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Tag Archive: Philip K. Dick


All You Need is Kill

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Live. Die. Repeat.

One of these lines is in the 2004 Japanese military science fiction novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The other line gives away some of the surprise of what the novel–soon to become a major motion picture–is about.  The movie, renamed the far less interesting title Edge of Tomorrow, stars Tom Cruise as a foot soldier (Kaiji Kiriya in the novel, Lt. Col. Bill Cage in the movie)and Emily Blunt as powerhouse super soldier Rita Vrataski in a future battle with an alien incursion that takes place on Earth not too far from now.  Based on the brief previews we’ve seen, the film appears to be different enough from the novel so that reading the novel will not entirely give away the movie, and it’s full of enough classic sci-fi riffs that you may want to read it first as a separate experience.

Sakuraska’s novel will likely conjure elements from some of the best of classic science fiction.  It’s a great look at day-to-day military encounters, with real world elements from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Richard Marcinko’s Rogue Warrior, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, and Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.  It has its own thought-provoking “warning-sign” messages found in classics like Logan’s Run and THX-1138, that adversity in the face of certain doom as in Pacific Rim, and the “what the heck is going on” feel from any number of Philip K. Dick short stories (“Paycheck” and “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale” come to mind).  It also borrows a lot from the endless onslaught of future military video games—it helps to know the author’s background is in information technology and he’s an avid gamer.

All You Need is Kill Edge of Tomorrow tie-in novel

As the movie’s tagline reveals, the now iconic Groundhog Day time-loop plays a part in the story.  Searching for what role the time-loop plays is the real quest Sakurazaka takes us through.  Each new year seems to bring a new take on that sci-fi device, and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Cause and Effect” best illustrates the physics “causality loop” if you’re not familiar with it and we discussed several other examples here at borg.com back in 2011.  If you’re stuck repeating the events of a single period of time, can you ever hope to break free from it?  What do you do in the meantime?  The time-loop element is pervasive even in the future world of the novel—Keiji loosely recounts once watching Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s time-loop comedy 50 First Dates, which finds Barrymore’s character with amnesia every morning so she must start each day all over again.

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Station to Station cover

Readers of the anthology series Dark Horse Presents will have already read it in serial form, but those who haven’t will be in for a sci-fi TV inspired treat with this week’s release of the one-shot Station to Station.  Co-written by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Sara Bechko with art by Hardman, this Outer Limits-inspired tale chronicles the aftermath of a laboratory experiment into parallel universes when the experiment goes incredibly wrong.  Set in San Francisco Bay’s Treasure Island, Station to Station reads like a short story from a sci-fi compilation like Philip K. Dick’s Short Stories or Ray Bradbury’s Short Stories, only in graphic novel form.  It begs the question:  Why not take a bunch of sci-fi stories like these and make an ongoing monthly comic book series out of them?

Station to Station from GabrielHardman website

As to genre, Station to Station fits in the mix of sci-fi that crosses over into horror, like many of the best tales from The Twilight Zone–the cool thrilling and chilling kind of horror as opposed to the goopy gory kind.  Unlike a lot that comes out of Dark Horse Presents that have grown into ongoing series, Station to Station doesn’t need a series because it does what it needs in a single issue.

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Riddick and pal

Imagine a movie where Khan from Star Trek is trapped on Seti Alpha VI and Jabba the Hutt puts a bounty on his head and sends several mercenaries to track him down.  Now imagine this takes place in Jurassic Park and Ridley Scott’s aliens invade.  Oh, and Battlestar Galactica’s Kara Thrace is one of the bounty hunters.  And better yet, Khan is played by Vin Diesel.

sci fi and fantasy mix in Riddick

Imagine no further.  Just check out the new trailer to the latest installment in the Chronicles of Riddick, titled Riddick:

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Total Recall Farrell

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

The 2012 remake of Total Recall was one of our most hotly-anticipated films.  Somehow we missed it in the theater, and our first efforts to catch it on video ought to have told us something (two broken Blu-Rays, an extra-long wait for a Netflix copy, and part of the audience dozing off during the initial screening).  It all seemed so promising–proven material, a top-notch cast (Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, and Kate Beckinsale in her signature running-and-jumping role), and some pretty cool teasers at Comic-Con.  What could go wrong?

Total Recall trip to Australia

Well, as it turns out, everything.  Gloomy set design and glacial pacing dragged down the first act, and while the action sequences are acceptable genre fare, the movie just doesn’t have any zip to it.  The actors seem bored with the material, and the story (which owes more to the Bourne franchise than to Philip K. Dick’s classic short piece “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale”) suffers from utterly uninteresting gimmicks and a preposterous premise.  The villain has one of the least credible goals I can remember seeing in movie (kill everyone in Australia and replace them with robots, and I am not making that up).  But most baffling of all is the filmmakers’ decision to abandon the Recall plot device almost from the get-go.  There is none of the mind-bending “is it real, or is it Recall?” mystery played up so well in the 1990 version starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone, let alone Dick’s bizarre original story.  Why call this film Total Recall at all?  Because they couldn’t get the rights for The Bourne Future?

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Continuum Rachel Nichols cop suit

Following on the heels of the successful Canada import Lost Girl, the Vancouver based sci-fi series Continuum premiered this year on the Syfy Channel in the U.S. and it easily earns the status of best new TV series of 2013.  Like Lost Girl, the first season has already aired in Canada, and is being shown one season behind here, hopefully to catch up in the U.S. market later this year.  The series has already been renewed in Canada, and Season 2 is being filmed on location in Vancouver, B.C.  Tonight, episode four airs at 7 p.m. Central/8 p.m. Eastern on the Syfy Channel.  You’ll want to set up your DVR for this series and if you’ve missed episodes 1-3 you can still catch them on primetime Free Per View.

Continuum stars Star Trek 2009, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and Conan the Barbarian’s Rachel Nichols as a British Columbia cop from the year 2077 named Kiera Cameron who gets transported back in time to 2012 where she tracks down a group of rebel terrorists who have come to the past with her.  The terrorists, who go by the name Liber8, were sentenced to death and at their execution someone smuggled in a device that created a warp field that spun the convicts back in time and sucked in security officer Cameron.  Like her cool and tough performance as Scarlet in the first G.I. Joe movie, Nichols is perfect as a no-nonsense cop, quick to act in a gunfight and several other situations she never could have trained for.

Continuum Rachel Nichols

The producers of Continuum have created the most seemingly realistic future technology here along with a creepy possible future political structure where corporations have bailed out the defaulting government and eventually taken over all its functions, taking away individual liberties from citizens.  The police force Cameron works for is in protection of this new world order, and the great twist of Continuum is having the terrorists’ ideal be a return to our political structure today.  Continuum is the series many hoped the Battlestar Galactica spinoff Caprica would be, but in only three episodes Continuum has already surpassed that other Syfy Channel series in production quality and story.

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Image Comics has several new and interesting titles beginning in November, with many new creators, including:

Clone #1, by David Schulner, Juan Jose Ryp and Felix Serrano
Great Pacific #1, by Joe Harris and Martin Morazzo
Comeback #1, by Ed Brisson and Michael Walsh
Nowhere Men #1, by Eric Stephenson, Nate Bellegarde and Jordie Bellaire
Storm Dogs #1 by David Hine, Doug Braithwaite and Ulises Arreola
Perhapnauts: Danger Down Under! by Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau
Where Is Jake Ellis? by Nate Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic
Witch Doctor: Mal Practice, by Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner

To be released by Image Comics’ Shadowline Productions imprint this coming Wednesday, November 21, 2012, is Comeback #1, a story that could have been written by Philip K. Dick about a time travel agency that will send agents back in time for you to fix wrongs or retrieve people, for a price.  And if the agents mess up a reconnaissance, they can do it over.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Allen Purcell, the protagonist in Philip K. Dick’s 1956 novel The Man Who Japed, unexpectedly reminded me of a character from a classic Hollywood film from 1955, Ensign Pulver, from John Ford’s comedy drama Mister Roberts.  If you haven’t seen Mister Roberts or read The Man Who Japed, you’re missing out on two of the best comedic works from their respective creators.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The World Jones Made is the year 2002 envisioned by a writer in a world still recovering from World War II.  Philip K. Dick’s second novel packs so many ideas into its four separate plot threads that you may not keep up with him, but ideas touched on here will later end up fleshed out fully in short stories or later novels.  Heavy religious, political, philosophical and ethical themes are dealt with like a social science project.  What if we cross a charismatic nobody with a laissez-faire government in need of a new vision?  How do we deal with new visitors to our environment?  Will the masses ever stand up and think for themselves?

The story starts with a group of mutants–a handful of individuals presumably mutated resulting from a devastating nuclear war in the 1970s.  A scientist is keeping them trapped in an artificial closed system.  They can theoretically leave when they want, but nearly die each time they try.

The next thread, and major plot line follows the discovery of a fortune-teller at a local carnival at a time when purporting to know the future is punishable as a crime.  But this fortune-teller is a cross between P.T. Barnum’s best act and a messiah.  On the one hand, Dick himself drew upon the rise of Hitler for his character Floyd Jones.  Yet the parallels to the rise and death of Jesus Christ are also unmistakable.  If Jones can prove he knows the future, should we make him our leader?  Jones serves as a seed for what would become the precogs of later Dick works.

The man who discovers Jones is Doug Cussick, a secret service officer for the federal world government or Fedgov.  Like most of Dick’s protagonists, he clashes with his wife almost endlessly, but at least here it helps to move along the story of his wife, Nina, a professional and artist who is eager to do and be something different.  Doug is anti-Jones, pro-government, and his wife is against everything he is about as a matter of principle.

To add the pulp sci-fi element thread, giant one-celled organisms are arriving to our planet from some other galaxy. Called drifters, they are seemingly benign, and serve to become the exterminated race of the World War II themes of the book.

These various threads whip along, interwoven with characters arguing smartly over their place in the world and the role of philosophy in their daily lives.  Look for themes of determinism, destiny, free will, social engineering, futility, fascism, and even manifest destiny.

Like many of Dick’s works, The World Jones Made is full of great sci-fi ideas, but also just as many real world philosophical and hypothetical questions, which unfortunately tend to bog down the story.

Some scenes feel like they are straight out of Kubrick film, a hermaphroditic sex stage act at a drug bar seems almost out-of-place, yet serves to illustrate the hopeless world state that allows blind followers and the kind of environment that would allow a Hitler to come to power.  Interestingly, Jones is not really a villain–the real antagonist is society and its increasingly poor decisions.

One well done account describes Jones’s life as a prophet from birth (and even before) who can see a year into the future, all the way through his own end, and Dick describes beautifully the loneliness of watching his family as war begins.  A war that he could never stop, and the futility of this seemingly great and useful power.  Minor characters are well used, too, like Pearson, who works with Cussick, and a random fellow Jones thumbs a ride with along his journey that changes the course of his life.

Like other Dick novels, Dick was not prophetic as dates were concerned, and that would not have mattered for the contemporary reader.  His themes of women as unable to be understood by men are unfortunate and repeated in his works, as are the role of drugs as an outlet and 1950s smoking.  Minor quirks include a reader grabbing a copy of the Saturday Evening Post in a waiting room in 2002.  Still there is more to like than not in this great sophomore novel.

The World Jones Made is still in print and available everywhere.

By C.J. Bunce

We highlight them all the time here at borg.com.  But some of them don’t naturally come to mind when you think of cybernetically enhanced organisms–cyborgs, or borgs for short.  What makes a borg?  An organism, human, alien, or animal, who has been modified by technology or uses technology as part of or in place of another biological function.  We use this broadly, encompassing not only a long-accepted group of borgs that are more metal than man, but also robots or androids modified with biology or biomatter, although taken to the extreme this would seem to include the bioneural starship USS Voyager from Star Trek Voyager.

Regardless of how you define it, meet our borg.com Hall of Fame, always ready for new honorees…

With Marvel’s big premiere of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, we’ll begin with Tony Stark’s Iron Man.  Tony Stark is not advertised as a borg, but if your power source involves techno-gadgetry via an arc reactor and you have his fully integrated armor, we think that makes you a borg.  Whedon is very familiar with borgs, having created the character Adam, the nasty, almost unstoppable foe of the Scooby Gang in Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

If Iron Man is a borg, should one of the oldest creatures of science fiction be considered a borg as well–Frankenstein’s monster?  How integral are those bolts and attachments to his survival anyway?  Does an external power source make a borg?  Did he ever have to regenerate?

And if Frankenstein’s monster makes the cut, maybe this spin-off fellow should, too:

Yes, Frankenberry, the only cereal mascot borg?  Are those pressure gauges on his head?  What functions do they serve?  Before we move forward very far in time, we also think we need to at least consider Maria’s doppelganger from Fritz Lang’s sci-fi film classic Metropolis as a possible borg.com honoree–a robot admittedly, but somehow transformed into a humanoid creation with flesh, used to replace the real Maria and wreak havoc across Metropolis:

From one of the biggest science fantasy franchises, Star Wars, Darth Vader began as Anakin Skywalker, but through his own rise to evil and subsequent downfall he became more machine than man:

He even caused his son to require borg technology by slicing off his arm and hand with his lightsaber, making Luke Skywalker a borg as well:

With Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, we met an interesting new villain, General Grievous, a four-lightsaber wielding almost lobster-like biological creature made up of techno-armor and, in close-up are those reptilian eyes?  His apparent disfigurement and breathing problems hint at a back story that must be not unlike Vader’s.

In The Empire Strikes Back we also briefly met Lando Calrissian’s majordomo who possessed some type of brain adapter technology–we learn from action figures, trading cards and comics his name is Lobot:

And probably the very first cyborg to be referred to specifically as a “borg” (by Luke Skywalker, even), Valance was a cyborg bounty hunter in the early pages of Star Wars, the Marvel Comics series:

Some borgs are more cybernetic than organism, at least at first appearance.  This would include Doctor Who’s Cybermen:

and we’d learn even the Daleks were cybernetic organisms:

and the Terminators from the Terminator movie and Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, very much more machine with a bit of organics (and even Arnold’s character called himself a “cybernetic organism”):

In Star Trek: First Contact the Borg Queen alters the android Lieutenant Commander Data in such a way so as to make Pinocchio a real boy:

giving real organic material to Data, (like Maria’s double above from Metropolis?) bringing him briefly into the realm of borg status, like Isaac Asimov’s Bicentennial Man:

and this even suggests the Tin Man from L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz may be a rudimentary variant borg being along the lines of Frankenstein’s monster:

All humanoids or aliens modified to become The Borg of the Star Trek franchise clearly are good examples of cyborg beings, the most famous of which are probably Patrick Stewart’s Locutus:

the seemingly innocent Hugh:

and Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager:

On Earth we encounter humans all the time with bodies improved by borg technology.  Because of the OSI Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers were rescued from near death with enhanced biology and appendages to become the Bionic Man and Bionic Woman:

The British agent James Bond had to take on Doctor No, an evil scientist who took on his own technological enhancements because of medical maladies, bringing James Bond into the fold of genre franchises investigating a borg character:

Featured in a 1980s movie series and soon to be the subject of a new movie, Robocop:

showed us a variant on Austin and Sommers, and a bit like Iron Man, we have the government creating technology to make super-humans, and here, a superhuman police officer.  This is taken even further, making three animals into borgs for military use in the Eisner-nominated comic book mini-series WE3:

 …a far darker take on the classic cartoon character Dynomutt from Scooby Doo:

Inspector Gadget:

and Doctor Octopus (Doc Ock) in Spider-man 2:

 

both were borgs that made it into big-screen films.

In the DC Comics universe we have a newer Justice League featured member Cyborg, a football player/student who is in the wrong place at the wrong time, when his father’s lab goes up in flames and his father uses his own research to save his son from death:

Before that, Frank Miller envisioned a disfigured future world Green Arrow who would need his own prosthetic cybernetic arm in The Dark Knight Returns:

Mr. Freeze was an early borg villain in the Batman series:

In Marvel Comics Rich Buckler created Deathlok the Demolisher, another cyborg creation, and one of the earliest borgs in comics:

Add to that Marvel characters like Ultron, the “living” automaton:

Ultron’s own creation, named Vision, the “synthezoid”–

and the borg called Cable:

In the 1990s Jim Lee created the Russian borg in the pages of X-Men called Omega Red:

Long before these Marvel characters the cyborgs Robotman and Robotdog graced the pages of DC Comics in the 1940s, and yes, they were not just robots:

The modern Cylons from the reboot Battlestar Galactica TV series are borgs in the Terminator sense, robots made to look and pass for human.  And there were a bunch, not just background, but named characters, the most famous of which was the seductive Number Six:

  

Years before, Philip K. Dick would create more than one borg character in his novels and short stories, revealed to us the best as the Replicants in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner:

Several replicants appeared in the film:

 

…all indistinguishable from humans to the naked eye.

In the horror realm we have Ash, from Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, his arm a functioning chainsaw, and at least in the comic book, like the Star Trek borgs he has an interchangeable arm like a mega Swiss Army knife:

If we include Ash do we also need to include Cherry Darling from Planet Terror, since she has a rifle as a leg like Ash’s arm attachment?

Heck, even horrific camp troller Jason became a borg eventually in Jason X:

Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn comics had both the borg assassin Overtkill:

and the cybernetic gorilla Cy-Gor:

Speaking of borg beasties, even Japanese monster movies embraced borgs, having their hero Godzilla encounter Mechagodzilla:

and Gigan:

In the world of manga and anime we have Ghost in the Machine’s own borg girl Motoko Kusanagi:

leader of a group of borgs, and the villain Cell from Dragon Ball: 

Cowboy Bebop had the borg character Jet Black, which seems influenced by the design of Seven of Nine:

Akira had Tetsuo Shima:

And we have a new one to add to the list because of the film Prometheus, the creepy borg, David 8:

But he’s certainly not the first in Ridley Scott’s Alien universe.  Don’t forget Ian Holm’s Ash in Alien:

Lance Henrikson’s Bishop from Aliens:

and Winona Ryder’s Annalee Call from Alien: Resurrection:

But these are just the biggest examples of borgs in popular genre works.  Countless books, comics and short stories have introduced other borg beings, not to mention every other new video game.   What will be the next borg to enter the mainstream, with a new TV show or movie?

Should we add an Honorable Mention list to the borg.com Borg Hall of Fame, for beings resulting from the merging of humans with cyberspace?  Think of characters like Tron and Flynn from Tron and Tron: Legacy?  Or Neo and Trinity & Co. from the Matrix movies?  You can argue some of the above in or out of the list, but we’ll be visiting most of them here now and then.

We’ll update this list from time to time and feature it as its own page on the borg.com home page.

A new movie trailer may explain why Ridley Scott has not been saying anything about what to expect in his new movie Prometheus, the new science fiction film from the universe of the Alien franchise.  Because, like a good magician, he is not going to reveal the big surprises until just the right time.  This is something cool and by itself gets a cybernetic thumb up from borg.com–in its realism, it is oddly prescient, and in its calmness and innocence, something outright creepy.  Check it out:

This new trailer is more an “ad from the world of Prometheus” than a typical trailer with snippets from the movie to entice us to see it.  Like Total Recall with all its advertisements for transplanted memories from the company called Rekall, this advertises something different, something at the core of a lot of science fiction–the ethics of science–just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should do it.

The ad seems like it may be good for people who like the chilling parts of Philip K. Dick’s science fiction, people who liked the brilliant science fiction film Gattaca, but who also hope that world never arrives.  The character is familiar–we’ve seen androids and similar cybernetic organisms before and have discussed several here at borg.com.  This guy looks like Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the eerie quiet and childlike movements also conjure something dark like something you’d get from Stephen King–or maybe like Data just before he malfunctions and takes out the crew of the USS Enterprise.

When and how is this seemingly sentient thing going to break?

Science fiction is often at its best when it shows us tomorrow… failing.  Like the Millenium Falcon with a broken hyperdrive.

This trailer feels like 2001: A Space Odyssey, maybe just because of the choice of the name “Dave”.  Now I am pretty much not a fan of most of Stanley Kubrick’s work.  Despite some neat outer space scenes in 2001, the single scene with HAL and Dave, and some neat set decoration, I’ve never been able to get through the entire film in one sitting.  I just find it stunningly boring every few years when I try it again to see if I will like it this time.  But if Prometheus is like this ad, with this kind of quiet future scary science… this trailer might have elevated Prometheus for me from a future rental to an actual theater ticket.  And that’s saying something because its traditional trailers haven’t convinced me this is something I’ll care about.  But then again, their print ads state this David 8 robot is powered by… wait for it… Verizon.  Umm… right.  And all the restaurants of the future will be Taco Bell.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that Sir Ridley Scott, creator of the films Blade Runner, Alien, and the recent Prophets of Science Fiction series, has some visionary tricks up his sleeves.  But the release of this very, very different movie promotion struck me as surprising, in a good way.  And if they do the movie right, “Happy Birthday, David” may be the next sci-fi catch phrase.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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