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Posts Tagged ‘sci-fi’

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The Blurb:

One simple mouth swab is all it takes.

A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love.

Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

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My thoughts: 

Well…I loved the premise of this book. Slightly dystopian, slightly sci-fi (not heavy sci-fi, so don’t be put off if that is not a genre you like), and fairly believable, I thought there was so much potential. The book follows five people – Mandy, Christopher, Jade, Nick and Ellie – who all find their match. The stories are all completely separate and are told in alternative chapters. The chapters themselves are short and choppy, and almost all of them seemed to end on a cliffhanger of sorts, which had the effect of making me want to read on and find out what happened. Unfortunately this did get a bit tired after a while, and some of the events and dialogue felt like it was out of a wildly melodramatic soap opera. What started out as almost a feasible situation soon turned into the ‘that would never happen’ category. But STILL, I found it compelling enough to read on.

I didn’t think many of the characters were particularly likeable – although Jade was the most sympathetic of the lot. There’s no doubt that John Marrs can think of a good twist, but there were just so many of them. Some of them I certainly didn’t predict though, and that it always a good thing.

For all that irked me, I did want to read the book and never actually got bored – more a case of eye rolling a lot!!

I would probably give something else by this author a try, as I think the initial idea was an excellent one. But one final note – there were so many spelling and grammar mistakes in this book that I can’t help hoping that he has better editors for his future work!

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Year of first publication: 2016

Genre: Sci-fi, dystopian fiction, drama

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A sci-fi film you can enjoy even if you don’t like sci-fi. Three men (Don Ameche, Wilford Bromley, Hume Cronyn) from a group of elderly people who live in a retirement home use the swimming pool in the empty house next door. When a couple (Brian Dennehy and Tahnee Welch) rent the place, they agree to let the men continue to use the pool as long as they don’t disturb the mysterious cocoons that the couple store there. The pool has a rejuvenating effect on the three men.

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Year of release: 1985

Director: Ron Howard

Writers: David Saperstein, Tom Benedek

Main cast: Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Brian Dennehy, Tahnee Welch, Steve Guttenberg

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Genre: Sci-Fi, Comedy, Drama

Highlights: The older cast members were the heart and soul of this film

Lowlights: Got a bit too sci-fi-y for me towards the end

Overall: Definitely worth a watch on a chilled out Sunday afternoon

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Margaret Atwood is probably one of the most popular writers of dystopian fiction. For my money, The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the best and most disturbing books ever written, and it was with eagerness that I picked up The Heart Goes Last.

The story is set in America in the near future, after an economic meltdown has resulted in unprecedented unemployment and homelessness (which makes me hope that Atwood is not also a fortune teller, given the current political climate!) Stan and Charmaine, a once happily married couple, are now resorted to living in their car, eating whatever they can scrounge, scavenge or afford from Charmaine’s low-paid bar job, and constantly avoiding the thieves and violent gangs who roam the streets.

So when they see an advert for a new social experiment called Consilience, they are keen to join. The idea is that everyone who lives in the restricted community will be given a nice house, a good job, and will have money for food and luxuries. In return they will have to give up their new luxury home every second month and go into Positron, the prison in Consilience…but even that doesn’t sound so bad. They get square meals, a bed and a job within the prison. However, once they are inside Consilience they realise that there is no way out – and that their every move is being watched. Each of them develop an obsession with their ‘alternates’ – the couple who live in their house during Stan and Charmaine’s prison months and vice versa – which only leads them further into the tangled reality of what really goes on in this promised utopia.

If I’m  honest, I am still not entirely sure what to make of this book. I definitely don’t think it is up to the standard of The Handmaid’s Tale, but that was truly one of my favourite books ever, so maybe it’s asking too much to enjoy every Atwood novel quite so much. For me, The Heart Goes Last started out very promisingly. The awful situation the main characters was living in was all too believable and I could see how they could be drawn into something which would seem like a wonderful way out of their dire straits. However, as the story progressed it got more and more unrealistic – and here’s the thing…for me at least dystopian fiction has to have an element of feasibility. Not that you would want it to actually happen in real life, but you have to see how it could. This novel just did not have that. The last third of the book in particular almost seemed to descend into farce, and this wasn’t helped by the fact that neither Stan nor Charmaine were particularly likeable or relatable characters. (In fact, there were very few people in this book who I felt I could root for).

That said, I still liked Atwood’s acidic humorous writing, and she does have a marvellous turn of phrase. The book is funnier than I expected, and it was an undemanding read despite some distinctly unsavoury events within the book.

This has not put me off reading more books by Margaret Atwood, and I probably would recommend it with caution to fans of the author. However, if you are trying her novels for the first time, I would suggest starting with The Handmaid’s Tale or maybe The Robber Bride.

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Sex and Death 101 stars a pre-The Mentalist (just – this came out the year before The Mentalist started) Simon Baker, as Roderick Blank, a man who is about to marry his girlfriend Fiona (Julie Bowen) and thinks that his life is just about perfect.  But then he receives a mysterious email, which lists all the women he’s slept with – with Fiona correctly occupying the number 29 slot – but then goes on to list lots more, totalling 101.  Not surprisingly he is somewhat shocked – who has sent the list?  How can he be going to have sex with more than 70 more women, when he is about to marry the woman he loves?!  Roderick’s obsession with the list starts to ruin his life, and pretty much all aspects of it.  Meanwhile, a woman (Winona Ryder) nicknamed Death Nell by the media, is going round murdering men who have treated women badly, and it looks as though Roderick and Nell’s paths are going to cross at some point.

I’m not entirely sure how to categorise this film.  It’s part sci-fi, part romantic comedy, part black comedy – there’s certainly a lot going on, and maybe a bit too much at times.  But….I actually really enjoyed it.  There were some VERY funny moments – and some very adult comedy –  as Roderick initially finds the list intriguing, but then finds that it’s taking over his life.  Simon Baker is wonderful at comedy, and keeps the audience on his side.  Roderick is sometimes lovely, and sometimes pretty damned obnoxious, but it’s difficult not to like him.  Winona Ryder gets surprisingly less screen time than you might expect, given that at the time, she was probably the most famous cast member.  She’s great in her role though – perfect for the part.  Robert Wisdom is great as the leader of a mysterious trio who are behind the list of names that was sent to Roderick, and Patton Oswalt gets a few funny line.  However, as far as the supporting cast goes, nobody betters Mindy Cohn as Roderick’s PA and friend Trixie.

The film got mainly negative reviews on release, and I can see why people might not like it – it sometimes seems as though it’s not quite sure what it’s trying to be, but I did really enjoy it.  A lot of this was because of the gorgeous Simon Baker; he’s a great lead, who for me, perfect for this kind of part, and as mentioned, the supporting cast were all great as well.

If you like quirky comedy, I’d recommend giving this a go.  It’s brash and colourful, and for my money, very entertaining.

Year of release: 2007

Director: Daniel Waters

Producers: Aaron Geller, Cary Brokaw, Elizabeth Zox Friendman, Jerry P. Jacobs, Greg Little

Writer: Daniel Waters

Main cast: Simon Baker, Winona Ryder, Robert Wisdom, Patton Oswalt, Mindy Cohn, Neil Flynn, Leslie Bibb

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I’ll preface this review by saying that after watching this film, I read several other reviews of it, and it seems that the film was widely panned (for it’s storyline, not for the acting, which was impressive throughout). Julianne Moore plays Telly Paretta (yes, you read that right, her name is Telly), a woman grieving for her son Sam, who died in a plane accident 14 months earlier. But her husband Jim (Anthony Edwards) and her psychiatrist Dr Munce (Gary Sinise) both tell her that Sam never existed and that she has created years worth of memories about a child she never had. Is Telly delusional – or is the she only person who isn’t? She meets Ash (Dominic West), who she says also lost a child in the same plane crash that Sam was in, and although he is initially sceptical, he ends up helping her – but the search for the truth will take them to places they never could have imagined.

I’ll be honest – I only watched this film because Dominic West was in it, but I’m glad I did. It starts out as a psychological drama, and then takes a sharp turn into sci-fi territory. Sci-fi is not a favourite genre of mine, but I liked this, because it wasn’t all about spaceships, UFOs and little green men. There was a sense of menace to the whole sci-fi element, precisely because of what you don’t see.

The acting was great – with a cast like the aforementioned Moore, West and Sinise, and support from Alfre Woodward, how could it be anything else? Telly’s character was well developed – is she imagining or remembering her son – and if she is remembering him, why can’t anybody else?

There were a couple of moments which genuinely made me jump in shock, and the storyline was pacy enough to keep my interest throughout. I’m at a loss to understand the slating it has had in other reviews, but I accept that the ending was somewhat incongruous, and left some plot holes. Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable thriller, and I would certainly watch it again at some point in the future.

Year of release: 2004

Director: Joseph Ruben

Producers: Bruce Cohen, Todd Garner, Dan Jinks, Steve Nicolaides, Joe Roth

Writer: Gerald Di Pego

Main cast: Julianne Moore, Dominic West, Gary Sinise, Alfre Woodward

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This is a very short book (91 pages) which I read in one sitting, and which is perfect for a lazy afternoon (which was when I read it).  The book tells the story of a man, who is always referred to simply as The Time Traveler, who invents a time machine, which takes him to the year 802,701.  There, he finds that the human race has evolved into two species’ – the Eloi and the Morlocks.  On the face of it, the Eloi seem to live a wonderful existence, filled with pleasure.  However, the time traveler discovers that, as they want for nothing, and therefore have nothing to strive for, the Eloi have also seemingly lost the ability for intelligent thought.  (Without goals, there is no need for strategy and forethought).  However, there is a darker reality lurking underneath the surface (both literally and figuratively), in the Morlocks – a species who only come out in the darkness, and who inspire fear in the Eloi.

To say more would be to give away too much of the plot, although it is at this point that the story really began to take root.  Suffice to say that I ended up feeling more sympathy with the Morlocks than the Eloi; I have no idea if that is what the author originally intended.

However, I do believe that this book may have revealed Well’s fears for the future; if the upper classes never have to do anything for themselves, they will not be able to look after themselves, and therefore must rely on the lower classes to provide everything they need.But in return, they must give something back to the providers…as demonstrated in quite a clear fashion in this story.

It’s hard to describe how I felt about this book.  It is of course a classic, and with good reason.  Yet, I found it very difficult to engage with any of the characters.  However, I did enjoy it and would definitely recommend it to others.  It is one that I have kept, and will almost certainly reread at some point in the future, as I think it could well be a book that becomes more enjoyable with each reading.  It definitely made me consider reading more books by the same author.  It’s certainly clear that Wells had a vivid and intelligent imagination.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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