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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 09/30/16 -- Vol. 35, No. 14, Whole Number 1930
Table of Contents
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):
October 27: CLOSE TO SHORE by Michael Capuzzo, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM November 10: ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932) & THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU by H.G. Wells, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM November 17: "Rogue Moon" by Algis Budrys and "The Moon Moth" by Jack Vance (both in SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM December 15 or 22: TBD, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM January 26: "The Spectre General" by Theodore R. Cogswell and "The Witches of Karres" by James H. Schmitz (both in SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM Garden State Spec. Fiction Writers Lectures (subject to change): October 1: Ken Altabef, Adventures in Publishing, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N November 5: David Sklar, Character Dreaming, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N Northern New Jersey events are listed at: http://www.sfsnnj.com/news.html
My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for October (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Halloween is coming and TCM has the biggest and best lineup of Halloween-related movies I have ever seen any television station ever line up. At the same time when they are not showing genre films their star of the month is Christopher Lee.
See the whole monthly listing at http://www.tcm.com/schedule/monthly.html?tz=est&sdate=2016-10-01.
Usually it is hard for me to point out picks for October since TCM runs a lot of familiar horror films that many viewers will have already seen. Even here TCM will have outdone themselves. They will be showing two really weird and surreal films very little seen in this country. They are HOUSE (1977) and GOKE: BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (1968). Watch HOUSE and you might suspect you are watching one of the weirdest horror films you have ever seen. Watch GOKE: BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL and you will *know* you are watching one of the weirdest horror films you have ever seen.
There are a lot of films like SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) that start light and turn horrific. Nobuhiko Obayashi's HOUSE (1977) starts as a teenage high school film; it looks like the kind of film your parents wanted you to see. But from there it turns into surreal film, then a horror film, but then the surrealism eats the horror, and the whole film turns psychedelic. Seven schoolgirls go to visit one's aunt not knowing the aunt's house is haunted and seemingly ruled by a demon cat. There is also a strange sadistic piano, evil clocks, and spirits living in mirrors. HOUSE tells its story, if you can call it a story, with slow motion, martial arts, and monochrome flashbacks. HOUSE was written, produced, and directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, known primarily for his surreal TV commercials. The film was made in 1977, but it took 33 years to be shown in the United States. And when you see the film you might be able to tell why. [Monday, October 10, 2:00 AM]
I have been accused of making up that there was such a film GOKE: BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (1968), because the extravagant claims I have made about the film seem too weird to actually be true. This film seems like what you would get if you took a bunch of totally unconnected films, put them in a meat grinder with a gallon of bright red dye and packed what you get into a sausage skin and eaten it under the influence of drugs. This is a vampire, flying saucer, anti-war, lost flight, political, plane crash, terrorist, blob, zombie, thriller, and a morality tale. It is all shot with bright red filters reminiscent of ANGRY RED PLANET's CineMagic. Honest. It all comes down to a warning that we must end our war-like ways. But the style is a little different from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. The film has been compared to the TV show "Lost" and to MATANGO, but it is not much like any other film. Directed by Hajime Sato, it was probably trying to make a serious political comment, but everything in the film is carved from a world so different from our own, it is hard to take its political lessons seriously. Deep down it is telling humankind to mend its wicked ways, which makes the whole film a sort of a sermon. But the way it gets there is really unique. [Monday, October 17, 2:00 AM]
Best film of the month? In deference to Christopher Lee I will pick what he would have picked. After years of wanting to make a biography of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and wanting to play the title role, Lee achieved his wish in 1998. The film he made was JINNAH. And it will be shown during his month on TCM. [Monday, October 3, 8:00 PM]
One-Word Film Titles (solution by Evelyn C. Leeper):
1M. Advantageous: A woman has her consciousness transferred into
a younger body.
2B. Coherence: A comet opens doors to parallel Earths.
3I. Ex Machina: A programmer is invited to meet with a genius and the robot that he has built that can pass the Turing test.
4K. Extracted: A scientist develops techniques to see people's memories.
5E. Her: A man falls in love with the operating system on his smartphone.
6C. Inception: A covert team tries to use dream-sharing to affect a CEO's actions.
7G. Limitless: A man takes a drug to increase his intelligence.
8O. Looper: The crime world uses time travel as a way to commit unsolvable murders.
9N. Oblivion: After an alien war, two people are assigned to clean up Earth before it is abandoned.
10A. Parallels: A building is a gateway to parallel Earths.
11P. Predestination: The film adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's "All You Zombies".
12H. Reversion: A new technology lets you polish up your favorite memories.
13F. Self/less: A man has his consciousness transplanted into a younger body.
14D. Special: A lonely man takes new medication and thinks he is a superhero.
15L. Transcendence: A scientist uploads his consciousness into an AI program.
16J. Uncanny: A reporter is invited to meet with a genius and the robot that he has built that can pass the Turing test.
NOW WE'RE ALIVE (ET MAINTENANT NOUS SOMMES EN VIE) (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: A man searches two worlds for the woman he loves. In Tom's world a man begins looking for a wife by only the sound of her voice. On his 25th birthday he chooses a wife born the same day as him by the sound of her reading. Due to a strange ritual, all Tom knows about the woman is the sound of her reading a poem. From there he must guess what he can about her. Then he must find her and hope that he can then win her heart. In his first feature film Thibault Arbre gives us a strange love story of a love triangle, one leg of which is imaginary. NOW WE'RE ALIVE (ET MAINTENANT NOUS SOMMES EN VIE) is in French with English subtitles. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
In the Cinema Libre DVD release of NOW WE'RE ALIVE there is a special introduction to the film by its writer and director Thibault Arbre. He begins by saying he does not like science fiction. He just wanted to tell a story set in our world with one difference. That, in fact, is one kind of science fiction. In spite of his protests this is actually a science fiction film. But I think even Arbre would admit to it at least being a fantasy.
In Arbre's world a man is given a chance to find a mate through a ritual performed on his 25th birthday. He sits blindfolded in front of twenty or so women each of whom is also celebrating--if that is the word--her 25th birthday. Each reads a poem. The birthday boy has to choose to fall in love with one of the twenty voices. Later he must do the detective work to find the woman whose voice he has heard and the loving starts from there. It sounds like it was inspired by Cinderella. And as one might imagine things do not run smoothly. Tom (played by Charles Lemaire) has fallen in love with a voice and wants to find the speaker he now loves. With the help of a specialist detective he is able to find a perfectly lovely girl, Lea (Laure Haulet).
There is just one problem. Hers was not the voice he fell in love with. She has the same birthday and is anxious to marry, but her voice is wrong. After some coercion Tom agrees to officially pick Lea. But that only forces him to create in his imagination Jeanne (Victoria Oberli), the girl with the right voice. She sounds right and Tom can imagine he is living with her, but when he mskes love to Lea and closes his eyes he is making love to Jeanne as he imagines her to be. And he decides he is going to find her. Somehow he extrapolates from Jeanne's voice what she would actually look like and can tell if she look right automatically.
This world seems like a misogynist's dream. The woman is seemingly given no chance to refuse the relationship. Each person of either gender has to live with a nearly arbitrarily chosen mate. It would probably function a lot like a society with arranged marriages. But at least in a society of arranged marriages one might hope that parents would look for someone who would make a good mate. One simply cannot tell very much by something as inconstant as a voice. And human memories are just not reliable enough to find someone who had a particular voice.
With NOW WE'RE ALIVE the premise raises more questions than it answers. How are enough people found who are still unattached and who and all born on the same day? And do not forget they all have to be women. Do they go through the voice test once for each boy they have found for that date? How do they handle when two men pick the same woman? What if the Birthday Boy cannot choose any voice or cannot track down the voice he has chosen? Why do we see only white French people? Where is everybody else with a birthday on that day? One just has the feeling that nobody was trying to iron out the wrinkles of the premise. I rate NOW WE'RE ALIVE a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3757154/combined
GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN by Lois McMaster Bujold (copyright 2016 Baen, 2016 Blackstone Audio, 12 hours 44 minutes, ISBN-10 1476781222, ISBN-13 978-1476781228, ASIN B019G3OMIM, narrated by Grover Gardner) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: an audiobook review by Joe Karpierz):
In preparation for this review, I wanted to find out how long Bujold has been writing books in the Vorkosigan Saga. After a little bit of digging, it appears that the first work in the saga was back in 1986, and whether ETHAN OF ATHOS or SHARDS OF HONOR was published first is irrelevant. Bujold has been writing about the Vorkosigan family for thirty years. Granted, Bujold took a lengthy break from Miles and the gang to write some award-winning fantasy between 2002's DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY and 2010's CRYOBURN (with a shorter piece, "Winterfaire Gifts", in 2004 stuck in for good measure), but there's no mistaking that the Vorkosigan novels have been with us for a very long time.
When I reviewed CAPTAIN VORPATRIL'S ALLIANCE a few years ago, I ended with this statement:
I suspect that the next time we get a Vorkosiverse book from Bujold, we'll be reading about the aftermath of the events at the end of CRYOBURN.
I was right, but not in the way I was thinking about it.
GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN is something completely different for a Vorkosigan novel. Oh, it has Miles--more Miles than CAPTAIN VORPATRIL'S ALLIANCE did. It's got all the trappings of a Vorkosigan novel--well wait, that's not quite right either. Let's see, we have Cordelia, three years removed from the death of her husband Aral at the end of CRYOBURN; we have Ekatarin, Miles' lovely wife and the mother of his children, all who appear in the book; we get Mark, the clone brother of Miles; we get Gregor, the emperor; and we get humor--lots of humor. But what we don't get is a plot. Almost nothing happens in this book, and I'm not sure whether that's good or bad. Isaac Asimov recounted the story of how he got talked into writing FOUNDATION'S EDGE (that is, Doubleday threw a dump truck of money at him) and how he prepared to write it: he read the original Foundation novels, and discovered that basically nothing had happened. The Foundation Trilogy is fondly remembered by a lot of folks as the books that brought them into the field; they sure were part of my gateway into reading sf. The trilogy has even won a Hugo--so it must be good, right? I certainly think so, although I confess to not having read the trilogy in more than twenty years, maybe even longer. So, this nothingness can be good for GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN, right?
Honestly, I'm not sure.
As I said earlier, the book takes place roughly three years after the untimely death of Count Aral Vorkosigan, husband to Cordelia, father of Miles, etc. Cordelia comes to Sergyar with some plans (and some items) that will shake not only the foundations of the Vorkosigan family, but the core of Bujold's fandom as well. Oh, and Sergyaran Fleet Admiral Oliver Jole is going to be affected by what Cordelia has in mind as well.
Writing a review of a novel like this is a bit of a struggle, because I can usually describe the basic storyline, give some hints regarding one or more major events that affect the plot, and generally send readers off on their merry way to discover the delights (or lack thereof, I suppose) of the book. I can't here. This is a story of ... characters and relationships. It's definitely about both the past and the future, but both the past and the future are examined in a way that's not quite standard for a Vorkosigan novel.
In order to give the setup--something I normally like to do--I have to give some background. So way back in one of the prior Vorkosigan books, it was revealed that Aral was bisexual. When reminded of this fact in that book, Cordelia said something to the effect of "he's not any more". And on this little point the whole Vorkosigan universe (and the not insubstantial) Vorkosigan fan base is turned on its collective ear when we find out that not only was Aral always bisexual, but there was a third partner in the marriage of Cordelia and Aral--Oliver Jole. The setup then, is that Cordelia is coming to Sergyar to deal with the issues of children with Aral--she has the genetic material and is looking to final have their children. Cordelia knows how much Aral and Oliver meant to each other, so she has brought the means for Jole to have children that are genetically both his and Aral's. And in the process of the whole thing Oliver and Cordelia fall in love.
No, there isn't no secret plot by anyone to do anything even remotely questionable--although Miles, in his capacity as Imperial Auditor for Gregor does show up with the entire family in order to, in part, investigate his own mother--there is only one really big action piece which takes place at Jole's 50th birthday party, and there's no big revelation at the end of it all. There are no wars, no military actions to worry about, no grand conspiracies that Miles has to figure out. It's really just a story about two people falling in love and planning for a future that is made possible by the technology available to them (and isn't that was science fiction is supposed to be all about anyway?).
And still, I don't know what to make of this book. I *think* it's a good book. It feels like a good book--I certainly enjoyed listening to it. But I'm not sure what it added to the Vorkosigan mythos. A friend of mine suggested to me that maybe Bujold is retiring Miles. I don't know about that, but it's true that Miles doesn't affect the outcome of the novel as he has done in so many others. But a more relevant question may be where the Vorkosigan Saga goes from here. There certainly is no obvious jumping off point for another story. Maybe Bujold is thinking that the story can be carried forward by the next generation of the Vorkosigan clan: Cordelia's children, Jole's children, and Miles' children.
But what would be the point? We have come to know and love Miles Vorkosigan and his relatives and friends, and have followed their escapades for thirty or so years. Much like the rest of us, these characters are getting old and are just not doing too many interesting things. I'm not saying this should be the end of the line for the Vorkosigan novels, but I'm wondering where Bujold could possibly go next. It almost feels as if the Saga needs a shot in the arm, and I don't know where that's going to come from. As much as I clambored for more Vorkosigan novels during that long hiatus, I'm beginning to wonder if it is indeed time to wrap things up, bring them to a close.
The most I can say about Grover Gardner is that he does a workmanlike job reading GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN. He made the story engaging enough that I was pulled into the lives of Cordelia and Oliver the whole time; however, he really did nothing to make his work on the book stand out and want me to listen to more books that he narrates, although he did nothing to turn me off as a listener either. He did a good steady job; that's all. [-jak]
SOLE PROPRIETOR (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: A CIA operative hoping to retire finds himself drawn back into one last piece of deadly work as his ticket to retiring. Jack of all cinematic trades Dan Eberle does the most of everything creative on this film. He produces, writes, directs, for this film that stars--who else?--Dan Eberle. With nobody to tell him when he is wrong he lets himself go a little astray stylistically, but he has a few nice moves in the screenplay as his story goes on. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
In SOLE PROPRIETOR Dan Eberle plays Crowley, formerly an agent for the CIA. Crowley is used to traveling the world, but this story is set almost entirely in Manhattan (likely perhaps so that the production could economize). Now he is weary of the killing-people vocation and wants to retire. However retiring is not easy. The film is about Crowley, a man of action, very strong, very masculine--a role that Eberle might well enjoy playing. But Crowley has Michael Corleone's problem. "Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in." Eberle has to do one more piece of work. And while that job is prepared for him he is amusing himself with a very top-grade prostitute, the mysterious Sophie (Alexandra Hellquist). Soon the characters will be closely linked.
Eberle says that he gives actors the space to excel in the films he directs. I wonder if that is voluntary. It seems to me that he might have to give up some control on the performances. With all the tasks he has assigned himself, he perhaps does not have resource to manage each performance as well. So the title of his film may be apt and refer to him. He most likely does not have time to spell things out for the cast. Eberle is the star of the film; he is the sole source of the story; he is the sole writer of the screenplay; he is one of the producers; and he is the sole director of the film. He has given himself a lot to do wearing all those hats on making SOLE PROPRIETOR. As a result the acting is spotty, some good, some just okay. Chris Graham could have had an ounce more ethnicity in his part as a Russian killer. Alexandra Hellquist on the other hand is intriguing as the prostitute. Eberle plays his own role as strong and a little in the mold of actors like Jason Statham, particularly with two day growth of beard.
While at times the film runs a little slow, by the time it is all over there has been a story told. Some touches seem a bit artificial. While everything in the city seem to be shown in cold steel blue and gray, scenes shout in the countryside break out in yellow-green. SOLE PROPRIETOR does not rise far, but it does rise above it very low budget. While some corners might have had to be cut on the production, Eberle had the freedom to make the story as good as he could write it. It does not fall into the trap of being a typical action film. Just when it is needed to wake up the viewer enough plot elements come together to make the film at least interesting. I rate SOLE PROPRIETOR a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
August 12 SOLE PROPRIETOR was released Internet download and to limited theatrical release.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1733729/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/sole_proprietor
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
ON THE EDGE OF GONE by Corinne Duyvis (ISBN 978-1-4197-1903-5) starts in 2034, when Earth discovers that a comet is going to hit it six months later. The main character (and first person narrator) is Denise who is a young adult, works in an animal shelter, and has what can best be described as a dysfunctional family. Oh, and she is autistic. (This sounds like a gimmick, but it isn't if it is done well. I'm sure a hundred years ago, a first person female or black narrator would have sounded like a gimmick.)
Denise and her mother live in the Netherlands. They are assigned to a temporary shelter, not a permanent shelter, and definitely not one of the generation ships that were built (rather quickly, it seems). But the best-laid schemes, and all that ...
I liked the narrator, and I thought the point of view well done, but I was not convinced that all the secondary characters' actions are believable. Maybe people are different in the Netherlands, but I doubt that they are that different. Buy, hey, what the heck, I was willing to go with the to see how Duyvis did the whole "after the apocalypse" scenario. Your mileage may vary.
RUNNING THE BOOKS by Avi Steinberg (ISBN 978-0-385-529099) is a book I discovered because it was on display at the library for "September is Sign Up for a Library Card Month". Steinberg was a Hasidic Jew who went to Harvard, lost all his religion, and then just drifted from job to job until he saw an advertisement for a prison librarian. He had no library experience, but apparently the job requirements were pretty flexible.
RUNNING THE BOOKS is full of real characters (and indeed, they are real "characters"), and while there is a lot of humor, it is more surreal than funny, and there is a fair amount of pathos as well. All too often, inmates who seemed to be getting their lives together were either fooling Avi or fooling themselves. It is well worth reading, though, for its description of what life in prison is like,at least as seen through the eyes of a somewhat innocent, often oblivious, would-be librarian. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: ...information can be treated like any other quantity and be subjected to the manipulation of a machine. --Stan AigartenTweet
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