Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story directed by Ron Howard
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Jonathan & Lawrence Kasdan
Produced by Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios, 2018

What I find most interesting about Solo: A Star Wars Story is that it doesn’t really feel like a Star Wars movie. That’s mostly a good thing.

What I mean is: it doesn’t feel important. It’s the only Star Wars movie so far that isn’t significant. In the original trilogy, Lucas explicitly sought to create a modern myth, a la Joseph Campbell. There’s an inherent sense of weight to it. The new trilogy sought to bring the Star Wars universe back to relevance and so it has a sense of mission, as well as a similar sense of modern myth. Rogue One tells a tale of emotional, moral, and narrative consequence.

Solo doesn’t have any of that. It’s not important to the main trilogies and it doesn’t take itself all that seriously. Which makes it one of the most fun Star Wars movies I’ve seen. It’s pure entertainment. It’s refreshing.

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Book Review: Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Kill the Farm Boy
by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Del Ray, 2018

Kill the Farm Boy is a delight. It’s funny, unexpected, clever. It’s a quick read without sacrificing any substance. The characters are wonderful—interesting, infuriating, and sympathetic by turns—the world is well-rendered and the plot well-paced.

Did I mention it’s funny? Like, really funny. I have high hopes for the series this book sets up.

Fair warning: you better love puns.

I read an advance reader copy of the novel and it came with a summary of the planned marketing and promotional strategy. The marketing for this book emphasizes a comparison with the work of Terry Pratchett. This offers a good way to explore what Kill the Farm Boy is really about.

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Book Review: The Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt

The Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt
The Long Sunset
by Jack McDevitt
Saga Press, 2018

The Academy has been shuttered and Priscilla Hutchins (Hutch) is adjusting to life on Earth. Humanity has become fearful of continued space exploration—there’s a growing paranoia that someday such expeditions will bring back something too dangerous. The President herself is campaigning for reelection on a platform of ending the space program.

When an astronomer discovers a signal from deep space which clearly indicates the presence of an intelligent, technologically sophisticated alien civilization, he recruits a team to seek out these aliens and Hutch is put in command. But people don’t want them to go and the team must race to take off before the government can shut them down.

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Classic SF & Welcoming New Readers

On November 28, 2017, the author Seanan McGuire posted an excellent tweet thread about classic SF and entry points for readers new to the genre. She addresses crucial issues of diversity and inclusion. This perspective is important. Please take the time to click through and read it.

Conclusion: classic SF will always be important but it’s not a good way to bring in new readers.

Introducing new readers to science fiction can be tricky. It’s a challenging genre to learn and get used to. I decided years ago (long before I became a librarian or knew anything about readers advisory) that it doesn’t work to get people started in the genre with classic Asimov, Clarke, et al.

I’m ashamed to admit my reasoning at the time had nothing to do with the narrow Western cultural male whiteness of the work. It was because of the writing and the science.

Consider Isaac Asimov.

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Book Review: Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
Too Like the Lightning
by Ada Palmer
Tor, 2016

In the future, mankind has avoided self-destruction by a hair’s breadth. Organized religions have been outlawed. Ultrafast transportation has rendered geographical nations irrelevant. Society has been rebuilt according to the ideals of 18th century Enlightenment philosophy. The world’s most notorious criminal—serving a sentence in service to any who command—and a sensayer (a spiritual therapist and guide) discover a child who can perform miracles, with the power to irrevocably change the nature of reality itself. And a brazen theft threatens to expose secrets that could topple the world’s greatest powers.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer is a near perfect blend of science fiction and philosophy.

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Better Business through Sci-Fi? Better Futures through Storytelling

A coworker recently shared the following article with me. She knows I love SF and that I’m perennially fascinated by all things storytelling.

Better Business through Sci-Fi by Nick Romeo
(published by The New Yorker, July 30, 2017)

I admit, I do find this idea fascinating: using storytelling techniques to envision new products and services, craft new vision and mission statements, new marketing campaigns, new strategic initiatives. I’d be interested to see what, if anything, comes of it.

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The Challenge of Setting in SF

I had a roommate once who had never read any SF before we moved in together. She saw my collection of science fiction and decided to give it a try.

She grabbed a book off my shelf at random—a far future, hard scifi title. Pretty advanced for her first exposure to the genre. She found it very frustrating.

She had no problem getting into the characters or the plot. She understood the science well enough and enjoyed how the author extrapolated it. She didn’t get too tripped up over the genre-specific vocabulary, either, although she did have to ask me what some of the acronyms stood for.

The problem was the setting. She couldn’t make sense of the world of the story, the environment. She didn’t know what things were and couldn’t picture them. Presented with an imagined far-future, alien setting, she felt lost and disoriented.

She was frustrated because she thought she was supposed to understand it. She felt like she was missing something, some key that would bring the world of the story into focus. Something to make it all make sense.

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