Celebrating Great Films

Friday, March 25, 2011

Into the Wild

#146 at time of writing.

This is a mostly true, albeit heavily romanticised, account of an American university graduate (Christopher McCandless) who abandoned civilisation for two years to escape his toxic family and get close to nature.

Everybody dreams sometimes of running away from it all, of shedding responsibilities and embracing simple freedoms. This story is a wonderful testament to what that dream could become if we chose to pursue it - both the good and the bad.

Engrossing and beautiful without being too schmaltzy, and populated with characters that you will enjoy spending time with.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The best science fiction books

In preparation for writing a comic science fiction novel at the end of last year, I bought myself a pile of science fiction books. I visited various websites to try and work out some of the greatest classics of sci-fi that I never got around to reading as a child.

It's been years since I read good science fiction, and I'd forgotten how much fun it is. Three months of reading, and I'm still only halfway through the pile - but only because I acquired more books along the way.

Calling science fiction a genre is, in my opinion, misleading. The range of science fiction stories is as broad as all literature - the one thing they have in common is a particularly rich imagination.

Here's what I've been enjoying. (The absence of Harrison, Clarke and Adams is because I read pretty much their entire works in my teenage years.)

  • The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (Vonnegut bowls me over with the confidence and ambition of his writing. Despite the extreme weirdness of this book I felt surprisingly emotionally involved by the end.)
  • The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem (I loved the idea of the two competing cosmic constructors, and the timeless style.)
  • Man In The High Castle by Philip K Dick (Such a complete and thorough vision of a culture darkly parallel to our own. A little difficult to follow sometimes, but compelling.)
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin (A grand political drama with wonderful characters. Led me to read a much earlier work of feminist science fiction, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.)
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (I read the original short story rather than the novel; it's a truly excellent story.)
  • Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss (Relentlessly pacey, great characters, twist after twist, and a dramatic finale. What more could you want?)
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov (Based on this epic alone, I'm convinced Asimov earned every bit of his reputation as one of the masters of science fiction. It's a series of linked short stories - fascinating individually, and astounding as a whole.)
  • The Player of Games by Iain M Banks (Board games! Cheeky robots! A utopian empire! A violent and colourful enemy! So much fun!)
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (Charismatic, hugely witty and deeply profound. It feels like he predicted the entire Sixties counterculture. Possibly my favourite so far. Front!)

And here's what I have left in the considerably expanded pile.

  • The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  • The Mote In God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  • Last And First Men and Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller Jr
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Earth Abides by George R Stewart
  • Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith
  • A few more Dicks and Heinleins

So many worlds of joy!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Interview at Dark Moon Digest

Check out my interview at Last Writes, the blog of the horror fiction quarterly Dark Moon Digest. One of my short stories features in the current issue of the magazine.