Posted to the Website in 2006

The following reviews of new and classic genre movies, television series or tv-movies, books and magazines, comic books and graphic novels, video and dvd releases, cds and cd-roms, and internet sites, were written by members of this club during the years 2003 to present. If you are a member of Star Base Andromeda and would like to submit a review for consideration for this website, please contact us at the club's official e-mail account. Opinions expressed in the reviews on this website are solely those of the individual reviewer, and do not reflect the views of the membership of Star Base Andromeda as an organization.

 Science Fiction Scale


 Fantasy Scale




Bradbury Speaks [2005]

-- reviewed by Scott Clark


Bradbury Speaks: Too Soon From the Cave, Too Far From the Stars
Ray Bradbury
William Morrow/HarperCollins -- Hardback -- 2005 243p. -- $25.95

This book is a collection of essays by the master fantasist Ray Bradbury, gathered from his files over the course of the past 50 years.

Bradbury has always been one of my favorite authors. He has both an eloquence and exuberance with words that can't be matched by any other contemporary author. His fiction seems to be a fluid mixture of small town virtues and the awe and power of exploring the farthest reaches of space and imagination.

His essays capture much of that same intensity, but also throw a lot more "personal" attitude into the mix as well. The book is broken into six "themes": About Writing; About Science Fiction; About People; About Life; About Paris; About Los Angeles. Of these, I found the first two, About Writing and About Science Fiction to be the most interesting and engaging. The other sections varied in quality depending on the individual essays.

Although I was entertained, and found many of his views and observations to be thought-provoking, I'll have to admit that I found the essays to become somewhat repetitive. It's obvious, based on this collection, what experiences Bradbury has had which he considers to be his touchstones. He returns repeatedly to his memories and experiences of writing the screenplay to John Huston's production of Moby Dick, and several of the essays retell the same conversations he's had with specific individuals. After a while, I started to wish that he'd been a bit more judicious in selecting essays that didn't trod over the same ground.

All in all, this was an interesting read -- I learned a few things about Bradbury and his views that don't come through obviously in his fiction writing, and have a greater appreciation for his writing skills. However, I can't recommend it too highly considering the repetitive nature of the essays in what is actually a fairly short collection. Also, if you're primarily a fan of his science fiction or fantasy stories, you'll feel a bit short-changed. But a "must" for Bradbury completists.

-- posted 0602.13

Engines of Destiny [2005]

-- reviewed by Scott Clark


Engines of Destiny
Gene DeWeese
Pocket Books -- Paperback -- 2005 338p. -- $7.99

I'll have to admit, I picked up this Star Trek paperback last year after reading the cover blurb that seemed to indicate that it was a Scotty-centric story. James Doohan had just died, and I was feeling like I needed a shot of Scotty to boost my spirits. Unfortunately, I then stuck it on a pile and didn't get to it for six months.

Gene DeWeese has never been one of my favorite Star Trek writers -- I read several of his back when Pocket Books first started putting out the original Trek novels, and I found his entries to be very...workmanlike...but not really all that engaging. Engines of Destiny falls into that same trap.

The book is audacious in its scope and in how it tries to tie multiple levels or generations of Star Trek history together. The plot, in a nutshell: Montgomery Scott, stuck 75 years into his own future following the events of the STNG episode "Relics," hatches a plot. Having gotten his hands on a broken-down old Klingon Bird of Prey, he plans to slingshot back in time to rescue James T. Kirk from being captured in The Nexus, and bring him forward into the future without anyone in the past being the wiser. Unfortunately, things go horribly awry with his plan, and trap both Scotty, Kirk and the crew of Picard's Enterprise in an alternate history, where the Borg have taken over the Terran system, and Sarek of Vulcan leads a ragtag alliance of worlds attempting to find a way to slow the Borg menace. This sprawling plot, tieing together the events of Star Trek Generations, Star Trek First Contact, and numerous individual episodes of Classic Trek, Next Gen and even Deep Space Nine, should have been fertile ground for good storytelling.

Sadly, the characters all come off extremely flat and lifeless, with Kirk not even seeming to have a personality at all. The dialogue is bland. The storyline, which should have been filled with menace and wonder, as the Borg Queen who has assimilated Earth tries to determine how humans from an alternate timeline could impact her reality, instead just sort of meanders along without much energy. Two versions of Guinan lament their race's destruction at the hands of the Borg, yet I found myself barely caring. Although there were a few good "scenes" for individuals or groups of characters, the book as a whole just seemed somehow...lacking. In the end, I felt like I had just watched a particularly boring board game, in which all these interesting playing pieces (characters) got moved around on a board for no particular reason.

I had almost given up on original Trek novels from Pocket several years ago, but have picked up a just a handful of them because of what sounded like promising plots. This is one that I think only die-hard Trek fans will be able to appreciate.

-- posted 0602.15

Something Rotten [2004]

-- reviewed by Scott Clark


Something Rotten
Jasper Fforde
Viking Books -- Hardback -- 2004 385p. -- $24.95

This fourth volume in the Thursday Next series, following The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book and The Well of Lost Plots, is something of a change of pace for Fforde's literate and literary detective.

The first volume in the series stands out, particularly, for being a mind-bending introduction to the world of Thursday Next -- literature detective. A world where writers and their works hold the level of popularity and superstardom that sports stars and actors do in our own reality. A world where multi-national conglomerate rule from behind the scenes, and where innocent inventors can cause total chaos by creating a way for heartless villains to enter the plots of books, or pull well-loved literary characters into reality and assassinate them for all time.

The second and third books in the series feature the protagonist, literary detective Thursday Next, in her adventures behind the scenes in plots of classic works of fiction, and her interactions with fellow Jurisfiction agents as they patrol the world of literature to make sure it stays its course.

In Something Rotten, most of the action takes place back out in the "real world," where Thursday has given up her position as head of Jurisfiction in the Bookworld, and is forced to return to the not-so-humdrum existance of linear reality. All of the popular characters from earlier volumes return -- Thursday's crafty co-workers in SpecOps, her time-traveling on-the-run father, brief glimpses of her eradicated husband, and most importantly, outlaw fictioneer Yorrick Kaine, a villainous character from some as-yet-unidentified work of hack fiction, who's become a powerful political figure in the real world...and who intends to hold onto his power, no matter how many copies of of his original book he has to confiscate.

The Thursday Next books are always a surreal adventure, and this is certainly the case with Something Rotten. However, the most charming elements of the first three volumes have been Thursday's excursions into well-known works of literature. The reduced interaction with the Bookworld here left me longing for more. While I'd happily give each of the earlier volumes in this series four or five stars each, I'm afraid I was mildly disappointed in this one, and will downgrade it accordingly. Nevertheless, the book is still filled with wonderful humor and is a multi-layered literary treat. I still recommend the book, but you absolutely have to read the earlier volumes first -- this is not a series to try to join in the middle!

-- posted 0602.20

Storm Front [2000]

-- reviewed by Scott Clark


Storm Front
Jim Butcher
Roc Books -- Paperback -- 2000 322p. -- $7.99

This is the first volume in the popular Dresden Files series, all by Jim Butcher.

I've only been peripherally aware of this series of books for the past few years, but once I heard good things about the development of a SciFi Channel series based on these books, I figured I'd give at least the first one a try.

The Dresden Files center around Harry Dresden, a private investigator and a practicing wizard in Chicago, IL. In a world where even the cops have to admit that there are sometimes cases that they can't understand, Harry's the go-to guy when the supernatural crosses wires with the mob. The book is an odd stylistic cross between the noirish P.I. novels of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett and the hip, contemporary "acceptance of magic use" popularized by such television series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed.

While Harry himself seems a bit stereotypically world-weary to me, he does still come across as likeable and holds the book together. I can't say the same for most of the other characters, who all came off as very one-dimensional, almost torn from the writer's handbook on how to create character "types." From Harry's hard-bitten cop friend Karrin, to Morgan, his antagonistic warden (making sure he doesn't break any magical rules while he's on a sort of "probation" from the powers-that-be) to his mystical daemon who lives in a human skull and serves as Harry's version of a home computer, everything seemed vaguely predictable.

The plot of this first novel chugs along at a decent pace, and involves Harry's investigation into two cases that unsurprisingly converge into one eventually. Hired by a meek wife to find out what has happened to her vanished husband -- who has been experimenting with magical spells, Harry is also dragged into a police investigation into the murders of some mob-connected folks, who could only have been killed by black magic. Throw in a rampaging demon, a wise-ass faery, a crime-beat reporter for a tabloid, and a violent black magic wizard and you've got a mildly entertaining book. To be perfectly honest, I think it's got more potential as a TV series than as noteworthy genre literature, but it did hold my interest, and I might just check out some of the later volumes to see if Butcher's writing style improves. I'll give it a reluctant recommendation!

-- posted 0607.25

Vulcan's Soul: Star Trek Exodus [2005]

-- reviewed by Terri Dreier


Star Trek Exodus: Vulcan's Soul Book 1
Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz
Pocket Books -- Paperback -- 2005 295p. -- $7.99

The Romulans have been attacked by a very powerful enemy. A colony was destroyed and more destruction is promised. For reasons not quite explained, the enemy broadcasts the destruction on a screen set up for a Federation gathering on Earth. They intend nothing less then the destruction of all Romulans.

I am afraid this book is merely typical of what Star Trek has lately become. There are obvious problems that basic proof reading should have caught, such as chapter seven starting with the walking order of the characters and one being listed twice in the same sentence. Others were minor annoyances such as a point being repeated as if the same thing had not just been said in the previous chapter.

The retelling of history, such as Surak's gifts to the departing peoples, could be overlooked as being from different points of view if the series didn't do it so frequently and blatantly. The major change in Spock's character portrays him as downright giddy, which is almost an insult to a Vulcan.

The ease of beaming from ship to enemy ship near the end was strange, but the ability of a Vulcan science vessel to beam up fifteen Watraii guards and not scan them to reveal that they are related to Romulans is ridiculous. The story is so obviously being led to this type of ending that I'm almost offended by the greatest gathered minds of the story not even suggesting the possibility.

The concept had a similar human version in Star Trek with Sulu not very long ago. Since the main story line has barely started in this book it's unfair to say which was better done but so far this one only has aliens wearing masks. The story of the Romulans is one I was looking forward to being told but this could have been done better. I give it two stars.

-- posted 0602.07



Lady in the Water [2006]

-- reviewed by Terri Dreier


Lady in the Water
Written and Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, M. Night Shyamalan, Bill Irwin, Mary Beth Hurt and many more...

For what it was meant to be this film was very well done. It tells a story of unassuming people finding that they have a place in the grand scheme of things. With Shyamalan involved you can guess there isn't a heartwarming scene about the circle of life. Instead there is fear, frustration, confusion, and pain. The ending doesn't feel happy so much as lucky to have survived with at least all of your parts intact.

The characters were not pretty, even the nymph was subdued. The whole plot focused on how powerless these side characters were by themselves until a thread starts to pull them together. Together they are still weak with obvious fears but they are willing to believe in a cause even if it does mean facing a large monster dog armed only with pool and lawn equipment. I give it four stars, though I really don't like movies with large monster dogs lurking in the dark.

-- posted 0607.25

Underworld Evolution [2006]

-- reviewed by Scott Clark


Underworld Evolution
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Written by: Danny McBride and Len Wiseman
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Tony Curran, Derek Jacobi, Steven Mackintosh, Bill Nighy

Following on the heels of the very successful limited-budget, high-concept Underworld [2003], this sequel manages to equal the original in visual appeal and story content, as well as layer on even more action.

Many of the primary cast return -- Kate Beckinsale is extraordinary as Selene, the vampire assassin, while Scott Speedman does a passable job as Michael Corvin, the first hybrid Vampire/Werewolf mix. New to the cast for this second go-round are Tony Curran as Marcus, the first Vampire, and Sir Derek Jacobi as the immortal father to both Marcus and William (the first werewolf). Where the first Underworld film was a rock-em, sock-em vampires vs. werewolfs thriller with a Romeo and Juliet romance caught in the middle, Underworld Evolution has a bit more story to tell. It explores the backstory of the origins of both Vampires and Werewolves in this world, and the fatally misguided quest of Marcus to have his bloodthirsty brothere William released from a timeless imprisonment.

Beckinsale truly holds this film together -- without her, it wouldn't be half as enjoyable to watch. And, speaking as a red-blooded American male, Selene is an incredible figure to watch -- the black leather assassins gear she wears merely accentuates her fabulous physicality. And it's obvious she trained extensively in the fighting arts to prepare for this part. Jakobi lends a serious bit of gravitas, providing a patriarchal figure to not only his errant sons, but also to Selene, his choice to be the one who can bring peace to the Vampire/Werewolf conflict. And finally, Curran has a wonderful time chewing up scenery as Marcus, the hot-headed vampire out to save his brother.

This film definitely expands upon the mythology that began in its predecessor, and the world it creates is a visual feast. The film is all dark hues -- blues, blacks, purples -- which works in the favor of the set designers, costumers and make-up artists. Director Wiseman has commented that his special effects budget was much smaller than the big blockbuster films, but you'd never know it -- the effects work is spectacular, especially when Marcus transforms from his human appearance to his ancient, monstrous Vampire form. The stunt work is particularly impressive as well.

All in all, it isn't the most incredibly literate film to come down the pike, but it does have interesting characters, good dialogue, impressive visuals, a decent story that holds together fairly wello, and the hottest vampire killer since Buffy. I do recommend it, and especially recommend seeing it on the big screen -- I've seen the original now on television, and its visuals definitely suffer on the small screen!

-- posted 0602.20



The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [2006]

-- reviewed by Scott Clark


The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Directed by: Brian Parsons
Adapted from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, with new material by Louis Butelli
Starring: Richard Sheridan Willis, Andy Paterson, Emily Bennett, Natasha Piletich, Andrew Schwartz, Darren Ryan, Daniel Marmion, and Jay Painter

On Tuesday, March 21st, 2006, Becky and I had the pleasure of attending a performance at the Lied Center for the Performing Arts on the UN-L campus. The production was The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, performed by The Aquila Theatre Company, out of New York City.

This staged version, based on the classic horror novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, is not a straight-forward adaptation but instead, with additional material by Louis Butelli, is both a fictionalized "true-crime" story and a play-within-a-play. This version is the story of egotistical American actor Richard Mansfield, who in 1888 actually did appear in a staged version of "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" on the West End in London. Mansfield's production was being performed at the same time as the infamous Jack the Ripper murders were being committed in nearby Whitechapel. Mansfield's incredible transformation into the diabolical Mr. Hyde on stage, combined with the coincidental timing of his presence in London -- his play opened just as the real-life killings began -- led to Mansfield becoming one of the primary suspects in the Ripper killings.

The Aquila Theatre Company's production tells the story of actor Mansfield and the other actors, producers, writers and stagehands, attempting to put on their production of "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" in an increasing atmosphere of audience hysteria and police suspicion. In addition to Richard Sheridan Willis as Mansfield/Jekyll/Hyde, the other primary cast members are Andy Paterson as Sir Danvers Carew/Inspector Abberline, Emily Bennett as Agnes Carew, Natasha Schwartz as Mrs. Lanyon/Kate Eddowes, Andrew Schwartz as Utterson/Willis, Darren Ryan as Dr. Lanyon/Inspector Spratling, Daniel Marmion as Russell Sullivan, and Jay Painter as "Bram Stoker" the theater's stage manager.

The performances in the play are strong throughout, with several standouts. Richard Sheridan Willis makes or breaks the play with his central role as Mansfield, and although it was perhaps a bit too manic and "stagey" for my tastes at times, he still pulled off the role admirably. For me, his weakest element was in the section where Mansfield withdraws to the streets of London and can't perform...done a bit too broadly or melodramatically for me. Daniel Marmion brings a realistic mixture of Peter MacNichol nebbish and Gene Wilder panicky underling to his excellent performance as the playwright Sullivan. And tremendous comic relief is provided by Jay Painter as an over-the-top stage manager Bram Stoker (tall, bald, and played more as the rat-like Renfeld), and Andy Paterson and Darren Ryan as the two police inspectors hot on Mansfield's trail. The scene of the two of them, undercover in drag, in the streets of Whitechapel, is hilarious.

The play, itself, is rather uneven but holds together well enough to feel satisfying by the end. The simple, easily maneuvered set design was very effective, flipping between "backstage" and "on-stage" views very well. Costumes, lighting and sound design were all well done. The choice to have Mansfield in his "stage" make-up as Hyde throughout the show seemed questionable to me -- it stuck out awkwardly in the time when Mansfield is off-stage and not "performing". I would've preferred to see the actor portraying Mansfield/Jekyll/Hyde pull off the transformation between characters without the heavy, gaudy appearance.

All in all, this was an enjoyable performance, played out be a talented troupe of actors. The capper was the short end narration by "Stoker," who recounts the fact that Mansfield remains one of the primary suspects in the unsolved Ripper killings, which both began and ended during the period he was in London. Although this play was performed with the attitude that Mansfield was not the killer, enough ambiguity remains even in this production, to make you stop and wonder. I was sorry to see such a small turnout for the performance at Lincoln's Lied Center. I recommend catching a performance of the Aquila Theatre Company's version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, if it comes to a theater near you!

-- posted 0603.24

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