Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ender's Game Review and Novel Comparison

I had a rare opportunity to watch a movie on its opening weekend.  This adaptation of one of the best known science fiction novels/series had its successes and misses.  I'm deliberately not saying "failures" because I think many were understandable.  I'll start with some differences from the book and then mention some other spoilers further down.

If I was going to question something in the book it would be regarding the battle (in the spoilers below).

Overall, the movie did what was intended - it entertained.  However, I don't see a sequel as a huge probability.

The book had a more detailed side-story where Ender's siblings played a key role by creating fictional characters who debated the war.  This set them up for gaining power back on Earth, which was Peter's goal all along.  While it was interesting and led to Orson Scott Card branching off the Ender brand through them, including that could have overcomplicated the plot for this movie.  It would have needed at least another hour.

This may be a bit of a spoiler but everybody knows there was an epic space battle in this movie.  In the novel, when Ender was working through various final battle simulations it was interesting how in come battles, the human ships were decades old while in others, they were the latest technology.  They didn't go into an explanation of the ships in the movie but they all looked same era.

Although it didn't have a lot of coverage, I liked the use of the game in the book. 

As I recall from the book, there was a bit more character development with Bean also.  He had more strategic importance than Petra, but I guess for a movie it was better to develop the female character.  But in the book series, this story was retold from Bean's POV in Ender's Shadow.  Petra's role in the movie battles was very different from what I remember in the book - see the spoilers for more on that.

One other interesting component for the novel was that Ender was groomed to be a hero, he was going to be a hero everyone feared.  When the battle was over and humanity no longer had a common enemy, factions would fight for all of the battle school children, but none more than Ender.


First.  My reference to the varying ages of the ships.  That was a clever way to show how humanity has actually been sending waves of ships to the alien's outposts and home world for years.  By going near the speed of light, months seemed to pass for crews when years or decades passed.

Another clever, and subtle component was when Harrison Ford turns to the display that gives a warning of an approaching invasion fleet.  They don't go back to it, but I thought it was odd (knowing that there was never an enemy fleet approaching).  Then in the battle scene I realized that it was estimated time for the human fleet to reach the enemy world and fleets.

Bean and Petra.  The movie didn't really do enough to develop Bean.  In the books, he was being groomed to potentially take over if Ender couldn't finish.  Bean was important enough to have a spinoff of the series. 

Petra seemed to be developed in the movie as Ender's right hand person, but when they went to the actual battle, she ran one ship.  Didn't it have a crew?  She had enough importance to be transferred to Dragon Army and be part of Ender's final team, but then she just ran one ship that only had one chance to fight or shoot?  It seems like the had her on the team just because she was Ender's girl friend.  Seems a bit sexist and condescending to the character.  Oh well.  It was entertaining.  I'm glad Ender found the queen at the end even though I'm not itching for a sequel.

Friday, September 6, 2013

RIP A.C. Crispin

It is a sad day for the science fiction community.  Author Ann Crispin (A.C. Crispin) passed away this morning.

Star Trek fans probably know her best for books like Sarek and Yesterday's Child.  She wrote many Star Wars books including the Han Solo Trilogy.  Her last novel is a prologue/prequel to Pirates of the Carribean titled:  Pirates of the Carribean:  The Price of Freedom.

Star Trek and other fans can read her farewell at:

Ms. Crispin taught at many writer workshops.  In fact, I participated in one at Atlanta's Dragon Con in 2007.  I'll never forget her personal critique of one my submission and a question she asked about one character in particular.  "Does she pee?" 

No, I'm not joking.

Ironically, this year was the first year I have been able to participate in Dragon Con since then.

RIP Ann and thank you.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dragon Con 2013 Recap

For the first time, I was able to get out and go to the Dragon Con in Atlanta.  I am so glad that I did.  It rebooted my desire to get back to writing.  Being divorced for a year now and a single father doesn't leave a lot of writing time, but I want to get back into it again.  Not to say I've totally slacked.  I have re-written and re-edited a military sci-fi/space opera novel that I am going to start pitching this fall.  But I haven't really started anything new.  That's going to change.

Friday.  I went downtown immediately after dropping my son off at school.  I waited in line for about an hour and got my pass.  Since I had to get back home in time to pick my son up from school, I left shortly after noon, but spent enough time walking around to familiarize myself with where most things I wanted to attend were.

I spent a lot of Saturday going to writer workshops.  Some had some decent information but others seemed geared more for people who either haven't finished any projects or are just getting started.  I didn't really go to many panels.  At least not the ones with the biggest names that you have to wait in line (outside in the heat) for about an hour.  One panel I went to included the author of my favorite current series - The Lost Fleet.  Jack Campbell was part of a Military Sci-Fi vs. Space Opera panel.  Other well known sci-fi writers included Mike Resnick, John D. Ringo, Jean Marie Ward, and Timothy Zahn.  For anyone who's seen these authors it should come as no surprise that John Ringo was the comedian of the group.  I also splurged on getting a cool looking light sabre for a Jedi costume that I hope to have together by Halloween.  Since I'm practicing a sword form, I should be able to make a pretty convincing Jedi.

There were three real highlights for Sunday.  One was the charity auction.  Not exactly something you'd expect to be really exciting, but I got a copy of Jack Campbell's newest novel (an uncorrected proof of the novel which is to be released in October).  The other highlight was participating in Dragon Con's attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Record for most people gathered together in Star Trek costumes.  I'm not a real cosplay type, but I did have a 2009 Star Trek movie-style red shirt (I know).  So I grabbed black pants and joined the group.  Although we didn't break the record we had fun.  I even allowed myself to be photographed being "killed" by a Gorn, Borg, eaten by a Horta, and Bat'lethed by a Klingon.  I was the South Park Kenny of Star Trek (Oh my God.  They killed red shirt!).  I also went to a panel discussing what editors and agents are looking for.  I even made some contacts with agents who gave me their cards and I will try to submit my sci-fi novel to some time in the next week.

Monday, I attended a time travel panel Jack Campbell was on to get his autograph on the book I picked up at the auction.  I'm not a real autograph hound, but this was irresistible.  I also went to a writing hard sci-fi panel with Timothy Zahn, Bob Mayer, and Stephen Antczak.

Overall, it was a fun experience and I'm looking forward to 2014.

That's all for now.  After a long con weekend, I have laundry to finish!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Man of Steel. Entertaining but no "Super"man.

I went to see Man of Steel over the weekend with my 8 year old son.  He actually started getting a bit bored after about 1-1/2 hours.  In general the movie was entertaining and the flashbacks showing Clark growing up weren't bad.  The explanation of why Krypton was being destroyed and how Kal-El was different from other Kryptonians wasn't a bad twist either.

Although Henry Cavill and Amy Adams were the top billed stars, my favorite was Russell Crowe's portrayal of Jor-El.

Overall this reboot had one of the same major flaws that Star Trek Into Darkness had.  Plot direction.  When you are trying to create a new direction and new vision, don't go back and re-use the same villain from a previous version/movie.  Zod was a great villain in Superman II.  There are lots of other superpowered enemies Nolan and Goyer could have used to guarantee action:  Brainiac, Darkside, Mongul...  Doomsday would be good for a sequel. 


The scene where Clark's mother, played by Diane Lane helps him start to learn focus so his super hearing and x-ray vision was good and it helped create a temporary vulnerability in other Kryptonians - who were overcome by the sounds picked up by their super hearing and got a bit freaked by the sudden onslaught of odd sights with uncontrolled x-ray vision when their helmets were compromised.  I get it.  Their suits/armor and helmets create a filter, but ONLY for those powers?  They still flew, has super strength, and super speed? 

Also, I wasn't fond of how easily Lois Lane tracked down Clark/Kal-El based on stories and rumors and then called him Clark throughout the movie, went to his mother's house...  Makes it kinda hard for him to setup a secret identity.  Superman himself doesn't make it any more discrete at the end when he knocks down the spy plan tracking him and then tells the General "I grew up in Kansas.  What could be more American?"  Did he have to be that specific?  He could have just commented on his growing up in the U.S. and never trying to seize power.  Zod had helped confirm that mentioning that Earth had been "sheltering one of his citizens." 

Bottom line.  Man of Steel was entertaining, but not super. 

So, 3 movies about Justice League heroes in recent years and only one really measured up?  If the movie powers that be are really thinking of a Justice League movie to match up with X-Men or Avengers success, they need a new direction.  Maybe hire the team that handled Smallville?