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Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. The book follows the exploits our bumbling maybe-hero Richard Richard Mayhew Dick, who through a single act of kindness, sees him thrust into the mysterious world of London Below. You wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there is a fantastic (kind of) BBC TV production of this!
The beauty of the book is that it is based in London and the interpretation of well-known tube stops and sites takes your imagination somewhere you never thought would go. Written in 1959, this is one of the first Post-Apocalyptic books of the nuclear age and has been cited as a classic. After reading numerous post-apocalyptic stories revolving around nuclear catastrophes and their aftermath, Countdown to Zero was scheduled as a meet-up in order to see the fact behind the fiction.
While scouring the internet for things to do on a very rainy day, I came across this documentary that is showing at the BFI.
As one of the final events in the Out of this World series at the British Library, you couldn’t get much better.
J G Ballard, author of masterpieces such as Crash, High Rise and The Drought, was honoured in an evening of politics, philosophy, film and memory on Friday night at the conference centre of the Library.
This was punctuated with readings throughout and this definitely intensified the overall experience of the night.  Well done British Library!  This is one of the best things I have been to.  Ever! When it’s a book of this size (only 861 pages) by an author who habitually puts out a new work every three years, there are many different ways to want to first encounter it, let alone to discuss and review it. For anyone looking to read the book in a similar fashion, then by all means pick it up and read it. Some time is given over to the change of affairs on Earth as everyone has to face up to a definite end date looming: how does schooling change in such a setting? By the way, the setting is in the near-future: some things are different or surprising, such as a meteorite attached to the end of the International Space Station as a testing site for different drone robots for mining, or the persistence of Sears and its Craftsman tools. The next part of this review has a spoiler from the front flap of the dust jacket – it gives away an important detail about the final third of the book, though not the resolution. The result of these issues and devastations are explored five thousand years into the future, as humanity begins the gradual process of their return to the surface of the Earth.
Before going to that, though, I should summarize here: again, this is a very interesting and oddly inspiring book. The book feels like a thrilling chase, though, once all is in space and then once the final portion of the book moves to a close. After all, the book’s still interesting and engaging enough without this up front before you read it. In spite of all the good that governments do to build up the cloud in space, Julia Flaherty, the President of the United States, defies a global treaty banning government officials and leaders from going into space and avoiding death by escaping into orbit in a Boeing X-37 Orbital Test Vehicle, designed for maintenance of military satellites and other secretive missions.
Now, this issue can be explored in a few ways: yes, the commander moves quickly to establish order in the Cloud Ark, under the aegis of the laws prepared for the project.
Under such a time crunch, it’s understandable that the careful testing, simulating, and reassessing of space missions and technologies would be compressed.
A primary example is that of proposed efforts to capture asteroids or even comets for human use.
An aside before the big spoilers: What becomes of privacy in the future and in the Cloud Ark?
In the space vessels of this future, all your moments are recorded – unless you know how to counteract the surveillance. Either due to this demotion or to allegiances, the President quickly prevails upon NSA-type to shut off surveillance in their Arklet while they plan for their Mars mission. The surveillance records return in the latter portion of the book, as the files and pictures left in their computers, in their “Spacebook” and blog posts, and in the surveillance videos come to constitute “the Epic” which informs later generations of the formation of their future humanity. On reproduction, survival, and race: to what extent is it racial profiling when these are characters who have been cloned? The front flap, again, spoils the reader to the development of “seven distinct races now three billion strong,” so if you read that, you knew this was coming. The women who survive to reproduce are generally from the global north, or acculturated to it. To some extent, each may well be considered to be a caricature, or even a stereotype, by some readers. Some long-time readers of his works may recall the critiques that dogged earlier novels of Stephenson, whether related to depictions and discussions of race or to the primacy and privilege of male characters over female characters. In terms of Stephenson’s intent, I believe that his level of interest and concern in people and the ideas that impact them has been steadily evolving, with focus gained without proving to be a “correction.” In terms of effect, though, Seveneves goes further in the development and presentation of these concepts.
The set-up for this frosted failure is nothing the average genre viewer hasn’t seen better executed in other movies. I managed a solid five minutes of feeling extraordinary smug at my ability to deduce what so many of my critical peers had obviously missed. How would the virus stay alive on a perpetually frozen surface bereft of animals acting as a vector?
Even the third act’s action sequences are as derivative as the tropes they personify. Taken together, I’m not quite sure how the three constituent short films of this anthology fit together. There is so much rotten food and garbage strewn about his apartment that I’m surprised the family hasn’t contracted dysentery and died. Consequently, A Brave New World’s focus on how both zombies and humans are creatures driven by primal desires to feed is about as subtle as the tight shots on maggoty food and people making out. Beyond that, the “oh my god, shit just got real” montage which takes the audience from patient zero to widespread epidemic, could be seen as a means of exploring information as a further infectious vector during a time of crisis. The anthology’s second entry, The Heavenly Creature, is another story that is competent, but not ground breaking.
It’s hard to miss the Asimov inspired motifs driving a story about a service android turned Buddhist monk. What is clear, however, is the movie’s outstanding ability to employ a non-human character that is capable of resonating on an emotional level.
Would that there was any sort of pay off for asking the audience to suspend their disbelief to the point that they can accept an alien internet merging with our own through some convoluted take on chaos theory, this movie would be instantly better.
As anthologies go, I suppose two out of three stories getting the job does isn’t a bad track record. The movie suggests some people, for want of a sense of normality in their lives, will keep going to work when presented with calamity. While some of the film’s transitions may seem a bit jarring, the movie’s flow from black comedy to life affirming tragedy – just in time for all life on Earth to be wiped out forever – works quite well. Say the words “Vampire Apocalypse” out loud and tell me you don’t wince at the sound of your own voice. Stake Land’s best selling feature is its realization that post-apocalyptic movies are the figurative bull in a china shop. Oh and it should go without saying that there’s no sex with vampires, no sparkling vampires, and no misunderstood vampires who want to atone for past deeds.
How odd that annotating all the things the movie doesn’t do almost encapsulates a review in and of itself.
In terms of story, Stake Land is at its best when examining humanity as its own worst enemy. Amid the ruin of America a religious sect called “The Brotherhood” controls much of the hinterlands between pockets of civilization. Strong as Stake Land may be, it wasn’t the movie to redefine the sub-genre in 2010 nor shall it do so today.
After one season the series was canned and Landmark Entertainment, Captain Power’s production company, began a slow fade into the ether. Via Topless Robot and Ain’t it Cool News we’ve learned that Gary Goddard’s new production company has entered negotiations with former Paramount executive Jeffrey Hayes to resurrect Captain Power as Phoenix Rising, a one-hour weekly drama.
With the promise of details to come, it’s hard not to speculate based on a single press release and a lone promotional video. Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens have said that their intent is to begin again the story of Captain Power, NOT to “fix Captain Power.” The new series will explore how the world of the Machine Age came into being, while delving into the rich history of the characters. It may be early days on Phoenix Rising, and maybe I’m channeling a bit too much of the energy that I had as a sixteen year old writing a spec script for season 2 of Captain Power, even though I knew it was a fruitless exercise, but for fans of the series this is some pretty interesting news. Although the quality of the writing, even in the stories I didn’t care for, is second to none, this is not an anthology to be read in a single sitting.
Considering the background of the authors within this anthology, it should come as no surprise to see the academy as a central setting in a number of stories.
Bad Blood is unique within the anthology as something that subverts the generally established approach to resource scarcity. While others may have used the word “foodlegger” in the past, We Take Care of Our Own was my first exposure to this particular neologism.
The idea is to find the shapes and better designs so I can work them up a little for futher characters. To explain my choice here, a little background: I remember a professor recommending Snow Crash and The Diamond Age back in 1997, though I didn’t end up picking up either until 2003. I didn’t look for pre-release extracts, like I did with REAMDE, and I didn’t look for reviews in advance, since I knew that I’d be buying it as soon as it came out and reading it.
I recommend it highly, and put it up on par with my favourites of Stephenson’s – The Diamond Age and Anathem. The key issue, of course, fits in with a common theme for him over the last decade – currently, humanity has not put enough attention into expanding our exploration and presence in space, with dreams focused more on software and miniaturized personal technology rather than hard sciences and engineering that can allow humanity to achieve more. As ever, it has many ideas explored well, several interesting characters to follow, and plenty of conflict to drive the action. Set-up and the doling out of information is always done judiciously, and though you may chomp at the bit as you will things to move along, wanting to know more, Stephenson blends character beats with the work of exposition effectively and well.
She arrives soon after the commander of the Cloud Ark declares that, with the Hard Rain falling on Earth, all people in orbit are no longer subject to the nationalities and laws of the destroyed surface.
However, it can also be seen as a heavy-handed gesture rather than a measure to deal with future worst-case-scenarios.
Safety for astronauts and cosmonauts who are backed by many years of valuable training are not to be put into unacceptably risky situations, after all.  With such a limited time to prepare for millennia in space, many technologies are thrown up into orbit to be later brought together in a flexible and adaptive fashion.
The first set of workers sent up by the Russians are not expected to even come aboard the ISS, but instead live in their suits and in onion-like air and plastic “lifeboat” bladders while they build up the exterior of the station. At first as the Mars mission fails due to blights and crop failures in their ships, a few self-cannibalize, arguing that their legs are relatively useless in zero-G.
One of the eight has gone through menopause, and so seven women remain to try and rebuild the human race.
This is first hinted at with the reality show, but later it becomes a greater issue after the commander at the time of the Hard Rain promotes the assistant of the computer system guru to head up surveillance and systems rather than retain the original man, an obvious NSA-type whose allegiances the commander cannot trust.
He, in turn, had placed a bug in the command module of the ISS, and this sort of panopticon for those in charge gets a fair degree of mention. Scenes we have earlier read become cited episodes to inform everyday living later, or mines of information to be used by characters to control pivotal events later on. Part of this issue must be considered in light of the earlier scenes and developments that were given to each of these characters, though. Personally, although I may have seen how some could criticize such books through that lens, I never found myself losing interest in or affection for those works, seeing them instead as novels and explorations of issues rather than definitive statements on all problems. For example, in REAMDE, the strong and interesting character of Zula is somewhat too compelling for and beloved by every male character in the book, to the point where she seems close to pedestal installation at times. As a starting point for discussion of these themes and others, let alone for thoughts and questions about humanity’s destiny and place, its resiliency and its failings, or just as a gripping tale of survival and reconstruction, Seveneves is an informative and entertaining ride. However, the sheer and unadulterated acrimony directed toward this movie gave me some pause for consideration. Minute six of my victory tour saw the movie going off the rails, and with it my hope for an intelligent story. If the colony has a test for the flu, and new, asymptomatic survivors are the most likely vector for infection, couldn’t they have just tested all new arrivals on their way in? Is there anything less exciting in a movie than watching the characters walk and offer small talk as bad exposition? It is as if the writers realized that the first half of the movie was devoid of any meaningful conflict, so they attempted to cram an entire feature’s worth of action movie tropes into the remaining forty-five minutes. I don’t see a clear meta-narrative that brings together these three very divergent approaches to the end of world.
It’s nothing groundbreaking, but as a criticism on consumer culture it does get the job done. Where other robots-among-us narratives explore the consequences of machines achieving sentience, this movie is concerned with an android finding spiritual enlightenment. The big, and possibly evil, robot manufacturer, views the RU-4 android as an affront to human supremacy on Earth.


Setting aside a personal tendency to anthropomorphize machines, the puppetry and voice acting behind An-myung is genuinely stirring. The story begins with a little girl throwing her father’s favourite pool ball out a window. Instead, it just feels like the product of writers who have blown all their good ideas on the anthology’s first two projects.
So while there’s nothing revolutionary to Doomsday Book, at least not for this Westerner with little-to-no knowledge of Korean culture, it’s hardly a waste of time.
This particular story opens with call backs to Deep Impact and Armageddon as a mission to divert an asteroid on course for Earth amounts to a spectacular failure.
Others will lock-on to the film’s Carpe Diem motif, auctioning off their virginity, or hiring assassins to kill them rather than looking death in the eye as it falls out of space. Well, either that or it alienates the audience entirely with its underage drinking and moral relativism in the face of impending doom. In the past we have seen Steve Carell put into uncomfortable romantic situations with younger actresses, Anne Hathaway in Get Smart comes to mind. The comedy of the first act, which told viewers “Hey it’s okay to laugh about the end of the world” gives way to an equally poignant tragic sensibility.
Were a giant asteroid about to slaughter us, I don’t think I would be the guy who made peace with his life and quietly died in bed. The characters’ enduring charm owes much to directing that puts as much emphasis on the pauses between conversations and words left unsaid as it does the dialogue itself.
I saw banner ads promoting the movie floating about the Battlestar Galactica Online home page for about three days. Yet a shuffling of the monsters within the cinematic trope has to be sign that this particular genre niche is running on vapours. The narrative must be violent and convulsive but not so much so that it shatters the audience’s tentative acquiesce to the end of the world; I’m looking at you, Rolland Emmerich. The blood suckers range from semi-sentient to outright feral and their sole motivation is to feed on warm bodies. Yeah, I know, Battlestar Galactica and The Road pretty much wrote the book on that particular post-apocalypse motif.
The Brotherhood believes the vampires to be god’s means of cleansing the Earth of the impure and unworthy.
One of the first survivors Mister and Martin come across is a nun known only as Sister (Kelly McGillis).
What it does prove is a high level of technical and storytelling proficiency from director and co-writer Jim Mickle.
Transformers was all the rage, and Hasbro was filling dump trucks with money having successfully paired a line of toys with a fantastically addictive children’s cartoon. Vowing revenge for his father, Jonathan and a band of four other resistors took up a campaign of asynchronous warfare to bring down Lord Dredd and his machine Reich. Dread was the embodiment of every nasty bit of 20th century nationalism, only in a cyborg body and commanding legions of machine soldiers. Children, except bookish power nerds like me, were not apt to catch-on to the subtleties of the story.
Noted Star Trek writers Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens have signed on as both developers and writers for the new series.
The anthology’s theme is one of near future conflicts emerging out of resource scarcity and climate change, all from a Canadian perspective. The visions of the future offered in Blood & Water are, in all likelihood, more in tune to the reality of our world than most people would care to admit.
Jennifer Rahn’s Phoebastria is memorable in that it takes the concept of the ivory tower, and drops it into a version of Edmonton that is not quite post-apocalyptic but certainly on course therein.
Heartfield’s story offers a non-cataclysmic breakdown of modern macro agriculture and the subsequent economic protectionism which rises in its wake…and cheese smuggling into New York. What is absolutely fascinating about this, is that the characters written for the screen were so perfectly cast that it carries through to the book. The story setting is on a city surrounded by a desert, so is going to be fun to draw all that stuff. Since Quicksilver, I’ve been picking up each of his books as they came out, and even reviewed the previous book, REAMDE (2012), for the Page of Reviews then. Not even looking at the flyleaf or the front flap of the dustjacket, I plowed into the book. If you’re considering this book in this fashion, you’re likely also an ardent reader of his books, or at least of hard SF.
You can, however, feel somewhat fine because he’s given humanity about two years to prepare for it. Television, of course, is also still an essential part of people’s lives: favourable notice is given of a Neil deGrasse Tyson-type science personality, Doctor Dubois Harris, who briefs the American President on the impending disaster and later becomes involved in the Cloud Ark, while some incidental remarks later note that the people aboard the ISS have become reality TV figures, to the disgust of some on board. The endless argument in Stephenson’s books between the perspectives of the “technocracy” and of the politicians or social critics continues here, as well, though issues like this will be taken up later in the “greater spoiler” section. I foolishly looked over the dustjacket at a tense point about halfway through the book, and would have almost rather not known that. It’s not yet fair to compare this to either Anathem or to The Diamond Age at this point since I’ve not read this one a half-dozen or more times yet, but it feels like it will end up closer to that level of achievement as I re-read it. Granted, there are portions where characters provide exposition in response to others’ explanations, though at this point with Stephenson and the genre of “hard” SF you should expect some degree of that as standard operating procedure. There is a definite divide between those in the centre of the ISS and those “Arkies” who live out in the Cloud Ark, who only dock with ISS for a tenth of their time while otherwise floating around in formation and waiting to be told where to go. The presence of an asteroid tethered to the ISS indicates that the ability is there, but its difficulties are made clear. The technology, their geneticist is confident, will allow them to make enough changes to their eggs to allow them to produce a sufficiently diverse and robust population. It’s never expressly brought up as a key theme in the first portion of the book, but it’s never elided, either. One can deplore the manipulation of these episodes by others, but one can also appreciate the endeavour to examine how history could be done in such a paperless milieu. These properties become more important than skin tone, though some sequences at the end do rely on pigmentation to drive the action, too. It’s my observation that critics love nothing more than a good pile on, especially when it comes to misunderstood diamonds in the rough. Laurence Fishburn leads a small colony of survivors, who have taken up residence inside a seed vault. Instead of a debate on rights, I witnessed Bill Paxton’s transformation into an amalgam of every heavy handed cliche of dystopian pragmatism known to science fiction.
And thanks to walking sequences that would put Peter Jackson to shame, I had ample time to ponder these thoughts.
Certainly Zegers is capable in his portrayal of a partly cooked tuber, but I doubt any actor could have rehabilitated the utter tedium with which Sam’s character is crafted. The visuals are suitably grimy and industrial as to evoke a good sense of the end of the world.
As a Korean language film, I know there’s a geographical and cultural subtext that is likely lost in both the subtitles and my own lack of expertise on that part of the world. Naturally, his mother leaves him with a list of chores, which includes taking out the recycling and garbage. Viewers are taken through waste treatment plants wherein a mouldy apple is processed into cattle feed, which then ends up partially embedded in the steak our protagonist eats on a date with his would-be girlfriend. The monks, naming the machine An-myung, recognize his capacity for personhood and his potential embodiment of Buddhism’s teachings.
Even though it’s a clunky near-future looking doll, there’s a compelling amount of soul to the character. It could really go either way depending on the psychological baggage a viewer brings to the table. Carell has a reconciliation of sorts with his estranged father, aptly played by Martin Sheen, and resolves himself to facing the end of the world with only the company of a dog. I, and I suspect many others, would take a page from Rob Corddry’s book and lapse into hedonistic denial. It should also go without saying that the movie requires a certain nihilistic acceptance of life’s inevitable end. Despite this, and some incidental similarities in nomenclature and format to 2009’s Zombieland, Stake Land manages to turn out a reasonably unique take on the post-apocalyptic monster story. Even though Mister (Nick Damici) exudes a gruff and cold exterior, his dialogue and actions steer clear of the grumpy hero cliches.
Though firmly Christian in origin, they are not beyond loading a truck with vampires and ramming it into the gates of a city state, thus unleashing some divine vengeance.
What better way for a director to show the end of the world than to end any sense of obligation from one person to another. The camera work is steady enough to convey a grand sense of location and isolation, but never dwells on the setting as a means of filling time. While not quite as cerebral as something like The Road, Stake Land proves that there is room to improve the formula within the supernatural post-apocalyptic genre. Stuart was working on a secret weapons project within a hidden base in the Rocky Mountains. Meanwhile parents, including my own, had a problem with plopping their kids down in front of a show where the bad guy espoused his plans for a new order.
When the original series cost $1,000,000 per episode in 1987 money, can the new show look good on a manageable budget? The potential hard truths deserve a moment or two for reflection and exploration after the fact. The theme of resource conflicts are taken quite literally within this story as a graduate student is exiled from the university into a largely lawless and waterless wilderness. Racism, racial intolerance, and individual rights are juxtaposed against the practical application of a Rousseauian greater good during a viral outbreak. He chooses not to dwell on the cause of the disaster – the earth’s moon is sundered into seven pieces by an unidentified Agent, as it’s termed in the novel. Glimpses of possibilities for nuclear energy, the resources offered in near space, the future of genetic study and research, and the costs of flexible, risk-taking space exploration are all examined here, both for their positive elements and for their drawbacks. It feels more substantial and essential than REAMDE did, although I did enjoy much of that book as well.
The exposition factor is just as notable in the future portion, which starts us with a character and adds on technology, setting, and connections to the past as needed, rather than as one long catalog of updates.
The ex-POTUS goes out into the Arkie population, and very quickly works to galvanize a majority of them to set out for Mars instead, taking vital gear, resources, and expertise with them. For later members of the Cloud Ark and the crew of the ISS, many are wiped out by stray rocks, by accidents, and by cancers due to their proximity to nuclear and space radiation. The gruesome advent of this moment occurs as the rebels against the President begin to strengthen themselves for the struggle to retake some of the ISS so that they can bargain from a position of strength. A high-stakes debate ensues over the changes available and the likely benefits offered by depressive and bipolar personalities. It’s treated as a fact of life in space, much as it is in this post-Snowden time – and as was fretted about in a different fashion in Cryptonomicon.
Given what we are shown through the first two-thirds of the book, nothing which follows with their clones is too divergent from the characterizations already developed as they focus on traits necessary for survival and expansion in space, though some may be given greater portions of heroism or villainy in the descendants we encounter.
Making these novels into expansive templates for social order would entail a substantial amount of extra writing. Meanwhile, a distress call from a neighbouring enclave of survivors sees the plot switch gears into a rescue mission. But rarely is it so obvious that a movie was written by committee as in The Colony’s utterly inconsistent and unbalanced story. On that note, I’ll ask my readers’ indulgence if I’ve missed some obvious reading contingent upon having lived in Korea.
If I squint and look sideways at the movie, I suppose there’s a way to view each story as a study into the destruction of an aspect of the human condition: body, soul, and mind, respectively. You’d think this would be no great inconvenience, except for the fact that the protagonist’s family are singularly the most slovenly middle-class people I have ever seen depicted on film. So while there’s little that is particularly innovative about this interpretation of the zombie apocalypse, it’s certainly competent and reasonably chill inducing in its photography. What follows is some metaphysical talk on perception, objective reality, and the ability to self-identify as the core of consciousness. The value for pathos, more so than the cookie cutter metaphysical conflict between man and machine, is what makes this story stand out within the collection. Even if these conflicts are somewhat Western in origin, there’s a clear uniqueness to their telling through a Korean lens.
The audience then witnesses Dodge Petersen’s (Steve Carell) wife abandoning him in the face of disaster.


The relationship is combination of gradual friendship mixed with ‘devil may care’ recklessness.
Many more would call upon the movie’s “Hire an Assassin” option, which is just a less icky way of saying “commiting suicide.” In a situation where humanity would be at its worst, Carell and Knightly are at their best, and damn if we don’t resent and admire them for it. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is best approached as a contemporary tragicomedy; it will make you laugh, but that laughter only makes the poignancy of the tragedy hurt that much more later on. Recently, it made an equally stealthy appearance on Netflix, so I thought why not check it out. His protegee Martin (Connor Paolo), whose name I actually forgot because Mister only ever addresses him as “boy”, is not the dough-eyed neophyte whose misadventures drive the plot. Instead, she symbolically carries, and perhaps compartmentalizes, her faith in her pocket in the form of a figurine of the Virgin Mary; however Sister also picks up a gun to defend their group. Keeping a sense of loosely chivalrous heroism, violent and visceral as it may be, about the POV character and his mentor defies the audience’s expectations about this type of story. Fight sequences between the hunters and vampires are fast and brutal, as befitting an actual fight. They had an idea for a post-apocalyptic science fiction series that would pit man against sentient robots without any of the space Mormon BS of Battlestar Galactica. Set in the 22nd century, it saw a scientist named Lyman Taggart (David Hemblen) take control of the world’s robot armies by linking his mind to that of a sentient computer. Characters had back stories which gradually unfolded throughout the season allowing for some great narrative depth.
Say nothing for the dubious image of certain human antagonists walking about in regalia reminiscent of a certain German political association.
What does Joe Straczynksi think about this, and is he going to get involved with the project? Trenholm placed no limits on genre, indeed stating in the book’s introduction that he was open to “cross-genre and even urban fantasy”.
Where a good friend once told me people read to escape, I would argue there is little sanctuary to be found within Blood & Water.
There is some obvious criticism of officious bureaucracy as seen in contrasting graduate student competition with gang loyalties.
Tales like this also shine a light on the unique hubris encompassing discussions of manmade climate change.
It frames critical thinking, a politically astute populace, and youthful outrage as scare resources in the face of growing apathy within Canada’s population (Montreal notwithstanding of course). In an anthology heavily invested in exploring problems of a planetary magnitude, Kunsken’s story is a necessary oasis of comedy. It’s a work of grand sweep and depth, but it’s not as dense with philosophy and neologisms as Anathem or with philosophy and theology and history as The Baroque Cycle. Assigning cosmic blame may be satisfying, but the task of survival at hand is more important than that search.
None of these take up substantial page real estate, but they do suggest the issues that most people on Earth would have to endure. Any further exploration of themes here would start to crowd us into the realm of spoilers, though, so be warned. At times, though, Seveneves may feel as though it shares the primary issue that I had with the previous book, in and that somewhat too much attention seems given over to “chase scenes” instead of ideas, though in Seveneves the chase is in the middle rather than at the end. It’s fair to concede that the population of the Cloud Ark think that they’re being neglected by the crew on the ISS, but at this same moment, the commander himself, Dinah MacQuarie, and two other experts are trying to bring in a comet that was steered to them on a suicide mission by a space mining entrepreneur.
The death toll for humanity in this book approaches Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy levels, though we come to know many more humans and victims than we did in Adams’ book (which was written for a very different purpose anyways). This debate is pushed to a solution by an ultimatum, and is then capped with a curse by the surviving cannibal leader, who assumes that her descendants will be judged by what she had done in the name of survival.
In the truncated account of the history that follows from that debate, Stephenson details various stages and phases the re-populating effort follows, with some parts more inclusive, and others more focused on building up particular “racial” characteristics over time. Since Cryptonomicon, Stephenson’s novels have tended to reside in the neighbourhood of a thousand pages, give or take 10%, and although there are many words on the page, one doesn’t usually get the sense that he’s wasted words in his storytelling. Whether the accounts of Dinah’s love life in orbit or of lesbian couples forming between different known characters count as a degradation of character or mere titillation is a question of personal taste; although the term used at times in the novel may be base Anglo-Saxon, the details of the act are generally lacking. Rather it is an interesting example of how a movie can offer little in the way of meaningful characters, conflict, and visuals, and still manage to get made. Yet the transition and execution therein is so dull that I found myself thinking about the ways in which a colony sealed off from the world could randomly generate an influenza outbreak. This attempt to homogenize the zombie outbreak and killer virus tropes into a single glass of post-apocalyptic milk is an abject failure. Not knowing much more about Buddism than what I’ve learned from movies and the odd book or two over the years, I’m sure there’s an entire layer to the story that I’m missing. While the third movie wants for anything beyond absurdity and a cloying attempt to create sympathy for a little girl deprived of her childhood, it can be justified as a strange palate cleanser following a heavily metaphysical second act.
But because the genesis of their relationship is an act of genuine kindness on Carell’s part, the romantic attraction doesn’t seem quite so forced as it has in other Carell catastrophes.
Martin and Mister become easily identifiable to the audience without sacrificing any of the plot’s high stakes. The make-up and gore on the vampires is as good anything one would expect from a big budget production. The scientist came away from the encounter seeing “machine life” as the next phase in human evolution. In particular, the youngest member of the team Jennifer “Pilot” Chase was a former “Dread Youth” stooge, liberated by the Captain. By and large, the stories included in the final cut are science fiction of the first order, what some might call “hard” SF, but what I’d rather recognize as the sort of work where the authors very clearly did their homework. Yet the best stories within this book do not present tales of privation with an accusatory finger pointed squarely at the reader and their carbon footprint. However, I think the truly interesting message emerges as a discussion on the “knowledge economy” where people cease to be valued as individuals and are instead reduced to their varying skill sets.
As we discuss carbon emissions it is easy to overlook nature as a complex beast capable of striking down humanity at the cellular level. Furthermore, there seems to be a suggestion on the part of the author that a critical mass of people living their lives in a “plugged-in” condition is contributing to a lethargic hive mind like mentality.
It has a diverse cast of characters, but it’s not a multi-chronological rollercoaster like Cryptonomicon.
This is perfectly reasonable, as, once the seven pieces soon become eight, multiple analyses by the scientific community demonstrate that the pieces will continue to collide, fragment, and steadily become more chaotic until they blanket the earth’s sky and then become a “Hard Rain” that will persist for millennia. The primary focus of the book at the outset is with the efforts of the world to prepare for a massive space mission, dubbed “The Cloud Ark,” to try and save humanity. Rather than have the Arkies provide new organization or new ideas or negotiate for changes to the governance structure, the mutineers instead come off as petulant and impatient children by comparison.
The fight between the ISS population and the returning Martians ends with barely a dozen survivors from an initial orbiting population of nearly two thousand from a terrestrial population of over seven billion.  The survivors manage to take their ship (built out of the asteroid, the ISS, the Arklets that stayed, and the comet fragment) and successfully dock it in a larger chunk of space rock.
Part of his style is a high-impact, high-use wordiness and referentiality, and although you could edit out certain asides or passages, something of the character of his phrasing would be lost in the exchange. The survivors of the survivors have since been turned into an ill-tempered herd of germophobes. Despite this, the triad of end-of-days movies are quite capable, even if they don’t exactly break the mould in terms of genre story telling.
When she tries to order a replacement she inadvertently logs on to an extraterrestrial version of ebay. Rome burns around Dodge, yet he continues to go about his life as best he can without ever really picking up a golden fiddle. Beyond that, Damici and Paolo’s well placed scenes of “Stake Jitsu” training manage to evoke a Mr. Mattel’s executives were frothing at the mouth with envy over Hasbro’s Transformers revenue. Therein he began a pogrom against humanity, digitizing humans into computer code so they might be reconstituted into machine bodies at a later date. The series was even a little avant-garde in its treatment of genetically engineered soldiers, biological weapons, WMDs, and the Internet.
While one or two stories do borrow too heavily on the cliches of “Can Lit” the greater focus remains on the fantastic challenges and the no less awe inspiring opportunities that Canada, as well as the rest of the world, will face in the century to come. They offer solutions to problems and in doing so they posit on the price that we must pay for sustainability and survival. Bad Blood is a viscera filled reminder of this truth, a horrifying voice quietly whispering in the back of our minds that no matter how careful we are, with ourselves, with the planet, we are not safe. Pairing this serious dialogue with something as deceptively whimsical as an illicit grilled cheese sandwich allows for fantastic exploration without becoming abrasive or preachy.
It has many strong female characters and plenty of science and robots, but it’s very different from The Diamond Age.
From every country, a certain number of candidates are to be chosen for rapid training, and all efforts are to be directed towards preparing “Arklets” to share out smaller portions of humanity clustered in space. Although it may feel like a tense chase sequence here, that’s primarily because of the high stakes and complicated technologies at play while other drama plays out back in the Cloud Ark. The President, typically, comes off as a manipulative, power-seeking dilettante without any skills to offer in space other than misguided and uninformed leadership.
Once there, the remaining population of men rapidly pass away from a range of maladies and injuries. Doing so to add in these supposedly missing statements to solve racial issues or gender representation would likely be insufficient or at odds with his usual style. Frantic hand waving and weak exposition attempt to explain this event, but the effort is quite sad considering the eloquent way A Brave New World charts the origins of the zombie apocalypse without saying a word. This tone of stoic existentialism is likely why the movie didn’t sit well with a lot of people, as evidenced by its 55% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
Still, Knightly and Carell face their end with eyes open and more courage than I could muster in such a situation.
So they came up with a plan to insinuate light gun based interactivity into Goddard and Christopher’s series. Taggart’s machines nearly wiped the planet clean of life save for small bands of refugees, scavengers, and resistors.
Of course with Joe Straczynksi, who would later go on to write and show run Babylon 5, posting writing credits for half the episodes such quality long-arc story telling is hardly unexpected.
It’s not like the cross-country pursuit played out in the final hundred-plus pages of REAMDE. Now, many would make the same criticism of modern politicians in general, and I’m certainly not innocent of such statements. To be honest, such an effort would likely lead to the application of the telling and new label of “mansplaining” to such attempts to “fix” this issue anyhow. Nonetheless, the alien ebay results in an 8-ball the size of Texas hurdling toward the Earth. Seeking a Friend, for all its foibles, is probably closer to the truth of the apocalypse than most people would want to admit. Routine as the relationship between the two characters may be, it is all but forged in silence, allowing the audience to shade the protagonists as they will. A few extra seconds of camera work here and there would have contributed so much more emotion to these important scenes. Just picture all the worst parts of the future as depicted in Terminator and Terminator 2 and you’ll be in the right ball park.
Most of the characters are shaded with enough strengths and weaknesses on both sides that it doesn’t prove to be too problematic overall, but to some degree the President is made out to be a straw-woman for this scenario. I wonder if less literary and more “gripping yarn”-style SF is criticized for these issues as well?
Following that, there’s some panic, hysteria, and one newscaster pimp slapping another on the air.
Seriously, I took a beat down for bringing my XT-7 Powerjet toy to school for show and tell.
I suspect that there’s not the same level of expectation or attention given to them, though. Unfortunately the writing and acting lack any clear indication of if this is supposed to be Stooge-ish comedy or a cutting criticism on how crisis brings out the worst in people. Kivistik from Cryptonomicon and below Fraa Lodoghir from Anathem in the annals of non-STEM thinkers and leaders in Stephenson’s books.



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