Gregory Benford & Larry Niven Team Up This Week in Science Fiction
Bowl of Heaven
by Gregory Benford & Larry Niven
In the comic book world, the team-up is one of the most time-honored traditions. Characters from different books crossover into each other’s titles, usually there’s a misunderstanding that involves them beating the crap out of each other for a while, then they work things out and go defeat the bad guy together. This sort of thing also happens in the literary world, with two well-known writers pooling their talents, and their fan bases. Think Stephen King and Peter Straub with The Talisman. This week the science fiction world has a truly titanic team-up hitting the shelves, featuring two of the biggest names in science fiction, Gregory Benford and Larry Niven. You can check out the synopsis below if the names alone don’t sell you. In the meantime, I’m adding this sucker to my Amazon cart.
On a related note, isn’t it nice to see a science fiction book coming from two collaborating authors both of whom are actually still alive? I’m not naming any names, but there are some deceased SF writers who could give Tupac a run for post-mortem projects…
In this first collaboration by science fiction masters Larry Niven (Ringworld) and Gregory Benford (Timescape), the limits of wonder are redrawn once again as a human expedition to another star system is jeopardized by an encounter with an astonishingly immense artifact in interstellar space: a bowl-shaped structure half-englobing a star, with a habitable area equivalent to many millions of Earths…and it’s on a direct path heading for the same system as the human ship.
A landing party is sent to investigate the Bowl, but when the explorers are separated—one group captured by the gigantic structure’s alien inhabitants, the other pursued across its strange and dangerous landscape—the mystery of the Bowl’s origins and purpose propel the human voyagers toward discoveries that will transform their understanding of their place in the universe.
Alphas (Syfy, 8/7c) – “Need to Know”
“An Alpha prisoner is kidnapped and interrogated by Rosen, who is still reeling from the death of his daughter; and Harken and Gary track down Skylar, but freeing her from Parish’s clutches proves tricky.” Nerd Happiness alert: Both Summer Glau and Sean Astin put in appearances in tonight’s episode.
Revolution (NBC, 10:01/9:01c) – “Soul Train”
“The gang close in on Neville’s group, but a discovery threatens to impede their efforts to rescue Danny. In other events, Monroe ups the value of Danny’s life; and Nora makes a connection with another rebel.” After last week I’m officially on board with this one, and all the more so after showrunner Eric Kripke’s claim that they’ll likely solve the mystery of the blackout this season. I’ve got to hang around at least until then.
Alcatraz: The Complete Series (Blu-Ray & DVD)
I bailed on this J.J. Abrams-produced series well before the final episode, primarily because it was guilty of the same thing Lost was critiqued for: spinning its wheels. Lost, however, was never anywhere as dull as Alcatraz was during its worst moments. Still, pretty much every genre show ever made has at least a handful of die-hard fans out there. So if any of you are reading this, good news for you people.
Avatar (3D Blu-Ray Combo Pack)
It’s kind of unbelievable that Avatar, the movie that almost single-handedly created the current 3D fad, has taken nearly three freakin’ years to get a 3D release here in the States. How exactly does that make sense?
Face Off (Syfy, 9/8c) – “Junkyard Cyborg”
The contestants raid a junkyard for materials to design and construct an original cyborg character. Naming him Locutus is cheating.
Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series (Netflix Instant Watch)
If you’ve somehow managed to make it this long without seeing this brilliant show, it’s now streaming on Netflix. Even the most die-hard science fiction fan can’t live on SF alone, so take a break and burn through this show. You can thank me later.
“Only Superhuman” by Christopher L. Bennett
Bennett isn’t the first to mash-up comic-book tropes and imagery with a futuristic science fiction setting, but this one sounds intriguing. Will Only Superhuman prove to be a case of two great tastes that taste great together?
2107 AD: A generation ago, Earth and the cislunar colonies banned genetic and cybernetic modifications. But out in the Asteroid Belt, anything goes. Dozens of flourishing space habitats are spawning exotic new societies and strange new varieties of humans. It’s a volatile situation that threatens the peace and stability of the entire solar system.
Emerald Blair is a Troubleshooter. Inspired by the classic superhero comics of the twentieth century, she’s joined with other mods to try to police the unruly Asteroid Belt. But her loyalties are tested when she finds herself torn between rival factions of superhumans with very different agendas. Emerald wants to put her special abilities to good use, but what do you do when you can’t tell the heroes from the villains?
Only Superhuman is a rollicking hard-SF adventure set in a complex and fascinating future.
The Neighbors (ABC, 8:30/7:30c) – “Bathroom Etiquette”
“Marty and Debbie help Larry and Jackie’s kids, Dick Butkus and Reggie Jackson, get ready for their first day at school with humans. But when an antibullying tactic goes awry, the Bird-Kersees grow frustrated with their neighbors’ parenting advice.” I hope you people appreciate the pain writing anything about this godawful show causes me. I expect a very nice present when “National Entertainment Blogger Appreciation Day” rolls around.
Nova (PBS, 9/8c) – “Forensics on Trial/Can Science Stop Crime?”
This new two-hour block examines cutting-edge investigatory techniques…and how they don’t always work right. Which is mildly alarming for most of us, but a serious problem if you’re, say, on trial for murder.
Saucer Country #8 (Vertigo Comics)
If you are a comics fan and you aren’t reading this series, give it a shot. It tells the story of Arcadia Alvarado, a popular New Mexico governor and up-and-coming presidential candidate. The one serious problem standing between her and the White House? She believes she was abducted by aliens.
A new storyline begins here! Arcadia and her team hit the campaign trail. While she competes to win voters’ hearts and minds, can she use her status as a presidential candidate to gain access to the government’s alien secrets? Don’t miss part one of ‘The Reticulan Candidate.’
Person of Interest (CBS, 9:01/8:01c) – “Masquerade”
“Reese is charged with protecting a Brazilian diplomat’s daughter.” Can we expect lots of antagonistic flirting and sexy banter back and forth between the two of them? Okay, probably not.
Tron: Uprising (Disney XD, 7:30/6:30c) – “The Reward”
The show returns from hiatus with brand-new episodes. “Beck tries to rescue Zed and Mara in a new roadster when they get involved in a dispute.”
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network, 9:30am/8:30am c) — “The Soft War”
“A surprising ally comes forward to help the rebels prevent the execution of Onderon’s true king.”
MythBusters (Discovery Channel, 8/7c) — “Hail Hijinx”
“Adam and Jamie pick apart some rope bridge physics; giant hail vs. the hull of a fishing boat.” Maybe they’re going to find out if you could survive cutting a rope bridge in two and riding it down into the cliff wall, a la Indiana Jones in <I>The Temple of Doom</i>.
The Walking Dead (AMC, 9/8c) — “Sick”
The show was in fine form with its return last night, and also took things to a new level when it comes to shocking brutality (poor Herschel). I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has for us.