Feeds:
Posts
Comments

It’s full steam ahead on the project front!  While A.K.A. is still in development limbo, Southern Gothic (the pilot I co-wrote with our friend Tara Yelland) has garnered some early interest.  My U.S. agent will be reading it this weekend and will get back to me early this week with his take on a prospective strategy.  Also in his inbox for a weekend read is that SF actioner I finished about a week and a half ago.  My Canadian agent thought it “Loads of fun” and suggested we send it to The Big Boys to see if they’d be interested in wading into the t.v. waters.  Meanwhile, I’m in the process of juggling three different pilots (in response to one of my agents’ request for something a little more provocative and a lot less genre).  I had a terrific idea for a script and got five pages in before getting bogged down by issues related to ex-convicts and driver’s licenses.  I spend an afternoon researching and finally figured out how I was going to tweak the outline – and then got distracted by the second script.  I pitched Paul a sucker-punch dark tease which I went ahead and wrote, pitched him a general outline and then went ahead and completed ten pages before – getting distracted yet again, this time by an idea for a third script inspired by horrifically true events.  And that’s the pilot I’ve been working on over the past few days.  I just hit the 28 page mark and am hoping to push past 30 (and the cafeteria scene) tonight.  In the case of all three pilots-in-progress, I know exactly where I’m going and, most importantly, where I want to end up.  And, like Dark Matter, A.K.A., Southern Gothic, and the actioner, all three will end on some great Holy Sh*t! moments.  Oh, and speaking of Dark Matter – things have miraculously picked up on that front.  Given past experience, I’m not about to start jumping up and down, but I will note how, in this business, the fortunes of certain projects can turn on a dime.

The results of our June Book of the Month Club are in and the winner is:

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 10.02.03 AM

Evening’s Empire by Paul McAuley

Our June BOTMC discussion will begin June 2nd.

Check this blog’s right sidebar for our upcoming Book of the Month Club discussions.

Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…Akemi and…The Queen

1“Wraith culture shock!”said Akemi, two-thirds of the way through this twisty-turny study of wraith political ambition and military/social structure.

Without a background on the retrovirus, she found Keller’s pitch to Todd in the tease downright wild: “What the f*%k this crazy wraith plan?”  But she WAS onboard.

As is customary with most wraith episodes, she had plenty to say about the bad hair.  Also, with regard to Ronon: “Handsome guy need haircut.”  Little did she realize he already got a haircut earlier in the season and has been wigged ever since.

A deeper, better understanding of our new coloful allies seemed to go over well: “Wraith, so friendly!”  And she did enjoy the individual personalities shining through.

Much less love for Teyla’s transformation which, quite simply, she didn’t buy: “How did Teyla turn into wraith?  What kind of surgery did she do?  So hard to believe. It’s like turning people into pug.  I don’t think it’s okay to shortcut that part.  Don’t you think weird?”.  But we saw the surgery scenes, didn’t we?  Well, okay, not exactly…

And, of course, the usual highlights: “Pretty good makeup!  I like the shooting scenes with the ships.”

All in all, pretty enjoyable although: “This episode have a lot of question marks.”

Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular Jeff W.

What is it they say?  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  But what comes next?  Fool me three times and…what?  I need to know because, despite the obvious history, I’m going down THAT road again.  It’s like that friend who always shows up late to the party despite the fact you told him you have to leave at a reasonable hour because you have to work the next day.  The last time, he phoned ten hours late to tell you he wasn’t coming.  This time, he initially put his E.T.A. at around 7:00 p.m., then said he meant 8:00, then revised that to 9:00, and now is saying 10:00…but you really know he means 11:00.  I’m always one to offer the benefit of the doubt but, technically, he’s still maintaining he intends to make the very first party…that was thrown two weeks ago!

In other cryptic news – how does that other saying go?  When one door closes a window is left partially open for you to attempt to squeeze through but, when you do, it closes a little further, trapping your ankle and, as you struggle to disengage yourself, you glance over and notice that the door isn’t closed after all but actually slightly ajar and if you don’t find your way over soon, that busybody neighbor is going to waltz over and close it for you, thereby locking you inside with your eccentric aunt’s pet chimpanzee, Nippy McFaceChew.  Or something like that.

Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…Whispers!

1Ouch.  In retrospect, not one of my favorites despite the great time we had on set making it, and our wonderful guest stars.  On the bright side, there were a few moments that made Akemi jump.  Mission accomplished. :)

Ultimately, she didn’t have much to say about this episode.  She’s NOT a fan of horror but IS a fan of Beckett: “Nice to see doctor.  But very scary.”

She was quick to point out parallels between the mutant hybrids of this episode and flesh-eaters of The Walking Dead: “Like super aggressive zombies!”.

After 65+ episodes of the franchise, she is now able to recognize familiar locations: “The same forest as The Hunt.  I liked that episode better.”  Hmmm.  Come to think of it, so did I.

Tonight, we move on to The Queen.  It’ll be interesting to see how this one stands up to our my critical re-watch.

Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular glowyzoey.

Last night, I met up with my foodie friend – Nicole, Lan, and Missy – for a little culinary tour of Chinatown.  Nicole, our guide on this trek, had us hopping from one place to the next, covering four different places in which we sampled about a dozen different dishes…

Fellow foodies: Nicole, Lan, and Missy.

Fellow foodies: Nicole, Lan, and Missy.

We met at The Pie Shoppe, a tiny place that offers a variety of pies both sweet and savory.  On this night, only half an hour away from closing, they were out of savory options so we settled for (and by settled, I mean devoured) two of the sweet pies: apple-rhubarb and chocolate pecan.  I can’t fairly judge a fruit pie without ice cream so I won’t weigh in on the apple-rhubarb, but that chocolate-pecan pie was outstanding on its own. I was tempted to try the salted honey pie but Nicole had to remind me to pace myself.  This, after all, was a marathon.

A plethora of pies

A plethora of pies

From there, we headed one block over to a place called Oyster Express that offered about a dozen varieties of oysters on the shell in addition to a number of other menu items.  But, come on!  The place is called Oyster Express!  So we ordered two dozen assorted raw oysters.  They were all excellent.  Akemi, who had to beg off because she was feeling under the weather, would have loved it.

On the half shell at the Oyster

On the half shell at Oyster Express

One block over and two blocks down, we hit Besties, a restaurant specializing in sausages.

With by besties at Besties

With by besties at Besties

We ordered a number of items and shared.  Among them:

The sausage slider

The sausage slider

Currywurst

Currywurst

Asparagus with hollandaise.  Oh, and an egg!

Asparagus with hollandaise. Oh, and an egg!

For me, the highlight of this stop was the venison and blueberry sausage (that, for some reason, I failed to snap).  They were out of the intriguing sounding Butter Chicken sausage, so I’ll definitely have to make a return visit.

From there, it was one block over, three blocks up (through the downtown east side’s more colourful area), and around the corner to the Dunleavy Snack Bar.  At this point, Lan was tapped out and declared himself stuffed.  BUT that didn’t stop him from having some of the bimbimbap – and later, finishing it off when the waiter asked/threatened to take the plate away…

Pork belly and Korean chicken steamed buns

Pork belly and Korean chicken steamed buns.  I was hoping the chicken would be spicier, like they serve at that Korean restaurant in Shinjuku where the chicken is so spicy they serve it with a side order of surgical gloves so that you don’t burn your fingers while eating.

We didn’t order dessert, but only because we’d already had some at the start of our tour.

Thanks to Nicole for organizing and Lan and Missy batting clean-up on those fries and rice.

Next up, braise and bourbon at my place!

Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…The Shrine.

1Our viewing of this fan favorite episode kicked off with this out-of-left-field exchange:

Akemi: “Teyla is weird name.  Like fixing clothes.”

Me: “No.  That’s TAI-LOR.”

Akemi (clearly disappointed): “Oh.”

This episode reinforced David Hewlitt’s talents as an actor: “McKay is a good actor.”

And also reinforced how pretty Jewel Staite is: “Jewel is very cute, don’t you think so?”  Hmmm.  Is this a trick question?

Akemi was also delighted to see actor Jason Momoa get a few more lines than his average: “Happy to see handsome guy speak a little more than usual.”

She loved the night time establisher of Atlantis all lit up: “Beautiful!  Like Shanghai or Hong Kong.”

But found the lighting in the famed pier scene a little “too dramatic”.  As for the gorgeous night time setting: “Nice scene for young couple but instead two middle-aged guys.”

Again, high marks to Mark Savela and the VFX team: “I liked the insect coming out.  It looked really real!.”

But the surgery scene – moreover, the prospect of the scene – made her squeamish.

In the end though: “I found it sad from the get-go.  Very sad episode but happy ending – which I like!”

Today’s entry is dedicated to Denise McInerney.  Condolences on the passing of your beloved Jeter.

And continuing our discussion of our April Book of the Month Club selection: Annihilation:

Jenny Horn writes: “One thing regarding Annihilation I had not yet considered…perhaps Area X is not on Earth.”

Answer: Now that’s an interesting possibility.  It would explain why the region is so much larger than originally mapped out.  Maybe even an area that exists apart from our space time?

whoviantrish writes: “It’s just so bizarre how they have to enter it and how it’s being kept a secret. Even Area 51 has been discovered.”

Answer: True, but it’s suggested early on that entry (and presumably exit) from Area X is a bigger deal than a simple stroll across an imagined boundary.  If I remember correctly, our narrator even states that she doesn’t remember the actual crossing over.

whoviantrish writes: “The biologist had mentioned they had ways of keeping tabs on Area X.. whatever that means. I’m thinking there were far more truths untold than told. Because they certainly didn’t expect her husband to return so it’s not like they’re guarding it really well.”

Answer: Again, this hints at the possibility that this “entrance” to Area X may be more than just a physical boundary.  If that was the case, the fine folk at the Southern Reach would have gotten their hands on her husband the second he stepped through – rather than being surprised by his reappearance well after the fact.

Jenny Horn writes: “It is clear to me that we are not going to get any answers in subsequent books, so I propose that we make up our own answers to our questions. I’m going to begin by naming the lead character Bridget…Bridget the Biologist. And her husband is/was Richard. Ok, now who wants to say what happened to Richard? Did he morph into the dolphin, or is he still roaming Area X as a human?”

Answer: I’m going to guess his consciousness has been incorporated into Area X.  A sliver of Richard resides in the Crawler, in the mysterious moaning creature, even the dolphin.

Jovanna writes: “I enjoyed Annihilation, more for the dreamy atmosphere than anything else. I always wondered if there were books or stories like this that were just steeped in atmosphere and allowed you to watch without feeling too much.”

Answer: There was certainly a dreamlike quality to the narrative and the way the story was told made it difficult for the reader to connect with anyone beside our protagonist, but I was definitely caught up in the mystery and transported by the story.

Line Noise writes: “It’s possible that the Southern Reach authorities have been infected by Area X and their minds are being controlled in order to keep “feeding” Area X with fresh meat.”

Answer: At this point, anything is possible.  An interesting hypothesis I never considered – even though it is strongly hinted that elements of Area X have infiltrated and infected our reality.

Line Noise writes: “Without advanced technology you need people on the ground to gather information. Assuming the Southern Reach authorities aren’t compromised then I’m sure they are worried about the expanding influence of Area X and it’s a priority for them to find a solution.”

Answer: In which case the team we followed was following a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach.  Would love to find out if this is the case.

Line Noise writes: “They’ve sent in a lot of expeditions but is it wise to tell the current expedition about the tens (perhaps hundreds) of expeditions that have failed before them? [...]. If they were told there were 111 previous expeditions that all failed I suspect they’d struggle to find volunteers.”

Answer: A fair point.  But surely, after those 111 previous expeditions had failed, you would think they would arm the new group with some insight into what they were about to face.  For instance, the script in the tower couldn’t have been a surprise.

Line Noise writes: “Is the Area X phenomenon a purely biological one? In which case maybe some sort of hazmat suit and decontamination/positive pressure tent could be employed to ensure no contamination. Or is it some sort of “field” that affects the brain?”

Answer: It certainly seems to affect the brain which begs the question “How is the agent – biological or otherwise – absorbed by the body?”.  It’s not unreasonable to assume that precautions were taken with previous expeditions (ie. hazmat suits) and they failed to protect the team members.

Kathode writes: “I just heard an interview with the author of “Blood Will Out” on the radio a couple days ago, so when I read the “Schroder” description, the parallels were fresh in my mind. Both have a shady German immigrant who goes by a famous, wealthy-family surname (“Kennedy” in “Schroder”; “Rockefeller” in “Blood Will Out”). Both masquerades come unraveled when the shady con man kidnaps his daughter in a custody dispute. Except in the nonfiction tale, the guy is not only a kidnapper, but also wanted for a double murder in California 23 years before his façade came crashing down. I guess that detail would’ve undermined the reader’s ability to empathize with “Stirred” and find some good in him.

“Blood Will Out” is told from the perspective of the author, who was friends with the con man and duped by him for 10 years. From what I can tell, it’s the story of how he was sucked in and missed all the signs that could have tipped him off that the con man’s entire existence was total BS.”

Answer: Interesting.  I didn’t know anything about the book outside of the blurb I posted.  It and the fact that the book seemed to be getting a lot of buzz.  I’ll eventually get around to reading Schroder because it’s already sitting on my to-read pile, but if you read the other book, please give us a report.

Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…Ghost in the Machine.

1Akemi found The Daedalus Variations incredibly confusing so I was thrilled with the first 15 minutes of this episode.  It was straightforward, fast-paced and full of mystery and suspense.  And then, when Weir appears in the flesh (so to speak) the episode takes a turn into an arguably necessary but no-less painful extended exposition sequence.  And, once it was finally complete, it was too late.  We’d lost Akemi.  Still, she recognized that the mythologically-rich backstory was no doubt appreciated by longtime fans: “Bonus episode for the loyal Stargate fan.”

So, sadly, not another favorite, but this episode did have its highlights:

Whenever Woolsey appears on screen: “Bob!”

She continues to note the disparity between McKay and Ronon’s line count: “How many sentences handsome guy had in this episode?”

And she continues to find Zelenka all sorts of adorable.

The reveal that Weir’s digitized consciousness was responsible for all the tech failures took her by surprise (no doubt because she missed seasons 2 through 4 that introduced the Asurans and dealt with Elizabeth’s disappearance).  She suspected another culprit was behind the strange happenings: “At first I thought flying monkey caused the trouble.  Very smart monkey.”

The strongest reaction in this episode came after Woolsey gave the okay for Weir to download her consciousness into  replicator body.  “ENH?!!!”were her exact words.  In retrospect, she had a point.

In the end, a tough episode for her: “Very difficult to follow, especially for someone who skips the episodes.  And Joe seems tired to explain every single thing that happened.”  True dat.

Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular and birthday gal Erika (poundpuppy29)

 

Continuing our discussion of our April Book of the Month Club selection - Annihilation:

vanderworld.com writes: “I wouldn’t normally comment, but…the next two novels are about 100,000 words each, which complicates things, and are *completely separate novels* in their own right, that interlock with Annihilation…they do not pick up the story right after the events in Annihilation. Annihilation is itself a self-contained short novel. Among other considerations FSG weighed in their approach to publishing the trilogy that weren’t at all cynical.”

Answer: Well, you’re in a better position to know so I stand corrected.  Still, this first book is surprisingly short and the speedy release of subsequent volumes atypical of any series I’ve ever read.  It will be interesting to see how this experiment fares.

skua writes: “The Arkady and Boris Strugatsky´s Roadside Picnic (Tarkovski´s Stalker) sensation at the first stages let me in.”

Answer: Yes, it certainly was reminiscent of Stalker as well with its foray into an uncharted alien landscape where the rules of physics – and logic – no longer apply. Great movie.  Perhaps time for a re-watch.

JeffW writes: ” I found the pacing in Annihilation to be slow and ultimately unsatisfying.”

Answer: I didn’t mind the pacing.  I was so caught up in the story that the slow build really worked for me.  It was like one of those horror movies of old where the meat of the narrative is in the suspense rather than the visceral payoff.

Duptiang writes: “Was the protagonist her whole self or a replacement like what was often explored in the SG series a DNA replacement, replicator conversion?”

Answer: Interesting question.  She seemed to retain a certain part of herself as evidenced by the introspective passages in her journal.  And yet, there’s the hint that she is losing a part of herself as well.  When her husband mysteriously returns from his expedition, she points out that it’s as if a part of him is missing.  He’s not quite the same person…

Duptiang writes: “How did the files get into the Light house, and why was she succumbing to the brightness?”

Answer: My guesses would be – 1) the lighthouse keeper (human or otherwise) and 2) any human being will succumb to Area X following extended exposure to the environment.  Of course, these are just guesses.  Are the answers to come?

whoviantrish writes: “The protagonist is smart, decent, down-to-earth, flawed and brave. She’s easy to like.”

Answer: I found the narrative approach very interesting.  It allowed us to get to know our protagonist but, on the other hand, never allowed us to know or in any way connect with the other characters.

sparrow_hawk writes: ” The prose is lovely and evocative and conveys the sense of weird other-worldliness quite well.”

Answer: Agreed.  He’s a terrific writer and I’ve greatly enjoyed his previous books.

sparrow_hawk writes: “Why are teams still being sent in? What is done to them before they go in? What is happening to The Biologist and has it happened to others before her? Why the heck is everyone so depersonalized and isolated? “

Answer: In my mind, these first two questions are the ones that really need to be answered.  Don’t get me wrong.  I too would like an answer (or, failing that, some solid hints) regarding the fate  of the biologist and how Area X is influencing its visitors, but I’m willing to cut its enigmatic, alien-centered answers some slack.  In the case of the expeditions, I’m in a less forgiving mood since there are real people behind these seemingly illogical decision.  As someone else already pointed out, if so many teams have already gone missing, why are expeditions still being sent into Area X?  What, if anything, is being gained?

Jenny Horn writes: “The premise reminded me some of Michael Grant’s series and King’s Under the Dome as well as LOST, but had none of the payoff. “

Answer:  I’ll have to reserve judgement on payoffs until I’ve completed the trilogy, but you present some very interesting examples.  I didn’t make it through the entire Lost run but my friends who did were VERY disappointed with the finale.  As for Under the Dome – I read it and, while I thought the premise was great and the narrative fairly engaging, I found the ending hugely disappointing.  Sometimes, payoffs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

astrumprota writes: “I guess the antagonist is whoever sends in the missions with nothing but lies. If they want to be successful understanding Area X or stopping its encroachment, why not give them all the information possible, and dispense with having one person, who becomes insane, use hypnotic suggestion on the others? I don’t see an end to the failures.”

Answer: And that fairly encapsulates my biggest bump with the book.  Given all of the previous failed missions, why not better prepare future teams?  Why not arm them with better resources?  This is hinted at early on (ie. the limits to what they can bring, the fact that much of their equipment is outdated, etc.) but these are questions that need to be answered in time.

cat4444 writes: “Overall, I enjoyed the story, but I didn’t find that I was invested in what happened to the characters due to the detached manner in which the story was told.”

Answer: Yes, I had a problem with that too – and the fact that no one had a name  It was always “the psychologist”, “the anthropologist”, “the surveyor”.  I eventually accepted the conceit – until, at one point, a character is referred to as “the anthropologist” in dialogue.  Surely when speaking to each other, I thought, they would use their first names.  But then, upon further consideration, I realized that this entire narrative is an extended journal entry written by our protagonist, so she is essentially offering a tweaked account of her experience.  It’s a reminder that our narrator is human and, perhaps, not to be trusted.

cat4444 writes: “The psychologist obviously knew more about what was happening than the other members of the expedition and was surreptitiously in control through the hypnotic triggers implanted in the other members’ minds. But how much did she really know?”

Answer: Again, I really hope we get the answers to these types of questions, those related to the Southern Reach organization and the reasoning behind some of their seemingly illogical decisions.

cat4444 writes: “The biologist’s observations suggest that they’re being changed. Some become the mossy pillars, but the diary suggests that others are changed into the very wildlife that Area X is rife with and that they may retain some semblance of who and what they were before they were changed.”

Answer: Yep.  And remember her encounter with the dolphin possessed of an uncomfortably familiar gaze?

cat4444 writes: “Is this the 12th expedition to enter from a particular point, the others having entered from somewhere else?”

Answer: Another interesting point is the suggestion that they must pass through some sort of alien portal to cross the boundary from their reality to Area X.

cat4444 writes: “Who or what is the Crawler and what is the purpose of the words on the “Tower” wall? “

Answer: Are those messages a disordered attempt at communication by the Crawler who perhaps makes use of the jumbled memories of those Area X it has absorbed in order to reach out to new visitors?

Line Noise writes: “Clearly Area X affects the mental and physical state of those who enter it. It modifies a person’s perceptions inducing hallucinations and wild emotions. As a result we can’t even trust the biologist’s record of events.”

Answer: Yes, alluded to this earlier, the fact that we could well be dealing with an untrustworthy narrator, one infected by alien consciousness.

2cats writes: “The writer’s style was lovely in places, highly descriptive and inventive, which I do like. I believe this was my first Vandermeer novel and I would read others in the future, when in a mind-bending mood “

Answer: I highly recommend you do.  Maybe this one?  http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/january-26-2009-city-of-saints-and-madmen-by-jeff-vandermeer/

Quick!  Get cast your votes for June’s Book of the Month Club selection!  It’s a tight race and the polls close this weekend:

And continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…1

Well, this one did NOT go over well.  In fact, it probably ranks as Akemi’s least favorite Stargate episode to date – partly because she found it so gosh darn confusing (“So complicated this episode!”), but mainly due to the “everything but the kitchen sink” plot (“A little too much thing going on for me.”).  The word “cliche” also came up quite a few times.

When the countdown clock counts up to 100% in the nick of time: “So cliche.”

On their way back to the jumper, they encounter one more hidden alien to complicate matters: “So cliche.”

When the Daedalus is being attacked by enemy ships and all hope seems lost: “Atlantis will save them.”  And then, when Atlantis does save them: “So cliche.”

For some reason, she really fixated on the team discovering their own dead bodies.  She HATED that shot.  When I asked her why, she explained that unlike the sequence in SGU’s Twin Destinies in which Rush encounters an alternate version of himself, she felt there was no point to their discovery here – outside of the VFX department showing off.  I pointed out that the reason this discovery raises the stakes since alternate versions of themselves were in this exact same predicament and failed.  She grudgingly accepted this explanation and then, seemingly unconvinced: “So not showing off the computer graphic skills?”

This episode’s single highlight: “I like him [Ronon].  Hansamu.”

A potential highlight, quickly quashed, came when the ship finds itself beside the red giant.  “Now they can recharge!”  Uh, sorry.  Wrong Stargate series.

And she continues to be impressed by David Hewlett’s ability to deliver seemingly endless dialogue: “Don’t you think handsome guy’s sentences are very short and McKay’s are very long?   Not fair.  I can’t believe he can remember every single sentence.”

All in all however, Akemi found this episode tiresome despite (because of?) the seemingly endless obstacles the team encounters: “Like after drinking scotch or smoking pot, I have huge ideas and put them all into one script.  I’m a crazy genius and this is chance to write every crazy idea I’ve ever had in this episode!  I need something to make sense to make everything like this happen.  I know – a ship!  Alien attack!  Now very close to sun!  Super hot!”  You get the idea.

Next up: Ghost in the Machine.  Nothing like a Carl Binder joint to get us all back on track!

1A team of four women are are set out to explore a mysterious region known as Area X. By all accounts, they are the twelfth group to journey into the bizarre amazon-like territory.  All of the previous expeditions have ended badly, marked by murders, suicides, disappearances, and, in the case of the eleventh, the inexplicable return of its members, sickened and psychologically broken by their experience.  Our narrator, a biologist, apprises us of her team’s progress as they venture deep into Area X, making strange discoveries and unearthing hidden agendas, all the while dogged by a creeping suspicion that all is not right…

This book is admittedly weird but, surprisingly, actually the most grounded of author Jeff VanderMeer’s considerably weirder body of work.  It’s a seemingly straightforward tale rooted in science and exploration that, slowly but surely, veers into the dreaded unknown.  No mushroom people or squid-like creatures plague the pages of this book which, nevertheless, possesses an undercurrent of simmering horror reminiscent of Lovecraft.  It also reminded me of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves with its slow burn mounting sense of foreboding.  Or, for more t.v.-centered readers, it feels like a deeper, more nuanced, intellectually-provocative version of Lost.

As we bounce back and forth between the present and the past, gaining insight through our protagonist’s journal entries – a narrative device that, unlike most first person accounts, offers no assurances regarding the fate of our narrator – the secrets of Area X open up to us, offering glimpses but no real answers.  Though if the answers ultimately do come, one can’t help but wonder:  Will we be able to understand them or will we, like our narrator in one of the book’s most brilliant passages, be so overcome by its otherworldly nature that we’ll be incapable of processing the truth?

Regardless of where we end up, Annihilation is a hell of a ride.  VanderMeer does a masterful job of gradually immersing us in this uncanny environment, every eerie encounter and bewildering find drawing us in ever further until, by the time our protagonist makes her final descent into “the tower”, we find ourselves equally ensnared, unable to turn back and unsee what we have witnessed, unlearn what we’ve been told.  With the reminder that the tiny microcosms that thrive under our noses, taken for granted and largely ignored, may hold the key to some vaster enigma far beyond our imaginings, can we ever look at them the same way again? Our reality is teeming with potential alien incursions and the Devil may well be in the details.

I’m a big fan of Jeff VanderMeer and liked this book a lot.  What kept me from loving this book is the fact that, despite being a self-contained chapter of a larger work, it’s incomplete.   Granted, the second and third volumes of the Southern Reach Trilogy will follow in fairly quick succession (book #2 comes out in May and book #3 in September), but I don’t understand why all three weren’t simply released as a single volume.  Okay, scratch that.  I understand why.  It’s more lucrative for the publisher.  Still, it’s annoying, especially given that I’m in the process of reading another book, The Weird, edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer, that clocks in at a hefty 1100 pages.  And those oversized pages hold twice the print of a regular page so the final tally is closer to 2200!   And yet HarperCollins felt the need to make this a trilogy?

Overall, an engaging and enjoyable read.   I look forward to the second book, Authority, with equal measures eagerness, curiosity, and annoyance.

Let the discussion begin!

1Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…Broken Ties.

Yes, this one was mine and, upon review, I think it takes a while to get going.  But, once they’re in the wraith lab – What fun!

Akemi liked the episode – less for the story itself and more for the surprise highlights like…the shocking reveal of actor Mark Dacascos in the tease: “Wha!  Chairman!” And she was downright delighted with his performance: “I’ve never heard the Chairman talk so much.”  In truth, Mark is a lot more soft-spoken the chatty Tyre. Also a lot more laid-back.  And much less likely to ambush you in deserted forest.

Another highlight for Akemi was dog-related = Woolsey’s emotional reflection on his beloved yorkie, lost in the divorce.

And, of course, the sword fight at episode’s end (compliments of longtime Atlantis stunt coordinator James “Bam Bam” Bamford) mightily impressed.

On the flipside, she was saddened by Tyre’s death (“Very sad because I liked the chairman”), found some of the dim lighting in certain scenes annoying (“I couldn’t see very well the getting old getting young parts!”), and had a difficult time understanding what was going on at first (“Chotto confusing because I skipped so many episodes.  My fault.”).

Ultimately, Tyre reminded Akemi of another character in another Stargate series: “Chairman remind me of Chef’s [Lou Diamond Phillip's] character a bit.  Gets brainwashed, now clear but pretending to be brainwashed.  Chef stole idea from Chairman.”  Doubtful, but an interesting take nevertheless.

Plug in your top-loading VCR’s and put your video cassette on standby.  Tonight, we watch: The Daedalus Variations!

Cast your vote for our June Book of the Month Club pick!  We’ve got a nice, wide-ranging selection this month:

1COLDBROOK by Tim Lebbon

Coldbrook is a secret laboratory located deep in Appalachian Mountains. Its scientists had achieved the impossible: a gateway to a new world. Theirs was to be the greatest discovery in the history of mankind, but they had no idea what they were about to unleash.

With their breakthrough comes disease and now it is out and ravaging the human population. The only hope is a cure and the only cure is genetic resistance: an uninfected person amongst the billions dead.

In the chaos of destruction there is only one person that can save the human race.  But will they find her in time?

1THE DRAGON BUSINESS by Kevin J. Anderson

King Cullin may be known as “the Dragon Slayer,” but he fears his son’s legacy will be as “King Maurice Who Speaks with Proper Grammar.” The boy keeps his nose buried in parchments, starry-eyed at the idea of noble knights and eager to hand royal gold to any con man hawking a unicorn horn. Tonight, though, Cullin will educate the prince in the truth behind minstrels’ silly songs of glory…
Long ago, in a kingdom, well, not that far from here really, young Cullin traveled the countryside as squire to brave Sir Dalbry, along with Dalbry’s trusted sidekick Reeger, selling dragon-protection services to every kingdom with a coffer. There were no dragons, of course, but with a collection of severed alligator heads and a willingness to play dirty, the trio of con men was crushing the competition. Then along came Princess Affonyl.

Tomboyish and with a head for alchemy, Affonyl faked a dragon of her own, escaped her arranged marriage, and threw in with Cullin and company. But with her father sending a crew of do-gooder knights to find her, the dragon business just got cutthroat.

1EVENING’S EMPIRES by Paul McAuley

In the far future, a young man stands on a barren asteroid. His ship has been stolen, his family kidnapped or worse, and all he has on his side is a semi-intelligent spacesuit. The only member of the crew to escape, Hari has barely been off his ship before. It was his birthplace, his home and his future.

He’s going to get it back.

1LAGOON by Nnedi Okrafor

When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself. Lagoon expertly juggles multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives with prose that is at once propulsive and poetic, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

1

SCHRODER by Amity Gaige (paperback release in the U.K.)

Attending a New England summer camp, young Eric Schroder-a first-generation East German immigrant-adopts the last name Kennedy to more easily fit in, a fateful white lie that will set him on an improbable and ultimately tragic course.

SCHRODER relates the story of Eric’s urgent escape years later to Lake Champlain, Vermont, with his six-year-old daughter, Meadow, in an attempt to outrun the authorities amid a heated custody battle with his wife, who will soon discover that her husband is not who he says he is. From a correctional facility, Eric surveys the course of his life to understand-and maybe even explain-his behavior: the painful separation from his mother in childhood; a harrowing escape to America with his taciturn father; a romance that withered under a shadow of lies; and his proudest moments and greatest regrets as a flawed but loving father.

Finish up Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation!  Our discussion begins tomorrow!

Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch…

1

Akemi is right back at it, into the franchise and enjoying the series.  Although SGU still ranks as her favorite, she has a greater appreciation for Stargate: Atlantis and its much-improved visual effects.  Also, I think she kind of missed McKay.

Of course, as always there was much praise for the job of VFX Supervisor Mark Savela and his team.  Whenever we an establisher of Atlantis, especially at night, it’s always: “Wow!” or “Beautiful!” or “Two moons!”.

She didn’t get caught up in the whole Beckett vs. Keller debate because, by this point in the series, they’re both present and acting members of the expedition.  She likes them both but offered the following comment on Keller: “Everybody would love to have such a beautiful doctor.” Maybe.  “Too bad she doesn’t have a doctor’s outfit.”  I guess.

Still not feeling the love for Sheppard 22 episodes in.  She finds his loose cannon attitude annoying (“Why Sheppard is always so arrogant?  He should listen to older people.”) and, I suspect, very unJapanese.  After Beckett informs Sheppard that the shoot could kill him: “This is second chance for him to die so that handsome guy can become leader.”   Alas, another missed opportunity.

On the other hand, when Ronon gets choked out by the tendrils and collapses, she was genuinely concerned: “Oh, I hope he’s alright?”

“What about Sheppard?”I asked.  “He got skewered by a tendril.  Do you hope he’s alright.”

Grudgingly: “Okay.”

Later, she bumped on his amazing healing abilities: “Why sometimes he recovering very magically quickly and sometimes very slow?  Because he is typical superhero?”

Another favorite character of Akemi’s is none other than Radek Zelenka.  She practically squealed with excitement when he came onscreen like he was an adorable puppy doing something unbelievably cute.  She finds him very convincing: “I can’t believe he is actor.  Looks like real authentic geek!”  Ah, the magic of television.

Overall, a solid episode in her estimation but: “I liked yesterday’s episode more.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,034 other followers