Sunday SciFi: Stargate Atlantis – Vegas

I’ve got one episode to go in order to finish all five seasons of Stargate Atlantis.

I have already watched all ten seasons of Stargate SG1. Just two seasons of Stargate Universe and I’ll have caught up on all the movies and TV series for this franchise. Except for Stargate Origins, which is worth it’s own post.

The last episode I watched (second to last in season 5), entitled Vegas, is one of my favorites from the Stargate Atlantis series.  It’s one of their alternate universe stories (SG1 had some good ones).  In this universe, John Sheppard made a really bad decision while on a combat tour, which ended his military career.  He ends up as a police detective in Las Vegas. He’s working a serial killer case, where the victims are shriveled up corpses with a handprint in the chest.  It’s a Wraith, crash landed on Earth after Rodney Mckay’s team from Atlantis destroyed the Hive ship attacking Earth.  The show is shot in CSI style, I think.  I’ve only seen one CSI episode, and that was the one written by the writers of Two and Half Men.  (Which is owrth checking out. It’s funny and clearly some wish fulfillment by the series creator from another series he worked on.)  In this episode, Rodney tells John Sheppard was is really going on. Aliens, space travel,  and the time he met another  John Sheppard in another universe.  One where Sheppard was a planet saving hero.  Rodney is betting that fundamentally, the two John Sheppards are the same.

Throw in some cool Johnny Cash songs and you have one fine episode.  If you have been paying attention, John Sheppard is a Johnny Cash fan.  The same poster hangs in the dective’s office as another John Sheppard has in his quarters in Atlantis.

 

Monday Book Pick: Black Chamber

Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling
In this book, he is starting yet another alternate history series. The change in history is that President Taft dies of a heart attack, right before the Republican convention in 1912. This allows Theodore Roosevelt to win the nomination, and then go on to beat Woodrow Wilson like a rented mule in the general election. This puts a progressive the the White House with a history of getting things done! Things like nationalizing the railroads, and then extending that federalized transportation to airships. Creating a Federal Bureau of Security that weeds out those who don’t agree with the course of America as defined by the “Progressive Republican” party. Charges of anti-American activities get you 30 years of hard labor building roads and working on national parks. The problem of Mexican bandits crossing the border and raiding Americans was solved by invading Mexico and turning it into an American protectorate. Any Mexicans who objected to that were tracked down by the Army, the Federal Bureau of Security, and the members of the Black Chamber, Roosevelt’s personal black ops group run as part of the Secret Service. But this story really isn’t about all of that. It’s an adventure story. World War I, or as it was known at the time, “The Great War”, was in full swing, and Roosevelt didn’t’ declare War when the US wasn’t ready to fight it like Wilson did. America is going to fight, but when it is well prepared with trained troops with good equipment. The Germans know this too, and have a plan to stop it. Enter Black Chamber operative Luz O’Malley Arostequi. Daughter of a former Rough Rider and a Cuban aristocrat. She boards a airship bound for Europe under cover as a Mexican resistance fighter. She is to link up with a German agent code named “Imperial Sword”, and find out what the German’s plans are, and how to stop them. A dashing good adventure story, as defined by someone else being in a lot of trouble very far away. A good read both as an adventure story, and for S.M. Stirling’s observations into history. This includes the observation that Theodore Roosevelt was a compassionate moderate compared to his daughter Alice.

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Monday Book Pick: Monster Hunter: Nemesis

Monster Hunter: Nemesis by Larry Correia
This is another book not focused on Owen Zastava Pitt. This one is told from the view point of the infamous MCB Agent Franks. So there is a lot of violence, even for a Larry Correia novel. Franks history is covered, from how he found his way into this world, learned how to deal with humanity and why he is so focused on killing monsters. One of the interesting parts was how he came to American during the Revolutionary War and the contract he entered into with the United States America (written and signed by Ben Franklin after he rebuilt Franks). The story revolves around how STFU (Special Task Force Unicorn) violates that contract. This is one of my favorites in the series. Franks is a bad ass MoFu and like Jake and Elwood, he’s on a mission on from God.

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Friday B-Movie Pick: Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets

Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets
Luc Besson had a lot of fun bringing one of his favorite childhood comics to the big screen, and it show. This is a fun film. Awesome special effects, visually stunning, and gloriously true to the pulp origins of the original comic. The weak of part of the film is the two lead characters, who gave it a good try, but just didn’t nail the chemistry needed. Still worth the popcorn and rental, especially if you have a nice big screen with a good sound system.

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Monday Book Pick: A Night in the Lonesome October

A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny
Going back to a 2014 pick. A classic by the late Grandmaster Roger Zelazny. It is set in the month of October, which each day being a chapter. The story is told by Snuff, a watchdog, who like his companion Jack, is the owner of several Curses. One of Jack’s involves a large knife. Whenever there is a full moon on October 31, a group of people and their animal companions gather together and work toward a ritual on the night of the 31st. They are trying to either open or keep closed, a gateway for the Elder Gods (think Lovecraft). So far, the Closers have always won. Up until the end, it’s hard to tell who is an Opener and who is a closer, or even who is in the game. Others who are in the area with Snuff and Jack include: a vampire called “The Count” and his bat; a mad Russian monk and his snake, a broom flying witch named Crazy Jill and her black cat, the Great Detective and his sidekick; and Larry Talbot and his furry alter ego. Zelazny had a lot of fun with this book. If you can pick up a copy with the Gahan Wilson illustrations, you are in for a bonus treat.

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Monday Book Pick: The Guns of Avalon

The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny
The second book in the Amber series. Two sets of five books, plus a fist full of short stories and an amazing amount of fan fiction. Prince Corwin has escaped the Dungeon his brother Eric threw him, with the help of the family madman Dworkin. Revenge, and the throne, are what he is after. First he has to go to Avalon, and of course is sidetracked by Lorraine (name of the land and the woman). He does manage to finally get to Avalon and get what he wanted there. Not without complications, including his extremely deadly brother Benedict, another family member named Dara, and the ominous Black Road. This series are amazingly well written, and this volume includes some insight from a guard in the Castle Amber dungeon named Roger.

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Friday B-Movie Pick: Passengers

Passengers
A good solid SciFi film that combines a psychologic thriller with a love story, and throws in a locked box mystery for flavor. The setting is a colony ship taking 5000 colonists to another planet. Since the trip is 120 years long, so everybody, including the crew is in cyro-stasis. The fun starts when the ship takes some damage the automated systems cannot handle. One of the first glitches is waking a passenger up 90 years early. Yup, for the first chunk of the movie, it’s all Chris Pratt, and an android bartender. He spends a year trying to figure out what’s going on, and slowing losing it from the isolation. Add in Jennifer Lawrence’s character for reasons I’m not going to give away, and now you have the romance part. When things go start really wrong, from the accumulating damage over the previous two years, toss in a crew member waking up. He doesn’t live long, damage from multiple failures in his stasis pod, but it gives the passengers the access they need to save the ship, and the 5000 other passengers, literally at the last possible moment. It’s not great, but solidly acted and well crafted.

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Monday Book Pick: There Will Be Dragons

There Will Be Dragons by John Ringo
This is the first book in John Ringo’s four book Council Wars series. He wanted to to a science based fantasy series. So this series is set in a far future, in a technological utopia. People live for centuries, they can transform themselves into mermaids, whales, humanoids capable of flight, unicorns, etc. Prety much limited by imagination. There are also fantasy creatures created by genetic engineering and nanotechnology, including dragons and Elves. The Elves were designed as ultra-efficient combat troops. Pro-tip, do no screw with the Elves. Of course, things are no perfect in a Ringo utopia. The human population is shrinking, mainly because raising kids is a chore, and a twenty year commitment. The closest thing to a government is a “Council” that have control over “Mother”, the massive AI that controls the planet, and makes the utopia possible. The Council disagrees with how to handle this problem, so one side decides to kill the rest of the Council in order to gain control. The attempt failed, and the resulting conflict between the Council members sucks up all the available power, reducing the rest of the humanity to pre-industrial levels. Mother still enforces her basic protocols, absorbing all energy higher than low pressure steam. Ringo achieves what S.M. Stirling did in his “Dies the Fire” series, by evoking Clarke’s Third Law. I’ve recently reread the series. It’s a fun read. Check it out.

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Monday Book Pick: Tom Swift and his Flying Lab

Tom Swift and His Flying Lab by Victor Appleton II
Let’s go back to 1954 for the first in the rebooted YA science series. The Tom Swift Jr. books are a spinoff from the earlier Tom Swift juvenile science based adventures. In the original Tom Swift books (first published in 1910), the young inventor was pushing the science of the day, with his motorcycle, airship, and airplane. So the science bar had to be raised in the mid 1950s. Tom Swift Jr., starts his adventures with an atomic powered VTOL aircraft that includes a full set of science labs, a kitchen for their cook, Texan “Chow” Winkler, and a smaller set of aircraft (jet and helicopter) in a hanger bay. Good fun, with a definite Cold War setting.

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