Tag Archives: Classic

Dune by Frank Herbert

dune_frank_herbertTo my colossal shame I only just got round to reading Frank Herbert’s classic this year. I’ve owned about four copies of the paperback over the years and I finally read it on a kindle. To be fair, the book version is quite a hefty tome and the kindle version isn’t.

A quick summary in case you somehow don’t know the plot of the book or film or TV show or comic or computer games. Set over 10,000 years in the future humanity has spread among the planets and continues to be warlike arsewits to one another. At some point there had been a war with the machines and so nobody uses computers any more. Instead humans have been adapted, bred and trained to be human computers, soldiers, partial psychics, seers and more. One powerful group has been blending the bloodlines to create a mega powerful being called a Kwisatz Haderach . Dune follows the story of a young lad called Paul Atreides (who may or may not be the Kwisatz Haderach) as his family takes of control of the planet Arrakis – also known as Dune.

Arrakis is a pretty special place as it is the only source of the ‘spice melange’ – a drug like substance that expands consciousness and life as well as allowing space travel through the melange addicted Guild Navigators. Chuck in a power balance between the Emperor and the Ducal Houses and there is a whole lot that can go wrong. So when the Atreides are attacked by their enemy, the absolutely psychopathic Harkonnen, things come to a head. Oh, there are also mega hard desert warriors, huge worms, psychic sisterhoods, plots, assassinations and war. It’s pretty awesome.

Dune by Frank Herbert was published in 1965 but frankly, it could have come out yesterday. I agree with many who have described Dune as being to Science Fiction what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy – probably not a great entry point to the genre but once you have read a few things it is a masterpiece that absolutely needs to be read. My quick summary ended being quite long because it is one hell of tale.

If you haven’t gotten round to reading Dune yet – you should! What the hell have you been doing with your time? Highly recommended.

By it on Kindle here:

 

Is Total Recall a dream or reality?

Quaid getting brain zapped

It is one of the greatest debates of modern times and one that has plagued the thoughts and discussions of the world’s most brilliant minds for 20 years. In the classic 1990 film Total Recall, was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character Quaid actually a spy or was it all a dream? Did he really ‘Get his ass to Mars’?

The movie is genius and I have written about it and the upcoming remake in this gripping post. If you are reading this, it is probably safe to assume that you have seen it. It is also safe to assume you have debated whether it was real or if it was all a dream. Unless you are braindead or boring or something. Well here is the answer. You’re welcome.

It is all a dream. Definitely. Here is the proof.

The crucial evidence all comes from the scene where he is put under at Rekall.

1/ The spy option is brand new and he just goes for it on a whim. At first he specifically states ‘No options’ but the guy convinces him to go as a spy. And lo and behold, he actually is a spy. A bit of a coincidence. Especially if he was supposed to be a sleeper agent designed to meet the rebels and expose their leader Kuato. What if Rekall had never decided to do the spy option at all? What if Quaid had never gone to Rekall? It’s a bit of a flimsy plan if he really is a spy.

Brunette and athletic. Only parameters given. Just saying.

2/ When Quaid is choosing the love interest for his spy adventure he chooses simply: Brunette, athletic, sleazy, and demure. (Good choices!) Given the level of technology, it is likely they have 1000s of virtual women on their books. Physically, he only asks for a brunette that’s athletic. Even Warcraft has tons of avatars that would fit that description. But the picture you see before he goes under is of Melina. Are we supposed to believe that with just those two physical parameters the virtual lady is coincidentally the exact doppelganger of a real resistance fighter on Mars? Way too big a coincidence.

3/ The big one. Before Quaid goes under, one of the assistants who is inputting data for the dream says: ‘Oh this is a new one, blue skies on Mars.’ Now either he is talking about the dream and final bit of the adventure or it is just yet another mad coincidence of epic proportions.  Here is how the dream was supposed to pan out according to the guy at Rekall: ‘You are a top operative under deep cover, on your most important mission. People are trying to kill you. You meet this beautiful, exotic woman…’ then: ‘by the time the trip is over you get the girl, kill the bad guys, and save the entire planet.’ This is exactly what happens. Not only that but the exotic girl’s photo is on their records as in point 2 above. AND he saves the whole planet by accessing Martian technology, whose purpose is actually unknown, that coincidentally turns the sky blue on Mars.

So there you go. Like a lot of people I wanted it to be real because it makes the narrative all the more exciting, but the evidence really is against it. I know it is just a film but it was a thoughtful one and the guys writing it wanted it to be ambiguous but possibly left some clues. Also, if you listen to the voice overs by Schwarzenegger and Verhoeven on the DVD, it seems pretty likely it was a dream.

Sorry but there you go! It will be interesting to pedantic nerds like myself how they will deal with this in the new one. Or maybe it won’t.

Blue sky on Mars. That's a new one.

Total Recall

Original Total Recall

They are remaking Total Recall! With Colin Farrell! There is even a new trailer, which I have to say looks pretty brilliant and can be seen at the bottom of this post. First though, a bit of intro in case you have wasted your life and not seen it.

Total Recall was a 1990 film wherein a heavily musled construction worker (Schwarzenegger) who is dissatisfied with his tedious life goes to a company that implants memories so that he can at least have something of interest to look back on. Unfortunately the implant goes wrong as there some messed up implants in there already. Violence and mayhem ensues.

Total Recall has Schwarzenegger in one of his greatest ever roles. It also has Paul Verhoeven directing a violent scifi epic – what he’s best at (see Starship Troopers too). It even has Michael Ironside as the baddie, which is always good as the man is a legend, especially as a baddie. As a bonus there is even Sharon Stone showing a nipple and a triple breasted mutant Martian whore, which is something you don’t see in most films . And it is all based on a Philip K. Dick story. Absolutely brilliant.

Total Recall is based on the story We can remember it for you wholesale. Philip K. Dick tales are nearly always awesome as the man was a genius and one of the greatest science fiction writers ever. Like a lot of his work, the principal theme being dealt with is reality and our perceptions of it. If it seems 100% real does it actually matter that it isn’t?

Schwarzenegger’s protagonist Quaid has no life. (Although he does have an inexplicably hot wife – Sharon Stone.) He always dreams of adventures on Mars in much the same way that I always dream of zombie apocalypse or being abducted by fun, sexy aliens. To rectify this, he goes to a company called Rekall that can implant the memory of the most perfect holiday on Mars – one that will be indistinguishable from other memories. They also have a new option: you don’t even have to go as you. You can be a sports star, playboy, or even a spy. Quaid opts for spy because let’s face it, that is what most red blooded males would do. He picks a randomly generated love interest from Rekall’s databanks and they begin the procedure. But there is something already implanted and that fucks things up.

It turns out that Quaid was already a spy from Mars and that his current life has all been a fake. Or has it? Is the spy bit the Rekall dream? Or isn’t it? Perhaps it is? Maybe not though. This has been much debated and it is answered here.

From what I can see from the new trailer, the new Total Recall follows a pretty identical story. Which is cool. It’s a shame that it won’t have Michael Ironside as the bad guy (that guy is just class) but you can’t have everything. Hopefully it will be ambiguous and leave things open and not have the Hollywood need for wrapping things up nicely (I’m looking at you, Spielberg).

Anyway, here is the trailer:

 

New Science Fiction eBook site

Old Sci Fi covers are brilliant

I bought a kindle about a month ago and have been experiencing a bank-busting eBook buying frenzy. I love books and will always buy them. Especially second hand science fiction paperbacks with the sorts of cool covers people don’t seem to do anymore. I do love the convenience of having hundreds of books in my pocket though. It’s a bit like someone who still collects vinyl but has an iPod.

Most of my old collectable books are currently in a load of boxes in my parent’s attic. Where they will stay until I have a huge house and can display them with pride. But the thing is, I still want to read the books. So I went to the kindle store, all excited, and prepared to buy some classic sci fi.

Harry Harrison

For some reason I had a hankering for adventurous science fiction. None of your deep soul searching novels just cool ideas with great characters – I wanted fun and exciting premises. Space pistols and daring adventure on dangerous planets. Cities in flight or planets of death. Killer robots and meddling aliens. Visions of the future where you could smoke a pipe on a spaceship’s bridge. And so forth. In particular I wanted two authors that have always satisfied this need: Edmund Cooper and Harry Harrison. There are obviously lots of others but these two were among my favourites when I was a teen. To my surprise they weren’t available until the end of September and they both had the same publisher – Gateway.

On the 11th October I got an email from this publisher informing me that their website SF Gateway is up and running. And I’m well impressed. It has only just started but they have a lot of old scifi books and authors on there already. Golden age maestros like James Blish, E.E. Doc Smith, Jack Vance, Joe Haldeman, Cooper, Harrison and more.

Before I sound like an advert I will stop. I’m just excited that someone is finally addressing this gap in the kindle market. Set lasers to die, charge up the rockets, get the women in spandex and lets get those evil aliens.

The website is here: http://www.sfgateway.com/

New Judge Dredd film!

There is a new Judge Dredd film coming out on the 21st of September 2011. I am very excited. It stars Karl Urban as the eponymous Dredd and I think he will do a damn fine job. He was brilliant in Star Trek and has a suitably square jaw. I am planning an article on 2000AD at some point so I won’t go on too much about the awesomeness of that magazine and the effect it had on my teenage years.

This looks like Mega City One but as an eagle eyed reader pointed out, it is actually from the Moebius/O’Bannon comic ‘The Long Tomorrow’

Judge Dredd was a British invention that appeared in 2000AD magazine. When he first appeared in 1977, the year in the comic was 2099. The comic setting’s date then followed ours with Dredd getting a year older in pace with real life. So it is now 2133. Which is a pretty cool idea. He lives in Mega-city one which is a huge conurbation covering the entire Eastern seaboard of the the United states. All of central U.S. is a wasteland and nuclear-toxic no go area. The population was originally 800 million but at one point the was an uber destructive Apocalypse war, which halved that. This size causes a few problems – one of which was massive levels of crime.

You have been judged.

The Judges were brought in to kick some justice into the asses of the populace. They were a highly trained and double-hard mix of a police officer, judge, and executioner. They are superbly brutal. The judges wear masks and this is crucial as it represents the faceless law. In the comics you never see Dredd’s face while he is a Judge. (You see it later when he quits a couple of times but it is very rare.) Chief writer John Wagner stated:

“It sums up the facelessness of justice − justice has no soul. So it isn’t necessary for readers to see Dredd’s face, and I don’t want you to.”

So when Stallone did a Judge Dredd film and took his mask off almost immediately, fans were outraged. And rightly so. It also didn’t help that the movie was absolutely fucking dire.

I’m praying that the new film stays more true to the source material. They have already confirmed that Karl Urban will keep the helmet on to avoid the ‘Helmet-gate’ controversy of before. I am hoping it will be an 18 rated movie too with lots of unnecessary violence. So far there have only been a few pictures released. And they look cool. Stay tuned for further news.

Karl Urban as Judge Dredd

Picture from http://www.2000adonline.com/movie/

The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl & Cyril M. Kornbluth

The Space Merchants

This book is a gem. It was written over 50 years ago but deals with topics still relevant today.

The story is about a star-class copysmith Mitch Courteney who works for Schocken Associates, one of the two main advertising agencies in the world. This is a pretty elite position to be in as the world, including governments, is ruled by advertising. It’s capitalism gone maaaaad! To be a good citizen you have to be a good consumer, which is actually pretty easy for most I would imagine. The baddies are known as ‘Consies’ who are essentially environmentalists (Boo! Hippies!).

When Mitch gets the job of trying to make Venus sound like an attractive place to be he suddenly finds himself up against both the Consies and an evil rival ad agency. He then starts to learn all about the world.

I loved this book. Sure some of the writing feels a tiny bit dated but it is chock-full of good ideas and characters. There’s even a womanising, heavy drinking, dwarf astronaut which is always a welcome addition. Mitch Courteney himself is a pretty unrepentant bastard when we first meet him but he slowly changes when people start to do him over and the reality of how others live dawns on him.

I would highly recommend this. It’s a cracking read set at a furious pace. Buy it now! It’s a classic and we all love classics.