Back in the day, Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland had led the Fleet into battle against an implacable machine intelligence capable of devouring entire worlds. But after saving a planet, and getting a bum robot knee in the process, he finds himself relegated to one of the most remote backwaters in Fleetspace to oversee the decommissioning of a semi-deserted space station well past its use-by date.
But all is not well aboard the U-Star Coast City. The station’s reclusive Commandant is nowhere to be seen, leaving Cleveland to deal with a hostile crew on his own. Persistent malfunctions plague the station’s systems while interference from a toxic purple star makes even ordinary communications problematic. Alien shadows and whispers seem to haunt the lonely corridors and airlocks, fraying the nerves of everyone aboard.
Isolated and friendless, Cleveland reaches out to the universe via an old-fashioned space radio, only to tune in to a strange, enigmatic signal: a woman’s voice that seems to echo across a thousand light-years of space. But is the transmission just a random bit of static from the past—or a warning of an undying menace beyond mortal comprehension?
This is the book that hates the reader. It hates you. For some reason, it starts in media res with some random woman freaking out about…something. You don’t know what. You don’t know why. The next chapter is about the protagonist in the midst of a space battle. That’s fine, though it doesn’t neglect to use some terminology you’re probably not familiar with. The chapter after that is a scene with five or six people all of whom are upset, none of whom you have ever been introduced to. They’re not described or differentiated in any way and they have nothing to do with the previous chapter. The dialogue has no tags. The dialogue has no tags.
And this is why I put this book down at least five times before bothering to slog through these first few pages. I hope the editor was fired for this crime. Only after reading the rest of the book did I realize what had been done to it. I can picture it now, some editor or suit guy reading the manuscript and going ”No! This is too slow! This is boring! It needs explosions!” and some other dude going ”Well, there’s a space battle like, at the end of the book but…” and the suit guy gets a glint in his eye: ”Perfect, cut that chapter out and put it in the very beginning.”
As it says in the blurb, the protagonist is the hero captain of a space battle. However, reaching the end of his career in early retirement, no one believes him. The beginning scene is his description of the famous battle. He tells the story to a bunch of assholes who doubt him. Only problem is that this scene takes place at the last third of the book, when we have actually met the aforementioned assholes and are familiar with them. When you reach the chapter, you literally have to go back to the beginning to re-read it, since it’s highly unlikely that you understood anything then, let alone remember.
Anyway, enough about my pet peeves and what makes me homicidal. On to the book.
I have a soft spot for sci-fi horror. One of my favorites movies is Pandorum, which, let’s face it, is not a very good movie. So I went in with a harkening for some scary sci-fi shenanigans. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t say this is a very scary book or that it even belongs in this sub genre. Except for some ghostly happenings that make up a very small part of the book, there’s not much here to warrant the horror label. To give you my own take on the plot, Cleveland is a fairly passive guy that straight up gets bullied by some tough guy space marines, while waiting out his retirement on a decommissioned station. Soon, strange things start to happen, beginning with a weird radio signal he receives that is essentially a leftover from early human space age. People start disappearing, spooky things happen and ghostly ghosts make a lot of people faint like they’re in a H. P. Lovecraft story.
There’s nothing particularly bad about the book, it’s just a bit of a kitchen-sink novel with a lot of different ideas mashed together. I’m not opposed to the approach, but the ideas are so radically different that it becomes jarring. Ancient Japanese myths mixed with alien wars and ghosts and a dead Russian cosmonaut. What connects all these things? Well, not very much, to be honest, outside of a vague conceptual link that’s revealed at the very end of the book.
I enjoyed some parts, including the Russian cosmonaut (based on a real world event, most likely a hoax by a couple of Italian radio operators) and the world building that Christopher did (of which we only see a small part). The protagonist is a bit of a wet towel, somewhat spineless and a bit of an idiot. It’s not that I like Mary Sue protagonists, but there’s something to be said for characters that drive the plot instead of responding to events. The space marine characters were far more interesting, although we don’t see a lot of them.
All in all, the book was a bit of a letdown. It feels rushed and sloppy, probably because of the different ideas it’s trying to shove together to make the plot work. Perhaps it would have worked better spread out over a couple more books, if the author filled in the gaps nicely. I’d read another Christopher book, but not this one. Never this one.
2 out of 5 Space Ghosts
Set in a near future when water has become the most precious and dwindling resource on the planet, one that dictates everything from the macro of political policy to the detailed micro of interpersonal family and romantic relationships. The land has withered into something wretched. The dust has settled on a lonely, barren planet. The hardened survivors of the loss of Earth’s precious resources scrape and struggle. Ernest Holm (Michael Shannon) lives on this harsh frontier with his children, Jerome (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Mary (Elle Fanning). He defends his farm from bandits, works the supply routes, and hopes to rejuvenate the soil. But Mary’s boyfriend, Flem Lever (Nicholas Hoult), has grander designs. He wants Ernest’s land for himself, and will go to any length to get it.
From writer/director Jake Paltrow comes a futuristic western, told in three chapters, which inventively layers Greek tragedy over an ethereal narrative that’s steeped deeply in the values of the American West.
I enjoyed this a lot. I admit to being a little disappointed that the PR material for it gave me a completely different idea of what the movie would be (I guess I was expecting a new A Boy and his Dog or Mad Max, while this is more or less a sci-fi drama. Still, it’s a well made film and the director/screenwriter made some interesting choices that I appreciated it.
Ernest is a poor old farmer that owns land but not water. He has a job delivering supplies to the men working to bring water to the fields, but not his fields; the water is going to industrial farms further away. His attempts at convincing or bribing the boss to throw some water his way are unsuccessful. In the meantime, his daughter is dating this really douchy kid who needs to get smacked a lot. Ernest doesn’t trust me and refuses to help him with whatever scheme he’s trying to run.
All this comes to a head when Ernest’s donkey, which is instrumental for his work breaks a leg and has to be put down. He invests on a robotic donkey. When Ernest refuses to loan it to douchy guy, it gets stolen and used to smuggle contraband across the border. This is where shit goes bad and where I stop lest I spoil ya’ll.
There’s not a hint of melodrama as I would probably have expected in a movie about a down on his luck farmer trying to provide for his family (crippled wife and all). Things are mentioned (perhaps sometimes bluntly, like when Flem accuses Ernest of crippling his wife in some kind of accident he likely caused because of his drinking) and then never expanded on, but left to shimmer in the background. There’s no need for them to be brought up again later on when Ernest’s daughter is freaking out and screaming at him. I appreciate the economy.
I rarely review good movies, because reviewing the bad ones is much more amusing and let’s face it, lazy as hell. It fits my personality, so to speak. After watching this one and checking out some reviews online, I just felt that I had to give my 2 cents as well. In fact, let’s look at this review so that I can make fun of it.
Young Ones makes use of brilliant cinematography that is instantly wasted in the hands of a director who is without a shred of talent, an editor who must have been a butcher, mediocre sound editing, and a cast that is almost as misguided and inept as the screenplays author. A story that had true potential was crippled by a lack of character development, and the nonexistence of focus. The directors lack of skill is clearly seen in his failed attempt to (I may be paraphrasing) give the character of the machine, a robotic donkey, a sense of having a soul (not even a glimmer of this is seen in the film), and his somewhat unsuccessful try at implying that there is prosperity outside the boundary of where the characters live. The film is without any sort of outstanding performance by the cast, and lacks even a single character that the audience can empathize with. Personally I believe that this feature was a waste of a perfectly good cinematographer, and I wish I had spent my time at another premier.
This is the only review they have posted on IMDB, and they joined roughly 2 months before they posted it. A bit suspicious, but whatever, I can’t imagine why someone would want to do such a hatchet job on it. Pretty much the whole thing is bullshit, but I’ll try and play along.
Young Ones makes use of brilliant cinematography that is instantly wasted in the hands of a director who is without a shred of talent, an editor who must have been a butcher, mediocre sound editing, and a cast that is almost as misguided and inept as the screenplays author.
That’s pretty bizarre. I think the director did a pretty good job, managing to avoid any unnecessary melodrama of the kind the reviewer seems to be after. The editing was adequate, it didn’t really stick out. The cast includes Eddie Fanning (she was pretty great in this) and Kodi Smit-McPhee who plays the son is an atypical actor and was also great for the role. Then we have Michael fucking Shannon, who is good in everything.
A story that had true potential was crippled by a lack of character development, and the nonexistence of focus.
I’m gonna go ahead and say that Young Ones is very obviously a bit of a fable, a kind of old time western, just updated and moved into the far future. I mean the story is classic: A farm that’s dying or dead, the pioneer father trying to take care of his family and the asshole who wants to fuck them all over and steal their land. Hell, it has a lot of overlap with The River (starring a young Mel Gibson), if you just switch out the flood for the drought and the rich banker guy who wants to sleep with Gibson’s wife with the kid in Young Ones who is sleeping with Shannon’s daughter.
The directors lack of skill is clearly seen in his failed attempt to (I may be paraphrasing) give the character of the machine, a robotic donkey, a sense of having a soul (not even a glimmer of this is seen in the film), and his somewhat unsuccessful try at implying that there is prosperity outside the boundary of where the characters live.
Why the fuck would a robot have a soul? It’s not even an A.I, it’s literally a donkey robot that walks around. Do you expect cars in films to have a ”sense of soul?” This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard and shows how far removed the reviewer is from the actual movie and what it set out to achieve.
The film is without any sort of outstanding performance by the cast, and lacks even a single character that the audience can empathize with.
Even the bit roles were interesting and had a little bit of depth, even if they were on screen for a few seconds.
Anyway, fuck you.
4 out of 5 robot donkeys