Category: Science Fiction (Page 1 of 2)

Madcap Moon Caper: ‘Artemis’ by Andy Weir

Picture an upbeat thriller about a scrappy dock worker who gets tangled in a web of murder, corporate espionage, and organized crime. Now picture a work of speculative fiction that imagines a future where humanity has industrialized the surface of the moon and turned it into a tourist trap for the very rich. Mix the two together and you’ve got Artemis, the latest from Andy Weir.

Weir burst onto the scene in 2011 when he self-published his debut novel, The Martiana fascinating first-person tale of sarcastic botanist Mark Watney, who is stranded on the surface of Mars, which was adapted into an Oscar-Nominated movie in 2015.mark watney space pirate


Artemis 
is a worthy successor, and is like its predecessor in many ways; utilizing a sarcastic narrator to soften the blow of the heavy, hard-sci-fi concepts that Weir once again throws at the reader.

artemisThat being said, Artemis is not just for fans of Science Fiction. In a literary landscape dominated by seriousness, Artemis offers something different; a fun adventure with a backdrop that still touches on many social issues, but doesn’t allow them to overtake the story. It is an escape into a future that may not be necessarily bright, but is certainly exciting and has the reader, consistently curious as to what would happen next.

The novel takes place on the eponymous moon colony, “Artemis”, which is essentially a series of metal bubbles stuck to the surface of the moon. Artemis is divided between luxurious sections that cater to the rich tourists and the even richer inhabitants of the colony, and some that house the impoverished factory workers and tradesmen that are necessary to keep Artemis alive.

Our protagonist, Jazz Bashara, is the daughter of a welder and an aspiring smuggler who uses her position in the loading bay to sneak contraband in and sell it to wealthy residents, but when one of her clients offers her a large sum of money for a less-than-legal job, she is pulled into the criminal underground that she never knew existed.

One of the strongest qualities of the book is its characters; they are uniquely driven, expertly described, and surprisingly colorful. Jazz is sardonic, biting, and cynical in the best ways, and makes for a relatable narrator whose perspectives and descriptions really make the book inimitable and kept me laughing throughout. So, even if you think science fiction isn’t your thing, Artemis may still be for you, so come by our sci-fi section this week and get a copy; you won’t regret it.

Signed first editions of Artemis are available on our website.

And the Stars Look Very Different Today: Jaroslav Kalfar’s ‘Spaceman of Bohemia’

I’m not much of a sci-fi guy. Enjoying certain popular films like Interstellar or works like The Martian has never been outside my personal realm of possibility, but am I going to go out and search for the most brilliant and obscure work of sci-fi literature? Probably not. That being said, it might have found me. spaceman of bohemiaJaroslav Kalfar’s Spaceman of Bohemia is a novel that fits just as comfortably on the shelf next to Kafka as it does in the realm of sci-fi and space adventure. This is a novel that perfectly captures the feelings of loneliness and anxiety that can only come through accepting ambition while subsequently affirming the need to ground personal identity outside oneself, whether it be in love or in history. However, in order to feel out how Kalfar’s work stands out among the rest, it helps to understand the world of the author.

Sitting at the edge of Eastern Europe, Prague is the capital city of the Czech Republic and is traditionally considered to be the center of Bohemia. The Prague of the protagonist, Jakub Prochazka begins in 1948 when the Communist Party took power and all other parties became officially deceased.

My name is Jakub Prochazka. This is a common name. My parents wanted a good life for me, a life of good comradeship with my country and my neighbors, a life of service to the world united in socialism.

Jakub’s father is an informant for the Communist regime with a secret affinity for Elvis Presley and a deep love for his family. At an early age, Jakub admires his father for his dedication to the ethos of his nation, but with the fall of the Iron Curtain the success of the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and the mysterious death of his parents, Jakub is launched into a void of personal identity that can only be captured in the grand metaphor of space travel. In an attempt to distinguish itself as an autonomous nation, the Czech Republic chooses Jakub to embark on a potentially dangerous space mission to investigate a mysterious, purple space cloud that no national superpower is willing to risk its citizens to understand. Jakub leaves his comfortable life with his wife Lenka and a prestigious position as a professor of astrophysics to claim fame and purpose for himself and his nation. As days, weeks, then months pass in his voyage, Jakub realizes the gravity (no pun intended) of the voyage itself, and the strain that it would put on his relationships back home. Then he meets a giant space spider.

hanus the spider

To those of you that are completely freaked out by this image, I will say that I was, too. However, I will also say that after finishing the novel I LOVE Hanus the spider. As Jakub struggles with space madness he (and the reader) attempt to deal with the meaning of Hanus’ presence. I don’t want to give away too much but I will say that Hanus is at once at the center of Jakub’s peril and his guide through it.

While this novel takes on weighty themes and attempts at complex insights, it also reads seamlessly. Jaroslav’s voice through Jakub’s first person narration is at once hilarious and impactful. This Czech astronaut’s story, if nothing else, proves that you don’t need to go to space to venture into the balance between madness and sanity that we all experience in everyday life.

Hunter recommends 3 science fiction classics

Today, it would be difficult to find a movie or television show that does not incorporate some kind of science fiction element. Inspired by this, many people now seek to experience the genre at its source: books. However, with such an overwhelming number of classic science fiction books, where should someone start? This is a question that customers have asked me before, and here is my answer: Here are three books that you can find on our shelves that I think are perfect examples of classic science fiction.

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

childhoods endTo those who have heard his name, Arthur C. Clarke is most well-known as the co-creator of the book and subsequent film 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, his influence does not stop at cinema. Clarke’s theories in his books about satellites and orbits actually came to fruition in reality, so much so that a geosynchronous orbit used by telecommunications satellites is named after him (The Clarke Belt). My personal favorite work of his is Childhood’s End, a story of mankind’s first encounter with extraterrestrials and the effects that span hundreds of years. The story begins with a simple premise: massive alien ships suddenly appear on Earth, hovering over major cities, doing nothing. It’s an iconic enough image to spawn several copycat stories and films, which I will not list here. Where it goes from there is a bit strange, but I won’t spoil it.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick

do androids dream of electric sheepThere has been a lot of debate as to which author is truly the quintessential sci-fiauthor, and nearly every one comes to the same conclusion. Philip K. Dick made massive contributions to the entire genre of Science-Fiction, molding it into what it is today. Many of PKD’s works have been adapted to film and television, though few know it. Total RecallThe Adjustment BureauMinority ReportThe Man in the High Castle, and Blade Runner are all based on his works. Because of this, many people are more familiar with his stories than they realize. My favorite work of his is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which was the basis for the film Blade Runner. It is a detective story at it’s heart, the story of Rick Deckard, a “Blade Runner,” a detective who specializes in identifying and decommissioning rogue androids. It’s an interesting take on the classic mystery novel, and I love it.

The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

ult hitchhikers guide galaxyDouglas Adams was, for the most part, a humorist in the vein of Mark Twain, but his genre of choice was science fiction. His masterpiece, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and its sequels, now published together as The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, are the best example of his sharp wit and absurdist style of Adams’ work. The opening of the book features (spoiler alert, although it is the beginning of the book) the destruction of Earth, after which Adams writes “This planet has—or rather had—a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much all of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole, it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.” The book is likely the one that I have reread the most, and in my mind, it is, not only one of the funniest novels, but one of the best ever written at all.

2015, I’d like to kiss you on the mouth.

dbdb37f2-a00d-4114-b5d6-1e42a0bc65cfThis year was a doozy. I consumed everything from nonfiction about animal consciousness to the modern classic Fates and Furies by Lemuria’s new best friend, Lauren Groff. I can’t even get into the second paragraph without telling you that The Godfather was hands down my favorite read of the year. You can read my blog about it here. I had the chance to sit down and talk to Garth Risk Hallberg about his meteoric rise in the literary world. Jon Meacham made me cry.

I personally made the move from the hub that is Lemuria’s front desk to the quieter fiction room, where I now am elbows deep in the mechanics of our First Editions Club; and am coincidentally even more in love with fiction than I was before. My TBR pile has skyrocketed from about 10 books to roughly 30 on my bedside table. It’s getting out of control and I love it.

[Sidebar: This year, I fell even more in love with graphic novelsNimona surprised us all by making one of the short-lists for the National Book Award, and we were so pleased to see it get the recognition that it deserves. Go Noelle Stevenson! You rule!]

As a bookstore, we were able to be on the forefront of some of the most influential books of 2015 (see: Between the World and Me– when we passed that advance reader copy around, the rumblings were already beginning). Literary giants Salman Rushdie, John Irving, and Harper Lee put out new/very, very old works to (mostly) thunderous applause, and debut novelists absolutely stunned and shook up the book world. (My Sunshine Away, anyone? I have never seen the entire staff band behind a book like that before. We were/are obsessed.) Kent Haruf’s last book was published; it was perfect, and our hearts ache in his absence.

We marched through another Christmas, wrapping and reading and recommending and eating enough cookies to make us sick. We hired fresh new faces, we said goodbye to old friends, we cleaned up scraggly, hairy sections of the store and made them shiny and new. We had the privilege of having a hand in Mississippi’s first ever book festival. We heaved in the GIANT new Annie Leibovitz book, and spent a few days putting off work so that we could all flip through it. In short, this year has been anything but uneventful; it’s been an adventure. So here’s to 2016 absolutely knocking 2015 out of the park.

Read on, guys.

 

9XL0vUY

Gifting the Perfect Book: Sci-Fi and Pop Culture Enthusiasts

Ready_Player_One_coverI know I’m a little late to the party on this one. Not only had I not read Ready Player One until this August (by Ernest Cline- it came out in 2011), I had not even heard of Cline until I started working at Lemuria this summer. I didn’t even get one of his books read to help the hype-train roll along for his July 30 signing of his new book Armada (signed first editions of which are still available). There is, however, still some room on the bandwagon before Steven Spielberg adapts Ready Player One for the silver screen.

And anyway, it’s okay, because between the deep-seated 80s nostalgia and the bleak virtual futurism of 30 years from now, there’s a timeless feeling to Ready Player One, which feels like it will become a classic of the gamer genre of literature. The novel tells the story of Wade Watts, a down-and-out teenager from Oklahoma City, whose life changes with the creation of a massive worldwide virtual treasure hunt. As the world falls apart from resource depletion and neglect, most people spend their lives instead in the OASIS, a massive, multi-world virtual reality system. When the creator of the OASIS dies, his will leaves control of the company (and thus the OASIS) to whomever can find a virtual “easter egg” hidden in the OASIS itself. Players do this by finding keys through trials designed to test their gaming skill and 1980s pop culture knowledge.

Wade, whose online alias is Parzival (modeled after the questing Grail knight), takes an early lead by finding the first key through dedication and a bit of luck, but he’s soon locked in a frantic race against his friends (Aech [pronounced “H”], his love interest/frenemy Art3mis, and the Samurai brothers Daito and Shoto) and enemies (an army of egg hunters called the Sixers employed by a massive, sinister internet service provider).

One of the appealing things about the OASIS is the seemingly endless number of different worlds, often inspired by real-world pop & gaming culture, that are featured or suggested in the story. Even though the book is loaded with homages, references, and appearances, it doesn’t feel inaccessible. Partly this is through Cline’s lucid exposition, and part is from having a broad enough cultural canon that most denizens of the internet can be familiar with.

I myself was only three years-old at the end of the 1980s, and though I’ve played my share of video games, I don’t think I would have ever called myself a gamer. Despite these limitations, I never felt lost or bored.

Besides, the book itself feels like its own mythology to contribute—it’s worth your time to check out this lovingly created fan art on Tumblr. It’s fascinating to see the responses to Art3mis, especially, mostly identification with but also occasionally sexualization of—much like Wade’s attitude, actually.

Even though the book succeeds mostly on its entertainment value, it does raise—and poke around—themes of not only identity, but also escapism vs. the value of reality. It raises questions better than providing analysis, but the choices confronting Wade, especially at the end of the novel are interesting. The ending also leaves the consequences of the story open without demanding a sequel to feel complete, which I appreciated.

Mostly, though, Ready Player One is just a hell of a lot of fun. It’s got puzzles, it’s got memorable characters, it’s got (a very gamer type of) romance, it’s got a classic narrative structure—and a place on book store, library, and home book shelves for years to come.

Magic Beans for Escape Artists

relaxing-waters3-oDo you tape beautiful, exotic vistas to your cubicle wall, and wish you were floating on your back in the blue of the Mediterranean? And when the bossman comes round asking for you to work Saturday and Sunday while demanding more TPS reports, do you desire escapism? Fear not comrade! I have some magic beans to sell you. Save yourself a bruising imprint of QWERTY on your head and lose yourself in some good science fiction.

I’ll be the honest Magic Bean Merchant and go ahead and tell you that each of these three beans will produce their own beanstalks that will reach up far beyond the clouded mundaneness of your typical workday.

Also, I’ll be straightforward, there are giants atop the beanstalk. But these giants are not of the Odyssian-cannibal-club swinging-loincloth wearing ilk; rather, they are the profound, contemporary giants of today’s science fiction genre. Neil Stephenson stands atop the tallest stalk I refer to as ‘hard science fiction.’ Atop the beanstalk of fantasy resides the elusive B. Catling, sitting in stoic repose. And lastly, atop the beanstalk of magical realism, beckons the largest giant of all—Haruki Murakami.

moon4Think you can climb the highest beanstalk? Go ahead, limber up the legs of your science bound brain and prepare the ascent of Neil Stephenson’s SevenEves. I determine that SevenEves belongs in the ‘hard science fiction’ subgenre, because of Stephenson’s ability to convince his reader that every single thing happening within this epic is entirely possible and could happen in the real world…well, if some mysterious force were to destroy the moon and the subsequent fallout of moonrocks threatened the complete annihilation of humanity. SevenEves is steeped in physics and engineering lessons. For the first few weeks I was getting into this novel, I relentlessly dreamed (or in some cases had nightmares) that I was haphazardly floating around on the International Space Station trying figure out how to do things like pour dangerous chemicals into beakers in Zero-G to save the human race.

Seveneves_Book_CoverI recommend SevenEves to hard science fiction enthusiasts because Stephenson has mastered his form in this novel in a way that is so immersive and science-y that it would make Michael Crichton blush. Climb aboard if you have the time to devote to this novel, because it is exceedingly dense—but if you are fit to the task you will be directly portal’d to a different time and place that is much more titillating than the real world.

(Also, please, please PLEASE! Will someone read this one? After having finished it I crave, no, I NEED, to have someone to talk to concerning SevenEves. After the end I’ve been gasping for further pontification. For instance: I want to tell you that [if I were a character in this epic] I would be a Neolander (Red) Aidan Beta that retreated to Beringia in order to re-seed Terra Firma with gen-mod grapes [that haven’t been robbed of sweetness by epigenessis] and make new Earth’s first wine vineyard…and protect the whole shindig from those barbaric diggers and dastardly blue Teclans with the crack of my nano-bot composite bull whip.)

Bosch-Hieronymus-Garden-of-Earthly-Delights_center_panel

The newest stalk, the stalk of fantasy is one climbed only by the most adventuring escapists. This beanstalk is comprised of B. Catling’s first and only published work: The Vorrh. Six or seven plots within The Vorrh revolve and twist around each other. The deadfall switching of narrative voicing and character arcs keeps readers 9781101873786_custom-a1fc95829af43f8bd45cc87a903b4e69253ea0e5-s400-c85on their toes. This mechanic forces the reader to keep guessing what lies at the center of the mystical Vorrh, which is a place hidden in the most remote reaches of Africa where ‘gods walk’ and is even referred to by some as a ‘garden of Eden.’ If the fantasy beanstalk is the one you want to surmount, prepare yourself for The Vorrh and expect to enter the minds of an indigenous tribesman/assassin wielding a talisman-enchanted post WWI rifle, of a lusty Cyclops raised by robots and imprisoned in a mysterious basement, and lastly prepare yourself to visit The Vorrh, being a composite of captured beauty that will send your heart racing and captured terror that will keep your heart skipping.

61S4qiYiwTL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The last bean I offer you will actually split into two parallel stalks. So, climb one, climb the other, or if you are an exceptionally strong escape artist—Ironman your way up the middle of both at the same time. The legendary king, master of the magical realists’ universe stands at the top, straddling both stalks with his style and enormous narrative gait. He is no other than Haruki Murakami, and the stalks are respectively Kafka on the Shore and IQ84.

So, being the astute Murakami fanboy I seem to be, I gotta tell you these books will blow your mind so bad that you’ll be scraping brains from your wallpaper for weeks. Both are set in real world Japan, and begin tragically trapped by a serendipitous sense of realism, but as the novels evolve, Japanese 1q84jpg-a30943ff751f88f9mysticism will rise up from the darkest cracks of unexplored Tokyo and entrance you with plot arcs that will leave your jaw dangling with a loss for words.

If ultra-femenist, ice-pick wielding, super assassins and powerful, corrupt cults are your type of thing, pick up IQ84. If coming of age stories, libraries, shadow walking, leeches raining from the heavens, and a cast of talking cats are more your thing, pick up Kafka on the Shore.

Don’t feel trapped by mediocrity my friend. Thousands of alternate realities await you on the shelves of Lemuria if none of these beanstalks fit your escapist ambitions. Drop by, grab a Lemurian and demand that they help you escape reality.

But, ask for me if any of these magic beans have particularly sparked your curiosity. I’m eager to set you on a steadfast route out of your cubicle. Godspeed, my escape artist comrades!

Gamers save the planet in ‘Armada’

By Jim Ewing                                                                                                                   Special to The Clarion-Ledger


JacketIf you enjoy playing space invader video games and have ever thought of yourself while doing so as saving the planet (and who hasn’t?), then Ernest Cline’s Armada is for you!

The premise is simple: Zack Lightman, a high school senior, is joyfully addicted to playing video games. In fact, after school, he even works in a video arcade where he and his gamer boss Ray spend more time playing games than waiting on customers.

As a result, Zack has cracked the Top 10 of players in the Armada game, where players seek to defend the Earth from squid-like extraterrestrials bent on the planet’s destruction.

Little does he know — but he soon finds out! — that the Armada game (which is a drone spaceflight simulation game) and its terrestrial companion Terra Firma, a land-based bot fighter game, are actually testing outlets for would-be real pilots!

In case this sounds remarkably like the 1984 film The Last Starfighter, Cline makes no bones about it, commenting on it upfront — along with references to every video game such as Space Invaders and Star Raiders that proceed along the same lines. In fact, Armada revels in its geekiness and exalts it, stringing references to films, games, TV shows, comics and the like with gleeful abandon.

giphy (1)Suffice it to say, if you loved Starfighter and grok references to Wolverines (Red Dawn), May The Force Be With You (Star Wars), and Klaatu barada nikto (The Day the Earth Stood Still), you’ll love Armada.

In pure critical terms, Armada is not likely to win any awards for dialogue, character or plot (after all, it’s essentially played out in every teen’s living room across America and accurately portrays that enthusiasm), but it’s a fun book and, yes, it has elements that keep the reader interested. 

Hewl-TankyThere is the love interest, for example, Lexis Larkin, who not only loves Zack’s geekiness but beats him at it, and is “hot,” as Zack puts it: “Her pale, alabaster skin contrasted sharply with her dark clothing — black combat boots, black jeans, and black tank top (which didn’t fully conceal the black bra she was wearing underneath). She had a spiky wave of black hair that was buzzed down one side and chin-length on the other. But the real kicker were her tattoos, one each arm: on the left was a beautiful seminude rendering of the comic book heroine Tank Girl, adorned in postapocalyptic rock lingerie and smooching an M16. On her right bicep in stylized capital letters were the words El Riesgo Siempre Vive …”

With that motto (“The Risk Always Lives”), gamers will know that Larkin is the equivalent of Private First Class Jenette Vasquez in the Alien vs. Predator games. She shares in his efforts to save the world, including Zack’s hide. (For older gamers, think of Sarah Conner in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.)

If you want to know what your teen is reading this summer, Amada is probably it. But, while Armada should find popularity among young people, it also provides nostalgia for older folk with its 1980s and ’90s references, especially its song list of 1980s rock ‘n’ roll hits that Zack plays while battling aliens. And it’s filled with witty observations: e.g., speculating on why the aliens attacked Earth. “Maybe they seeded life on Earth millions of years ago, and now they’re here to punish us for turning out to be such a lame species and inventing reality TV…”

It’s hard to judge if Armada is really science fiction or simply a gamer book, but maybe it doesn’t matter. It’s a romp; entertaining, fun, an adventure.

Keep_Calm_Because_the_Cake_is_a_Lie!It does, however, have a plot twist that’s bound to surprise. As the meme from the game Portal is weaved into Armada: The Cake is a Lie!

 

Jim Ewing, a former writer and editor at The Clarion-Ledger, is the author of seven books including Redefining Manhood: A Guide for Men and Those Who Love Them, now in bookstores.

Cline the Conqueror

Ernest Cline is one of many riding the wave after the dam broke open on nerd culture in America; and he is riding it higher than almost anyone. He is currently sitting near the top- not because he tried to blend his particular tastes into a mainstream-friendly book with a few cultural references sprinkled about, but because he unscrewed the top of the salt shaker and drowned us in them. He demands a cursory knowledge of video games, anime, John Hughes movies, Rush songs, Call of Duty, Star Wars and arguing with strangers on message boards. The more you know about any of these, the more easter eggs and snarky jokes you will get (and he gives more than you will see in a one hundred different books).

JacketArmada was a real pleasure to read. It explods off the launch pad into a blazing fast novel of space ship battles with some really heart-felt moments. Cline makes no effort to hide where this book is headed from page one: we’re about to fight some filthy squids in space. Ernest Cline will be (and is) the first one to let us know that he, more than most, understands that this trope to be all too familiar. But if it is so familiar to us all, maybe there is a reason for that. Maybe all this violence in video games does rub off on us. Maybe we should be hoping that it does.  (No spoilers, so I can’t explain why)

I think this second effort by Ernest Cline has a few weak spots, but the straight-as-an-arrow plotline is forgotten as soon as you step into the first space ship. All of the sarcasm and witty dialogue that got our attention in Ready Player One (Cline’s first novel) is front and center here. The nerd culture explosion of movies, games, and music will be there as only Ernest Cline can deliver. 

giphyThis swell in the popularity of fan-based culture can be attributed to a lot of different things, the internet being at the top of this list, but there is another reason. People finally realized that the kids spending hundreds of dollars to create a cosplay of that one alien in the background of that one scene in Star Trek are the same people that will empty their bank accounts into new, exciting content. Spend some money on this crowd and they will spend money on you. This has lead to a huge expansion in the attention big studios are giving nerd-centered projects that reward the big-budget glossy paint job so well.

Ernest Clines’ first book Ready Player One is now in the very capable hands of Mr. Steven Spielberg. If the release of this movie is as big as I think it is going to be, then Ernest Clines’ spot on the throne of contemporary nerd-hood will be set until someone sees fit to challenge him (via a head to head game of Joust probably).

Jupiter Ascending: The best action film you can imagine? NOPE

Jupiter Ascending: The best action film you can imagine? NOPE

One thing I know, and I know it well: we nerds are a fickle bunch. We don’t want to be tricked with special effects to patch up a weak plot (I’m looking at you, Jupiter Rising) and we will scream at the top of our caps lock keys to let everyone know about it. Lord help he who leaves a plot hole; in other words, don’t mess with time travel- it usually won’t work out well for you. Green screens look like green screens, period. Cameos are fun, but like special effects, you can’t just substitute Stan Lee making a pun in place of a little character development. Do I need to mention that we are an impatient bunch? Just ask George Martin (or Rothfuss or Lucas or Tool for that matter). If you follow these complicated, difficult rules then you still might fail and we will offer no sympathy for 10 years. After 10 years you will get invited to a couple comic cons and become a “cult classic.” For those that walk through the flame of the message boards and battle the mighty comic-con panels your reward shall be fans as far as the eye can see.

y9uuetrI hope you find this new swing in pop culture as exciting as I do. Come celebrate this nerd pride with us tonight at 5:00 in our .dot.com building and meet Ernest Cline himself. We’ll be the ones in the corner selling copies of Armada, Ready Player One, awesome merch, and quoting The Breakfast Club or arguing with you about the over use of the eagles in The Lord of the Rings. We would love to nerd out with you.

Let’s Hope They Don’t Ruin This

martian

Faithful Lemurians, REJOICE! (maybe)

Earlier this year, Crown re-published the 2011 hit by Andy Weir, The Martian. This introduced protagonist Mark Watney to a readership much larger than Weir ever expected, and propelled the book into the hands of readers all over the world. FOX purchased the rights for a film adaptation and fans preceded to lose their minds. I chose to reserve my hype levels until more information came out from the studio.

Over the past few months, I’ve been following the development of the film and, let me tell you, the hype can not be satiated. FOX is bringing out the big guns for this movie. Ridley Scott has signed on to the direct the film, and Matt Damon will reportedly star as Watney.

Let me explain why I’m a little apprehensive about these two choices. While Ridley Scott may be responsible for some of the best sci-fi films ever, (Alien, Blade Runner) he has also directed one of the worst (Prometheus). Obviously, this is all subjective, but Alien and Blade Runner could both be described as brave filmmaking. Uncompromising in their tone and scope and films that existed to do more than make a studio a boat load of money. Readers of the The Martian will undoubtedly see some similarities in that past statement. The Martian wasn’t written to make money (Weir originally tried releasing the book for free but had to charge something in order for Amazon to place it in their inventory), and what Weir achieves in the book may be at the expense of alienating (heh) some potential readers. For example, Watney goes on page-long math problems that can at times, seem excessive. The point isn’t to prove how great he can be at writing out math equations as exposition, but to immerse the reader in Watney’s struggle. Alien did the same thing with moviegoers in 1977. The film was steeped in atmosphere. Segments of the film were intentionally vague and disorienting to match the emotions of the characters with the viewers. Prometheus chose to use the BUAAAAAAAMMMM sound that every movie uses to inform readers that something is about to BUAAAAAAAAMMM happen. The Martian should also be lighthearted to an extent. Can the guy that directed Gladiator and American Gangster do a space MacGyver?

Matt Damon.

mattdamon300He most certainly has the chops to pull this off, but why Chris Pratt wasn’t cast for the lead seems just plain irresponsible. Instead of going on and on about this oversight, I will say that Matt Damon is a great pick. His work with Kevin Smith in Dogma proves he can make fun of himself, and I’m certain nothing more needs to be said for his dramatic roles. Damon is handsome, smart, and endearing, but can he nail the everyman role that stumbles into a spaceship and gets trapped on Mars?

Let us hope they don’t ruin this film, because it has the story, characters and soul to resonate with audiences all over the world. The cynic in me says don’t get too excited, but the hype in me is over 9,000.

Why wait? The Martian is available now at Lemuria Bookstore, and online at lemuriabooks.com

Written by Andre

Sorry Please Thank You Stories

Charles Yu, the author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, is back with a collection of short stories Sorry Please Thank YouThey are really good by the way. Like really good. What makes me qualified to make such a claim? Qualifications? I’ve read them, and I’ve read at least 3 other books in my life, so I’m pretty much a professional reader.

If you are not familiar with Yu’s work I think its time you check him out. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe was Yu’s first novel, which was named a New York Times Notable Book and a 2011 best book of the year by Time Magazine. Not to mention I thought it was awesome. In HTLSIASFU Yu is a time travel technician that floats, or speeds, or whatever through Minor Universe 31. What is his purpose? He gets people out of their time travel predicaments, cycles, loops, jams, pickles, etc. While he’s flitting about time and space saving folks he finds that he too suffers from the same cycles, loops, and melancholia of the age and might need a bit of some salvation himself.

Designer Emotion 67 is one the shorts featured in his new collection and was originally published in The Oxford American. The story begins with the CEO of PharmaLife, Inc. giving the 2050 fiscal report to its shareholders and announcing he will reveal their newest hottest drug after he’s gone over the numbers. PharmaLife has specialized in depression medications, but we are told they are moving on to bigger fish:

“Where was I? Yes. Depression. Depression has been good to us. But at this point, as you all realize, it has come to be run as an exercise in sales and marketing. We’re late in the product life cycle. The Depression-industrial complex has been built. Winning in the Depression/Suicide space these days means keeping the machine running smoothly…Depression earned three forty-two a share last year, or just over nine and a half billion dollars for PharmaLife. Not depressing at all! … Depression may have matured and become a marketing shop, but the DREAD business unit is still the domain of the engineers, … It’s an exciting time over at DREAD… We are going to cure dread by the end of the decade. And by cure, I mean, find a blockbuster drug that has a differential rate of indication greater than the margin of error in white mice that exhibit symptoms of dread. Or whatever the mouse version of dread is.”

Dread, though a big fish, is not the biggest in PharmaLife’s infinite ocean. I’m not going tell you the end, I’m not going to tell you how cool and weird and terrible Designer Emotion 67 is, because I want you to read it for yourself, I want you to experience Yu’s craftsmanship, because it is wonderfully hilarious and fun and yet frighteningly close to home.

So come by and get Sorry Please Thank You, you won’t be sorry.

(If you haven’t read HTLSIASFU you should also get that. If you have read it, well, just get it again.)

-Austen

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