Review by C.J. Bunce
If you think you’ve watched all the science fiction movies worth watching, odds are there’s something out there you’ve missed. You’ve probably seen the modern blockbusters from Star Wars to Terminator and maybe the older classics, like The Day the Earth Stood Still (the original) and Forbidden Planet, and every sci-fi flick that has landed in theaters since your eyes first opened to the amazing genre as a kid. But are you sure you’ve seen everything?
The Syfy Channel has teamed up with Universe Publishing to release a giant book of 100 years of sci-fi movies and TV, from A Trip to the Moon to Hugo, in The Science Fiction Universe… and Beyond: Syfy Channel Book of Sci-Fi. And although the Syfy Channel continues to look outside the boundaries of Syfy for new TV dramas and reality series, this 256-page, full-color, coffee table hardcover is out to remind everyone why we like the Syfy Channel in the first place. And better yet, when you’ve run out of the obvious to watch on TV or stream on Netflix, you can use the book as a guide to catch up on the obscure and the overlooked.
Two components in this book make it work for different audiences. For new entrants to sci-fi–yes, every new year brings on the newly converted–the Syfy Channel Book of Sci-Fi includes nine chapters in chronological order noting the details and place of each movie or TV series in sci-fi history, highlighting major works Planet of the Apes, The Twilight Zone, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and modern superheroes. So newbies, and those just wanting to reminisce through the classics, have a lot to read about and get glimpses of with more than 300 primarily color photos. For the sci-fi connoisseur, look to re-discover or discover for the first time the 1936 film Things to Come, with a screenplay written by H.G Wells, and the French New Wave noirpunk crime thriller Alphaville (how did I miss knowing about that film?).
Syfy Channel Book of Sci-Fi has its own take on sci-fi. It includes superheroes fully as part of sci-fi, something you don’t regularly see in sci-fi compendiums. It encompasses the post-apocalyptic, too, where other books may not–another good choice. In its chronological picture of sci-fi, instead of breaking up an original work and its remakes, it includes the remake in the discussion of the original–something most books don’t do, but I found it to be a good idea here. Finally, I had expected to see greater weight given to sci-fi channel series, like some of their made-for-TV horror movies, and happily, that wasn’t the case here. If anything, Syfy Channel properties take a backseat to the bigger, classic productions–something that should earn extra points for any reader. And horror is only included if it is also sci-fi in theme, like The Thing and The Fly.
Syfy Channel Book of Sci-Fi really is an objective, thoughtful, interesting, and thorough look at sci-fi in films and TV. And where lesser but still important sci-fi works are left out, writer Michael Mallory has included an appendix of films and TV series that weren’t included in the text of the book, and each of these only adds to the completist’s checklist of must-see viewing. I found that I had watched 102 of the 124 main movies and TV series featured, giving me 12 new works to track down, in addition to 50 of the 100 listings in the appendix.
Design-wise, the Syfy Channel Book of Sci-Fi reminds me a bit of Art of Imagination: 20th Century Visions of Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy, the giant mega-reference on the art of sci-fi and fantasy. I am a sucker for books with full-color jackets and hidden photo-cover bindings. In content and design, Syfy Channel Book of Sci-Fi will fit nicely on any sci-fi lover’s reference bookshelf.