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.