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Showing posts from August, 2017

First Against The Wall When The Revolution Comes [Review: Robopocalypse]

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I like humans. I like robots. But which is best? There's only one way to find out... A series of apparently accidental and unconnected deaths leads to the discovery that the robot revolution has already begun in earnest, and surviving humans must flee the cities that have become deathtraps as their appliances turn against them.

In "Robopocalypse" Daniel H. Wilson tells the story of a failed robotic war of independence from a position of robotics expertise - but this is not a dry textbook or theoretical AI journal article. The structure of the novel is also unusual. Clearly we are outsmarted and generally outclassed by our robot opponents, yet it is made clear from the start that the war is over and the humans have won. The story is told from multiple human viewpoints as a surviving A.I. researches critical events in the war and tries to understand humanity.

I found the early stages of the war most original and most horrifying - robotic cleaners and automated elevators cons…

Science Fiction Double Eater [Reviews: Train To Busan and The Girl With All The Gifts]

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In honour of the late George A. Romero, two modern-day zombie classics:


Train To Busan (부산행, Busanhaeng) is a Korean movie made in 2016. Workaholic fund manager, divorcee and useless dad Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) must reluctantly accompany his daughter Soo-an (Kim Su-an) by train from Seoul to Busan, returning her to live with her mother - on the day Korea succumbs to a zombie plague.

I have enjoyed Korean horror movies in recent years, particularly Thirst (vampire horror) and The Host (newt horror). I can only comment on the few I've seen, but I've found them intelligent, well-written and produced, and willing to tell stories about families and relationships that are different to those in western cinema - as a result they're often very moving, while there's still plenty of action, drama, shock and gore, and also humour with just the right amount of darkness.

I can report that Train To Busan is another enjoyable horror. The backstory is unoriginal, with a viral outbreak from a …

Parenting: never easy [Review: Star Wars Identities]

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London is having a good summer for science fiction events. Star Wars Identities is an exhibition of Star Wars costumes, props, models and concept art at the O2 arena, and themed around the parallel life stories of Luke and Anakin and the factors that influenced their personalities - throwing in the odd psychology lesson. Possibly it takes itself a little too seriously in this regard, it would have been perfectly OK just to have put all the genuine movie material on display without this extra dimension of psychology, but it does give the exhibition a bit of structure and it's quite fun too - along the way visitors create their own Star Wars character and backstory with the help of a hi-tech system involving a bracelet sensor used to make life choices at each step.
This is an excellent collection, covering all the films and including everything from the most famous costumes and droid or starship models right through to for some reason the frieze from Senator Palpatine's office, w…

[Review: Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets]

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When a valuable stolen treasure is sighted in the multi-dimensional Big Market, Valerian and Laureline, two intergalactic special agents are dispatched to recover it - but this turns out to be just the first step in solving a greater mystery connecting the stolen item, the destroyed planet of Mul and the mysterious entity that has taken over part of the multicultural space city Alpha.

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets is a Luc Besson film based on the Valerian and Laureline French graphic novels. The heroes are played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delavigne. As in the comics, Valerian is straight-laced and does it by the book while Laureline is more of an out-of-the-box thinker; traditional gender personality traits are exaggerated for effect. Somehow they appear younger in the film than in the comics - more or less hormonal, bickering teenagers despite their elite skills, military rank and galaxy-saving duties. Theirs is not the greatest on-screen partnership Hollywood has ever se…

Curved Space [Review: Into The Unknown]

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"Into The Unknown" is an incredibly ambitious science fiction exhibition in London. In a relatively small gallery space, the Curve Gallery at the Barbican Centre, there is an attempt to tell the entire story of the science fiction genre, from its' origins ito the present day, it's development across different continents and cultures, and across media including books, films, art, architecture, music, games and more, at the same time exploring the many different concepts that appear in sci-fi. The result is fascinating - an Aladdin's Cave of real treasures that can be explored and enjoyed, interspersed with shelves of sci-fi novels and screens showing clips from classic films.

The main gallery is full of surprises - an interactive Mission Control scene from The Martian, a viewing/listening post dedicated to Afrofuturism, and a short sci-fi film with a script written by a predictive text AI. Outside the main gallery the quest continues with exhibits hidden in nooks a…

Doctorin' The Tardis

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The Sci-Fi Gene welcomes Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor, and looks forward to finding out just how this highly talented actress interprets this unique TV role. Whittaker is best known for her role in Broadchurch but also appeared in Joe Cornish's low budget sci-fi Attack The Block, reviewed here, alongside a certain John Boyega who would incidentally be an excellent choice for the 14th Doctor.