First Contract by Greg
Review by Ernest Lilley
Highly recommended, regardless of whether you like SF or
not. In retrospect, the crash of the e-economy seemed inevitable. One day the
world would wake up and ask what value was really being created amid the
high-flying tech stocks and like any cartoon character that suddenly realizes
they are standing in thin air, a free fall ensues. Long before the current
e-stumble, Greg Costikyan was putting together this tale of technology and
Hardcover - 288 pages (July 2000)
Tor Books; ISBN: 0312873964 ;
Dimensions (in inches): 0.99 x 8.55 x 5.82
The stand in for calamity is a classic SF trope - an alien
invasion - but the aliens haven't come for slaves, or food, or breathing
space...they've come to sell. Evidentially Costikyan's aliens haven't watched
enough Star Trek, or maybe they've seen too much, but either way, there's no
Prime Directive slowing them down. The first thing they do is sell us the alien
equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica...and then, while we're reeling from
the sudden obsolescence of our entire technological base...they start delivering
on the promises of the future you used to have to read Sci-Fi pulps in the 1930s
to see. Flying cars, trips to Mars, full sensory VR, the whole works.
The central character, Johnson ????, starts out at the
beginning of the book as presdent of a booming tech company in Silicon Valley
with the President of the US's ear and the ultimate California trophy wife to
come home to. WHen the aliens unleash their fearsome technology, he loses
everything (I haven't seen anyone lose this much since Bujold made Miles cash in
his chips in Memory) and quickly becomes a bum on the streets.
But humans have been doing the same thing to each other for
thousands of years...and nothing gets our attention like being kicked in the
teeth. If you can't sell high tech toys, why not sell them ashtrays and
cheap plastic gizmos...all stamped "made on Earth". The cosmos is,
after all, a really big market. If you can figure out how to sell to it.
SF Author Jack Womack looks smugly into the
camera moments before saying his vows at the NYC Municipal Chapel with fiancťe
Valeria ?????. Will marriage spoil Manhattan's archivist of apocrypha?
Will Jack share the fate of re-gooded NYC, prophesied chillingly in Elvissey ().
Stay tuned, Womack Watchers... (Before tying the knot, the
author finished his next book:
(Twentieth Century Fox) PG-13 1 hr. 33 min., Science Fiction/Comics
Review by Ernest Lilley
Jackman (Wolverine), Patrick Stewart (Xavier),
Ian McKellen (Magneto), Halle Berry
(Storm), James Marsden (Cyclops),
Famke Janssen (Dr. Jane Gray), Anna Paquin (Rogue), Bruce Davison (Senator
Robert Kelly), Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (Mystique)
Director: Bryan Singer . Producers: Richard Donner ,
Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter . Writers: Christopher McQuarrie ,
Ed Solomon , Laeta Kalogridis , Blanche McDermaid , Josh Whedon and David Hayt .
X-Men emerged from its opening weekend as a welcome
surprise in a slow movie summer, after movie audiences dropped 54 million
dollars on it, making it the 4rth highest grossing three day film opening. While
I wasn't X-actly blown away by theses Marvelous Mutants, it was a
relief to finally see a Marvel comic come to life on the screen without needing
to be put out of its misery.
is a cross between I Was A Teenage Mutant and The Wild Bunch, reprising the
paranoia of 1950s atomic age science fiction. The comic book originated in 1963,
and chronicles the arrival of a sudden wave of powerful mutants in society. The
timing for a revival of this deal is pretty good, but they should have
considered reworking it to fit in with todayís biotechnology.
The plot revolves around the need to introduce the
characters and show off the sets. In the near future a wave of mutated humans
with super talents springs up and for some reason, non-mutants, or at least the
conservative Senator Kelly from Kansas, fears them and wants to register
themÖlike firearms. Magneto, a powerful mutant who discovered his powers a few
seconds too late to save his parents during the holocaust, wants to create a new
world order with himself and mutant-kind at the top. Patrick Stewart, playing
Prof. Xavier, just wants everyone to get along, and to give peace a chance, he's
created his band of mutant superheroes - the X-Men.
Meanwhile Wolverine, the new mutant on the block, has been
feeling like a pawn ever since he woke up 15 years ago fully grown and with a
metal skeleton grafted onto his own in a series of operations he only glimpses
in nightmares. Now he has to choose sides and save the movie.
In fact X-Men owes most of the credit for its
success to Wolverine, played by Australian newcomer Hugh Jackman. Without his
characterís wisecracking reaction to the wonders of the X-Menís secret labs
and superhero mission, and Jackmanís own very real charisma, the audience
would have been left high and dry with a cast of boy scout superheroes out of
time and out of place. Between Wolverine and the X-men the movie manages a
decent balance, aided by the resonant tones of Patrick Steward, even though he
has little more that a wheel-on performance as crippled Headmaster and
Mastermind behind the X-Men.
always felt Stewart was too professorial for his own good as Jean Luc Picard,
always ready to lecture the enemy to boredom. Here that weakness turns to
strength and he provides some excellent grounding for the cast.
The rest of the cast fills in the pieces nicely, as well as
their outfits, though it.s not actually clear that the curvaceous blue skinned
bad girl Mystique (Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Covergirl and actress Rebecca
Romijn-Stamos ) is actually wearing one. The movie wisely trades in Marvel's
traditional yellow togs for black leather, giving quipping tribute to them in
passing, while Magnetos helmet is faithfully rendered...making him look a bit
like he wandered off the Gladiator set by mistake.
Going in I had misgivings about the film. More than that
they would botch the feel or believability of the X-Men, the trailers insisted
on setting up a WASPy Midwest senator as an unreasonable bigot, demanding that
all mutants be registered for the protection of society, while a cast of
ethnically diverse senators cried out against the injustice. Fortunately they
managed to make the Senator come across as not quite a zealot, allowing him a
few rational lines and telling points, and even moments of near courage and
compassion. Everybody's afraid of someone, the movie points out, and the script
is more intelligent than I would have imagined.
bad guys come off as much more effective than our heroes, which is par for the
course, but then, we never get the feeling that the X-Men actually train for
this sort of thing, despite living in a school with a subterranean complex of
labs. Wolverine keeps providing us with one liners worthy of MST3K, which is
rare for a character actually in the movie.
The women of the cast donít get to do a whole lot in a
proactive role. Halle Berry provides a certain amount of electricity with her
Storm persona, but naturally itís the bad girl who gets the good parts and
Mystique gets to do the most martial arts.
Cyclops manages to be perfectly annoying, and is set up to
be a bit pompous in his own right. He is a bit of a boy scout, but again, but he
does get to sleep with Jane Grey. Famke Jensen. Famke is set up to be the love
interest in the cast, and sheís appealing, itís true, but as often happens,
sheís upstaged by a girl from the second string.
Rouge, a curvaceous kitten with the ability to suck the
life-force out of anyone through skin contact has a future as the sexually
transmitted disease poster girl, and balances her sexuality on the knife edge of
adolescence, looking innocent in one scene and sexually potent in the next. It
would not hurt the franchise at all, or her attraction for Wolverine, if she
traded in the leather X-togs for some black spandex and some really heavy duty
lip gloss. No tongue though, there are
limits to safe sex, even with latex..
OK, so itís not just Wolverine that makes the film. X-Men
has assembled an ensemble that is fun to watch and works pretty well together.
Thatís good because the movie is clearly intended as the origin episode in a
series and the cast is already signed for sequels.
Despite the strength of the
audience response, X-Men isnít all that strong a film. Thatís ok though, to
just produce a comic adaptation that comes across as reasonable rather than
ludicrous is a heroic feat.