Author Archives: ward

The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke

The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke

The City and the Stars is a rewrite of Arthur C. Clarke’s first ever book – Against the Fall of Night. And it’s bloody good.

The story revolves a city called Diaspar that has been around for a billion years. Which is a bugger of a long time. Diaspar has hardly changed at all in that period and its populace, who all live for 1000 year chunks before going back into storage for a bit, all frolic and play games, create art, and shag each other. Sounds pretty awesome right?

Enter Alvin. Alvin’s a young lad just out of his teens and like all of his ilk throughout history, he feels a little out of place. Diaspar has no outward facing windows and everyone in the city seems to suffer from massive agoraphobia. It turns out Alvin really is a bit different from others and once he finds out a little about himself and Diaspora he realizes he wants more. He wants to explore the desert wastelands that seem to cover the Earth. Is Diaspar really all there is?

Spoiler: No. There’s a ton of exciting stuff.

Arthur C. Clarke wrote The City and the Stars in 1956. At the start of the book the young types are all playing a game that is uncannily like Virtual Reality Dungeons and Dragons. When they finish playing they are all just in their room and they start texting and chatting to each other all over the city. That’s pretty damn prescient.

The whole city is run and managed by a computer that has no moving parts. It’s walls are adorned with screens that show artwork that people vote on to decide if it is liked enough. This was written before Sputnik went up and computers were the size of Iceland. It’s like Clarke is just showing off. Quite frankly the book could have been written last week, it has aged that well.

Many have described it as Clarke’s greatest book. I would definitely have to disagree with that. It’s a great read and would feature in my top 10 of his work but not the best, or even top 3. (Check Childhood’s End, 2001, Rendezvous with Rama, and more.)

The story and ideas within are superb, but for some reason the pace seemed a bit off to me. The characters aren’t fully developed either, but this is a novel of exploration and ideas and so those aspects are a bit more peripheral. These are just minor niggles that I feel obliged to make in a review.

The City and the Stars is a great book, with great ideas, and is great fun. Arthur C. Clarke is brilliant. Recommended.

NEW STAR TREK TRAILER!

Ok, sorry to shout that but that was how it emerged from my fevered brain. This doesn’t actually show much, except that the film continues to look like it will be brilliant. So here you go:

 

Scifiward is still here!

I have some staggeringly good reasons as to why I haven’t had time to write recently. In fact, here they are. READ MY REASONS!

Essentially I am studying, travelling, looking for work and so on. But I have read some awesome scifi which I will report on very soon indeed. Specifically – The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke (which was great); and Wool (which I am 90% through and is absolutely brilliant).

I now have a Macbook Air and the internet, so let the blogging recommence. From a beach. Be back soon.

In the meantime, here’s an alien:

This is what aliens probably look like.

PS4 goes Scifi shooter

I have been reading all the nerdy news and specs about the Playstation 4 and was surprised to see that there are already some game trailers for it. I was surprised as the news release was pretty vague about when the console comes out – before Christmas seems to be as specific as it gets. I guess that this is made possible by the fact that the PS4 appears to basically be a souped up PC. I will write more on this and why I’m not so keen on the next gen consoles on www.thewordofward.co.uk or click here for the article.

One thing that seemed common on the PS4 website and on youtube were clips of upcoming games that were essentially science fiction 1st person shooters. Call me dull but I don’t really care that they’re being massively unimaginative with this. I love FPS games and the fact that it is scifi is just a bonus.

The first clip is for a new Killzone game. I LOVE KILLZONE! Here we go:
http://youtu.be/S7CO4PUEWa4
The next is a game called Destiny. It’s by the guys who made Halo, so it should be pretty genius.
http://youtu.be/CNfj0Z2xTtw
The final trailer that caught my fancy was for the new inFamous game. Not a FPS but a 3rd person actioner, but it still kind of fits the theme. Plus it looks brilliant.
http://youtu.be/R4C1Xz8-0IA

So there you go. Lots of Scifi action for the shiny new console.

Star Trek bloopers. Tons of them.

Here are 40 minutes of Star Trek bloopers! Someone has kindly pieced together all the blooper reels from all the Treks – Next Gen, Voyager, the movies, (even Abrams last one). There is something stragngely compelling about bloopers. Much like Star Trek.

If you have found this page and the video link doesn’t work, then I guess Starfleet or whoever’s in charge has taken the link down due to copyright or humour problems. Until then, make it mirth!
http://youtu.be/dl7hXzPDLeA
 

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Robopocalypse

You’ll never guess what happens in Robopocalypse! Robots rise up and start killing everyone in a robot apocalypse type scenario. Actually, the title may have been a clue.

Robopocalypse (surely Robocalypse reads better?) is set slightly in the future when it is more common to have robots wandering about doing robot-type stuff. Going shopping for rich people, unsuccessfully pacifying Afghanistan, sexbots in Japan, and so on. But then an Artificial Intelligence gets pissed off and starts to take over, making the robots break their programming and start killing us pesky humans.

To be fair, homo sapiens suck. The robots kind of respect us and they want to kill most of us off just to preserve the planet’s biodiversity.Which is fair enough if you’re a robot.

The book is structured a bit like World War Z but instead of a guy going all over the world interviewing people, this is told from a variety of sources recorded by the AI and transcribed by a human soldier after the war. (Not a spoiler: the war ends in the first line.) So there is CCTV video, robot footage, recordings, eyewitness reports, straightforward interviews, and more. At first I was worried that this would be annoying as I would have no-one to root for, but happily a lot of the main characters keep appearing and keep being damned heroic throughout.

Daniel H. Wilson has a doctorate in robotics so if anyone is going to know about the future of the killer robot, it will be someone like him. The book isn’t written as a dry premise though, it is written as a rip-roaring shoot ’em up which would make a good film. Herein lies the clue as to whether you the reader will like this book. The film rights were sold soon after Mr Wilson had started writing it. At times, especially when it is say, CCTV, it feels like Wilson is instructing the future director exactly how the film should look. It also means, however, that the narrative is very visual and very exciting. Some will like this, some won’t. Basically, it is an airport page turner which isn’t destined to be a thoughtful scifi classic but is entertaining in a Michael Crichton sort of way.

Personally, I loved it. Robopocalypse is what it is – a fun scifi romp that isn’t deep but is a good read. Next year it will be a Spielberg movie starring Anne Hathaway, so others seem to like it too. Enjoy.

For the US:

For the UK:

 

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077

Ok, I am going to be a bit of a tease here, so I apologise in advance. I just came across this trailer and it looks so stylish and cool I thought I would share it with you.

The trailer is for a game called Cyberpunk 2077. The premise is that in the future you can be enhanced and changed by technology. The big downside to this biological alteration is that it MIGHT SEND YOU INSANE!!! Otherwise it’s great. Apparently the game will be open world like Grand Theft Auto but more futuristic and, well, cyberpunky.

The game is nowhere near ready and not much happens in the trailer. Somehow this makes it more appealing. I think you will agree it looks bloody great. Enjoy.
http://youtu.be/P99qJGrPNLs
 

R2D2 in Star Trek (2009)

Holy crap! I thought this was an internet lie but I actually got round to checking it out and it’s real! In the last Star Trek film by J.J. Abrams there is a scene where the Enterprise drop out of warp into a debris field above Vulcan. In part of the debris some eagle eyed viewer spotted R2D2 floating in space.

I guess someone did it for a laugh. Or it was Star Wars fan who has now been fired. Or Abrams hid it there to show what a Star Wars fan he is so he can direct one of the new ones. Or something. First I will post a clip from youtube. To see it you have to maximize the screen and put the picture on its highest setting. Even then the pause function is probably necessary. As further proof, there will be a screenshot from my own TV (which is all in high def and very clear and incredibly awesome).

Here’s the clip:
http://youtu.be/Ob90h-Juvqo

Here’s the screenshot from my TV:

R2D2 in Star Trek.

How clear is that?
 

The Hobbit Review

The Hobbit

I saw this a few weeks ago but might as well review it in case you are toying with watching it at the cinema before it disappears. To make it easy for you – go and see the Hobbit now. It’s great fun. It isn’t up there with Lord of the Rings, but if you had seen this first you would have been well excited.

I saw the high frame rate IMAX 3D version. So the full whammy. As futuristic and hi-tech as a visit to the cinema can be at this moment in history (what happened to smell-o-vision?). To be honest, you didn’t miss much if you missed this version. In fact the 2D version with the old frame rate is probably better. The main problem with the Hobbit, for me at least, was that the picture so clear, so 3D, and generally just so perfect, that the first part of the movie in Bilbo’s house looked like a set. You know when you see a ‘making of’ featurette and you see them filming something that looks really crap and fake but then you see what the director sees on his little viewing screen and it looks pretty cool? It is like that but without the latter part. Everything was so clear I was permanently aware that they were acting on the set of the Hobbit.

It’s a small gripe though. Once the adventure begins everything just looks epic and awesome. It’s not just the picture that improves either. The opening scene (like the book) is a bit silly and a reminder that the Hobbit was a kid’s book. When Bilbo sets off on his ‘adventure’ however, it all comes good.

The Brown Wizard. Played by an old Doctor Who.

The acting is good, the set pieces are incredible, the baddie is pretty cool (although not as powerfully evil as in LOTR). In particular, the scenes where Bilbo plays the guessing game with Gollum and the dwarves  fight goblins in an underground kingdom, are superb. Pure Jackson gold. Other scenes though, felt added for no reason. I haven’t read the book since I was ten, but there were a lot of scenes that I don’t remember. Apparently they used a lot of material from books like The Silmarillion, so I guess that is where the Brown Wizard’s story must come from. The problem is, quite a few bits just felt like unnecessary padding. Almost as if they took a shortish book and tried to make it a nine hour epic for purposes of greed.

The Hobbit is great fun though and you really should go and see it in the cinema. It won’t blow you away, but you will definitely be entertained. Which is the point. Recommended.

 

Happy New Year from Scifiward!

Happy New Year readers! Huge apologies for the slow start this year. I normally aim for at least one post a week (or a couple a week if things are exciting), but due to hangovers and delayed Christmas celebrations, I have been lax.

This is all set to change though! Happily, in the freelance transmission television world, there is bugger all work this time of year. It has gotten so bad I have considered actually getting a job. An actual job! It will mean a paycut and longer hours, but needs must and all that. Fortunately, I have decided to go for Plan B. Chuck in my flat and at the end of February, go to Asia for a few months. I think it is for the best.

As a result of this time of work scarcity, I will be writing a lot more. I am even setting up a schedule. I have to be disciplined even if I am working in my pants on my couch. In times when I foresee a busy period I will write a few reviews of classic scifi books/films/TV shows and just have them stored. So there will hopefully be fewer gaps like this.

There is plenty of exciting Science Fiction news coming this year so it should be bumper 12 months of space battles and orc battles and superhero battles and zombie battles and so on. And those are just the battle-filled ones.

There are quite a few classics like erm, the new Star Wars trilogy in 3D, Independence Day 3D, Jurassic Park 3D. Ok, I’m mucking about. I seriously doubt I will be watching any of them. Jurassic Park is good but it doesn’t need 3D.

I am quite looking forward to: World War Z (good book so who knows?), Man of Steel (Zack Snyder should make it look pretty and it has general Zod! Kneel before Zod!), Mad Max (how I will behave and dress post-apocalypse), Oblivion (looks nice, decent budget), and a few others I can’t remember.

I am massively looking forward to: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS! (Sorry for shouting but that is my most anticipated movie this year.) Riddick (should be good as he is a great character, up there with Snake Plissken in my brilliant opinion), Iron Man 3 (safe bet really), Pacific Rim (should be cool, giant robots vs giant monsters should not go wrong), and probably more I have forgotten.

Books and TV shows will continue to come out. A lot of authors I read last year will presumably keep writing. Similarly, I am looking forward to more series of things like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. And repeats of old shows. Plus there are lots of lovely games to play.

So it looks like a fun year ahead! Engage! Excelsior! Shazam! And so forth!