BOOK: Freedom’s Fire (2017)

Freedom’s Fire Year: 2017 Author: Bobby Adair Length: 338 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** I find it somewhat refreshing to read a dystopian book where the dystopia has already happened. There are far too many that detail the onset of a dystopia, and a scant few that actually deal with the realities of the dystopia. While this does lead Freedom’s Fire to have a cynical and depressing tone, at least there is a growing hope as the story progresses. At the very least, this book was a quick read, helped along by its pacing and action-packed sequences. On a personal note, I also liked the fact that it was set in Colorado, as I could easily connect with the locations and lingo. While Freedom’s Fire was an enjoyable read, it did have a few minor flaws. As I read, I mostly understood the vague goals of the main character and his crew, at least in simplistic terms. Get off Earth. Join the Resistance. It was the...
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BOOK: The Brothers Karamazov (1880)

The Brothers Karamazov Year: 1880 Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky Length: 2,239 minutes / 37.32 hours As is usually the case with Russian literature, The Brothers Karamazov is a daunting read. These thick tomes are usually on lists of books you should read, but picking up such a large volume and consuming its contents can be quite intimidating. Even the audiobook version (which I used for this review) clocks in at almost a full work-week of listening to get through it all. Still, those who manage to take on this herculean task are likely to be rewarded with an engaging story that covers a wide variety of topics to include (but not limited to) religion, marriage, communism, fatherhood, and (of course) brotherhood. Having already read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, I found The Brothers Karamazov to be more along the lines of Law & Order. His former book was a tight and well-paced examination of guilt, even in the face of necessity and wealth distribution. The Brothers Karamazov,...
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MOVIE: Downsizing (2017)

Downsizing Year: 2017 Rating: R Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours In the last decade, I’ve come to appreciate Alexander Payne’s films. From The Descendants (2011) to Nebraska (2013), it was clear he was improving as a director. I had high hopes for his latest work, Downsizing (2017) since the premise seemed interesting and ripe for social satire like his previous films. For a movie about becoming small, Downsizing certainly had big ambitions. Unfortunately, it means that this film was kind of all over the place. Sure, there was a somewhat logical progression of events, but even the main character was flabbergasted at the coincidence of it all. While I would fault the movie for Hong Chau’s clipped English, as it almost seemed culturally insensitive at first, eventually the character grows on the viewer. This leads to a very touching ending. Instead, I will fault the science behind this science fiction. I was half-expecting a lot of sight gags on how ordinary objects are much bigger with shrunken humans (a la The Borrowers), which Downsizing delivered...
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MOVIE: Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-Man Year: 2015 Rating: PG-13 Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours In the never-ending array of superheroes feeding into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to support such franchises like Captain America and The Avengers, it can be difficult to make some of the B-tier and C-tier heroes seem interesting enough to devote a whole movie to them. To ensure each movie feels different from its predecessors, certain unique attributes must be applied. Whether it’s the sci-fi-themed Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) or the mind-bending visuals of Doctor Strange (2016), each film requires a gimmick to make it work. For Ant-Man (2015), it’s comedy. If you approach Ant-Man as a standard superhero film, you’re likely to be disappointed. There are almost too many off-hand references to much of the MCU to make anyone not familiar with the vast array of movies lost and confused. Plus, the hero’s “origin story” in Ant-Man is almost par for the course. However, if you watch this film with the understanding that it’s more similar to comedy/caper/heist films than a superhero film, you’re likely...
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BOOK: The Tabernacle of Legion (2017)

The Tabernacle of Legion Year: 2017 Author: Kevin Schillo Length: 365 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** The latest in a long line of science fiction novels I’ve read with titles that don’t give the reader any indication of what the book is about (see: Julia Dream, Tiger and the Robot, and Universe: Awakening), The Tabernacle or Legion highlights what’s wrong with the “hard science fiction” genre. When a book has so much unnecessary backstory and exposition that a reader could skip over 100 pages and still be able to follow the story, there’s a serious problem. I almost stopped reading after the 9-month jump in the timeline because the third of the book I had just read had no point. But unnecessary explanations aren’t entirely what’s wrong with the “hard science fiction” genre as it is right now. Everyone’s trying to be The Martian, but they fail to make the accurate science an integral part of the plot while also making the story entertaining. After all, part of science...
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MOVIE: The Post (2017)

The Post Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours At this point, I just wonder if every movie Steven Spielberg makes that has anything to do with war (Schindler’s List (1994), Saving Private Ryan (1999), War Horse (2012), Lincoln (2013), Bridge of Spies (2015)) is just automatically given a Best Picture nomination. Don’t get me wrong, Spielberg has made a lot of quality movies that should be recognized and awarded. The question is more about the state of Hollywood films. Is there nothing else out there by up-and-coming filmmakers that would supplant a Spielberg film in the nominee list? Don’t even get me started on Meryl Streep’s nominations, either. Of course, in part due to the all-star power of Spielberg, and the leading roles filled by Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, The Post (2017) is a movie that builds its tension right until the very end. Despite a somewhat slow start, the stakes are never higher when the ambiguity of publishing classified documents is taken all the way to its logical conclusion. The...
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MOVIE: Spotlight (2015)

Spotlight Year: 2015 Rating: R Length: 128 minutes / 2.13 hours For many years, the running joke about the movies that have won the Best Picture Oscar is that they only won because another film should have won years prior. Spotlight (2015) is this generation's All the President's Men (1976) in that it is an excellent film about investigative journalism that broke open a huge cover-up, changing the world forever. Both films deserved to be Best Picture, but Spotlight manages to take an uncomfortable subject and be frank and open about the problems that we still see in today's society. Since most of the movie is comprised of uncovering the truth behind the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, it's surprising how gripping and well-paced the film ends up being. Part of the genius of this film is the high-energy dedication these four journalists have in uncovering the terrifying truths that had been lurking in the shadows for decades. While such a subject could easily create a...
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BOOK: The Infinet (2017)

The Infinet Year: 2017 Author: John Akers Length: 410 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** After reading plenty of sub-par first novels from aspiring authors, The Infinet was a breath of fresh air. I was also pleasantly surprised that this book was written during a National Novel Writing Month, thus proving how useful the NaNoWriMo challenge is for people to get their stories out there. In the five years between the writing and publishing of this book, it looks like a lot of care went into polishing it into the entertaining and brilliant book that exists today. There are plenty of things that The Infinet gets right when it comes to speculative science fiction. First, it doesn’t dwell on the details of the “hard science,” but it does mention the concepts in passing. As far as I can tell, the ideas presented here are accurate, which is key for this genre. Secondly, so many authors put their personal biases into their narratives, which can sour the experience...
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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,...
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MOVIE: The Shape of Water (2017)

The Shape of Water Year: 2017 Rating: R Length: 123 minutes / 2.05 hours The modern master of the monster movie, Guillermo del Toro is at it again with The Shape of Water (2017). Much like the Universal Studios monster classics, del Toro has created a career around directing films about how humans interact with these monsters. From building giant robots to fight giant monsters in Pacific Rim (2013) to hiring monsters to kill other monsters in Hellboy (2004), del Toro has also occasionally shown the more human side of monsters. Or, more accurately, he has shown how monster-like humans can become. Previous films by Guillermo del Toro, like Cronos (1993) and Pan's Labyrinth (2006) have highlighted the negative qualities of man while infusing these films with a sense of fantasy that can often border on straight-up fairy tales. The Shape of Water certainly falls into the "man is the real monster" category of del Toro's movies, but it kind of beats you over the head...
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