Prototype Plays With Sci-Fi

Guys! I finally did it! I finally read M.D. Waters’ Prototype!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog–specifically my book posts–you know that I have mentioned Prototype or its predecessor, Archetype, in nearly every Top Ten Tuesday post for the better part of a year. I’m sure that was ever so fun to see the excessive repeats on my lists, but now I have actually read the darn thing and can give you a review.

For reference, here’s what I thought of the first novel in this two-part series, Archetype.

Prototype (Archetype #2)

Image respectfully borrowed from Goodreads.com

Emma Wade’s story picks up with her searching for her parents, both of whom were former members of the resistance. Shortly after making contact with someone who might help her, a worldwide broadcast reveals that not only is Emma’s ex, Declan Burke, alive but offering a pricey reward for her return. With everyone chasing after her, Emma has no choice but to return to resistance headquarters and to her former husband, Noah.

Back in the underground facility, Emma receives a less than warm welcome: no one trusts her or thinks of her as human, and Noah has been raising their daughter with Dr. Sonya. As Emma struggles to regain her sense of belonging, she continues to search for her parents while looking for a way to take down Declan Burke once and for all.

Once again with this series, I feel like I cannot fully describe the plot without giving too much away, and the little subtleties are what make the story enjoyable.

Personally, I much preferred Archetype, which I think is slightly unusual. With books, oftentimes the sequels are able to build upon or surpass the original novel (unlike films where often the sequel is nowhere near as good).

In general, I’m disappointed with Prototype. Not catastrophically so, but I thought this story was going to be more about Emma discovering herself instead of it being a drawn out reunion between her and Nate. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t great or validating for a woman to find satisfaction in family and love, because it is both great and validating. I just felt that the Emma-Nate romance dominated the novel in a way that made Emma’s character arc slightly unsatisfactory.

Also the sci-fi elements were not as fully realized as they could be. I made a similar critique of the first book, but I found the lack of description/exploration of science more problematic in Prototype than I did in Archetype. For goodness sake, the first novel set us up for clones! Prototype minimizes the science and doesn’t really tell you much, which is particularly frustrating as something starts going wrong with the other clones and the explanation is sparse.

As a read, Prototype is quick and light, which would make it ideal for a future beach read or perhaps a more seasonally appropriate mountain-retreat read. I give M.D. Waters’ Prototype 2 Book Bubbles: Nearly Burst Bubble. I’m glad I read the book more for closure reasons than story satisfaction, and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for Waters in the future, but it wasn’t my favorite thing that I’ve read recently.

Thanks for popping in!

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Interstellar

In talking to friends and family, it has become quite clear that Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Interstellar is rather divisive. Some find the film to be too far-reaching, with plot holes they cannot forgive. Others are willing to connect the dots and have been drawn into Nolan’s bleak, sci-fi future.

As for me, here’s where I stand: Interstellar is necessary.

Nolan’s latest is one of the few original, non-franchise science fiction films to make headway at the box office. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Star Trek movies and The Guardians of the Galaxy too, but there is something to be said for a stand alone sci-fi flick that is its own story, not based on one in another medium. And these days, American sci-fi desperately needs an injection of originality.

Interstellar is a film rooted in enough science for you to accept the premise but with enough fiction to make you believe in infinite possibilities. In fact, the film was largely inspired by the work of physicist Kip Thorne, who also acted as a consultant for the film.

When the film opens, former fighter pilot turned farmer, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is struggling to make a living as a corn farmer in a future where Earth’s sustenance is drying up and dust storms can bring life to a standstill. Cooper is clearly dissatisfied and longs for the days of American exploration, but he finds solace in his kids Tom and Murph.

Murph is inquisitive, with a budding mind for science; in an era that no longer teaches the moon landing, she stands out. Murph’s insistence that there is a ghost sending messages in her room leads Cooper to discover an underground NASA facility headed up by his former boss, Professor Brand (Michael Caine). A team of scientists, including the Professor’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), insist that Murph’s “ghost” are mysterious beings guiding them to find other worlds for humanity’s survival.

When Cooper is offered the chance to fly the spaceship, he cannot get off Earth fast enough, though he is constantly thinking about getting back in time to save his children. Through the time-lapse in space, Cooper is forced to watch his children grow older through the ship’s video screen as humanity continues to struggle. Embittered by her father’s abandonment, Murph (Jessica Chastain) throws herself into the tutelage of Professor Brand, equally desperate to save humanity from the ground. Both father and daughter must race against time and fate to save the people left on Earth.

Image respectfully borrowed from wired.com

I find it’s hard to properly summarize this film without giving too much away. But the tension-laden relationship between Cooper and Murph definitely drives the film in a major way. With every peril that Cooper, Amelia, and the team encounter on their journey there is the faint presence of the people left behind on Earth, a reminder of Murph.

There are a definite set of clues about the ending that carry through the film, but Nolan muddies the waters and spirals you off on another leg of the adventure in order to make you forget. It is only after the movie is finished and you’ve had some time to breathe that the clues might come off as heavy-handed; we trick ourselves into thinking we knew it all along.

Much of the story’s strength can be attributed to writer, Jonathan Nolan. Whenever the Nolan brothers collaborate they create stronger films than when they’re apart. Some of the best parts of the film are the feather-light touches of humor that allow you to care about the characters just a few inches more. In particular the robot characters TARS (Bill Irwin) and CASE (Josh Stewart) allow for moments of odd humor and wit that lighten the mood just enough for you to be ready to plunge back into the mystery.

Image respectfully borrowed from screenrant.com

 

As for the director, Christopher Nolan surely must be one of the greatest of our generation, in large part because he makes a 169 minute (2 hours 49 minutes) movie riveting. He manages to critique our present by presenting a desolate future. It’s a future that isn’t slick. In fact, it’s rather dingy. But the tech for this film feels tangible. All of these factors combine to create a world that might hit a little close to home, but that is also what makes it a good, relevant piece of science fiction.

The acting is strong from all fronts. McConaughey fits the role of reluctant explorer well, looking equal parts rugged and gaunt. Anne Hathaway provides one of the better speeches in the film about the importance of love that will bring tears to the eye. Jessica Chastain continues to be the go-to in Hollywood for strong, emotionally aggressive performances. And if Michael Caine could release an audio-book of him reading classic poetry, that would be fantastic. The only person whom I feel wasn’t fully utilized was Casey Affleck as the adult Tom. Though Affleck is undeniably skilled, his character wasn’t given enough of a chance to do anything more than look resigned or angry.

Image respectfully borrowed from ew.com

 

There are some undeniable comparisons to Gravity (2013)–themes of rebirth, a dark-haired woman of science facing her fears, and the increasing isolation of space to name a few–but for my money, Interstellar is the more satisfying film. For one thing, though there are CGI effects in Interstellar, Nolan blatantly tries to do as much as possible with sets and does not solely rely on computer animation for world building. In the long run, I think Interstellar will age better than Gravity.

It’s equally easy to compare Interstellar to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Nolan clearly created this film as a tip of the hat to one of his favorite films, though he may have tipped his hat a bit too far in some places: I was initially afraid upon meeting TARS and CASE that we would have a HAL situation on our hands. Thankfully, Nolan is able to distinguish himself from his influences overall.

Though critics have given mixed reviews on Interstellar, it is a film undeniably worth seeing if for no other reason that to form your own opinion. For me, Interstellar earns 4 movie bubbles–A Poppable Product.

I get most excited about movies when I get inspired to teach them in a classroom, and I would love to one day teach a class on science fiction that would include Interstellar because it’s a film that forces you to think.

Thanks for popping in!

Archetype Almost Breaks the Mold

When I first picked this novel up it was all about the cover. I was at LAX and the bright blue and red color blocking just called to me. And the back jacket did it’s job of intriguing me with story.  A few weeks later I picked up the book to actually read it and not just be a pretty face on my book shelf.

Archetype: A Novel (Archetype, #1)

Image respectfully borrowed from Goodreads

So after some frantic page turning and late nights here is my review of M.D. Waters’ Archetype.

Emma has lost her memory in some kind of freak accident. All she knows is that she wants to please her husband, Declan, and that she has an inner voice that tells her everything is not what it seems. Guided by that pesky inner voice–who seems separate from herself–Emma begins to remember fragments of an extremely different life with an extremely different man, the angry and enigmatic Noah. Set in a future where fertile women are a commodity, Emma must figure out which future she wants to live out–her present as an adoring wife or her past as a member of the rebellion.

That is an abbreviated summary to say the least, but I’m trying not to spoil everything in this review. Part of the fun of reading this novel is figuring out the details with Emma. I’ll get into some major spoilers down below, but I also wanted there to be enough info for you if you were trying to avoid the spoilers.

The book’s back cover quote references Archetype as a kind of heir to The Handmaid’s Tale, and while I can see the parallels I don’t necessarily agree. They’re in the same genre, certainly. But Archetype is more Alias-esque than Ofred-esque. Which is still a great middle ground for the novel to occupy.

If you’re a fan of TV shows such as “Alias” or “Orphan Black” then I would definitely recommend Archetype. The pace of the novel is light and quick without lacking in substance. Episodic style chapters make the read easy but it’s also great for finding a stopping place if you want to draw out the reading experience. This would be such a great book for traveling. It’s not too long and you can devour it on the plane or at the beach.

If you’re looking for deep philosophical meaning in your sci-fi, this is not the book for you. Waters doesn’t explain the science and implications on humanity enough for that kind of reader to be satisfied. But if you’re looking for an enjoyable weekend read, give this book a shot.

 

*Spoiler Alert*
**Seriously, I’m about to discuss the ending right now**

 

My favorite thing about this novel is that we have a female character who falls in love and then leaves the guy(s) in the end for HER well being and happiness. For that reason alone I would recommend Archetype.It’s just something you don’t see that often in NA. Not that Emma doesn’t love Noah (or Declan). There is definitely a love story there, but Emma leaves because she realizes how unhealthy staying is.

That said, I would be shocked if the second book, Prototype, wasn’t about Emma struggling to get back to Noah and prove to him that she’s still the same woman he married in spite of being a clone. And I’d still like to read that story. But I am thrilled that Waters did not wrap her novel up in a prepackaged bow.

I’m not going to do Emma Wade the disservice of labeling her a strong female character because that phrase gets thrown around far too much for it to have meaning. Emma has moments of weakness and willfully lives in denial for a large chunk of the book, but these flaws take the story to some really interesting places. Her denial also makes Emma more realistic as a character.

I liked this book but my personal rating system has been revolving around whether or not I would physically keep the book. Storage in my life right now is at such a premium. The potential to re-read is also a strong factor. So I enjoyed Archetype and would love to read its sequel, but I think this one may get passed on to a friend or the local used bookstore. The only thing that might sway me is the cover. I might keep this book for the cover because I love the graphics so much.

Anyone else read Archetype? Tell me what you think in the comments!

First Day of Film School: Science Fiction

So today is the day. The whole reason I made the trek and relocated my life out to California. The first day of grad school. Eek!

First days are an amalgamation of nervousness and exhilaration. This does not change no matter your age, or at least for me  it hasn’t. That same eagerness that I had on the first day of kindergarten, where I got to finger-paint and nap, feels the same now as I get ready for my first class of my M.A., Global Science Fiction. Although to be fair I don’t imagine any finger-painting will be involved, and any naps taken will be out of sheer need and not after snack time, so there are some key differences. But the excitement is the same.

Even though my first class is in the evening, I’ve spent my morning preparing. Notebooks are labeled, clothes are laid out, and my backpack is at the door ready to go. I just have to wait for it. And in my waiting I have read and in some cases re-read my materials for today’s class. Which is really the whole point of this post.

Whether you’re a casual film fan or an absolute cinephile (which is coincidentally a word that spell check doesn’t want to acknowledge exists but means movie lover) it’s fun to see what others are watching and/or reading about when it comes to film. Movies are such a communal thing in our culture. So this is me bringing you into my educational community. I’ll try to keep this up as best I can through the semester, but once papers and research become a regular thing, I make no guarantees.

So the textbook for this course is Christine Cornea’s Science Fiction Cinema: Between Fantasy and Reality. Thus far it’s been a discussion about how science fiction as a genre has been defined, and the differentiation between the intentions of SF literature and film. Sounds heavy, but it’s kind of fun when you start thinking about what makes this genre tick. Is it the “creature features” from the 50s and 60s? The consistent interest in aliens? Today’s focus on expanding technology? That all seems to be up for debate and the blurry lines of the very definition is what makes SF a fascinating genre.

Horror or Science Fiction? You decide.

We’ll also be reading from online articles and blogs, which is great inspiration for this aspiring blogger. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Movies first, otherwise the articles won’t make much sense. And if you haven’t already seen any of these films, you should definitely check them out before reading the articles because spoilers abound.

So movies. This week we’re screening “Le voyage dans la lune” (Georges Melies, France, 1898-1905) and “La Jetee” (Chris Marker, France, 1962). For some, the name Georges Melies might ring a bell if you are a fan of Scorsese’s Hugo (USA, 2011). Melies and his creative process were beautifully rendered by Scorsese, but you should see the original Melies films, if for no other reason than it will give you a better appreciation for Hugo ( but seriously, they’re awesome and ought to be appreciated on their own merit). I’m excited to see “La Jetee” because I have never heard of it. It’s a broadening my horizons moment. I’m woefully ignorant about foreign film but I’m working on fixing that.

Anywho, if you’re still interested after watching the movies (and I’m assuming you behaved yourself and actually tracked down the films instead of just clicking on these links) then here’s what we’re reading from the mighty internet.

“A Trip to the Moon” by Dan North (A fellow WordPress blogger)

http://drnorth.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/a-trip-to-the-moon-le-voyage-dans-la-lune/

“La Jetee: Unchained Melody” by Johnathan Romney

http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/485-la-jetee-unchained-melody

“Freeze Frames and Stasis in La Jetee” by Nicola Woodham

http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2010/12/20/freeze-frames-and-stasis-in-la-jetee/

North’s blog has a ton of links throughout though some are inactive. I found it helpful to just read it straight through. I also get distracted easily, so that may be my personal problem.

That in a nutshell, is my first day of film school. Hopefully, I’ll have time to talk about my thoughts on the screenings, but if not, I hope you enjoy the overview.

Has any one seen any of Melies’ films or “La Jetee”? Thoughts?