“Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel” by Bob Batchelor

61szh04fjpL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I come to this book less as a Marvel fan and more as someone interested in the history of pop culture. Given the recent explosion of superhero films, Stan Lee has come to rank as one of the most important figures in pop culture history. Yet, I realized I knew remarkably little about him. I’ve enjoyed some of the Marvel movies, but had never read any of Stan Lee’s comics.

Bob Batchelor’s new biography is a good start for the uninitiated. He provides a comprehensive overview of Stan Lee’s life and work. It’s a largely sympathetic – but not uncritical – biography of a man who brimmed with creative energy and occasionally made bad financial deals.  Continue reading ““Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel” by Bob Batchelor”

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“Artemis” by Andy Weir

Artemis-Book-Cover-Andy-Weir

Andy Weir’s debut novel, The Martian, was one of the best science fiction novels of the past decade, so I was naturally intrigued when I heard about his new book, Artemis. On the one hand, Weir’s success means that he’ll likely have a much larger audience for Artemis than he initially did for The Martian, which he had to self-publish on Amazon. On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible to avoid comparing Artemis to The Martian, and unfortunately that comparison does Weir’s new book no favors. Continue reading ““Artemis” by Andy Weir”

“Blade Runner 2049”

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Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner helped me understand humanity. The film is rightly lauded for its detailed world-building and hypnotic score, but it is also a philosophical treatise about human identity (seriously, Ridley Scott’s oeuvre has spawned a whole academic subfield). Humans unfortunately have a tendency to tribalism, defining some members of the species as sufficiently worthy of respect while excluding “Others” on the basis of race, gender, or religion. Blade Runner argues that the ability to feel empathy towards other forms of life is key to humanity. Indeed, in the world of 2019, bounty hunters use the Voight-Kampff machine to detect replicants (or androids) by measuring their empathy. Continue reading ““Blade Runner 2049””