High Rise-Film Review

It is around a year since it was released, this adaptation of the classic J.G.Ballard novel from 1975 it was shown on television last week and I watched it this weekend. I am a big fan of the books and fiction of Ballard and Ben Wheatley, the director of this film has been making increasingly good and very original films for the last few years in the UK.

News of this adaptation made me very curious at the time and Wheatley even managed to pull in top Hollywood star Tom Hiddleston (Loki in the Marvel Avengers and Thor movies) and others such as Jeremy Irons, Luke Evans and others familiar faces.

Alright, so I had not read the book of High Rise but was familiar with the story concept and it seemed similar to a few other Ballard books he had written after that one which I had enjoyed. Over the years there had been a number of occasions where his books were almost put on the big screen or can be seen to have obviously influence a good number of science fiction and thriller films. The one clear adaptation which stands out was the David Cronenberg directed Crash-a version of probably the most famous and notorious Ballard book. Like that story and some others from Ballard, High Rise explores the psychologically dark and uncomfortable interests and desires of mankind in modern or near future times.

So from the slick poster artwork and trailers and knowledge of Ballard fiction I might have been expecting something extremely brutal, disturbing and challenging. Is this what I got?

To a degree yes but I may have been let down in some ways. It did not have to be just like the cold and perverse tale of Crash, and this film was actually even surprisingly humorous and retained a more restrained kind of satire I felt.

Like a number of Ballard stories it looks at how society could go over the brink and breakdown starting from what we see as the perfect example of civilized and decent western post-industrial living. With this tale, in what is built as a state-of-the-art high rise building we see the divides of class and society stacked over each other. It only takes a short of amount of time before the rich and poor begin to antagonise each other to the most absurd and extreme ways.

I was expecting Tom Hiddleston to lead the story in a more engaging way but he seemed possibly distant-but then Ballard lead characters can often seem like that. The actor Luke Evans actually puts in a very good lively performance as the rage fueled and frustrated tv actor, along with one of the better performances from Jeremy Irons in a long time.

It was fairly obvious to see clear influences of the director in the style of visuals and editing-hints of Stanley Kubrick, Nic Roeg. The music often bringing to mind A Clockwork Orange.

I think one main problem for me was that the director decided to set the film in the 1970’s when the actual book was written. if the book like other Ballard novels was intended to be set in simply a near future then this may have confused things for me. Was it that the director wanted to say things about that period of time or did he just want to really make a period film, paying homage to some of his favourite films and directors of that time?

This film then is not set in a near future for us, but a kind of alternative 1970’s where things spiral horribly out of control. I believe that I did read the director saying that the political climate of that time had interesting parallels with today and so did feel like an interesting place to put the film.

Would I personally like to see a version of High Rise set in our modern times or a contemporary new near future? The story or book may now be dated to some extent and has influenced a few films over the years already. Will our civilized  capitalist society still yet unravel and tear itself to pieces? Any future may yet be possible…

James E. Parsons is the author of Orbital Kin and Minerva Century both available from Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, WHSmith and other good bookshops internationally now. His first horror novel is due in 2017.

 

 

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More human than human…Robots on television in 2016

Like my own new SF book, robots are in our thoughts and on our screens again…

We are getting close to the end of the year soon, Halloween in a couple of weeks, and all kinds of plastic creepy and kooky merchandise in the stores. But this is a good time for the small screen and tv shows return after their summer breaks and new shows land with promises of all kinds of unusual entertainment.

Here we are after summer and a couple of weeks ago the increasingly anticipated television reboot/adaptation of the 1970’s sci-fi classic movie Westworld had begun on Sky Atlantic. As the global success of fantasy swords and dragons epic Game of Thrones nears the end, this show has hopes to take its place if viewers show an interest toward the interaction between man and machine mankind.

Did you see the original movie at cinemas decades ago? Personally I finally watched it just perhaps half a dozen or more years ago. It has dated, and does seem quaint most of the way through now, right up until the end. The last twenty minutes or so are still very much pretty disturbing viewing as the almost unstoppable psychotic robot played by Yul Brynner stalks onward on the kill.

The new show, of course intends to last for at least a whole series (probably a couple more) and so sets up the tale in a slightly fresh angle, flipping around the characters and who we identify with as viewers this time. It also intends to explore just how real the cowboy robots might be, and how the humans interact with them. The original movie was a long time ago now, but adapting it to television at this present time could be a real prescient move, as it connects up with the rapidly increasing advances in robot technology around the world and our actual genuine concerns and fears around this.

 

Just a few weeks after this intense and all-star Hollywood cast sci-fi show, we see the return of a series which was possibly surprisingly popular to some. UK Channel4 series Humans makes a return-the first series turned out to actually be the most successful drama on the channel for two decades. A much smaller budget than Westworld, but arguably an even more emotionally challenging and stimulating show which focuses on a group of ‘synths’ (robots) used and built for domestic purposes but who begin to regain their original conscious memories and come together to escape being captured and ‘turned off’. This show was very much a family drama which just happened to contain robot characters portrayed in very realistic ways, and was then very engaging and a must-see show. With the obvious building popularity, the producers did soon announce a second series but how this will play out can mostly only be guessed at this stage. Does the show really much more to say? Was the one original series enough?

If you do just a brief search on the net, you will find that more and more varied kinds of robots are being built globally for many different reasons. We really will see them much more involved in our daily lives in the next few decades, but how we will react to them is something which it seem we are all very interested in finding out.

James E.Parsons is an author of science fiction/horror and more. His latest SF book Minerva Century was published this summer, is available from all good bookshops including Waterstones, Amazon, WHSmith, Foyles, Barnes&Noble as paperback, ebook and hardback. His previous book Orbital Kin is also available.

To leave Earth-Minerva Century thoughts

The countdown has now begun. There are just weeks until my new science fiction/speculative fiction book Minerva Century is published.

This is a new story which looks at a possible time in future when humankind has left this planet, relocated to another, and we have changed ourselves and where we are, and why we are.

If we were to really leave our Earth, in big numbers-say hundreds or thousands of people at a time, or even more than this-how would we do this, and why would we do it?

There are a number of specific business people and individual corporate entities right now attempting to take small numbers of regular, willing individuals who are will to pay the price on brief journeys into near space with mixed results.

Very many sci-fi tales over more than a century now have considered where mankind might go in outer space, which planets we would make our own first. I would hope to think that I am not a pessimistic person, but what do you think might be the main thing which would finally make us leave this planet? Would we be leaving for good, progressive reasons or actually could it be that some terrible or horrific event or change in global cultures, economies, technologies might provoke us to escape?

The new SF book Minerva Century from James E.Parsons is published at the end of June, in paperback, ebook and hardback from all good booksellers. His first book Orbital Kin is available now.

Minerva Century -New SF Book News 2

My second science fiction book to be published is due in print soon, and this one-titled Minerva Century-probably sits in the SF subgenre called space opera.

The story follows Dale and Cathy, two characters from Earth but now like so many others, many decades later living either on the space stations or new adopted human planet Minerva.

My first book Orbital Kin was some kind of dystopian sci-fi thriller perhaps, and was influenced by books and films such as I am Legend, 28 Days Later, 2001, the works of J.G.Ballard, Philip K Dick to name only a few.

This new book has been influenced by books such as Frank Herbert’s Dune, the works of Isaac Asimov, films including the Terminator movies, Robocop, Mad Max series, Arthur C. Clarke.

This book is set much further into our future, where mankind has left planet Earth, found a new home planet and named it Minerva. Political and social ways have changed, adapted. Our known cultures and societies reformed, made a kind of peace, and come together to explore the wider galaxy.

Things never remain perfect for too long. Mankind may have learned from the colossal mistakes made on Earth over centuries, but in space there are still some dangerous things which wait and move around, the paranoia, uneasy and carefully structured harmony soon to be threatened once again.

The story explores our faith in technology, our pursuit of understanding our place beyond Earth, identity, addiction, our use and abuse of technology and more.

Watch here for the next part of this Minerva Century introduction.

 

James E.Parsons is author of science fiction novel Orbital Kin, available now as paperback/ebook from all good bookshops and online retailers.

New Book News…

We are now right at the start of 2016. I think now is a good time to offer some info about my new SF book soon to be published in perhaps just a few months from now.

My first book was called Orbital Kin, a science fiction story set somewhere between the next 20 to possibly 60 years or so. That tale started in the UK on Earth, when up to a space station and finally returned to our planet for the end.

This new book is called Minerva Century. It is probably more what some call ‘space opera’. This new tale takes place right far out into our galaxy in well over a century from now, possibly much longer. We have taken things out to space, our race has changed, our ways of living has evolved. We have explored much further than ever before, found new planets, made great changes, advances. With humankind living out on a new planet, trouble still finds us eventually…

This new book will be available as paperback, ebook and this time also in hardback form. More news about this soon.

My first book Orbital Kin is still availale from Waterstones, Amazon, WHsmith, Foyles, Blackwells, Ebay and other good bookshops.

The year ends, but a future waits…

Here we are now right at the cold, wet and dull end to 2015. While right now things may be grim and dreary outside, there have been a number of entertaining and suprising events, books, films and more over the months.

What have been some of the film/book/game highlights for you?

There have been the huge event films including Avengers:Age of Ultron, Mad Max, Jurrassic World, smaller challenging films including Ex Machina, Chappie. Many of us might probably agree that the cinematic turkey came very early this year with Terminator:Genisys. After several long years and a final parting with original director, Marvel’s Ant-Man made it onto the big screen and was thankfully and surprisingly overall a great fun movie. One of the most anticipated huge sci-fi cinema events was the return of Ridley Scott to the genre with his adaptation of The Martian which pleased a great many.

With new books in genre we had a return to his known loved science fiction style from cyberpunk legend William Gibson with The Peripheral. Serious hard SF author Stephen Baxter continued on with his Proxima/Ultima series, Adam Christopher gave us SF Noir Made to Kill, Neal Asher has his Dark Intelligence-book 1 in paperback in September, as well as recent returns from Jeff VanDerMeer, Gary Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Ramez Naam, John Scalzi, John Meaney, Richard Morgan, among many other in the SF genre.

The horror genre was the master Stephen King offer us more besides the now regular detective noir thrillers and mystery tales he has put out over recent years. Sarah Lotz Three, David Wong’s Futuristic Violence and Fancy suits. Can we still class Dean Koontz as horror? If so, he has, as usual been putting out his well crafted thrill-rides tales. Thankfully there has been real new horror work from the UK legend Shaun Hutson, Ramsey Campbell. The other cult horror author from these parts Graham Masterton has moved away from horror for a while but is now putting out very successful thriller novels on fine form. There is good, more varied horror fiction outthere but a reader possibly really needs to dig around and hunt it down sadly.

With fantasy books, one of the top reliable authors Robin Hobb has continued to put out a new series, we had work from Trudi Canavan, Jim Butcher continued on with his well established and loved urban fantasy tales, Brandon Sanderson, Raymond E. Feist, Joe Abercrombie still establishing his strong fantasy style, Terry Goodkind.

The videogames highlights of 2015 included Halo 5, Fallout 4 in recent weeks, new Tomb Raider, Assasin’s Creed, Witcher3, Destiny built upon the initial established world, the almost perfect Batman game series ended with Arkham Knight.

What made your year, and what are you waiting for from 2016?