Saturday, 19 September 2015

Reading all the next big sci-fi blockbusters before they happen

This year, as a semi-serious and quasi-redundant law student, I have been devouring a respectable number of novels to appease my growing science-fiction appetite. If you have read some of my previous posts, you may have realised that I am a pretty serious cyberpunk fan. And that I watch a shit tonne of movies.

Anyhow, so I've realised that most of the novels I've read this past year will all be turned into movies very soon. So since it's Saturday and my deadline for my freelance articles are due tomorrow, I thought - NO BETTER WAY TO PROCRASTINATE THEN TO SPEND 3 HOURS WRITING SHIT THAT ISN'T ACTUALLY DUE.

Truly orgasmic cyberpunk scenery

NEUROMANCER by William Gibson (1984)

For the last few years, I've been trying to get more into the world of cyberpunk and sci-fi literature. I've attempted to read William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer, which is the biblical work of the cyberpunk genre, but because I only have soft copies of it on my laptop and iPhone, I've been finding it really hard to actually... you know, physically read it. Moreover, jesus christ, I know Gibson is like the forefather of cyberpunk but, and it pains me to say this, his writing style is spasmodic as fuck. I just. Can't. Follow it. 

A sojourn into online forums of the genre reveal that I'm actually far from the only one who has this opinion about Gibson's writing. A lot of other cyberpunk fans also have trouble with the way Gibson paints a whole new world at the speed of light. Every second sentence features a new technology or object that is never ever explained - it's a part of this new exciting universe that's simply thrown at you. But yeah, it gets confusing and by the third chapter, you've got a migraine. 

Nonetheless, Neuromancer is universally considered as one of the origins of cyberpunk and a massive inspiration for a lot of subsequent movies and novels (e.g. The Wind-up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi; anime series Cowboy Bebop). I vow to finish reading it no matter what. 

Plus, Hollywood is apparently in talks to develop a movie for Neuromancer, which is exciting, especially visually. 

But then Hollywood also wants to develop live action movies for Ghost in the Shell and AKIRA...
lel which means I'm holding my breath until they cast someone who is actually fucking Asian, and not a joke like this one:

Jackson Rathbone as an Asian robot in The Last Airbender.


READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline (2011)


Ha.

Hahahaha.

Hahahahahahahahhaahahaha.


Do not even talk to me about this bound-volume of what is essentially toilet paper.

If you want my final thoughts on it, you can find my full page review in E-Magazine, which I will not link here as I am paranoid about employers tracing into my blog. But you CAN pick up a copy at a local restaurant, cafe or library. Especially in Box Hill.  Or, ask me in person because I will not be able to refrain from verbally ranting about its endless tropes and cliches, and...

The worst fucking cliche any YA sci-fi/dystopian novel can ever ever ever ever ever spew onto your screen or page is the sassy, 'alternative girl' with the cool multi-coloured/streaked hair, possibly with freckles, but definitely also sporting black nail polish and chewing bubble gum or some shit like that. She'll be witty, quirky, and just as good at video-games/boy stuff as YOU are (the male first person narrator) . Most importantly, she is the perfect balance between cute and hot. That last bit could seriously be a line from the novel. 

NO. 

Anyway, Ready Player One is definitely going to become a movie. I mean of course it is, the whole book is based in virtual reality - perfect movie material. they got Steven Spielberg to direct and it is scheduled to come out in December 2017. They're currently casting. 


WOOL by Hugh Howey (2011)

Mediocre.

Wool is the first in its series about people who live in silos and think that their silo is the only part of human civilisation still alive in a world where the air outside is fatally toxic. However, curious minds begin to wonder, and soon, a woman discovers that the people who live in these silos have been blinded from the truth by a weave of lies from upper management... Then you play John Butler's Revolution on speaker and start tap-dancing with a bloodied pitchfork. 

Yes, it's one of those novels. The dystopian-sedition thing is extremely trendy these days, following the success of The Hunger Games, Insurgent, The Maze Runner, and to a lesser extent, The Giver

Wool at its most basic principles is just like The Hunger Games, and also includes a little romance in its plot devices. But it has flowery language (maybe more enjoyable for people who don't particularly like straight-cut YA-style writing), and most importantly, no stupid love triangles/sexual tension ostensibly designed for marketing/consumer/tween-girl purposes. Because trust me, I have read the entire Twilight series and when I read The Hunger Games, there wasn't any difference in the way that romance is used as more or less a 'squee' factor. A squee factor that eventually led to the portmanteau 'Peeniss'. 

So yeah, I enjoyed Wool, but didn't love it and it wasn't that addictive a read. 

There are rumours that Ridley Scott is producing the movie adaptation, which would be good because I think Wool deserves a lot of blood and guts and accurate portrayals of strong women. 


RED RISING by Pierce Brown (2014)

This book is fucking amazing.

I felt so compelled to praise this book after I finished it, that I actually updated my Facebook status for once, with a long-ish paragraph about how awesome this was and how there will no doubt be a bidding war for the rights to make the movie for this. 
And yes, this February, Universal Pictures outbid Sony with a seven-figure sum for Red Rising's screen rights. The guy who directed World War Z, Marc Foster, is apparently steering the helm. 

So Red Rising is actually what it is advertised by its marketers: Ender's Game meets The Hunger Games.

That is LITERALLY what Red Rising is. But just because the novel is unoriginal doesn't make it any less fun. Because it is helluva fun. And anyway, books and films are inspired by iconic works all the time. 

As an obsessive Ender's Game fan, I actually felt like Red Rising was an homage. Clearly, the very young 27 year old Pierce Brown also grew up reading Ender's Game and revering its genius protagonist Ender Wiggin (one of the most iconic characters in all of science fiction). In Red Rising, he combines everything that made Ender's Game good, and everything that made The Hunger Games good, and chucked it in space. 

And I love. Space operas.

So yeah, the book is as they say on Good Reads - "unputtadownable".



THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir (2011)   -  movie coming out in November 2015

Only fedora-wearing science nerds will really like. Although I'm still excited to see the movie. 

This book  revolves around an astronaut named Mark Watney, who is accidentally left behind in a shuttle on Mars during an expedition gone wrong. He has to rely on his extensive knowledge of space, physics, chemistry, engineering and botany to survive until someone on Earth figures out he's still alive.

Even though 104467 people have given it a 5/5 rating on Good Reads, and it has garnered critical reception generally, I would only give it a 1/5. 

First, and to be fair, I never 'studied' science. Sure, I did it all the way up to year 10, as is compulsory, then dropped the science subjects and picked up a few math ones and the rest were humanities based. Think politics and history. So ironically, as a science-fiction lover, I am NOT savvy with the hard science. Thus, this entire book, which is 90% explanation, goes way over my head. No doubt, those with an actual science background will probably love it, and feel some sort of resonance when reading about all the great and ingenious ways Matt devises to make food and communicate with the outer world.

The second point though, is actually its shitty protagonist, which is a fair literary condemnation. See, I don't REALLY mind the whole exposition thing as I keep telling myself - "this is probably the exact reason why people like it" - but then I still couldn't get past Mark Watney.

Watney is one of the biggest douchebags ever, and if I had to work with anyone with a similar personality, I would kill myself. This is the most terrifying thing because according to the book, Mark Watney was chosen specifically for his 'terrific' personality - easygoing, funny, a real bro. HAHAHAHAHA OR THAT'S WHAT ANDY WEIR LIKES TO THINK.

Someone on Good Reads who gave 2 stars actually did a quick background check on author Andy Weir and basically found that he has spent his entire life in academia, studying hard sciences. And while that is very admirable, the impact on his social life/skills - WELL, it's pretty goddamn obvious in the book. There are a crapload of 'hilarious' puns, 'smooth' pick-up artist lines (similar things), 'cool-guy' swearing when actually unnecessary, misogynistic jokes about women, and a heavy sense of obnoxious arrogance that is played off as 'smart funny genius'. The only people who don't agree with me are probably people that buy into that sort of crap.

I HATED MARK WATNEY AND WANTED HIM TO DIE IN THE SHUTTLE SO WE CAN BE FREE OF HIS PENIS JOKES. The end.


ANCILLARY JUSTICE  by Ann Leckie (winner of the 2014 Hugo, Nebula AND Arthur C Clarke awards!! The three biggest prizes in SF)

A totally unexpected thriller. Of mind-blowing creativity. 

I'm only half-way into this but my god. Ancillary Justice is good. It's addictive. It's almost Red Rising addictive. But the thing that makes it better than Red Rising

Originality.

The main character/first person narrator, Breq, isn't human. She's AI. And she's not just an AI controlling one body, like how we usually imagine AI - as an android. She is an AI that controls a humongous warship, and twenty other human bodies (soldiers) at the same time. She IS all of them at the same time. 

*note that she is only referred to by the pronoun 'she' because her human shells/bodies are female. 

And the greatest thing ever? You get to dive inside her mind, and read descriptions of her seeing and feeling the world simultaneously from her different sets of human bodies. And no, not as separate chapters, but as real-time back-and-forth switching which is described within sentences - within paragraphs! And the writing isn't spasmodic at all; instead, it maintains a high quality of consistency throughout the chapters I've read. Overall, the effect is eerie, but incredibly cool, if I have to use the word. 

I haven't finished the book yet, but so far, it remains a mystery why there is only ONE (shell) of her left. 

Ancillary Justice is apparently being picked up by Fox Studios as a TV series. 

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