Star Trek: Beyond!

I’ve Just seen Star Trek: Beyond and I was very impressed. I left it feeling satisfied, entertained, moved and uplifted, despite all the tragedy and controversy leading up to its release that cast something of a pall over it (especially the untimely loss of Anton Yelchin, who was a promising talent and particularly great in Odd Thomas). I urge any long standing sci-fi and ‘Trek fans to see it.

There’s one particular action sequence scored with a very well known and thematically appropriate Beastie Boy’s song (that put a huge grin on my face) that’s worth seeing it for alone, regardless of all the other great stuff (Spaced references that have been snuck in by co-writer Simon Pegg) including ‘York Town’; which is an astonishing bit of design and visual effects work.

The Sulu being gay stuff is sweet and handled well, with no heavy handed fuss made of it in the story, which is how they should’ve let it be revealed to the audience, rather than making a huge deal out of it, because what does it matter (though I agree with George Takei’s argument). We should be beyond this shit now, in keeping with Roddenberry’s vision.

My only complaints are in how director Justin Lin has handled some of the action set pieces. There’s some real confusing transitions, disorienting choreography and jumpy editing going on! He clearly comes from the Michael Bay school of filmmaking; and it’s a bad fit in places. Plus, the light balance was way out in certain night-time sequences, being unnecessarily murky and desaturated. It felt like you were watching it with the brightness set to minimum.

Regardless of these quibbles, it was an engaging and original story that had a classic Trek feel, without lifting material from previous, well established, iconic instalments (which was really the only bad thing about the previous movie – it should’ve been another of the genetically engineered super-soldiers from the Botany Bay; who rose to prominence instead of Kahn in this alternate timeline!); and nicely sets up the next film to boldly go into new and unexplored territory, where no previous ‘Trek enterprise has gone before.

Long may you live and prosper, you magnificent bastards!

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READY PLAYER ONE [Book]

Ready Player One art by Dalton James Rose

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I urge anyone that grew up in – or raised a family through – the 80′s and 90′s like me that loves games (of both the video and tabletop variety), comics, movies, music, fantasy and sci-fi to immediately purchase and read this superb sci-fi novel. Like fellow fantasy/sci-fi novelist Patrick Rothfuss (who wrote the equally superb Kingkiller Chronicle) is quoted as saying on the back cover: ‘This book pleased every geeky bone in my geeky body. I felt like it was written just for me.’

I wish I could do better, but I can think of no better hook-line to describe it and entice you than the quote on the front cover from a USA Today review which states; ‘Enchanting. Willy Wonka meets The Matrix‘ – though there’s also a pinch of ‘The Last Starfighter‘ in there too.  Here’s the blurb/synopsis from it’s amazon.com page:

“In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.”

Ready Player One book cover

Ready Player One book cover illustration by WHISKYTREEINC designed by Jim Massey

Wade's AVATAR arriving in the OASIS at the Club called THE DISTRACTED GLOBE

Wade’s AVATAR arriving in the OASIS at the Club called THE DISTRACTED GLOBE from Ready Player One by poster artist Gordon Jones

Not only is it a great read, but it’s packed with cultural references (both obscure and well-known – ‘Spectreman‘ anyone?) to various things from those periods that older readers (30+) will be able to appreciate in a haze-state of pure nostalgia, while still being a relevant, topical and believable work of speculative, satirical fiction about our future, that takes into account how rapid advances within the fields of interactive technology and entertainment media are starting to radically alter our society on every level –  as well as serious economic and environmental issues – and projects them into a future dystopia where they have reached their apex, and redundant cultural artefacts from the past become the key to saving the world from potential corporate hegemony. Woof.

Spectre Man & his nemesis 'space ape man' Dr. Gori!

Spectreman & his nemesis ‘space ape man’ Dr. Gori! By deviantartist PUNGANG

The concept is so smart and deceptively simple that it kills me that I didn’t conceive of something similar myself and I have the highest regard for author Ernest Cline and wait with keen interest to see what he comes up with next.

Ernest Cline & his Delorien

Ernest Cline & his Delorien (yes really, it’s his)

Without meaning to diminish what he has accomplished, he has conceived of a fictional world/platform that has allowed him to incorporate his passion and knowledge of all the geek/pop-culture that he grew up with that has obviously inspired him through his formative years, while also exploring new cultural and technological concepts, extrapolated from current trends and developments in a futuristic setting. So it looks both to the past and to the future and as a result has a wide appeal to a multi-generational audience, including middle aged parents of teenagers and even their grandparents above them.

'Fantastic Crossover Ultimate Battle' from Ready Player One

‘Fantastic Crossover Ultimate Battle’ from Ready Player One by deviantartist SharksDen

It incorporates all of the classic genre tropes of a more traditional ‘hero’s journey’ fantasy saga, where the protagonist ‘comes of age’ through a ‘rites of passage/trial by fire’ thanks to a lot of the plot driven virtual world quests and experiences that the character has via his avatar, while also being a very contemporary, forward thinking, subversive science fiction novel about environmental concerns and the impact technology has upon society. And it’s very funny too! His use of certain classic video games and characters from japanese pop-culture in crucial scenes is meta-level comic and dramatic genius (well, to those of us who get why in any case).

'Joust' from Ready Player One

Joust from Ready Player One by deviantartist zippo514

For another extra-meta-level cultural geek kick, you should also listen to the audiobook, as it’s read by current nerd-lord host of Geek & Sundry’s board game game show ‘Tabletop‘ and 80′s child star Wil Wheaton (who playedWesley Crusher in ‘Star Trek The Next Generation’ and Gordie Lachance in the classic coming of age drama ‘Stand By Me‘ – based on Stephen King‘s excellent short story ‘The Body’). As he is mentioned a number of times within the book in various contexts this is highly amusing on a number of levels.

Wil Wheaton & magnificent beard.

Wil Wheaton & magnificent beard.

Wil Wheaton sans magnificent beard.

Wil Wheaton as ‘Wesley Crusher’ in ‘Star Trek: TNG’ sans magnificent beard.

Tabletop Logo

LINKS TO STUFF I’VE MENTIONED & USED IN THIS POST:

• Buy/read ‘READY PLAYER ONE’ the book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ready-Player-One-Ernest-Cline/dp/0099560437/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391193293&sr=1-1&keywords=ready+player+one

• Buy/listen to ‘READY PLAYER ONE’ as an audiobook:

http://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Ready-Player-One-Audiobook/B007PR58RQ/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1391193359&sr=1-1

• Author ERNEST CLINE’s official website:

http://www.ernestcline.com/

• Everything you ever wanted to know about ‘SPECTRE MAN’! (& will probably wish you didn’t after):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectreman

• Buy/rent/watch the film ‘WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY’:

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Willy-Wonka-Chocolate-Factory-DVD/dp/B00004D2Y4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391193447&sr=8-1&keywords=willy+wonka

http://www.cinemaparadiso.co.uk/rentals/willy-wonka-and-the-chocolate-factory-1971–4983.html?trkId=H-Cu99kDEQ8RLjfGBJdFHw2

• Buy/rent/watch the film ‘THE MATRIX’ (though if you haven’t seen this film & don’t already own it – where the frak have you been?!! & what is frakking wrong with you? KEANU RULES!):

The Matrix
The Matrix. Again Neo.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Matrix-DVD-Keanu-Reeves/dp/B00004R80K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391193471&sr=8-1&keywords=the+matrix

http://www.cinemaparadiso.co.uk/rentals/the-matrix-1999–1658.html?trkId=Ucr2BVJ4IQTr4X5khvV5-w2

• Buy & watch ‘THE LAST STARFIGHTER’:

The Last Starfighter

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Starfighter-Region-Import-NTSC/dp/B0024FADAQ/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1391345192&sr=8-4&keywords=last+starfighter

• Visit the GEEK & SUNDRY website:

http://geekandsundry.com/

• Watch episodes of WIL WHEATON’s board game game show TABLETOP:

Tabletop Logo

http://geekandsundry.com/shows/tabletop/

• Don’t know who WIL WHEATON is? Shame! Educate yourself here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wil_Wheaton

• Buy/rent/watch the film ‘STAND BY ME’:

Stand By Me

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stand-Me-DVD-Wil-Wheaton/dp/B000050GQA/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1391194169&sr=1-1&keywords=stand+by+me

http://www.cinemaparadiso.co.uk/rentals/stand-by-me-1986–3579.html?trkId=oc3fHwN0smbyeRf_yQ8CxQ2

• To read the novella ‘THE BODY’ by STEPHEN KING you should purchase the anthology ‘DIFFERENT SEASONS’:

Different Seasons

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Different-Seasons-Stephen-King/dp/144472360X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391194032&sr=1-1&keywords=different+seasons

• WHISKYTREEINC who illustrated the cover for Ready Player One:

http://www.whiskytree.com/

• SHARKSDEN Deviant Art page:

http://sharksden.deviantart.com/

• ZIPPO514 Deviant Art Page:

http://zippo514.deviantart.com/

• BUTTNUMBATHON poster art Facebook page where you can see more of GORDON JONES work:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Buttnumbathon/30478008067

• The AINTITCOOLNEWS article about READY PLAYER ONE where I cheekily pilfered certain images from (thanks & sorry):

http://www.aintitcool.com/node/51121