or even clever plotting but what it does do is create an absolute splendid atmosphere and mood.  With its black and white filming and heavy juxtaposition of light and dark the movie does a wonderful job of making you feel like you are underground.  I think it is the film’s ability to place the viewer in the same environment and mindset of the protagonist is what had me thinking that Eden Log would have made a fantastic video game.  It has a very overt sci-fi survival horror feel and the main “evil” security team, from costume to slightly garbled radio communications, were very reminiscent of Half-Life 2’s combine.  Eden Log’s set design is both simplistic and surprisingly well done and never once jars you out of the experience.  What the description fails to mention is that the underground system in the movie is part of the root system of some mysterious giant tree that is being farmed/tended for something.  The combination of stark stone corridors, industrial architecture, and gnarled roots lends the film a rather unique and captivating appearance.  Eden Log is hardly a pleasant film and the questionable mental state of the main character leads to at least one moment of fairly uncomfortable brutality that while certainly off-putting serves as a real turning point for the film and certain realizations about our protagonist.  Eden Log isn’t a perfect film and has a rather sedate pace but for fans of horror and sci-fi well worth a look.

Dance of the Dead
Dance of the Dead

Now, a film I can recommend whole heartedly, Dance of the Dead.  While I remember positive buzz from the guys over at AICN I was quite prepared for how fun this movie was.  Genuinely funny dialogue, age-appropriate casting, quality zombie effects, and an odd blending of genres manage to help this film stand out from the pack and really shine as something special.  If you’ve seen any high school based movie or show certain elements will be familiar: the geek going for the hot cheerleader, the lovable smartass, the hard-ass slightly crazy gym teacher, the delinquent badass mythic student, the stressed and alcohol swilling principal, and the jerky science teacher.  As familiar as those elements may be there is still something fresh feeling about the whole experience and a sensation, without any overt evidence, that the filmmakers are looking at us through the characters and offering us a conspiratorial wink.  There is even a frog dissection scene early in the film, you don’t get more stereotypical High School the frog dissection, but my first thought on seeing that wasn’t ::groan::, it was “Oh, zombie frogs!?”  All I can say is: hell yes!

While I wasn’t a fan of the film’s stereotypical emo-rockers I was amused by zombies being quelled by the power of rock and the zombie filled dance scene (no the zombies don’t dance), to a surprisingly well-done cover of “Shadows of the Night,” was one of the movies (many) great character moments.  Both the rock element here, and certain scene later in the movie was extraordinarily reminiscent of zombie/rock masterpiece Wild Zero which I hope was intentional since I frickin’ love Wild Zero.  Dance of the Dead retains an ineffable ability to borrow from other zombie-movie and yet maintain its originality.  It is the single most entertaining zombie movie I’ve seen since Shaun of the Dead and deserves far more recognition then it has currently received.  If you are a fan of zombie films and haven’t seen Dance of the Dead stop whatever you’re doing and go rent (or better yet) buy this film now.

Review: A is for Alien by Caitlin R. Kiernan

A is For Alien by Caitlin R. Kiernan
A is For Alien by Caitlin R. Kiernan

A is for Alien
Caitlin R. Kiernan
Subterranean, 2009

I’m pretty terrible at reading short fiction.  I’ve said that before.  It isn’t an easy form to write in and when reading it I always feels the siren call of longer prose.  So, when I say that A is for Alien is one of the more engrossing collections I’ve read, amongst a very tiny list of collections I’ve actually read, you should understand that for me that is pretty high praise.  Perhaps it is Kiernan’s use of one of my favorite Lovecraft quotes as the collection’s opening epithet but from the very beginning I found reading the the stories collected here to be a pleasant, though frequently bleak and depressing, experience.

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Another Music Post!

I was listening to the Seattle Geekly podcast this morning when a snippet of a song caught my attention.  In fact it caught my attention that immediately ran into work and popped open the show notes to find out its name.  Turns out it is by talented and hilarious singer/songwriter/all around cool dude John Anealio whose blog, Sci-fi Songs, I’ve run across before but somehow never managed to bookmark.  What song was it?  A little number called “Summer Glau.”   It is a short song and, given her recent tenure as a robot killing machine, I think in need of a few extra verses!   Anyhoo, check out this nice little fan made montage/video of the song after the jump:

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Review: The Human Disguise by James O’Neal

The Human Disguise by James ONeal
The Human Disguise by James O'Neal

The Human Disguise
James O’Neal
Tor, 2009

The jacket discription of O’Neal’s debut novel The Human Disguise reads like it is supposed to be a post-apocalyptic noir story.  It had me really excited.  Needless to say I was a bit disappointed when the novel turned out be more of an action-thriller and I had radically adjust my expectations and try my hardest to enjoy the novel for what it was rather than what I hoped it to be.

America is a shell of herself, her borders closed, ravaged by terrorism, and threatened (along the rest of the world) by an increasingly aggressive Germany.  Amidst what remains of Florida, near a Miama declared as a quarantine zone for bioterror victims called growlers Tom Wilner, a former marine, is a member of the United Police Force, a peace keeping organization that does its best to enforce what little law remains in the area.  Wilner, while tailing his soon-to-be ex-wife into an area bar is quickly caught in a firefight and thrust straight into the middle of a conflict between two ancient families.  What ensues is flawed, but highly entertaining, action-thriller that while engrossing never seems to quite captialize on the rich world the O’Neal has created.
Continue reading “Review: The Human Disguise by James O’Neal”

Crouching in the Shadow of E3

If I weren’t such a huge frickin’ nerd I might have missed that across the pond in Taipai, Taiwan Computex 2009 is well underway as E3 closes its doors. Computex is a IT and hardware based trade show that most uber-nerds and PC junkies should love. As of right now Techgage has some sweet coverage and if you’re at all interested in hardware developments on the PC front you should head on over and check it out.

I must admit that I have a bit of thing for enormous PC chasis; in that they bring a child-like grin to my face. So needless I was extraordinarily pleased to see Corsair’s entry into the field.  Anyway there is tons of other cool and interesting news coming from that direction so do yourself a favor and check it out.