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Tau Zero
Tau Zero
by Poul Anderson
Edition: Hardcover
25 used & new from $6.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High Concept Hard Science Fiction, July 22, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Tau Zero (Hardcover)
Tau Zero deals with an expedition of human interstellar explorers accidentally sent on an eonic journey through the cosmos, courtesy of the time dilating effects of near-light space travel. This is serious hard science fiction, with no fantastic leaps of superscience assumed. Purists of today may quibble that some of the science has been re-written since 1970 when the book was first published. But by the standards of its own day, this was as realistic as things got. Indeed, the vessel in which our travelers make their epic journey bears more than a passing similarity to the interstellar ramjet described by Carl Sagan in his television series Cosmos, first screened a decade later. If you're reading this review on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, I'll include a link to a YouTube clip in which Sagan describes that ship in the comments section below.

What prevents Tau Zero from being a 5 star book for me is the lack of psychological depth in the characters. Although Anderson himself would've been just 15 at the time of the Pearl Harbor attacks, throughout this book one can't help but hear the voice of that cohort of science fiction writers for whom World War II was the defining event of their generation: a group of authors who, as a whole, seemed more interested in giving expression to a single provocative idea than in exploring the inner workings of the characters who lived it out.

With that in mind, one also can't help but compare this work to that of other science fiction writers publishing at around the same time. J.G. Ballard, although only four years younger on the calendar, is a generation removed in his fundamental approach. It's also impossible to avoid comparing this book to The Forever War - published just 5 years later and grounded in very similar science, but again, generationally removed in its subtlety of human portraiture. It is tempting, if perhaps a little harsh, to say that Tau Zero reads like a story about stick figures by comparison.

Nevertheless, for all its limitations, this is a novel that any serious fan of science fiction must read. Certainly, it is essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in understanding where the genre has come from, or who still nurtures a lingering fondness for futures past.

Theo.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2014 7:24 AM PDT


Tau Zero SF MASTEWORKS EDITION
Tau Zero SF MASTEWORKS EDITION
by Poul Anderson
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from $11.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High Concept Hard Science Fiction, July 22, 2014
Tau Zero deals with an expedition of human interstellar explorers accidentally sent on an eonic journey through the cosmos, courtesy of the time dilating effects of near-light space travel. This is serious hard science fiction, with no fantastic leaps of superscience assumed. Purists of today may quibble that some of the science has been re-written since 1970 when the book was first published. But by the standards of its own day, this was as realistic as things got. Indeed, the vessel in which our travelers make their epic journey bears more than a passing similarity to the interstellar ramjet described by Carl Sagan in his television series Cosmos, first screened a decade later. If you're reading this review on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, I'll include a link to a YouTube clip in which Sagan describes that ship in the comments section below.

What prevents Tau Zero from being a 5 star book for me is the lack of psychological depth in the characters. Although Anderson himself would've been just 15 at the time of the Pearl Harbor attacks, throughout this book one can't help but hear the voice of that cohort of science fiction writers for whom World War II was the defining event of their generation: a group of authors who, as a whole, seemed more interested in giving expression to a single provocative idea than in exploring the inner workings of the characters who lived it out.

With that in mind, one also can't help but compare this work to that of other science fiction writers publishing at around the same time. J.G. Ballard, although only four years younger on the calendar, is a generation removed in his fundamental approach. It's also impossible to avoid comparing this book to The Forever War - published just 5 years later and grounded in very similar science, but again, generationally removed in its subtlety of human portraiture. It is tempting, if perhaps a little harsh, to say that Tau Zero reads like a story about stick figures by comparison.

Nevertheless, for all its limitations, this is a novel that any serious fan of science fiction must read. Certainly, it is essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in understanding where the genre has come from, or who still nurtures a lingering fondness for futures past.

Theo.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2014 9:16 AM PDT


Tau Zero. SF Masterworks.
Tau Zero. SF Masterworks.
53 used & new from $6.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High Concept Hard Science Fiction, July 22, 2014
Tau Zero deals with an expedition of human interstellar explorers accidentally sent on an eonic journey through the cosmos, courtesy of the time dilating effects of near-light space travel. This is serious hard science fiction, with no fantastic leaps of superscience assumed. Purists of today may quibble that some of the science has been re-written since 1970 when the book was first published. But by the standards of its own day, this was as realistic as things got. Indeed, the vessel in which our travelers make their epic journey bears more than a passing similarity to the interstellar ramjet described by Carl Sagan in his television series Cosmos, first screened a decade later. If you're reading this review on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, I'll include a link to a YouTube clip in which Sagan describes that ship in the comments section below.

What prevents Tau Zero from being a 5 star book for me is the lack of psychological depth in the characters. Although Anderson himself would've been just 15 at the time of the Pearl Harbor attacks, throughout this book one can't help but hear the voice of that cohort of science fiction writers for whom World War II was the defining event of their generation: a group of authors who, as a whole, seemed more interested in giving expression to a single provocative idea than in exploring the inner workings of the characters who lived it out.

With that in mind, one also can't help but compare this work to that of other science fiction writers publishing at around the same time. J.G. Ballard, although only four years younger on the calendar, is a generation removed in his fundamental approach. It's also impossible to avoid comparing this book to The Forever War - published just 5 years later and grounded in very similar science, but again, generationally removed in its subtlety of human portraiture. It is tempting, if perhaps a little harsh, to say that Tau Zero reads like a story about stick figures by comparison.

Nevertheless, for all its limitations, this is a novel that any serious fan of science fiction must read. Certainly, it is essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in understanding where the genre has come from, or who still nurtures a lingering fondness for futures past.

Theo.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2014 9:16 AM PDT


Superman: Unbound [Blu-ray]
Superman: Unbound [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Matt Bomer
Offered by Mr Moovie
Price: $19.08
75 used & new from $6.75

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better, June 22, 2014
From the early nineties to the mid noughties, the original DC Animated Universe (or DCAU), brought us some truly outstanding work. I'm thinking here of shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Mask of The Phantasm, Justice League, and of course, Justice League Unlimited.

This offering isn't quite up to the standard of that earlier epoch at its absolute best. But it is at least as good as the original DCAU Superman: The Animated Series, and it's certainly a noticeable improvement on any of the feature length animated productions DC has been offering us lately. There's significantly more depth to the characters than we've seen in quite a while, even if at times the psychological aspects feel a little tacked on.

It hardly needs be said that the music, visuals, and general production values are superb. But then, that's something we've simply come to expect from Warner Bros/DC collaborations.

Another area though where more mature viewers may feel the film is a bit wanting is in the lack of moral depth. This is, ultimately, a story with a baddie who is purely and simply bad, and who needs to be smacked down hard. Superman: Unbound does not even attempt to approach the depth of more complex and nuanced works such as Justice League Unlimited or Mask of The Phantasm; or, on a more recent note, Young Justice.

Those are all superhero cartoons I would encourage even grown-ups with no preexisting interest in the genre to watch and consider. I believe they're good enough to convince any fundamentally open minded person that superhero cartoons can be, and sometimes are, intelligent and thoughtful works.

Superman: Unbound does not achieve that standard.

It is, on the other hand, a film I would unhesitatingly recommend to any fan who does already love the genre. It is also the best feature-length animated offering I've seen from DC in a quite while, and it is a lot of fun.

Theo.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 13, 2014 7:55 AM PDT


Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
DVD
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Above Average Kid's Movie, May 22, 2014
As a grown-up animation fan, I write most of my reviews from an unashamedly adult perspective. In this case, however, I'm going to qualify that approach: this isn't a film in any way aimed at adults. It's well done for what it is, and it certainly doesn't deserve to have points taken off for not being made for folks like me. But it is very much a kid's movie. When it comes to character and character development, plot, and the level of the humor, this is something very clearly made for children.

Can adults enjoy it? Well... yes... in the sense that if you're an adult who's seriously into animation, I wouldn't specifically advise you to avoid it. Plus, I think many grown-ups will rather appreciate the charm of this film's delightfully retro take on "hi-tech". Its aesthetic owes much to the futurism of the 1950's and early 60's, which I myself love. But (again, speaking strictly as a grown-up) that's as much as I can say of it.

Personally, I enjoy the spin-off TV series rather more. It isn't necessarily any better, you understand. I think it's more that for grown-ups, a 22-minute venture into the Jimmy Neutron universe is enough.

Theo.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 1, 2014 2:55 PM PDT


Chicken Run
Chicken Run
DVD ~ Mel Gibson
Price: $5.00
278 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad, But Very Predictable, May 20, 2014
This review is from: Chicken Run (DVD)
It has often been claimed that at the core, there are really only a tiny handful of stories. Stories that are told and retold endlessly across the generations with only cosmetic changes upon each retelling. Osiris becomes Jesus; Rama becomes Skywalker. A little while ago, in a review of The Smurfs, I made the point that if this is indeed the case, then the real job of the storyteller is to disguise that fact. To make us somehow fail to notice that we've heard it all before.

The Smurfs was... Well, pretty awful really. The tellers of that tale did an abysmal job of hiding the fact that they were telling a story we'd all heard many, many times before.

Chicken Run is better than The Smurfs. But not by enough. There's never even the tiniest bit of doubt as to the arc of character development, or where everyone is ultimately going to end up. All of which might be forgivable if the film as a whole had the charm and charisma of Aardman's other work. But it just doesn't. Even the fantastical machinery and gadgetry come across as frankly perfunctory.

On the plus side, Julia Sawalha does have quite a sexy voice.

But that's hardly enough to carry the day.

Theo.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2014 11:44 AM PDT


Chuao Chocolatier Firecracker Dark Chocolate Bar, 2.82-Ounce Bars (Pack of 4)
Chuao Chocolatier Firecracker Dark Chocolate Bar, 2.82-Ounce Bars (Pack of 4)
Offered by MRS.TONG
Price: $27.51
3 used & new from $27.51

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone Should Try It At Least Once, May 14, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is not only chocolate for adults - it's chocolate for gastronomically adventurous adults. It's chocolate from the bleeding edge of the chocolatier's art. Or at least, from by far the closest to it that I've ever been.

I've had chocolate with chilli in it before (the Lindt one). To my surprise, it was a pretty uninteresting experience. By contrast, whatever you wind up saying about Chuao's Firecracker, I doubt "uninteresting" will be on the list of words that go through your mind.

This is a genuinely provocative combination of textures and flavors. If I'm completely honest, I don't think I would've added that hint of smokiness that comes from the chipotle. I would've gone with some other form of chilli. But hey, I've only just finished my first bar. Maybe it'll grow on me.

I can't guarantee you'll like it. Heck, I had to think for a while to sort out whether I even liked it! But it definitely made an impression. This is chocolate eating as a serious life experience.

And come on... When was the last time you ate something you could honestly say that about?

Theo.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2014 10:33 AM PDT


Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope
DVD
Price: $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Predictable, May 10, 2014
This documentary explores Comic-Con through the eyes of its participants: Principally those of a comic book dealer, two aspiring comic book artists, a costume creator, and a fanboy and fangirl couple. Celebrity-level participants such as Stan Lee, Matt Groening and Joss Whedon also get regular look-ins. As a whole, the film is an affectionate homage to geek culture.

The problem with this film is that it's EXACTLY what you'd expect given my short four-sentence summary above. At no point does the film provoke us, surprise us, or yield unexpected insights. There's really nothing wrong with it. But it's not like there's anything that stands out as especially right.

Unless the world of pop-culture geeks is a complete mystery to you, I honestly don't think you'll come away from this experience knowing a single thing that you didn't already know going in - except perhaps that the most expensive Marvel comic book on the collectables market is apparently Red Raven #1. Oh, and the convention itself is now dominated by electronic arts rather than comic books per se. But again, no real surprises there. All dead-tree media are in trouble.

Morgan Spurlock, the director of this film, makes some major departures from his usual style. Better known for more controversial offering such as Super Size Me and POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, what Spurlock has served up here seems rather tepid and lifeless by comparison. In this film Spurlock himself spends no time in front of the camera, and his usual sense of mischief and flair are nowhere to be found.

It's all very plain-vanilla.

In a way I feel a little mean having written this review. If nothing else the film did introduce us to some very likeable people. I wish them all well. But... I'm reviewing the film, not its subjects. And I just keep coming back to its complete and total predictability.

Theo.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 10, 2014 12:54 PM PDT


DR. WHO -- VOTE NO ON DALEKS -- MENS TEE
DR. WHO -- VOTE NO ON DALEKS -- MENS TEE
Price: $15.70 - $23.98

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars EXTERMINATE!, May 2, 2014
You know why Daleks are the superior beings of the entire spacetime continuum?

Daleks have absolutely no idea how incredibly geeky they really are, and wouldn't care even if they did.

Vote YES on the extermination of all non-Dalek life-forms!

Theo.
Comment Comments (90) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 11, 2014 12:15 PM PDT


Generic Undercover Mouse Electronic Cat Toy
Generic Undercover Mouse Electronic Cat Toy
Offered by Top-DVR
Price: $16.72
5 used & new from $14.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Cat Loves It!, April 22, 2014
There's been some discussion of robustness in the other reviews. While I don't doubt the claims of the less satisfied customers, mine seems to be holding up pretty well. I have a large (around 11 and 1/2 pound) cat, and he plays with this toy very roughly. So far it's held up well.

Theo.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 10, 2014 1:01 PM PDT


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