Review

Review: Notes from the Upside Down – Inside the World of Stranger Things by Guy Adams

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2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

As soon as Stranger Things was released on Netflix, I watched it all in two or three days. There’s just something about the show – the 80s setting, the dark science fiction theme, the soundtrack, the incredible cast… I love it so much and try and make EVERYONE watch it. Hence why I was interested in reading a book about the show.

Unfortunately, this book does not do the show any justice. It is fan written, and not at all linked to anyone who worked on the show. The formula of each chapter soon became very repetitive: a detailed recap of each episode (which felt so unnecessary, I don’t need each episode described frame by frame thanks), some bonus information such as inspirations, music etc, and then ‘homework’ questions (basically a small quiz about the episode, with things you’d only notice if you’d read the questions before watching).

I appreciate that the author is a big fan of the show, and he tried to inject some humour into the book as well, but it just completely missed and felt a little ‘try hard’. I don’t think I would recommend this book, even to the biggest Stranger Things fans.

Top Lists

Top Ten Tuesday #6: My Top TV Shows

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I am once again taking part in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is all to do with your top TV shows!

Parks and Rec Community

I think Parks and Recreation and Community are quite possibly my absolute favourite shows of all time. I’d just left university, had moved home and had broken up with my boyfriend whom I’d been with for several years. I was not in a good place – and these two shows helped me through. They’re funny, thoughtful and just so, so perfect. If I could find a job that I love as much as Leslie Knope loves working in the Parks Department, I would be so happy. I basically force people to watch these two shows at every chance I get, and even got one of my friends in Leiden to watch all of Community – every week we’d watch a couple of episodes with dinner and wine, until slowly I got him to love the show and no longer had to be the one to encourage the Community marathons. 😉 I’m so sad that they’re both over – Parks and Recreation had a perfect finish, but Community was cancelled, not once but twice.

The Office Green Wing

Clearly I enjoy workplace comedies! It may be blasphemy for me to say this as a Brit, but The Office US was far more enjoyable to me than the original UK version… Firstly, there was so much more and secondly JIM AND PAM. JIM AND PAM. The world’s most perfect, beautiful couple, who took far too bloody long to get together, but watching every interaction between them was amazing and my god do I want a relationship like that. Plus just about every other character in the Dunder-Mifflin office is an absolute treat – I’m still annoyed that Netflix decided to remove this show from its UK streaming titles. Unlike the first three titles here, Green Wing is a British comedy. It is set in a hospital, and follows employees from various departments – all of whom are very weird in their own way, but perhaps no-one more than Dr. Alan Statham, played by Mark Heap. It is surreal and possibly one of the strangest comedies you’ll ever watch, but 100% worth it if you get the chance. Also my go-to show for when I’m feeling ill or sad.

Game of Thrones Black Books

I’m pretty sure that Game of Thrones will make a lot of these lists. I didn’t actually start watching it until either halfway through the first season, or at the end, but when I did I immediately fell in love. I then devoured all the books, making sure I finished the first book before watching past episode one of season one. It consistently amazes me, and I love that my whole family now watch it – although watching Game of Thrones with your parents can be a rather awkward experience at times… Black Books is another British comedy, and also another workplace comedy, set in a second-hand bookshop in London. Owned by grumpy Irishman Bernard Black, it follows him and his two friends, Manny and Fran. Another surreal yet hilarious comedy that, like Green Wing, is definitely worth your time.

outlander firefly

I cannot get ENOUGH of Outlander, based on the fabulous books by Diana Gabaldon. Following a combat nurse from 1945 who ends up travelling through time via a stone circle, and lands in 18th century Scotland, it truly has a bit of everything. Time travel, romance, sex, action, adventure, sex, violence, did I mention sex? – just reading about Claire and Jamie together makes me feel a bit weak at the knees sometimes. This has been televised so perfectly, with gorgeous locations and an even more gorgeous cast. I can’t wait for season three, although 2017 now feels way too far off. Firefly is another case of an excellent show that was ended far, far too soon. A sci-fi show with steampunk elements, the main characters were basically space scavengers/pirates and were all completely loveable. If you’ve not yet watched this, but loved books such as The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, then this might just be the show for you.

Orange is the New Black how to get away with murder

So apparently when I’m not watching workplace comedies, I enjoy shows about criminals and murderers. If you haven’t yet watched Orange is the New Black, then you’re probably one of four people on the planet who hasn’t. This drama, set in a women’s prison, is so so so GOOD. The depth of every character is astounding, and it’s refreshing to have a show where the cast aren’t all stunning and made-up every second of their lives (like when women often spring out of bed on TV looking all made-up, what?). So basically, if you’re one of those four people, please amend that asap. How To Get Away With Murder (probably not the best phrase to have on your internet history) is one of those shows that leads you on, makes you think you know what’s happening or what’s going to happen – then it tears out your heart, stomps on it and serves it back up to you. It is brutal, it is amazing and every single episode is basically a giant cliffhanger that leaves you screaming in frustration. And it makes me so happy.

Have you watch any of these shows? What did you think? Let me know your favourite TV shows in the comments!

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

Avengers_Age_of_Ultron

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?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Falling Out Of Love With The Doctor

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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.

Back in 2013, I posted about my love for Doctor Who. Since then, the series has gone through many changes, most notably a new Doctor. The Doctor is now in his twelfth regeneration, ignoring the War Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi.

And since this change, I’ve come to realise I’m really not enjoying the show as much as I used to.

Gone are the days when I would eagerly await Saturday evenings, a brand new episode full of adventure. For this series and the last, I’ve not watched a single episode as it aired. I’ve caught up online, sometimes weeks after airing.

The series just does not feel like Doctor Who any more. An over-arching plot has replaced the new monster every week element that it used to have. To me, the series has almost lost its sense of fun. The episodes don’t feel like adventures. The opening two-parter of the current series was one of the dullest episodes of the show that I have ever watched. And I am so, so bored of the Daleks. They are not scary, and they never will be. But they keep going back to them.

Me too Clara, me too.

Me too Clara, me too.

There are moments where Peter Capaldi feels like the Doctor: that childishness, his inquisitiveness, his social awkwardness. But ultimately, I don’t really like the Twelfth Doctor. He pities himself, and is halfway to giving up on everyone and everything. This is not me criticising Capaldi’s acting in any way, but the producers/writers etc and how they have chosen to represent the Doctor.

However, I absolutely love the Mistress – Michelle Gomez is just fabulous. She pretty much captured my heart as the crazy staff liaison Sue White in Green Wing, and it was clear she would do a fantastic job on Doctor Who. If we can’t have River Song, at least we’ve got Missy.

I’m not giving up on the series, not just yet. It has meant so much to me that I still want to cling to it, hoping that it returns to the good ol’ Doctor Who I remember and love.

Do you watch Doctor Who? Are you enjoying the current series as much as the past ones?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: It’s The End of the World As We Know It

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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.

A common trope of science fiction is to show the Earth greatly transformed, or even completely destroyed, in some way. Our poor planet has been used and abused throughout the history of the genre. Here’s a brief guide to the (post-)apocalypse, or dystopian future, covering books, TV, films and video games.

Aliens

Mass Effect The 5th Wave Defiance The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells War of the Worlds Independence Day The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham 826847

In these titles, Earth is either destroyed or invaded by aliens. In the latter, it is altered to a state where it is unrecognisable: either through the collapse of society and government, or destruction of large portions of the planet. Sometimes the extra-terrestrials are aggressive, sometimes they are just inquisitive, and other times we’re not even aware of them until it is too late.

Mass Effect, The 5th Wave, Defiance, The War of the Worlds (plus the 2005 film version), Independence Day, The Day of the Triffids, The Midwich Cuckoos.

Illness/Disease

The Passage by Justin Cronin Blindness Oryx and Crake Partials by Dan Wells Parasite I Am Legend by Richard Matheson The Stand Children of Men The Strain

These titles show an Earth ravaged by illness, disease or plague, including technological viruses and biological warfare. In many of them, the illness transforms humankind into something else, often zombie or vampire-like creatures.

Humankind

The Hunger Games Divergent The 100 The Years of Rice and Salt Unwind The Man in the High Castle How I Live Now A Canticle for Leibowitz

Science fiction frequently shows how humankind causes its own downfall, often through war or revolt. This is a particularly popular theme in current Young Adult dystopian fiction, although it’s not exactly a new trend in the genre. This is one of the more frightening sides of sci-fi: how we become our very own worst enemies. Occasionally, it shows a glimpse into an alternate future or past.

Natural Disaster

2012 The Day After Tomorrow The Maze Runner by James Dashner Deep Impact Armageddon The Drowned World

This could also technically come under ‘Humankind’, because most of the time the natural disasters are caused by people, namely through global warming and climate change. This category includes these as well as other things such as asteroids/meteors, tsunamis, earthquakes etc.

2012, The Day After Tomorrow, The Maze Runner, Deep Impact, Armageddon, The Drowned World.

Brainwashing/Government

1984 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley Fahrenheit 451 Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand V for Vendetta

Another terrifying thing about science fiction is how government is often portrayed. Often it is shown as being a totalitarian or ‘Big Brother’ society, a term coined from George Orwell’s 1984. Citizens often have very little freedom, or even free will, having been brainwashed into behaving in certain ways.

Machines/Artificial Intelligence

I Robot Robopocalypse Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick Love In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction Prey Neuromancer

Okay, maybe there’s a lot of scary things about science fiction – another one being the very thought of the Earth being overrun or overtaken by machines or artificial intelligence. Many a sci-fi tale tells of the invention of some fantastic new technology, only for it to become sentient and rise up against mankind.

Can you think of any other titles that would fit in these categories, or any categories that I have missed?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Time Travel

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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 an archaeologist, time travel is an exciting thought. Being able to go back in time and see if your theories are right? Being able to experience those past cultures and civilisations that you’ve studied and obsessed over for years? Yes please. This is one of the main reasons why I love science fiction that features time travel. However, the thought of heading to the future is just as thrilling. I’m always eyeing up the technology on screen in sci-fi films and shows – how cool would it be to get a chance to use some of it?

But the thought of travelling through time is also terrifying.

What if you get stuck in the past or future, unable to return to your own time? What if you change something in the past, however unknowingly or however small, and it has huge consequences on the future? Or even if they are not consequences that affect you, they could drastically alter the life of someone else. What if the people of the past or future see you as a threat or an enemy?

To enjoy time travel in science fiction, you often have to forget about these questions, and just accept it as it is presented. It is such a fantastic element, and I’ve read so many wonderful books featuring time travel:

All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1) by Cristin Terrill The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Of course that’s not all of them – it would take forever to list them all! Those are just recent reads or particular favourites. And there are several titles involving time travel that I really want to get my hands on:

Loop The Time Machine 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Of course, I don’t just love time travel in my books.

One of my favourite television shows, Doctor Who, is based around the concept of time travel. I discussed my love for the show in the first Sci-Fi Month, and also wrote a short guide to the series for new fans. However my interest has waned a little with the Twelfth Doctor, and that’s something I’ll be discussing this month.

Hmm, sorry Doctor, but I won't be taking your reading advice.

Hmm, sorry Doctor, but I won’t be taking your reading advice.

And not forgetting films!

One of my most recent favourites that used time travel was Looper. It was clever in that it didn’t feel too high tech for most of the film, with the majority of it set in an isolated farm house surrounded by cornfields. Now I feel like that is something I should rewatch this month…

I’m having slightly more trouble thinking up video games that feature time travel though. Most science fiction video games that I’ve played involve space travel, rather than time travel. Can anyone help me out here?

If time travel was possible, there’s a chance that my career would become irrelevant. What would be the point in researching history and archaeology, digging up evidence or hunting through ancient documents if you could just travel back to a certain period in time and see what actually happened? So maybe it’s for the best that time travel is fiction. 😉

Do you enjoy science fiction with the element of time travel? What are some of your favourite titles?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Dinosaurs in Science Fiction

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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.

It’s something that has cropped up again and again in science fiction, and will probably appear even more so with the revival of a certain Jurassic franchise. Dinosaurs have appeared many times in science fiction, through various formats. Here’s a look at the impact they have made on the genre.

The Jurassic Park/Jurassic World series

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton Jurassic World

The Jurassic Park/Jurassic World series is, ultimately, a tale of man playing god. In the original novel by Michael Crichton, scientists have discovered how to recreate dinosaurs, using DNA extracted from mosquitoes trapped in tree sap. One ingenious businessman by the name of John Hammond decides to open a ‘theme park’ where visitors can, for a rather extortionate fee, see real life dinosaurs in the flesh. However, before it can open it must be approved by several professionals, which is where paleontologist Alan Grant and paleobotanist Ellie Sadler come in. Taken to the island, along with chaotician Ian Malcolm, they soon realise that this business venture is not one they can really approve…

Jurassic Park was adapted into a film in 1993, and was followed by two sequels: Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Jurassic Park III. Jurassic World is the beginning of a new part of the franchise, and is not directly based on Crichton’s work, apart from the basic ideas of the first novel. It is set twenty-two years after the first film, and the park has been running successfully for ten years. In order to prevent business going stale and people losing interest in dinosaurs, the Jurassic World team have decided to create their very own dinosaur, a hybrid of various different types. And as you’ve probably guessed… well, considering past events, probably not a good idea.

I absolutely LOVE the Jurassic Park/World series. So maybe the second and third films aren’t amazing, but they’re still a part of it. Jurassic Park has been one of my favourite films for a long, long time, and Jurassic World is definitely getting there. They are thrilling and sometimes silly, but I wouldn’t change a thing about them. I still get chills when the camera zooms in on the cup of water at the front of the Jeep, rippling in response to the T-rex’s heavy footsteps.

Terra Nova

Terra Nova

Just like Firefly, Terra Nova is another television series that was cancelled far too early… At only one season long, it packs in so much more than many series do in ten seasons. Set in the 22nd century, it shows a future where overpopulation and declining air quality have caused problems. In answer to this, an operation has been set up to send people back 85 million years, after the discovery of a time rift. Sent in groups called ‘pilgrimages’, the ‘pilgrims’ set up a colony know as Terra Nova, or New Earth. The series follows the Shannon family, a policeman, his doctor wife and their three children. However, it doesn’t just focus on the Shannons, but weaves in the stories of others in the colony.

Whilst you don’t necessarily see dinosaurs in every episode, they do appear quite frequently, often adding a sense of fear or adventure. Some are recognisable, others were made up for the show. Unfortunately, Terra Nova was cancelled after the first series, and although Fox tried to sell it to another network, nothing happened. This means that the finale leaves a LOT of unanswered questions and possibilities for where the show could have gone.

ARK: Survival Evolved

ARK: Survival Evolved

I NEED THIS GAME. ARK: Survival Evolved is a fairly recent video game, where the player finds themself stranded, naked and alone, on an island. You must explore, gather resources, and stay alive. One slight problem though: the island is full of dinosaurs. An open-world sandbox game, Ark: Survival Evolved allows you to tame and ride, or kill dinosaurs, team up with other players or work on your own, and try to find the best way to survive.

Er… do I really need to explain why I want this game? You can ride a pterodactyl. Or command your own velociraptor team just like Owen. Why would you not want it?! If you need further convincing, just take a look at the trailer:

It would take forever to discuss all books/films/television series/video games that feature dinosaurs, so I’ve just picked a selection! Do you have any particular favourites, whether they’ve made this list or not?