This week marks both a major return and a major departure on the science fiction landscape. Riddick, which opens this Friday, resurrects a franchise that seemed to be well and truly dead after 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick. Now director David Twohy and star Vin Diesel have conjured a second chance for Riddick, and if the movie is a success, they still have big plans for the character and the detailed universe they’ve created. Riddick definitely looks to be more of a return to basics, but plot hints suggest they haven’t entirely abandoned the Necromongers, Furyans, and the rest of it. Time will tell whether Riddick serves as the character’s big-screen swan song or a brave new beginning for a revived franchise.
Meanwhile, one of the more beloved genre shows of our time is taking its bows this week. Wednesday night Comedy Central will air the final episode of Futurama, wrapping up seven seasons, 14 years, and two separate cancellations. It’ll be bittersweet to see the final adventure for the time-lost Philip J. Fry and the rest of the Planet Express crew, but the show’s had a hell of a run. The final episode will have Fry proposing to Leela and one of Professor Farnsworth’s inventions mucking up the space-time continuum. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up destroying all of reality, but I have a feeling they’ll once again demonstrate the writers’ talent for making us laugh and cry at the same time. So long, Futurama…
Here’s what’s new This Week in Science Fiction!
Under the Dome (CBS, 10/9c) — “Speak of the Devil”
“Big Jim turns the townspeople against Barbie when the truth about his past is revealed. Meanwhile, Maxine confronts Barbie’s closest ally.” With only two episodes remaining after tonight’s, the big question is how they’ll wind things up for the season…and how they’ll milk the premise further for a second season next summer.
“Cain’s Blood” by Geoffrey Girard
Trying to develop a new breed of bio-weapons, the US Department of Defense has secretly cloned the world’s most notorious murderers, hoping to study their DNA and isolate a genetic predictor for evil. Now in Stage Three, the program contains dozens of young men who have no clue of their evil heritage — including Albert Fish, Ted Bundy, and David Berkowitz. Enacting a twisted game of nature vs. nurture, the scientists raise some of the clones with loving families and others in abusive circumstances. But everything changes when the most dangerous boys are set free by their creator—escaping with three canisters of a mysterious chemical weapon that could destroy an entire city.
A man with demons of his own, former black ops soldier Shawn Castillo is hot on their trail. But Shawn didn’t count on the quiet young boy he finds hiding in an abandoned house—a boy who has just learned he is the clone of Jeffrey Dahmer. As Jeffrey and Castillo race across the country as unlikely allies on the trail of the rampaging teens’ increasing violence, Castillo must protect the boy who is the embodiment of his biggest fears — and who may also be his last hope.
More than just a serial killer novel, Cain’s Blood melds completely plausible science with terrifying horror, preying on our darkest fears of manipulation, secrecy, and murder.
Cockneys vs. Zombies (Blu-Ray, DVD & Digital Download)
“When some down-on-their-luck old timers are at risk of losing their home to developers, a group of young, inept criminals decide to take matters into their own hands. The only thing standing in their way? A zombie outbreak in London!” If the title alone isn’t enough to win you over, the flick’s scoring decently on Rotten Tomatoes with a 69% fresh rating.
Da Vinci’s Demons: The Complete First Season (Blu-Ray, DVD & Digital Download)
If you’re a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed games, you’ll find plenty to like in this series that follows the adventures of a young Leonardo da Vinci. You’ve got conspiracies, you’ve got Renaissance politics, and you’ve got da Vinci’s crazy-ass inventions. And since it aired on Starz, you’ve also got lots of naked people, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Face Off (Syfy, 9/8c) — “Subterranean Terror”
C.H.U.D.S. alert! The contestants take a tour of some abandoned tunnels as inspiration for designing subterranean monsters.
“The Given Sacrifice” by S.M. Stirling
Rudi Mackenzie has won the battle that expelled the enemy from the new High Kingdom of Montival. Now he must free the people who live in the state once known as Idaho from occupation by the legions of the Church Universal and Triumphant and pursue them to their lair over the mountains. There he will finally confront the forces behind the Church — the Powers of the Void.
Yet even a victory will not end the conflict forever. The Powers of the Void are malevolent and infinitely patient, and the struggle is one that involves the entire world. They threaten Rudi not only in the present, but also in the future represented by his children, Órlaith and John. Rudi knows this.
And as his heir Princess Órlaith grows up in the shadow of her famous father, she also realizes that the enemy will do anything to see that she does not live to fulfill her parents’ dream….
Heroes of Cosplay (Syfy, 10/9c) — “Anime Matsuri”
“The cosplayers attend the annual Anime Matsuri convention in Houston.”
“Isaac Asimov’s I Robot: To Obey” by Mickey Zucker Reichert
2036: Robotic technology has evolved into the realm of self-aware, sentient mechanical entities. But even as humanity contends with the consequences of its most brilliant creation, there are those who have their own designs for the robots: enslavement…or annihilation.
Susan Calvin is about to enter her second year as a psych resident at the Manhattan Hasbro teaching hospital when a violent crime strikes her very close to home.
When she was young, Susan lost her mother in a terrible car wreck that also badly injured her father. She now believes the accident was an attempted murder by government powers who wanted her parents dead. Susan has always known that there was a faction of the U.S. government that wanted to hijack her father’s work for military use. Now, it seems that faction is back.
As she struggles to overcome her pain and confusion as well as deal with her studies, Susan finds herself hunted by violent anti-tech vigilantes who would revert mankind to the dark ages—and at the same time watched very closely by extremists who want high-tech genocide. Somehow she must find a way to stop them both.
For more than a year, Heather O’Grainne and her small band of heroes, operating out of Pueblo, Colorado, have struggled to pull the United States back together after it shattered under the impact of the event known as Daybreak. Now they are poised to bring the three or four biggest remaining pieces together, with a real President and Congress, under the full Constitution again. Heather is very close to fulfilling her oath, creating a safe haven for civilization to be reborn.
But other forces are rising too.
Some people like the new life better…
In a devastated, splintered, postapocalyptic United States, with technology thrown back to biplanes, black powder, and steam trains, a tiny band of visionaries struggles to re-create Constitutional government and civilization itself, as a new dark age takes shape around them.
“The Lord of Opium” by Nancy Farmer
As the teenage ruler of his own country, Matt must cope with clones and cartels in this riveting sequel to the modern classic House of the Scorpion, winner of the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor, and a Printz Honor.
Matt has always been nothing but a clone — grown from a strip of old El Patron’s skin. Now, at age fourteen, he finds himself suddenly thrust into the position of ruling over his own country. The Land of Opium is the largest territory of the Dope Confederacy, which ranges on the map like an intestine from the ruins of San Diego to the ruins of Matamoros. But while Opium thrives, the rest of the world has been devastated by ecological disaster — and hidden in Opium is the cure.
And that isn’t all that awaits within the depths of Opium. Matt is haunted by the ubiquitous army of eejits, zombielike workers harnessed to the old El Patron’s sinister system of drug growing — people stripped of the very qualities that once made them human.
Matt wants to use his newfound power to help, to stop the suffering, but he can’t even find a way to smuggle his childhood love, Maria, across the border and into Opium. Instead, his every move hits a roadblock, some from the enemies that surround him…and some from a voice within himself. For who is Matt really, but the clone of an evil, murderous dictator?
“MaddAddam” by Margaret Atwood
Bringing together Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, this thrilling conclusion to Margaret Atwood’s speculative fiction trilogy points toward the ultimate endurance of community, and love.
Months after the Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of humanity, Toby and Ren have rescued their friend Amanda from the vicious Painballers. They return to the MaddAddamite cob house, newly fortified against man and giant pigoon alike. Accompanying them are the Crakers, the gentle, quasi-human species engineered by the brilliant but deceased Crake. Their reluctant prophet, Snowman-the-Jimmy, is recovering from a debilitating fever, so it’s left to Toby to preach the Craker theology, with Crake as Creator. She must also deal with cultural misunderstandings, terrible coffee, and her jealousy over her lover, Zeb.
Zeb has been searching for Adam One, founder of the God’s Gardeners, the pacifist green religion from which Zeb broke years ago to lead the MaddAddamites in active resistance against the destructive CorpSeCorps. But now, under threat of a Painballer attack, the MaddAddamites must fight back with the aid of their newfound allies, some of whom have four trotters. At the center of MaddAddam is the story of Zeb’s dark and twisted past, which contains a lost brother, a hidden murder, a bear, and a bizarre act of revenge.
Combining adventure, humor, romance, superb storytelling, and an imagination at once dazzlingly inventive and grounded in a recognizable world, MaddAddam is vintage Margaret Atwood—a moving and dramatic conclusion to her internationally celebrated dystopian trilogy.
“The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF,” edited by Mike Ashley
Are the past and future immutable or can we escape the inevitable? This thought-provoking collection of time travel stories not only takes us into the past and future, but also explores what might happen if we attempt to manipulate time to our own advantage. Read 25 mindbending stories from Kage Baker, Michael Swanwick, Christopher Priest, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Robert Silverberg, Paul Levinson and many more!
“The 100” by Kass Morgan
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the CW is developing a series based on the book. It’s slotted for a midseason premiere.
No one has set foot on Earth in centuries — until now.
Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth’s radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents — considered expendable by society — are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life…or it could be a suicide mission.
CLARKE was arrested for treason, though she’s haunted by the memory of what she really did. WELLS, the chancellor’s son, came to Earth for the girl he loves — but will she ever forgive him? Reckless BELLAMY fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only pair of siblings in the universe. And GLASS managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.
Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind’s last hope.
Person of Interest: Season Two (Blu-Ray, DVD & Digital Download)
By most accounts the show improved significantly in its second season, so if you bailed early on — like I did — here’s the chance to judge for yourself.
Revolution: The Complete First Season (Blu-Ray, DVD & Digital Download)
And speaking of shows that improved… The first half of Revolution’s freshman season was a slow and unsatisfactory road trip that focused far too much on the show’s least interesting characters. By shifting the focus onto the grown-ups and the overall mythology, the show managed to finish its first season strong. With the addition of the talented Rockne O’Bannon (Farscape, Defiance) and Ben Edlund (The Tick, Firefly), season two has tons of potential to improve. Let’s hope they don’t squander it.
Sharknado (Blu-Ray, DVD & Digital Download)
Is there really anything to say about Sharknado? I think not.
“Under a Graveyard Sky” by John Ringo
A family of survivors who fight back against a zombie plague that has brought down civilization. Zombies are real. And we made them. Are you prepared for the zombie apocalypse? The Smith family is, with the help of a few marines.
When an airborne “zombie” plague is released, bringing civilization to a grinding halt, the Smith family, Steven, Stacey, Sophia and Faith, take to the Atlantic to avoid the chaos. The plan is to find a safe haven from the anarchy of infected humanity. What they discover, instead, is a sea composed of the tears of survivors and a passion for bringing hope.
For it is up to the Smiths and a small band of Marines to somehow create the refuge that survivors seek in a world of darkness and terror. Now with every continent a holocaust and every ship an abattoir, life is lived under a graveyard sky.
Futurama (Comedy Central, 10/9c) — “Meanwhile”
“In the series finale, Fry proposes to Leela, and they face their future as the Professor’s latest invention alters the fabric of time.” This is it, people: the last episode of Futurama. Of course, we’ve had a “last episode of Futurama” before, but I don’t think it’ll be coming back for a victory lap this time around. And honestly, that’s okay. The show has had a great run for a total of seven seasons, and damn near all of those episodes have been great. Better a solid seven seasons than a quarter century and a slow slide into mediocrity like a certain other animated series…
The Star Wars #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
Dark Horse has been publishing Star Wars comics for ages now, but this series is different. Based on George Lucas’ original rough draft screenplay for The Star Wars, which would eventually evolve into the movie we know and love, this eight-issue series follows the adventures of “Jedi Annikin Starkiller and General Luke Skywalker, an alien named Han Solo, and evil Sith Knights.” It should be a fascinating walk through “What If…”
Riddick (In theaters)
Richard B. Riddick is back, and his return looks to be awesome. This time he’s stranded on a dangerous alien world when a pack of bounty hunters tracks him down. Unfortunately for them, Riddick is no easy prey, and he’s hardly the only danger that’s caught the scent of their blood…