August 31, 2009

Thank you to Afront for recommending this rather excellent series way back when I stopped watching Heroes:

I don’t know if they’re making a second series, I can’t bothered to Google and find out at the moment (research is not what this blog is about, nor is being at the forefront of things).

But what a series!  It started out a little like Joe 90 (remember that?) with the dolls of the series being implanted with different personalities to tackle that week’s mission, but it gradually became something much stranger.

Too many people mourn the passing of the Golden Age of Science Fiction.  Watching programs like this, makes me think we are just entering it, because this was Science Fiction on television like nothing I’ve seen before.  Rather than just sticking to the same basic concept for each episode as just about every series has done in the past, Joss Wheedon and the crew extrapolated their basic premise in true Science Fiction fashion to an ending that I for one did not see coming.

The cast also deserve a mention, by the way:  the same actors protrayed markedly different characters each week.  This can’t be easy. (Though a lot of the female cast looked the same to me: thin with long dark hair.  I kept getting Echo and Dr Sawyer mixed up)

Sometimes we can be a little negative. I’m fed up of hearing that print is dying out, that the short story is dead and that the younger generation aren’t interested in Science Fiction.  I say that Science Fiction is changing and there is something rather ironic about Science Fiction fans not recognising this.  Things like Dollhouse are an illustration of this and hopefully the shape of things to come.

Buy the DVDs for the first series, and look forward to watching the next one (ok, I looked…)


Fire and Steam by Christian Wolmar

August 24, 2009

This has nothing to do with either Robots or Accordions, but it was one of the books I took on holiday with me, and I thought it worth a mention here.

Now, there is nothing quite like the sight of an SF author lying on the beach reading a history of Britain’s railways to get the pulse racing, but let’s stick to the matter in hand…

Fire and Steam traces the history of the railways from the Liverpool to Manchester railway to the present day. (Wolmar doesn’t count the Stockton to Darlington line as a proper railway.  One reason for this is that the line was intended to be leased to any operator who cared to run a vehicle across it, in the manner of a turnpike.  As someone who grew up within the vicinity of the S&D route  I felt a little aggrieved by this, but I follow Wolmar’s reasoning).  The book is a polemic in the best sense, championing the railways and questioning the orthodoxy that they were badly run, particularly in the days of British Rail.  It’s a fascinating history, peppered with interesting facts (for example, the plan to surround London with  a circle of railway lines around which armed trains would run to defend the Capital.  If I’d known that at the time of writing, I’d have included a similar scheme in Twisted Metal for defending Artemis City)

I’d recommend the book to anyone with even a passing interest in railways, but that’s too obvious.  There seems to be a real interest for this sort of thing within the SF genre and beyond.  Think of the popularityof Steam Punk, for example.   There is something comforting about technology that we can all understand, something very satisfying at looking at a machine and knowing how it works from start to finish.  This book treats the entire railway network as just such a machine, and you might want to give it a look even if you think you don’t like trains…