Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: It’s a Wrap! + Giveaway

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Somehow, it’s already the end of November, and with that we say goodbye to Sci-Fi Month for another year! It has been a fantastic month, chock-a-block full of posts and love for science fiction. I’m so proud of this event and what it inspires: bloggers who come back every year, bloggers I didn’t know were science fiction fans, bloggers who are taking part for the first time. Every year sees unique and inspiring posts shared by so many wonderful people.

So what about some Sci-Fi Month stats?
  • We had at least 60 participants – I’m not entirely sure on numbers, as some people took part but didn’t use the form etc, some signed up but didn’t post. However, whatever the number, I’m happy with the response! 🙂
  • Between 1st and 25th November (at time of writing this post as I’m unable to edit this on 30th!), we’ve shared over 270 posts for the event.
  • The majority of these were reviews (book, film and video game) – 125, to be exact.
  • But we also shared discussions, guest posts, interviews, top tens and other sci-fi treats.
  • I tweeted/retweeted over 400 times with the official @SciFiMonth account throughout November – every single post was tweeted, plus most things that were tweeted to the account or with the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
  • We covered decades and decades of sci-fi – from the classics to brand new releases.
  • Authors ranged from Isaac Asimov to Ernest Cline, Marissa Meyer to Veronica Roth, John Scalzi to Andy Weir.
  • Some of the most popular books reviewed included The Martian by Andy Weir, and Planetfall by Emma Newman.
  • Topics discussed included: artificial intelligence, sci-fi and fairy tales, dystopian fiction, dinosaurs, diversity in sci-fi, Gothic influences, time travel, books that have affected a reader’s life, ‘everyday’ sci-fi, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, space opera, steampunk, post-apocalyptic fiction, colonisation and space travel, the undead, Doctor Who, sci-fi video games and more.
  • It wasn’t only bloggers involved – but also publishers, authors, editors and more.
  • I spent at least one or two hours every night catching up with the events of the day – including tweeting every post, commenting on as many as possible, visiting each participating blog individually to make sure all posts were added to the schedule. So if we say that I spent at least 30 hours commenting, tweeting etc, imagine what we collectively spent writing those posts!
  • One thing I’d love to know for next year: what would you like to see during Sci-Fi Month 2016? Is there anything you think needs changing? Any ideas for additions?
I’d also like to say a massive THANK YOU to Lisa @ Over the Effing Rainbow for being my wonderful co-host this year. I didn’t manage to communicate with her as much as I wanted, but she still did a fantastic job! And thanks again for organising the #SmallAngryPlanet readalong, Lisa 🙂

Giveaway

giveaway

This year I have a giveaway to celebrate the success of Sci-Fi Month, and prizes have been kindly provided by the wonderful Hodderscape!. They include a copy of Timebomb by Scott K. Andrews (which I reviewed last Sci-Fi Month), a Hodderscape tote bag and a Hodderscape pin badge. This giveaway is open to UK residents only – I’m sorry but I can’t afford to ship elsewhere! 😦

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Thank you everyone for a fantastic Sci-Fi Month – and here’s to 2016! 😉

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Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Top Science Fiction Films & TV Shows of 2015

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

This is something I like to share every Sci-Fi Month, along with my top books – my favourite science fiction films and television shows watched this year. These do not have to have been released during 2015 – just watched this year by myself.

Jurassic World

Jurassic World

I already spoke briefly about Jurassic World earlier this month when I discussed dinosaurs in science fiction, but I have to mention it again here because it DEFINITELY makes the cut. So it might not be the most amazing or smartest movie ever, but for the sheer fun, thrill and nostalgia, it does no wrong in my eyes. It took all the things that made the first film so fantastic, and built on them. And it was so exciting to finally have the park open to the public! Even if things went exactly as expected.

Ex Machina

Ex Machina

Another film I have already discussed this month, Ex Machina is low-key, eerie science fiction. Although A.I. may not sound ‘low key’, the technology viewed in the film is quite basic in terms of presentation, and we don’t see much more than Nathan’s swish security system and Ava herself. A slow, creeping piece about what artificial intelligence means, this might keep you awake well past your bedtime.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Whilst Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t quite the film I’d been waiting for ever since it was announced, it was still a good, fun film – and to be honest I just can’t resist Marvel. Ultron was a little too comic to be a decent villain, but it meant we got to see more of the superhero team, as well as the new additions of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. I’m surprised it’s not on Netflix yet to be honest…

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

Okay, this is probably cheating a bit since this is a rewatch, but I’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy so many times since its initial release, and I still love it just as much. It’s funny, heartwarming, has a great amount of action and adventure, and an absolutely fantastic soundtrack. It’s a little more light-hearted and self-deprecating than other Marvel films, and all the more better for it.

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6

It took me a little while to get round to Big Hero 6, and I’m so glad I finally made the time. This film was adorable in every way, and just so so cool! A group of teens go from robotics students to superheroes, along with what might be the cutest robot companion ever to exist. I want a hug from Baymax please.

Terra Nova

Terra Nova

I also previously discussed Terra Nova in my post on dinosaurs in science fiction, and I’m so gutted that it was cancelled! I don’t regret checking this one out on Netflix though, definitely give it a shot if you can.

Extant

Extant

Another cancelled series… I started watching Extant earlier this year, and rushed through the first season. It tells of an astronaut called Molly Woods, who returns from a 13 month solo mission in space… only to find out that she is pregnant. It sounds quite Alien-esque, and takes a little while to pick up, but it had me gripped by the end of the season, especially as it got a little creepier. Unfortunately after the second season, it was axed.

Have you watched any of these films or TV shows? What did you think? What are your favourites of 2015?

Review

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Review of Zer0es (Zer0es #1) by Chuck Wendig

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Zer0es was a fun, rather over the top read, and unlike anything I’d ever really read before. I’m not sure how many books I’ve read about hackers – I’m pretty sure this was the first (and since then I’ve now read two more…). Opening with our five ‘Zeroes’ being recruited (or rather apprehended) by the US Government, it easily set up each character’s personality. The hackers are given the option to either work for the government as ‘whitehats’, or go to prison. They each, sensibly, choose to become ‘whitehats’ (the ‘good’ hackers, or rather those working for the government), and form an elite team. However, once their work begins they start to discover secrets, secrets and more secrets…

I’m actually really struggling in writing this review, as you can probably see by its length. This is definitely a ‘disappointed, expected more’ kind of three stars, and there isn’t that much I feel I can comment on. This is the most useless kind of review, where a book doesn’t make me feel any kind of strong negative or positive feelings, but unfortunately that’s how Zer0es was for me. This book felt like it was lacking something, and it didn’t quite pull me in enough. What ultimately let the book down for me in the end were the characters. The five ‘Zeroes’ felt very 2D, there wasn’t much to them past their hacker personas, or else they felt a little stereotypical. I particularly wanted to slap Reagan, a typical internet troll. Maybe that’s the reaction the author was going for, but as a reader I don’t really want to feel aggravated whilst trying to get through a book…

However I can’t fault the action in Zer0es. Despite much of it comprising of people sat at screens, typing rapidly and furiously, Wendig’s writing somehow made that into something very exciting and gripping. Whilst I won’t be continuing with this particular series, I won’t let it stop me from trying out some of Wendig’s other writing.

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Ex Machina and the Question of Artificial Intelligence

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Please be aware that this post will contain spoilers for the film Ex Machina.

It was with great anticipation that I awaited the release of the film Ex Machina this past January. I finally made it to the cinema – and left feeling so unnerved. Ex Machina was not quite as I expected, although not at all in a bad way. It was more the fact that I wasn’t expecting the film to be so creepy, or to make me really think about so much of the film’s matter.

If you are unaware of the plot of the film, here is a brief synopsis:

Programmer Caleb wins an internal competition at the company where he works and is invited to spend a week at the mountain estate of the company’s owner, Nathan. On arrival, Caleb finds that the place is a state-of-art facility. Nathan gives him a non-disclosure contract to sign. Then he explains that he is assigned to evaluate the reactions and emotions of artificial intelligence in a female body called Ava. Caleb interviews Ava, and she uses a power outage to tell him that he should not trust Nathan. Along the day, Caleb is involved by Ava and plots a scheme to let her flee from the facility. Meanwhile Nathan tells him that he has been manipulated by Ava. Who is telling the truth? (from IMDB)

Or let the trailer set the mood:

After several sessions, the AI, Ava, begins to question Caleb about himself. She wants to learn about a person and therefore form a friendship through those bonds. Although the way in which she approaches making those bonds is not how natural friendships form, she is aware of how they work. Ava also asks why she cannot go outside. Later in the film, we see that Nathan’s previous AIs also asked this question, even demanding to know why and becoming aggressive and violent. Nathan is at first, a reclusive genius. Then his darker side emerges: he is an alcoholic, he seems to have ulterior motives for his AIs at times, and he has no qualms about psychologically terrorising Caleb.

Ava seems to grow rather attached to Caleb. He is, as Nathan says, the first man she has seen that is not Nathan, who is ‘practically her father’. It therefore only seems natural that she takes great interest in him, flirting with him, showing him her new clothes and analysing his microreactions for attraction. As she says, she is ‘testing him’. In the finale of the film, Caleb helps Ava escape. During the escape, she stabs Nathan with a kitchen knife. Did she do this because of his cruel behaviour, or because she saw his death as her only way out? She clearly has information on the concept of death, and knew how to kill Nathan. Was this something programmed into her, or something she picked up?

In a heartbreaking twist, Ava also abandons Caleb, leaving him locked in the house with no way out. This raises the question: was it her intention all along to use Caleb to escape? Did she truly have no interest in him? Or did she decide at the spur of the moment that it was best if she went alone, after what happened with Nathan? The film raises many questions that science fiction films of the past have raised, but the way of presenting them and the results of the ‘experiment’ is very haunting.

The lighting, setting – remote, modern and sterile – and music add SO much tension and atmosphere to the film. The soundtrack is truly outstanding, and sends chills down my spine. For a science fiction film, it’s less about the special effects and super technology (apart from Ava herself, obviously), and more about why we want things like this in our lives.

Have you seen Ex Machina? What did you think?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Space Opera

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Continuing my discussion of some of my favourite elements of science fiction, space opera is my final post on this subject. And just to clear things up, here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, and often risk-taking as well as chivalric romance; usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons and other sophisticated technology.

Space opera is what I think of when I think of science fiction. It feels like the ‘classic’ sci-fi element and covers so many different possibilities: space travel, colonisation, alien contact, adventure, action, exciting technologies, a dash of romance. Many of the early works of science fiction fit the space opera sub-genre.

Here are some of my favourite space opera reads:
The Empress Game House of Suns Ender's Game

The Empress Game is a fairly recent release, and my review of it will be posted next month. House of Suns is an epic, sprawling space opera for fans of hard science fiction, whereas Ender’s Game is aimed at Young Adult audiences onwards. I’ll be sharing my thoughts of the film adaptation in a post next month.

And some space operas I’d love to read:
Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach Dark Run Inherit the Stars

I can DEFINITELY think of a space opera video game, because it is one of my absolute favourites: Mass Effect. This game sees you traversing the universe as Commander Shepard, gathering your forces to defeat an ancient alien race known as the Protheans, who are hellbent on destroying all civilisation. I discussed my love for the series in a previous Sci-Fi Month post from 2013, which also included a guest post by one of the ‘Story Doctors’ who worked on the game. In fact I seem to have discussed the game quite a lot, as searching for ‘Mass Effect’ on this blog comes up with five pages of search results… So if you’re looking for a good, solid science fiction video game that lets you explore space and communicate (and er… more…) with aliens, then Mass Effect is the game for you!

Mass Effect

And of course, we can’t discuss space opera without mentioning Star Wars…

Who else is excited for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens? Just a few people I think… The Star Wars films are classic space opera, adventure with a dash of romance. I remember when I was young, my dad sat me and my sisters down and showed us the original trilogy shortly before we went to see The Phantom Menace in the cinema. Although that film is ignored by many a hardcore fan, I love it because it felt like my way into the Star Wars universe – it felt less complex than the original, which was good as I was young at the time, and I LOVED pod-racing. However, that film has one massive flaw and I won’t tarnish my blog with his name 😉 Whatever you think of the Star Wars franchise, there’s no denying its impact on the space opera sub-genre.

Are you a fan of space opera? What does the term mean to you?

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Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Sci-Fi Study

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

As I had a lot of fun with my previous survey, I thought it would be really great to put one together for Sci-Fi Month. Unfortunately I came up with this idea a little too late to put the survey together, get responses and share the results, so the survey is being shared as part of the event, with the results most likely sometime next month. I’d love to get as many responses as possible, so please share the survey! It aims to find out which authors, titles and sub-genres of science fiction are most popular, as well as what people generally think of the genre.

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I can’t wait to see the results! 😀

Review, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Review of The Six Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I can’t say that I have read many, if any Westerns. And I definitely haven’t ever read a supernatural/paranormal themed Western novel. The Six Gun Tarot was a new and unique experience for me, and definitely one I would happily repeat. Golgotha initially seems like a small, typical mid-Western town of the late 19th century, but soon it is clear that it is a magnet for all that is unusual.

The main character, Jim, ends up in Golgotha after trekking through the 40-Mile Desert, fleeing a crime he committed and perhaps others. The sheriff is a man who has evaded death countless times, his deputy seems to have an affinity with coyotes, the mayor hides ancient treasures and a respected lady of the town is not quite who she seems. The Six Gun Tarot has a wide range of interesting and diverse characters, each of whom have some kind of secret. Jim, whilst shown as the main protagonist, is often put aside in favour of the other denizens of Golgotha, and this is not a bad thing in the slightest. I have to say that my favourite character was definitely Maude Stapleton, a respected lady of Golgotha who is trained in the art of assassination. Belcher really focuses on the back story of each major character, bringing them all vividly to life.

The evil blight that overtakes the town reminded me a little of something from Leviathan Wakes, and the origins all tie in nicely with the religious beliefs of that particular period and location. However, the religious elements are not overpowering and do not feel at all ‘preachy’ – this was important to me, as someone who would find that a complete turnoff. It felt like, whilst this was happening to Golgotha now, it was not the first time something out of the ordinary had taken place in the town. Additionally, the author also recognised social issues that would have taken place in that era, such as sexism and many of the inhabitants’ prejudice against Mutt, a Native American character.

I’m so glad I finally got round to checking out The Six Gun Tarot – several months after it was chosen as my book group’s Book of the Month! I will definitely be looking out for the next book in the series, and may have to delve further into this newly discovered, rather niche genre.