The Expanse-tv show review

In the last week or more I have managed to watch this new sci-fi show which thankfully just suddenly ended up on Netflix in the UK here. I had read about it many months ago, but there had been very little news about when it would come over here or on what television channel.

I had been aware that it is adapted from the hugely popular SF space opera book series from the last few years written by James S.A.Corey (which is actually two writers working together). Like that book series this seemed to be a very epic and complex story, weaving together a number of plots and characters.

In the last couple of years we have had a few mostly good quality new SF shows, often on SyFy channel. These included Continuum, Defiance and more recently Killjoys and Dark Matter. How would this show compare to these other recent successes? What would all of the fans of the book series it is based upon think of it?

I have not personally read the Expanse book series and so had no solid expectations or ideas of how the characters should look, act or what the show should look like. I do though write space opera-my latest published book is in that style- and I am a fan of the classic tales of that kind.

So what did I think? Well first of all, with just the first episode it looked very well made with high production values and good direction. The sets seemed to be on a big scale as if for a feature film and the visual effects seemed like something you would possibly see in a cinema. It started very well.

It soon gives us a space attack and mystery, and a small group of main characters are thrown together and left to desperately travel to safety in deep space. Somewhere else on colonised space habitat a tired detective begins to follow a trail which leads him toward some interesting but dangers people and places.

The show had the look and feel at times of the recent very popular Battlestar Galactica television reboot-quite realistic camerawork, fairly dark and gritty lighting often, desperate and tense situations. Sometimes though it has some lighter brief moments of humour and colour which remind of the cult hit Joss Whedon Firefly show.

This does look like the most visually impressive tv science fiction show for years, which is great and unusual to see on a small screen. For the most part, the writing is very good. The characters and acting do pull you in and you want to watch them interact and see where they go together and how. In some sense because the visuals do look so good, almost Hollywood sci-fi cinema level an slight difficult feeling arises as it feels like a film stretched over several hours and there are maybe a few times when it does drag just a bit.

Is it what I thought it would be? I may have been expecting something more like the ALIENS films due to the early photographs and pictures of this show in magazines and online. Was I let down? No, it was a very good show, which could hopefully continue and get even better as it does leave us with some intriguing new mysteries in space to be resolved. I also do have to say that the actor Thomas Jane -previously most well loved for his shot at a Punisher Marvel movie over a decade ago-here he is a fantastic character, so well worn in watchable.

I have recently seen the new trailer for season two of this show and so next year will reveal if it can keep going and give us even more great deep space action and thrilling adventure.

 

James E.Parsons is author of SF books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century-both available as paperback/ebook from all good bookshops internationally now.

 

 

Not Entirely Human: A Top Ten List of Gay YA by Rob Bittner — Nerdy Book Club

I have a special place in my heart, amidst the growing number of LGBT novels published each year, for well-written science fiction and fantasy featuring gay characters or relationships (because there are so few!). Sometimes I feel as if these books get short shrift. This list features YA novels containing gay characters who either aren’t […]

via Not Entirely Human: A Top Ten List of Gay YA by Rob Bittner — Nerdy Book Club

Westworld-Friends are electric again…

Inspired by the cult 1970’s sci-fi movie written and direction by Michael Crichton-the man who also gave us Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, this new HBO show was billed as the new event to step into the place of Game of Thrones.

It may not be the first seventies SF movie that comes to mind when considering an adaptation for small screen. Other cult movies films of that period to adapt could have included A Clockwork Orange, THX-1138, Zardoz (maybe…), Deathrace 2000, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Mad Max among others.

With the first released picture of this new Westworld tv show, it looked like something that might have come direct from cinema screens and Hollywood millions. There are a great number of very big cast name actors involved including Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood to name only the main players. Yes, the producers really were aiming to give us something very special and high quality this time. We were to believe this as well given that brother of Batman director Chris Nolan, Jonathan Nolan was (who co-wrote those Batman films) helped create this series and it had the huge guiding hand of J.J. Abrams.

So is it a good show? How much like the original cult movie is it?

Well right with the first episode you will quickly recognize many familiar visual elements and tropes seen in the film. You get the wild west theme park, we are shown that the cowboys are of course robots called Hosts. Like the film, at first it seems like a great place to spend some leisure time. Although with the show, we follow a different set of characters as the story moves along.

This was a slow burning series. There were some serious changes and unexpected switches from the movie to what we were watching here. At times it almost felt as if they may have taken things too far with the onscreen violence of various forms, as if it was just too much for what we remember the film as being, besides the last twenty minutes or so. Here it is like this series starts with the end of the movie and continues along that path but then goes on to explore and wide range of notions of violence as entertainment and what that means for us humans, why we sometimes seek that out and how it affects us.

Coming from J.J.Abrams and Jonathan Nolan many of us probably did expect to some extent some mysterious macguffins or long and unwinding narrative paths which could take many weeks to unravel and reveal strange truths-if they ever would. Yes, this is a challenging show regularly. After a couple of weeks many viewers were agreeing on social media how they were confused or perplexed in a number of ways by the often very vague and elliptical way characters would walk or scenes were cut suggesting a number of thing but not always obviously clear of meaning or the plot. But how often do we really want everything always spelled out to us in cinema movies or television like we are very small children with the smallest attention span?

This show does go way beyond the basic premise of the original movie, delving deeper into the existence of the theme park robot wild west characters. They do become conscious but why and how and for what reasons are held from us but very teasingly suggested episode by episode. There are some episodes where you really do have to pay very close attention or you will sudden be very confused or lost but stay with the show and I think I can say that you will probably be very rewarded and stimulated emotionally and intellectually.

We are challenged to ask questions about how we use modern technology, what we might do with artificial intelligence and super-realistic robots in our near future. These can actually be quite disturbing things to consider but with the whole series and the well chosen cast of actors we can look at some possible times of tomorrow and the challenges of our rapidly advancing technology and how we will live with it.

 

James E.Parsons is the author of SF novels Orbital Kin and Minerva Century, both available on Amazon and in various other well known and reliable bookshops internationally.

 

 

Damaged Comics-Pages of fun and fear

It is not too often that I write about or review many comicbooks here but let me tell you briefly about a small comicbook company from the UK which produces an imaginative and original variety of titles.

Damaged Comics is the creation of comic writer Dave McCluskey who works with a number of comic artists and illustrators . His main comic title which he has been very passionate about is Interesting Tymes. This is a homage to kids comics from the 1970’s/80’s and comes over like a mix of Beano or Dandy with Tales from the Crypt of some of the famous American horror comics. Think of the Beano characters living with the Addams Family and your are close. Its a fun and cheeky ghoulish title, which kids can enjoy and adults will have a good laugh over as well.

In the last couple of years though Damaged Comics have expanded and produced a very impressive and varied selection of comic titles. McCluskey does say that his own love of writing in comics is mostly in horror and often comedy styles and this comes through well, and there are not too many comic companies right now makes titles like Interesting Tymes which is kind of a shame but gives Damaged Comics an advantage.

There is much more on offer and recently I have had a chance to read some of the various titles.

Deathday Presents… have a slightly retro 80’s comic style, looking like a twisted version of Dungeons & Dragons which soon gives us some gruesome monster characters but also starts to lead into a good teen comic adventure tale.

There are now a number of very distinct and impressive mature horror/thriller titles from Damaged Comics. There is The Few which a take on sci-fi/zombie thriller stories. It features a very detailed hand drawn comic style, more focused deeper character and story work.

The other even more brutal horror title-and I really mean brutal- is Sick B***ards-which is actually adapted by a story from extreme horror author Matt Shaw. From the first page, this really is not for the faint of heart or weak stomached but surprisingly goes on to open up a chilling and disturbing tale which challenges the reader.

Damaged Comics have a number of other entertaining titles available which you can find at their website and facebook page. Dave McCluskey often also can be found promoting the new titles at comic conventions around the UK.

https://www.facebook.com/DammagedComics/?ref=page_internal

http://dammaged.com/

I also must mention that they have been working hard and produced two very good festive themed longer graphic novels available now for Christmas. One is a funny Beano/Brit comic style version of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, which features some great comic writing from Dave. They also have a new title called OLF, which follows the fun adventures of Father Christmas and his reindeer. I was actually very surprised at how great this one is, and I would really recommend it for small kids around this time of year. They will love it, some really funny dialogue and bright fun festive artwork.

Preview: Shade the Changing Girl #3 — Graphic Policy

Shade the Changing Girl #3 Cecil Castellucci (A) Marley Zarcone (CA) Becky Cloonan In Shops: Dec 07, 2016 SRP: $3.99 Trying to settle into her new life as an Earth girl, Shade finds the body she has taken over doesn’t have the same skills as it did when its previous inhabitant was in charge. It’s […]

via Preview: Shade the Changing Girl #3 — Graphic Policy

Westworld – get with the program/me — Metaphysical Fantasy

Where Battlestar Galactica ultimately failed to deliver on its themes of AI and human simulacra achieving consciousness, the Westworld series absolutely nails them. Where the Prisoner (with its key wild west episodes and the cowboy singing in the final episode) ultimately collapsed its plot and all sense of the rational progression, the Westworld series manages […]

via Westworld – get with the program/me — Metaphysical Fantasy