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Tag Archive: Harrison Bergeron


Feeling the heat?  A new San Diego Comic-Con trailer for Snowpiercer might help.  First a series of graphic novels we discussed five years ago here at borg, then a movie starring Chris Evans (reviewed here and discussed here), the futuristic, post-apocalypse universe of Snowpiercer is now making its way to your television set.  For the 2013 movie, the casting of big names, Marvel superhero Chris Evans, Academy Award-winning actor Tilda Swinton, and multiple Oscar-nominated actors John Hurt and Ed Harris, reflected the critical and popular appeal of the comic version of the story more than the resulting B-movie that ended up on the screen.  Now it’s up to Academy Award-winning actor Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Alita: Battle Angel, The Princess Bride) carry the baton.

Originally published in French in 1982 as Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob with art by Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer, Volume 1: The Escape is available in an English translation by Virginie Selavy with follow-on English translations of Volume 2: The Explorers by Benjamin LeGrand and Volume 3: Terminus by Olivier Bocquet also available, and a prequel Extinction by Matz, on the way.  For the new TBS television series (available on Netflix elsewhere), stage actor Daveed Diggs joins Jennifer Connelly with several new faces and background actors.  And it’s already been renewed for a second season.

Repressive like the world of George Lucas’s THX-1138 and Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, thematically political like the similarly wintry Dr. Zhivago, and drawn with the stark, black and white look of Aha’s Take On Me music video from the 1980s, Snowpiercer is a bleak, but ambitious, series of graphic novel about many things.  The back of the train like the back of the bus in the 1960s, or the lower sections of the ship on the Titanic, you can analogize the social strata of the train to many things. But neither the rumored horrors at the “tail” of the train, nor the “golden carriages” of the first class at the front of the train are what they appear to be.  At one level Snowpiercer is a strange, existential retelling of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.  As with the movie, the trailer for the series shows something different from the graphic novel that inspired it, but maybe an alternate story of the train a la Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.

Here’s the trailer for TBS’s new series, Snowpiercer:

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The next effort at creating a complex and challenging role for a lead actress Orphan Black-style is coming in August from Netflix.  It’s the dystopian sci-fi thriller What Happened to Monday, formerly titled Seven Sisters, written by Max Botkin and Kerry Williamson, and directed by Tommy Wirkola (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters).  What Happened to Monday is sci-fi’s next new look at a bleak future world in the vein of Children of Men (hope in the face of global infertility), Logan’s Run (to battle population explosion a shortened life clock of 30 years is enforced for all), Never Let Me Go (clones are created for parts for the ruling class), The Handmaid’s Tale (remaining fertile women are forced to reproduce for those in power), Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Harrison Bergeron (a twisted equality is enforced on the world), and Gattaca (only the genetically superior are allowed to succeed).  It stars Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) in seven roles as the seven sisters–seven identical septuplets to be exact–in a society where only one child is allowed per family.  Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Clear and Present Danger, Spider-man) stars as their grandfather who raised them, Robert Wagner (The Pink Panther, Hart to Hart, Stars and Stripes Forever, The Towering Inferno) in an undisclosed role, and Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction, Reversal of Fortune, Guardians of the Galaxy) is a leader in the repressive future world.

The first trailer was released this week for What Happened to Monday, and it looks compelling, providing a peek at the plot.  The septuplets’ father hides the sisters’ existence from everyone, allowing only one girl outside one day per week, corresponding with their names, each a day of the week.  When Monday does not come home one day, the sisters must go about discovering what happened to her without revealing their secret.  It’s a role that will certainly be compared, for good or bad, to Tatiana Maslany’s role as multiple clones on Orphan Black.

What Happened to Monday is the latest in Netflix purchasing first run otherwise theatrical releases exclusively for Netflix subscribers.

Check out this first trailer for What Happened to Monday:

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snowpiercer

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re a glutton for punishment and the Polar Vortex is child’s play for you, then Snowpiercer may be in your future.

In the future a bomb destroys the climate.  A luxury train called the Snowpiercer, intended to take passengers on weeks-long travels becomes the only vehicle for survival, taking on lower class cars to become 1,001 total train cars.  It’s the last bastion of civilization.  Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon–call it what you will, the planet is now ice and snow and being outside for even minutes means a certain end from the “White Death.”  Originally written in French as Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob with art by Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer, Volume 1: The Escape is now available in an English translation by Virginie Selavy from Titan Books.

Snowpiercer is also a new sci-fi film, starring Chris Evans (Captain America, the Fantastic Four), John Hurt (V for Vendetta, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Hellboy), Ed Harris (The Truman Show, Apollo 13, The Right Stuff) and Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia, Constantine), by Korean director Joon-Ho Bong.  A major hit in South Korea, it is yet to be released in the States yet, a result of directorial disputes with distributor The Weinstein Company, including a feud over cutting 20 minutes of footage for U.S. audiences that inexplicably “may not understand” the longer version.  Here is the South Korean trailer for the movie:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Out of the frying pan, into the fire.  Ted Bentley was just served his lay-off notice and is free for the first time in years to make a fresh start.  He was tired of the politics of the job, making and building with no knowledge of the point of all he did.  But he was determined to make all that change.  His plan was to go directly to the top and work for the Quizmaster, specifically Quizmaster Verrick, as one of Verrick’s biochemists.  But if you’re living on Earth in 2203 that means giving Verrick a fealty oath.  What Bentley did not know was that the oath he had just taken was a personal oath and not a positional oath–to Verrick, who was just removed as Quizmaster.

In the world of Philip K. Dick’s first novel, Solar Lottery, first published in 1955, society is upside down.  Western philosophy is no more.  Over-production became the problem of our future and all the excess is being burnt on an ongoing basis.  Natural law is at the fringe of society.  Statistics and odds and predictions and luck ultimately lead to the lottery as the means to divvy up goods across the world.  And power.  The ultimate prize?  The title of Quizmaster and with it the ability to run the Quiz itself.  But power corrupts.

Enter one “unk”—a member if the “unclassified class”–one Leon Cartwright, still driving a 1982 Chevy in 2203. Somehow he knew he was going to replace Verrick.  But how?  Armed guards arrive to take the new Quizmaster Cartwright into protective custody.  He now has supreme power of the nine-planet system, surrounded by a vast army, warfleet and police force, and a telepathic Corps, all to protect him.  And, unfortunately that includes a publicly appointed assassin to attempt to murder him.  Worse yet, a million gold-dollar bounty has been put on his head by ex-Quizmaster Verrick to call out anyone to take down his replacement.

With a world based on a lottery system, the real focus of day-to-day life is loyalty.  Who are you loyal to, and who is loyal to you?

Dick’s future world, where television commercials are the highest art form, is as complex, innovative–and as desperate–as the future dystopia of Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron.  The chaos around such a planned and unforgiving system runs far deeper and resonates better than later efforts at a random selection-based society like those found in much later works like The Running Man, The Hunger Games, or even Logan’s Run.  And there is something more ancient here that is harkened back to, something more primeval, like the search for a new emperor in ancient Rome that resulted in the crowning of Claudius, five Hills that run the industry of the planet mirror the hills of Rome, and the concept of “protectors” that individuals must give fealty oaths to almost has a Cosa Nostra vibe to it.

Class conflict, transfers of power, the role of the individual in society, stolen identity, artificial intelligence, Machiavellian constructs, reality exploited on TV, and fake realities created for TV–it all can be found in Solar Lottery.  Look for a plot that moves forward like a freight train.  As strange as this unfamiliar world is for readers, Dick has no problem putting his characters in exciting, grave situations.

Dick’s dialogue includes great, crazy lines, like “During the Final War the big research installations at Livermore were hit by a Soviet missile.  Those who survived were badly bathed. We’re all descendants of one family, Earl and Verna Phillips.”

Early concepts later to be seen in Total Recall, Blade Runner, and Minority Report can be found in this very first novel from Dick, showing that he took no time to ramp up his storytelling.  Oddities of other, later science fiction works by other authors are here as well, including Star Trek: The Final Frontier’s “Great Barrier,” real world avatars, and the pursuit of the unknown in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  A hallmark of Dick novels are his ability to include an enormous array of prophetic ideas, some as full-on plot points, other as merely passing thoughts.  Like all future predicting science fiction writers of the past, some things don’t play out, outdated gender roles that never seem to let up in Dick’s works, the entire planet-impacting economic societal change happening before the 1980s.  If you’ve read Dick before you notice he “over-describes” the female anatomy and often relegates women to annoyers of men.  If you can overlook that, you’ll find more redeeming elements to take away from the book.

Then there are other ideas, like GM building space vehicles and a news network run by Westinghouse—both companies still around more than 50 years after Dick wrote Solar Lottery.  Who knows what will be re-conjured for the future?  The only thing that doesn’t dazzle is maybe one too many denouements and a title that is not very interesting.  But don’t hold that against this solid debut novel from such an important author.

As with all Philip K. Dick novels, Solar Lottery is still widely available.