Movie Review Interstellar

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★½☆ 


Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Wes Bentley, David Gyasi

-‘Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rage at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light’

InterstellarThese lines from the poem by Dylan Thomas are repeated over and over in Interstellar, as if to emphasise the theme that as a species, we humans can be recalcitrant, resourceful and valiant – but chiefly when desperate – when our very survival is threatened. 
Interstellar opens  in America’s farm belt at an unspecified future date. The world has succumbed to famine caused by overpopulation and a blight that is killing all crops and creating huge, damaging dust storms. Nitrogen is increasing in the atmosphere, feeding the mould on the crops but decreasing the oxygen on which we depend. Slow asphyxiation or starvation is our inevitable fate. The situation is deemed irreversible – Earth as the home of humanity is doomed.

Former NASA engineer and test-pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) farms acres of corn along with his family: son Tom, (Timothee Chalamet) daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), and father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow) and struggles to cope as crops fail and dust storms rage. He’s puzzled by odd magnetic anomalies affecting his equipment and by the ‘poltergeist’ that knocks books off his daughter’s shelves.

Interstellar2NASA (whose massive real-life budget cuts lend realism to the movie’s premise) can exist in this agrarian dystopia only as a secret, underground ‘think-tank’. The respected physicist Professor Brand (Michael Caine – inevitably the repository of avuncular wisdom in Nolan’s films) and his team have devised two scenarios for saving mankind. Both plans involve abandoning Earth and starting again on a new, habitable planet, but only plan A involves taking Earth’s 6-billion population along for the ride. (Interestingly, the more likely scenario in which only the privileged few could escape is never considered or discussed). Plan B involves taking along hundreds of frozen embryos to colonize an alternative world. There is a huge problem with Plan A – namely, overcoming our gravity to launch a massive home-ship into space – but Brand is convinced he can solve the necessary equations that will make this possible. He informs Cooper that a wormhole appeared near Saturn ten years ago, conveniently arriving just when needed and fueling speculation that it may have intentionally been placed there by ‘other’ entities intent upon giving humanity a means of survival. Several years ago, astronauts were sent through to survey the potentially habitable planets on the other side. Now, armed with data from these initial scouts, another craft must make the journey to determine which world is most likely to be humankind’s final destination.

Conscious that his children, and all future generations, are at stake, Cooper agrees to pilot the craft. He is accompanied by a crew of four: Brand’s daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway); scientists Doyle (Wes Bentley – nice to see this actor back) and Romilly (David Gyasi) and the robot TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) who is reminiscent of 2001’s HAL 9000. Cooper’s beloved daughter Murph is unforgiving of her father for abandoning her – a resentment which continues into her adulthood, when (now played by Jessica Chastain) oddly, some might say, she continues the same work that took her father away by becoming Brand’s second-in-command.

Visually and conceptually audacious, Nolan’s ninth feature also manages to be more emotionally intense than his coolly cerebral thrillers, and touches on such personal themes as inter-relationships between family, the sacrifices parents make for their children (and vice versa) the repercussions of our decisions, and the effects of our irresponsibility regarding the environment which will decide what kind of world the next generation may inherit from us. Nolan’s movie is as much about the bonds of love and friendship which hold us together and inform our decisions, rational or otherwise, as the science behind such a venture into uncharted space. Interstellar is not so much a space-adventure as a space drama, presenting us with a more realistic future in which space travel, while possible, is dangerous and unpredictable. It acknowledges our current understanding of science, and the gaps in our knowledge. The effect of time dilation in the presence of a black hole is explained and there is even a little about the relationship between quantum mechanics and relativity. Luckily, Interstellar maintains the science at a level still accessible to laymen, and credit for this is owed to the veteran CalTech physicist Kip Thorne, who consulted with the Nolans and the actors on the script (and rightly receives an executive producer credit).

Interstellar3Nolan’s homages and influences are often evident. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Oddysey is referenced as is Kaufman’sThe Right Stuff , Shyamalan’s Signs and Zemeckis’s Contact.  Interstellar’s warmer tone and parent-child relationships are reminiscent of Spielberg. Limiting the use of CGI, Nolan relies on practical effects to create a movie that must feel more real than a Marvel-style space romp. There are some exciting action set pieces and the narrative is reasonably unpredictable, plus a surprise cameo appearance by an A-list actor. The movie takes some risks with its finale, which must depart from the science into speculation to provide the denouement. It will inevitably leave the viewer with some questions.

My personal peeves involve a rather overwhelming score by Hans Zimmer (someone get that man off the organ so we can hear the dialogue!) and Matthew McConaughey’s tendency to subscribe to the ‘Marlon Brando School of Method Mumbling’ which, married with his ‘soft-spoken Southern-gent accent’ makes a listener sometimes strain to hear exactly what he’s whispering about.

Interstellar is a sci-fi movie made by a realist and it indicates that even ‘the best of us’ might not be immune from fear, self-delusion and moral compromise. Here, good people lie to themselves and to their closest confidants, but they all have their reasons. Others compensate for their mistakes by making the most selfless sacrifices. Others find that their love of mankind is the very thing that makes them crack under duress – our strengths and weaknesses are not so easily definable. Perhaps the only thing in the universe more incomprehensible and complex than quantum physics, is the nature of love, fear and all human emotion.

Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2014 All rights reserved.

Have you seen Interstellar? Please share your comments below, and don’t forget to click on the yellow stars at the top of this post to share your rating (1-5 stars) of Interstellar.

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About Reviewer, Ren Zelen
REN ZELEN describes herself as “a writer, academic editor, reviewer, pop culture junkie, movie buff, rock music enthusiast, science nerd and Sandra Bullock lookalike”. Her fiction and past reviews can be found on her own website: Lethal Lexicon.

Her post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel ‘The HATHOR DIARIES’ is available from Amazon in both the UK and USA.

Her book/film/TV reviews can be found on various sites on the web. Information and contact on twitter.

Movie Review I, ORIGINS

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★★½ 


Director: Michael Cahill
Starring: Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Steven Yuen

One of the functions of Art, is to act as a catalyst towards asking those awkward, unanswered questions and scrutinizing our response to the unknown or the uncomfortable. Any movie that is brave enough to examine the relationship between science and spirituality in such an unapologetically sincere way, and yet remain engaging and undidactic, is deserving of my respect.

Iorigins

I, Origins was the opening movie for the Raindance Film Festival and is now on general release in selected cinemas. It is Mike Cahill’s second film and is a metaphysical conundrum in similar vein to his first, 2011’s Another Earth. What sets this film apart  (in addition to its glowing cinematography) is that I think very few young directors nowadays would have the nerve or ambition to examine spiritual notions so candidly, without chickening out and hiding behind a veil of irony, sardonicism or satire. Ardent and entertaining, I, Origins deserves to be one of the most discussed indie films of the year. If the ideas inherent in the interplay of science, spirituality and sex, three of the most divisive subjects in human history, don’t excite you, you’ve clearly never had any of those intense, prolonged (and usually late-night) conversations analysing and debating all of those subjects.

The movie concerns Ian Grey (Michael Pitt) – a biologist pursuing a Ph.D. in eye evolution. With the help of first-year student Karen (Brit Marling, who starred in and co-wrote Another Earth) he is searching for the genetic switch that prompts the creation of photosensitive cells, in hope of finding proof to comprehensively discredit the long-standing argument for the existence of an ‘intelligent designer’ that claims that certain natural objects — most commonly the human eye — are inherently too complex to have arisen through evolution alone. Lab-assistant Karen suggests a new approach to the problem: they should locate a sightless organism with the PAX6 gene and manipulate it, effectively building an eye from scratch. While he supports Karen’s ambition of mutating a primitive, sightless species to give them basic functioning eyes, the only eyes that are really significant to Ian at that time are those of the mystery woman he has had an encounter with at a Halloween party. The woman was covered head-to-toe in black. Her face mask reveals only her heterochromic eyes, which he photographs. But after a hurried sexual encounter in the bathroom, he loses her. But this encounter has affected him on a level he can’t quite comprehend – certainly not a rational level. He becomes desperate to find his mystery woman. After an inexplicable series of coincidences he is led to a billboard advertising French cosmetics. The billboard depicts only a pair of lovely female eyes – they are unmistakably her eyes – he recognises her gaze – impassive, hypnotic. He tracks her down, she is a model called Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and an impetuous, heady romance leads to a marriage proposal, which coincides with a major breakthrough in the lab – and then to a tragedy which will change the course of events.

The movie isn’t perfect – one has to suspend one’s disbelief and overlook some scientific jumps which might not bear close scrutiny, some attempts at humour seem incongruous. Also, the two leading female characters in the movie are clearly meant to be opposites, and disappointingly display the inevitable clichés. Marling initially somewhat overdoes the ‘intellectual female scientist’ bit – Karen is a workaholic and wears a lab-coat and specs (like her boss) so she is obviously practical and intended to be taken seriously. Meanwhile, Sofi is a spontaneous creature of impulse – sexy, exotic, free-spirited and unpredictable. The women are mind and spirit – emphasising the dichotomy between rationality and instinct, logic and intuition. Grey finds himself irresistibly drawn to Sofi, despite her contrasting beliefs to all of his intellectual endeavours. The chemistry of sexual attraction is enigmatic and irrational, and often not the choice that logic would dictate. Michael Pitt (whose own physiognomy can put any French actress’s pout to shame) carries I, Origins very capably, demonstrating fine range. He plays a man entrenched in his scientific beliefs forced to deal in the intangible, with thoughtfulness and a bruised kind of sensitivity.

To give director Mike Cahill credit, he doesn’t give us easy answers. An ensemble effort by its cast – the poignant Pitt, Marling, Bergès-Frisbey and Steven Yuen (of The Walking Dead) allows the film to become a subtle commentary on love, spirituality and science, without ever offering definitive answers – leaving the viewer to come to his or her own conclusions. Much like Ian itself, it’s a ‘Grey’ area. I,Origins doesn’t harbour any favourite theories, but instead, the film offers a platform for conversation and analysis which should leave the viewer thinking and perhaps looking at things a little differently for a while.

The film-craft and technical qualities are exceptional, from the luminous work of German cinematographer Markus Forderer, the production design by Tania Bijlani, to the mood-enhancing score by Will Bates and Phil Mossman (incorporating well-chosen tracks by Radiohead, apart from others). Mike Cahill’s artistic intentions might be described as a cinematic lens focussed onto the vagaries of human perception – here at least, putting the ‘eye’ into sci-fi. I, Origins is an intriguing examination of our attitude to science, spirituality, interpersonal relationships and the ties that bind us all together, wrapped up in an intriguing detective story. I’d advise you to go and take a look.

Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2014 All rights reserved.

Have you seen I, Origins? Please share your comments below, and don’t forget to click on the yellow stars at the top of this post to share your rating (1-5 stars) of I, Origins

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About Reviewer, Ren Zelen
REN ZELEN describes herself as “a writer, academic editor, reviewer, pop culture junkie, movie buff, rock music enthusiast, science nerd and Sandra Bullock lookalike”. Her fiction and past reviews can be found on her own website: Lethal Lexicon.

Her post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel ‘The HATHOR DIARIES’ is available from Amazon in both the UK and USA.

Her book/film/TV reviews can be found on various sites on the web. Information and contact on twitter.

Movie Review Under the Skin

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★☆☆ 


Director: Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Scarlett Johansson

 -“Time is a man, space is a woman, and her masculine portion is Death.” William Blake 

Under the Skin’ is a flawed but audacious adaptation of Michel Faber’s 2000 quirky, semi-satirical novel about an extraterrestrial predator. The movie version, directed and co-written by Jonathan Glazer (previously known for ‘Sexy-Beast’ and ‘Birth’) tells the tale on several levels: on the one hand it is a straightforward psychosexual horror movie in which feckless, lustful youths appear to receive their comeuppance, and it is also a ‘Stranger in a strange land’ story – the fish-out-of-water, the mysterious visitor transplanted out of their comfort zone into a place baffling to them. In terms of narrative and atmosphere, Glazer’s film reminded me most of ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, Nicholas Roeg’s adaptation of the excellent Walter Tevis novel in which David Bowie plays an alien who crosses the galaxy in search of water only to end up as a failure and an Earthbound alcoholic. Both Bowie’s character ‘Newton’ and Johansson’s ‘Laura’ inhabit a human form by which they eventually become distracted and derailed – the complications and unforeseen reactions of their human bodies, exemplified through interaction, sex and empathy, or lack of it, become contributing factors to their downfall.


However, the notion of alienation in this movie becomes a more complex issue and perhaps a polerizing one. One of Glazer’s achievements here is a disorienting level of discomfort, arising from familiar things being severed from their customary context. He stylishly absorbs the influences of Nicolas Roeg and David Lynch, and further filters them through the stern and dispassionate lens of Kubrick or Tarkovsky. The film becomes a stark parable about gender relations, loneliness, lust, empathy and alienation.

I’m not a great fan of Scarlett Johansson and have never found her to be the most expressive of actresses, but, like Bowie in his movie, an estranged, deadpan, understated approach is perfectly suited to this role. Laura is an alien creature adrift in a beautiful woman’s body, unwittingly learning what that may mean. In an audacious, if not wholly successful move, Johansson’s kerb-crawling expeditions were shot with hidden lenses as she trawls the streets of damp, windly, grimy Glasgow in search of male flesh. A Hollywood A-list starlet in this kind of environment is as much of an alien as any extraterrestrial from an intergalactic spaceship could ever be, and that of course, is the point. Johansson being placed in this context, with lots of hidden-camera shots of real passers-by in real Glasgow streets and Glasgow shopping centres, while she coolly sizes them up for their seduction potential and calorific value, is quite disconcerting. Her dissociated ‘life-form’ observes the earthly life-forms around her, from ants to men and while on the prowl, her expression is imperturbable and her feelings unreadable. From these genuine crowds, professional actors emerge for dialogue scenes, although one can never escape the fact that it is Johansson that dominates the screen.

Glazer’s interest is primarily in Johansson’s face and its striking, incongruous, somewhat amorphous beauty. It is helpfully deconstructed by one of the hitchhikers she picks up: “Your eyes. There’s summat about your eyes – your lips – your black hair.” She assumes a friendly personality, peppered with flattery, when she’s smoothly seducing the startled young men. The men she meets are bored and horny and can’t believe their luck— but if she is bemused by a response or begins to feel something like empathy, she retreats into a near-catatonic state, her eyes like the vast pools of dark oil that appear solid, but where the aroused men will soon disappear, engulfed into a cosmic void. Her alien lures them in with polite, persistent questions, barely pausing to hear the replies. Then she takes them back to ‘her place’ where, undressing, she leads each one into a pool of viscous black fluid where they see the bodies of former victims floating naked in the gloom. It’s never made entirely clear what the purpose of her collection is (although in the book they’re ‘meat’ for the gourmets of another planet).

While the Faber novel takes satirical swipes at a range of human targets, from sexuality to factory farming, and is a reflection on class, humanity, and sexual identity, Glazer and co-writer Walter Campbell create a sparse, slightly surreal fable with a minimum of dialogue, relying on his trademark striking visuals which here serve to juxtapose scenes of fantasy with gritty realism to disorienting effect. It has proved to be polarizing work. On initial viewing the movie was met with negative and positive criticism in fairly equal measure. The dissociation and dissonance is underlined by Mica Levi’s “musical” score — all scraping violins and droning synth jumps and thumps which remain aurally grating.

Metaphors about the male-female dynamic abound throughout – Johannson’s alien ‘Laura’ being both a watcher and predator of men. In the society she enters, and to which she brings nothing besides a body, Laura is a knowing sex-object, in dress and demeanour a kind of sex toy; she might have come to Earth to prove a point about male expectations of women. If ‘Under the Skin’ conveys any gender-political message, it does so through the disparity in excitement between the male characters’ reaction to Laura and that of her response to them and to the camera.

Her beauty is her trap but, inevitably, it also proves to be her undoing. As the Marquis de Sade observed, “We get pleasure from the sacrilege or profanation of objects that expect our worship” – he perceived that a beautiful woman excites reverence in direct proportion to how she also inspires violence – her beauty may be her power, but it is also her peril, and the beautiful woman is often especially punished for her indifference. Just like another ‘girl-next-door’ pretending to understand sex more than she really does, Laura, while aware of her appeal to men, views sexual fulfillment as an abstraction. She attempts to play by the sexual rules she sees operating in the society in which she is placed, seemingly to acquire her own ends, but the rules have their pitfalls and of these she will soon be made aware. When she allows herself to be penetrated by a comforting stranger, her shocked reaction sends her spiraling into confusion not unlike that into which she drops her own victims. She is not of this Earth, but now her alienness is a mark of a more recognizable sense of estrangement. The existentially uprooted Laura finally begins to understand herself in the way she does her victims – as a commodity, and recoils in distress from this knowledge and her newly found sentience which has been set in motion by her sexual initiation and, subsequently solidified by the violence and degradation of a sexual attack. As she comes to better understand ‘the human’, she becomes increasingly vulnerable and terrified as a woman, which I’m guessing is Glazer’s point, rather obliquely made – and that, as the film sadly articulates through its abstract visual language and downbeat ending, is no way for a girl to come to understand her body, regardless of what’s under her skin.

Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2014 All rights reserved.

Have you seen Under The Skin? Please share your comments below, and don’t forget to click on the yellow stars at the top of this post to share your rating (1-5 stars) of Under The Skin.

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About Reviewer, Ren Zelen
REN ZELEN describes herself as “a writer, academic editor, reviewer, pop culture junkie, movie buff, rock music enthusiast, science nerd and Sandra Bullock lookalike”. Her fiction and past reviews can be found on her own website: Lethal Lexicon.

Her post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel ‘The HATHOR DIARIES’ is available from Amazon in both the UK and USA.

Her book/film/TV reviews can be found on various sites on the web. Information and contact on twitter.

Review of The Circuit: Executor Rising by Rhett Bruno

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★☆☆ 


Set in the far future where Earth is now an uninhabitable wasteland, The Circuit: Executor Rising follows four people who want to defend or destroy (or both) The Kepler Circuit, a system of colonies spread through the local solar system, and its deeply religious government: the New Earth Tribunal. After a series of raids on transports carrying the newly discovered element Gravitum, the Tribunal asks a former Tribune Cassius Vale for help. Vale, unbeknownst to the Tribunal, is the one orchestrating the raids by using his seemingly unstoppable android ADIM to carry them out. This also leads the Tribunal to send the beautiful, but extremely deadly Tribunal Executor Sage Volus to spy on their most hated foe – The Ceresian Pact, who they believe are behind the raids. When Sage arrives on Ceres, she happens to fall upon the dying mercenary Talon Rayne. Sage finds her loyalty and faith to the Tribunal tested tested as Cassius Vale moves to bring down The New Earth Tribunal to its knees.


I have to mention that throughout the novel there were a few mistakes. They were mostly spelling errors which I can forgive. However, in some of the chapters (which are told from different POVs) there are mistakes with characters names, an example when having a POV character meet another character for the first time, their name should not be mentioned until the character has actually said what it is. Also, Talon (who does not know Sage’s true Identity) should not say they’re name nor have it in an inner monologue. It just took me out of the story a little bit and made it look carelessly written. Although even with these mistakes, I continued on with it.

From the first few pages the novel sets quite a dark in tone with descriptions of gruesome murders/killings throughout and uses the common dystopian fiction tropes – oppressed populace, strict governmental regime, rebels, seedy bars, prostitutes, anti-heroes etc… Now I have no problem with these tropes and I think the world of the novel is a interesting, well thought out and I can see what the author’s intent was. However, the dystopian-ness did get a little too on the nose e.g. having a bar where people could do drugs and have sex with the stripping prostitutes in front everyone else. It can become quite clichéd or sometimes ridiculous and I think the lack of subtlety is a bit of a problem. And example, although it is clear to see what they’re overall motivation is, the characters actions can be a bit on the nose. Benjar Vakari acts pleasant, sexually advances himself on Sage, apologises, gets angry – this is all done to make him look a bit of a creep, but it comes off rather like mood swings that swing faster than the speed of light. There’s no flow to his emotions. It needs a subtle build up. There is also a sort of reveal where a character has a previous connection with a dead character, which is never hinted at and looks to just be put there to advance the plot and therefore it doesn’t really work. It’s this lack of subtlety and steady-build up with in the novel’s story.

What is also obvious is that the author plans to write more novels set in this world, which is perfectly fine as I said it’s an interesting world to explore. However, the novel seemed to be setting up for further novels to be written. This again is perfectly fine, but the story suffered from it as it felt rushed in places and things happened to advance to the plot and set up cliff hangers. It needed to be a more fully rounded contained story and not try to be a set up for later novels.

In my opinion, what the novel could have done with is: at least was a polishing over, at most another draft.

All in all, I do think the characters (despite on the nose action and dialogue) and the world of the story is interesting. The novel does have its problems: spelling and wrong name mistakes, the lack of subtlety and it’s events that advance the plot to possibly set up more novels. Having said all this, I will give the author the benefit of the doubt, as it is his first adult SF novel so he can hopefully improve on some of the problems that this book has.

Have you read An The Circuit: Executor Rising? Please share your comments below, and don’t forget to click on the yellow stars at the top of this post to share your rating (1-5 stars) of The Circuit: Executor Rising.

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About the Reviewer: Born in Blackburn Lancashire in the UK, Luke grew up watching the original Star Wars films and found a love for Science Fiction. At the age of 16, while following a career at being a groundsman, he decided to take the idea of being a writer seriously and started reading novels, this is where he discovered the wonderful world of reading, particularly Science Fiction literature. He has studied film making at the University of Wales, Newport and is a big film buff He is a keen writer of Science Fiction and hopes to get his work published soon.

You can keep in touch with Luke at his blog or on Twitter

Review of Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★½☆ 


A space opera adventure with nuggets of comedy, Starship Grifters tells the story of Rex Nihilo, a ‘space-faring ne’er-do-well with more bravado than brains’. After Rex wins a planet in poker game beating (not entirely honestly) a wealthy weapons dealer Gavin Larviton, he finds that the planet is utterly useless and has debt of 1.6 billion credits. Stuck with this debt and fears of a lifetime of torture on the prison world of Gulagatraz, Rex along with his robot assistant, Sasha will do anything and fleece anybody even if it means getting involved in the war between the fascist Malarchian Empire and the rebels of the Frente Repugnante – and even double crossing them both. All while trying avoid a large breasted bounty hunter and space apostles (outer-space Jehovah’s Witnesses) and all with a Martini in Rex’s hand.


The novel is primarily a kind of 1950s Space Opera adventure with comedy peppered throughout it. The entire story is told from point of view of Sasha (a vaguely female looking robot who cannot lie), Rex’s faithful assistant, despite Rex’s incompetence, arrogance and treatment of Sasha as some sort of lackey. What Sasha untimely takes on is straight-man kind of role; someone who is the voice of reason in all the insanity happening around them. It’s very common comedic trope. However, with Sasha because she just faithfully goes a long with Rex, she becomes a little bit of a passive character. She just says “Yes sir” and does what Rex tells her and in order for this to be comedic, I think Sasha could have done with a bit more of a personality. One close example I was remained of was (although it’s a TV show) Zapp Brannigan and Kif Kroker from Futurama. Now I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, I really like Futurama and Zapp and Kif’s situation/relationship is one of its best bits. However every time we see Kif and Zapp; Kif absolutely hates Zapp and hates being around him and that’s what makes it funny. At times it’s just Kif’s reaction to it that get’s the laughs. With Sasha (this maybe down to the fact that she’s a robot) she doesn’t seem to be bothered most of the time. She just accepts Rex’s arrogance and incompetence without so much of a sigh of despair. Once or twice she gets angry, but most of the book it’s all fairly indifference. I know she is a robot, but the some of the most funny and memorable robots have personalities – that’s what brings out the humour.

So I have to ask myself ‘did the novel do the job of making me laugh?’

Now I wouldn’t say it’s up there with what maybe consider as the greats SF comedic novels like: Hitchhikers Guide (there is actual a quick homage to Hitchhikers) or some of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels, but I have to say I did laugh at points. It had some ironic humour/jokes in it, although a lot of the comedy was hit and miss. The tone of the humour at some points seemed to be silly for the sake of being silly and I personally don’t like that. Most of the humour though came from Rex. He is a sort of ironic character; he can be really incompetent yet gets out of situations using only quick thinking. The character is a twist a 1950s brave space adventurers and also a twist on 1970s anti-hero, the sense he’s a loner who is out for himself, but he is the smartest person in the room – or in Rex’s case, arguably the dumbest person in the room. This does create humour, but Rex can get a little bit annoying at times, perhaps because it is told from the point of view from someone else.

In terms of the secondary characters and the world that the novel is set in, I did enjoy the parts with Pepper who I would have liked to be involved a bit more as I found her quite an interesting character, although maybe it is better that she wasn’t used that much. It keeps the mystery about her. The character of Wick was funny and enjoyable as was General Issimo and to a lesser extent Gavin Larviton, I thought the characters were well used in their parts and had a character arc to them. I think the character of Heinous Vlaak could have been less silly, but I think that is what tone the author wanted to get across.

I found to have a good pace and story be well thought out, although the ending revelation I felt was a little bit off tone, as it went from a comedic space opera to a Philip K. Dick like kind of hidden world controlling everything. It just felt it was a bit disjointed and off tone with what had happened previously.

If you’re a hardcore SF reader, it’ll be something that has been done before a little better and maybe find the humour hit and miss. However, despite what problems I have with Starship Grifters, it is fairly short book and I think some people would find it funny.

Have you read An Starship Grifters? Please share your comments below, and don’t forget to click on the yellow stars at the top of this post to share your rating (1-5 stars) of Starship Grifters.

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About the Reviewer: Born in Blackburn Lancashire in the UK, Luke grew up watching the original Star Wars films and found a love for Science Fiction. At the age of 16, while following a career at being a groundsman, he decided to take the idea of being a writer seriously and started reading novels, this is where he discovered the wonderful world of reading, particularly Science Fiction literature. He has studied film making at the University of Wales, Newport and is a big film buff He is a keen writer of Science Fiction and hopes to get his work published soon.

You can keep in touch with Luke at his blog or on Twitter

Review of An Unproven Concept by James Young

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★★½ 


In An Unproven Concept, the year is 3050 and the Confederation Star Ship Constitution is conducting military exercises under the command of Captain Bolan. The Constitution is a hybrid ship, the brainchild of Fleet Admiral Malinverni who will do everything in his power to make sure it succeeds while other factions will make sure that it fails.


Meanwhile the Spacefaring Ship Titanic under Captain Herrod is one of a dying breed. Technology is making ships faster and cruise ships are slowly becoming a thing of the past. In an attempt to go out with a bang instead of a whimper Captain Herrod is under orders to disobey Section 195 of the Spacefarer’s Code, “A vessel whose primary purpose is the carrying of passengers will be prohibited from entering a system until it is properly named.” Considering that the only alien contact so far is from ruins thousands of years old a lot of factions wish to repeal the code. Captain Herrod is caught between a rock and a hard place and the decision he makes will have cataclysmic results.

I loved this book. The action sequences are of epic proportions. It opens on a bang and just keeps going from there. The sense of foreboding throughout the beginning of the book is so well maintained that I had to read the entire book in one sitting to find out what would happen next. What really made this book good for me were the characters. They weren’t heroes or bigger then Ben Hur they were just ordinary men and women who made choices under the worst kind of conditions. Some of the choices were bad ones and some were good but it was this that made the crews come alive for me and made the book such an exciting read.

I would also recommend Ride of the Late Rain before reading this book though I feel that An Unproven Concept stands up quite neatly on its own.

Click here to see our review of the first book in the Vergassy Chronicles series, Ride of the Late Rain.

Have you read An Unproven Concept? Please share your comments below, and don’t forget to click on the yellow stars at the top of this post to share your rating (1-5 stars) of An Unproven Concept.

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About the Reviewer: Yvonne lives on the NSW/Victorian border in Australia so it is always boiling hot or freezing cold, in other words great reading weather. She reads across all genres with the exception of Westerns. During the day Yvonne works at a library and loves her job and can’t imagine doing anything else.

You can connect with Yvonne on Twitter or Goodreads.

Review of Alien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★½☆☆ 


Out of the Shadows is the story of a group of space miners lead by Chris “Hoop” Hooper who discover the planet they are currently mining contains a nest of Xenomorphs. Just as they make this discovery a shuttle crashes into their spaceship, damaging it beyond repair. The shuttle contains, surprise, surprise, Ellen Ripley, the last survivor of the salvage ship Nostromo. (This unlikely coincidence is later explained and the explanation becomes a sub plot throughout the story). The shuttle survives the collision with minimal damage and can be used for the crew and Ripley to escape and return to Earth. However to do this they need to obtain power packs which are stored in the mine on the planet, hence confronting the aliens in their nest within the mine.


In approaching this novel the author has two major problems to overcome: the novel is set between the events of “Alien” and “Aliens” so anyone familiar with those films can easily guess the outcome of this story, while the Xenomorphs being nothing more than voracious predators and egg laying parasites are one dimensional and quickly become boring in the context of a novel. Tim Lebbon is an author that has written almost thirty novels and many novellas and short stories, yet he fails both of these challenges.  There are no unexpected surprises as the story wends its way to its conclusion; there is no attempt to give the aliens any complexity.  More disappointingly the human players have no depth of character, being mainly fodder for the action. True there is some backstory for Ripley and a little for Hooper, though these threads are surprisingly similar.

Four fifths of the book consists of the crew avoiding or fighting off the aliens with various degrees of success. This concentration on action makes for very boring reading, though, with the right, innovative director the plot could make a good Sci-Fi action movie, and this is, I suspect, where the problem with this novel lies: it is written with one, perhaps both, eyes on being turned into a film script.

In the final fifth the sub story becomes the main plot and the finale concentrates on the human dilemmas created by the preceding events and the book is much improved because of that.  Alien fans will probably enjoy this but there is little of substance for anyone else.

Have you read Alien: Out of the Shadows? Please share your comments below, and don’t forget to click on the yellow stars at the top of this post to share your rating (1-5 stars) of Alien: Out of the Shadows.

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About the Reviewer:  Bruce Taylor lives in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England and is married with two grown up daughters. He left school at seventeen, became a computer programmer in 1969 and worked in or around IT until he retired in 2011. He’s an avid reader mostly of Science Fiction.

You can connect with Bruce on Twitter.

Review of Dark Space by Jasper T. Scott

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★★☆ 


-In Dark Space Nobody Knows You Exist

Freelancer and ex-convict Ethan Ortane is in hiding from crime lord Alec Brondi, to whom he owes a considerable amount of money. Brondi lures Ortane out in the open and captures his ship as part payment of his debt. Ortane can pay of the rest by doing one last job for Brondi.


Brondi sends Ortane onto the Valiant, a prime military starship, to sabotage it and bring it down after convincing him that the vessel is bringing danger and further threat of war to Dark Space. Once on the vessel it soon becomes clear that Brondi sent him there on a one way mission.

This is a fantastic fast-paced space adventure from Jasper T. Scott and it makes for an easy and entertaining read. I could imagine a young Harrison Ford in the lead character role.

It has a simplistic, low tech style and doesn’t explore any deep or meaningful themes, which is why I give this book a four star rating as I prefer more complex storylines . So if you’re looking for a quick read that’s not too taxing on the brain cells, this is it.

This is the first book in a trilogy by this young and up-coming author and is already outselling many of the great classics. It’s well worth your time and at only $1.26 (£0.77) in kindle format is also well worth your cash too.

Have you read Dark Space? Please share your comments below, and don’t forget to click on the yellow stars at the top of this post to share your rating (1-5 stars) of Dark Space.

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About the Reviewer
J.M.Tweedie writes Science Fiction and is currently three quarters of the way through her first novel (as yet untitled). When she’s not writing, she can usually be found working hard at her full time day job with the NHS UK, looking after her family or with her head in a good book.
You can find out more about her and sample some of her writing at her website or alternatively follow on Twitter.