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Book Review: Dark Eden

dark-eden

Author: Chris Beckett
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2012

In my home holiday time is reading time, a chance to catch up on the growing digital pile of reading material that I just kept on buying throughout the year like I had all the time in the world for leisurely pursuits. Having been blown away by Adrian Tchaikovksy’s Children of Time I decided to see if anything else on the list of Arthur C. Clarke Award winners grabbed my attention, and Dark Eden seemed like a reasonably safe bet.

And so I lost myself in another culture on a different planet for the two days that I only put this book down to sleep and make the occasional snack.

The Plot

160 years ago Angela and Tommy found themselves stuck on Eden, a sunless rogue planet, after their companions Mehmet, Michael, and Dixon attempted to make their way back to a damaged spaceship and then to Earth to call for help. But help has been very slow in arriving.

In the 160 years that have passed Angela and Tommy’s 532 descendants have developed a matriarchal society (Family) whose sole purpose is to stay close to the initial landing site where Angela and Tommy landed on Eden and to “maintain the ways of Earth” so that when help arrives from the home world they will be deserving of rescue and a place on a planet where light streams down from the sky.

John Redlantern, who recently entered his teenage years, doesn’t agree with the highly conservative teachings of Family, and knows that if it continues to grow at its current rate it will rapidly outgrow the valley it calls home and deplete its already limited food source. By going against all the wisdom and teachings handed down he will eventually break Family and commit atrocities never before seen on Eden, and in doing so hopefully ensure the survival of humans on this dark little planet.

The Writing Style

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of everything there is one issue that you should consider if you’re thinking of picking this book up, and one which many Amazon reviewers have taken exception to – the language spoken on Eden. The way in which the various characters speak is relatively unsophisticated, and admittedly takes a bit of getting used to in the first few chapters. The reason for this is that Eden was settled by two adults and their later offspring – what you essentially have is a mixed dialect based on the speech patterns and sayings of Londoners (from Angela) and Brooklynites (from Tommy) and heavily influenced by baby-speak, which in turn is being used to describe an alien world. While it takes a bit of getting used to it’s (1) entirely worthwhile because the story is amazing, and (2) lends far greater understanding later on to the way in which the characters see their world.

What I truly enjoyed about Beckett’s writing is just how simultaneously amazing and horrible Eden is. Nearly all life on the planet is bio-luminescent, including its trees, which is how humans are able to see despite the lack of a star, and most of the trees are geothermal, which keeps the planet warm enough for habitation. That covers a lot of the scientific ground, but the thought of living life in perpetual night with absolutely no chance of a sun ever rising is absolutely terrifying. Equally horrifying is the fact that all the animals on Eden have been named after an Earth equivalent. For example, leopards are known to hunt on the periphery of the area inhabited by Family – except these leopards are six-legged, furless creatures with bio-luminescent stripes, feelers around their mouths, and flat, black, unblinking eyes; the people of Eden may not know the difference, but the reader sure as hell does.

The culture and people are also incredibly well described, again in a way that is a wonder and truly horrifying. If nothing else 160 years of non-stop inbreeding has taken its toll, and its reasonably common to find adults with the mental capacity of infants. Equally problematic are genetic issues inherited from Tommy and Angela, coupled with the fact that nutrition on Eden is in short supply, resulting in numerous children being born with cleft lips and palates (‘Batfaces’) and club feet (‘Claw Feet’). Again, the people of Eden know no different, and have formed a societal hierarchy based on limited knowledge that includes and makes provision for all the members of Family while simultaneously trying to reduce the number of children born with such limitations, but for the reader it’s difficult since we understand that inbreeding is dangerous (and have enough options on Earth to avoid it), and that medical issues like a cleft lip can be easily treated.

The Feelings

What really struck me while reading Dark Eden was this sense of people being completely out-of-place. While Eden may be technically habitable it’s a world that was never meant to accommodate creatures like humans – the reader knows that, and the people of Eden know that as well. But coupled with this is the conflict that forms the crux of the entire story – do you stay in one place and hope that things will magically get better, or do you strike out and make the best of a bad situation?

What really helped in creating this sense of isolation and being out-of-place is the fact that, unlike almost all other books in this genre, Tommy and Angela were not scientists. Eden wasn’t intentionally colonised by highly skilled individuals who would know how to adapt their environment to be more suitable for human habitation – Tommy was some kind of thief and Angela was a police officer, so they have no scientific knowledge to pass onto their children and brought nothing with them to make life on Eden any easier. For example, the people of Eden have a rudimentary idea of what electricity is, but have no idea where it comes from or how to generate it because Tommy and Angela, much like most people, would have known how to use it, not how to make it. This creates a culture beholden to ideals of Earth without actually knowing exactly what those ideals are, let alone how to accomplish them.

By the author’s own admittance you could probably rip many a hole through the probability of this book, but in reality Dark Eden is more a sociological adventure than one based on hard science fiction, and I look forward to reading its sequels and seeing where this world takes me.

My Final Rating8 / 10
Buy Dark Eden at Amazon.com

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2017 in Book Review

 

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Book Review: Children of Time

children-of-time

Author: Adrian Tchaikovksy
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2015

To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect going into this book – I’d never heard of Adrian Tchaikovsky and I’m not one to buy something just because it won an award (in this case, the 30th Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel). All I had to go one was a blurb that it turns out I’d misread, and the words “Like a Stephen Baxter novel…” under one of its Amazon reviews.

But I’m glad I misread the blurb – what I thought I was going to be reading sounded interesting, but what it landed up being was even better. Children of Time is a masterclass of science fiction writing that ranks, in my humble opinion, with some of the best classics of the genre and one that I hope will continue to be read by people for many years to come.

The Plot

Mankind stood on the verge of becoming an almost god-like species with the technology to turn lifeless pieces of rock into fully habitable worlds. One of these, known throughout the story only as ‘the green planet’, is the site of Dr Avrana Kern’s experiment. Dr Kern will populate the now-terraformed planet with primates and release a cultured nanovirus into the planet’s atmosphere. The nanovirus will go to work on the primates and help their evolution along and hopefully accomplish in millennia what would take nature millions of years to get right until such time as the planet is populated by primates with human-equivalent intelligence.

But mankind is a fickle species. A group under the banner of Non Ultra Natura (‘Not Greater Than Nature’) doesn’t believe that we should play god and try to bring up our evolutionary lessers to our level. They sabotage the station Dr Kern is working on (and through a massive EMP wipeout most of human technology throughout the galaxy), thinking that they can stop this unholy experiment from happening. They get it half right at least.

The primates are sadly jettisoned off away from the planet to a very lonely death, but the nanovirus container does manage to enter the green planet’s atmosphere. Specifically designed to not target other vertebrates (the idea being that the monkeys shouldn’t have any competition as they climb the evolutionary ladder) it instead goes to work on what else it can find – insects. The results of this are a mixed bag with the exception of one particular species – portia labiata, a type of jumping spider, who slowly but surely begin to become self-aware and intelligent.

The novel then follows, over a period of several thousand years, the growth and development of spider society from its humble beginnings as nomadic hunters to fully developed cities of scientific innovation, with all the ups and downs that a nascent civilisation and intelligence have to offer. This society will eventually come face to face with its creators in the form of the Gilgamesh, an ark ship that fled a dying and toxic Earth with the last remnants of humanity several thousand years after the Non Ultra Natura-led war in the hopes of finding a new home on the green planet. Understandably, they may not be that wild about the idea of sharing their new home with giant insects.

The Writing Style

Adrian Tchaikovksy set himself no small task when he took to writing this novel and the two enormously different viewpoints that needed to be covered – those of the spiders, and those of the humans.

For the spiders the tricky part is that you’re usually not going to spend more than a chapter with any specific set of characters given the vast amount of time that’s covered in the book’s 600-or-so pages. Instead each spider-centric chapter deals with a specific point in this society’s growth focusing on key individuals who are dealing with the problems of their particular age. Continuity for the reader in these chapters comes in two forms, firstly the main spider characters tend to share names (Portia, Bianca, Viola and Fabian being the most common), and the second comes in what is known as Understandings. An Understanding is knowledge hard-coded to a spider’s genetic structure by the nanovirus, meaning that while you may be dealing with a spider many generations removed from those in the previous chapter, they have the memories of their long-dead ancestors, so one Portia tends to be able to recall everything that previous Portias have done, helping to keep the story nice and tidy.

For the humans it’s a rather different story, because their society isn’t going anywhere. Trapped on the Gilgamesh for thousands of years, most of mankind will spend the duration of their journey in long stages of stasis, being awoken only when their particular skills are needed. This results in a disjointed sense of time where someone can feel that something happened only recently, when it fact it took place centuries ago. In comparison to the spiders rapid evolutionary climb and the vibrancy of their culture, mankind by contrast is stuck in a highly artificial environment in permanent limbo until they can find a home, clinging desperately to the feats that were achieved during the terraforming days but in the full knowledge that they’ll never be able to achieve it.

Aside from these very specific characterisations of the two civilisations, the book is generally well-written and keeps the story moving along at a reasonable pace. As with most novels of this genre the story is rather dense, but this one has forgone the usual surplus of technical language in favour of a more sociological focus on the humans and the spiders, which overall makes for a far easier read than what you would find in your standard hard science fiction novel.

The Feelings

I can’t think of a better way to describe how much I enjoyed this book other than to say that I am one of the most severely arachnophobic people you are likely to meet, and I was rooting for those spiders. Many a time were the words “Come on Portia, I believe in you!” uttered in my home.

It’s also the sort of book that leaves you in a position where you don’t really know how to feel – on the one hand you don’t want the humans to arrive on the green planet, knowing full well our propensity for destruction and feeling that perhaps our time has passed. On the other, as the species that made all of this possible and knowing our innate capability for good when we set our minds on the right path, you also see the necessity of finding the species a new home, particularly when the destruction of the Earth wasn’t the result of this particular generation’s faults.

My Final Rating: 10/10
Buy Children of Time at Amazon.com

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2016 in Book Review

 

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Movie Review: 1313: Giant Killer Bees!

1313-gkb

Released: 2011
Genre: Sci-Fi
IMDB Rating: 2.9 / 10

You know what, I’m not gonna rip this movie a new one right off the bat. I knew what I was getting myself into when I started watching it – I did review 1313: Cougar Cult back in the day, after all. Having seen Cougar Cult I knew that there wouldn’t be enough budget to pull off special effects (because all of the money goes into young men pulling off their clothes instead), but a little part of me wanted to see how they were going to (try and) pull off giant killer bees. Well, the long and short of it is they couldn’t, and they didn’t.

Me every second of this movie.

Me every second of this movie.

The Plot

Somewhere in the Caribbean there is a mystical research facility that is an abandoned hospital for exterior shots and someone’s house for interior shots. Here, in a high-tech breakfast nook/laboratory, research involving dipping bees into liquid is ongoing. But what research could you possibly be doing that involves dipping bees in liquid, I hear you ask? I can’t believe you couldn’t figure it out – they’re trying to make a more hardy bee that won’t die off simply because humans insist on killing the planet! These bees will be able to stand up to anything – pollutants, harsh weather, shirtless men everywhere, you name it.

Unfortunately Professor Generic wants results faster than the facility’s three-man team who never do any actual work can manage, so he sends in Too-Tight Wifebeater to spike the bee’s liquid with some other liquid. On the plus side this does make the bees more robust, but on the down side it also turns them into giant angry zombie werewolf vampire bees. These new and more deadly bees have a craving for man flesh, and upon stinging the more rugged and virile specimens these very same men become mindless drones so quickly that it blows all their clothes off.

The team must obviously do all it can to stop the bees from spreading from the island (?) and infecting other bees, and to do this they either lay around on beds in nothing but their underwear feeling themselves up, or in the shower feeling themselves up and never actually using soap and I fucking give up trying to make sense of what the hell was happening here.

The Walking "we weren't hot enough to get into actual porn" Dead

The Walking “we weren’t hot enough to get into actual porn” Dead

The Visuals

Visuals? What visuals?! Let’s keep this nice and simple:

  • If you want to watch an actual sci-fi thriller, don’t watch this. It’s not at all thrilling and there’s no actual sci-fi to it.
  • If you want to watch something that’s homoerotic, don’t watch this. It contains neither homos or anything erotic.
  • If you want to watch good-looking men running around in their underwear, don’t watch this. Rather just watch porn.
  • If you want to watch something with a strong environmental message, don’t watch this. For all the prattling on about saving the environment I’m fairly sure you could’ve drained the Hoover Dam for all the unnecessary showering that was going on.

Also don’t watch this because watching this is physically very difficult since it has a very strange colour balance and everything looks like the cameraman got bacon grease on the lens and couldn’t be bothered to wash it off.

Have to have the occasional bee to ground the movie in its title.

Have to have the occasional bee to ground the movie in its title.

The Feelings

Pulsating rage.

Again, perhaps I’m not really in a position to be angry – I should’ve known better about what I was doing to myself, or avoided watching the movie altogether. But I’m angry anyway!

There really is no point to this film – its plot is flimsy, the acting is horrific, the production values are non-existent, and for the one sad attempt at a sex scene you could’ve cut the sexual tension with a dessert spoon. The action, for lack of a better term, is also very short-lived – 1313: Giant Killer Bees! is only about 80 minutes long, but at least 40 minutes of that is taken up by men feeling themselves up or walking around a deserted castle (for reasons that well and truly escaped me).

Don’t ever watch this – not ever.

My Final Rating: 1 / 10
Buy 1313: Giant Killer Bees! at Amazon.com

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Posted by on September 18, 2016 in Movie Review

 

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Movie Review: Ice Sharks

Ice Sharks

Released: 2016
Genre: Action / Sci-Fi
IMDB Rating: 3.6 / 10

Just after I reviewed the decidedly average Mega Shark VS Kolossus a little something from one of its lead actors popped up in my Twitter notifications:

Ice Sharks_EdR Tweet

Not wanting this to be another Kacey Zen-type incident I decided that there was only one rational thing I could do: become the President and Chief Financial Officer of the Unofficial Edward DeRuiter fan club. It made sense – he tends to be in movies I enjoy watching and he had that oddly buff office worker vibe going on. And so it was decided that I would watch any movie that Mr DeRuiter had a starring role in after the aforementioned Mega Shark VS Kolossus, and the fan club kicked off its run with Ice Sharks.

Once they reach a specific age marine bases swim off to start families of their own.

Once they reach a specific age marine bases swim off to start families of their own.

The Plot

On at undisclosed island somewhere around Greenland at an unnamed facility doing unspecified but very wide-reaching research things are about to get a little hairy. According to the local Scottish Indian Inuit people are going missing on the ice, and Tracy and David (played by the ever-charming DeRuiter) decide to head out and see whether the polar bears are snacking on things they shouldn’t. It all goes a bit pear-shaped when it becomes apparent that several creatures lying in bits and pieces on the ice have been attacked by Greenland sharks, and even David’s swoon-inducing smile isn’t enough to ward off an attack, and he and Tracy barely make it back to the facility alive.

But these are clever sharks, evolved to have razor-sharp fins and a strong understanding of circles. Working as a group they saw through the ice, separating the facility from the connecting land and causing it to float off into the sea. Cautionary tale kids: don’t build your research facility on wafer-thin ice – not even David’s rippling biceps will be able to reconnect that to the rest of the shelf.

Things take a decided turn for the worse when the sharks rally once more and sink the facility, sending it to the sea floor from whence they can pick off the survivors one by one. It’ll be up to David and all his sensuous manoeuvres (and the help of several unimportant characters and a large ice breaking ship) to make effective use of soft science that’ll refloat the facility if anyone’s going to have a chance of seeing the surface world again.

Ain't nothing wrong with a little extra thigh.

Ain’t nothing wrong with a little extra thigh.

The Visuals

I’ll say this: leave The Asylum to its own devices and it can really throw some painful stuff your way, but have SyFy pitch in with a little spare cash and what I presume must be a vision of some sort and you end up with something that, while not tremendously good, is still quite entertaining. I mean I’m not quite sure why we’re building things on tiny flecks of ice or how a tank that sunk right down landed up half a kilometre away from where it was dropped or how one short cable can turn into four very long sunken-facility-lifting cables, but if that’s what the movie wants to throw at its audience then fine, I’ll accept that. Of course the vast majority of everything is also that CGI work from circa 2002, but it wouldn’t be an Asylum or SyFy movie without it. The day they cough up for real special effects is the day I tap out.

Of course, with all these CGI sharks and floating research facilities, one thing that’s all real (and all man) is Edward DeRuiter, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

He got that, he got that, he got that D.I.L.F. $

He got that, he got that, he got that D.I.L.F. $

The Feelings

I went into this movie for ice sharks and Edward DeRuiter, and I left satisfied.

At the end of the day you’re going to get out of this movie exactly what its title and lineage suggest: sharks in and around the ice, some very questionable science, and a bonus round of cockblocking from a Scottish Indian Inuit. In my humble opinion there are far worse ways to spend a Sunday night.

And of course, it has Edward DeRuiter. With absolutely no knowledge of a Germanic language other than English I’m fairly sure his surname must translate to ‘the dreamy one’, and that’s the most important thing this movie will teach you.

My Final Rating: 4 / 10
Buy Ice Sharks at Amazon.com

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Posted by on August 15, 2016 in Movie Review

 

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Movie Review: Martian Land

Martian Land

Released: 2015
Genre: Sci-Fi / Action
IMDB Rating: 2.3 / 10

Watching this cinematically-induced lobotomy brought to mind the words of one of the world’s most eminent scholars:

“Yes, I see. Something involving that many big words could easily destabilise time itself.”
– 
Professor Hubert Farnsworth

This was all that lay at the core of this ill-conceived attempt by The Asylum to ride on the coattails of The Martian: if we throw enough big words at the audience, whether or not they make sense, maybe they’ll think that we understand what we’re talking about. Well guess what The Asylum? My penchant for reading hard sci-fi novels from the 60s and a few quick glances at Wikipedia have taught me more about what it would take to live on Mars than anything you tried to throw together!

Next time you build a Martian colony, maybe cover it in something a bit more resilient than Plexiglass!

Next time you build a Martian colony, maybe cover it in something a bit more resilient than Plexiglass!

The Plot

In the distant future the Earth has been lost to mankind. Our habit of burning fossil fuels and the subsequent global warming ultimately resulted in an unprecedented rise in volcanic activity across the planet, leaving the homeworld enveloped in an impenetrable cover of nuclear dust which left life on its surface impossible. And so we set off to Mars to build civilisation anew! Alas, our bad habits will once again be our downfall. While Earth was the perfect temperature to begin with and didn’t really need our help Mars was a bit chilly when we got there, and so we set about trying to warm the place up a little. This fractional rise in temperature has one horrible unintended side effect – it re-ignites Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in our solar system, which causes an enormous dust storm to erupt and begin spreading out over the Martian surface.

The domed cities of Mars are not designed to withstand the wind strengths generated by this storm, and Mars New York is quickly compromised when its dome is shattered. Over in Mars Los Angeles Miranda, a truly remarkable mind in a scientific field so generically named that she could literally be studying anything, needs to mount a rescue operation that will somehow both save her daughter who was in MNY when the storm struck, and deactivate the storm before it can cause similar damage to Mars’ other cities. Thankfully she knows just the right guy for the job.

Miranda has her current husband, Neil, bring her ex-husband, Foster, to Mars from Earth, where he has apparently been living quite comfortably while trying to restore the Blue Marble to its forgotten majesty. Foster devises the ultimate plan to stop the storm – by placing EMF emitters at key points, one of which must be in the eye of this eyeless storm, they can blast the storm apart and thus save mankind’s new home. But Mars is a frigid bitch and a hostile mistress, and it will take all of Neil and Foster’s acting inabilities to pull this plan off before all of the Martian cities are lost.

I would like, at this point, to assure anyone reading this that every word in this description has been carefully chosen to accurately reflect the plot of this film.

You know it's Mars because it has spacey looking buildings like this.

You know it’s Mars because it has spacey looking buildings like this.

The Visuals

This has all your typical The Asylum crap and then a bit leftover for you to take home afterwards.

As a rule of thumb The Asylum’s films all tend to have enough budget to produce maybe three CGI scenes which must then be made multipurpose. Martian Land is no exception, and one generic cityscape will just need to cover every city on Mars, with the only difference being how much damage has been done to it by the storm. There’s also no need for extras because all you need to do is copy and paste the same guy running over and over again into the same shot and voila! You have a crowd.

Below par CGI aside Martian Land also has many other wonders to behold. Martian bushes littered all over the planet, for example. And who needs technologically fancy spacesuits to survive a hostile alien world when all-over lycra and a spray painted welding mask with some coloured tape stuck to it will do the same job for a tenth of the price? Why build your Martian rover using fancy materials when all the interior really needs are some broken up crates and a bank of fans from that old PC you were going to throw out anyway? And why are we wasting so much money here on Earth looking into clean forms of energy when all you need is an old TV antenna to act as a lightning rod that can instantly charge batteries?

If bullshit were a currency, Martian Land would be worth its runtime in gold.

My expression throughout the whole movie.

My expression throughout the whole movie.

The Feelings

This movie touched me in a bad place and then went in dry.

I am by no means an expert on terraforming or any of the other countless subjects that Martian Land so haphazardly attempts to throw at its audience like Naomi Campbell throwing a cellphone at an assistant she doesn’t like, but I find the concept of interplanetary travel and the colonisation of alien worlds to be a fascinating subject. And to be honest, you don’t need to be an expert to understand that global warming won’t activate a volcano. You don’t need to be an expert to know that you couldn’t breathe on the surface of Mars (although, to be fair, only some characters do this sometimes). And for the love of the bloody maker you don’t need to be an expert to understand that a storm needs to have an eye in the first place if an entire plan hinges on throwing something into the eye of the storm!

You know, I get it – in any space adventure film you can never get all of the facts right, and sometimes you need to bend the truth a little bit in order to make the movie fun. But the only thing that Martian Land managed to get right is that there is, in fact, a planet called Mars, and that’s just not gonna cut it for me.

My Final Rating: 2 / 10
Buy Martian Land at Amazon.com

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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in Movie Review

 

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Movie Review: Genocyber

Genocyber

Released: 1994
Genre: Anime / Science Fiction / Horror
IMDB Rating: 6.3 / 10

Down here in the southern hemisphere we’re either experiencing the harshest winter ever or I’m getting old enough that my knees can tell me when it’s going to rain. Something about this made my brain decide that the day would best be spent in bed with a flapjack stack, a well-made pot of tea, and some horrifyingly gory and graphic anime. I must admit, despite some reservations, that my brain’s idea was a solid one – the flapjack stack was amazing, the pot of tea was satisfyingly soothing, and Genocyber taught me that I haven’t become entirely desensitised to that particularly Japanese blend of body mutilation.

Next gen VR systems look intense.

Next gen VR systems look intense.

The Plot

As with the other anime I’ve reviewed Genocyber is divided into five episodes spanning three story arcs – I’ll break the plot down by the story arcs.

Episode 1: A New Life Form

In the 21st century mankind dares to dream of a Utopian world racked by violence: as the world’s developing nations prepare to form a single united government, Kenneth Reed, with funding from the Japanese Kuryu Group, is working to create the Genocyber, the world’s ultimate weapon. He will do this by harnessing the Vajra (psychic) energy of sisters Elaine and Diana and melding them together, thus forming the Genocyber.

The problem is that the initial experiment only called for one child to be born, and the disruption to their Vajra at the time of birth resulted in Elaine being born feral and Diana being born with virtually no muscle control in her body. When Elaine, imbued with more Vajra than the designers could ever have imagined, manages to escape Kenneth sends Diana in a very fetching mechanical suit all around Hong Kong to find her and bring her back. At the same time a gang of cybernetically-enhanced government agents are also looking for Elaine, and aren’t scared to leave a trail of corpses in their wake if it means getting the job done.

When Elaine merges with Diana to protect herself, and thus becomes the Genocyber, Hong Kong is in for a literal hell ride as the beast fights to defend itself.

Episodes 2 and 3: Vajranoid Attack & Global War

Shortly after the events of the first episode the great and well-known nation of Karain has decided that it doesn’t need to be part of the United Nations or the new world government and decides to go rogue and attack its neighbour. Sadly a routine bombing of a small beach goes horribly wrong when a helicopter fleet blows the ever-loving shit out of Elaine’s friends while the group was innocently frolicking.

Elaine, shocked from the attack and exhausted from blowing up helicopters, is taken aboard the Alexandria, a US supercarrier en route to Karain to bring peace to the region by force. The supercarrier, having received images of the Genocyber blowing up helicopters with no apparent motive, asks the Kuryu Group for assistance if they come across the monster. Kuryu’s response: the Vajranoid. While you could be forgiven for thinking that this name denotes some kind of giant murderous vagina, the Vajranoid is actually an automaton imbued with Vajra energy that can meld with any piece of machinery it comes into contact with, making it the perfect war machine.

Unfortunately the Vajranoid identifies Elaine as a hostile target and sets out to kill her. Elaine, not one to be outdone, knows virtually nothing other than how to fight back. When the Vajranoid, under the instruction of its insane creator Dr Sakomizu, absorbs all the souls of those on board the Alexandria to bolster its own power, even the Genocyber is going to have a bit of a time bringing the situation under control.

Now relax and count back slowly from 10.

Now relax and count back slowly from 10.

Episodes 4 and 5: Legend of Ark de Grande City (Parts 1 & 2)

Set 300 years after the previous three episodes, Ark de Grande City is one of the last surviving cities in the world following centuries of destruction across the globe by the Genocyber. Diana eventually managed to convince Elaine that their power was too much for this world, and the Genocyber essentially went into a prolonged hibernation.

Ark de Grande City is the ultimate realisation of the violent Utopia dreamed of in the first episode – clean, efficient, safe, and ruled with an iron fist by a mayor who (quite literally) crushes any dissent or minor infringement that threatens the stability and order of the city. Of course, as is true in all similar situations, a group will rise up to fight its oppressors. The rebels in Ark de Grande City are a Christian sect who believe the Genocyber to be God and its centuries of destruction to be God’s wrath on mankind for their sins. They discovered the husk of the Genocyber’s body when Elaine and Diana pulled their combined consciousness from it and keep it in their Church deep beneath Ark de Grande City.

Things take a turn for the worse when Ryu and Mel, a young couple on the run from Ark de Grande’s authorities, fall through the roof of the Church into the room with the Genocyber’s body. Through a convoluted series of events Diana begins to call Mel ‘big sister’; Mel, wanting revenge on Ark de Grande for its treatment of her and Ryu, merges her consciousness with Diana and Elaine, creating an enormous and even more violent version of the Genocyber to reign terror down on one of man’s final bastions of civilisation.

Mel would forever regret the things she did for a Klondike bar.

Mel would forever regret the things she did for a Klondike bar.

The Visuals

As I become more and more of an expert in this field, I feel that I can say with confidence that this particular set of episodes was suitably animated. The only thing I didn’t like was in the first episode where the animation was superimposed over real-life photographs; neither the animation or the photography have aged well enough for this to look good in 2016, but it’s a minor gripe and it only happened in the first episode.

Of course it’s the little things that really matter when you’re watching this sort of thing – when a character’s skull and spine are being ripped out through their heads you want your own spine to twitch a little bit; when a character’s hand is split in two to reveal a secret mini-chainsaw, you want your own hand to tingle a little bit (that uncomfortable, slightly itching tingle between the fingers – you know the one); and when a child’s head is blown to pink mist you really want to feel the need to reach for a tissue to wipe the spray off your face. Genocyber offers you all this and so much more!

It's called fashion, mother.

It’s called fashion, mother.

The Feelings

Moderately disgusted.

What Genocyber taught me was that it’s not that I’ve become desensitised to on-screen violence, it’s just that there are certain types of violence that creep me out more than others. Unlike the Urotsukidōji OVAs Genocyber doesn’t abound in sexual violence, and it’s that type of violence that makes my skin crawl. Also unlike the Urotsukidōji OVAs the violence in Genocyber isn’t constant, but rather delivered in short controlled bursts – when it happens it’s quite horrific, but there’s enough time between the various instances to allow your nerves time to recenter themselves before they have to have another go at it.

All in all Genocyber is by no means the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen, despite all that I’d heard about it, but it’s disgusting enough that if you like splatter anime you’ll have a good time with it. Despite it also being the master of the anticlimax, where the end of each story arc really falls terrifically flat, the rest of the story leading up to that is quite competent and reasonably easy to follow.

My Final Rating: 6 / 10
Buy Genocyber at Amazon.com

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Posted by on July 7, 2016 in Movie Review

 

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Movie Review: Cell

Cell

Released: 2016
Genre: Science Fiction / Horror
IMDB Rating: 4.5 / 10

In the 28 years that I have been on this Earth I have learnt many things, not least of which is the fact that it is incredibly difficult to adapt a Stephen King novel to film. Take It for example – a brilliant movie (well, miniseries), but not entirely faithful to its source novel (although, to be fair, it would be illegal to adapt at least 70% of the novel to film). Misery is another one – a good film, but one where it loses its punch because you can’t take half of the main character’s inner dialogue (which drove a lot of the story) and put it on screen.

Knowing these things I went into Cell with an open mind. I’ve read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the novel but wanted to be open to what the movie would do with its source material. It doesn’t deserve the outright panning it’s received from many critics, but it’s not without its problems either.

Surely this many men don't speak on their phones at urinals?

Surely this many men don’t speak on their phones at urinals?

The Plot

Clay Riddell has just received some very good news: someone has just offered to publish his graphic novel series with options for movies, games, the works. Since the Universe must keep balance in all things, however, Clay’s good news must be balanced against some bad to restore a natural equilibrium; in this instance the bad news is the almost complete annihilation of the human race as we know it by way of “The Pulse”.

“The Pulse” is a transmission broadcast over cellphones, turning anyone who uses their phone to make a call into a mindless, rage-filled lunatic (think 28 Days Later but with electronics instead of rabid monkeys kicking things off). Clay is caught in the middle of the initial outbreak and meets up with Tom and Alice. Together, the three will try and trek across the country to help Clay find his wife and son, who he was speaking to on the phone just before The Pulse hit.

The tricky part here is that people affected by The Pulse aren’t your typical zombies, and instead work as a hive mind and play to very different and rapidly changing rules of engagement. It’ll take everything Clay and Co. have to outsmart, outrun and out-blowup the increasingly large and aggressive hoard of phoners.

That feeling when it's yet another telemarketer offering you something.

That feeling when it’s yet another telemarketer offering you something.

The Visuals

Let’s go with 80% good and 20% meh.

Because the movie opens at the beginning of the apocalypse all you really have to do is trash a few neighbourhoods and it’ll all look relatively convincing. Also, because you aren’t dealing with actual zombies that decay a few white contact lenses, some dirt and some blood, and the occasional fake bone sticking out of a leg will suffice. So long as you have enough extras to fill out the scenes, you’ll be good.

On the downside there clearly wasn’t an awful lot of money for CGI work. The movie doesn’t make use of it an awful lot so it’s not a constant in-your-face problem, but since it’s used so scarcely I would argue then that it’s worth doing right. I’m not asking that you set actual office blocks or soccer fields full of people on fire for the sake of realism, just hire someone who can do a convincing job of it.

Dear Movie: This guy was important in the novel.

Dear Movie: This guy was really important in the novel.

The Feelings

Neither here nor there.

As a novel Cell was both an excellent horror story and social commentary. The phoners and what drives them were nicely revealed as the story progressed, as was their rapid evolution and the characters’ responses thereto.

As a movie Cell retains just enough from its source material to warrant the title and the tagline “based on the novel by Stephen King”. If you’re in the mood for a slightly above-average techno horror on a Sunday afternoon then you could do far worse than this. If you’re looking to watch a faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s novel and the exclusion of important details and plot devices from said novel will make you angry and write things you shouldn’t on internet notice boards, then maybe give this one a miss.

My Final Rating: 6 / 10
Buy Cell at Amazon.com

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Posted by on June 19, 2016 in Movie Review

 

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