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!

First nine minutes of ‘Star Trek into Darkness’

Go and see ‘The Hobbit’ at your local IMAX cinema now. If you do, you may be lucky enough to see the first nine minutes of Star Trek into Darkness. As a bonus, The Hobbit is pretty fun too and I’ll probably review it at some point.

This film looks like it will be incredible. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a bit of a Trekkie (one of the cool ones though), and I’m loving what Abrams is doing with the franchise. I am also a fan of excitement, spaceships, exotic locations, and attractive women in tight futuristic outfits. All my Trek boxes have been ticked.

The extended trailer starts with Micky from Doctor Who and his Mrs waking up in a futuristic London. They go and visit their sick daughter but things all seem pretty grim and she’s in a coma or something. Then Benedict Cumberbatch comes in and says he can help Micky’s daughter. Predictably Micky asks who are you? To which he gets the reply: I AM KHAN! Actually not really. Sorry. Just kidding. He doesn’t say anything.

The film then cuts to Kirk and Bones being chased across a cool alien planet by some primitive looking fellows in white. In the background a volcano starts to explode. In 3D this equals lots of ash floating in front of your eyes from which native arrows and spears shoot out at your goggling visages. In all, it is very exciting indeed.

The action then cuts to Spock, Uhura, and Sulu who are in a shuttle that is going to lower Spock via a flimsy wire into the volcano.  Things don’t go totally according to plan…

More things happen but apathy and the risk of ruining your enjoyment prevent me from continuing. Let me just say that if it were any more exciting, they would have to issue a warning.

You can see the 9 minutes online at a few dodgy sites BUT DON’T. The clip I checked out was awful and roughly a billion times worse than the real trailer. For one thing, it’s 3D so the shakily held camera recorded blurred images. I could have embedded it here but I don’t want to support that kind of behavior and hope that Abrams may read this site and invite me to the premiere. (Even just the London premiere would be fine.)

So go now and watch it in the cinema! Engage!

Trailer Bonanza! Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim

I normally post trailers sporadically as they come out but as I have been stupidly busy they have been piling up. Apologies. I am a lot more free from now on. As a responsible Scifi webmaster I feel that you need to see these trailers.

Superman, Man of Steel

First up we have Superman. I’ve always preferred Batman and Spiderman to Superman but Zack Snyder tends to make visually kick-ass type movies so this might be good. In case you are wondering why I’m not a fan, it is because I don’t think Superman lives up to his potential. He can fly, is impervious to weapons, can shoot lasers from his eyes, and can see through things. He is only vulnerable to Kryptonite, an incredibly rare rock. He should be a beneficial ruler of mankind. As it is, he is constantly almost defeated. His nemesis? A clever human. Still, the trailer looks good and the enemy is General Zod. So it might be ok.

Star Trek Into Darkness

This is what I am most excited about. I love Star Trek and I love what Abrams is doing with it. Given the scene with Spock in a glass room I suspect the baddie will be Khan. Plus, I read the line ‘the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few, or the one’ features. If none of this makes sense to you then just enjoy the pretty pictures and explosions.

Iron Man 3

Everyone loves Iron Man, so not much needs to be said. This one seems a bit darker than the previous two.

Pacific Rim

Here’s the premise: giant aliens come out of the sea and start giving us shit. To retaliate we build giant mechanoids and punch them in the face. I know what you are thinking: that sounds fucking awesome! Think Kraken Wakes meets Transformers. Thankfully it is directed by Guillermo del Toro, who is usually pretty good value, as opposed to Michael Bay. So it might not be crap. The trailer does hint that there might be a slight cheesiness creeping in. I couldn’t help but shudder at the recollection of the president’s speech in Independence Day while watching a scene in this trailer. Apart from that, it looks cool.

Star Trek into Darkness, who is Cumberbatch playing?

Star Trek 2 Into Darkness

I guess it’s not surprising for someone who writes a science fiction site but I am a bit of a Trekkie. I don’t dress up and I can’t speak Klingon but I do like the show and have done since I was a kid and Kirk was snogging and punching everyone in sight. I have mentioned that I frequently work for the Syfy channel and we are currently showing The Next Gen in HD, which is pretty damn cool. It’s probably my favourite of the Trek TV shows. After the TV show Enterprise finished humanity entered a dull existence where there was no Star Trek being made for TV at all! The world has become a worse place as a direct result of this.

Thankfully though, there are at least some utterly brilliant films coming out thanks to JJ Abrams. Well, so far one utterly brilliant film but at least 1 minute’s worth of Star Trek 2 is great. As you will see in the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer below Hollywood has done something unusual and unique: cast an Englishman as the baddie. The big question on the net is who exactly is the memorably named (and brilliant) Benedict Cumberbatch playing? Two favourites have emerged.

Gary Mitchell

The first is a character called Gary Mitchell who appeared in the original series. He was a friend of Kirk’s who developed telekinetic powers (and general psychic stuff) and went a bit mental until James T had to slap him into place. Arguments for this include the fact that Mitchell was in Starfleet, he isn’t Indian (see below), and Abrams is more likely to follow stories from the TV show as opposed to the movies as it allows him more scope.

 

Khan Noonienh Singh

The second – Khan Noonienh Singh. Khan (according to backstory) controlled a quarter of the planet during some far off war in the 1990s. He is genetically engineered to be brilliant at everything. After the war he is put into suspended animation until brought back by Kirk and crew. He tries to take over the Enterprise until Kirk slaps him into place. THEN, in Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan, he comes back and tries to get his revenge on Kirk. In a mad twist of events, Kirk slaps him into place.

Watch the trailer and see what you think. To me, the action seems a lot more like Khan. But how will they do the backstory? Also Cumberbatch looks, well, like a pasty Londoner as opposed to an Indian. But, as some have pointed out, if you can be bothered to find the very slightly longer Japanese trailer there is an extra scene of Kirk and Spock holding hands up to opposing sides of a glass wall. Like the end of Wrath of Khan when Spock dies. Personally I find it unlikely that they will follow the original Star Trek 2 so closely. 

Keep in mind that in the last film Abrams blows up Vulcan, so maybe this story has nothing to do with any of the original tales. Maybe Cumberbatch is just an angry fellow.

See what you think. Here the trailer or possibly the teaser for Star Trek 2! Engage!