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Science Fiction Thursday: 'The Martian', 'X-Files', 'Attack on Titan'

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Science Fiction | October 1, 2015 |


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NASA just casually decided to start the week by announcing that there’s water on Mars. Apparently the original plan for the press conference was for the announcer to say “suck it, Damon”, drop the mic, and strut out, but it turned out that all the NASA scientists are as gleefully excited for The Martian as the rest of us.

Speaking of which, The Martian opens tonight and that makes this pretty much the best day in months. I haven’t looked forward to a movie this eagerly since The Phantom Menace.

Crap.

So if there’s no review from me in the morning, I’d recommend getting out of any major cities because it means I’ll be initiating Project Omega.

So what else besides The Martian do we have today?

Well that short X-Files trailer from a couple of days ago? Now there’s a full length 2 minute one, giving us a bunch more, including Joel McHale:

“It’ll probably start on a Friday…” I love that opening.

Apparently it’s trailer day, because we’ve also got a full trailer for Attack on Titan, the live action version of the brilliant anime series about a dystopia in which giant roam the Earth, eating humans, and humanity has locked itself away behind enormous walls … and okay the story sound absolutely shitballs weird, but trust me, go watch it on Netflix. It is horrifying and tragic and gorgeous. The live action film is being released in two parts (on September 30th and October 20th) but only in limited places. You can find out if there’s a theater near you here.

Trailer 1:

Trailer 2:

Book and movie of the week! This week’s were The Forever War and the film Equilibrium. If you want to comment about either of these, put it in its own comment with the first line being either “The Forever War Spoiler” or “Equilibrium Spoiler”. Also: if you reply to a comment with one of these spoiler tags, you don’t need to bother putting the spoiler tag yourself. Everyone should just assume that if the top level comment is a spoiler, it’s spoilers all the way down.

The Forever War Spoiler
This novel is of course a classic, and it’s amazing to me just how well it holds up after all these decades. It’s especially surprising given how much of the novel hinges on social commentary, which typically ages the least gracefully. The premise of the time-dilations of interstellar war meaning that soldiers can fight across centuries despite still being in their several year time window is just a brilliant idea. But the way the book really shines is in the way that it never caves and gives a grand explanation for the war, or a great victory or loss. It just tapers off into nothing and no one can remember what really started it, or even what ended it. And civilization itself, having bent its entire will towards this purpose is irrevocably altered every step of the way. In a sense, the story works as a microcosm for total war, as a metaphor for the way that even month by month in conventional conflict, a nation is warped, and hardly a man survives intact from its beginning. The Forever Peace, as a sidenote, is also a very interesting book. It’s not a sequel … it’s not really even a spiritual successor, but it’s worth checking out if you liked his other writing.

Equilibrium Spoiler
This one really fell flat for me. It wasn’t terrible, but I just found the world itself to be completely unbelievable. It felt like it had a lot of stitched together trappings of various dystopias, but the central conceit of banning emotion just didn’t work for me on any plausible level. What about the satisfaction that the shock troops take in their jobs? Is that not emotion? I can rattle off a dozen other similar little holes that could be poked in the premise. Without some ideology (say, like the Vulcan commitment to logic), the concept of getting rid of emotion just struck me as shallow and not particularly well thought out in terms of implications, etc. And to staple that premise onto a bunch of gun-fu … well I just don’t care about the gun-fu enough to care about the movie at that point.

Next week: We’ll read Hyperion, which is one of my favorite sci-fi novels, and one I just started rereading for the first time in about five years. For a movie, we’ll be watching Young Ones, which was a post-apocalyptic world featuring water wars and starring Michael Shannon and Nicholas Hoult that came out a couple years ago and is now streaming on Netflix. It never got a proper release despite the fact that they could now retitle it Mad Max: The Young Ones and make a cool $100 million before anyone knew what was up, based on that plot description and actor list.


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