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Tag Archive: Logan’s Run


Review by C.J. Bunce

In her debut in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma was an enigma, the latest of the uniquely costumed bad guys in the Star Wars universe, following in a line that progressed from Darth Maul to General Grievous, Count Dooku, and Darth Vader in the prequels, and later into Director Krennic and Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One, and Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels.  In Delilah S. Dawson’s new novel, Star Wars: Phasma, Phasma finally gets the spotlight.  Readers learn about her backstory through an interrogation of a Resistance spy working for General Leia Organa, by yet another aspiring Imperial/First Order warrior, Captain Cardinal.

The spy, Vi Moradi, is pressed to provide Cardinal with damning information to help him bring down Phasma with the current leader, General Armitage Hux, son of General Brendol Hux, the leader who ushered both Cardinal and Phasma from their primitive worlds to train the future warriors of the First Order.  Dawson tells this story as a play on A Thousand and One Nights, where the reader is compelled to wonder whether the information is true or that the end will be of the Keyser Söze variety.  Moradi reveals a story of Phasma’s rise to power among a tribe on the planet Parnassos, and her discovery by Brendol Hux when his ship crashes on the planet and his emergency escape pod leaves him and his Stormtroopers far from the wreckage and any chance to communicate back to the First Order for assistance.

Phasma’s story will be most familiar to readers of the Star Wars universe novel Thrawn (reviewed here earlier at borg.com).  Both Phasma and Thrawn literally battled their way to the top.  Those familiar with the third trilogy novels will find an interesting parallel in the selection of the stories released leading up to the new canon films, including Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel centered on the feud between Krennic, Tarkin, and Galen Erso, and Tarkin, introducing readers to Tarkin’s confrontations with Darth Vader.  Star Wars: Phasma has much in common with the Star Wars Rebels prequel novel A New Dawn, and indeed Vi Moradi would fit in well with the crew of the Ghost.  Dawson pits Cardinal against Phasma like the Emperor pitted Anakin Skywalker against Grievous and Dooku, continuing some consistency from earlier Star Wars stories.

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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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Review by C.J. Bunce

A great imagination is a rare thing.  Science fiction has always been, at its core, an avenue for writers to express the endless breadth of their imaginations.  In Bradley W. Schenck’s new novel from Tor Books, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, Schenck creates a story within a world we’ve never seen before, a world only hinted at in early 20th century pop culture, early pulp novels, and film.  For fans of classic sci-fi and all things retro, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom deftly handles science fiction futurism like rarely seen before.  With the same awe and amazement that readers flocked to the future worlds created by Philip K. Dick in his myriad short stories, readers will be glued to the visuals Schenck introduces here.  Painted with shiny blue enamel and chrome, his details are filled with answers to questions from yesteryear.  Answers to questions about the handling of the day-to-day, the mundane, and the ordinary, in an uncertain world of tomorrow where nothing could possibly be mundane or ordinary.  After all they have ray guns and rockets and use slide rules like we use smart phones.

We’re introduced to Retropolis, its immense size and cities inspired by an Art Deco-era mindset and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, yet a world not at all dark or dreary.  This world is new, big, and bright, as detailed, and as big as the original world audiences discovered in Tron in 1982, but far more developed than the future world we met earlier in Logan’s Run.  Closer to anything else, this is Walt Disney’s vision of Tomorrowland.  The hero is everyman, like Korben Dallas, a Plumber-Adventurer, with all the dash and dazzle of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, whose nemesis is a Bondian villain pulled right out of Moonraker, with an equally vile plan to destroy the world as we know it–or at least as our grandparents might have dreamed it.

Like Metropolis, Schenck delves into the trials of human nature at the personal level in an industrialized world, as he follows a crew of switchboard operators whose jobs appear to have been displaced by robots.  But even the robots of Retropolis are like nothing you’ve seen before.  They are several steps before Replicants, but they are People in an early climb up the ladder toward autonomy.  It’s a 1930s vision, with a 1950s shine, bogged down with 21st century problems.  But don’t think this is a political book–the plight of the humans and the robots merely give credibility and gravity to this exciting and fun reality as a small band of average Retropolitans attempt to save the world from certain doom.  And there’s more–Schenck is not only the author of the novel, but the artist supplying futuristic illustrations of his world, complete with end pages featuring a useful guide to each of the story’s main characters.  With so many books written to drive you to the happening at the end, it’s the whirlwind fun of the ride that will prompt you to slow down and enjoy every word–and not want to finish the book so quickly.  It’s great fun.  Even each chapter has a classic, grand, Saturday morning serial title.

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borg-label hall-of-fame-label

Masters of the Universe.  Red Dwarf.  Mortal Kombat.  And we revisit Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek.

Let’s start this year’s borg.com Hall of Fame ceremony by talking a little about who is NOT in the Hall of Fame who might come close if borgs were more loosely defined.  We still haven’t included the non-organic: like automatons, androids, or robots.  Think Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation before he met the queen in Star Trek: First Contact–despite his perfectly life-like appearance.  For the bulk of the series Data was always an android, not a cyborg.  He’s just a highly advanced C-3PO–until First Contact. 

Droids from Star Wars, Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, Robot B-9 from Lost in Space or Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet, the Autobots and Decepticons of Transformers, the police force of THX-1138, Box in Logan’s Run, the perfectly human appearing kid-like star of D.A.R.Y.L., the several automatons of episode after episode of The Twilight Zone, Beta in The Last Starfighter, Tron and Flynn and the other microscopic, human-like bits of data in Tron, Hellboy II’s Golden Army, the future Iowa Highway Patrolman in Star Trek 2009 (we assume he’s just wearing some police safety mask), Rosie the maid in The Jetsons, Hogey the Roguey from Red Dwarf, Marvin the Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, X-Men’s Sentinels, Lal and Juliana Tainer from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the title character of CHAPPiE, or Iron Giant, despite their human-like or bipedal nature, none are actual borgs because they lack biological matter, living cells, or the like.

The same applies for the robotic hosts in Westworld–Michael Crichton’s original was clear these were merely automaton robots and we’ve seen nothing from 2016’s HBO series to show that has changed (even the NY Times got it wrong).  Which explains why The Stepford Wives aren’t on the list, or Fembots, either from The Bionic Woman or the Austin Powers series, or the Buffybot in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

So who’s in?

Here is Round 4, the twenty-eight 2016 borg.com Hall of Fame honorees, in no particular order, some from 2016 and others from the past, bringing the roster count to 134 individuals and groups:

First up is Time, yep… Time itself.  From Alice Through the Looking Glass, a powerful Father Time-esque human/clockwork hybrid who rules over Underland–

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From George Lucas’s original Force-wielding character as envisioned by Mike Mayhew: Kane Starkiller from Marvel Comics’ alternate universe story, The Star Wars:

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The Major, from 2017’s Ghost in the Shell:

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Max Steel got his own movie in 2016:

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Steel hails from the Mattel action figure who received multiple super powers due to an accidental infusion of nanobots:

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Cave Carson from the update of the classic DC Comics comic book series spelunker, the new series Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye:

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Although he was a charter member of the borg.com Hall of Fame, Darth Vader returned in Rogue One, providing some new images of the classic borg:

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More of our inductees, after the cut…

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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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AOS cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

The magical, multimedia, computer-generated art of Archeologists of Shadows is at once both like something you’ve never seen before yet strangely familiar with bits and pieces of so many different influences.  The characters seem to have evolved from the green planet in Avatar and the villains from the Iowa State Patrol borg police of Star Trek 2009.  The compositions have influences in the creepy worlds of both artist Dave McKean and at the same time the otherworldly spaces of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.  The fantasy evokes painted high fantasy pulp cover art and the mystery and old religions and myths of The Dark Crystal.  The colors and lights throughout the book are reminiscent of the work of artist Lee Bermejo.  The industrial architecture conjures the oppressive cityscapes of Fritz Lang, and the surreal buildings of  Antoni Gaudi.

As to the story, we’re introduced to a far off place, maybe Earth’s own future, the world of Terminator if the Connors have failed to save humanity, where humans have degraded to the point where they have only few organic parts.  The protagonists, Alix and Baltimo, are indeed borgs, with elaborate, realistically visualized cybernetics with a definite steampunk vibe.  They are on the brink of a crossroads like the dull citizens of George Lucas’s THX 1138–readying for the final steps of full mechanization.  Like the cast of Waiting for Godot, they wait for something to happen, maybe godlike intervention, until a stranger offers assistance.  Like Neo in The Matrix, do you act or not act, and which action bears the most risk, the doing or not doing?

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Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan has had many incarnations in the past 100 years, so it’s probably time that he is thrust into the far future as a 300-year-old human who, along with wife Jane, encounters a future world you might find in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes, Nolan and Johnson’s Logan’s Run, or Richard Matheson’s I am Legend in the new one-shot comic book The Once and Future Tarzan.  Tarzan faces strange creatures big and small, and a tribe of women who speak in a future French dialect, who he assists on their quest.  Tarzan is a well-educated survivalist who communes with the animal kingdom–the main element that ties this future Tarzan to the Tarzan of our past.

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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.

A lot has been written about “comic book adaptations”—taking a comic book character and making it into a movie, as has now been done extensively in the theaters with Superman, Batman, the Avengers characters and X-Men, and to a lesser extent with Hellboy, Green Lantern, Fantastic Four, and on the small screen with Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and several others.  What hasn’t gotten as much attention is the art of successfully translating of a movie into comic book form.

For years, comic book publishers have teamed with movie studios to co-market a new film with a same-day or early release adaptation of the movie or to take advantage after the fact on the public’s desire to view the movie again later.  The recent term is the movie “tie-in”.  This has been done in fiction novelations as well, sometimes to positive effect and sometimes not.  A striking example is an early attempt to create a novelization for Ridley Scott’s movie Blade Runner, itself based on a Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  That didn’t fly for the original creator and the novel issued with the movie release was actually a re-issue of Dick’s original work.  This lent some confusion to viewers of both the book and movie because of the many changes made for the film.

In comic books, studios and publishers have been cross marketing movies extensively back at least to the early 1950s, with the Dell Four Color comic books series, which included movie adaptations of John Ford’s The Searchers, Moby Dick with Gregory Peck, and dozens of others, to the Gold Key series of the 1960s, which delivered the popular Star Trek and other TV series adaptations in addition to movies, to Marvel Comics in the 1970s with adaptations of Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Logan’s Run, and even into the 1980s with adaptations of films like The Last Starfighter.  For some movies, rights issues prevent a movie from making it into comic book form.  This is the case with the James Bond movies and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Getting a comic book adaptation right involves the same sensibilities as that required for a good novelization. Story must always remain the key focus, but with comics you get the added bonus of the visual re-presentation of the film.  Often the writers get advance looks at what the filmmakers are doing, but sometimes they don’t get to see as much as would be helpful for rounding out the adapted work.  In the 1977 Star Wars comic book adaptation, one page featured a first look at Jabba the Hutt, who we would later meet in the movie Return of the Jedi and find to be a giant slug.  In the original Star Wars adaptation he is a yellow, whiskered biped, a humanoid–an example of preparation and timing not allowing for an accurate translation of what ends up on screen.

In 35 years I still have not seen a comic book adaptation that was as well done as Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson’s The Empire Strikes Back, published by Marvel Comics (cover at the top of this article).  Where the Star Wars adaptation was a stylized sci-fi epic, Empire featured a stunningly drawn adaptation of characters, aliens and places, and even characters that looked like the actors playing the characters.  The Empire adaptation was released in a giant over-sized book in the same way the Star Wars adaptation had been released.  As a kid, I had repeatedly checked out the hard-bound library version of the Star Wars adaptation—to get that taste of the movie in the days when you had to wait years to see a movie re-released in the theater, long before video tapes.  So when I got the Empire version in the same format for my birthday, it became a well-worn companion that stuck by me until Return of the Jedi premiered.  Incredibly it is still available for sale on eBay and at Amazon.com.

Why did the Empire adaptation work?  Preparation clearly played a key role, with the writers and artists having full access to the complete director’s version of the film, including scenes that eventually were cut from the film.  An artist who stuck to the film and refrained from unwanted elaboration also helped.  Clearly, compared to the Star Wars adaptation that had been quickly drawn, the Empire adaptation benefitted from on artist who had the time to include great detail.  And just as Star Wars was issued in single issues over a period of four months, so was Empire, and the plotting and chapter divisions also reflected a film that was paced well, lending itself toward a good adaptation.  What followed suit would be years of similar high-quality adaptations, including a superb three-issue Marvel Comics series adapting Raiders of the Lost Ark, and later, a four-issue adaptation of Return of the Jedi.  From then on adaptations would stick closer to the films they were adapting.

A few recent comic book projects will be featured in the following days.  These works are not adaptations as much as science fiction movie tie-ins, but they are also some of the most creative and interesting bridging between movies and comic books to ever hit the shelves.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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