I read this the first time over 15 years ago. Liked it quite much then. It’s a fix-up of stories about a girl who becomes the brain of a spaceship, a cyborg-spaceship in effect. On my reread I was less impressed with the book. It feels somehow more naive than I care for and sometimes it is far too melodramatic for my taste.
I was also a bit disappointed with how underused the whole cyborg-spaceship concept was. Instead of trying to explore what such a setup would really do to the perception and concept of self of a human being, McCaffrey writes Helva like an everyday woman who just somehow happened to become the central processing unit of a spaceship. She loves, she mourns and her whole world turns around human society, human norms and human activities.
It might have been a good message then (you know, accepting that even a cyborg spaceship is deep down not so much different), but not a very realistic one. As much as I disliked the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, when Cavil explained why he hated humanity, he nailed exactly what such a brainship could have truly been like. A being of space, seeing a much wider spectrum, experiencing the universe in quite a different way.
McCaffrey makes concessions to this way of thinking, but too few to make it convincing. Helva, in the end, still feels like a woman imprisoned in a shell. McCaffrey’s attempt to make her appear human are too successful.
Unlike the later attempt to make a spin-off series (The Legend of the Rangers, 2002), this movie was at least partially successful. Partially, because the spin-off lasted only one season. As I’m presently in the process of seeing it, I can understand why. But this is about ACtA.
At least the story seemed okay. We see Garibaldi and Sheridan again, the Drakh get revisited and there are some interesting developments. But the plotting itself was quite inept. Sherian becomes dream-infused and goes off to collect some unknown people, unable to even explain why. This all reeks too much of directorial intervention than something a well written Sheridan would have done. Sheridan, who fought against overwhelming odds to free our galaxy from the imposed choices of the Vorlons and Shadows, would hardly follow the words of an annoying technomage who spouts some cryptic crap.
Sure, Sheridan followed Lorien, but even then he was his own man and made his own choices. Here he merely follows the script and in doing so feels like a caricature of the character from the original series. The movie is not completely bad, but it hardly made me exited to see the spin-off Crusade. None of the new characters was interesting and even the old ones managed to be less interesting. And the ship design of the Excalibur was pretty boring.
I bought this purely on the strength of Old Virginia, which I read in one of the Fantasy Year’s Best and which I really enjoyed, even if my memory was a bit dim on the details till my reread. After reading this collection I realize again that I’m probably not the best audience for horror. I prefer plain and clear writing, not stylistic attempts that make the whole thing overly opaque, even when the main plot is actually quite simplistic. I really do like explanations somewhere along the way, not a tapestry of hints and guesswork. All the stylistic tics by Barron that tried to evoke a nightmarish and drugged state (most of the stories are told from a first person viewpoint) got really on my nerve.
All that said, I haven’t read much horror writing, so it might be that people who regularly read horror appreciate this stuff especially because of the things that annoyed me. And most of the stories had elements I really enjoyed, both on the writing and on the content level. Together with Old Virginia I liked Procession of the Black Sloth (even if I don’t get the ending completely) and the final story The Imago Sequence. In the end I didn’t get what I wanted from the collection, but it was still a fascinating and compelling read.
06/2011: These are the kind of stories that linger on longer than you expect them too, that leave a bigger impression than what you first thought. Part of their appeal is a weird mix of repulsiveness and attraction that is hard to pin down, especially if you think you don’t like this kind of stories and yet are still drawn to them. Like a virus I can’t get them out of my mind. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.
One of the attempts to make a spinoff series of Babylon 5. This tanked rather badly, mostly because it had to compete with a football game. I never cared much for football, but at least this time I have to be thankful for it. The movie is really bad. Reminded me of the Wind Commander movie. Young, cookie-cutter Top Gun bravadoes who have to go through the motions of a generic plot with utterly generic villains. Everything feels cliched and the acting is mediocre. Sure, we can see G’Kar for a few moments, but there are too few of them to safe this trainwreck.
Even with all the elements from the Babylon 5 universe, this doesn’t evoke the sense of taking place in the same setting. The evildoers are never mentioned in any of the other movies, which gives this the feeling of having entered an alternate reality. And the whole thing about the Ranger never backing out of a fight seems kinda silly and I can’t remember such an important rule having ever been mentioned in the real series.
But the most silliest, ludicrous element of the movie, one that shattered my suspension of disbelief completely was the whole weapons officer in a virtual reality room firing with her arms and legs striking at the enemy ships. This was so utterly awful, utterly moronic that it defies description. But thanks to YouTube everyone can see the horror.
The first Castlevania that broke with the old platformer mold and introduced RPG-elements is still a great game and as much fun as when I played it years ago. I had forgotten how steep the initial difficulty of the game is. Unlike its descendants for the handhelds, you’ll die a lot at the begin of the game. Later the game becomes pretty easy, but then you’ll often get stuck, trying to figure out what to do next.
There’s actually not much I can complain about. I never used magic, since I resent learning beat’em up-like key combinations in non-beat’em ups, but those spells aren’t essential anyway so that wasn’t a big concern of mine. I liked the story, it’s minimalistic, but still effective and doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay. Overall, great game.
Released relatively late in the life cycle of the Gameboy Advance, Drill Dozer has some interesting innovations to the platformer formula and a very nice presentation, but still only feels like a nice diversion, full of unfulfilled potential. One reason: it’s relatively short. Another reason: the controls. While the whole drilling aspect felt relatively fresh in the beginning, its freshness began to wear out and then my game character felt rather limited in its movements. The gameplay never developed the same flow some of the better platformers do.
The controls could have also used some fine tuning. Most of the time the game was extremely easy, but the bosses, while using the whole drilling aspect in an inventive way, could be quite aggravating because of the control scheme. And whoever designed the propeller section and its final boss, especially the third form, should be shot. I hate games where you have to master a special key combination to just defeat one enemy. This isn’t a beat’em up, but a platformer.
TRoS deals with the two aspects of the series I found the most annoying, the fact that souls exists and the whole evolving-into-energy-beings stuff. I don’t mind faith or religion in a science fiction setting, but handling imaginary elements as real entities always pisses me of, as long as it isn’t fantasy. I have a hard time to decide what is more preposterous, the concept of souls or the whole evolving-into-energy-beings stuff. The latter shows a complete lack of understanding of the term evolution and the concept of transcendent entities made of a mysterious kind of energy is also quite inane.
Also the movie could have used some better plotting. Sure, seeing some of the characters again was nice, as it sees Garibaldi coming back to the station for a visit (the movie takes place after the second to last episode of the fifth season), but the whole thing (the movie) feels like an overly stretched episode plot. Unlike Thirdspace, TRoS gives you the feeling as if not very much interesting stuff happens. People talk a bit, some minor stuff happens, a problem appears and gets solved with a bit of talk and no real action. There’s no real tension and it feels pretty lame.
The only reason I can think of why the movie was made was that someone thought making a movie about the Soul Hunters would be a good idea. Well, it really wasn’t.
My memories of my first viewing of the final season of Babylon 5 were pretty hazy, but I remember being quite disappointed by it. So I went into it expecting not very much, but to my surprise I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. It feels like a prolonged epilogue for all the characters from the first seasons, but also is a nice setup for further adventures. Sure, it can’t compete with the manic pace and content of the fourth season, but it has some really good episodes and evokes perfectly a bittersweet atmosphere with all the characters leaving and saying their farewell.
One interesting thing about the season was how Sheridan’s alliance was depicted. Normally, when a good story ends, there come the words and they lived happily ever after, which could have worked very well as an epitaph for the fourth season. But as stories never really end, we see realpolitik imposing its thrall on the events in the final season. We know from the last episode of the fourth season that the Alliance will be a thing to last, but it’s start seems quite shaky. I must also admit that I do wonder why they tried to make a generic spinoff with a conventional ship-in-space-plot instead of trying to go for a series about the first years of the Alliance, which would have been far more interesting.
Another of the Babylon 5 television movies. It takes place both before and after the events of the series. The framing device of the story is about Londo as an emperor already enslaved by the Drakh telling two kids the story about the Earth-Minbari-war. As things go I wasn’t expecting this to be interesting, as most of the story is known. Still, somehow the movie is quite compelling, even if it jumps wildly between characters and places.
The movie reminded me at times of classic SF stories that are written in a humankind-über-alles mode, where the one thing differentiating us humans from alien races is how noble we are. It’s both preposterous and yet endearing on a emotional level when done right. And ItB makes you believe, as long as the movie lasts. The only thing that annoyed me was the attempt to integrate some of the characters from Babylon 5 into the story and let them even meet to a degree that contradicted the television series. But in the overall scheme this was merely a minor annoyance.
Thirdspace is one of the television movies that were made for Babylon 5. I really liked it, there’s this big dumb object that’s been drifting in hyperspace for a very long time and now that it’s been found everyone wants a piece of it. It takes place after the Vorlons and the Shadows left our galaxy but before the fall of president Santiago. As expected, things turn ugly when it turns out that the big dumb object is a gate to another universe beside our own and hyperspace, hence the title, where aliens dwell that even the Vorlons couldn’t take on in the past.
It’s all very neat on a purely action and adventure level, but the thing that irked me was that the movie tried to integrate rather unsubtly a stupid moral about the Vorlons trying to becomes gods by reaching thirdspace. The movie tried to tell us this was a terrible mistake on their part, but the only thing I can see they were mistaken about was the size of their guns. Instead of merely closing the gate and hoping the problem would go away, they should have developed newer technology to take on the misfits from thirdspace. These aliens were just more advanced, nothing else.
It’s also been implied that the aliens from thirdspace had been on a genocidal rage in their own universe for quite some time and the reaction of the Babylon 5 crew mirrored exactly the reaction of the Vorlons: close the gate and forget about it. Trying to act as if that universe’s problems aren’t out own is both morally questionable but also dangerous. A door once open is never completely closed. A better course of action would have been to prepare and research how to solve the problem. Sticking your head into the sand never works in the long run.