science fiction

A Spoiler-Free Preview of Season 2 of “American Gods”

key artSeason two of American Gods has had a pretty tough time getting to our screens. Originally renewed shortly after the first season began airing, season two suffered numerous production woes – first, the loss of its original two showrunners, Michael Green and Bryan Fuller; then the hiring and subsequent (reported) sacking of new showrunner Jesse Alexander; and, finally, countless delays to the show actually arriving on our screens. For a while, it seemed as though American Gods would never return to TV again or, if it did, it would return in a state that was dramatically less spectacular than its original season was. Well, thankfully, season two of American Gods officially premieres on STARZ this Sunday, March 10. STARZ has provided critics with the first two episodes of the season – and I have seen them – and I am happy to report that the show has, indeed, returned – and it’s returned without a significant drop in quality! (This review will be as spoiler-free as possible. Full, spoiler-filled reviews of each episode will be available on the Sundays that they air.) 

Starring Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon and Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday, “American Gods” is a one-hour drama adapted from Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel about a war brewing between Old Gods and New Gods: the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. We were forged in God’s image, but the Gods are also made in ours — and in Season Two the battle moves inexorably toward crisis point as the destinies of gods and men collide. While Mr. World (Crispin Glover) plots revenge for the attack against him in Season One, Shadow throws in his lot with Wednesday’s attempt to convince the Old Gods of the case for full-out war, with Laura (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) in tow. A council at the House on the Rock explodes into chaos, sending deities both Old and New on quests across America that will converge on Cairo, Illinois: forcing Shadow to carve out a place as a believer in this strange new world of living gods — a dark world where change demands commitment, and faith requires terrible sacrifice.

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REVIEW: “Mythicals” by Dennis Meredith

MythicalsI love a good sci-fi book, that much is well known. But what about a sci-fi book that puts forth the idea that all the mythological creatures from Earth’s history (fairies, pixies, werewolves, vampires, etc) are actually alien species exiled to our planet as punishment for crimes made on their own planets? Well, a book like that would be right up my wheelhouse. That’s exactly the kind of book that Dennis Meredith’s Mythicals is. It’s also a very good one, too.

Drunken journalist Jack March can’t believe his bleary eyes when he stumbles onto a winged fairy! She vaults away into the night sky, and his unbelievable—and unbelieved—encounter leads to a stunning revelation that all the creatures of myth and legend are real!
Fairies, pixies, trolls, werewolves, ogres, vampires, angels, elves, bigfoot—all are alien exiles to the planet. For their crimes, these “mythicals” are serving out banishment disguised in flesh-suits enabling them to live among the planet’s natives.
Jack reveals their secret to the world, along with a horrendous discovery: they have decided that the native “terminal species” must be eradicated before it ruins its home planet’s ecology.
In this riveting scifi/fairy tale, Jack joins with sympathetic fairies, pixies, and ogres to attempt to save the planet from the mythicals, as well as the mysterious alien cabal known as the Pilgrims.

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REVIEW: Doctor Who S11E03 – “Rosa”

rosa and kraskoEvery new Doctor has to have a story set in the present day, a story set in the future/on an alien planet, and a story set in the past to start off their first season. We’ve had the present day story and we’ve had the futuristic/alien planet story, so it was time for our first trip into the past with this new TARDIS team. And where does the TARDIS end up taking our plucky heroes? None other than Montgomery Alabama, 1955. The day before Rosa Parks’ famous bus protest. Obviously, this is a rather touchy story for Doctor Who to try and tackle, so the biggest question is whether or not the show handled it well. In short: it absolutely did. (NOTE: There will be full spoilers ahead, so read with caution.)

Episode 1103: Rosa (written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall and directed by Mark Tonderai)
Montgomery, Alabama. 1955. The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her friends find themselves in the Deep South of America. As they encounter a seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks (Vinette Robinson), they begin to wonder whether someone is attempting to change history.

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REVIEW: Doctor Who S11E02 – “The Ghost Monument”

Doctor Who Series 11How do you follow up from an excellent season premiere of Doctor Who? With a dangerous romp across an alien planet and an excellent mystery, of course! Picking up pretty much where the previous episode ended, The Ghost Monument takes the 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her new friends, Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Yaz (Mandip Gill) to their first alien world together. Stranded without the TARDIS, will the team be able to survive their first foray on an alien planet? (THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW)

1102: The Ghost Monument (written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Mark Tonderai)
Still reeling from their first encounter, can the Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough in a hostile alien environment to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom (Susan Lynch) and Epzo (Shaun Dooley)?

The Doctor and her new friends have barely had a chance to recover from their first adventure together before they are plunged into another – which will take Graham, Ryan and Yasmin on their first journey to an alien planet. The unlikely travelling companions are faced with a struggle for survival as they try to solve the mystery at the heart of this strange, dangerous new world.

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REVIEW: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek” by Anthony O’Neill

dr-jekyll-and-mr-seekThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson, was one of the only books given to me as assigned reading in high school that I actually enjoyed. It’s a wonderfully macabre Gothic novella that explores the duality of man within a really interesting sci-fi scenario. I enjoyed the book so much in high school that it actually led to me watching the fantastic BBC series Jekyll (a show that actually ended up being a really interesting sequel to the original story). So, naturally, when I saw that Anthony O’Neill’s Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Seek, a sequel to the original Jekyll & Hyde, I was immediately interested. The question is: how good is this book? Is it a worthy sequel to such an amazing original? The short answer is: no, not really. But it’s more complicated than that.

In this dark, atmospheric sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s timeless classic, the strange case continues with the return of Dr. Jekyll . . .

Seven years after the death of Edward Hyde, a stylish gentleman shows up in foggy London claiming to be Dr. Henry Jekyll. Only Mr. Utterson, Jekyll’s faithful lawyer and confidant, knows that he must be an impostor―because Jekyll was Hyde.

But as the man goes about charming Jekyll’s friends and reclaiming the estate, and as the bodies of potential challengers start piling up, Utterson is left fearing for his life . . . and questioning his own sanity.

This brilliantly imagined and beautifully written sequel to one of literature’s greatest masterpieces perfectly complements, as well as subverts, Stevenson’s gothic classic. And where the original was concerned with the duality of man, the sequel deals with the possibility of identity theft of the most audacious kind. Constantly threading on the blurred lines between reality and fantasy, madness and reason, self-serving delusions and brutal truths, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek honors the original Stevenson with a thrilling new conclusion.

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REVIEW: “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” by Hank Green

an absolutely remarkable thing coverA book about giant robots from space that mysteriously appear out of nowhere in 64 cities all around the world written by Hank Green, one-half of one of my favorite YouTube channels? Sign me up! An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is the debut novel from Hank Green, co-creator of the YouTube channel Vlogbrothers and the brother of best-selling YA novelist John Green. It’s a book about more than giant alien robot statues invading the Earth. It’s a book about how fame corrupts us, the dangers of radicalization, and what makes us human. It’s also really, really good.

The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship–like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor–April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world–everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires–and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity, and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

Compulsively entertaining and powerfully relevant, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing grapples with big themes, including how the social internet is changing fame, rhetoric, and radicalization; how our culture deals with fear and uncertainty; and how vilification and adoration spring from the same dehumanization that follows a life in the public eye.

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“MJ-12: Endgame” (by Michael J. Martinez) is a satisfying conclusion to the MJ-12 series.

mj-12 endgameWhat do you do when you’ve written a stellar first book of a series and an even better second book? You write a satisfying conclusion that blows both of the previous books out of the water and delivers everything fans of the series could want! I’m pleased to report that this is exactly what Michael J. Martinez did with MJ-12: Endgame, the third and final book in the MJ-12 series.

Josef Stalin is dead. In the aftermath, the Soviet Union is thrown into crisis, giving former secret police chief Laverentiy Beria exactly the opening he needs. Beria’s plan is to secretly place his country’s Variants―ordinary people mysteriously embued with strange, superhuman powers―into the very highest levels of leadership, where he can use them to stage a government coup and seize control of the USSR.

America’s response comes from its intelligence communities, including the American Variants recruited for the top-secret MAJESTIC-12 program, who are suddenly thrown into their most dangerous and important assignment yet. From the halls of the Kremlin to the battlefields of Korea, superpowered covert agents face off to determine the future of the planet―a future their very existence may ultimately threaten.

(This review may contain minor spoilers for the book – great efforts have been taken to remain as spoiler-free as possible, but you’ve been warned nonetheless)  (more…)

Jackie Tyler Shines in “The Siege of Big Ben” – A Doctor Who Short Trip from Big Finish Productions

DWST0806_thesiegeofbigben_1417I rarely listen to the Big Finish Productions audios that only feature one voice actor because I tend to prefer the full cast format to the singular narrator format, but The Siege of Big Ben was well worth listening to. Written by Joseph Lidster, Doctor Who: The Siege of Big Ben is the latest installment of Big Finish Production’s monthly Short Trips series, a series of audios featuring a short story related to one of the Doctors Big Finish has the rights to and read by one of the original cast members from the TV series. This story featured Camille Coduri as Jackie Tyler in a story featuring the Meta-Crisis Doctor in the parallel Earth seen at the end of Journey’s End. “Jackie Tyler has everything she’s ever wanted: a loving husband and, two children. But a terrible, far-reaching plan is underway, and only Jackie and a single friend stand in the way of it. But the Doctor isn’t the man he was…”  (more…)

The X-Files Continues to be Extremely Inconsistent (“The X-Files” Season 11, Episodes 1-4 REVIEW)

the-x-files-season-11-posterIn a way, this latest season of The X-Files is a return to form for the show. From week to week, it goes from a really problematic episode to a really enjoyable one, to a mediocre one, and, finally, to a new classic for the show. Equally interesting is how the best episodes of the season so far have been the ones that weren’t written by Chris Carter. Picking up where 2016’s tenth season left off, Season 11 of The X-Files follow FBI Agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) as they work to stop an impending apocalypse, seemingly caused by the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), and continue to investigate the titular X-Files, a collection of cases that defy conventional thinking and explanation, while searching for their missing son, William, a boy who may just be the key to averting the apocalypse. (Mild spoilers for the first four episodes of Season 11 follow)

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Ghosted Could Be a Truly Good TV Show if Only it Had a Longer Run Time (Ghosted S01E06 – “Sam” REVIEW)

ffghosted_ep106_sc5_0004_f_hires1_fullThere’s a good show somewhere deep inside of Ghosted just waiting to reach the surface. The obstacle in its way: Ghosted‘s runtime. The problem with the show lies in the fact that it doesn’t have enough time to properly explore its case of the week plots and its character development. Tonight’s episode, “Sam“, perfectly demonstrated this. The episode was a perfect example of everything good and everything bad about Ghosted. Written by Ryan Ridley and directed by Jamie Babbit, “Sam” is the sixth episode of the new FOX comedy GhostedWhile Captain Lafrey (Ally Walker) is out, Annie (Amber Stevens West) installs a smooth-talking Artificial Intelligence, “Sam,” (Dax Shepard) to manage the office, but Max (Adam Scott) and Leroy (Craig Robinson) are put to the test when “Sam” turns out to be an evil and powerful force trying to take down the Bureau Underground. All the while, Max is jealous when Leroy makes a new friend. (Mild spoilers follow) (more…)