Thir13en ghosts Review and Opinion

2019/08/07

Thir13en Ghosts (2001)
Director: Steve Beck

review by Thomas Cropper

Looking at Thir13en Ghosts there is no mistaking what you're gonna get. There will be screaming, there will be ghosts (13 at the very least) and there will be girls in tight tops running down corridors and screaming. (I mention this because in movies of this genre you should never under-estimate the importance of the girl in the tight top.) Knowing all this, the conclusion you can make about this film is this, it is going to be terrible. Not just run of the mill terrible, but spine-chillingly, nail-bitingly, embarrassingly terrible. I knew all this and I went to watch it anyway. Did the girl in the tight top have anything to do with it? Who can say?
   Thir13en Ghosts is a remake of the William Castle directed horror. Here, Tony Shalhoub plays a man who is struggling to support his family after the loss of his wife in a fire. Life is bad. He lost everything, but things seem

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13th warrior Review and Opinion

2019/08/06

The 13th Warrior (1999)
Director: John McTiernan

review by Ian Shutter

Ever since the mega-hit of Jurassic Park ensured every preteen kid wanted a cuddly dinosaur for Christmas, Hollywood's profit-hungry moguls have been falling over themselves to option Michael Crichton's older novels for the big screen. This tenth century tale of an Arab living amongst besieged Norsemen follows hot on the heels of the dismal Sphere, and is co-produced by Crichton himself, so he must shoulder a share of the blame.
   This lacklustre adventure is based on Crichton's book, Eaters Of The Dead (1976), which arch critic Julie Burchill once denounced as the book "no-one's ever heard of." In the film, Antonio Banderas is well suited to his role as the heroic outsider, Omar Sharif appears, briefly, as his interpreter, and the underused Diane Venora has a cameo as the Viking queen. Yet, star power aside, it's the superbly photographed landscapes, spectacular

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One more for the road by ray bradbury Review and Opinion

2019/08/05

One More For The Road
Ray Bradbury
Earthlight paperback £6.99

review by Duncan Lawie

Ray Bradbury's name conjures recollections of greatness in the average science fiction reader. He is the author of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, principally, and of a great deal of other work as well, much of it short stories. However, very little in this new collection could even be remotely thought of as SF. As a result, this collection of short stories, though well written, offers little nourishment for the SF reader. On that basis, and given that the purpose of this site is primarily to review such material, the book is only worth two stars.
   On the other hand, those who have paid attention to Bradbury's career since the 1950s will know that - as even The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction says - "it would be mistaken to see RB as basically an SF writer." For these readers, there is material of interest. There are a few uncollected oddities

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One million years bc Review and Opinion

2019/08/04

One Million Years B.C. (1966)
Director: Don Chaffey

review by Ian Shutter

A British remake of Hal Roach's 1939 classic One Million BC, this prehistoric adventure was produced by Michael Carreras for Hammer and it became the studios' biggest ever success, making an international sex symbol of its star, Raquel Welch.
   The story of primitive humans and dinosaurs living together in the same era, this is an outlandish and frightfully dated movie when viewed today. Shot on stunning locations in the Canary Islands, with the volcanic landscape of Lanzarote providing a particularly convincing backdrop, One Million Years BC features John Richardson as Tumak, the caveman exiled from his 'Rock People' tribe, who journeys to the ocean's shore where he meets the more advanced 'Shell People', epitomised by Welch in furry bikini as Loana.
   A lack of scripted dialogue for the actors, except for faux names (often comprising too many syllables for credibility

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2001: a space odyssey Review and Opinion

2019/08/03

2001: A Space Odyssey
Arthur C. Clarke
Orbit hardcover £12.99

review by Christopher Geary

A handy special edition in hardback format, this timely reprint of the novel that evolved alongside the screenplay of Kubrick's classic, is likely to have become a collectors item already. In addition to the diversive main text's variations on the film's narrative, you get a fulsome intro by Stephen Baxter, a sampling of final correspondence between the world's most famous SF novelist and a certain reclusive auteur director, plus a new lengthy foreword by Clarke - in which he's obviously ransacked his archives again, to find more amusing instances of the life-imitating-art variety. That he is so fond of these little snippets of egoboo is understandable, and part of what humanises the great man's work, making it more accessible to those who may still be baffled by the possible meanings of the film's complex metaphysical finale.
   As Baxter notes, the book and the film

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Science fiction fantasy horror of 20th century illustrated history Review and Opinion

2019/08/02

Science Fiction Of The 20th Century: An Illustrated History
Frank M. Robinson
Horror Of The 20th Century: An Illustrated History
Robert Weinberg
Fantasy Of The 20th Century: An Illustrated History
Randy Broecker
Collectors Press hardcovers $60 each

reviewed by Steven Hampton and Tony Lee

Winner of a Hugo award in 2000, Frank Robinson's Science Fiction Of The 20th Century is a marvellous art-book which provides a showcase for an often neglected aspect of SF. With accompanying text of an enthusiastic tone by a lifelong fan, this first collection of historically important images reminds us that magazine covers and book jackets have contributed almost as much to the growth and popularity of the genre as have the actual short stories and novels.
   By charting the development of SF from its earliest days, through the charming simplicity of the

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28 days later Review and Opinion

2019/08/01

28 Days Later (2002)
Director: Danny Boyle

review by Paul Higson

Whilst Dog Soldiers and My Little Eye (both 2002) were winners, the former did load both barrels of the shotgun with cartridges of comedy and horror, and the latter was too surface American, in order to say what now can be said about 28 Days Later, the British horror film has returned with a bloody and uncompromising vengeance.
   Animal liberationists free chimpanzees infected with a modified strain of the ebola virus relabelled 'Rage' and with an infection turnover of 20 seconds it is only a matter of weeks to oblivion. Motorcycle courier and hit and run victim Jim (Cillian Murphy) comes out of a coma on the 28th day to find a nasty new world awaiting, a hospital staff member having shown him the small consideration of locking him in his room and

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4th law of robotics Review and Opinion

2019/07/31

Making Sense of Wonder

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4 sided triangle Review and Opinion

2019/07/30

Four Sided Triangle (1953)
Director: Terence Fisher

review by Tony Lee

Speculative SF (predating The Fly, 1958) in which scientist Bill (Stephen Murray) and old friend Robin (John Van Eyssen) build a homemade reproducer machine that can duplicate an object (a watch chain, a signed cheque) in precise detail. Events become complicated, politically, when the authorities are alerted to the copier's great potential, but turn to tragedy when it's revealed that both men are in love with childhood sweetheart, Lena (Barbara Payton). James Hayter's kindly old village doctor (who supports the work) also serves as narrator, chronicling the eventual cloning of Lena as Helen (no bride of Frankenstein she), and is the first to realise that the affair is doomed - if only because Helen was 'born' with Lena's memories and already wears Robin's ring.
   The genius inventor, working in secret, is a cornerstone of genre

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6th day Review and Opinion

2019/07/29

The 6th Day (2000)
Director: Roger Spottiswoode

review by Steven Hampton

Here you get two copies of 'der Arnold' for the price of one, as a sinister tycoon clones Schwarzenegger - to mask his own illegal carbon copy resurrection after being assassinated.
   A helicopter pilot is shocked and disturbed to find an identical 'twin' has taken his place at home - enjoying his own birthday party, sleeping with his wife, doing bad woodwork in his garage workshop. But, before he can protest at the presence of this doppelganger, hired killers attack our hero...
   What follows is simply one big expensively staged chase sequence, as Arnie trashes buildings - both domestic and commercial, destroys an entire corporate cloning lab - to wreck the villain's bid for immortality, and tangles violently with henchmen (and women!) that won't stay dead. Directed by the maker of Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, this is an entertaining SF actioner, with loads of genre humour

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8 mm Review and Opinion

2019/07/28

8MM Eight Millimeter (1999)
Director: Joel Schumacher

review by Steven Hampton

A rich widow discovers a reel of Super-8 millimetre film in her late husband's safe at home. The footage appears to be an authentic 'snuff movie'. Wary of this traceable evidence of a serious crime, she hires a reputable private investigator, Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage), and instructs him to learn the identity of the - apparently murdered - young girl in the film, and find out if she's actually alive. Welles sets about this potentially grisly task with commensurate professionalism but he soon finds himself under psychological pressure, in emotional turmoil, and on the slippery slope to moral turpitude. As an upstanding family man, Welles unwittingly confronts the abyss, and the abyss reaches into his very soul to twist his outlook and destroy his normal life.
   Apart from appalling fiascos like The Incredible Shrinking Woman, dreary slugs such as Dying Young, brat

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Abominable snowman Review and Opinion

2019/07/27

The Abominable Snowman (1957)
Director: Val Guest

review by Steven Hampton

Another DVD release from Anchor Bay's 'Hammer Collection' that's certainly an uncharacteristic offering from the famous British studio's heyday. A monster hunt set in high Himalayan mountain valleys instead of their favourite locale - a European castle, and very much happening in the present - well, the 1950s - rather than in Hammer's typical costume period gothic mode. However, I must also say that this film's search for the legendary yeti is still recognisably a Hammer production in its tone and approach to the material, as there are a number of decidedly horrific moments in its tightly constructed adventure, based on Nigel Kneale's TV play.
   Peter Cushing plays the scientist challenged and bullied into joining American braggart Forrest Tucker's insanely commercial mission to capture a live specimen of the beast fabled by local people as a secret deity. Tucker's downfall looks

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Action Films That Should Have Been Horror Review and Opinion

2019/07/26

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Affinity trap Review and Opinion

2019/07/25

The Affinity Trap
Martin Sketchley
Simon and Schuster paperback £10.99

review by Debbie Moon

In a future of colonisation and contact with alien races, Earth has become a major player, throwing its weight around to prevent interstellar conflicts that might be bad for trade. To stabilise a potential flashpoint, tyrannous General Myson plans to father a child by Lycern, a princess (of sorts) of the multi-gendered Seriatt. To fetch her, he inexplicably sends Alex Delgado, a security officer mocked and sidelined for his excessive integrity. But Delgado soon falls under Lycern's spell, and tries to rescue her from her fate. Myson soon recaptures her, but Delgado won't give up - even if that means taking on the full might of Myson's military empire...
   The cover blurb for Sketchley's debut novel claims it "blurs the boundaries between good and evil, male and female, human and non human." Unfortunately, that's pretty much true: his characters are flat and indistinguishable

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Airwolf Review and Opinion

2019/07/24

Airwolf (1984)
Director: Donald Bellisario

review by Mark J. Cairns

Airwolf was a futuristic action adventure from the mid-1980s about a sleek, awesome, Mach 1+ chopper that could 'kick butt' (via 14 firepower options), and its loner, cello-playing, hotshot pilot, Stringfellow Hawke (played perfectly by Hollywood hellraiser, Jan-Michael Vincent) who lives in a mountain cabin with Tet, an old BlueTick Hound.
   When the hi-tech helicopter (a real wolf in sheep's clothing) is stolen by its deviant creator, Dr Moffet (a gloriously slimy performance by David Hemmings - recently seen again in Gladiator) and flown to Colonel Kadaffi's (note spelling, perhaps for libel reasons?) sand-pile in Libya to indulge in his favourite pastime of raping and torturing young women, the Deputy Director (Alex Cord) of an agency within the CIA ('the Firm') that developed Airwolf asks for Hawke's assistance in recovering the helicopter, in return for them finding Hawke

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Akira Review and Opinion

2019/07/23

Akira (1988)
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo

review by Porl Broome

Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira is a classic of the modern-cinema. When I say that I don't mean it's a classic amongst other animated films, I mean it's a classic amongst all films, be they animated, or live action. The plot is huge, the storyline is intricate, the characters are complex, and the presentation of the film is second to none. Trying to provide a synopsis of the plot is ultimately impossible, as there are several subplots and the film can be read on lots of different levels. Let's just say it's Blade Runner meets The Thing, with a little Brazil and Videodrome thrown in for good measure.
   The film centres on the characters of Kaneda and Tetsuo - teenage school friends and residents of Neo-Tokyo, a city that was rebuilt following World War 3. When Tetsuo is injured in a bike accident involving a mysterious pale child, he is placed under the supervision of

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Alan moore profile at zone-sf.com Review and Opinion

2019/07/22

Genre Greats:

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Alien hunter Review and Opinion

2019/07/21

Alien Hunter (2003)
Director: Ron Krauss

review by Rob MarshallSpoiler alert!Julian Rome is a languages teacher and former cryptologist. He receives a call from NASA for help, after a GM research project in Antarctica detects signals coming from an object buried in the ice. Flying south through a blizzard, Julian is left stranded by stormy weather near the South Pole and out of touch with the authorities in Washington. Then, working alongside other scientists in an underground lab, he soon discovers the frozen object is a genuine extraterrestrial sealed inside a capsule. Can he decode the signal's message before the potentially hostile creature thaws out?
   Blatantly, this rips off several genre classics, including The Thing (1982), Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977), and The Andromeda Strain (1971). There are frequent references to SETI, as if the filmmakers were striving

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All tomorrow's parties by william gibson Review and Opinion

2019/07/20

All Tomorrow's Parties
William Gibson
Penguin paperback £6.99

review by Amy Harlib

All Tomorrow's Parties concludes the popular trilogy that includes Virtual Light (1993) and Idoru (1996) - set towards the close of the 21st century. As much character-driven as plot-driven, the story focuses on the approach of what celebrated, American, cutting-edge, SF writer Gibson calls a 'nodal point', a moment in history when certain patterns, trends and data associations converge in a critical moment that can irrevocably change life on Earth.
   A young man named Colin Laney, down-and-out (except for his computer interface), in Tokyo, both blessed and cursed with the ability to read these nodal connections, possesses this talent brought about by childhood exposure to an experimental drug. Laney perceives a nodal point coming, potentially equally calamitous as the previous one in 1911.
   Unfortunately so does megalomaniacal industrialist Cody

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Alma alexander interviewed at Review and Opinion

2019/07/19

Changing Days:

Alma alexander interviewed at Review and Opinion

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Alastair reynolds interview Review and Opinion

2019/07/18

Some Sort Of Internal
Consistency...

Alastair reynolds interview Review and Opinion

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Alsiso project Review and Opinion

2019/07/17

The Alsiso Project
editor: Andrew Hook
Elastic Press paperback £6

review by Christopher Geary

An anthology with a difference, this intriguingly titled volume is not centred on a single genre trope or particular theme, it's a bundle of short fiction that's all inspired by a typo! Yes, the nonsense-word 'alsiso' (attributed to Marion Arnott), is used here by 23 writers as the springboard for a variety of science fiction mysteries, horror shockers, weird tales, and contemporary fictions. Literary giants such as Stanislaw Lem and Kurt Vonnegut have played similar games of bookish conceit and, while I'm not suggesting that any of the contributors to this volume are in their league (yet?), several offerings from The Alsiso Project are excellent stories, and their imaginary-word connection is happily irrelevant to the quality of writing.

The opener from K.J. Bishop almost gives the kaleidoscopic game away completely, with a run-through of numerous possibilities

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Allen steele interviewed at Review and Opinion

2019/07/16

Mosaic Frontiers:

Allen steele interviewed at Review and Opinion

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Altered carbon by richard morgan Review and Opinion

2019/07/15

Altered Carbon
Richard Morgan
Gollancz paperback £10.99

review by Christopher Geary

Richard Morgan's debut SF novel is a genre-breaking, hardboiled noir murder mystery, with body-swap identity crises and plenty of ingenious gadgetry that's used, and abused, in the service of mass slaughter and cyberpunk adventure.
   Takeshi Kovacs was an agent for the UN Protectorate on Harlan's World. After he's killed in action, his mind is transmitted to Earth where he's reborn in a rented body and hired by a wealthy private citizen to investigate a suspicious death. If that sounds bizarre, his employer is also formerly deceased, resurrected with no recent memory, and wants to know if 'he' actually did commit suicide or not. Kovacs has never been on Earth before. So, in addition to hostility from the local cops, and the unnerving experience of waking up with a new face, he has culture shock, old religion, and variant social mores to contend with.
   The practicalities

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Amelie Review and Opinion

2019/07/14

Amélie (2001)
Director: Jean Pierre Jeunet

review by Thomas Cropper

This film came a year late when all is said and done, because it was last year when the Oscars were in the 'lets be nice to foreigners' mode, whereas this year they were closer to 'lets pretend we're all not racists.' As a result, the 'black Oscars' were to make a criminal oversight of by far the year's greatest film, a small production from France named Amélie. Jeunet's last film had been much against type. Alien Resurrection was a disappointment, it is true, but it gave him a profile that ensured his next film would gain greater recognition in the mainstream.
   Amélie is the story of a girl who lives a hermetic life enjoying the simple pleasures. Her outlook is transformed when she stumbles upon a box full of boyhood toys stashed in the wall of her room. She sets out to track down the owner of the box. From then on, she decides that her life will be dedicated to improving

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Ancient track Review and Opinion

2019/07/13

The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works Of H.P. Lovecraft
editor: S.T. Joshi
Night Shade paperback $20

review by Steve Sneyd

Today, the 'cosmic horror' writer H.P. Lovecraft is the ultimate cult figure, acclaimed as the most read American writer of the first half of the 20th century, his Cthulhu Mythos of humanity as hapless prey to incomprehensible alien forces perfectly in tune with the 21st century's obsession with vast conspiracies. So it's difficult now to realise just how marginalised he was in his lifetime. While his fiction, published in a few pulp magazines, made it onto the radar of genre just far enough to attract a handful of aficionados, his poetry was all but ignored, save by wholly amateur publications desperate for material to fill their pages.
   Now, in a total turnaround, every surviving poem HPL wrote has been gathered together - from famine to feast, as it were. This has been done, moreover, in the form of a book which, despite

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Andromeda Review and Opinion

2019/07/12

Andromeda (2000)
Sky One, Mondays, 8pm

review by Ceri Jordan

There's a story in one of the Dark Terrors anthologies about a studio that holds its most famous writer to his contract until he produces a final hit show - even though he died decades ago. You can't help wondering if Gene Roddenberry's contract read like that. And alas, judging by Andromeda, he won't be resting in peace any time soon.
   The democratic, inclusive and generally nice Commonwealth of Planets is falling apart, thanks to former members the Nietzscheans, genetically engineered superhuman Darwinists. Captain Dylan Hunt and his sentient ship Andromeda Ascendent are betrayed by his Nietzschean first officer, and end up dragged into the orbit of a black hole. Time slows to a crawl.
   By the time a salvage ship drags them out, hundreds of years have passed. The Commonwealth is a distant memory and Earth is a slave colony for the Nietzscheans. Captain Hunt, of course, immediately

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Angel season one Review and Opinion

2019/07/11

Angel Season One (1999)
Created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt

review by Christopher Geary

This is the first spin-off series from Whedon's astonishingly successful TV show, Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. It stars David Boreanaz as the titular hero, a vampire cursed with a soul - the result of a gypsy spell, who now works as an unlicensed private investigator and security consultant in the nocturnal wonderland of Los Angeles. His secretary and confidant is Cordelia (engagingly played by ironically named Charisma Carpenter), the rehabilitated but nonetheless ambitious teen bitch from Buffy's high school daze. Initially, Cordy seems to be nothing more than an emotionally vacuous, wannabe actress - but that's all part of her airhead comic relief appeal. Later, the character matures considerably to female lead status.
   The format, if not the style or momentum of Angel, is resolutely standard

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Angel body and other magic for the soul Review and Opinion

2019/07/10

Angel Body And Other Magic For The Soul
editors: Chris Reed, David Memmott
BBR paperback £9.95 / $16.95

review by Steven Hampton

Combining #24 of Back Brain Recluse, and volume 26 in Wordcraft's speculative writers series, this paperback offers free-range varieties of classy speculative fiction by several hard-to-pigeonhole writers from both sides of the Atlantic.
   Thomas E. Kennedy's Angel Body has a thought-provoking but often witty mood and establishes the book's eclectic cross-genre content. What do you do with a dead angel? And, and more to the point, how do you know he's dead? Afterward by Don Webb delivers a brilliant satire on intolerance and prejudice, awash with sexual/ office politics and a modern day witch-hunt. Andrew Darlington's extraordinary Metamorphosis At The End Of Time is a haunted

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Angel: the casefiles volume 1 Review and Opinion

2019/07/09

Angel: The Casefiles volume one
Nancy Holder, Jeff Marionette and Maryelizabeth Hart
Pocket paperback £12.99

review by Donald Morefield

It's not often that a spinoff TV show grows to become just as successful as the original series but, with Angel, creators Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt prove that not only does lightning strike twice, it's possible to bottle it without losing voltage. As proverbial lightning in a bottle, Angel takes the genre themes of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, and turns the good versus evil battle on its head by having the lead character the opposite of Buffy in almost every way. This companion book to Angel's first two seasons examines almost every aspect of producing this fantasy, comedy, horror and drama series from the apt perspective of a detective's pseudo 'case files'.
   Each episode gets a plot synopsis and basic credits, supported by sundry background

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Appleseed by john clute Review and Opinion

2019/07/08

Appleseed
John Clute
Orbit paperback £6.99

review by Patrick Hudson

John Clute is a well-known SF critic, and his penetrating and precise criticism has appeared in SF journals since the 1960s - his early work appeared in New Worlds and he was one of the founders of Interzone. He is co-editor of The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction and The Encyclopedia Of Fantasy and his work appears regularly in most of the current high profile SF magazines. His criticism tends toward the literary - he takes SF as seriously as any other strain of literature, and his intellectual approach has been very influential among British SF writers.
   His non-critical output is less well known. His entry in The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction (where else would I turn?) mentions several short stories and a non-SF novel in the 1970s, but I've got to say that Appleseed is the first I've read of his fiction.
   Thousands of years in the future

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Ares express by ian mcdonald Review and Opinion

2019/07/07

Ares Express
Ian McDonald
Earthlight paperback £7.99

review by Porl Broome

Oh dear, two of my least favourite literary subject matters: the Red Planet, and - gulp - trains. Still, I was careful to keep my stones un-cast until I'd at least given this novel a fair crack of the whip. The story follows the adventures of Sweetness Octave Glorious Honey-Bun Asiim Engineer 12th, daughter of the engine driver of Catherine of Tharsis (one of the planet's most noble engines). While she dreams of following in her father's footsteps, he is having none of this and has arranged that she be married into another noble family. On her wedding day, Sweetness decides that no way is she allowing anyone to chain her to a kitchen sink for the rest of her life, so she ups-sticks and runs away with a strange boy with a cataract who can see dead people. From here on in she is double-crossed, her 'guardian angel' is captured in a mirror and stolen from her, she's left for dead in the

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Armitage 3 Review and Opinion

2019/07/06

Armitage III: Poly-Matrix (1994)
Director: Takuya Sato

review by Jeff Young

In this colourful and dynamic sci-fi anime, Naomi Armitage (voiced by Elizabeth Berkley, of Showgirls infamy) is a feisty super-cop on a futuristic, independent Martian colony where - according to her boss - she's the resident "badge-toting terror in hot-pants." In defiance of the red planet's social aversion to intelligent machines, country & western singer Kelly McCanon has been replaced by a robot. This is revealed in the opening scenes, when mysterious spree killer D'anclaude murders McCanon on arrival at Mars' spaceport. The singer was supposedly the last android of her kind, so now the 'species' is extinct - or so everyone thinks at first. Now, Armitage is teamed with Detective Ross Sylibus (Kiefer Sutherland), a hulking, brooding presence - reluctantly transferred from Chicago to Mars, and terminally unhappy with his latest assignment to help Armitage investigate the apparent

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Ari roussimoff interviewed at Review and Opinion

2019/07/05

The Psychotic States Of America

Ari roussimoff interviewed at Review and Opinion

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Artifact Review and Opinion

2019/07/04

Artifact
Gregory Benford
Orbit paperback £6.99

review by Peter Schilling

Like Greg Bear's intriguing Cosm, this is another one of those tales of a scientific discovery that seems at first like it really ought to change the world, but doesn't. It causes ripples in the big pond, a few inadvertent deaths (of minor characters), and it makes or breaks the professional careers and affects the private lives of its central characters but, even with all that going on, this dramatic and exciting, yet nonetheless straightforward narrative tends - perhaps for the sake of authorial expediency - to shy away from confronting paradigm shifts or political upheaval.
   Claire's a dedicated archaeologist whose feminist principles set her against the bullying and ambitious soldier-scientist in control of the Greek dig site where she has found a strange object. Unearthed from a hidden chamber in an ancient tomb, Claire's discovery turns out to be of more interest to

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Art of rowena Review and Opinion

2019/07/03

The Art Of Rowena
Rowena Morrill
Paper Tiger softcover £14.99 / $21.95

review by Paul Higson

Rowena Morrill has been producing fantasy art since accidentally stumbling upon her gift in the mid-1970s. Necessity meant that much of the portfolio is commissioned work for novel covers, calendars, games, cards and portraiture, often with the directions written into the finished image. Rowena does not appear to have argued too vociferously or stridently, enough room remaining to satisfy her creative urges. The limitations of the proscribed commissioners, however, are such that it takes its toll, especially when collected together as it has been for this book.
   There is no disputing the artist's ability, there is something to appreciate in each example of her art, but in virtually every image there is also something that jars, a discrepancy, an imbalance, a polluting factor. In most the fault lies in the balance of the finished product (and it taunts that a product

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Ash: a secret history Review and Opinion

2019/07/02

Ash: A Secret History
Mary Gentle
Gollancz paperback £9.99

review by Ceri Jordan

Ash is a child of war: growing up parentless among camp followers, she takes naturally to the life of a soldier, and builds a renowned mercenary band under her leadership. This brings fame, riches, a thoroughly unwanted noble husband - and involvement in a conflict that could change the nature of the world forever. Because the voice that speaks in her head is not that of God or devil, but something altogether more dangerous. Something that can manipulate time and space - and something that wants, for the very best of reasons, to destroy her and all she loves...
   Mary Gentle's gigantic fantasy is an audacious blend of medieval romance, brutal history, and science elevated to the realms of myth. Playing fast and loose with Europe's past, she creates a world both utterly real and startlingly alien, where a barbarian empire supported by golems and selective breeding can co-exist

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Dark ages: assamite Review and Opinion

2019/07/01

Dark Ages: Assamite
Stefan Petrucha
White Wolf paperback $6.99

review by Sue Reider

Stefan Petrucha has created a panoramic world of vampiric possession during the Crusades. The crusaders have overrun Constantinople and are poised to continue their forays. Sir Hugh of Clairvaux, a Templar knight who is also a vampire, is leading the Christian forces in the area. He claims to be guided by visions from the Queen of Heaven. Amala, a Middle Eastern vampire from a group known as the Assamites, opposes Hugh. When Hugh and Amala meet, she has an opportunity to kill him, but holds back when she hears him quoting verses from the Qu-Aran. Amala, while completely hostile to everything for which Hugh stands, finds herself attracted to him.
   Sir Hugh is an absorbing and conflicted character - although he is beleaguered by his vampire urgings, he is very much in control of them, and thus able to work for the fulfilment of his vision of taking over Jerusalem.

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Asteroid Review and Opinion

2019/06/30

Asteroid (1997)
Director: Bradford May

review by Steven Hampton

While big-budget SF blockbusters Armageddon and Deep Impact were hitting cinemas, TV offered us this similarly themed mini-series, now condensed to feature-length from its original three hours, for DVD release. The leads are an unusual pairing: Annabella Sciorra (pron: she-ore-uh) plays astronomer Dr Lily McKee, Michael Biehn fills the standard gung-ho action hero role as hands-on FEMA boss, Jack Wallach. The main plot sees a comet perturb the orbits of large asteroids, Helios and Eros, launching them both towards Earth.
   The disaster starts with the destruction of a dam causing massive urban floods, and proceeds apace to smash a major American city, when USAF operation Auger (involving laser beams fired from jet fighters) fails to destroy the asteroid threat. In the film's climax, bits and pieces of a shattered space rock rain down for hours.
   It must be said that although

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Enchanted world: the art of anne sudworth Review and Opinion

2019/06/29

Enchanted World: The Art Of Anne Sudworth
text by John Grant
Paper Tiger hardcover £14.99 / $21.95

review by Steve Sneyd

I had just heard an item on the morning news about transferring the gene of a luminous jellyfish into plants to cause them to glow in the dark, when this book arrived in the mail. I opened it at random, and was immediately struck by a stunning picture of a great tree self-lit against the night. Here was a suitably strange coincidence to begin my acquaintance with Anne Sudworth's magically fantastic world.
   My previous ignorance of her work was soon explained in the text of this, the first published collection of her art. It seems that she does very few book covers, finding them both creatively limiting and far less remunerative thin original paintings. (Among the few covers she has done, which are included, are those for personal friend Storm Constantine).   At first, as a professional artist, she painted portraits and particularly

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Atlantis Review and Opinion

2019/06/28

Atlantis - The Lost Empire (2001)
Directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

review by Michael Lohr

Although this movie was utterly pounded by Shrek at the box office, it is still a wonderfully entertaining movie that both children and adults will enjoy. Atlantis: The Lost Empire uses mainly traditional animation in its production, but does incorporate computer graphics as well. The quality of the animation is very high, as one would expect from a Walt Disney production. In fact, this was the first Walt Disney movie produced in 70mm since The Black Cauldron in 1985. The art and animation style is essentially steampunk. Which is a style of artwork commonly used in comic book and graphic novel formats, a prime example being Alan Moore's The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
   The setting is the early 20th century (the movie is loosely based on the Jules Verne classic 20,000 Leagues

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Atom by steve aylett Review and Opinion

2019/06/27

Atom
Steve Aylett
Orion paperback £6.99

review by Rob Marshall

Beerlight is a strange town. You won't find it on any known map. What's more, unlike many of today's fantasy authors, its creator has admirably resisted the temptation to supply you with one. However, the directions for getting there are simple. Simply buy this book. Yes, Steve Aylett writes about it and the people that live there in this short novel which, eagerly, defies pigeonholing. Is it future world SF? Technothriller mystery? Hardboiled noir with a comic twist, or a satire on stereotyping in generic fiction? No-one knows for certain - or if they do, they ain't talking, man. But enough about what nobody knows... like I said, Beerlight's a town - sort of (things get sorted). Taffy Atom is a private investigator - kind of (as in one of a kind). He only tackles the really tough cases... the stuff that Holmes, Spade, Hammer, Marlowe, Gittes

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Steve aylett's atom Review and Opinion

2019/06/26

Atom
Steve Aylett
Four Walls Eight Windows hardcover $14.95

review by Amy Harlib

British author of 'slipstream', avant-garde SF, Steve Aylett, with many previous books under his belt and whose reputation for outrageousness precedes him, does it again! Atom, a recent novel (in print and readily available), definitely lives up to expectations.
   The protagonist, Mr Taffy Atom, a private detective of an unconventional and eccentric sort, comes with a sidekick who's even weirder: Jed Helms, a voraciously vicious human personality somehow grafted onto a souped-up brain in the body of a giant goldfish! The near-future setting, as in Aylett's novel Slaughtermatic, features the city of 'Beerlight' that "sprawls like roadkill". The plot is a bit thin, but then the book's length is only 137 pages, takes Atom on a mission to trace a missing brain that vanished the night the City Brain Facility blew

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Audition Review and Opinion

2019/06/25

Audition (1999)
Director: Miike Takashi

review by Mike Philbin

After the death of his wife, company executive Shigeharu Aoyama brings up his only son. The pair are almost inseparable for seven years. During a meeting with a business colleague at the TV station where he works, a cunning plan for a fake TV show is concocted to find Shigeharu a new wife, giving his son a new mother. The night before the eponymous Audition, Shigerharu finds his bride among the résumés supplied by the agencies. Her intention of application for the role touches his heart and he knows even before the audition who he will choose. Asami is everything he hoped, demure, graceful, her soft nature is the glue that binds his love to her. Despite the misgivings of his TV exec friend, Shigeharu phones her and they make a date. They get on very well...
   From author Ryu Murakami whose novels/screenplays includes Almost Transparent Blue and Tokyo Dceadence, this is the most

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Avalon Review and Opinion

2019/06/24

Avalon (2001)
Director: Mamoru Oshii

review by Christopher Geary

From the maker of excellent SF anime Ghost In The Shell (1996), this is Mamoru Oshii's first European live-action feature. Shot in Poland using colour and sepia stock, enhanced digitally, it's a visually impressive example of SF art cinema. The scenario concerns illegal VR wargame 'Avalon', and the unexpected destiny awaiting the courageous few that dare to play it.
   Ash (lovely Polish actress Malgorzata Foremniak) is a professional solo player at 'Class A' level. Since leaving a group of other regular players (collectively known as a 'party') whose team was called Wizard, she's become a loner, her only companion in the world is a basset hound that she dotes on. One day she meets Stunner (Bartek Swiderski), who was a scavenger and thief in Wizard, and he convinces Ash that she could access the 'Special A' level of Avalon, if she rejoins a war party, one led by the mysterious Bishop

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Awful dr orlof Review and Opinion

2019/06/23

The Awful Dr Orlof (1962)
Director: Jess Franco

review by James Starkey

This rather amusing melodrama was fairly typical of the early-1960s' European crime/thriller genre that rose up and disappeared almost overnight. Influenced by the work of Ed Wood in the US and the British Hammer studios, Jess Franco went about producing his own little slice of terror - Italian style. The result is a fairly run-of-the-mill, but nonetheless enjoyable romp involving buxom dancers, and mad doctors.
   Franco sets the movie in an early-20th century Italian town, a place of dark alleyways, horse-drawn carriages and late night dance halls. To the director's credit, he doesn't go overboard with the scenes of foggy streets and distant figures. Instead he keeps this to a minimum but effective level.
   Dr Orlof is a rather disturbed individual who feels the need to spend his evenings stalking women. His objective is not sexual however, rather he wishes to remove their skin

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Babylon 5 legend of the rangers Review and Opinion

2019/06/22

Babylon 5 - The Legend Of The Rangers: To Live And Die In Starlight (2002)
Director: Michael Vejar

review by Cristopher Hennessey-DeRose

When Babylon 5 came to its end during its 5th year, it left behind a more-than-imposing shadow. Not only does it stand as one of the best-written and plotted SF programmes to date, but it casts the same shadow over its spin-offs and made-for-TV-movies. Crusade suffered from too many problems (many before the series even aired) to list here. The TV movies were hit-or-miss. In The Beginning and Thirdspace hit dead-on, while others, like River Of Souls missed. Sadly, The Legend Of The Rangers is another miss.
   In 2264, Rangers from different planets band together to act as escort for a group of diplomats on their way to a little-known planet for a classified political mission. Their main vessel is destroyed, but the Rangers are able to rescue them and bring them aboard the

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Babylon 5 Review and Opinion

2019/06/21

Babylon 5
The Passing Of The Techno-Mages III: Invoking Darkness
Jeanne Cavelos
Del Rey paperback $6.50

review by Cristopher Hennessey-DeRose

In this last instalment of the latest Babylon 5 trilogy, author Jeanne Cavelos has taken on the task of illuminating minor characters from the TV series (and its ill-fated spin-off, Crusade), exploring the background works of the Techno-Mages, and revealing behind-the-scenes details many viewers wished they could have been privy to when the series first aired. Invoking Darkness delivers all this, and it's not an easy task considering the challenge of playing in someone else's universe while retaining a unique voice as a writer.
   The chaotic Shadows sweep through the galaxy in a war the first two books led up to. Entire planets are destroyed and lives are, of course, changed forever as the Shadows and the mysterious, god-like Vorlons fight amongst themselves, and against other races

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Bait Review and Opinion

2019/06/20

Bait (1975)
Director: Mario Schiess

review by Paul HigsonSpoiler alert!Goodbye video collection! You offer us nothing anymore, or so we are told. All those old titles are spilling out onto disc, eventually, or soon enough, if they are worth rescuing. It sounds like I am setting it up for a bite in the ass but though there is nothing so rare in my private collection as Mario Schiess' Bait, the film doesn't really make the argument. Interesting, it is, good it isn't. Lost, well nearly, or almost. Even its UK Rainbow Video release is misapplied as and mistaken for the 1954 Hugo Hass gold-mining yarn. Should nobody else ever review this film it may do us well to be as thorough as possible on this occasion. Let the blurb on the luridly coloured sleeve set the ball rolling for us...
A murderer has strangled four pretty girls. Joan Nicholls and her police officer

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Land of a thousand balconies Review and Opinion

2019/06/19

Land Of A Thousand Balconies
Jack Stevenson
Critical Vision paperback £14.99 / $19.95

review by Richard Bowden

Featuring "a drag below cinema's otherwise clean and perfect surface," in which "things, inventions, technologies, ideas, obsessions and styles from another time" appear, Stevenson's entertaining book inevitably echoes his own eclectic career. Alternating between being a film show organiser, tour arranger, festival jury member and 16mm projectionist for hire, the author's range of experiences and encounters are reflected in disparate pieces, presumably written at different times, polished and assembled for publication here.
   The result is a little uneven, as the author leaps from one loosely associated theme to another, but is never less than entertaining. The first part of the book, 'Genre and History', consist of portraits of legendary B-movie figures such as William Castle and Sidney Pink, as well as tributes to gimmick and cult movies. Another

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