Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire
It’s a bit of a slow week for SF, so I thought I’d take this chance to steer you toward a marvelous little chunk of science fiction awesomeness that you’ve probably never even heard of. Buck Godot is the creation of comics artist/writer Phil Foglio: a reluctantly heroic mercenary who operates on the world of New Hong Kong with the motto “Always available, but never free.” Over the course of several graphic novels, short strips, and comic books, Buck outsmarts a teleporter, survives repeated assassination attempts, and solves the mystery of the Winslow (which meets all 14 accepted signs of divinity, of which the last is “Be the Winslow”). The cases Buck takes on are never as simple as they first seem, frequently involve violence, and are all gut-bustingly funny. And, hailing from a high-gravity world as he does, Buck’s got a lot of gut to bust. You can read all of the Buck Godot stories as a free webcomic over at Foglio’s website (linked above), so you’ve got no excuse not to sample them. Foglio’s art is cartoonish but often insanely detailed, especially the large crowd shots, and his writing is top-notch, mixing broad comedy, sight gags, and genuinely intriguing genre concepts. The eight-part “Gallimaufry” story arc is to this day one of my favorite SF stories in any medium, not just in comics. The series launches with several short, easily digestible stories to get you introduced to the world and characters, then covers the contents of the excellent PSmith graphic novel, and finally closes up with the “Gallimaufry” series. You can burn through the entire collection in few nights of casual reading, and it’s absolutely worth your time (and free!). All hail the Winslow!
(And when you’re done with the Buck Godot stories, check out Foglio’s acclaimed Girl Genius as well.)
Eureka (Syfy, 9/8c) – “The Honeymooners”
As the title suggests, Carter and Allison look to take a little honeymoon vacay time. And as the series suggests, there’s no way that’s going to go without a hiccup. Bring in the saboteurs!
“The Big Switch (War That Came Early Series #3)” by Harry Turtledove
Alternate history master Turtledove’s third entry in the “War That Came Early” series actually came out last summer, but it’s finally hitting paperback this week. Here’s the synopsis via Amazon:
In 1941 Winston Churchill was Hitler’s worst enemy. Then a Nazi secret agent changed everything.
What if Neville Chamberlain, instead of appeasing Hitler, had stood up to him in 1938? Enraged, Hitler reacts by lashing out at the West, promising his soldiers that they will reach Paris by the new year. Instead, three years pass, and with his genocidal apparatus not fully in place, Hitler barely survives a coup, while Jews cling to survival, and England and France wonder whether the war is still worthwhile. The stage is set for World War II to unfold far differently from the history we know — courtesy of Harry Turtledove, wizard of “what if?,” in the continuation of his thrilling series: The War That Came Early.
Through the eyes of characters ranging from a brawling American serving with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain to a woman who has seen Hitler’s evil face-to-face, The Big Switch rolls relentlessly forward into 1941. As the Germans and their Polish allies slam into the gut of the Soviet Union in the west, Japan pummels away in the east. Meanwhile, in the trenches of France, French and Czech forces are outmanned but not outfought by their Nazi enemy. Then the stalemate is shattered. In England Winston Churchill dies suddenly, leaving the gray men wondering who their real enemy is. And as the USSR makes peace with Japan, the empire of the Rising Sun looks westward — its war with America about to begin.
“Caliban’s War (Expanse Series #2)” by James S.A. Corey
The follow-up to the acclaimed, Hugo-nominated Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War is the second of three planned books for the “Expanse” series. Fun fact: “James S. A. Corey” is actually a pen name for collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Here’s what you’ll get in this latest dose of space opera:
We are not alone.
On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting. And on Venus, an alien protomolecule has overrun the planet, wreaking massive, mysterious changes and threatening to spread out into the solar system.
In the vast wilderness of space, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance. When they agree to help a scientist search war-torn Ganymede for a missing child, the future of humanity rests on whether a single ship can prevent an alien invasion that may have already begun . . .
“Doctor Who: Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams” by Gareth Roberts
Any SF fan worth his or her salt should know that the legendary Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), amongst other things, served as a script editor and writer for Doctor Who during the late ’70s and early ’80s. Shada is based on one of Adams’ unproduced Who scripts, now fleshed out into a book by Gareth Roberts. Projects finished post-mortem by other writers are usually a hit-or-miss affair with more misses than hits, but Shada still might be worth a look for die-hard fans of Who, Adams, or both.
The Doctor’s old friend and fellow Time Lord Professor Chronotis has retired to Cambridge University, where among the other doddering old professors nobody will notice if he lives for centuries. He took with him a few little souvenirs–harmless things really. But among them, carelessly, he took The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey. Even more carelessly, he has loaned this immensely powerful book to clueless graduate student Chris Parsons, who intends to use it to impress girls. The Worshipful and Ancient Law is among the most dangerous artifacts in the universe; it cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.
The hands of the sinister Time Lord Skagra are unquestionably the wrongest ones possible. Skagra is a sadist and an egomaniac, bent on universal domination. Having misguessed the state of fashion on Earth, he also wears terrible platform shoes. He is on his way to Cambridge. He wants the book. And he wants the Doctor…
Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files (Syfy, 8/7c) – “Surveillance Specter/Morgue Mystery”
Syfy’s resident debunkers wind up their third season with two back-to-back episodes of nightvision footage and often ridiculously simple explanations for “paranormal” footage. Sadly, the official synopsis doesn’t exactly overflow with information: “Probes in England and Kentucky unfold.” That sounds vaguely pornographic.
Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files (Syfy, 8/7c) – “Iceland Worm Monster/Stonehenge Secrets”
Josh Gates from the equally hilarious Destination: Truth joins the FoFPFers (that really doesn’t work as an acronym, does it) to investigate sightings of a sea monster. Then a wrestler helps them investigate Stonehenge. Well, that should put to rest any mysteries there right quick.
Hollywood Treasure (Syfy, 10/9c) — “Vampires, Swords and the Queen of the Night”
Items from Bram Stoker’s Dracula hit the auction block, and Joe gets to poke around in the studio of Hollywood makeup artist Greg Cannom (Watchmen, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter).
“7th Sigma” by Steven Gould
Gould imagines a future where parts of America have been ravaged by the bugs: self-replicating, solar-powered, metal-eating machines. None too fond of water, they have made a permanent home for themselves in America’s dry southwest. Gould’s novel examines how human life has adapted to live alongside the voracious machines (hint: you don’t want to use any metal around them).
Spec Ops: The Line (Xbox 360, PC, Playstation 3)
No, this game about a Delta Force recon team sent to search for survivors in Dubai after a devastating sandstorm isn’t actually science fiction. It does, however, feature the unmistakable voice of Babylon 5 star Bruce Boxleitner in the role of the game’s antagonist, Col. John Konrad. It looks pretty damn fun, too.
“Star Wars: Choices of One” by Timothy Zahn
The author of the legendary “Thrawn trilogy” returns to the Star Wars universe once again. Choices is set eight months after the Battle of Yavin, between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewie are sent to meet with the governor of a sector offering sanctuary to the Rebels…if they’ll help defend against an invasion. The only thing standing in the way? Mara Jade, aka the Emperor’s Hand.
Futurama (Comedy Central, 10/9c) — “Decision 3012”
Futurama sets its satirical sites on presidential politics as President Nixon(‘s head) runs for reelection, and Leela decides to get involved.
Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman (Science, 10/9c) – “What Is Nothing?”
I don’t know why they’d spend an entire episode on this question. I think it’s already been pretty thoroughly dissected. They should move on to more pressing questions.
TRON: Uprising (Disney XD, 9/8c) – “Identity”
Ever wonder what would happen to a program who lost his identity disc? You’ll find out in this episode, as the heroic Beck has his disc stolen and his memories begin to unravel.
Turner Classic Movies Marathon (TCM, 6 AM/5c)
Kick back with a full 12 hours of classic science fiction and horror flicks: The Time Machine (1960), Village of the Damned (1960), The Manster (1962), The Snow Devils (1965), War of the Planets (1965), The Wild, Wild Planet (1965), Five Million Years to Earth (1968), and The Green Slime (1969).
Falling Skies (TNT, 9/8c) — “Young Bloods”
Ben and Hal make a major discovery while on patrol. While it hasn’t really broken the mold from last season, I am interested to see where this show is headed. I’m hoping the aliens have motives more interesting than the basic mustache-twirling villainy that Tom’s encounter with them suggests.