BOOK: The Long Mars (2014)

The Long Mars Year: 2014 Author: Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter Length: 723 minutes / 12.05 hours While the previous two entries in this series seemed to be disjointed in their writing styles, The Long Mars seemed to iron out some of these discrepancies . . . finally. In The Long Earth and The Long War, you could almost pinpoint the sections that Terry Pratchett wrote and the sections primarily written by Stephen Baxter. By The Long Mars, there are still a few moments of Terry Pratchett’s goofiness, but they are few and far between. Consequently, the narrative of The Long Mars seemed a lot more consistent than its predecessors. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that The Long Mars is absent of problems. While there was plenty of exploration of these parallel universes, the ones that were deemed necessary enough to describe didn’t add anything to the plot. In fact, I felt like this book could have been much shorter if these thought experiments that explored how parallel universes would function were cut out entirely....
Read More

BOOK: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (2014)

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet Year: 2014 Author: Becky Chambers Length: 863 minutes / 14.38 hours One of the biggest qualms I have with a lot of modern science fiction is that it’s not nearly imaginative enough. I believe most of this stems from the fact that modern sci-fi authors were influenced by franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars, where even the aliens are basically humanoids with different skin color. In The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, author Becky Chambers takes a great leap forward for sci-fi by exploring what it would be like to work on a spaceship with a variety of different species. Needless to say, there are plenty of “cultural” adaptations that one would need to make in such a situation. Unfortunately, because the characters are so interesting, the main plot takes a back seat for the majority of the book. Instead, the reader is treated to a series of almost “episodic” moments between the crew that act as excellent exposition,...
Read More

MOVIE: Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar Year: 2014 Rating: PG-13 Length: 169 minutes / 2.82 hours The first time I saw this film, I was speechless. I knew what to expect from Christopher Nolan, who had been steadily increasing his repertoire for almost two decades. Each of his films outdid the last and built on the already mind-blowing pieces that have gone before them. From The Following (1998) to Memento (2000) to The Prestige (2006) to Inception (2010), I wondered how he could outdo himself with his first foray into hard science fiction. Needless to say, I was impressed by Interstellar (2014) and Nolan’s ability to bring the theoretical and incredible ideas of interstellar travel into an entirely plausible setup. As was the case with his previous films, Nolan manages to bring together almost disjointed moments into a cyclical narrative. Much like Memento, I wanted to sit down and watch the whole thing again immediately after viewing it for the first time, so that I could catch all the little things that lead to the major reveal at the end. Even...
Read More

BOOK: All the Light We Cannot See (2014)

All the Light We Cannot See Year: 2014 Author: Anthony Doerr Length: 962 minutes / 16.03 hours If All the Light We Cannot See were a movie, I would consider it “Oscar bait.” Set during the most romantic of World Wars: check. Main character with disability: check. Drama, tragedy, and suspense: check, check, and check. It’s then no wonder that All the Light We Cannot See ended up winning a Pulitzer. Sure, it’s filled with plenty of the “award” tropes that we tend to see repeated over and over again—but it works. What helps this book stand out from the rest of the books and movies that try too hard to earn awards is twofold: its characters and its plot. Before I get too far into my praise for this book, I have to mention that the narrator for the audiobook version seemed to mispronounce a few words early on, which threw me for a loop and made me wonder if I’ve been mispronouncing them myself. Similarly, it was...
Read More

BOOK: The Depths (2014)

The Depths Year: 2014 Author: Nick Thacker Length: 384 pages The Depths will be the last book I read from this author. While The Enigma Strain was passable, The Atlantis Stone revealed quite a few weaknesses in his writing style. I had hoped The Depths would redeem this author, but unfortunately, that was not the case. There’s too much left unpolished in these books that I cannot recommend people spend their time reading them. In The Depths, the main issues lie more with the scientific accuracy and leaps of logic that don’t make sense. There’s still the problem of too many flat and unimportant characters that were present in The Atlantis Stone, but it’s just slightly better than before. While I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, I felt the writing seemed to be more “stream of consciousness” than something figured out in advance. There are a few main characters, and a basic idea that eventually becomes the central conflict of...
Read More

BOOK: Robogenesis (2014)

Robogenesis Year: 2014 Author: Daniel H. Wilson Length: 956 minutes / 15.93 hours While I appreciated the logical nature that Daniel H. Wilson brought to the idea of a robot apocalypse in Robopocalypse, I felt the book itself was disjointed as a series of short stories that examined the various forms our robot servants would turn on us. The whole book seemed more like an academic exercise than a piece of fiction. In the follow-up to Robopocalypse, Wilson picks up right where the last book left off. With the exposition of how the robots turned on us already covered, he then is able to fully explore the fictional environment via its characters in Robogenesis. It took me a little while to recall who some of these characters were and what had happened during the previous book, which left me confused in the early moments of each section. Once I eventually got my bearings, the stories themselves were interesting and tied together pretty well. Some of the action was a little disorienting,...
Read More

BOOK: As You Wish (2014)

As You Wish – Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride Year: 2014 Author: Cary Elwes Length: 421 minutes / 7.02 hours While I love audiobooks for their capacity to let me mindlessly absorb books while I’m driving to or from work, much of the story comes down to the narrator and their inflections. Sometimes these narrators can be annoying, or incomprehensible, or vary their volume too much. It is a rare treat to find an audiobook that fully capitalizes on the medium, either by adding music and sound effects or (in this case) using the voices of actual people to narrate the story. As You Wish is just such an audiobook, and I would even go so far to say it is the superior version of this book, even without “reading” it for myself. As one of the most frequent and common of quotable movies, The Princess Bride (1987) is an odd little film that just works. It’s fantasy, it’s comedy, it’s family-friendly. It’s all these things...
Read More

BOOK: Notes from the Internet Apocalypse (2014)

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse Year: 2014 Author: Wayne Gladstone Length: 323 minutes / 5.38 hours The main concept behind Notes from the Internet Apocalypse is interesting: one day, the internet just stops working. All the computers and phone lines still work, but the internet has just gone missing. The story that results should be considered a satire since I hardly believe people who have hidden behind a veil of anonymity for so long will do the same deplorable things in real life just to get their “internet fix.” Bringing the reality of our connected society to its extreme logical conclusion in a world without internet, Notes from the Internet Apocalypse is a harsh mirror of what we’ve become, even to the point of cringing at it. I was a little taken aback by the amount of vulgar language, overt sexuality, and lack of common decency by the characters in this book. Of course, in a book about the internet, these types of people run...
Read More

MOVIE: Noah (2014)

Noah Year: 2014 Rating: PG-13 Length: 138 minutes / 2.30 hours If there’s any filmmaker more controversial than Darren Aronofsky, I’m not sure who it would be at this point. Interestingly enough, while most of his films are rated “R” (or higher, like the uncut Requiem for a Dream (2000)), I think Noah (2014) is the first time one of his films has been at the PG-13 rating. Since most of the controversy of his movies comes via the content that would make it R-rated, it’s interesting that the controversy with Noah is more along the lines of how Aronofsky filled in the gaps and created a dramatic narrative inside the Biblical story of Noah. As is always the case with an Aronofsky film, Noah is a beautiful spectacle of filmmaking. Even if the landscapes of Iceland helped create this stunning setting, certain dream-like sequences and moments speak to the art that Aronofsky can evoke on the screen. The setting of the pre-flood world is believable, and most of the costumes...
Read More

MOVIE: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy Year: 2014 Rating: PG-13 Length: 121 minutes / 2.02 hours It is comforting to know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe includes the universe. While most films in this ever-expanding movie multiverse take place on Earth, a few like Thor (2011) and Doctor Strange (2016) explore different realms but still tie back to Earth. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is different in that, almost immediately, Earth is left far behind in favor of alien worlds filled with fantastical creatures. Consequently, this film feels more like a sci-fi movie than a comic book flick. Considering how stagnant the superhero formula has become, this is a good thing. With almost no earthly constraints on it, Guardians of the Galaxy is practically indescribable, probably because it has everything. Comedy. Action. A talking raccoon. With a reasonably well-paced plot, this film excels in developing its diverse cast. These main characters each have their unique traits and little quirks that almost immediately made them amusing and endearing....
Read More