Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Hyperion living up to expectations

After an inexplicable delay in getting around to reading this one (I usually snap up anything in the astonishing SF Masterworks collection) I am really enjoying it.

Wait for the review that I'm sure will follow but after 100 pages I have to say that this is astounding. Best thing I've read since I discovered the Book of Skulls/  Charles Stross' bibliography.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Interstellar - I'm conflicted

 **Spoilers ahoy**

So I finally got around to watching this on DVD after missing the cinema launch. My conclusion: Interstellar is good but a bit of an odd duck.

Some sections were fantastic and completely scientifically plausible. Miller's World especially dragged me into the film after the extended build up and ramped up the anticipation regarding what was on the other planets (which unfortunately both turned out to be a bit anti-climatic).

However, the film eventually takes a bit of a swerve into implausible mysticism. I can just about accept humans from the future meddling in their own history (although why did they wait until such dystopian depths of autocracy and impoverishment had been reached before doing so?) but the final trip into a black hole seemed ridiculously implausible to me.

Having done a bit of reading I know that they had a reknowned theoretical scientist on the consulting team and so presumably know what they were on about. Regardless I struggle to conceive of a black hole which not only fails to mash a craft crossing the event horizon but then proceeds to belch out the incumbant after a convenient period of relative time to allow him to rendevouz with the love interest.

More minor annoyances were that the acting never seemed to be of an especially high standard and the film went with the overused idea of an apocalypse that could be mistaken for the 1930s Great Depression in a poor light.

Nevertheless it is worth a watch as an attempt to create sci fi that is, by film standards, well thought through and raises interesting ideas about the future development of space travel and our understanding of the universe.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Affleck correspondence leaked

Interesting stuff about the intersection of carefully maintained celebrity images and the sort of light historical enquiry that has fuelled the latest interest in genealogical research.

I'm a bit surprised that this hasn't come up sooner. Surely one of the hundreds, or even thousands, of previously involved celebrities will have found something in their family past that they wanted to keep off the show. However, Henry Gates does seem genuinely shocked and disturbed by Affleck's slightly conspiratorial request.

Wikileaks doing a fine job at exposing the actions that those in positions of power and privilege might not want us to hear about. Of course it is Affleck and the producers decision as to how they structure their show but it does reveal a side to the actor that he might want to reconsider.  

Labour claim they are no longer Labour

This makes me want to throw up a little bit. Come on Ed, at least pay lip service to the left wing ideals that Labour espoused for most of the last century.

If people are small minded and selfish enough to vote Tory they will do. Appeal to a constituency that you have a chance of winning.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Pleasantly surprised by the Europa Report

The Europa Report is certainly not a perfect film. The amateur photography aspect of it gets old very quickly (as usual) and Sharlto Copley's Jim, while a likeable enough character, seems a bit of a waste of acting talent.

The pacing also takes a bit of getting used to. The rough and tumble of astronaut life and the stunning vistas are part of the charm of the film but you get a bit bored of them before the plot really gets moving in the last twenty minutes.

However, you have to admire Europa Report's ambition. It doesn't pander to the audience and you certainly won't be seeing any blaster gunfights or acts of sci-fi hero badassery. Instead you get a film that tries to accurately predict how a manned mission into space might pan out while building the tension through use of an unseen stalker picking off the crew one by one.

It's old fashioned but no less watchable for that. I'd recommend trying it to see whether it ticks your boxes or whether the niggling problems identified earlier are enough to put you off.