July 21, 2013: A 17 (actually, 21) Question Science Fiction Book Meme!

The gang at http://www.sfsignal.com/ have launched another one of those irresistible SF-themed memes, what they’re calling a ” 17-question science fiction book meme for a lazy Sunday”.  I wrestled over a few of my responses, struggling with the relative worthiness of some of the titles, and finally decided to solve the problem by adding four extra questions to the meme (17 to 20) to round it out to an even twenty.  Er, plus one.

What follows are my responses.  Answer as many of the following as you can, in the comments section of this blog and over here: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2013/07/a-17-question-science-fiction-book-meme/#more-79721.  They’d love to read your feeback!

1. My favorite alien invasion book or series is…?


The Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley

It’s not an alien invasion story in the traditional sense of the term but an alien invasion does precipitate the events leading up to another (indirect) alien invasion in this thoroughly engaging novel about cloning, restored memories, and a mysterious radio signal from distant space.

2. My favorite alternate history book or series is…?


Watchmen by Alan Moore.

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Alt. History scifi and yet, Alan Moore’s non-linear, iconoclastic take on the superhero genre stands out as one of my favorite works crossing several genres.

3. My favorite cyberpunk book or series is…?


Glasshouse by Charles Stross

Okay, it includes enough cyberpunk elements for me to make it my selection in this category.  A twisty, turny, scifi thriller with plenty of humor and suspense.

4. My favorite Dystopian book or series is…?


Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

Unrelentingly grim yet possessed of a spirit and hope embodied by its determined protagonist.  I’d recommend it over the similar-themed, better-known The Road.

5. My favorite Golden-Age sf book or series is…?


Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

When I was a kid, my mother encouraged me to read by buying me a bunch of classic SF – Asimov, Ellison, Niven – but my favorite was Arthur C. Clarke,  and Childhood’s End is my favorite Arthur C. Clarke book.  A race of mysterious extraterrestrials visit Earth.  They bring an end to war, poverty, disease, and help usher in a golden age of peace and prosperity.  But what future plans do these alien, dubbed The Overlords, have for humanity?

6. My favorite hard sf book or series is…?


House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

I could have just as easily placed this novel in the space opera category and Iain M. Banks’s Culture series here as the works of both authors share common elements: breathtaking narratives spanning the universe peopled with colorful characters, fantastic alien races,  and mind-bending technologies. Big, brilliant ideas.

7. My favorite military sf book or series is…?


Old Man’s War by John Scalzi.

Not only my favorite military SF book or one of my favorite SF books in general but one of my very favorite books.  Period.  Every person I’ve recommended this novel to has become a John Scalzi fan.

8. My favorite near-future book or series is…?


The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon.

Maybe a bit of a cheat in that it may not have enough scifi elements to please the average SF enthusiast, but it’s got enough – the near future setting and medical breakthroughs – for me to include this poignant, inspiring, beautifully written novel here.

9. My favorite post-apocalyptic book or series is…?


The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

A “far down the road” post-apocalyptic science fiction novel in the guise of a fantasy novel chock full of allegory, literary allusions, and elusive subtext.  A challenging read, but well worth the time and effort.

10. My favorite robot/android book or series is…?


In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker.

Not robot or androids per se but immortal cyborgs, employees of The Company, charged with the task of traveling back in time in order to locate and safeguard (read: hide) artifacts and valuable items for sale in the 24th century (when/where they will be discovered). Complications arise when our heroine, Mendoza, falls in love with a 16th century Englishman.  And mortal no less!

11. My favorite space opera book or series is…


Iain M Banks’ Culture series.

Grand, brilliant, staggeringly inventive and, yes, operatic, the Culture Series stands out as a marvelous literary accomplishment.

12. My favorite steampunk book or series is…?

1The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

A washed-up illusionist and his imposing assistant battle to save London from dark forces in Jonathan Barnes’ witty, macabre, and all-out-bizarre novel.  There are surprises a plenty in a book in which no one can be trusted, least of all our narrator.

13. My favorite superhero book or series is…?

1The Superior Foes of Spiderman by Nick Spencer

Hmmm.  Though.  This changes week to week but, right now, coming off a highly entertaining first issue, this is the series I’m most excited about.

14. My favorite time travel book or series is…?


The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.

An exceptional treatment of time dilation makes this one the runaway winner in this category.

15. My favorite young adult sf book or series is…?


Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

A seminal work of science fiction whose appeal extends well beyond young adult readers, this coming-of-age tale is set at a Battle School where, amid the training, the games, and the youthful interrelations, not all is as it seems…

16. My favorite zombie book or series is…?


Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.

Before The Walking Dead television series became a breakout hit, there was the comic book series – smarter, grimmer and far more character-driven than the show.

17. My favorite ship-based sf book or series is…?


The Dark Beyond the Stars by Frank M. Robinson

Having grown up on ship-based science fiction (and worked on a ship-based SF series for two years), I couldn’t help but include this category – and this delightfully engaging novel centered on a shocking shipboard mystery.

18. My favorite New Wave sf book or series is…?


Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch

If we’re going to have a Golden Age category, I only think it fair we include a New Wave category as well and, as much as I loved Flowers for Algernon, Camp Concentration gets the nod here.  His refusal to enlist in military service lands our protagonist, a poet and pacifist, in a prison whose inmates are subjected to bizarre, brain-altering experiments.

19. My favorite Future Tech sf book or series is…?


Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover

Science fiction AND fantasy.  Heroes Die offers the best of both worlds in a rip-roaring adventure that explores the effects of developed entertainment technology on eager consumers – and, in turn, the media conglomerates calling the shots.

20. My favorite Otherworldly sf book or series is…?


Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

By “otherworldly”, I mean a story that takes place on a planet other than Earth – like, for instance, the colony world setting of this novel that gets taken over by the power mad former crew of a spaceship who use technological and physical enhancements to transform themselves into gods.  Fans of Stargate, take note!

21. The 3 books at the top of my sf/f/h to-be-read pile are…?

Okay.  One of each…


The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

One of my favorite SF writers.  He’s not all that prolific but his work is consistently great.

1Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

If you like your fantasy dark, darkly humorous, and action-packed, then look no further than the works of Joe Abercrombie.

1A Terror by Jeffrey Ford.

A new release by one of the most wildly imaginative authors writing today.

Okay, those were my answers.  Let’s see yours!

March 18, 2013: The Supermovie of the Week Club reconvenes! Cookie Monster reviews Watchmen!


Who watches de Watchmen?  Well, Monster for one.  All 3+ hours of direktor’s cut.  It longer den a superbowl halftime show and inklude raspy-voice narration dat, at first, gimme flashback to craptakular Spirit – BUT, ultimately, monster like dis movie.  A lot.  It be smart, engaging, and thought-provoking.  For instance, scene where Nite Owl and Silk Spectre save people from apartment fire make monster wonder “Hey, did me forget to turn de stove off before me left apartment?”.  It also a visually spekatular movie full of beautifully composed shots and sekwences.  Dis Zack Snyder guy know what he doing.  If me ever find monster after my own heart (to love, not to devour so dat rule out chupacabra girl who always eyeing me outside Mr. Hooper’s shop), me want to hire Zack to shoot de wedding video. And, if necessary, dat chupacabra girl.  But only if he firearm trained.

De Comedian say: "Ha ha.  Joke on you, mofo!"
De Comedian say: “Ha ha. Joke on you, mofo!”

Movie open wit de death of de Comedian, a superhero who, despite his name, not very hilarious.  If Oscar de Grouch and Lindsay Lohan had love child, he would be de result.  Anyway, he get thrown out apartment and plunge to his death by VERY strong mystery attacker (hmmmm) – which segue into brilliant opening credit sekwence dat reveal backstory of dis Alternate Universe Earth where superheroes exist but outlawed by Richard Nixon who got voted into office six times (!), all accompanied to tune of Times Dey Are A Changing by Matt’s father, Bob.

Roarshack: Oooh!  Ooh!  Mr. Kottah!  Mr. Kottah!  Oooh!  Ooh!
Roarshack: Oooh! Ooh! Mr. Kottah! Mr. Kottah! Oooh! Ooh!

We introduced to a guy who dress up like a incognito ink blot.  His name be Roarshack.  He keep a written journal and movie interspersed wit his gravely-voiced entries.  But, luckily, only de interesting ones (ie. September 12: Baloney for dinner again.  Forgot to pick up milk.  Next time, remember: Milk.  Dozen eggs.  Pop tarts.)  He investigate death of Comedian and pay visit to an old friend, Dan (aka Nite Owl II) who hang out wit an even older friend, Hollis (aka Nite Owl I), and warn him about possible superhero-killer.  Also pay a visit to super rich businessman and former hero Ozzy to warn him.  Finally, he drop in on blue, occasionally pants-less energy guy Dr. Manhattan, and his girlfriend, Silk Spektre to warn dem.  But dat de least of deir problems. Doc Manhattan can see de future.  Possible nuclear armaggedon on de horizon!

Dr. M.  Why so blue?
Dr. M. Why so blue?

Comedian buried while we flashback to origins of dese heroes.  Ozzy tried and failed to unite heroes into policing force like Team America World Police.  Doc Manhattan and Silk Spectre having relationship issues becuz she needy and he emotionless douchebag.  So she end up hooking up with Dan Nite Owl while Doc help Ozzy build nuclear energy plants for poor people.  Awwww.

During live interview, Dr. Manhattan ambushed by reporter.  Reveal his best friend died of cancer, and his ex-girlfriend now suffering from de disease.  Did he cause it?  He be radioactive?!  Why he always shirtless?  Doc M get annoyed and leave Earth for more laid back surroundings of Mars.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Russia mobolizes its forces.  World on brink of nuclear armaggedon!

Nite Owl
Nite Owl.  De Dark Squire.

Roarshack continues his investigation.  Suspekts someone is targeting superheroes.  Ozzy avoids assassination attempt.  Roarshack set up while following a lead and sent to prison where he kick convikt ass and demonstrate improper use of hot kitchen grease (Check it out if you always wondering what to do wit dat leftover oil).  He finally get sprung by Nite Owl and Silk Spectre who don their own costumes and KICK ASS!  While dis going on, Hollis, de original Nite Owl, get attacked by street gang and killed.  It be one of movie’s best sekwences, wit Hollis punching gang members who transform into de various supervillains he fought in his past.  Great!

Silk Spectre.
Silk Spectre.  Close, but her boyfriend gets the award for “least dressed superhero”.

Silk Spectre travel to Mars with Doc Manhattan and plead wit him to save Earth, setting up another brilliant sekwence in which Doc M. diskusses de concept of time.  Meanwhile, Roarshack and Nite Owl follow leads and diskover individual behind death of Comedian, attack of Ozzy, setting up Roarshack, and giving cancer to Dr. Manhattan’s friends be…Ozzy!  In de words of Lou Diamond Philips: “Holy Shnikeys!”.

Nite Owl and Roarhack travel to Ozzy’s Antarctic base where he beat de crap out of dem and den reveal his master plan: to detonate nuclear facilities around de world.  Roarshack and Nite Owl vow to stop him – at which point Ozzy point out he not your stereotypical villain who reveal his plan so dat heroes can stop him.  Dey already too late.

Major cities have been destroyed including New York!  Energy signature connected to Dr. Manhattan!

Ozzy.  Evil genius or misunderstood evil genius?
Ozzy. Evil genius or misunderstood evil genius?

Doc Manhattan and Silk Spectre also show up – but too late to do anyting.  World now united (Hurray!) against greater enemy: Dr. Manhattan (B00!). Earth has pulled back from brink of nuclear armaggedon (Hurray!) = just like Ozzy planned (Boo!).  He sacrifice millions to save billions!  Everyone realize dey better off not revealing de truth.  Except for Roarshack, so he get blown up for his troubles.

Verdikt: Long but great movie, smart and visual spektacular.  But at times, Snyder a little too true to de original comic book and, as a result, Roarshack end up being de only charakter wit any true depth.

Rating: 8 chocolate chippee cookies.