#VintageSciFiMonth Review: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

H. G. Wells: The Invisible Man

One of the eternal questions debated on many a playground is if you could pick one superpower, which one would it be and why? Odds are that a lot of the responses are going to be the old standards of flying, running fast, or becoming invisible.

The becoming invisible portion is the basis for one of the building blocks of the science-fiction genre in H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. Odds are that even if you haven’t read it, you’re aware of the basic outline of the story thanks to multiple pop-culture retellings or uses of the character over the years.

vintage-sf-badgeFor this year’s Vintage SciFi Month, I decided that I’d take a look at the foundational novel in the genre and see if it holds up.

Since it was included as part of my Audible subscription, I decided to take advantage of it and began listening. And immediately found myself not really looking forward to going back to it. The story of a scientist who invents a serum that allows him to become invisible and then becomes a raging ball of id just never quite connected with me this time around. Doing a bit of research, I found that Wells initially serialized the story, which then put into the Doctor Who frame of mind of figuring out where the cliffhangers all were. And maybe the story would have worked better unfolding in weekly or monthly installments. But I’m honestly not so sure. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: WandaVision, “Now In Color”

wandavision-episode-3-olsen-parrisIf you’re a TV fan of a certain age, you may recall sweeps months. They were glorious times for fans of television because the networks would set ad revenue rates based on the ratings of a couple of months of the year. This meant you got a lot of new content and episodes of your favorite shows when big things would happen — couples getting together, marriage proposals, weddings, births.

And while sweeps months aren’t quite as huge as they once were, I still can’t help but feel like this third installment of WandaVison would be a near-perfect sweeps episode. Not only do we get the birth of Wanda and Vision’s twins, but we get some hints about the larger picture of what’s going on here.

While watching Wanda try to cover up her rapidly evolving pregnancy made good use of television tropes (hiding in coats, behind things, etc), it was once we got to Geraldine arriving on-scene that things kicked up a notch. Suddenly, it appears that Geraldine knows about Wanda outside of the fantasy sit-com world that’s been built around her. Geradine drops the knowledge of her brother who died — someone who could run really, really fast. Interestingly enough, Vision also displays the ability to run really, really fast in this episode, something I’m pretty sure isn’t in his standard retinue of powers (at least from my limited reading of the character).

It also appears some of the supporting cast seems to know more than they’re telling.

The ending makes it appear as if Wanda is somehow part of a Truman Show-like experiment taking place. It does make me wonder if the Vision is also in there or if he’s also part of the simulation. Or are there “real” people in there who can be expelled (and possibly reinserted, I assume) and characters (the never seen husband of Katherine Hahn’s character, for example. Or is that red herring of someone more significant that we haven’t seen yet?)

It all makes for some fascinating questions and not a lot of answers. But then again, it’s only episode three.

I am curious to see which family sitcom they pull from for the 80’s and if the kids will rapidly age and change actors portraying them. If that’s the case, I could see how Family Ties might be a good sitcom for that era. Or will the homages have to slow down a bit to spread them across the next six episodes?

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Vintage SF Month Review: Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein

vintage-sf-badgeIn a way, I was participating in Vintage SF Month before it became an Internet sensation a couple of years ago.  I attended a local book club devoted to sci-fi and fantasy and one of the founders insisted that we kick off the new year with a work from Robert A. Heinlein.

So, this year as January approached, I decided that one of the books I’d read Vintage SF Month would be a new (to me) novel by Heinlein.  And so, I picked this one…and I’m not sure it really worked out all that well.

Podkayne of Mars

A decade or so ago, I participated in a local real-world sci-fi and fantasy book discussion group and each January, we’d kick-off the new year by reading an offering from Robert K. Heinlein. I first “discovered” Heinlein in high school when I attempted to read To Sail Beyond the Sunset simply because the cover featured a naked woman with her long, flowing red hair strategically covering up the “naughty” bits. (This was in the days before the Internet and nudity was harder to come by).

I never quite finished Sunset, though it sat on my shelves for years. Thankfully, the Internet came along and, in addition to making it easier to find nudity, it helped me understand a bit of the order that one can and should read Heinlein novels in order to fully understand and possibly enjoy them. I’ve gravitated toward the big names from Heinlein in my attempts to read his stories and slowly found that I prefer his “juvenile” offerings to some of his doorstop-sized tomes. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: WandaVision Episode One and Two

 

WANDAVISION

Around the turn of the century, there were rumors that multiple epic properties that could or would be difficult to adapt in single movies were being considered as multi-platform adaptations. Start with a movie, move into a TV show and then go back and forth as needed.

They never saw the light of day back then. But in the day and age of binge-watching and with movie theaters shut down for the foreseeable future, the time seems ripe to see if such an idea can and would work. Enter Marvel Studios, who at this point can seemingly do no wrong. Wanting to bolster subscribers to Disney Plus, Marvel is working on multiple live-action series that will tie into the larger MCU.

Given that we’ve all had to take a year off from new Marvel movies and audiences have gotten out of the habit of going to a theater every few months for the latest Marvel offering, introducing WandaVision right now seems like a great idea. Continue reading

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Review: Girl Gone Mad by Avery Bishop

Girl Gone Mad

About mid-way through Avery Bishop’s debut thriller Girl Gone Mad, Emily Bennett remembers her high school reading of Lord of the Flies and her teacher’s assertion that was the island inhabited entirely by girls, the cruelty inflicted upon each other couldn’t or wouldn’t have happened. Apparently, the teacher didn’t know that sitting in his classroom were five young ladies who could and would inflict cruelty on par or worse than anything the boys dreamed up on Wiliam Goldman’s deserted island.

Girl Gone Mad looks at bullying gone horribly, horribly wrong. In middle school, Emily and her friends form a clique known as the Harpies. When a new girl named Grace arrives at school, Emily invites her into the group, only to see the other members bully and belittle her. Years later, Emily is atoning for her behavior as a psychologist, working with boys and girls who face the type of trauma she and her friends inflicted upon Grace.

And that, as it often does it these books, the past rears its ugly head. The death of one of the members of the Harpies leads Emily down a path as she begins to wonder if someone from her past is intent upon exacting revenge for her and the Harpies’ actions in middle school.

The sheer level of cruelty and bullying inflicted the various members of the Harpies inflicted upon each other will make your skin crawl, especially if you’re the parent of a girl. It starts off seemingly harmless with the initiation ritual involving “borrowing” something from a store at the mall but gets progressively worse as time goes along. The long-term damage to all the girls in the group becomes evident with each page — especially in the case of Emily, who has decided not to have kids in fear of one of the following in her footsteps and how this slowly begins to alienate her seemingly perfect fiancee Daniel.

Full of red herrings and plot twists, Girl Gone Mad keeps piling on distraction after distraction until it the entire story collapses under its own weight in the first quarter of the novel. It’s a case of a couple of twists too many in the final pages and an attempt for the author to attempt to wrap up everything into too neat a final bow. Once we get past the huge shock of Emily seemingly losing her entire life in the course of a few hours thanks to the sins of her past, the twists and turns seem a bit piled on and like Bishop wasn’t necessarily sure how to pull the crazy-train into the station.

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Review: This Will Be Funny Someday by Katie Henry

This Will Be Funny SomedayOne of my great literary pleasures of 2020 was discovering Katie Henry’s works. Henry’s young adult novels feature quirky teenage protagonists facing issues and dilemmas that most of us would struggle with as adults. The characters are all frustratingly relatable because, as readers, we can see how they could and should change themselves to make interacting with the world a bit smoother and easier. But, like all of us, they can’t or aren’t ready to make that change just yet.

Henry’s third novel This Will Be Funny Someday may be her best offering so far, which is high praise given how much I enjoyed her first two novels.

Sixteen-year-old Izzy has always felt a bit out of place. In her family, she sees herself as the odd person out when it comes to the matched pairs — her parents and her older twin siblings. At school, Izzy is protected by her relationship with her boyfriend, though even that has come at the cost of alienating her best friend. Izzy has deep-rooted issues when it come to assigning herself value — whether it’s the (misconception) that she ruined her mother’s career when her mom discovered she was pregnant with Izzy or the emotionally abusive nature of her relationship with her boyfriend. Continue reading

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Vintage Sci-Fi Month: Looking Forward

vintage-sf-badgeIt’s Vintage Sci-Fi Month! It’s a time to celebrate the foundation (pun fully intended) and look back at some of the building blocks that brought us to the future.

Hosted by the Little Red Reviewer, “vintage” refers to anything published on or before 1979. And while, I’ve picked out a few books to read during the month, I have to admit part of my excitement about 2021 will be two adaptations of two of the giants in the genre.

Yes, I’m referring to the upcoming adaptations of Foundation and Dune.

Dune has had multiple attempts to bring it to the silver-screen, including the David Lynch version and a couple of Sci-Fi Channel miniseries back in the mid-90’s. Both had their good points, both had some limitations. But I can’t wait to see what director Denis Villeneuve brings to this sprawling epic. His work on Arrival (which made me weep at the end. If you haven’t seen it, go into it without knowing anything) alone made me think that he could do for Dune what Peter Jackson did for Lord of the Rings. I have to admit, I’m extremely encouraged by the preview we got late last year and while I have HBO Max, I may still pony up for a ticket to see the one on a huge screen with cutting edge surround sound.

A_foundation_seriesI’m also equally intrigued to see Issac Asimov’s Foundation novels come to life as a tv series. I read these for the first time back in high school and loved them. I read them at the time when Asimov appeared to have a bit of a resurgence on the best-seller list and was working to tie all of his various universes together (with varying degrees of success). It seems like there were rumors for years that the novels would become a movie franchise, though I have to admit after I, Robot, I was concerned that a two-hour movie might not do justice to this seminal sci-fi series. Now, that it’s a series for Apple TV, I hope it has the time to tell it’s story right and hopefully open up this world to a whole new generation of fans. Again, the preview released late last year has me intrigued.

I know we’ve got a bit of a longer wait for Dune than Foundation (which I think is promised this spring). And I really do hope that both live up to my expectations and dreams for them.

Either way, I think I may spend some of my 2021 reading time with these old friends. I’ve already purchased the audiobook of Dune to refresh my memory and I’m leaning toward doing the same for the Foundation novels.

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TV Round-Up: Des

des-david-tennantAn episode of Animaniacs features the Warner family at the mall, attempting to entice passers-by into taking a survey about the participant’s interest in watching shows with actor George Wendt and shows with George Wendt eating beans. In many ways, I feel like this was a precursor of today’s algorithms that monitor where you go on-line and then begins to feed you ads based on that history.

I’m a Doctor Who fan. I’ve watched David Tennant’s era as the Doctor and have participated in online forums discussing Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor. So, it was probably inevitable that Facebook’s algorithm would pick this up and begin to feed me ads for other shows featuring David Tennant.

For a couple of weeks, it felt like every other ad I saw was for the U.S. streaming debut of Des. So, when the opportunity came along to get a month of AMC+ at a reduced rate, I decided I’d give it a try, if only to watch Des.

Before beginning the series, I was blissfully unaware of who Dennis Nilson was. And after spending a little less than three hours with this miniseries, I’m still not quite sure any significant answers have been provided. Continue reading

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Holiday Audiobook Reviews

Leading up to Christmas, I enjoyed a few holiday-themed audiobooks from Audible’s free for subscribers collections. One was my traditional (at least for a while) visit with Charles Dickens and the other two were very different ends of the rom-com spectrum.

A Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Adapted by R.D. Carstairs)

For a while, I followed a tradition of visiting Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol each holiday season. And while that tradition fell to the wayside the last few years, I decided that 2020 seemed like as good a time as any to revive it.

This year’s visit is a full-cast adaptation by R.D. Carstairs. Featuring a solid cast that includes Derek Jacoby as the narrator/Dickens, this version of the Carol hit all the right notes. The cast is solid, the adaptation is good, and I even found myself picking up a few highlights or notes that I hadn’t before.

Eight Winter NightsEight Winter Nights by Liz Maverick

Rachel met Oz at last year’s Hanukah party. But despite having a great connection and meeting him first, her friend Tamara swooped in and has been dating Oz for a year while Rachel pines away for him, filling journal after journal with love letters for Oz. Then, Oz hurts his leg and gets jilted by Tamara, who conveniently asks Rachel to take care of him while she’s partying in a sunny, warmer clime. Continue reading

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Review: Escape Pod: The Science-Fiction Anthology edited by Murr Laffety and S.B. Divya

Escape Pod: The Science Fiction AnthologyCelebrating fifteen years of original podcast science-fiction, Escape Pod offers up an anthology of fifteen stories from some of the most prominent names in the genre.

I’ve always found short story collections a nice way to sample an author’s work and decide if I might want to wade deeper into their works. This collection contains several authors I’ve read a great deal of what they’ve written (John Scalzi), some I’ve wanted to read for a while but haven’t quite taken the plunge yet (N.K. Jemison) and some that I’m aware of but haven’t picked up something from yet. Overall, it’s a pretty good collection with some interesting introductions by editors S.B. Divya and Murr Lafferty.

Being a Scalzi fan, his story stood out, though I think I’ve read it before. I will admit that Lafferty’s entry felt a bit abrupt, almost as if the author had a word or page count and just stopped writing when it was achieved. The other complaint with that story is that it’s set within the universe of her Hugo-award nominated novel and I felt like I was missing some of the contexts of the story having not read the novel first. It did make me want to seek out the book and finally get it off the to-be-read pile, so I suppose that’s something.

I’m a big fan of podcast fiction and have enjoyed the podcast this collection celebrates. I’ve read these stories were originally presented as episodes of the podcast and halfway through, I couldn’t help but wonder what they might be liked experienced as audio stories. I may have to look around a bit and give that avenue a try.

I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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