The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.

Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Milk Run: A Smuggler's Tale By Nathan Lowell - A Brilliant Spin Off From The Golden Age Of The Solar Clipper

Milk Run: A Smuggler’s Tale From The Golden Age Of The Solar Clipper: Book One by Nathan Lowell

Regular readers to this blog are well aware that I, and many, many others, have fallen in love with Nathan Lowell’s books about life in the “Deep Dark” as ships of various sizes and shapes travel between star systems delivering passengers and goods. Milk Run is the first of what will become a series of stories that will explore the darker side of traveling in space outside of the jurisdiction of the Confederated Planets Joint Comission on Trade (CPJCT). Space is a dangerous place in Nathan’s universe where there is little or no law, except for that of “honor among thieves.”

The story opens with what appears to be an act of self defense that might be interpreted as murder by the Trade Investigation Commission (TIC) which sends two Academy graduates on the run to Toe-Hold Space, a place with little regulation or law. Natalya Regyri, recent graduate and owner of a small scout ship known as the Perigrine, are forced to go on the run with her best friend and fellow graduate Zoya Usoko to escape prosecution under false pretenses. Figuring that they will be safe, Natalya heads toward space that is not under the control of the CPJCT where she plans to use her vessel to make a living as a courier ship between systems. However, when Natalya and Zoya arrive near Dark Knight Station, they discover that the Perigrine has a damaged part that must be replaced before they can start their enterprise.

Natalya learns that it is going to be prohibitively expensive to have her ship repaired at Dark Knight and decides to sign on to work on a bar-bell freighter for a one-time trip to earn enough to get the part she needs so she can get down to business. She and Zoya accept a job offer from Mr. Kondur, the owner of Dark Knight Station, to sail with Captain Trask and a rag-tag crew to deliver a cargo to Siren Station and to bring a cargo back; it is promised to be a “milk run,” but thanks to a few twists and turns, and a few shady characters on board, the journey becomes anything but easy when it is discovered that a locker full of spare parts has been raided and replaced with worthless junk.

Those that are familiar with Dr. Lowell’s previous stories should be pleasantly surprised at the different tack that Milk Run takes from the Ishmael Wang stories where everything is well regulated and maintained. In Toe-Hold space, it would seem that most anything goes as long as the job gets done and the cargo gets delivered. This, at first is a foreign concept to Natalya being just fresh out of the Academy, but soon she finds a way to fit in with the routine on board. She knows her stuff and is quickly assigned the position of de facto chief engineer of the ship under Steve Pritchard, the “official” engineer on board.

Dr. Lowell has a smooth and flowing writing style that makes any of his stories difficult to put down. He writes characters that are easy to believe and relate to, and are often people that I would like to meet and get to know. In this story, there are characters all across the spectrum including those that are good people and bad, some are shady and mysterious, while some are just trying to earn a little extra money; they are ordinary people doing a job under extraordinary conditions. A reader can find characters in Milk Run to care about right from the start of the tale, but there are some that one has to take a little time to warm up to, as well as a few that one can see will be trouble as the story unfolds. Milk Run reads a little like a whodunit with all of the elements of the story satisfyingly resolved by the end of the book. For the most part, I enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to future installments, but at the same time, I was a tiny bit disappointed by the ending because it did feel a little rushed to finish. The resolution of the missing spare parts part of the story happened at a pace that was much faster than the rest of the book.

Please don’t let my nit-picky observation on the ending deter you from enjoying yet another great story. This one comes from the darker side of the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper and opens up a new aspect of the universe created by this brilliant author.  It is well worth a look and I highly recommend it for fans of space opera that appreciate a story that focuses more on character than on conflict.

Well, there it is…


Monday, January 2, 2017

Star Wars: Rogue One: A New Can Of Worms

Star Wars: Rogue One: A New Can Of Worms

On the outset, I will say that I love this movie and have seen it twice. I enjoyed it more the second time around because I was familiar with the new characters. It is an epic story about how the plans for the first Death Star fell into the hands of the Rebel Alliance and who was responsible for the vulnerabilities that allowed it to be destroyed in the original Star Wars film. If there is one shortfall that I wonder about is, where are the “many Bothans” that died as mentioned by Mon Mothma? But that is something for another time.

What I am thinking about today, and have been for the past couple of weeks is the CGI characters that appeared in the film, particularly Grand Moff Tarkin.

As the story unfolded on the screen, when I saw Peter Cushing’s image, I thought to myself that it was really cool that they brought his character back to life as an important part of the story. Then when I saw the other actors in their Rebel ships, I again was amazed at what the studio was able to do. Then, once again, at the end of the film, that last shot of Princess Leia accepting the plans that she would later entrust to R2-D2, I was both elated and saddened at the same time seeing Carrie Fischer’s character so respectfully there as the story, once again, comes full circle.

As far as Tarkin and Leia are concerned, the CGI was extremely well done, but also obviously it they were not the real characters because of a few very minor imperfections, of which I will not go into detail due to the insignificance of them. Suffice it to say that they were so close that I felt it more of a tribute and a necessary part of the story. I am not one to get all bent out of shape over minutiae and have no problem suspending my disbelief in favor of enjoying a film.

However, after thinking about what I witnessed on the screen, especially as I thought about Tarkin, I couldn’t help but wonder what implications this new and developing technology might have on future films. A link to an article came across my Facebook feed questioning the ethics of this practice. That is exactly what I wondered about too as the question of resurrecting departed actors crossed my mind. As I understand, Cushing’s family gave their permission, and may have even been compensated for the appearance, and kudos to the filmmakers for following through with should be considered the right thing to do. And one might also think about Tarkin’s image appearing in the animated series, Star Wars: Clone Wars and again in Star Wars: Rebels, while in those instances, it was an animated image that approximated the original actor, while in Rogue One, it was far more of an attempt to absolutely recreate the character as accurately as possible.

In the very limited reading I done on this subject, people’s feelings fall on both sides of the fence. It’s right or it isn’t right depending on how one feels. Many believe that it is okay in this case because permission was obtained and compensation was paid while others say it doesn’t matter and that the role should have been re-cast using a live actor. Perhaps either or both are right, I’m not sure myself, but I do have a few thoughts.

As I mentioned before, I think it was great that the actors who were in Star Wars were brought back. It gave Rogue One a comfortable sense of continuity for me, and was as much a tribute as anything else. While the technology as it exists today is prohibitively expensive that it probably cannot be afforded by any but the largest studios, we all know that as time goes on, more and more filmmakers will have access to this developing tool, and as such, a tool can be used for good, or can be perverted into something that could do great harm.

In Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, the President of the Federation made a statement that I think might be something that could give one food for thought, “Let us redefine progress to mean that just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily mean we must do that thing.”

So far, the use of CGI in films has been all over the spectrum from being used well, to completely dominating a film to the point that it overshadows the story and characters that it actually becomes the star of a film rather than something to help tell a story. With the current idea that a beloved, departed actor can be recreated and become a main character in a film has its implications too. As in the case of Rogue One, it can be beneficial, but what if a more unscrupulous filmmaker decides to use this as a way to take a limited budget and maximize his profits? In the not so distant future, it is conceivable that one could sit at a computer and make an entire film and not lay out a dime for talent. In this age of sequels, prequels, and remakes, this budding technology could open a can of worms should not be opened, in my humble opinion.

Let’s take a film like Logan’s Run as a possible candidate for a remake (actually, there has been talk about a remake for quite some time). Members of the cast, Michael York is in his 70’s, Jenny Agutter is in her 60’s. Richard Jordan, Farrah Fawcett, Peter Ustinov and Roscoe Lee Brown are no longer with us (in the case of the last, we never actually saw the actor, only his voice talents were lent to the robot character called Box). If one watches the film, one can see a huge number of flaws that would not stand up to modern film-going audiences. The sets are hokey, the effects are primitive, and the miniatures for large scope scenes are obviously models. Now I would have to think that that film was made using the best technology available at the time, it still looks a little off, but therein lies the charm of that film! As far as film-making history is concerned, it is perfect in everything that it is and need not be remade. Where the film does excel is in the performances of the talent involved in telling a story warning us about how we could lose control of our lives because the things that humanity values causes us to seek a more recreation based lifestyle, at least until one reaches the age of 30. So, if through the magic of CGI, we bring back the deceased actors, de-age the living ones (presuming they would allow it), and made the backgrounds slick and new, would you want to see it?  I know I wouldn’t and I know several other fans of Logan’s Run who wouldn’t as well. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t want to see any remake of this Sci-Fi classic. As far as I am concerned, it is perfect just the way it was made originally, but that’s a rant for another time.

I cannot say what what I think is right, bit it is right for me. Some may agree while others, I am sure will disagree. I would love to hear your thoughts also.

Well, there it is…