eBook Review: Hollow World by Sullivan (4 out of 5 stars)

Full Cover of Paperback Edition

Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

4 out of 5 stars

Read in November 2013


The future is coming…for some, sooner than others.

Ellis Rogers is an ordinary man who is about to embark on an extraordinary journey. All his life he has played it safe and done the right thing, but when faced with a terminal illness, he’s willing to take an insane gamble. He’s built a time machine in his garage, and if it works, he’ll face a world that challenges his understanding of what it means to be human, what it takes to love, and the cost of paradise. He could find more than a cure for his illness; he might find what everyone has been searching for since time began…but only if he can survive Hollow World.

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Book Review: A Highly Unlikely Scenario by Cantor (3 Stars)

A Highly Unlikely Scenario or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World by Rachel Cantor

3 out of 5 stars

Read in February 2014

Suggested reading for the Kansas City Public Library Adult Winter Reading Program “Stop Me If You’ve Read This One”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

In the not-too-distant future, competing giant fast food factions rule the world. Leonard works for Neetsa Pizza, the Pythagorean pizza chain, in a lonely but highly surveilled home office, answering calls on his complaints hotline. It’s a boring job, but he likes it—there’s a set answer for every scenario, and he never has to leave the house. Except then he starts getting calls from Marco, who claims to be a thirteenth-century explorer just returned from Cathay. And what do you say to a caller like that? Plus, Neetsa Pizza doesn’t like it when you go off script.

Meanwhile, Leonard’s sister keeps disappearing on secret missions with her “book club,” leaving him to take care of his nephew, which means Leonard has to go outside. And outside is where the trouble starts.

My Thoughts:

I read this new novel with every intention of joining the local real-life book discussion group.  I try to participate in at least one or two book discussion groups during the annual adult winter reading program at the Kansas City Public Library.  Continue reading “Book Review: A Highly Unlikely Scenario by Cantor (3 Stars)”

Book Review: The Anubis Gates by Powers (3 Stars)

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

3 out of 5 stars

Read in October 2008

Warning: Spoilers

Brendan Doyle is a biographer and researcher specializing in poetry and prose of the early 19th century. In fact, it’s his knowledge of Coleridge and the obscure contemporary William Ashbless that leads Doyle into his time traveling adventure. An eccentric named Darrow has discovered a method of time travel. To secure venture capital for his personal scheme, he sells tickets to a Coleridge lecture in 1810. Doyle is hired as the Coleridge expert brought along to prep the audience.

The party arrives successfully in London in 1810 and convinces Coleridge to give an impromptu lecture. Darrow had misinformation about the date of the “real” lecture. At the conclusion of the lecture, Doyle is sent to fetch the carriages and is kidnapped.

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Book Review: Eifelheim by Flynn (3.5 Stars)

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

3.5 out of 5 stars

Read in March 2010

I thoroughly enjoyed all the 14th century scenes and plot. I didn’t care for the ‘now’ (i.e. present day) interludes. The peasants, priests, lords and aliens proved more believable than a modern-day female quantum physicist cohabitating with a male cliologist (described as a ‘big picture’ statistical history theorist or something along those lines).

A very good first contact story juxtaposed with historical fiction set during some of the darkest days endured by Europeans. Yet, as mentioned by another reviewer, I feel Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book creates a more believable scenario and sympathetic characters. Flynn’s research yielded superior science and vivid images and glimpses into the lives of 14th century people, but he stretched my suspension of belief that these same people would so willingly accept the aliens among them.

Book Review: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Willis (3.5 Stars)

To Say Nothing of the Dog By Connie Willis

3.5 out of 5 stars

Read in March 2009

This was a very enjoyable jaunt through time in search of a missing bishop’s bird stump for the Coventry Cathedral’s restoration.  It’s 2057 and Lady Shrapnell (very aptly named by the way) is restoring the Coventry Cathedral exactly as it was before it’s destruction in 1940 in a German air raid.  She commandeers the services of Oxford’s space-time continuum researchers and lab to travel back in time and solve the mystery of the bird stump’s disappearance.

Initially, we meet Ned Henry, one of the researchers and time travelers, as he’s searching the still burning ruins of Coventry Cathedral in 1940 as an Air Raid Patrolman. He fails to locate the bird stump but starts acting strangely, a clear indication of severe time-lag.  He returns to 2057 and is ordered by the Infirmary nurse to two weeks of bed rest.  Lady Shrapnell will have none of that so Mr. Dunworthy, the head researcher or professor, send Mr. Henry back to 1888 on a simple mission and to hide him from the overbearing Lady Schrapnell.

Still suffering from the symptoms of the time-lag, Ned can’t remember the specifics of his assignment.  He chances to meet a young man, a student at Oxford, who convinces Ned to hire a boat for a trip downriver on the Thames.

Ned continues to meeting unbelievably interesting quixotic people and unusual circumstances – all highly hilarious.  I kept hearing or seeing the actors from Monty Python’s Flying Circus or Michael Caine performing the voices and antics of these delightful Victorian characters.  Even the pets are supporting actors, especially Cyril the English bulldog.

Book Review: The Accidental Time Machine by Haldeman (3.5 Stars)

The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

3.5 out of 5 stars

Read in May 2009

A very quick read for me. A time travel tale with vaguely described quantum physics (string theory and gravitons) and shallow character development. A satisfying ending, but too happy and convenient with a dash of poetic or ironic justice to appeal to me. The religious aspects didn’t disturb me; in fact, they intrigued me. I look forward to the book club discussion.

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club at GoodReads read this book in May 2009.  To review the main discussion thread, please visit this link:  The Accidental Time Machine — Joe Haldeman

Movie Review: Midnight in Paris (2011)

Midnight in Paris (2011)

3 out of 5 stars

Terry and I watched this over a week ago, on a Monday evening.  We were interrupted a couple of times by telephone calls from our children, so the flow of the movie suffered a bit.  I believe we also paused the DVD while we made dinner.

As with all of Woody Allen‘s films, I take time to absorb his presentation and vision.  In the case of Midnight in Paris, however, additional time did not endear me to the film.  I guess I felt it a bit too obvious.

If I had not read a recent FilmCritic blog post on the past year’s mediocre scifi Academy Award scarcity by John Scalzi, I doubt I would have ever watched this film.  Since Scalzi claimed Midnight in Paris actually masqueraded as a time travel tale, it intrigued me enough to place it at the top my Netflix queue.

As stated at the Wikipedia article, “the movie explores themes of nostalgia and modernism.”  Woody Allen tapped into the ‘Golden Age’ vibe for each succeeding character, leading us down the path of impending disillusionment, liberally laced with nearly every famous author or artist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who conveniently converged at midnight in Paris (insert appropriate year here … and there’s the beauty of time travel as a plot device).  But not all this famous name dropping could elevate this film to greatness, at least for me.

Movie Review: The Final Countdown (1980)

The Final Countdown (1980)

3.5 out of 5 stars

My daughter had not previously seen this movie, which my husband and I have watched several times.  Terry thinks he may have seen it in the theatre when it was released in 1980.  I don’t think I did, though; I think I have only seen it rebroadcast or on VHS.  Thanks to our Netflix streaming, we were able to revisit this interesting take on time travel and Pearl Harbor Day (somewhat fitting since we just celebrated the 70th anniversary of the original attack on Pearl Harbor earlier this month).

While the officers and crew of the USS Nimitz (a nuclear powered supercarrier) and our token civilian observer (a very young Martin Sheen) pondered taking on the entire Japanese fleet, taking full advantage of forty years of technological advancement in aircraft, weapons, radar and communications, I sat and wondered how dated everything looked from another thirty years in the future.  Crew members had a library of hardcover books to read, were putting together puzzles or playing board games or card games, listened to the radio (instead of plugging in to their iPad or iPod or iPhone), had no Internet, no cell phones (not that they would be of any use in the middle of the Pacific Ocean), no video games, no flat screen television screens or monitors, no personal computers or laptops of any kind.

I realized this time around that the story seemed a bit thin and most of the film seemed to be an advertisement for the capabilities of our Navy, demonstrating take offs, landings, emergency landings, emergency helicopter water rescues, reconnaissance, dog fighting (although not much of a dog fight between a Japanese Zero and a F-14 Tomcat).  Since this film was made ten years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, I assume the Cold War influenced some of this.

Despite these observations, I still enjoyed watching this movie.  Perhaps it’s time this one got a makeover similar to what happened with 3:10 to Yuma.  Maybe before the 75th anniversary rolls around.

Amy Pond Outshines the Doctor

Perhaps being turned into a giant wooden doll while trapped in a dollhouse stored in a scared boy’s cabinet left Amy with some unresolved anger issues.  Last week’s forgettable episode, Night Terrors, disappointed on many levels (weak story and acting on the part of the bit players).  Creepy Doctor Who episode I hope to forget sooner rather than later.  Thankfully, last night’s episode, The Girl Who Waited, provided excellent science fiction (including  a time travel paradox unresolvable by either the Doctor or the TARDIS) and phenomenal acting from both Karen Gillan (as Amy Pond) and Arthur Darvill (as Rory Williams).  While this episode doesn’t contribute much to the overall story arc for this season (the Doctor’s death), the character growth glimpsed in both Amys and Rory will knock your socks off.

A great stand-alone episode of Doctor Who I highly recommend for your viewing pleasure.

Doctor Who Returns after Summer Break with ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’

"Let's Kill Hitler" aired on BBCA 08/27/2011
"Let's Kill Hitler" aired on BBCA 08/27/2011

I suffered through some disappointing summer science fiction television recently (most notably “Falling Skies” on TNT).  But all that is behind me now with the return of the Doctor and the best ‘bad girl’ in any time or space: River Song.   Amy and Rory continue their quest to reunite with their daughter, Melody Pond, also known as River Song, although her parents are still coming to grips with their daughter’s incorrigibility, knack for mad-cap adventures and an obsession with the Doctor not of her own making.

And River, as Mels, Amy’s BFF from childhood, who coins the episodes title ‘Let’s Kill Hitler‘ when she finally meets the Doctor, after Amy and Rory destroy a wheat field with a crop-circle calling card.  Holding the Doctor and the TARDIS at gunpoint, Mels corrals everyone into the TARDIS for a trip back to pre-war Berlin.  Mels manages to shoot the TARDIS and forces a crash landing in Hitler’s office, interrupting a shape-shifting humanoid robot containing miniaturised humanoids has assumed the form of a Wehrmacht officer and attacked Hitler.

And it’s at this point where Hitler becomes a minor impediment to the ongoing conflict between the newly regenerated River Song and her immediate assassination attempt on the Doctor, Amy and Rory kidnapped by the miniaturized humans, and a dying Doctor.   Hitler is locked in the cupboard by Rory.  My husband and I laughed repeatedly on that dialogue.

The tiny robot-occupying humans reveal themselves as time-traveling Justice Department personnel who mete out punishment to infamous criminals by snatching them in the last seconds of their life and torturing them for thousands of years for their crimes.   They switch gears from Hitler (they arrived too early anyway in 1938) to River Song, who has a criminal record including killing the Doctor.  So now we spend the last thirty minutes of the Doctor’s life arguing whether River can be tortured for killing the Doctor when he is in fact still alive.

Best bit of lore gleaned this episode about the Silence (spoilers follow, obviously):

Robot Amy: Records Available

Doctor: Question.  I’m dying.  Who wants me dead?

Robot Amy: The Silence.

Doctor: What is the Silence? Why is it called that? What does it mean?

Robot Amy: The Silence is not a species.  It is a religious order or movement.  Their core belief is that Silence will fall when the question is asked.

Doctor: What question?

Robot Amy: The first question, the oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight.

Doctor: Yes, but what is the question?

Robot Amy: Unknown.

This episode did not have the impact of ‘A Good Man Goes to War‘ (but how could it with the big reveal of who River’s parents actually were).  However, I loved it (as I do most Doctor Who episodes) for the great writing, story-telling and acting.   I know where I’ll be every Saturday evening … wherever the TARDIS re-appears.