Category Archives: Reviews

Soylent Green VS Make Room! Make Room!

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Most of us are familiar with the twist of Soylent Green, even if we haven’t seen it (spoiler: Soylent Green IS MADE OUT OF PEOPLE!), but most probably aren’t as familiar with the book that inspired the movie.  So how does  Make Room! Make Room! (Harry Harrison, 1966) compare to Soylent Green (1973)?  It’s time for a Book VS Movie Smack Down!

Plot

In Soylent Green, Detective Thorn investigates a murder which leads him to learning the secret about what the government is feeding the populace. In Make Room! Make Room!, Andrew Rusch investigates a murder which is thought to be a conspiracy but it turns out to be just a botched robbery attempt. In comparison, the movie’s plot is much more spectacular than the novel’s.  The second half of the novel actually loses a little focus on plot, and instead chooses to focus on the characters as they try to live their lives day to day in the dump that New York City has become.  While this gives us pretty good insight into a crappy future where the food and water supplies have run thin, it doesn’t make for as an exciting story as the movie.

Winner: Soylent Green

Characters

The biggest change here is the name of the main character – in Make Room! Make Room! it’s Detective Andy Rorsche, and in Soylent Green it’s Detective Thorn.  I guess Andy Rorsche just wasn’t a cool enough name.  In Soylent Green, he investigates a murder case on his own volition, and makes a wild discovery because of it (the whole people thing…you get the idea). In the novel, he’s over worked, under paid, and is reluctant to take on the murder case, except for the fact that there’s a cute girl involved – pretty much how a normal person would react in this situation.  In the movie, Andy/Thorn’s love interest Shirl is reduced to nothing more than a piece of furniture who’s purpose is only for sex.  Honestly, the movie would be pretty much the same without her in it. In the novel, sure she returns the favor to get into a party or whatever, but she is a little more three dimensional than that.  We even see the relationship between her and Andy grow as she moves in with him and adjusts back to the poor life (the way she grew up) and eventually see it fall apart because Andy’s a bone head.

The book does an excellent job of portraying the characters – they all make mistakes, pay for them, and move on with their lives (well, except for the ones that eat it).  The movie mostly justs throws characters in to sort of fit in with the book, but just ends up doing whatever most of the time.  The movie makes some really weird changes with characters. It turns the murder victim from a crooked “businessman” who was in the rackets to a good samaritan that’s trying to release the secrets of the organization he worked for.  Shirl’s bodyguard is whitewashed and turned into a character that hunts Thorn throughout the movie, and Billy Chung, the murderer, is also whitewashed and he is tuned into more of a hitman.  This was a bummer, because one of the most interesting parts of the novel is following the decisions he makes because of his situation as a poor Chinese American in a piece of crap city.

Winner: Make Room! Make Room!

Setting

Soylent Green takes place in the year 2022, in an overpopulated New York sprawl, while Make Room! Make Room! takes place in the year 1999.  Both do a great job of showing the depravity of the over populated New York, from its stair wells overflowing with homeless to the lots where cars have set dead for years and serve as warm homes for the vagrants.  The world building in both is amazing – most of the time it feels like the world is going to smother you, there’s a constant sense of congestion on the streets that works well in both mediums.

Winner: Tie!

Theme

The obvious theme in both is that if left unchecked, overpopulation could be the thing that brings mankind down.  Make Room! Make Room! gets a little preachy at times while delving into the topic of birth control to stave the problem, which the movie never touches on, and hits a little on resource usage.  Both the movie and book are there to really make you think, and even though culturally we are more aware of the dangers of resource exhaustion, we still have a ways to go to solve these problems.

Winner: Make Room! Make Room!

Overall

Soylent Green provides a more exciting story with a nice conspiracy and twist at the end, while Make Room! Make Room! provides more thought provoking material while giving a more in depth look at life in an overpopulated world.  That said, I think both are pretty awesome, and you should check them out if you get the chance.

Winner:  Make Room! Make Room!

Anybody seen the movie and read the book?  Any thoughts on which one you liked better?  Let me know down in the comments!

REVIEW: Rot & Ruin

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Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan Maberry definitely has a new fan for life. I was already a fan after the action packed Patient Zero and Dragon Factory, and Rot & Ruin just seals the deal. Plus, he just seems like an awesome guy.

Maberry transitions to the young adult scene without a hitch, providing us with the coming of age story of Benny Imura, who’s grown up without ever knowing the world before First Night (aka the zombie apocalypse). The world building is handled creatively, showing each aspect of Moutainside, the village the survivors of First Night inhabit, by way of Benny searching for and trying out many of the jobs, which range from fence tester to bottler. Bottler – as in bottling the juices from dead bodies to create Cadaverine, useful for tricking zoms into thinking you are one of them. He finally admits defeat and joins his brother Tom, who Benny has zero respect for, to become a bounty hunter, and this is where the real fun begins. Benny has an eye opening experience out in the Rot & Ruin, realizing that the bounty hunters he had once looked up to were less human than the zoms they hunted, and gradually learns the truth about the kind of guy his brother really is.

Maberry sticks with the philosophy so prevalent in Romero’s zombie films, which is that the zombies aren’t the real things we should be careful of – it’s other human beings. The same existential “I take what I want” type of attitude that is apparent today is still rampant (if not more so) out in the Rot & Ruin, as expected in any post apocalyptic society. Maberry does take the social commentary a step further, however, and makes you really question the way we think about zombies. About how they used to be someone’s family member, lover, child, parent, and how even though they might try to gnaw your eyes out, they should still be treated with respect. This doesn’t mean the novel skimps on zombie slaying action – there’s plenty of  katana slicing and bokken bashing to keep fans of the genre excited.

Verdict: There’s a good reason why Rot & Ruin has been getting rave reviews – it’s awesome. It rocks that Maberry is creating something that adolescent male readers can easily get into, and even though I claim to be an adult, I know I’ll be buying the sequels.

Flash Book Reviews (Dec 2010)

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It’s that time again – Flash Book Reviews!  It’s like flash dance, except with books! Er, maybe not…

Rainbows EndVernor Vinge An awesome look at a very possible future. Augmented reality takes center stage here, and the story stays entertaining throughout. Main complaint is that a couple of character threads are left dangling. Verdict: If you want to see what the future will look like, read it. (Check out my full review of Rainbows End here)

The RoadCormac McCarthy Can someone buy this man some quotation marks? The experimental style was distracting when I first picked it up, but the further I got in, the more it just worked. The bleakness of this story about a man and his son is incredible. Verdict: If you enjoy psychologically tense and/or post apocalyptic stories, read it.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective AgencyDouglas Adams My first read into Adam’s books.  It involves a horse, a ghost, a murder, an electric monk, and whatever Dirk Gently actually is (fraud or genius? Or both?). A good portion of this novel is spent on the set up, but it is handled with so much wit that I didn’t even care.  The threads that Adams creates tie together nicely at the end where we discover why all this zany stuff is going on. Verdict: If you want something a little more light hearted and witty (or if you are a fan of Dr. Who type stuff), read it.

Mocking JaySuzzane Collins The final book in the Hunger Games trilogy.  I wasn’t a fan of how some of the characters stories were resolved, and the end felt a little forced. Still, it was an enjoyable read and there was a couple of nice twists. Verdict: If you’ve read the 2nd novel, read it.

Shade’s ChildrenGarth Nix This novel really jumps into the thick of it with one of the main characters being hunted by mutant creatures from another dimension.  The story follows four children who are gifted with a special power as a side effect of the “Change”, and they use these powers to fight against the Overlords and their minions (which leads to some decent action). I loved the logs between chapters and how it lets you get more of a peak into some of the character’s heads. Verdict: Awesome story. If you enjoy superpowers in a unique environment, read it.

REVIEW: Rainbows End

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Rainbows End – Vernor Vinge

Rainbows End is a book crammed with ideas. Set only fifteen years from now, it has some ideas that might seem inconceivable at first, but when looking at the rate of progress in technology, and the rate at which our society accepts and becomes accustomed to each piece of new technology, it’s really not hard to believe Vinge’s future.

The main focus of the technologies used in the story is augmented reality, and it’s a technology I can definitely get excited about. In this story, the characters all “wear” their computers using a special shirt and contacts. Using gesture based recognition and data overlays on their contact lenses, they text message, google search, and game – the interactions are the same ones we are using with smart phones today, the only thing that’s different is the hardware, so the story is able to stay grounded in reality. Still having a heard time deciphering that? Just check out these modern day examples, or check out the following demo video (warning – this one goes a little overboard):

As kind of a side note/rant, the book never really discusses the price of the wearables and data plans, which is good because that might have been boring, but if things continue on as they do today then there’s a good chance we’ll be paying huge lump sums to carriers for the data plans. Here’s to hoping things change in that area.

Vinge does a decent job of introducing us to the tech through the character Robert Gu, who had just spent the last decade in a coma and learns about the changes in the world as we go along. Kind of a cheap trick to use him as an audience surrogate, but it works.

The actual story starts off by deliberately revealing the main antagonist’s goal and motive, which is a bit surprising. This could have been held off for a reveal later on for suspense purposes, but it adds a nice layer to the story and puts the focus more on the methods with which the antagonist arranges everything, and also on how he is being used himself.

I loved the mystery set up around the character that goes by the moniker of “Rabbit”, and how he interacts with each character to get them to the point that fits into his master plan. I was a little disappointed that Rabbit never got full closure by the end of the book, and it’s left open to interpretation as to who (or what) he is.

Towards the end of the story, there’s a huge chunk dedicated to two factions of book lovers who participate huge LARP game to decide who’s favorite author would get a floor in the library. I found that part a bit harder to get in to, but it fit into the scheme of the rest of the story, and by the end it make sense why it needs to be there.

My biggest complaint is that there are a couple of threads left dangling – hopefully setting the story up for a sequel – and I would have liked a bit more closure with a couple of the characters (okay, Rabbit).

Final Verdict: Pretty Awesome, read Rainbows End if you want a good look at a very near and very possible future.  I just hope Vinge writes a sequel for it, and soon!

Flash Book Reviews (Oct-Nov 2010)

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Flash book Reviews is something I’m going to try to do every couple of months just to sum up the books I’ve read, and then give a verdict that basically tells you to read it too.

Jumper – this was made into a movie that wasn’t as fun or interesting as the book. HOW DO YOU SCREW UP A MOVIE ABOUT TELEPORTATION? Especially when the book it’s based on has a decent plot (although coincidental at times). Even though you don’t get to the real action (terrorists!) until a good way into the book, the story is still entertaining and fast paced. Verdict: Pretty cool, read it.

Deathworld Trilogy – Three books in one about a gambler looking for a big risk. He decides that going to a planet that is out to kill all humans is the risk he’s looking for.  Fun, classic Harrison, and a little darker at times than his Stainless Steel Rat stories. For some reason the main character forgets he has psy powers in the 2nd and 3rd novels, kind of a bummer since it was fun.  Verdict: Cool 60s Sci Fi.  Read it.

Dune – Bene Gesserit, Mentats, and kwisatz haderach – if you have no idea what those words mean, you must be around page 50 of this book.  Once you get past the hump of “WTF is this book about?”, you start to appreciate all the concepts and you get a really cool story with some tense situations and  fun action scenes. Verdict: Classic, read it.

Dune Messiah – Paul has gained control of the galaxy, but he’s stuck dealing with stuff on the desert planet of Arrakis.  This one has shape shifters!  And BTW, Paul is responsible for the death of billions? Verdict:  Decent follow up, read it.

Children of Dune – This book took me forever to get through.  Interesting yet tragic ending to the trilogy.  Verdict: If you’ve already read the first two you might as well tackle this one too.

The Eternal Prison is Awesome

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The Eternal Prison is the third book in the Avery Cates series by Jeff Somers, in which we follow Avery Cates, a gunner, as he goes to jail, escapes jail, goes back to jail, escapes jail…and I think goes back to jail again – each time leaving a trail of bodies behind.

The story takes place after The Eternal Church and The Digital Plague, which if you haven’t bought yet you should do yourself a favor and go to the bookstore, smash the window in with a brick, grab these books, and run before the cops get there.  Or, you know, just go buy them from amazon.

In this novel we get to see Avery take on Russians, cops with robot bodies, and towards the end we get some love from the Spooks (pushers and telekinetics). There are some unique twists and turns throughout this novel, which I’ll let you have the joy of figuring out.  The one thing I can’t figure out is how each book in this series somehow manages to be more awesome than the last, and I’m definitely looking forward to getting The Terminal State and the currently untitled 5th book in this series.

Jeff Somer’s writing, while sometimes a little too heavily reliant on the f-bomb for edginess, is an avatar full of wit covered with a layer of blood, grease, and dirt and rammed into a brick wall at 200 mph.  Trust me, that’s a good thing.

Verdict: Awesome