Long time no see

It has been a while since I last had an entry here, things have been a bit hectic.

I became a supporting membert of the Anticipation Worldcon 2009, and with that came the right to vote on the Hugo Awards.

So for a month I was – among other things – busy reading 4 of the nominated novels, listening to the short stories, and a few other things.

Also, I have been more active building some radio equipment, and have had a successful attempt of receiving the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

I went to see the new Star Trek movie with a friend in Denmark, and finally I have been active learning more Tai Chi and Qigong.

Some of those activities will result in some new entries in the near future. Right now I am taking it a bit easy – and watching the new “Torchwood” series : “Children of Earth”. The first episode looks very promising, so let us hope that carries through the whole story.

To read or not to read …

That is the question.

Since the job requires a lot of reading, mainly technical, I have been reading less than I did when I was growing up. At thet time I was considered a “book worm” – eating stories by the page …. most of it science fiction. The first major fantasy work I read was the classic “Lord of the Rings” (no introduction necessary).

After moving to The Netherlands and having my present job I got to read less, but found more science fiction on video/TV, in the beginning Star Trek TNG, later much more.

I did read the occasional Star Trek and Star Wars book, but not much more, and sometimes had a series of books.

The first series I “discovered” was Raymond E. Feist’s “Riftwar Saga” which I loved. After one or two more sequel series the interest waned, and I have not read the later ones.

About 5 years ago a friend in Denmark introduced me to Anne McCaffrey’s writing. As a birthday present I received “Dragonflight”, “Dragonquest” of the “Dragonriders of Pern” series and the first of the “Acorna” series. Out of those I like the “Pern” series the best, but the other one is not bad at all. This lead to another bout of reading for me, then another hiatus.

In between all this came the “Harry Potter” series and I found that it appeals to the child in me as well as the more grown-up.

About a year ago I was talking to a friend I had not seen for a while. When I mentioned the blog and he heard the keyword “science fiction” he interrupted me and asked “You interested in books ?” well – yes, a few days later he arrived with 5 shopping bags full of books in the scifi and fantasy genre. I ended up with about 70 new titles – a considerable increase of my sf/fantasy book collection, some of which I may never get to read.

It looks like I am going to take a bit more time to do some reading, probably some short stories and an occasional novel. (Remember what I said the other day – time is a limited resource). Actually I have started this, having read a few novels lately. Some of the podcasts I am listening to are scifi/fantasy stories/plays, so I do get some fiction “reading” done. Listening to a podcast while walking to and from work sure beats trying to read a book in the traffic 😉 .

Jekyll – a BBC TV miniseries

The miniseries – written by Steven Moffat is a modern day story based on the famous classic story “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Jekyll is not really an adaptation, but a rather a present day continuation of the classic story.

The brilliant research scientist Dr. Jackman, wonderfully played by James Nesbitt, has the experience of blackouts in his life, where an alternative personality totally take control, as well as some visible physiological changes take place. The resulting Mr Hyde is (not unexpectedly) a darker, more violent personality.

The story is very well told, with some rather unexpected twists and turns, the least surprising element being that the original “Jekyll/Hyde” story is not fictional at all, and the assumed to be fictional Dr. Jekyll was a historical person, and Dr. Jackman, abandoned by his mother as an infant, is a descendant of the original Dr Jekyll – well – really of Mr Hyde, since Dr Jekyll had no (official) descendants. Even the old photos of Dr Jekyll show a stunning resemblance with Dr Jackman.

The story features an unknown organisation, claiming to have waited for more than 100 years to find and “cultivate” a “Mr. Hyde”. Also we get a revelation of what really caused Mr. Hyde to appear.

At the end of the story, when we should think the story is over, there is a wonderful revelation showing that the story never really ends.

Moffat writes a wonderfully dark story – without being totally overtaken by the darkness, this is first class drama.

This is classic style science fiction – a good continuation of the classic story. A story that has entered into our cultural heritage, these days essentially everyone knows the reference to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – it has entered as a phrase in English and many other languages.

Eastercon/Orbital2008

Recently I registered for the Eastercon/Orbital2008 in London (Heathrow) .

I have been reading Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust”, since he is one of the guestes of honour at the con.
I like the story. For the signing I intend to bring the script book for the Babylon 5 episode “Day of the Dead” that he wrote.

In the pile of books I got just before Christmas I found China Miéville’s “Perdido Street Station”, since he is another guest of honour at the con. I have got through the first couple of chapters, but have not yet been caught up in the story. I have decided to work my way through the first part, and then decide if I want to continue. …. I know – I try not to judge a book by its first chapter , but I am afraid it is not really my type of story. The initial chapters are a little too much Dystopian for me.

The Golden Compass

After a pause the posts begin again. Time has been a bit crazy, both at work and at home.

Yesterday I went to see “The Golden Compass” at the movies.

The movie is based on the first novel in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy “Northern Lights” – also known as “The Golden Compass”, a fantasy adventure story.

The orphan girl Lyra , played by Dakota Blue Richards , sets out to save a friend kidnapped by the Gobblers, something that happens frequently, the children never returning.

Since I have not (yet) read the novels, I can not compare the movie with that, this may come later. After all a movie is never the same as the book it may have been made from.

I liked the movie , found the story captivating. The spiritual (some may say religious) aspects of the film were well treated and came through with a good balance. just that you know – I distinguish between (organized) religion (dogmatic beliefs in texts) – and spirituality (wisdom coming from within – the soul ?)

From the creepy Christopher Lee – and Nicole Kidman for that matter, to the support characters it is well played, including the very young Dakota Blue Richards. Special effects are made to tell the story, not effects for the sake of effects, making the film a pleasure to watch.

The universe Pullman has created is rather different from ours – yet has so much in common.

Very recommended for young and old alike.

“The Demolished Man” by Alfred Bester

Back online after a few days (travel and a visit to a friend)

On a long trip by car I listened to Alfred Bester’s novel “The Demolished Man”.

The story depicts a society where the police has telepathic detectives (“esper”s) solving crimes – or even act to prevent crimes.

The “Esper’s Guild” divides telepaths into firsts , seconds and thirds according to the strength of the telepaths.

Ben Reich, who is very critical of the Esper’s Guild, decides to eliminate a financial competitor and attempts to escape the telepathic detectives by hiring another telepath to block his thoughts.
After many twists and turns the prosecutor (a computer) dismisses tha case because of insufficient evidence.
In the end he is, after all punished by the Esper’s Guild (in spite of the aquittal) , and has his mind wiped and reprogrammed – a process called “Demolition”

The story has some nice twists and turns , and a surprising “inner journey” which I like.

The story was published in 1953 and exhibits some of the predudices opf the time, eg relating to women’s “place” in society , but if you can see through that´, the story works on its own premise , though seems a bit dated in our day and age. Also – Venus is depicted as a habitable world , something which is now known to be incorrect.

In any case I enjoyed the story, notwithstanding those weaknesses

Also – in the Series “Babylon 5” JMS (J.M. Straczynski) pays hommage to the story by naming his villain telepath (“Psi-Cop”) Alfred Bester.

I would rate the story 7/10.

Wikipedia entry for “The Demolished Man”

**No Spoilers** Harry Potter 7 short review

***NO Spoilers*** Just finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows , the finale of the story of the young wizard growing up.

The final year , not at Hogwarts but in a perilous adventure for Harry, Ron and Hermione – and everybody they know. Harry turns 17, and the protection, of his home, against the Dark Lord Voldemort is over.

The trio attempts to fulfill the task set out by Professor Dumbledore, and they have to do everything on their own.

The story is well written and has some very nice twists and turns, and shows the courage and resourcefulness of everybody, as they must solve the riddles they are left with.

There has been a lot of rumors/spoilers around, and I have avoided them until now.Finally, now I can go to the forums etc and discuss the story.

I would rate the book 4/5