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Tag Archive: military sci-fi


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s not often a sequel surpasses the first novel in the series, but that’s the place where Spaceside lands.  And that’s saying something, because Michael Mammay′s Planetside was one powerful first novel.  I first reviewed Planetside before its release only a year ago here at borg, and its combination of military thriller and sci-fi action story was one of last year’s best sci-fi reads.  Happily for readers of Mammay’s first story, the protagonist this round is again Colonel Carl Butler, that ex-military mastermind who keeps getting pulled back into danger.  Imagine Edge of Tomorrow’s General Brigham a few years after the war or Starship Troopers’ Lieutenant Rasczak if he’d lived to fight another day, and you’ll have an idea of what you’re in for with Colonel Butler.

But this story and this style is different for Mammay.  I saw Planetside as military conspiracy-thriller in sci-fi dress, but this time Butler is part investigator in a planetside mystery as a bit of a future noir or tech noir detective.  Where Planetside featured plenty of the grunt-side action of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, this story delves more into the strategy and corporate politics (think Weyland Corp.), providing a fine standalone story.  Yet for those that take on the first novel (as they should), Spaceside fleshes out the secrets of why Butler was thrust far away across the galaxy to deal with the alien race called the Cappans in the first place.  Two books in and readers will be asking for more–Mammay has concocted one of the best science fiction universes around.  So just when a new series of Blade Runner novels is on its way, Spaceside fits the bill as a worthy read-alike of a future, cybernetically enhanced human trying to stay alive while he’s constantly dodging bullets (although Butler’s borg nature is downplayed for much of the story).  More like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner than Philip K. Dick’s source novel, Mammay’s story is a compelling character study that amps up the intrigue.

Instead of spending most of this novel’s adventure in outer space as the title might suggest, ex-Colonel Butler finds himself grounded, exiled, shunned, and scorned for the murders of millions of Cappans resulting from his decisions in the pages of Planetside.  Instead Butler is relegated to leading corporate team-building sessions where he takes groups on virtual reality combat missions with him as the real-life war hero.  It’s embarrassing, but it pays the bills, and it keeps him busy after his wife left him and took half his money.  That’s until the CEO calls him into his office to investigate a hacking of a major rival corporation–after all, his title has the word “security” in it.  If Butler can figure out what went wrong at the rival, then his own company can make sure it doesn’t happen to them, too.  Or so his CEO figures.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Shane Black has finally delivered what fans of the Predator alien have been after since they first saw Arnold Schwarzenegger take the creature on in the original 1987 film that featured Black in an acting role as one of the marines.  The movie The Predator, in theaters now, delivers exactly as promised.  More Predators.  Bigger and badder alien fight scenes.  Great new sci-fi special effects tech.  A wall-to-wall movie of rude jokes and one-liners.  A squad of maladjusted, badass misfits in the realm of The Dirty Dozen (if every character was played as Telly Savalas’s character), only this time the squad isn’t recruited for a suicide mission to fight the bad guys.  The surprise comes with an actual, serviceable plot that knocks the predecessor sequels out of the ranking (some elements… gasp… it even handles better than the original).

For diehard fans of the franchise who read the prequel novel (a great read we reviewed here earlier at borg) the movie lives up to the introduction provided in the book, which gave plenty of backstory for Sterling K. Brown’s pseudo-military leader Will Traeger–one of the movie’s key villains.  Screenplay writers Shane Black and Fred Dekker include an ambitious, layered story with interesting subplots.  One thread follows a boy played by played by Jacob Tremblay, the autistic son of star Boyd Holbrook’s tough Captain McKenna.  The kid begins to play with what can only be described as “really cool alien tech” his dad sends him in the mail.  Olivia Munn gets to play her most badass character yet, a biologist called in to work with the research group that has caught a Predator, being studied in a lab led by Jake Busey, who plays the son of the character his father Gary Busey played in Predator 2–Jake Busey offers a solid performance as a low-key scientist that could make it back for a future sequel.  Another subplot follows the alien hunters as they each search for some secret objects.  The ensemble ad hoc military unit that takes on the Predator includes a diverse team of actors pulling together a chaotic brand of chemistry: Trevante Rhoades, Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera, and Keegan-Michael Key.  Another subplot sets up the next film nicely, a new phase for Predators this film only touches on.

The reason we see more than one kind of Predator is explained in the film, but each has incredible updated props and costumes, and the plot makes great use of both.  It’s all loyal to the original.  The best part of the 1987 film was the absence of the alien throughout the film, appearing sporadically, menacingly, like the shark in Jaws.  We don’t see much more of the alien in this movie, but we get to see what he looks like head to toe in the lab, we get to see how his arm gauntlet and helmet work, and plenty of action scenes as in the original.  One character even gets into the head of a Predator (sort of) to understand its technology and motivations.

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