Like Stars, Like Dust by Issac Asimov
One of the lesser known works for the grandmaster himself, Issac Asimov.
One the reasons that he was so good, one of the few to rightfully be called a grandmaster of science fiction in fact, is that he knew his history.
I don’t just mean he knew names and dates, I mean he understood the hows and why’s. Nowhere is this more apparent then in this book.
In the book the Tyranni are an empire of fifty worlds, between one and two generations before they left their world and over the course of decades conquered the worlds in the nebular cluster. The thing that is striking is how well they are thought out, they ran an empire that was more then large enough to crush them if given half a chance. They did this by sticking to a few simple rules:
1) The government of any state should be left intact, with as little changed as possible. The Tyranni might for example pick the next king, but it would be the son of the old one.
2) The sciences and economies of the planets were locked in place, this meant they ranged from farmers to barely industrial.
3) Military strength was limited.
4) Taxes were paid.
They turned their empire into a machine for enriching their home world. One thing you see too often in science fiction is large empires that would cost so much to maintain they would be a money sink, this is not that.
While the characters could be more three dimensional I do think it showed well how people who were born to be upper class and to be rulers would act. It also showed people acting intelligently and it has an ending that you will not see coming.
If you do like sci-fi mystery you will like this book.
All my reviews on Goodreads
For this week I am going to do something a little different, I am going to talk about books that explore a theme that is almost never covered in science fiction, the afterlife. And I do not mean uploading your mind or something, I mean that your soul is real and it goes somewhere when you die. I have only read a few science fictions that deal with the idea.
The first is the most recent, the Reality Dysfunction trilogy by Peter Hamilton (One of my favorite modern authors).
It’s a space opera in the grandest tradition of the genre, with a large confederation of human worlds with only a few known aliens races. On a new colony world an energy being sees a human die and the path his soul takes, and in so doing accidentally opens a bridge from there to the here and now.
Out come the first souls, all near insane with sensory deprivation and wanting to make a war on the living, wanting to keep their bodies at all costs. They can allow other dead to take their bodies, you get one of them on your planet you could have hundreds the next day, thousand after that.
It handled the idea well and was able to weave all the various plot elements and themes together, much better then I would have thought possible if I was told the basic idea of the book before I read it.
The sign of true art is the ability to make very hard things look very easy, this series does that.
The second is the Riverword series by Farmer.
The basic idea is that everyone who died after the age of five and before 1984 (or somewhere around there) wakes up all at once along the banks of a river all at the same time. This river is bound by mountains and runs in a helix from one pole of a planet to another.
If you die once there your reborn somewhere else along the river.
The book does explain the hows and whys but the series is a good example of what I call exportation scifi.
The series is a classic, with a really unique idea.
The third example that I have read is Traitor to the Living also by Farmer.
This is a much darker book then the Riverworld series. It starts with the idea that someone invented a device that allows you to see into the afterlife, but that its hell and everyone is there. I would like to say it gets happier from that, but it really does not. Still it is thought provoking and takes another look at the idea.
Before I start I will note I have not read the books (will change that when I get a chance).
The first and most important thing that The Dark Tower did was to built a large and complex world(s) without being an info dump or sacrificing everything else to do it. When needed it even let you just absorb the scenery. It reminded me of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume One in this respect.
The plot was not huge and complicated. While all the necessary bits were there many of the why’s were not explained. Honestly I am okay with that, if I can think of several reasons for an action and which one is true does not matter then I don’t really need details. The movie does that several times for several things. I like the idea that the movie respects me enough not to feel the need to spell everything out.
The action was good, I really liked the way they showed Roland’s gunslinging, he could do ridicules bullet bouncing and such but nothing too out there. He did nothing that could not in theory be done if you were good enough and had enough information (unlike say curving a bullet).
They also showed the man in black’s magic well, it was consistent and logical the way he used it. He was far from all powerful but he was smart and knew his limits.
The final fight was made much better because of this, it would have lost all its punch otherwise.
I will say that main character wise the movie does look to be of two minds, it seams to flip between Jake (the kid) and Roland. This does not hurt the movie as much as you would think but it does make me wish the movies was a bit longer to allow for more development.
As far as characters go one thing I did not realize until after I left the theater was that Roland treated Jake as an adult. There was no cliché having to prove himself an adult phase.
I really did like the movie, even if I think the characters could have been developed more. Its worth seeing just for the interesting and vast world it shows, let alone everything else.
All reviews on IMBD
First the effects are amazing, both from the technical point of view and the artistic. You really do get the sense of a whole world that is only somewhat like ours.
The best analogy I can think of is Jupiter Rising, except it was done much better.
The basic plot does meander, several times the main characters veer to an area that had no effect on the main plot and does not tell you anything you have to know. This is done because the movie obviously values world building as much as it does plot. Despite this it does not and probably could not explain everything, or even most things.
For example it is never explained how Valerian could be a major with at least nine years of experience. It is implied at one point that they can put you in a box and de-age you but it is never said. The way the main characters are treated also implies this, their age is never remarked upon, they appear to be normal agents from how others interact with them. It could be that age is cosmetic, you are literally as young as you want to be.
The world that the movie builds is very large and complicated with a large amount of technology that is so far above us it might as well be magic. Trying to tell us what they all are and what they all do would not be practical.
Honestly the main problem I have with the movie is with the chemistry between the main characters, or the lack of it. It was established that Valerian does value his partner and would risk anything to save her just because she is his partner. At best it comes as more of a intellectual attraction then anything else.
When all is said and done however I just don’t think the whole romance sub plot was needed. The purpose of romance in such a movie is normally as a driver for the plot, to provide a reason for the characters to be moving in the directions they are moving. In this case it was not needed.
I would recommend that you see the movie if the art and world building look interesting. If you looking for a character piece or a logic puzzle then I would probably wait for it to come to Netflix.