Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013's Science-Fiction Books, Movies and Television.


Once again, I did not read many books this year, but the ones I read were nearly all very good science-fiction. As two books were from the same series, you would expect one of them to be my favourite book, and it was: Wool by Hugh Howey. This is the first time a self-published ebook has been my favourite book of the year.

I also read Wools’ prequel, Shift, published by Random House. As I noted in my review of Shift, I thought it better written than Wool. I wonder if this is due to the input of an editor at Random House or just Hugh Howey becoming a better writer, or a combination of both. Wool and Shift are both a series of novellas set in a huge underground silo. Wool is the better due to its introducing the claustrophobic and paranoid world of the silo, and its stories are slightly more interesting than Shifts. I loved the tension and flawed characters in both books.

The equally brilliant The Twelve, by Justin Cronin, is thus relegated to the third best book I read this year. The Twelve is a sequel to The Passage. It is about a group of survivors in a future US, where genetically engineered vampire like monsters have wiped out most of humanity.  


I purposely avoided some science-fiction movies this year like Pacific Rim. I am sick of comic book good versus evil movies. I want to see science-fiction that explores themes and challenges my brain. So I am disappointed that Europa Report hasn’t had a theatrical release in Australia and won’t be released on DVD here until April 2014.

I was disappointed with Elysium. It started with promise, commenting on refugees and the growing gap between the mega-rich and the rest of us, but then the movie turned into a good versus bad action movie. I had hoped for more from its director Neill Blomkamp, especially after his magnificent District 9.

I enjoyed the spectacle of Gravity, but it really was just a story of human survival. And Star Trek Into Darkness was just another quickly forgotten good versus bad action movie.

My favourite science-fiction movie this year was Oblivion. It is set in the near future after the Earth has been attacked by aliens and humanity nearly wiped out. Those who survived abandoned earth and live in orbit around it. But they need more water before they can travel to another planet, so a pair of technicians is left on earth to maintain pumps that are extracting the water.   

(Warning spoilers) Tom Cruise haters really don’t want to see this one, as more than one Tom Cruise appears on the screen at once many times during the film. The film explores what would happen if a clone could remember the past of its original. The plot is complex and has a few twists too. It is a very good science-fiction thriller that demands thought on the part of the viewer.


Due to multiple viewing platforms it is getting hard to review television series in a way that is relevant to other readers of this blog. It is no longer the case that everyone in Australia or the US has access to the same shows, as they can now watch series on apps, cable and websites as well as DVD’s and commercial television. What I had access to and watched is drastically different from what other science fiction fans watched.

This year I watched the following science fiction:

·         Eureka (series 4)
·         Stargate Universe (series 2)
·         Doctor Who (series 7 part 2)
·         Misfits (series 2)
·         Warehouse 13 (series 4)
·         Revolution (series 1 and part of series 2)
·         Continuum (series 1 and part of series 2)
·         Falling Skies (series 2)
·         Under the Dome
·         Utopia
·         Defiance (the first 3 episodes).

There really is a dearth of serious science-fiction series being made at the moment, so I was not a happy to see Stargate Universe end the way it did. I did not think much of the watered down Under the Dome. They should have turned it into a mini-series that more closely followed the book, instead of trying to stretch it out.

Due to it only recently being screened on television in Australia, I have not watched this year’s season of Fringe, which going on past seasons might have been my favourite science-fiction show of the year.

I recently discovered Utopia on SBS On Demand (only for the next three days). A six-part English series that is as violent as anything made by Quentin Tarantino. It is set in the near future where a group of fans of a comic book called Utopia, get their hands on notes and drawings for its sequel. They are unaware that those notes and drawings contain the answer to a conspiracy that is set to devastate the world, and they are pursued by spy agencies and merciless killers. It is consistently tense, full of stunning visuals and has a really groovy soundtrack. It is my favourite science fiction show of this year, just edging out Misfits.

Misfits is also set in Britain and is about a group of young wrong-doers who are doing community service and, after a meteor shower, end up with super powers that reflect their personalities. Unlike an American version, they don’t have ambitions to go out and save the world or become super-criminals. They keep their abilities secret and only use them by accident or when forced too. It is more a comedy drama, and I very much appreciate its originality and unpredictability.  

And finally, the best 50th anniversary episode I saw this year was Doctor Who’s The Day of the Doctor.  


Anthony J. Langford said...

Been a busy boy!

Well I can't comment on almost all of those as havent seen much TV scifi apart from Dr Who which was my least favourite of the new series. Overly complex (aka muddled) plotting with many yawn moments. Did enjoy the 50th movie though.

Have to disagree on Oblivion. I loved the first half hour but hated all that fighting the bots crap.
Still yet to watch Elysium though not expecting much so may enjoy it. You did well to ignore Pacific Rim. Godzilla vs the Robots - yawn fest.

There's a new supernatural show getting rave reviews all over the place which may be worth a look - The Returning. French.

One of my favorite shows was The Bridge (Denmark), a crime mystery, which came out a year ago. Only 10 eps but excellent.

Youve sold me on Utopia - im going to buy it.

Graham Clements said...

I reckon you will like Utopia, it's very bleak. I might have been one of those raving about The Returned. I think its is one of the creepiest shows I have watched, but it avoids many horror films cliches. It had eight episodes on Foxtel, with a very hanging ending. They are scheduled to make more episodes this year. Like Utopia is has wonderful theme music and is visually striking, being set in the mountains in a modern town. Lots of CCTV around the town too.