In 2013, Ohioan debut author Ann Leckie cleaned up all of the major science fiction awards with Ancillary Justice, a slow burn, pseudo-gender-neutral, dual timelines, interstellar space opera that spans thousands of years. It makes sense, even without looking at the other titles it was against, but Ancillary Justice is not to every taste.
You may have noticed that there are things happening in the real world, hopefully outside your window, and that you will never have to venture outside again. Station Eleven is (was?) due to become an HBO series starring Mackenzie Davis and Himesh Patel this year, so it was already on a reread list.
This particular reading of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven commenced after things had kicked off globally and ended the day before “shit got real”, as Danny Butterman has been known to say. Station Eleven is a novel about a global pandemic, for certain, but it has something that the real global pandemic of 2020 currently lacks: hope for humanity.
The world folds in on itself. Someone knows what’s coming before it happens, subverting the future with highly attuned déjà fu. A book takes a while to reveal itself, and traverses multiple genres to get there. This is Recursion.
The Expanse is back. It may have been delayed four months, but four months is as nothing when you realise that fifty years of story time have passed since Leviathan Wakes was published in 2011. Tiamat’s Wrath is the second entry in the third and theoretically final trilogy in the series, but it is not a bridge, it’s a ramp: everything is dialled up to eleven in anticipation of book nine, and things are ready to explode. Tiamat’s Wrath takes the reader on a wild, crushing journey, and is sure to upset devoted followers for all the right reasons.
Modern science fiction authors, realising that they have yet to receive their flying cars and that their electric cars are distributed by a libellous megalomanic Bond villain, have set their sights on the most vaguely obtainable goal: Mars. In No Way, the sequel to One Way, S.J. Morden revisits Frank Kittridge moments after he became the last man standing on the red planet. One Way is a damning indictment of capitalism’s propensity to ruin everything, so it’s no surprise that a corporation would be so bold as to try to get the jump on our second nearest neighbour.
There was a time when George RR Martin was a somewhat prolific writer. Before he was sitting on a large pile of money and an even larger writer’s block, Martin wrote a little bit of everything: short stories about psychic rats; novels about Southern vampires long before Sookie Stackhouse; a fantasy history of a fake band. Nightflyers is his psychic science fantasy horror novella.
Someone has been waiting for Prometheus for 33 years. I hope they’re not disappointed. Me? Please, I’m only 26. Regardless, I’m satisfied. Others might not be so happy, but I don’t care: it’s my movie. They don’t need it, and they can’t have it.
Prometheus is kind of an entry in the Alien canon. It’s actually pretty unambiguous about that, but some people will want to ignore the various “clues” – that is, the names of entities featured in later Alien films, the designs inspired by Giger, the … Well, the everything. This is an Alien film, with echoes of the original and with something new besides. It’s not the evolution that Aliens represented, nor the declension of the latter two films. It’s its own film, and a hard film to classify at that.
But it’s good. It’s good.
“Bustin’ makes me feel good!”
Ghostbusters is legitimately one of the greatest films ever made. I like it more every time I see it, and I get more out of it each time I see it. There is something about it that simply works, whether it’s the encapsulation of New York City in 1984, the special effects that still hold up 27 years later, Bill Murray, Rick Moranis or simply its flawless script. The only element that is not all there is the soundtrack, which features a bizarre Ghostbusters swing on two occasions.
Still, this is a brand of perfection and it endures for that very reason. Not for Ghostbusters is the endless mystery of enduring popularity; Ivan Reitman, in his days of talent, laid his cards on the table: Ghostbusters is flat-out great.
Samuel Vimes is one of the most beloved, and most featured, of all characters in the ever broadening Discworld series. When Terry Pratchett presents you with a City Watch book (“City” having become increasingly loosely defined as the series has progressed), you attack it in a different mind frame to any of his other books. This is because, when Vimes is in Pratchett’s hands, he becomes an incredibly single minded author. It is only rarely that we are taken out of the mind of Ankh-Morpork’s chief protector, and then that is usually only to be placed at the mercy of the inscrutable Lord Vetinari.
Essentially, Pratchett knows what he likes when he’s writing Vimes, and he hopes that the audience likes it, too. Fortunately, Pratchett is in but one of his many elements. The transcendental nature of I Shall Wear Midnight was always going to be a hard act to follow, so Pratchett does not try. Instead, he places us in the company of a man who has not had a book to himself since 2005 – and he has had the good grace to have made the world move in such time. Vimes is not in the same space as he was in Thud!, and the novel reads all the better for it.
John Dies At The End is not a novel, but a monster stitched together piecemeal from the detritus of David Wong’s mind over the course of several years. That it never delivers on the promise made by its title would probably not matter to the many readers unable to sustain patiences enough to stick it through to the bitter, bitter end. I stayed around, and let me say that it was so ridiculously not worth it that I practically embraced my Sookie Stackhouse chaser. John Dies At The End transmutes pulpy vampire novels into high art through sheer proximity; take Wong’s work and you can make anything entertaining by comparison. It’s a kind of magic, or alchemy at the very least.
There are several kind of misanthropies in this world: there is the kind that hates fun and the idea of anyone else having fun and must stop it at all costs (like me, telling you that this book is awful – I see this as more pragmatism than misanthropy); more sinister is the type of misanthropy embodied by Wong, which is based on the exploitation of humanity by utilising contempt for them to wring money from their all too willing wallets (this brand is also known as “capitalism”). While John Dies At The End was written by a man trying to kill the boredom of his low paying jobs, Wong has commuted that sentence to a presumably lucrative career as the editor of Cracked dot com, consistently one of the worst sites on the internet.