Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review of Paradise Left by Evan Dicken, Published on Daily Science Fiction

Who doesn't love the singularity?

No, I don't mean a wormhole, Bajoran or otherwise. I mean the AI singularity. Although the singularity does not have one definition, I will attempt a rough explanation here. For the uninitiated, the singularity is the concept whereby technology, which is advancing at an exponential rate, will reach a point where technology surpasses human intelligence, and then continues to advance. After that point, it is impossible for humans to predict the outcome, and some have postulated that human affairs as we know them cannot continue. Based on some estimates, the singularity may in fact be sooner than we think.

So what does this have to do with the review at hand? (Warning, some spoilers are ahead).

The short story, which can be found here, portrays human life after the singularity. AI has reached unimaginable heights, and thus has formed a sort of nanny state, watching out for all humans, at the cost of their sovereignty over their own affairs.

The narrative focuses on a marital dispute which fleshes out the underlying issues of this brave new world. The wife is a fighter for mankind's independence, conflicted and possibly misguided, striving against utopia in the pursuit of freedom. This raises some interesting issues as to the actual nature of freedom (i.e. the people are free to do what they want, but are under the benevolent oversight of the AIs).

Ultimately, the resistance fighters decide to leave the homeland to break free of their robot shackles. However, the final lines of the stories foreshadow that, like in Asimov's "The Last Question," their problems will still follow them. Speaking of Asimov, this piece also borrows from Asimov's I Robot in some ways, at the expense of some originality.

Overall, this take on a "dystopian utopia" was interesting, as was the nature of the "war of resistance." However, the actual delivery of the plot, and the climax that it built to, lacked punch for me.

Overall, I give this piece 3 stars out of 5. "Good."

Market Highlight: Unidentified Funny Objects

I have never really written any form of humor stories. I enjoy comedies in theater and the movies, so on some level it seems like a natural fit. However, I always find my sci fi turns into "doom and gloom" stories. Also, it is exceedingly hard to write comedy, as what sounds funny in your head might just be boring in the mind of another.

However, I recently became aware of an anthology which specifically publishes humorous science fiction stories, Unidentified Funny Objects. I highly recommend this for light reading, and look forward to this year's edition.

I am proud to say that I recently completed a story, entitled "A Relative Hangover" for submission to this anthology. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Critical Reviews for my work entitled The Exterminator

This post is actually a long past-due recognition for a colleague, Steven Wittenberg Gordon, who was kind enough to share his thoughts on my first professionally-published work, The Exterminator. The review can be found by clicking here (Flash fiction requires a flash review!). The link connects to his excellent blog, entitled Songs of Eretz, where you can read more about the author, his work, and his critical reviews of other works.

The story itself can be found here, where it was originally published, in Daily Science Fiction: The Exterminator by Erik B. Scott.

Thanks for taking the time to look at my work, Dr. Gordon!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Inaugural post, and Film Review of Tom Cruise's Oblivion

Hello and welcome to my blog. I am a relative newcomer to the professional speculative fiction writing community, but I have thus far certainly been enjoying the ride. I plan on using this blog as a forum to express my thoughts on what I read, write and watch, as well as to communicate with readers and fellow authors. I am very responsive to posts and emails and love to hear from fellow sci-fi lovers.

Without further ado, I will break into my first actual content piece: a brief review of Tom Cruise's Oblivion (contains some spoilers):

I went into this movie with low-to-moderate hopes. Big-budget sci fi has largely been a mess lately, and I'm still getting over the gut-punching hope-dashing that Ridley Scott gave me in last year's Prometheus. I'm also admittedly not a huge Tom Cruise fan. So, I went into the movie with my share of biases, but despite all of this, I can admit that I left the movie theater entertained.

That is not to say that Oblivion is a great, or even a very good, film. Indeed much of it was derivative, prompting one reviewer, Tom Charity, to say: "If you poured all the most memorable sci-fi films from the past half century into a blender, from "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the original "Planet of the Apes" all the way down to last year's "Prometheus," you would probably wind up with something very similar [to Oblivion]."

While I admit that I did notice the numerous tropes and concept-borrowing that Charity is alluding to, I did not find that, overall, this movie was a derivative experience. Importantly, I left the theater WITHOUT the feeling that I had seen this exact movie before (and that's a good thing).

The plot focuses around a team of technicians stationed on a post-apocalyptic Earth. They are tasked with defending the machinery that mankind is using to relocate to a new celestial home, now that mother Earth is no longer hospitable. In their way stand remnants of the alien forces that decimated Earth in the first place. Not a bad post-apocalyptic setting, and not one that I've seen before.

The film's opening acts are fairly slowly-paced, and I found myself wishing that things would just get where they were going. Once the plot ramped up, though, the pacing markedly improved. The movie's trailers spoil one of the film's major plot twists, so I went into it with the "I see all this coming," mentality. However, the film also delivers a pretty strong twist about two-thirds of the way through that turns is all on its head, and I most assuredly did not see it coming.

Action sci-fi fans will likely be underwhelmed by the overall lack of "shoot-em-up" sequences, but since this is not my taste anyway I found the action sequences that did appear were overall both exciting and appropriate.

It was not all peaches and cream, though, as I was also plagued by several instances where I was unable to achieve suspension of disbelief. These moments were mostly concerning the motives of the antagonist in the final movement of the plot. They seemed a bit far-fetched. Additionally, a plot arc introduced late in the movie just did not work for me (spoiler alert) surrounding the introduction of clones.

Overall, Oblivion is a fair film, one that I do not regret watching but that I would be hard-pressed to watch again. I give this film a 6.5/10, which is perhaps a bit higher than most critics will allow, but I appreciated the ambitious scope that the movie attempted to capture, and gave some bonus points for creating an overall original experience (tough to do in today's derivative movie industry).

-Erik B. Scott