The Science Fiction Review

Extraterrestrial Civilizations by Isaac Asimov

January 2, 2019 by

Published 39 years ago in 1979, Isaac Asimov discussed the possibilities of finding intelligent life in his book Extraterrestrial Civilizations. This has been on my reading list for quite a long time, but I just now got the notion to mark it off. Having read literally all of Asimov’s fiction, I thought it was time to read more of his non-fiction. Unwittingly, I finished this just a week or two before his birthday, which by the way was 99 years ago today!

I was thinking Extraterrestrial Civilizations would be a discussion on what civilizations might be like when if/when we discover them, or they discover us. It turned out to be more of a thought experiment, methodically laying out probabilities based on list of assumptions. Most of these assumptions were made with what scientific knowledge there was available at the time. Asimov was very careful to speckle the book with asterisks noting that if certain assumptions would change in the future, the predictions would be changed or invalidated. Read more…

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking died today at age 76

March 14, 2018 by

When I learned that Stephen Hawking died, I have to admit my reaction was a bit selfish. I was disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to continue contributing to science, and that the world would be a worse off place without him. I didn’t think about how his close friends and family would be impacted. I was surprised about how sad I felt as well. I can’t say I’ve ever really felt a true pang of sadness upon learning of a celebrity death. Nobody should be surprised that he died, given his long history of health problems, but nevertheless, it was shocking. So why did I react this way now? I browsed through numerous news articles and posts throughout the day today without much reaction, but I felt sad again while reading through BBC’s article on his death, and again writing this post. 

Maybe it has to do with recently reading the article “The Beginning of Time” that recently popped up in my news feed. I don’t think I could truly fully understand all of his theories, but I think his explanation here was clear enough to get a good idea. I’ve had The Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe audiobook on my backlog to listen to. I guess I’ll have to bump it up to next in my queue. I was already thinking about taking a break from Sci-Fi / Fantasy soon, so this makes my decision really easy.

Goodbye Stephen! Whatever the reasons, I’m truly sad you’re gone. I’m sure you will be never be forgotten by humanity, assuming we don’t destroy ourselves.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury narrated by Stephen Hoye

September 30, 2017 by

Fahrenheit 451 Cover

Fahrenheit 451 has been on my list to listen to for some time now. It just so happens that this turned out to be “Banned Books Week”. How serendipitous is that? I recently listened to The Martian Chronicles and immediately noticed it was the same narrator, Stephen Hoye. His voice seems to pair well with the classic nature of both of these novels. There’s an old-timey feel to it, and the tone of his voice is perfect to express the melancholy feel ever so prevalent in Fahrenheit 451.

To be honest, all I really knew about the novel was that books were burned, and that this was classic that everyone should read as a cautionary tale. There are many layers to it other than the book burning though. It’s not just about burning the books. What do they represent? Knowledge begets jealousy. Undeniably some people have more time or ambition to seek out knowledge than others. Why not control what knowledge there is to consume so everyone is equal and people are happier, right? Without books, what is left? There are still publications like comic books and magazines, but nothing of real substance. Read more…

Foundation coming to Skydance!

June 27, 2017 by

It looks like the rights for Foundation TV/Movie rights will be changing hands yet again. Too bad the HBO deal announced in 2014 fell through. Hopefully Skydance Television will make it actually happen this time!

-via Deadline

I, Asimov: A Memoir by Isaac Asimov

June 4, 2017 by

My favorite science fiction writer by far is Isaac Asimov (1920-1992). One of the main reasons I started this website was to document my re-reading of his Robot and Foundation books. I recount my introduction to his writing in my post celebrating his 90th birthdayThere I mention starting to read his autobiography. That actually was the first volume, In Memory Yet Green (1970) covering his life from 1920-1954. It was an out of print low quality hard back copy. I still have that volume, but for some reason I never got around to finishing it. My last bookmarked page was 167 of 708. His next volume was In Joy Still Felt (1980) covering his life from 1954-1978. I fully intended on reading both of those, then finally his third volume (for this review) I, Asimov: A Memoir (1992).

Since my post in 2010, I’ve shifted almost all of my reading to ebook formats. Unfortunately I could not find any of the old volumes on ebook. My physical copy of In Memory Yet Green sat on the shelf collecting dust, literally! Sometime last year there was a sale on this book on the Google Play Store for just a buck or two. I snatched it up immediately and put it on my short list to read after finishing John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series which I was in the middle of at the time.

For a while I was frozen with indecision. Should I dig harder and try to find the first two volumes in ebook format? Drudge through the physical copy I had and then find the out of print second volume? Luckily I checked out some of the reviews. This third volume isn’t just 1978-(present at time of publish), but covers his entire life. The format is also not strictly chronological, but jumps from subject to subject. I was hesitant at first, partially from having a tendency to want to read things chronologically, even if they are published out of order (see my reading project). The more I thought about it, the closer I came to realizing it didn’t matter! I could read the third volume, then go back and read the first two, and maybe the third again! There is actually a 4th autobiography, It’s Been a Good Life (2002) that was edited after his death by his second wife Janet Jeppson Asimov. I plan on reading as well, possibly before the first two volumes.

If you are at all interested in Isaac Asimov, or science fiction in general, you must read this book. Having already had a false start on In Memory Yet Green, I can say I enjoyed this format better. Most “chapters,” which I will call topics, are at most five to ten pages in length. This makes for easy stopping points. I found myself reading many topics throughout the day, with several back to back during my lunches, where I normally spend most of my time reading. Read more…

I, Robot – BBC Radio 4 dramatization (2017)

February 14, 2017 by

There is a 5 episode series based on Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot available to stream for free via BBC Radio’s iPlayer. I’ve only listened to the first episode “Robbie” and enjoyed it. The overall story is the same, but delivered in a slightly different way. I think it’s worth it to check out at least the first episode to see if you like it. I figured I’d post here right away when I saw it as the availability is time limited. The Omnibus has a bit longer shelf life than the oldest episode. I may go back and compare this version to the Audible version to see which I like better. If you’re into special effects, be sure to check out this one before it is too late.

Omnibus link: Expires March 14th – 1hr 10 min

Individual Episodes 1-5 link: ~15 minute episodes, begin to expire on March 8th.

 

via The Guardian

2016 year in review

December 31, 2016 by

Ok, so as I posted earlier, I didn’t do any reviews this year, but I consumed a ton of content. Some may be from 2015, but it is hard to remember. I’m going to provide a list with some highlights and recommendations

  • Audiobooks
    • Elantris – Brandon Sanderson: Good stanalone book, one of his earlier works. Interesting premise – people get a disease and are forced to live in the remnants of a once great city. They cannot be killed, but also cannot heal. Each injury never heals, and never stops hurting.
    • Mistborn Trilogy (1-3) – Brandon Sanderson: One of my favorites this year, very unique set of magic systems
    • Alloy of Law / Shadows of Self / The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn novels)- Brandon Sanderson: continuation in a different time period, also very good
    • The Rithmatist – Brandon Sanderson: Another unique magic system, aimed more at the YA audience, but I enjoyed it.
    • Pandora’s Star / Judas Unchained – Peter F. Hamilton: Second favorite series of the year, be warned, some explicit adult situations
    • Lock In (Amber Besson’s narration) – John Scalzi: unique premise, police procedural
    • Android’s Dream – John Scalzi: another unique premise, enjoyable
    • Redshirts – John Scalzi: must read for any Star Trek fan! won 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel
    • Agent to the Stars – John Scalzi: I didn’t really care for this one, too much focus on talent agency politics, interesting premise though.
    • Fuzzy Nation – John Scalzi: Good book, reboot of “Little Fuzzy”
    • The Dispatcher – John Scalzi: Novella, another interesting premise by Scalzi
    • Ready Player One – Earnest Cline: One of my favorite standalone novels of the year – must read for anyone that grew up in the 80’s
    • Armada – Earnest Cline: Lackluster followup, skip it. Cline doesn’t dodge the fact that he ripped the premise off of “The Last Starfighter” movie from the 80’s.
    • Undying Mercenaries Book 1-4 – B.V. Larson: Sci-Fi Military fiction. Lots of violence, a little sex. I got these super cheap at $1.99 a pop, would not recommend spending a full Audible credit on them.
    • Year Zero – Rob Reid: I read this in book format back in 2012. Premise is that aliens unwittingly pirate enough music from Earth to bankrupt the galaxy. The solution? Destroy Earth! Remeinds me a bit of The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy
    • Altered Carbon / Broken Angels – Richard K. Morgan: Great audiobooks, a couple of my favorite from this year. Lots of violence and a little sex, so be warned. I’m finishing up reading the 3rd book Woken Furies as the narrator changed and didn’t bother to read up on how to pronounce the main character’s last name.
    • Alien: Out of the Shadows (An Audible Original Drama – Full Cast) – Tim Lebbon & Dirk Maggs: Free from Audible, OK if you like the Alien universe
    • American Gods (Full Cast) – Neil Gaiman: Maybe the best standalone audiobook of the year. The performances were perfect and the story engaging. This is soon to be made into aTV series on Showtime I think.
    • Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman: Decent book, narrated by Gaiman himself
    • Hyperion (full cast) / The Fall of Hyperion / Endymion / The Rise of Endymion – Dan Simmons – ABSOLUTE FAVORITE SERIES OF THE YEAR. I cannot count how many times I caught myself thinking back on the stories. I’ll definitely be listening to these again in the future. A good amount of violence and some sex as well, so be warned.
    • The Fountains of Paradise – Arthur C. Clarke: decent book that introduced the idea of the space elevator
    • Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke: ending literally gave me shivers up my spine – The Syfy TV miniseries was just loosely related to the book. Skip that and read this!
  • Books
    • Old Man’s War series (Book 1-6) – John Scalzi: Very interesting premise. Each book seemed to have a new perspective, not like a continuation of the previous ones. I’ll try to explain it a bit more if I have time to go back and review the books individually.
    • Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue – Hugh Howey: YA related, checked it out and it really wasn’t for me
    • Beacon 23: The Complete Novel – Hugh Howey: guy stuck on the edge of the galaxy, a bit of a psychological thriller toward the end
    • Stories of Your Life and Others – Ted Chiang: good collection of stories
  • Short Story
    • Paper Menagerie – Ken Liu – ending gave me shivers up my spine as well, very good story

That’s it for now. I don’t think I have time to list TV. maybe next year!

So where did 2016 go?

December 31, 2016 by

I think the theme of 2016 for me was procrastination regarding this site. I had planned on reviewing The Force Awakens when I got back from Christmas vacation, but I kept putting it off. I certainly did not stop listening to, reading, or watching Sci-Fi. The last movie I watched was actually Rogue One, which was great! I guess I’m a bit selfish, as I certainly could have carved out the time to write reviews, but I had other priorities. I was working with my wife on a  job search that took up almost all most of my free time, and hers. What free time I did have was spent watching TV to unwind after applying for jobs. We didn’t start keeping track until June, but between then and October we applied to 50 different jobs. In the end I found possibly the best job out of them all, in an area we want to live. Hopefully in 2017 I can possibly circle back and write up some high level reviews of stuff from 2016. My commute now is just over an hour on public transit, so I’ll be plowing through audiobooks like crazy at roughly 2 hours a day. I’ll try to take some time for posts about new books, movies, and games in 2017, but no promises!

The Martian by Andy Weir narrated by R.C. Bray

September 30, 2015 by

Book Cover

When I was looking for what to spend some of my first Audible credits on, The Martian by Andy Weir stood out. This still ranks at the top of roughly 15 audiobooks I’ve listened to for two reasons. First, the story and writing was engaging. This was “hardest” sci-fi I’ve read so far. There is a lot of math, chemistry, physics, and botany (yes botany). I’m sure that many people would be put off by such dry and detailed descriptions, but that leads me to my second point. The performance of the narrator, R.C. Bray, was superb. He made the “hard science” interesting and entertaining. His voice strikes me as a perfect fit for the main character, Mark Watney. Do yourself a favor and listen to the 5 minute sample on Audible and judge for yourself. While the book focuses on his Watney’s mission log, R.C. Bray does voices for other characters in NASA back on Earth. The voices are OK, nothing but nothing spectacular. I can’t say there is anything wrong, but there are other narrators with a stronger skill for differing character voices. Read more…

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

September 3, 2015 by

I recently started using Overdrive, a digital library site that my local library participates in. I stumbled across Sense of Wonder: A Century of Science Fiction. A Princess of Mars was just the first of dozens of stories, novellas, and novels strung together with commentary on Science Fiction as a genre. I thought it would be interesting to branch out to some older stuff that I normally have not had a chance to get to.

A Princess of Mars was originally published in 1912 in All-Story Magazine under the title “Under the Moons of Mars” by Normal Bean. The story begins with the narrator explaining that he is relaying a manuscript given to him in book form. He goes over a brief biography of the main character, John Carter, known as Captain Jack Carter of Virginia — an American Civil War veteran. John finished the manuscript the shortly before his death in 1886. The manuscript begins normal enough, talking about how John and one of his friends were prospecting for gold out West. They found a good spot, and the friend was going to head back to get proper papers for staking the claim. John happens to notice three dots in the distance in the direction his friend departed, and after investigating is convinced that Apache Indians are pursuing his friend. Not much of a spoiler, but here it goes — he tries to save his friend and fails, then finds himself chased into a cave. This is where the story takes a turn toward science fiction. After a brief series of events that I won’t get into, John finds himself in some type of out of body experience then wakes up on Mars. Read more…

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