May 27, 2015

ASSAULT ON SUNRISE is a dystopian novel about an impoverished America that finds entertainment in watching movies in which people, called “extras,” are literally killed by animatronic monsters on live sets. The desperate extras get a big payout if they survive. It’s a great idea.

The novel is set in Sunrise, a California town populated by hardened survivors of various films. When several police officers are shot while pressing a trumped-up charge instigated by a Hollywood director, the entire town is sentenced to death. Their only hope of survival in the new town they built and love is to survive another monster film.

The story takes us through the cat and mouse game between the director and the townspeople, and ultimately the three-day battle between these people and the monsters. Being united, veteran extras and having the contacts to get heavy weaponry, they’re ready. But are they strong enough to withstand the onslaught?

The great idea and promise of action reeled me in, and while the novel delivers, I just couldn’t connect with the characters enough to care what happened to them. While reading it, I did some homework and found out the novel is a sequel, and maybe all the character development happened in the first novel, THE EXTRA. The dust jacket for ASSAULT made no reference that it’s a sequel, so I assume it was intended to be able to be read as a standalone, so I have no choice but to judge it that way as a reader.

Unfortunately, the townspeople are all basically the same. Small town, earnest, loving, shy but formidable. There are many of them, and I found it hard to keep track of who was who. Making things worse is that some passages are written in first person, and I lost track of who that first person was. (I’m now guessing this might be the first-person narrator of THE EXTRA, which I haven’t read.)

In all, ASSAULT ON SUNRISE was fun, particularly once the action got rolling, but I can’t say I’d recommend it. Michael Shea knows how to write, but like the Hollywood the book satirizes, I found ASSAULT entertaining without being moving or affecting. But again, that could be because I’d read a sequel, so check out THE EXTRA for yourself if you like the basic concept, and then be sure to read ASSAULT if you enjoyed it.
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May 25, 2015

After reading about WORLD OF TOMORROW, a 16-minute short animated film, at QuietEarth.us, I checked it out. Unfortunately, it cost $5 to buy access, but based on the reviews, I had to check it out. I’m glad I did.

This fascinating short packs a lot of interesting ideas in a short time–time travel and cross-time communication, recording and retrieving memories, life extension via cloning and uploading consciousness, the perspective and loss from living a long time through clones (including losing one’s humanity bit by bit), difference in access to new technology based on personal wealth, and an “outernet” based on connected neural pathways.

The film starts in the near future, when Emily, a little girl, answers the video phone. Calling her is herself hundreds of years in the future–her consciousness implanted in a third-generation clone. Future Emily introduces Emily Prime to the strange world of the future, asks a favor, and offers advice.

A mentally stimulating and emotionally touching watch. Here’s the trailer:

WORLD OF TOMORROW - Trailer from don hertzfeldt on Vimeo.

May 22, 2015

You know zombies have reached a point of cultural saturation when even ARCHIE faces the zombie apocalypse. But more than a goof, reviews suggest AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE is a bonafide horror series worth a read even if you’re not a fan of the classic stories of the Riverdale redhead and his gang.

The synopsis:

“Escape From Riverdale.” This is how the end of the world begins! Harvey Award-winning writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Archie Meets Glee) and Eisner-winning artist Francesco Francavilla (Batman) take Archie and the gang where they’ve never been before – to the grave and back! A horrific accident sets off a series of grim events and Sabrina the Teenage Witch must try to repair the unspeakable evil her spell has unleashed. Gasp in horror as Riverdale faces an impending zombie Arch-pocalypse in this brand-new, spine-tingling ongoing series – but be warned, kiddies, this one’s not for the faint of heart!

That Sabrina is a real menace. It was only a matter of time before she ended the world.

Learn more here.

May 20, 2015

Fun music video by electro swing band Caravan Palace for their song, “Rock it for Me.” Spaceships and a jiving giant robot who might save the earth.

May 18, 2015

Sea levels continue to rise due to global warming. According to an estimate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels could rise another meter or more by the year 2100.

The below animated video shows what Earth would look like if all the ice melted, courtesy of BusinessInsider.com.

Meanwhile, we continue to argue about climate change as if we were all scientists, instead of actually trusting scientists to be good at what they do. It’s like getting on a plane and arguing with the pilot about how to fly it. There is close to a consensus among people who actually understand the subject that the earth is warming, and that human activity is contributing to it.

In my view, we should be arguing like cats and dogs over what to do about it rather than whether it’s real. Having worked in the energy efficiency industry (my day job) for the past 20+ years, I can tell you there are many ways America and the world can maintain a good standard of living while addressing human contribution to global warming. In America, people are far more likely to see a reduction in standard of living because of offshoring jobs, the demise of unions, and so on than anything the government would do to address global warming. We’re already seeing this with solar power. As the technology improves and costs fall, we’re seeing that industry start to take off and produce more jobs, at much lower risk to our health and environment, than an oil pipeline ever will.

More jobs, a healthier environment, and a planet able to support human lives with a good standard of living. This is something on which all Americans should be able to agree.