The Sci-fi Fantasy Reader's Review

My Comments on Science Fiction / Fantasy Books and other related media.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sci-fi Month: My All time Favorite Classic Sci-fi Films

I'm going to take a gamble that most of you haven't seen some of these classic sci-fi film so this is my list of my all time favorites starting from the 1950's.  When I was a young girl my family would watch science fiction, horror, and fantasy films on a TV show called Creature Feature. Most of the films on this list were watched on this TV show at the dinner table. I have listed the films in chronological order just so you see how this genre stretched throughout Hollywood's history. There are some of these films that have been remade, modernized but the originals are always the best or at least more fun.

1945- The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, is a terrifying movie about a town of people who go to sleep and wake up Pod People, cloned by an alien race who plans to invade earth.

1951- Day the Earth Stood Still, an alien ships lands in President’s Park in Washington D. C. to warn the people of earth to stop their violence so else. It's a wonderful science fiction movie for it's day.

1953- The War of the Worlds, a movie based on the novel by H. G. Wells. This one is the perspective of a scientist played by Gene Barry who witness's the first crash of an object from space which is thought to be just an meteorite but in reality a spacecraft.

1954- Godzilla, a creature created by the nuclear fallout of bomb testing by the Americans. and wrecks havoc to Japan.

1960- Time Machine, is another H. G. Wells novel set to film. Rod Taylor plays Alexander Hartdegen, scientist and inventor of the time machine, who proves it possible by traveling into the future.

1964- First Men in the Moon is another H. G. Wells novel that is set in 1899 where a scientist named Joseph Cavor has invented a substance that defies gravity and is going to use this Cavorite on a spherical spacecraft to go to the moon. It's a fun movie where we meet the Moon people that are ant-looking creatures.

1966-Fantastic Voyage is a futuristic movie of a team of scientist who are shrunk in a submarine then injected into a man who needs surgery but there's a time limit until they start growing back to normal. I saw this film in the movie theater when I was younger, I loved it.

1968- 2001: A Space Odyssey, this was a very strange film for me, I had a difficult time with some of the concepts. But it's basically a AI (artificial intelligence) that takes over a space station.

1977- This film has become a classic among science fiction fans, Star Wars: A New Hope.  I saw this one in the movie theater where I was amazed and subsequently have seen the rest of  the trilogy.

1977- Close Encounter of the Third Kind, is a journey of Roy Neary, a telephone line worker who one night has a close encounter with a UFO. This is a Steven Spielberg movie that is one of his best works.

Poster images from internet:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sci-fi Month: 6 Top Science Fiction Must Read Books

The 6 top favorite Sci-fi books are ones that I have read over many times and hopefully they will be your favorites too. I was going to recommend just 5 books but I had to add one more that couldn’t be left out of the list. These are my science fiction must read books.

1. Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, is a classic science fiction book with a twist, it also a murder mystery set in a futuristic Earth. It's centered around Elijah Bailey, a New York Police Detective and R.Daneel Olivaw, is humanoid looking robot as with the R in his name, both are assigned to solve the murder. It is one of my favorite books because of the interaction between Bailey and Olivaw. There's a theme that prevalent in most of Asimov's work, that humans seed the galaxy and that earth eventually will be uninhabitable.

2. This next book is a crossover between science fiction and fantasy, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight in the Dragonriders of Pern series. It's set in a planet Pern that was settled by Earthers, there the inhabitants encounter a spaceborne substance that plagues the planet in cycular intervals called the Thread that bombards the planet and kills in it's wake. The original settlers then genetically alter the native species into dragons. It is a fantastic story with love, treatery, comradeship, and dragons that can be ridden.

3. Neuromancer by William Gibson is the next on my list because it foretold the future with cyberspace (the internet). You can see some of Gibson future in the movie, The Matrix with jacking into the net. It's main character is a hacker named Case who jacks his consciousness into the cyberspace for information to sell.

4. My fourth pick is by David Weber, Basilisk Station the first book in the Honor Harrington series.  He portrays Honor as her name, honorable, straightforward, and a good officer in the Royal Manticore Navy. There isn't much romance or sex in this series but I haven't read all the books. It's not only a military novel where Weber regales his knowledge of battle and weaponry but there's the relationships among the crew.

5. Jack L. Chalker's Midnight at the Well of Souls is my fifth all time favorite science fiction book. It's about a planet called the Well of Souls that was a research lab for eventually seeding the best prototypes. The Marchovians have died off but left this planet operational where there are thousands of gateways into the planet. Once processed by the planet which changes you into a different being and you end up in one of the hive quadrants with similar beings. The main character is Nathan Brazil who has lived lifetimes, and he isn't what he appears to be, human.

6. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton has to be on this list. On July 4, 1993 I took my two girls to see the movie and we were blown away, dinosaurs really! But later I read the book and realize that the movie was good but the book is so much better. I delves into altering of frog DNA with samples of DNA of dinosaurs from insects petrified in amber. There’s also the relationships of the scientist who are caught in on the island and must survive their encounters with the dinosaurs. It was a fantasy that has become reality with the first cloned sheep, Dolly, in 1996 to the Japanese scientist today taking DNA from well preserved frozen Wooly Mammoth to eventually clone a living one.

Hopefully this list will inspire you to read one of these books and give you a sense of the variety in science fiction books.

Book cover provided by;

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sci-fi Month: Favorite Science Fiction Book Covers

As I was perusing my library for some of my favorite Sci-fi book covers, I realized that I haven't bought a new sic-fi book in a while in fact most of my books are fantasy related. These five science fiction books are about some strong women who are tough, brilliant, but get themselves into all kinds of trouble. These women are also spacers, either in the military, civilian core, or attached somehow working in the outer limits.

The first book is one that I have read many times and love that a man wrote this series about a strong woman who is an officer in the Royal Manticore Navy. She is bonded to a telepathic Treecat that is a species from her planet, Sphinx.
I think this shows Honor Harrington as cool 
and assertive with her Treecat,  Nimitz.  

Price of the Stars book one of Mage Worlds is another book about a woman from an influential family who wants to be a Captain of her own ship.  The cover shows her in cross dressed as in a dandy pirate garb and she does play tough.
Beka Rosselin-Metadi as Tarnekep Portree

This next cover doesn't have any reference to space but for some reason I love it.  The book is the first installment of the Miles Vorkosigan Saga books.  Cordelia's Honor is about his mother, Cordelia Naismith who is the captain on an astronomical survey ship. This book is an omnibus that has tow book, Shards of Honor and Barrayar.
Cordelia Naismith Vorkosgian

Kristin Smith wrote a sci-fi book, Code of Conduct but I like the cover of the sequel, Rules of Conflict.  Captain Jani Killian is the main character who's becomes a hybrid of human and Idomeni, an alien race. The cover is cool with just one black boot and a knife.

The last book cover is from Ann Aguirre's Sirantha Jax series. The cover is from the first book, Grimspace, Sirantha Jax is a nagivator for the Corp who pilots ships through grimspace.  The cover has nice color and has a representation of Jax.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Movie Review: Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness

I remember watching Star Trek, the original series as a young girl and inevitabIy became a trekkie, of sorts. I never been to a Star Trek convention or had an urge to dress up as one of the characters either but I'm am a fan of Star Trek, the original series and all the spin-offs, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and all the movies. So I believe I have the knowledge to review the two newer Star Trek movies.

The Star Trek movie of 2009 was a total failure for me. As I'm sitting in the dark movie theater watching a very young James Kirk driving a stolen Ford Mustang to the music of the Beastie Boys blaring from the radio.  I felt something was wrong with this scene, it is suppose to be over 100 years in the future so would this be possible?  For one thing, will the music of the Beastie Boys, who I like, be what Classical music is now? Maybe but it still wasn't right but it did reveil the nature of James Kirk which sets the pace for the entire movie.  
The Captain Kirk of old was definitely present in this younger incarnation with his risk taking, head strong attitude but he isn't a Star Fleet Academy cadet when we first see him as a young man. Captain Pike who in the original series Kirk doesn't meet him until later and Pike is a quadriplegic. Spook was assigned as an officer to Captain Pike before the being science officer to Captain Kirk on the Enterprise.
As I was watching the movie in the dark I was shocked and dismay to see that passionate kiss between Spock and Uhura. Spock in this movie is more at one with himself then the Spock of the original series who was forever fighting between being a Vulcan and a human. In the movie, Vulcan the planet is destroyed and Spock is now in two versions of himself. Can that really happen, wouldn't the older Spock disappeared with the planet being destroyed or isn't there a rule somewhere that states you can be in two places at once? In many sci-fi books where time travel occurs the universe will destablize when you meet yourself.  And his relationship with Uhura, well his mother was human and his father when questioned about his marriage just states "It was the logical thing to do".  
I do like the other characters like Bones, Dr McCoy who we see how his friendship with Kirk developes and Sulu is more of a main character in the movie then in the series, then there's young Ensign Chekov who is eager to prove his worth and Scotty, I love that he has an alien friend, of course Simon Pegg fits well as Scotty.
The first Star Trek movie stands alone as with some relevance to the original series but Star Trek Into the Darkness is another story.
I dislike when directors film remakes, do we really need to see it again when the first movie was such a hit with fans? This is what I would ask J. J. Abrams about his Kahn version in this Star Trek Into Darkness. I was not as it was before.
I didn't understand the begining of the movie when Chris Pine's Kirk and Karl Urban's McCoy are running through a forest with a scroll while being pursued by the native inhabitants. The world is going to explode and the Enterprise is there to stop it but what was the scroll about when in the end of the pursuit, Kirk leaves it for the inhabitants? The Kirk is reprimanded with Pike taking over as Captain of the Enterprise. The Prime Directive prohibits interference with a society so Kirk broke this rule when showing the for native society their starship. We see the natives then honoring the starship as a god. The rest of the movie had many unsettling issues.
Benedict Cummberbatch played his Kahn well but without the history that links him to Captain Kirk it wasn't a powerful movie this time. I remember when I first say the Wrath of Kahn in the theater, a week before that I watched Space Seed on the television. Space Seed is the episode on the original series that we are introduced to Ricardo Montalban's Kahn Noonien Singh and his other genetically altered companions on a drifting ship, the SS Botany Bay. So when I finally watched Wrath of Kahn in that dark theater it was had a stronger storyline then this newer version. I will admit that the Wrath of Kahn had some holes that I just gloss over when watching it but the main conflict is between Captain Kirk and Kahn Noonien Singh. The battle of wits in the final scene is engaging with the recital of Melville's Moby Dick, "To the last, I will grapple with thee...from Hell's hear, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!" (IMBD) Very poetic.  Leonard Nimoy's appearances in both movies did lend credibility as an old Spock from the older time frame, but it was weird when Zachary Quinto's Spock asking advise from Leonard Nimoy's Spock about Kahn.
In this incarnation, Kirk hasn't graduated from Star Fleet Academy but he's a full fledge captain. In the first movie he is suspended from classed because of cheating the Kobayashi Maru and then after saving earth they give him a Captaincy. This brings disbelief into this movie, to be a successful movie there needs to be a belief in the subject and in the characters.  Kirk then leaves the Bridge to Sulu and goes on an away mission to the Klingon homeworld. I hated that even in the original series, doesn't the captain go down with the ship? And in the original series, Captain Pike doesn't meet Captain Kirk like in the movie but in the future when Pike is a quadriplegic from an accident and is sent back to a Talos IV, where he can have an ellusion of being himself again. Spock was assigned to the Enterprise as Junior Science Officer under Captain Pike.
In the Wrath of Kahn, we are introduced to Carol Marcus and David Marcus who is Kirk's son, both are scientist on a research vessel out in space but in the Star Trek into Darkness, Carol Marcus is in a Lieutenant in Star Fleet and she cons her way to the Starship Enterprise as a Science Officer. In the end she stays aboard the Enterprise even though Spock is also the Science Officer. It is a cheeky way to advance the story of Kirk and Marcus. I also found the ending where Kirk dies from radiaction poisoning as Spock was in the Wrath of Kahn. They even did the pressing of hands through the glass wall and Spock crying "Kahn!".  Remakes are awful and unimaginative and this scene proves it. Then taking Kahn's blood which we are told repairs injury rapidly and injecting Kirk with it.  Earlier Doctor McCoy is experimenting with the blood on a dying Tribble and the blood reanimates it.
It would have been a much better movie if it was center around a Klingon confrontation or the Enterprise going on " a five-year mission: to explore strange and new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

I would not recommend either of these new Star Trek movies to anyone who is a true Trekkie fan. Only the unknowledgeable would enjoy them as stand alone Star Trek movies.

Photo of Star Trek crew by

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Doctor Who, revisited for the 50th Anniversary

My first encounter with Doctor Who was in the late 1970's.  It was shown on PBS and back in those days we were at least 2 years behind in the broadcasting of the series from the UK.  I have grown to love this science-fiction televison show over the years and this November marks the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who.
The Tardis (toy)

Dr. Who started as a children's show back in 1963 but through popularity became an iconic science-fiction television show for all ages.  Watching Dr. Who revisited on BBC, I heard many who were great fans of the show.  The television show was family-orientated and some of the interviewees recalled being scared stiff as a child watching the Daleks on Dr. Who.  It's funny with the hooky special effects but at the time with low budget for the TV show, you have to admire the ingenuity.

I started watching when Tom Baker was the 4th Doctor.  We would be at a friends place watching the show while listening to  music and partying. I really didn't understand the whole concept until later when I would watch the show on PBS with my husband and children.  I got hooked, it was a well written sci-fi/ fantasy show and at the time I was devouring the genre in books.

We would also rent VHS cassettes of Dr Who starting with Tom Baker then progressed with the other doctors, Peter Davidson, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy, all Doctors until 1989 when the show was cancelled.  Then there is a nine year hiatus of the show until 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Dr Who. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't a fan of the new show. I'm what is called a "Classic Doctor Who fan" so it took me awhile to start watching the new series which started for me with Matt Smith as the 11th doctor. So I worked backwards in time watching the other episodes. And I made me wonder more about the story line, it didn't make sense for this Classic Who fan.

There seemed to be gaps in the timeline.  With Christopher Eccleston, we're told all the TIme Lords and the Daleks were exterminated by the Doctor. He is now the only Time Lord left. But the Daleks keep coming back as the Doctor's nemesis. What happened to Ramona, the Time Lord that traveled with the 4th Doctor, who ended up in E Space? Then there's Susan, his granddaughter who was his first companion, what happened to her?  I also wondered why they started with the 9th Doctor, what about the 8th?

My grandson is a great classic Doctor Who fan and one day we rented the "Doctor Who" movie. It is an American made film from 1996, set in San Francisco on the New Years Eve of 1999.  I feel in love with Paul McGann as the 8th Dr Who.  He fit so well as the Doctor with his own set of quirkiness.  It sadden me that the eighth Doctor wasn't expanded into the new series in 2005. I'm told by my grandson, Aidan, that there was a debate going on in the Whovian world, if Paul McGann's doctor should count on the original timeline or if he was from an alternative universe. Then in the episode of "Family of Blood and Human Nature" with David Tenent as the 10th Doctor Who, the question was answered.  In the diary of the doctor it showed the 8th doctor as Paul McGann so now it was legitimized.

The 11th Doctor, Matt Smith will be regenerating in the Christmas Special. Now the question is how will Peter Capaldi portray the Doctor. Where will he get his character traits from?  Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy took different aspects of William Hartnell's charactor of the 1st Doctor Who. Matt Smith choose to emulate Patrick Troughton, the 2nd Doctor.  The Classic Doctor's were able to take the character of Doctor Who and make it their own.

50 years is a long time for a television show to be on air even with the cancellation.  Doctor Who spans generations, all with their own favorite Doctors. Lets hope it continues for many more years.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November Sci-Fi Month- Intro Bio of Darlene Smith sci-fi/fantasy blogger

I would like to introduce myself, I'm Darlene Smith and I've been a science-fiction fan for over 30 years.  Yes, it's been along time of reading and watching science fiction. It's a journey for the imaginative.
 I wasn't a sic-fi reader until my husband, Larry introduced me to science fiction fantasy with Watership Downs and then he gave me a totally different book, I Robot by Issac Asimov.  I thank him for this, it started this joy of reading sci-fi books. This enjoyment of science fiction is that it takes you into the unknown where your imagination is guided to the stars.  The genre is one that you can leave your mundane world behind and be catapulted to another that can be an extension of humanity or to a far different one world.

The first book I read was I, Robot which is Asimov's collection of short stories, this is where the three laws of robotics is first introduced and is continued in his following novels.

Another author that I really like is David Weber, his Honor Harrington series is wonderful because of his main character is a strong woman who was genetically engineered and is an officer in the Manticore Navy.  Weber also added fantasy to his novels with Honor having a telepathic bond with a tree cat from her native planet.

Then there's William Gibson who wrote Neuromancer, a futuristic novel where people can jack into cyberspace (the internet). By jacking in, there's a jack in your head and are directly have an interface with the net. I would think that The Matrix writers got many of their ideas from this book.

Star Wars is first trilogy were amazing for the time. The first movie, or IV to be percise, New Hope blew me away when I saw it in the movie theater in 1977.  It was the blend of sci-fi and fantasy.  I then went to see the next two movies with anticipation and excitement.  

And of course I have to mention the greatest sci-fi television show that launched generations to go where no one has gone before, Star Trek. It spawned 4 spin-offs, 9 movies from the original and the Next Generation, and two that are with same name of characters but has a different time line.

Science fiction is a wonderful genre for looking at the alternative futures of our species where we reach for the stars.  We may never gain the outer reaches of our solar system but it is nice to be able to read or watch the dreams of others.