Science Fiction

Zeke Newbold

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strugatsky.jpg

I would put this old gem - from the Strugatsky brothers in 1964 (those giants of Soviet and international 60's/70's S.F) on my top 5 of favourite science fiction novels, and I don't know how it passed me by for so long.

It reads a bit like a sort of colourful, slightly bawdy swashbuckling historical romance except that the SFnal twist is that the central character is a sort of sociohistorical spy sent from a future Earth - and we are on another planet which is roughly at a Middle Ages level of cultural stage.However, even given this, things are going from bad to worse there as a corrupt dictator takes control of society and seeks to purge any would be opponents, especially men of culture and learning.

Can our hero, who is there under an alias, resist the growing temptation to interfere in the development of this society, thus breaking one of main the rules of his being there? (Think `prime directive`)

The good writing shines through this new translation, which is courtesy of from the same translator responsible for the recent version of their `Roadside Pic Nic`. (If you have tried to read `Hard to be a God` prior to 2014 and found it too daunting then try this one - the older translation was re-translated from a German language version, and somewhat opaque).

Like all good science fiction this works on many levels - with adventure, intrigue, philosophy, satire - and , because of its heartfelt humane attitude- it all somehow leaves you feeling uplifted too. There is a helpful foreword by Ken Macleod and a stimulating afterword by Boris Strurgatsky. Both of them focus on the political underpinings of the work (it was conceived as a bit of a protest on the clamping down on the `thaw` in Soviet Russia from 1962 - but, of course, has much wider resonances than that).
This has almost made me love this genre again.
 

GNC

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I've seen the epic film of Hard to Be a God, I had to read an article on it to understand what I'd just seen. Probably should have read the book!
 
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I've seen the epic film of Hard to Be a God, I had to read an article on it to understand what I'd just seen. Probably should have read the book!
This was my review back in August 2015:

Hard to Be a God: Based on the novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. 30 scientists travel from Earth to a planet which is stuck in the middle ages. A Theocracy suppresses all learning, even drowning scholars in cesspits when they don't hang them. One of the scientists living under the guise of a local noble gets caught up between the machinations of two rival sects, The Greys and The Blacks.

A film which can be confusing and difficult to follow at times. But is worth seeing.

7/10.

To help clear things up you might wish to consult the synopsis but Beware of Spoilers.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_to_Be_a_God_(2013_film)
 
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This was my review back in August 2015:

Hard to Be a God: Based on the novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. 30 scientists travel from Earth to a planet which is stuck in the middle ages. A Theocracy suppresses all learning, even drowning scholars in cesspits when they don't hang them. One of the scientists living under the guise of a local noble gets caught up between the machinations of two rival sects, The Greys and The Blacks.

A film which can be confusing and difficult to follow at times. But is worth seeing.

7/10.

To help clear things up you might wish to consult the synopsis but Beware of Spoilers.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_to_Be_a_God_(2013_film)
I so want to watch that.
 

Zeke Newbold

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I so want to watch that.
Well, by all accounts, the Aleksei German film adaptaion of 2013 is one of those films that the critics like and that one watches to improve oneself - i.e it's in black and white, lengthy and focuses on the cruelty and depravity of the overall situation and hence is generally rather grim.

There was a film version of it made in 1989-a Russian-German collaboration, involving a German prog rock score -which sounds to be rather more fun.(After all, the novel is fun too, behind the all the deep waters that it treads).

In short, I'd recommend reading the book before tackling any of the screen versions.
 

GNC

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Wise words, Zeke, but I wouldn't have known background info was essential before I watched the film, alas. I'm not averse to difficult 3 hour long black and white movies, though, they can be quite bracing.
 

MrRING

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Here's something that may be of interest:

https://calisphere.org/collections/26943/
This collection contains photographs taken by Jay Kay Klein as he documented Science Fiction & Fantasy fandom from the 1950s through the 1990s. The majority of images were taken by Klein while attending various Science Fiction & Fantasy conventions and events including many from the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon).
 

Naughty_Felid

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_Fleet:_Dauntless

Characters a wee bit 2 dimensional and few plot holes that you could steer a battle cruiser through but well paced with very good battle sequences.

The writer is ex-navy and that shines through as he gets ship-life and ship to ship battles spot on.

Also quite tech-light so nothing too heavy. If you want a easy way to pass a few hours I suggest you try Dauntless the first novel.
 

Timble2

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Wise words, Zeke, but I wouldn't have known background info was essential before I watched the film, alas. I'm not averse to difficult 3 hour long black and white movies, though, they can be quite bracing.

Stalker (1979),
directed by Andrei Tarkovsky written by the Boris and Arkady Strugasky and based on thrir novel Roadside Picnic (which is rather different from the film). 161 minutes for people who found Solaris (the original) a bit lightweight.
 

GNC

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Stalker (1979), directed by Andrei Tarkovsky written by the Boris and Arkady Strugasky and based on thrir novel Roadside Picnic (which is rather different from the film). 161 minutes for people who found Solaris (the original) a bit lightweight.
And it's a sci-fi film whose only special effect is a glass moving slightly right at the end! Tarkovsky famously went right off Solaris when it became his most popular film, and Stalker does look awfully contrarian compared to it.
 

hunck

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I love Stalker & can re-watch every so often. It bears repeated viewing - there's always something you've forgotten & the black & white cinematography is fantastic. You have to slow down into the pace of a film nearly 3 hours long where not much happens.
 

GNC

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The Handmaid's Tale did well at the Emmys last night, but most deservedly Ann Dowd won a Best Supporting Actress gong! Here she is being interviewed about it:

She looked stunned! Fantastic performance in it.
 

Zeke Newbold

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The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone (Gollancz, 2016).

I am so glad that this type of eco-thriller science fiction is still out there after having been eclipsed for so long by far fuuture space faring yarns.

Ezekiel Boone (cool first name btw!) makes a nod back to the creature feature tales from the seventies by the likes of Guy N. Smith in this science fiction thriller cum horror (more the latter, in tone). An ancient race of malevolent and marauding arachnids is inadvertetly exhumed from the ground and begin to lay seige on present day Earth.

THEY CRAWL EN MASSE! THEY ARE FAST! THEY LIKE BLOOD! THEY GESTATE INSIDE YOUR BODY!

It is all very Michael Crichton: there's a slow build up - very effective in its sense of dread - as we get to know individual characters in an almost soap opera type way. It tries hard to be very international but is also rather American -too American, really.

I would have liked more scince exposition (you would have got that from Crichton) and I'm also getting the sense that what this is is really another Zombie apocalypse outing - except with the zombies replaced by our eight legged friends.

But I'm only half way through.
 

GNC

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I've just found out there's a World of Tomorrow 2! The first one was a heartbreaking wonder, but I've no idea where it could go from there. I'd like to find out, though.
 

Naughty_Felid

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The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone (Gollancz, 2016).

I am so glad that this type of eco-thriller science fiction is still out there after having been eclipsed for so long by far fuuture space faring yarns.

Ezekiel Boone (cool first name btw!) makes a nod back to the creature feature tales from the seventies by the likes of Guy N. Smith in this science fiction thriller cum horror (more the latter, in tone). An ancient race of malevolent and marauding arachnids is inadvertetly exhumed from the ground and begin to lay seige on present day Earth.

THEY CRAWL EN MASSE! THEY ARE FAST! THEY LIKE BLOOD! THEY GESTATE INSIDE YOUR BODY!

It is all very Michael Crichton: there's a slow build up - very effective in its sense of dread - as we get to know individual characters in an almost soap opera type way. It tries hard to be very international but is also rather American -too American, really.

I would have liked more scince exposition (you would have got that from Crichton) and I'm also getting the sense that what this is is really another Zombie apocalypse outing - except with the zombies replaced by our eight legged friends.

But I'm only half way through.
let us know if its worth it as my monthly audible is coming up.
 

skinny

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I was handed a bunch of OS Card books last year and finally got around to starting Seventh Son. It wasn't at all what I was expecting from someone known for their SF work. It has a good premise and the characters are quite attractive so far. I'll proceed on that basis.

I tried to locate Ender's Game without luck. Then I saw the film was to be on TV last Saturday so I recorded it and I've watched it and it's quite good. There are some strong themes in the film which are obviously expanded in Card's book, but the heavy gung-ho militarism is off putting. It redeems itself somewhat at the end. I think it needed a little more extrapolation around the main reveal.

Harry Ford's character is pretty one-dimmensional, but the lead is very good and it was a nice surprise to see Ben Kingsley decked out in Maori face tattoos and putting on a passable NZ accent.

Looking forward to reading the book. 3/5
 

Swifty

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Voyage To The Planet Of Prehistoric Women (1968) :atom:.. the full movie!.

 

maximus otter

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Have you seen this 1953 investigative documentary ?
Please tell me that the crew from Mystery Science Theater 3000 have got hold of this masterpiece. Their comments on the cringe-provoking "erotic" dance at about 50:00 would challenge any sphincter.

maximus otter
 

Zeke Newbold

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let us know if its worth it as my monthly audible is coming up.
Just finished The Hatching and, on balance, I'd give the book the thumbs up, with some caveats. Boone takes what is a rather silly premise but writes it up well enough to create something vivd and memorable. In particular there is some good solid characterisation - I was almost reminded of Whyndam at times - even if I didn't find any of the characters all that likeable.

But the reservations. I've already metioned the lack of a scientific exposition. These spiders act in swarms and actively attack people - which the book itself points out is untypical arachnid behaviour. The rationale given - that these are a previously unlisted type of spider just seems lame, and you know that the spiders are another zombie apocalypse routine in another guise. (You could contrast this with Guy N. Smith's The Locusts from - oh, a long time back - where there is a convincing, researched scenario).

Then you realise that the novel is just Book One of an ambitious projected cycle and... well am I really the only person left in the world who appreciates a self-contained story!? So you do feel a little shortchanged when it becomes apparent that the whole thing is just setting up the background to a much longer multi-book money spinner.

Oh, and it is all rather gloomy, too much so, and could do with a bit of light relief here and there.

So, it's worth a read, but I won't be catching any of the sequels. On principle.
 
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