“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Trailer

The first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been released! Check it out here.

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Amazon Black Friday sale!

Amazon has a Black Friday sale for Kindle books for as low as $1.99, including some of Philip K. Dick’s classics, Ubik and The Man in the High Castle. This is excellent timing as I’ve wanted to reread the latter for some time. Note that if you buy the Kindle version, you can add the audiobook for an additional $1.99. You can find the sale here.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke

2001 novel

Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey was not simply an adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey novel. Kubrick and Clarke actually produced their works in tandem and meant for each to supplement the other. It was meant to be an experiment in telling a story across different media. However, the movie so outshone the novel that most viewers never received the complete experience. That’s a shame because they work well together.

Continue reading ““2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke”

“The Science of Battlestar Galactica” by Patrick di Justo and Kevin R. Grazier

In honor of Glen A. Larson’s recent passing on November 14, 2014, I am running several reviews about books related to Battlestar Galactica, his most famous and greatest creation.science-of-bsg

The Science of Battlestar Galactica is written by Kevin R. Grazier, science advisor for the Battlestar Galactica remake during the 2000s. This gives him a unique insight into both the science and the production of the show. Continue reading ““The Science of Battlestar Galactica” by Patrick di Justo and Kevin R. Grazier”

“The Theology of Battlestar Galactica” by Kevin J. Westmore

In honor of Glen A. Larson’s recent passing on November 14, 2014, I am running several reviews about books related to Battlestar Galactica, his most famous and greatest creation.battlestar

Battlestar Galactica clearly deals with issues of faith and religion. One of the most controversial twists in the BSG remake was that the Cylons believed in God. In later seasons, religious themes become more prominent as various cults come into conflict with each other. However, I admit that I didn’t quite appreciate the complexity of the show’s treatment of faith until reading Kevin J. Westmore’s The Theology of Battlestar Galactica.

Continue reading ““The Theology of Battlestar Galactica” by Kevin J. Westmore”

Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” coming to HBO!

Isaac Asimov_1951_FoundationIsaac Asimov’s classic science-fiction series Foundation will be coming to HBO soon! The books focus on the use of psychohistory to predict and account for historical events in order to prevent the collapse of galactic civilization. The website io9 has more on the news, as well as an in-depth summary of the first few novels.

I admit I’m not a Foundation fan. I read the first book and found it had not aged well. I can certainly understand how the concept of psychohistory would have impressed readers in the 1950s. However, as a social scientist myself, I just don’t believe that we will be able use social science to predict specific political events hundreds of years into the future. Social sciences can help us analyze political trends, but fare less well at prediction.

I also found some of the characterization one-dimensional. That said, given HBO’s track record with Game of Thrones, I’m actually not worried about this. Good acting can really bring characters to life. HBO will also likely find ways to add more depth and personality to the characters (though hopefully not too much gratuitous sex and gore).

Still, I might just try to read the sequels Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation, before the TV show airs.

Battlestar Galactica and International Relations

In honor of Glen A. Larson’s recent passing on November 14, 2014, I am running several reviews about books related to Battlestar Galactica, his most famous and greatest creation.9780415632812

In academic literature about popular culture, scholar-fans have to strike a delicate balance between analyzing the work through a scientific lens  and appreciating the work as art. I suspect most potential readers would not read Battlestar Galactica and International Relations just to learn basic international relations concepts (there are plenty of good IR textbooks). However, readers also expect the academic discipline to provide new insights into the show. Fortunately, most of the chapters in this book pass the test; they both enhance my enjoyment of Battlestar Galactica and raise thought-proking questions about politics.

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“The Martian” by Andy Weir coming to the Big Screen!

The_Martian_2014The website Shortlist has put out a list of popular books  slated to become movies in 2015. Of these, I’ve only read Andy Weir’s The Martian, which is excellent. I will post my review of the book closer to the movie’s release date.

Fortunately, with Gravity and Interstellar, Hollywood seems more willing and able to produce intelligent science-fiction films. Gravity in particular might be a good model for The Martian. Ridley Scott my favorite director and I’m sure the movie will look visually stunning.

I’m a bit less confident in the casting. Matt Damon has been cast to play the lead, scientist Mark Watney. Damon has never impressed me as an actor who can pull off the quirky, brainy type – and Watney is nothing if not quirky and brainy. Still, I’m definitely looking forward to this film.

“Tears in Rain” by Rosa Montero

Cover-LARGE11I bought Tears in Rain mostly because it was advertised as a spiritual successor to Blade Runner, one of my favorite movies. The book is not an actual sequel, but it touches upon many of the themes and issues raised in that movie. Of course, anything that claims to follow Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is going to set expectations very high. Remarkably, Rosa Montero succeeds. This was easily one of the best books I read in 2013. Continue reading ““Tears in Rain” by Rosa Montero”