At it’s core, David Yarovesky’s The Hive is a story about newfound love and the power of emotional connection. It’s also the story of a semi-sentient virus hell-bent on infecting all of humanity, linking their minds and memories to create a perfect, singular organism. Yarovesky weaves these threads together to create a timely cautionary tale that, though imperfect, is impressive in terms of scope.
The story opens with the main character Adam (Gabriel Basso) waking up with no memory of his identity or whereabouts. He’s trapped in a room with all of the doors and windows barricaded, with a few brief messages scrawled on the walls. “Remember” dominates the far wall, with sketches of an unknown girl underneath. Memories begin to trickle back into his mind, but not all of them are his. As Adam works through this network of memories, the grim reality of his situation becomes clear to himself and his audience. He’s at ground zero for a viral outbreak that is turning human beings into easily controlled husks.
The husks appear to be zombie-like at first, but these creatures have more in common with the Deadites from Evil Dead than the Walkers. Adam remembers a time before the outbreak, when he worked as a camp counselor with his best friend Clark (Jacob Zachar) and had just met Katie (Kathryn Prescott), the girl of his dreams. The film takes a few minutes to build their on their budding romance before the virus comes into play. It’s not long before most of the camp is infected, puking black bile into each other’s mouths as a way to spread the virus.
It’s disgusting to watch and the director relishes this, showing scene after scene of the characters choking and puking out what looks like thick tar. The film shows just enough restraint to keep it from feeling overdone, but it is gleefully skirting that line. The ooze represents the physical invasion of the body, the virus given a visible form. It makes for effective imagery and is far more nauseating than a simple zombie bite, trading that primal fear of being attacked for a more nuanced fear of losing oneself to an outside force.
The Hive drives this point home, showcasing longtime friends losing control and trying to infect each other. The idea that a virus can simply erase your conscious thoughts and feelings, forcing you to commit atrocious acts, is one that hits hard. It’s a deep fear that few people will think of on a daily basis, but it’s sure to resonate once the idea has been planted.
As I said, this film is a love story at its core, but that’s the weakest part of the plot. The actors turn in great performances, particularly Basso, but the non-linear nature of the story combined with the fast pace makes the romance between Adam and Katie hard to believe. It portrays Adam’s love for Katie as something more than lust, something powerful enough to transcend their horrific circumstances, but the characters know each other for a few days at most. It serves as a strong metaphor to deliver a message about the importance of real human connection, but as a plot point it falls flat.
Though the love story at its core is disappointing, the horror and science fiction elements of the film shine. The special effects used to denote the infected are simple, but incredibly effective and the ever-present black bile is enough to make your stomach churn. Most impressive is the nonlinear plot structure. It never comes across as a gimmick or a knockoff version of Memento. Instead, it feels like a smart choice by the director for this particular story. The audience figures out the story at the same rate that the main character does, allowing for striking revelations and impactful reactions.
The Hive will be digitally distributed by The Nerdist this fall.
When I went to the theater in 2012 to see the original Avengers movie, the excitement erased everything else in my life. It was everything I had been waiting for since the post credit scene in Iron Man four years previously. The jokes about the end of the world between my best friend and I included the phrase “at least we get to see Avengers before the apocalypse.” I went into the theater and sat down, heart racing as I waited for Robert Downey Jr. to grace the screen.
The movie that followed that excitement wasn’t perfect, but any flaws on the screen were overshadowed by Hulk punching Thor and Captain America reflecting Iron Man’s repulsor beam with his shield. If Joss Whedon got nothing else right, he nailed the iconic moments between the heroes. I would go on to see the movie a second time within the week and…
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It’s probably not what you think. Truth be told, I’ve only seen the first couple episodes of the acclaimed series. While I agree it’s fantastic, it wasn’t watching Charlie Cox dish out some brutal justice that won me over. It was the Comixology sale timed to match the release of the series that introduced me to the Man Without Fear.
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Over a month into the new year and I’m already behind on my reading list. For this post, I read Neuromancer by William Gibson and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. Let’s get to it.
I grappled with Neuromancer for the first two weeks of January. It wasn’t a bad book — far from it. It was just unlike anything I had read so far. Cyberpunk is a genre that appealed to me, but I had no experience with it outside of The Matrix trilogy. I chose Neuromancer as the best jumping-on point.
The book tells the story of Case, a talented computer hacker who was burned by his previous employer. Being burned meant that he was poisoned and he was unable to jack his mind directly into the global computer network. He loses himself in the real world until he’s approached by a shadowy figure with promises of a cure. All he has to do in exchange is pull off one of the most complicated heists in history.
The book is dense and doesn’t hold the reader’s hand. There were plenty of moments where I had to go back and reread passages multiple times before I could figure out what was going on. I was frustrated while I was reading it, but I couldn’t stop. There was something so fascinating about this world GIbson created. Case wasn’t a very interesting character, but the world around him was. Street Samurai and mad A.I.s abound and there is a real mystery about who the characters are and who is pulling the strings.
The best part of the book is that it sets a dark and gritty tone immediately and expands on it throughout the novel. The book feels raw. It transported me to crowded streets and coffin hotels and managed to make me feel a little claustrophobic. The world is pressing down on our main character and that weight is expressed through the scenery and clever word choice. It was a book unlike anything I had read since I started this journey through science fiction and I think it was a good way to reset my mind about what scifi can do.
The Martian Chronicles is a series of vignettes that tell a semi-cohesive story about the human exploration and colonization of Mars. I didn’t know that when I picked up the book, but it’s a format that I enjoy quite a bit.
The first few stories were incredible. Bradbury incorporates smart humor and satire so effortlessly into his writing. I found myself grinning more than once at some of the absurdity. My favorite story features Captain Jonathan Williams and his three-man crew as they travel around Mars looking for someone to congratulate them on completing the journey through space. It features some of the best moments that the book has to offer.
Unfortunately, as the book went on I thought that the stories lost some of their luster. They weren’t bad, but the bar was set so high by the first few stories. The first stories set a more lighthearted tone and the stories in the latter half of the book shifted to a more somber mood. It’s a tonal shift that makes sense in the context of the overarching story, but for me personally it felt like a bit of a letdown. Bradbury loses something in the tonal shift and though the stories are well written, they didn’t stick with me the way the first few did.
Anyway, if you want to talk about Gibson or tell me why I’m wrong about The Martian Chronicles, feel free to message me or tweet me @left4turtle.
Wow. 2015 is here already. The year of chronicling my journey through science fiction sort of fizzled out as other projects came up and I took a break from the genre. But, I’m throwing myself back in and hope to stick with it through the year. Last year I posted my favorite examples of the genre across several mediums. So, to start off the new year, I thought i would post the most updated (and expanded) version of this list. Anything on this list was read, seen or played before the end of 2014.
Top 5 Books
1) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Previously #1)
This book remains my number one favorite science fiction book because it’s just the most fun I’ve had reading a book in recent memory. It’s packed with references to 80s movies and games, geek culture, and the most iconic science fiction pieces to date. As I mentioned last year, the underdog story of an orphan toppling a maniacal corporation resonates with me. It’s almost like Cline set out to write a book perfectly tailored to me. I found a few technical problems with the writing, but by the end of the book I didn’t care. I love every second of this book, and I hope you’ve checked it out.
2) I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (Previously unlisted)
As much of a cliche as it is, this book blew my mind. This was not entirely due to the subject matter, though that is very good, but because I had seen the Will Smith film adaptation so many times I was expecting something action packed and kind of dumb. That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised to find out this book is essentially a set of eight increasingly complicated logic puzzles with little or no action involved. It’s not a book for everyone, but I loved trying to solve those puzzles alongside the characters and usually being wrong alongside the characters. As the source of the legendary Three Laws of Robotics, this book is required reading for scifi fans.
3) Dune by Frank Herbert (Previously #2)
Dune is one of the most epic science fiction tales ever told. Few would disagree. Reading this book is essentially what kicked off my science fiction re-education. It’s a book full of atmosphere that sucks you in, even when the story is unfolding at a snail’s pace. I was so impressed by the level of craft Herbert showed in building his universe. It helped me realize that building a new world is more than just making up names, but understanding all of the economic and religious systems at play. It’s a brilliant book.
4) The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton (Previously unlisted)
My first experience with a Michael Crichton book left me feeling uneasy. This is the fictional account of an extraterrestrial microorganism and a team of scientists trying to prevent it from killing everyone on the planet. I stress fictional only because at first, I thought this might have been based on true events. Crichton managed to blur the line between fiction and reality for me and that’s what makes this book so successful. It was written when Crichton was a med student at Harvard, so a lot of what is written is backed up by facts. The ending didn’t pay off exactly, but it doesn’t detract from the work as a whole.
5) Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey (Previously unlisted)
This book doesn’t come across as science fiction right away. It’s about dragons and the people who ride them around PERN defending it from the Threads. The second layer of the story is where the science fiction comes in. These Threads are actually extraterrestrial invaders that kill any organic matter that they come into contact with. The dragons travel through space and time to defend their planet. This book isn’t perfect, but it’s a great blending of genres and a lot of fun to read.
Top 3 Movies
This list is actually unchanged. Quick recap:
1) Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Permanent fixture. My favorite movie of all time.
Preview of TV section
3) Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Terminator terrified me as a child and at this point in life, it’s beginning to terrify me again for different reasons.
Top 3 TV Shows
1) Firefly (Previously #1)
Also known as the greatest show of all time, Firefly was taken from us too soon. Only airing 11 of its 14 episodes and having its episodes aired out of order, the show never got a fair go. The dialogue is sharp, the adventures are thrilling, and the casting is perfect. Malcolm Reynolds, played by the great Nathan Fillion, is probably my favorite television character of all time.
2) Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Previously #2)
Taking place between the incredible T2 and the pretty bad T3, this show follows an older John Connor as he trains to lead the future human resistance. Nothing anyone does can thwart the dark future of Skynet and the terminators. That doesn’t stop anyone from trying. So once again, John is sent a protector from the future to fight the assassin from the future. The difference is, the protector is played perfectly by Summer Glau. She somehow brings a human element to the machine, something that seems unnecessary but is actually really important to the show. I love the Terminator universe and this show adds to it in smart but fun ways.
3) Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Previously unlisted)
This show is a perfect example of the journey being greater than the destination. This show takes place between the second and third film of the prequel trilogy. We know where it starts and we know exactly where it ends, but it’s still an incredible and emotional ride to get there. I’ve never cared about the clone army, but this show gives them unique personalities and a reason to care about their inevitable fates. Like the above entry, this show adds to the universe in important and essential ways.
Top 3 Comics
1) Y: The Last Man by Brian K Vaughan (Previously #1)
I would never miss the opportunity to talk about this series. This is my favorite comic of all time. The book takes the idea of the last man on Earth surrounded by women would be a good thing and completely flips it. Yorick Brown may have survived the plague that killed anything with a Y chromosome, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world won’t try to kill him. It’s fun, heartbreaking, exciting, and thought-provoking but, most essentially, it’s a meditation on love and loss. Issue #59 broke me. It’s the biggest impact any artform has ever had on me.
2) Saga by Brian K Vaughan (Previously unlisted)
If you read comics, you’ve heard of Saga. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ have crafted one of the most successful creator-owned comics of all time with Saga. It takes the idea of Romeo and Juliet and thrusts it into an all-new, incredible universe. Staples’ work on the book is a shining example of what can be done in the medium of comics. With every story arc, I’m left thinking ‘how can they top that?’ Consistently, the creative team shows me that I haven’t seen anything yet.
3) Copperhead by Jay Faerber (Previously unlisted)
Copperhead starts with a bang. The new Image series debuted last year with an incredible first issue, introducing readers to the frontier town of Copperhead and the badass new sheriff Clara Bronson. I love Clara. She’s one of my favorite new comic characters. We’re still learning about her past, but we know that she’s left something precious behind her, along with something dark that surfaces during some her violent moments. This book reminds me of Firefly, but it’s far more interested in doing its own thing and carving out a piece of the sci-fi/western genre for itself.
So those are my current favorites. I purposefully left video games off the list this year to keep this thing from getting too long. As with last year’s list, this is bound to change as I continue to ‘discover’ more works of science fiction. Currently, I’m reading The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury and Neuromancer by William Gibson, two fantastic books that might make the list next year. If you vehemently disagree with my list and want to tell me, or if you just want to chat and tell me some of your favorites, feel free to tweet me @left4turtle.
I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoyed the first book in this series, so I was happy to receive a copy of The Scar That Bleeds and continue the adventure. The story follows Stu’s descent into madness as he struggles against the demon Solani. The book also focuses on the strains in the relationships between returning characters and the patchwork that connects them all is slowly revealed.
The problem here isn’t with the story, but with the execution. To be honest, this book reads more like a first draft than the finished product. There were quite a few errors in the text and the book would benefit from some line editing. Another problem I found distracting was the qualifying statements following much of the dialogue. The author is showing and telling in these instances, which makes everything feel repetitive.
The mystery investigation of the first book is absent here, instead focusing on Stu’s fall from grace. The problem I had with this is Stu becomes immensely unlikeable for the entire book. There’s no redemption or reason to cheer him on in his fight. I was kind of rooting for evil by the end. I don’t have a problem with morally grey characters, but such a transition from the first book left me feeling disconnected from Stu.
Overall, as the book stands it needs some work. I can forgive an error or two, but more than that is too distracting from the book. There are a lot of clunky passages that are more confusing than informative. The story is interesting and has potential. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend the book in its current state.
“Welcome, Patient 8312. Please be seated.”
“I’d rather stand,” I say while giving the computer screen an impassive look.
“Protocol dictates that you will be seated before the procedure can commence. Be seated.” The inhuman voice comes from unseen speakers. The small, white room is furnished with a single chair in front of the mounted computer screen.
The computer screen glows blue in the dimly lit room. On the screen is a rotating white circle around the word ‘SPARK.’ I look back at the door that has slid shut behind me. There’s no handle or touchpad for opening it on this side. It’s barely discernible from the wall.
“What’s going to happen?”
“You will be seated.”
Is it possible for a computer to get impatient? Something doesn’t feel right. Every student of the Arts Academy comes here on graduation day. Somebody should know what happens in this room. Even the most honorable student could be tempted to spill the secret. So why don’t we know?
“I won’t. Not until you tell me what’s going to happen.” My eyes narrow as I watch the screen. The white circle keeps spinning, drawing me into its hypnotic rotations. The sudden whirring of a fan snaps me back to reality. Was the computer sighing?
I wait for something to happen, but a moment later the fan stops. The silence of the room returns, trying to press me into the chair by the sheer weight of it. I stand my ground. Finally, a toneless voice issues from the speaker.
“Once you are seated, you will receive a series of injections. The Spark will be transmitted to you and then you will graduate.”
“Sit down. If you do not comply, your conscious will be terminated and your body recycled.”
“What are you talking about? What is this place?” I turn and start prying at the barely visible edge of the door. It holds fast. I kick at the door and pound on it until a piercing siren shrieks through the room. I clamp my hands over my ears and my screams join the sound.
I stumble to my knees and shout at the computer to stop. I beg it to turn off the siren, promising it anything. After a few moments the silence returns.
“Please be seated.”
I take a deep breath and slump onto the chair. Restraints immediately shoot around my arms and legs.
“What are you doing, I said I would comply,” I yell at the screen. The restraints are cutting into my flesh, restricting all movement. A final restraint emerges and pins my head in place.
“You must remain absolutely still during the procedure. Patient 0001 through 0006 were not restrained and this led to their termination.”
Twin needles descend from somewhere in the ceiling. Automated appendages swab both sides of my neck with antiseptic. My heart is racing and I feel my pulse pounding against the appendages.
“The pain of this procedure is almost beyond your threshold. Do not scream.”
I open my mouth and twin blades of fire stab into my neck. I couldn’t scream if I wanted to. My mind is overwhelmed with pain signals and my vision goes red.
Just as quickly as it began, the pain subsides. The needles withdraw and my restraints release. I shake my head, trying to clear my vision. My mouth curls into a snarl as I look up at the computer screen. But I stop.
The circle is no longer white. Instead, a hundred dazzling colors rotate on the screen. I look around at the walls of the room and see a full spectrum of radiance. I shake my head again, but all of the colors I’d never noticed before remain.
“What is this?” I ask the screen.
“It is the Spark of Creativity. You have graduated from the Arts Academy and have been permitted to see the full color spectrum of our world. You have been given the gift to create new worlds, to give the graduates from the other academies opportunities to escape from the stark reality that they’re molding.”
“Reality is bleak. Facing reality without the imaginary results in self-termination.”
I’ve been woefully behind in my science fiction journey. Most of my writing time has been dedicated to writing reviews for blackshipbooks.com. I’d love if you checked them out. I did make a little progress and there are a couple of things I’d like to talk about. So let’s get started with Dragonquest, the follow-up to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight. I adored Dragonflight, but Dragonquest has really solidified my Pern-fan status.
The story opens seven years after the closing of Dragonflight. The falling Threads from the Red Star are still a threat, but the bigger threat is an unwillingness to adapt to new circumstances. The story is focused more of F’Lar’s brother F’Nor and his brown dragon Canth. I was a little disappointed at first to move away from F’Lar and Lessa, but F’Nor is a great character in his own right. He falls in love with Brekke, a Weyrwoman to the south, and is willing to destroy centuries of customs to be with her. Their journey of love and loss is captivating and a highlight of the book.
Again, the story has a lot to offer for fans of fantasy and science fiction alike. The book is more cohesive than Dragonflight and the writing has improved. Having previously established the universe, McCaffrey’s beginning chapters aren’t weighed down by exposition. This is an important improvement over the first entry in the series. The story does slow down a little too much from time to time, but overall it’s a great story with solid writing. Plus there are telepathic dragons that fight what is essentially an invading extraterrestrial force. What more could you ask for?
I don’t want to spend too much time discussing it, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed the new Maze Runner movie. To be fair, I haven’t read the book and had pretty low expectations going in, but I admired the structure of the movie. Being thrust into the middle of the situation with no explanation works well in books, but sometimes that doesn’t translate well to film. Thankfully it works here. While there were a few moments a little too reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Divergent, overall it’s a solid film. I was especially thankful that there wasn’t any forced romance in the story. It’s focused on the action and the discovery of the world and this is the strength of the film.
Comics fans, there are some really amazing new science fiction books on the market, especially from Image Comics. Copperhead is a space western that reminds me a lot of Firefly. There’s not much higher praise that I can give it. Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski have a really great book and I can’t wait to see where it goes. Roche Limit by Michael Moreci and Vic Malhotra, two rising stars, is a slick book about a planet full of criminals owned by an eccentric, billionaire visionary. It’s incredibly well-written and the art is beautiful. These are two books you should not miss.
Anyway, if you want to talk about the Masterharper of Pern CD or talk about how Image Comics is absolutely killing it these days, feel free to message me or tweet me @left4turtle.
Giant Robot Warrior Maintenance Crew #1 released last week from Cosmic Times Publishing. Written by Nate Hill with art by Mervyn McKoy, the comic book is mostly what you’d expect from the title with a few nice surprises.
Giant humanoid robots have been around since the mid-1950s and most of us have at least some experience with the genre. Shows like Voltron: Defender of the Universe and The Power Rangers brought about their rise in popularity in America. Around the world giant robots have permeated all forms of media. This book is a satire of shows specifically like Voltron.
The robot in this story is aptly named Herotron and he travels the universe defending humanity and their empire. However, this story doesn’t focus on Herotron’s battles. We’re instead following Erica, a new engineer working on the robot’s maintenance crew. A lifelong admirer of Herotron, Erica joins the crew when she is rejected by the pilot program. It’s through her that we find out the cracks in Herotron’s facade.
The pilots are led by an egomaniac who nearly kills the crew during every fight. Herotron is described as over-budget and underperforming. The sole reason the robot hasn’t been decommissioned is that it looks cool and people are willing to pay for that. It’s clear that the creators are familiar with the tropes of the campier shows. A lot of these ideas are amusing and the satire works well.
The book falters a little when it comes to Erica. She’s a brilliant and capable engineer. She comes through when the crew needs her and she’s unquestionably brave. However, some of her dialogue falls a little flat. She’s pretty consistently upset that she chose this job. She brings up that she could have had any job she wanted. Then rather than leave when given the chance, she simply decides ‘ah what the hell’ and stays with the crew. I didn’t feel like moment was earned through the story.
The art in the book is fine for the most part. McKoy’s layouts assist in pacing the story properly and the action sequences work really well. However, I found some of the character’s expressions to be too over the top. I recognize the book has a light tone, but a little restraint would have been appreciated.
All in all, this is a fun book. It’ll make you grin, if not laugh out loud. It’s good, but it’s not as good as it could be. However it’s an idea with a lot of promise and hopefully issue #2 brings it home.