“Star Wars: Darth Maul” (Marvel)

darth_maul_tpb_solitationWhen the license for Star Wars comics reverted from Dark Horse Comics to Marvel in 2015, it seemed that Marvel’s first instinct was to release a 4-5 issue miniseries for each popular character in the saga. Darth Maul is easily the most popular character to come out of the Prequel Trilogy. Star Wars: Darth Maul tells a short story set before The Phantom Menace and helps explain the source of Maul’s anger and hatred towards the Jedi. Continue reading ““Star Wars: Darth Maul” (Marvel)”

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“Star Wars: Darth Vader” (Marvel)

Darth-VaderWhen Marvel regained the Star Wars license a few years ago, one of the first things it did was issue a line of comics focused on Darth Vader. This first series, Star Wars: Darth Vader (2015-16), only for 25 issues and takes place in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a decently fun tale. Yet, looking back, it’s probably less memorable for what it tells us about Vader, and more about those who are brave enough to work with Vader.

Spoilers ahead… Continue reading ““Star Wars: Darth Vader” (Marvel)”

“The Star Wars” by J.W. Rinzler

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The Star Wars is not the Star Wars we’ve all grown to know and love. Instead, this comic is an adaptation of George Lucas’s first draft for the film that eventually became Star Wars. This is an alternative take on the story, a great “what if?” Some of the characters and places have names similar to those in the final films, but in a completely different context. Luke Skywalker isn’t an optimistic young kid, but rather a grizzled old Jedi general. Continue reading ““The Star Wars” by J.W. Rinzler”

“The Fall of Hyperion” by Dan Simmons

Fall of Hyperion Front Book CoverIn theory, The Fall of Hyperion is the sequel to Dan Simmons’ Hyperion (reviewed here). However, it feels like it comes from a different franchise. Fans of Hyperion expecting to learn more about the six pilgrims will find themselves disappointed. If anything, Fall of Hyperion draws more from the frame narrative of Hyperion than the short stories.

Fall of Hyperion focuses less on character and more on plot. We spend relatively little time with the pilgrims and more time with Hegemony CEO Meina Gladstone and her war council. As hinted in the end of Hyperion, war has broken out between the Hegemony and Ousters, and as well as an Artificial Intelligence construct. Continue reading ““The Fall of Hyperion” by Dan Simmons”

“Hyperion” by Dan Simmons

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Hyperion by Dan Simmons is an example of a book I don’t enjoy but that I respect immensely. Hyperion is a work of art. It is regularly ranked amongst the top 10 science fiction books of all time. Simmons employs an innovative narrative structure that serves to create a sense of dread. Despite Simmons’ skills as a storyteller, I found Hyperion a difficult story to read.

The book starts off 700 years in the future. Seven pilgrims – a captain, a priest, a soldier, a poet, a scholar, a detective, and a diplomat – travel to the planet Hyperion to visit the Shrike, a mysterious, murderous, quasi-religious figure. While en route, they agree to tell each other their backstories and their reasons for wanting to visit the Shrike (à la Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales). The book then proceeds like a collection of short stories, one for each pilgrim.

Continue reading ““Hyperion” by Dan Simmons”

“Contact” by Carl Sagan

Contact_SaganFor me, the film version Contact is still the gold standard for intelligent science fiction in cinema. After having read Carl Sagan’s Contact, I realize that the movie benefitted from exceptionally strong source material. Sagan manages to explore Big Ideas™, but also develops compelling characters. In addition to being a talented scientist, Sagan could write better than most professional science fiction authors.

Continue reading ““Contact” by Carl Sagan”

“Arthur C. Clarke” by Gary Westfahl

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Of the “Big Three” authors who dominated the Golden Age of science fiction, I’ve always felt I had the weakest grasp on Arthur C. Clarke. Isaac Asimov’s oeuvre is easy to summarize: technological optimism and robots. Robert A. Heinlein tended to infuse his works with libertarian politics and nonconformists. As for Clarke? I’ve read several of his most famous novels and short stories, but always struggled to identify common themes. Clarke seems to veer wildly between hard-nosed science and wild-eyed mysticism. Childhood’s End features humans who gain almost godlike psychic powers, while Rendevouz with Rama tells the story of a scientific exploration to a mysterious alien object. Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey seems like a warning against A.I., yet Clarke was hardly anti-science – most of Clarke’s protagonists are scientists.  Continue reading ““Arthur C. Clarke” by Gary Westfahl”

“Upgrade Soul” by Ezra Claytan Daniels

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There have been countless in science fiction using advances in cloning technology to ask questions about human identity. Science fiction has also used different forms of humanoids or aliens to explore race and racial identity. Upgrade Soul merges these two with a unique take on this subgenere of science fiction. The author, Ezra Claytan Daniels, won the Dwayne McDuffie Award for diverse representation in the comics medium. Continue reading ““Upgrade Soul” by Ezra Claytan Daniels”

“Rendezvous with Rama” by Arthur C. Clarke

Rendezvous with Rama is widely acclaimed as Arthur C. Clarke’s best book, and it definitely deserves much of the praise it’s gotten. That said, the book isn’t perfect, particularly when it comes to the characters.

Rendezvous with Rama starts when an large, cylindrical object is detected hurtling towards the sun. The object is named “Rama” after the Hindu god. The United Planets sends the solar survey vessel Endeavour under the command of Commander Bill Norton to investigate. The rest of the book focuses on the crew’s exploration of the alien artifact. Continue reading ““Rendezvous with Rama” by Arthur C. Clarke”