(mini) Film Ruminations: The Tree of Life (2011), Super 8 (2011), A Serious Man (2010), etc.

I do not write reviews for the majority of films I watch.  My reasons are somewhat nebulous considering it’s the summer and I certainly have time.  I see my blog more as a way to re-examine and bring to the forefront sci-fi books and films generally more esoteric and infrequently reviewed.  But certain winds shift direction for brief windows of time.  So here we go, a rundown of the more popular films I’ve seen in theater or re-watched recently.

The Tree of Life (2011), dir. Terrence Malick, rating 7.75/10 (Good)


Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011) juxtaposes extensive sequences Continue reading

Book Review: Master of Life and Death, Robert Silverberg (1957)

0.25/5 (Terrible)

First, a few words to describe the tattered novel (I hurled it on the ground at one point) in front of me.

Politically dangerous: Master of Life and Death (1957) presents dictatorship (well, so-called “benevolent” dictatorship), propaganda, extreme distrust of the common person, fratricide, surveillance, torture, government control of the press, political assassination, euthanization of children, among other equally dubious activities as occasionally necessary for the good of humanity.

I understand that Silverberg himself does not endorse these positions BUT he in NO WAY presents the actions of his main character as anything other than exemplarily and a necessary result of the tough position he finds himself Continue reading

Book Review: The Quality of Mercy, D. G. Compton (1965)

4/5 (Good)

D. G. Compton’s first science fiction novel, The Quality of Mercy (1965), is a forgotten work which deserves to be read along with the rest of his canon.  I’ve found Compton’s lesser known works to be on the whole quite solid — with the dismal The Missionaries (1972) the lone exception so far.  Both Synthajoy (1968) and The Steel Crocodile (1970) are among my top reads of this year.  I’m keeping his acknowledged masterpiece Continue reading

SF TV Episode Reviews: Space: 1999, episode 3, ‘Black Sun’ (1975)

4/10 (Bad)

One might ask: how do you eviscerate a promising concept/episode?  I would answer simply, resolve it with a Cosmic Intelligence.  It’s easy!  Characters accidentally placed on the other side of the galaxy by the script, just swish them back to square one with Mr. (Mrs?) Cosmic Intelligence.

Did your characters accidentally get scripted into an uncompromising position (let’s say, heading straight for a Black (hole) Sun)?  If the answer is yes, Continue reading

A Film Rumination: The Man Who Changed His Mind (variant titles: The Man Who Lived Again, Brainsnatcher, Dr. Maniac), Robert Stevenson (1936)

7/10 (Good)

Boris Karloff!  Mind transplants! Headstrong female scientists! 30s sci-fi horror! A watchable yet seldom seen film! What’s not to like?

The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936) is the second Robert Stevenson (later of Disney fame), Anna Lee, and John Loder feature I’ve seen — the first, Non-Stop New York (1937) wasn’t nearly as Continue reading

Book Review: Vault of the Ages, Poul Anderson (1952)

3.75/5 (Good)

Vault of the Ages (1952), one of Poul Anderson’s earliest novels, should not be missed.  Although Vault of the Ages is at its core a simplistic juvenile (50s sci-fi for younger readers), Anderson’s budding storytelling skills make it engaging and a joy to read.  If only I had read it when I was younger!  Suggested for any fans of 50s sci-fi, early post-apocalyptical Continue reading

Book Review: The Star Dwellers, James Blish (1961)

3/5 (Average)

James Blish’s The Star Dwellers (1961) is a quality sci-fi novel (for younger readers) easily comparable to some of Heinlein’s juveniles.  The plot is straightforward/predictable yet still engaging.  Of course, Jack, our seventeen year old hero, saves the day!  Unlike the best “alien encounter” sci-fi novels which convey a certain sense of convincing “reality,” The Star Dwellers demands Continue reading

Book Review: Ground Zero Man (variant title: The Peace Machine), Bob Shaw (1971)

3.5/5 (Good)

Bob Shaw’s Ground Zero Man (1971) is a well-told take on a common 50s/60s/70s sci-fi trope — the discovery of technology which could potentially end the omnipresent danger of all out nuclear war.  Although the premise is straightforward and simplistic, the main character (Lucas Hutchman) and his motivations are drawn in a convincing manner, the ending is somewhat surprising and dark, and the novel is on the whole characterized by solid Continue reading