My Favourite Films #42: Serenity

In the early ’00s there was a horrible affliction that devastated the geek community. Like a vampire, the infected would be unable to stop themselves from passing it on and forcing others to endure their curse. And, to mix my monsters, like zombies it was often the ones you loved that you hurt. You’d resist, but finally the curse would out and you’d pass it on with one simple sentence:

“Have you seen this show, Firefly? It’s amazing!”

And you’d hand over your box set and see them fall as you had. But what’s worse than a fall?
A fall from a great height.

And so the show would raise them up, lifting them with the cool space western vibe. Higher as they embraced the charming, likeable characters and still higher through the witty, exciting writing.

BANG!

Fourteen episodes and you crash back down. Mid season. Mid story. Plot lines left dangling unfinished, questions unanswered. The most persistent nagging at you: What happens next?

Online complaining, love one and petitions alerted Fox that there was a market. DVD sales climbed.

And so Joss Whedon got a second chance. Serenity would fly again.

But would a standalone movie really satisfy the fans. Would it work? Could it avoid being a disappointment?
You bet your ass it could.

Picking up sometime after the show we find roguish smuggler Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) leading his small crew on the outer reaches of space aboard the eponymous ship. 

Mal during a job

The young, frazzled genius River (Summer Glau) still struggles with the effects of government experimentation and her brother Simon (Sean Maher) tries to find a way to help her and work out what they did to her.
After a close call with the savage, mindless Reavers, Simon decides it’s time for them to leave. Mal agrees despite the protestations of some of his crew, particularly Kaylee (Jewel Staite), the engineer smitten with Simon. However, their plan to drop her off is abandoned after something triggers River to become a ruthless, skilled fighter. The only clue is that she uttered the word “Miranda” before her rampage.

Meanwhile, a shadowy government Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is hunting for River who carries important secrets in her damaged mind. He seeks out Inara (Morena Baccarin), the “companion” who previously travelled aboard Serenity. He uses her to send a message to Mal and set a trap. Mal, despite knowing it to be a trap goes in anyway and they narrowly escape after a fight with the Operative.

Using the few clues they have the group set off to work out what River knows. On the way they find out more about what was done to her and discover the dark origins of the Reavers.

I remember going into this movie with nervous excitement and being reassured very early on as it nails the tone of the show. As a fan of the show I don’t know how it would play to newcomers to the world, but I think it fills in the gaps quite quickly and deftly. And I think the writing, which is sharp and witty would win people over and engage them with an involving plot.

Of course, some of it works more for fans. When two characters but the farm it’s bound to hit harder to those who’ve known them longer. One in particular, the sudden, shocking demise of slacker pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk) was a gut blow for me and several friends who had loved the show, and the character.

The death comes out of nowhere and leaves you reeling, and the impact it has on the other characters is keenly felt. In a later scene where his devastated widow Zoe (Gina Torres) rushes into battle and is injured left me with a sinking feeling we were headed for Dirty Dozen/Magnificent Seven territory where the bodies would pile up and only a couple would make it.

This last stand against the Reavers is wonderfully tense and well done, with Whedon injecting little character moments into the build up (Zoe’s devastation and loss of hope, Simon and Kaylee expressing their feelings for each other) and there’s a laugh when Zoe talks to the brutish Jayne (Adam Baldwin) about strategy.

Jayne: Can’t be thinking on revenge if we’re gonna get through this.

Zoe: Do you really think any of us are going to get through this?

Jayne: (slightly nervous)…I might.

The returning cast slip into their old roles with ease and for fans it’s a comforting and satisfying end to the story (although if they want to do more I wouldn’t complain).

It’s massively entertaining and I loved it.

And of course it gave Nathan Fillion a chance to pull on his old Browncoat again. No actor seems to have loved a project more than Fillion who complained about the cancellation and still seems sore about it. 

It’s easy to see why, Mal is a great role and a perfect fit for Fillion’s easy charisma. He gets to play the big damn hero who has a softer, less confident side underneath the swagger. Mal’s like Han Solo’s geekier little brother, someone who’s not quite as cool as they’d like to be and often caught off balance, but managing to make it through due to luck, skill and determination.

Smarter than he makes out, kinder than he wishes and quietly noble Mal is the heart of the film and a great hero. He can handle himself in a fight, but knows when to run, and keeps going against the odds to do what’s right. Fillion’s charisma, humour and enthusiasm shines through making him a supremely likeable protagonist.

Hands down one of the most entertaining sci-fi movies of the 21st century.
Gorram it, I’m gonna watch the series again.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


My Favourite Films #42: The Thing (1982)

My Dad introduced me to the films of John Carpenter, and this is one of my favourites, a tense, gripping sci-fi horror.

Set almost entirely on a remote Ameeican research base in the Arctic it deals with a group of scientists and their support team who must confront a shapeshifting alien beast that assumes the appearance and mannerisms of anything it devours.

The unease starts right at the top when a sled dog races across the icy wilderness, pursued by a helicopter. The pilot is killed in an accidental explosion and the passenger begins firing at the dog only to be shot by Garry (Donald Moffat) the commander. The dog is put in the kennels and after they ID the man as being from a Norwegian base they investigate.

Right away you have questions about what the hell is going on and why they wanted to kill that dog so badly, and then the plot thickens as they find the Norwegian base in disarray, with a burnt grotesque humanoid form outside in the ice.

It turns out the Norwegians found something in the ice and when it woke up it made short work of them and they tried stopping it. The alien being could change shape, hence the weird body, and escaped. Disguised as a dog.

At this point animal lovers might want to look away as the dog-Thing snacks on the dogs. It’s all pretty grizzly and they only stop it when one of the team blasts it with a flamethrower.

This member of the team, MacReady is played by Kurt Russell and that’s an indicator that this is going to be a good movie as the Russell and Carpenter team was dynamite (Escape from New York, Big Trouble I’m Little China). Russell is on great form here as the tough, quiet MacReady who is way out of his depth and not entirely sure how it all works, but who endures through grit and common sense.

“I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done”

It’s his simple reasoning that leads to the blood test that sets up one of the film’s best sequences. Working out that every tiny part of the creature can live separately he comes up with a test. Using blood samples and a hot piece of metal he will work out who’s human and who isn’t.

The whole scene is grippingly tense with the characters eyeballing each other and the unease growing. The final jump scare still gets me out of my seat after repeated viewings and it’s this, not the gleefully gory physical effects that I remember.

Trust breaks down quickly

That’s not to say the effects aren’t great. I’m a big fan of old school effects that look like you can reach out and touch, and the grizzly creations here are very well done, especially a scene where the chest of one opens up to sever the arms of the man trying to revive him. My Dad is not a fan of this scene, possibly because he’s a doctor himself. 
The alien is gory and with no distinct shape it appears as mutant, horrifying blends of the forms it has devoured.

Dude, you fugly.

While the creature has an ick factor that holds up the film’s real success is the atmosphere of claustrophobia and paranoia that Carpenter creates. Just as the characters aren’t sure of who they can trust, the audience is never sure of who’s still human. Even MacReady’s movements can’t be accounted for.
It means you never know who is going to turn on who and it keeps you on edge for long periods.

This all builds to what I think is one of the greatest endings of all time. With the base in ruins after a massive explosion MacReady sits alone in the snow. And then Childs (Keith David) appears. Childs went missing a short while earlier and the two sit opposite each other, neither trusting the other, when asked what are they going to do MacReady delivers the last line of the movie; “Why don’t we just wait here a while? See what happens.”

It’s a remarkably bleak ending, but works extremely well and leaves lots of questions. Is the beast really dead? Is Childs human? What will happen if/when a rescue team arrives?

It’s a great movie, with solid performances from all involved this is an unsettling thriller that sticks with you and rises above the gore to be a genuinely clever thriller. And it can be rewatched over and over without losing it’s appeal.

This is the first John Carpenter movie I’ve included on my favourites list, but it won’t be the last.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick

Last year I got really into the Amazon series The Man in the High Castle which was set in an alternate reality where the allies lost the Second World War and the US had been split between the Nazis and Japanese. It was a tense, gripping drama and finding out it was based on a Philip K Dick novel made me intrigued as I’d enjoyed some of his stuff before. I mentioned wanting to read it and MWF got me it for Christmas.

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Unfortunately it falls far short of the TV show, which I loved. The book is massively disappointing especially as early on it shows great promise and highlights PKD’s imagination as a writer. The world he crafts is intriguing, complicated and terrible, with the Nazis eyeing up their only remaining opposition.

The problem is that the story gets bogged down in loosely connected, uninvolving subplots, many of which add nothing to the story and could have been left out with no impact. There are hints of more but these get lost in a confusing and dull storylines that fizzle out. It took me the best part of a month to read because having put it down, the urge to pick it back up wasn’t that strong.

PKD’s failings as a writer are thrust to the fore, with stilted, unnatural sounding dialogue and characters who aren’t fleshed out properly and act in daft, illogical ways. The strong female lead of the show is here a hysterical, skittish woman who flaps about and who I found thoroughly unlikeable.

The ending feels like PKD himself just lost interest and was extremely unsatisfying.

Aside from The Godfather I can’t remember another time a screen adaptation has developed and improved on a novel to such an extent.

Verdict: While Dick has good ideas and a few moments which hold the interest poor dialogue and characters made this a bit of a slog and I struggled to get that involved in it. A waste of a good idea with an ending which infuriated me. 4/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Firstly, the good news, this is no Phantom Menace, and despite the hype surrounding its release this movie works and fits with the original Star Wars trilogy in terms of tone and story in a way the prequels never did.

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Set many years after the victory over the Empire the story finds Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is missing and the Republic is in trouble from the threat of the First Order who seek to return the Empire. General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) despatches her best pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) to recover a map leading to Luke’s location. On the planet Jakku Poe gets it but the Order catch up with him.

He sends off the details in his droid BB-8, before being captured by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) the dark Jedi who works for them. During the attack on the village the civilians are slaughtered and stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega) who refuses to go along and is horrified.

He aids Poe in escaping, and Poe names him Finn. They crash and wind up back on Jakku, separated. Finn finds BB-8 who has been found by Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger who scrapes by on Jakku. Finn pretends to be in the resistance and they flee aboard an ageing ship they find at the junkyard.

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Finn and Rey in trouble

The ship turns out to be the Millennium Falcon and they are soon tracked down by the former owners Han Solo and Chewbacca (Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew, respectively). Finn just wants to get away to safety, while Rey, despite her desire to join Solo and travel the galaxy, feels she must return to Jakku to wait for her family to return.

But both find themselves drawn deeper into the resistance and have to decide what role they will play. Will they join the fight or run? What is Kylo Ren’s link to the original characters? And where is Luke?

For me this movie really worked, because it successfully bridged the gap between Return of the Jedi and this new trilogy. The old faces do their jobs well, particularly Ford who exudes the same roguish charm that made Solo a favourite and Fisher, who convinces as an older, slightly jaded Leia.

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Fisher on fine form

Their relationship hints at the difficulties that developed after the Empire fell and that it wasn’t the happy ending they hoped for. In their scenes together they capture a realistic sense of a couple divided and reeling from hard times, but still deeply in love.

But what gives a new hope (sorry) is that the new characters work well. Rey is a tough, resourceful heroine and the main character, and Ridley makes her likeable and easy to warm too. It’s also cool to see her stand up for herself and reject Finn’s well-meaning, if sexist, attempts to protect her. Throughout she appears capable, independent and a true hero.

Equally strong is Boyega’s work as Finn, as he manages to capture the former Stormtrooper’s inner conflict, with the character having to fight his instinct to run to do the right thing. He also has serious comedic chops and gets most of the film’s laughs. Oscar Isaac is the least used of the three, but makes Poe a swaggering, self assured hero and he shares good chemistry with Boyega.

The villains do well too, with the First Order capturing the menace of the Empire with a hint of fanaticism which makes them more dangerous. The other strong point is that Kylo Ren clashes with General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), hinting at divides and that Ren doesn’t have the reputation or standing that Vader held in the Empire.

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The bad guys

Ren, who’s been plastered over the merch does make a solid villain and his lack of control makes him distinctly different from Vader and his raw anger makes him unpredictable. The back story reveals more and sets up some of the film’s key moments.

It’s not without flaws, some of the plot points have been seen before and a few events are easy to see coming. The final attack is almost an exact retread of the attack on the Death Star.

One character’s speech about “the same eyes in different faces” feels like a lazy explanation for repeated ideas and characters acting like others.

But JJ Abrams does his job well and the characters feel more real and natural than anything in the prequels and there’s genuine humour and thrills. MWF was more impressed than I was, but I still left happy and keen for the saga to continue.

Verdict: Abrams makes this more fun and engaging than the prequels and the balance between new and old faces is about right. Some of it gives a feeling of déjà vu but for the most part it succeeds. It has warmth and a sense of scale which will please old fans and win over a fresh generation to the series. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The final installment in the Barsoom series of omnibus this sees Edgar Rice Burroughs again change focus, with hero John Carter only briefly appearing. The main characters here are Carter’s daughter Tara of Helium and Gahan of Gathol, a prince of another kingdom.

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Tara, engaged to another, is outraged when the uncouth Gahan declares his love for her. In a sulk she takes her flier off to clear her head, only to get caught in a massive storm which sends her flying off into unchartered lands.
Gahan, who gave chase to rescue her is also cast away in a strange corner of Barsoom. First they encounter the kaldanes, intelligence obsessed spider-like creatures who have evolved to ride brainless humanoids called rykors. Tara is captured but wins over one of her captors, Ghek, who begins to doubt if logic and intellect are really the best things. Gahan rescues her and the three flee, but the next settlement they find is little better, with all three captured, although Ghek can escape. Tara initially pleases the ruler but her sharp tongue angers him and he places her as the stakes in a human version of jetan (the Martian version of chess) where the “pieces” fight to the death. Can Gahan triumph to rescue Tara? Can they benefit from unrest in the kingdom? Will they ever get home?
I found this a frustrating book because while ERB has some decent ideas (the kaldanes are interesting, and the premise of the chess-like gladiatorial game has promise) but the execution lets it down.
For starters, there’s less action here, and it lacks the zip of previous instalments. It drags in places and too much of the fighting is rushed or happens off the page, only mentioned later.
The major flaw is the ending, which is terribly rushed. The tension builds only for the cavalry to arrive and everything to Be resolved in a couple of pages. It robs the book of a satisfying conclusion, and feels lazy and slapdash.
The Barsoom series has been a frustrating read, while they are quite fun in places, and some quite gripping, they are riddled with flaws and a couple of the adventures are shaky. I doubt I’ll read any more of the series, unless a second omnibus is ridiculously cheap.
Verdict: Despite good ideas and fresh characters this falls flat, lacking Burroughs’ usual skill for fast flowing action. The ending in particular is weak. 5/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Ex Machina

This is a movie I really wanted to see in the cinema but missed out on, so I was stoked that I got to catch it recently.

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Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at Bluebook, a tech company wins a staff lottery. The prize is to travel to the secluded research facility of the CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a reclusive genius. Despite initial awkwardness Nathan encourages Caleb not to view him as his boss, just as a guy. He also reveals that he wants Caleb’s help in performing the Turing test on a robot he has made.
The Turing test is basically a way of testing an artificial intelligence to see if it can convince as a human. Normally performed anonymously so the person doesn’t know who or what they’re talking to. Here, Caleb knows its a robot, but can it still convince him it has proper intelligence.
Caleb then begins a series of sessions with Ava (Alicia Vikander), and is impresses. Their meetings continue, with Nathan observing, and over time Caleb finds himself oddly attracted to Ava. She seems flirtatious at times and Caleb struggles to work out how she operates.

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Ava and Caleb having a chat

Things become even more complicated when during a power cut Ava warns him not to trust Nathan.
Who can Caleb trust? The eccentric and slightly creepy Nathan or Ava, a machine? What secrets does the remote house contain, and was Caleb really a random winner or has his presence been engineered? And if it has, why?
This movie really blew me away, essentially a three hander (there is one other, mute character in the house) it boasts three amazing performances. Gleeson impresses as the nerdy Caleb who finds himself out of his depth and struggling with how to proceed. He’s our eyes into the world, and like the audience he’s constantly trying to work out what’s going on.
Alex Garland proves himself an accomplished director, shooting this in a cold, detached way which enhances the feeling of being on the outside and makes everything eerie and tense. His script is wonderfully minimal, with long silent stretches capturing the isolation, but the dialogue sparkles, with the tension and unease building nicely throughout.
As Ava, Vikander impresses playing the role with disconcerting calmness, but with occasional flashes of humour, flirtation and character which leaves the audience trying to figure out what she is. Are the emotions she shows real? Or is it just mimicry to trick and manipulate Caleb?
She keeps you guessing throughout, and the “what is humanity” and “can a robot feel” themes, sci-fi tropes are done well. You start wondering about Ava, and watching her closely for clues as to what’s going on under the surface and it’s to her credit that under this scrutiny Vikander’s performance holds up.
As the third lead Oscar Isaac is a powerhouse as the weird, enigmatic Nathan.

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Powerhouse- Isaac as Nathan

You find yourself questioning his motives and his initial weirdness transforms into something more menacing, but is this because of him or Ava’s accusations. Are we being influenced by her just as much as Caleb is?
The weirdness continues, and Isaac is an unsettling presence. It seems that Nathan may have lost it in his isolation, and he takes part in a weird, incredibly awkward dance sequence, which only enhances the audience’s confusion and the sense of weirdness.

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Awkwardness

A few plot developments I guessed early, but for the most part it keeps you guessing and is an engaging movie and the ending is powerful and well done. Garland should be applauded for crafting a solid science fiction piece and the three leads are amazing.
Verdict: A wonderfully done sci-fi movie that boasts three great central performances. It treads familiar genre ground, but in a mesmerising, engaging way. It keeps you thinking and wondering right until the end, and doesn’t disappoint. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Having bought an omnibus of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom stories I decided to continue with this one, and was pleasantly surprised by how much it strays off the formula of the adventures thus far. Firstly, the protagonist isn’t John Carter, the Virginian transported to Mars, but rather his son, Carthoris and while previous installments have been narrated by the hero this is in the third person.

maid of mars

The story starts in Ptarth, one of Mars’ cities where Carthoris rescues Thuvia from the unwanted attentions of another city’s prince, Astok. Following this Carthoris reveals his love for her, but she tells him she is engaged to another, one of his father’s friends and allies, and that he has acted inappropriately. Carthoris leaves.

Shortly after Thuvia is kidnapped and suspicion falls on Carthoris, who sets off to Ptarth to prove his innocence, however his ship has been tampered with and he ends up in the wastes of Barsoom. Fortunately Thuvia has been brought to the same place, although she escapes her kidnappers only to be seized by the green men and stolen away.

Carthoris then sets out to rescue her, on the way discovering a lost civilization of powerful, telepathic Martians.

Meanwhile, Thuvia and Carthoris’ disappearance has pushed the planet to the brink of war. Can they figure out who’s really to blame? Will they be in time to stop the war? And does Thuvia feel the same way about Carthoris?

I quite enjoyed this book, even if it is a tad predictable. The change in style was very welcome as some of John Carter’s narration could be a bit arrogant and pompous, and it flows far better in the third person. There’s plenty of derring-do and fighting to keep you engaged, and ERB keeps it zipping along at a decent pace.

There are flaws, this is the third species of mysterious Martians that have been discovered, which seems a bit much. And Thuvia does very little other than get rescued, she’s never developed fully and aside from her looks we don’t have much sense of why Carthoris’ attraction to her is more worthy than those of the other characters.

That being said it’s a pretty enjoying adventure story and a quick read, I’d say it’s better than Warlord of Mars, and it’s nice to see a different focus and it’s nice to see ERB shake things up a bit. The only problem is that Carthoris being a native means we lose the outsider’s perspective a little, still at least we’re spared Carter blowing his own trumpet so much.

Verdict: Quite a fun adventure story, but a bit formulaic. Burroughs changes his style but a lot of it is more of the same. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I’m not going to lie I was pretty keen to read this because the previous installment in the Barsoom series ended on a massive cliffhanger, with John Carter being separated from his love, Dejah Thoris who as the time sealed vault closed was being attacked at knife point by a woman Carter had spurned.

It was all very exciting and I was keen to read more, as Edgar Rice Burroughs ended extremely strongly.

gods of mars

Unfortunately he somewhat drops the ball here. It picks up with Carter waiting for a year to pass and for the door to reveal the fate of his beloved, while waiting some of the deposed leaders plot revenge and Carter, spying on them realizes that they know how to get to Dejah Thoris before a year runs out.

What follows is basically an extended chase as Carter pursues the brigands who have kidnapped his wife, with them always narrowly escaping his clutches until a daring rescue is put in place as Carter ventures into the city of the mysterious Yellow Men of Mars who live at the planet’s North Pole. Reinforcements are on the way, but will they be in time and if they do arrive will they fall prey to the city’s super weapon? Will Carter finally be reunited with his love?

The problem is that after the cliffhanger this takes a while to get going and after a while the near misses get a little played out, as does the fact that Carter instantly knows who’s good and who’s dodgy. His unerring judge of character means there are no twists or shock betrayals and this with the continued reliance on coincidence is a problem in places.

However, ERB still knows how to spin a good yarn and the action sequences are written with great energy and spirit, and he introduces new threats for Carter to overcome with surprising speed, his imagination seems limitless in creating beasts and traps for his hero. The writing is generally quite good, apart from a slightly repetitive streak and Carter continues to be a rather self-satisfied narrator in places, but in general it’s a fun adventure that only really suffers in comparison with it’s superior predecessor.

Verdict: A bit of a come down after the cliffhanger of Gods… but still a decent enough adventure and quite a quick read. Burroughs knows how to write a good scrap, but the plot follows a slightly repetitive cycle of near misses. Still, I’ll probably go on to check out more in the series. 5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Having been a little disappointed by the first of John Carter’s adventures on Mars, this has sat waiting on my Kindle for quite some time, but looking for a quick, easy read and having enjoyed Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan adventures I thought I’d give it another go. And I’m rather glad I did.

gods of mars

Like in the first volume the tale is told retrospectively by John Carter, but while I found that this sapped some of the peril and edginess from the first it works better here as for much of the novel Carter is isolated and we don’t know what’s become of his loved ones and comrades, which does add a little more urgency.

The plot follows Carter as he returns to Mars after an absence of several years, during which he has been assumed dead, having given his life saving the planet. The problem is he wakes up in a strange part of the planet he doesn’t recognize and faces new threats, as he begins to learn that the religion of the Martians may not be all it seems and that their version of heaven is actually a grim, evil place.

He’s soon reunited with his old ally Tars Tarkas, and they fend off the attacking beasts and plan their escape, rescuing a damsel in distress along the way. From then on it’s a rollicking good adventure as Carter faces new dangers and enemies and has to fight his way to survival.

It’s very good fun and ERB shows his ability to create gripping, fast paced adventures filled with heroics and danger. Carter’s narration is still a bit of a pain in places, as he discusses his own bravery and deeds in a way that is far from humble, but ERB’s writing does seem to have improved from A Princess of Mars, and focuses just as much on Carter’s emotions as he fears for his lost wife Dejah Thoris and what has become of her while he’s been away.

It is, however, guilty of ERB’s love of coincidence, and far too many of these occur. Carter meets old friends in the strangest places, and at the most opportune moments. Also when a mysterious new character is encountered the mystery is rather thin, and ERB’s decision to delay the reveal means that only the densest reader will not have cottoned on to who it really is.

These minor quibbles aside, it’s still a fun, gripping yarn and ERB’s writing is entertaining enough, and he also deserves praise for dealing with issues surrounding superstition, religion and the way people cling to them and will kill those who they see as blasphemers. But the best part of the book comes right at the end, where ERB leaves the whole novel on a fantastic cliffhanger. Carried along in the fast paced conclusion and the mounting tension, as soon as I finished I was eager to read the third part in the series.

Verdict: A fun and gripping adventure story, ignore the boasting narration and the frequent coincidences and this is a decent enough read, and Burroughs’ ending is fantastic. Will definitely check out more of the series. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


The Geek Awakens

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
I think I may be shamed soon. Why? Because despite my reservations I can already feel the distant drums of geeky excitement in my head, and all because of less than a minute and a half of footage.
Yes, I watched the trailer for the Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams’ sequel to the original trilogy.
Previously I’d held on to my doubts. I’d been burned in 1999, when, having fallen head over hells in love with Star Wars I had gotten hyped up for the prequels only to be bitterly disappointed.
Sure, JJ Abrams has made some quality stuff in the past, and I’m intrigued by how they’re going to continue the saga.
But there are far too many doubts. Will the ageing cast still work in their roles or will this be another late addition which damages the original (like the last Indiana Jones flick). Mark Hamill has done great voiceover work, but Fisher and Ford are rusty, and Ford hasn’t had a truly great flick in years.
But despite this watching the trailer it got the geek fires burning. X-Wings, old Luke, the Falcon and a tease for the return of Han Solo, one of my first man crushes.
I got sucked into the hype last time, and I’m worried it’ll happen again. Sure I’m older but I still love Star Wars and love makes fools of us all.
I just pray to the geek gods that Abrams pulls this off and the sequels entertain in the way the originals did, but that the prequels failed to.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO