Spend Your Summer Under The Dome With Stephen King: This Week In Science Fiction
Simpsons did it.
Under the Dome
CBS, Monday 10/9c
For the residents of Chester’s Mill, it’s just another ordinary, average day of small-town life. Until, that is, a mysterious, transparent, impenetrable dome drops over the top of the town, cutting the residents off from the rest of the world. As it becomes clear that the dome isn’t going anywhere, civility begins to break down, secrets come out, and presumably somebody eventually starts eating people (I’m just guessing on that last one). That’s the premise behind Under the Dome, which premieres tonight on CBS, based on the novel by Stephen King.
Despite being one of the most successful and well-known writers of the past several decades, Stephen King doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to film or TV adaptations of his works. For every Shawshank Redemption, there is a Mangler. For every Stand by Me, there’s a Langoliers. It remains to be seen which category Under the Dome will fall under, but the series has one name among its credits that makes me optimistic: Brian K. Vaughan. Over the years Vaughan has crafted masterful comic series such as Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, and the currently ongoing Saga. On the TV front, he was a writer on Lost beginning with season 3. Vaughan developed Under the Dome for TV, and his involvement pretty much guarantees I’ll check it out.
The notion of people becoming barbarous while trapped inside a contained area worked very well in Frank Darabont’s adaptation of King’s The Mist, and it looks like Under the Dome will be exploring similar territory, only without the Lovecraftian beasties. If Under the Dome proves even half as entertaining as that movie, it’ll have a regular home on my DVR.
Here’s what’s new this week in science fiction!
Defiance (Syfy, 9/8c) — “The Bride Wore Black”
Only three episodes remain of Syfy’s latest hit, but it will be returning for a second season.
The body of a prominent businessman who disappeared nearly six years ago is discovered hidden in the walls of NeedWant, prompting an investigation by Nolan and Tommy that exposes many of the secrets held by the people of Defiance. It also causes unrest on the eve of Alak and Christie’s wedding.
Warehouse 13 (Syfy, 10/9c) — “Lost & Found”
“The team set out to recover artifacts stolen from Warehouse 12 by an infamous pirate.” Are we talking parrot/peg-leg pirate here, or “I didn’t want to pay for After Earth” pirate? Because if it’s the second one I say let him go free, he’s suffered enough.
The Chronicles of Riddick (Steelbook Blu-Ray Combo Pack)
Universal is releasing a ton of catalog titles in their snazzy “Steelbook” format, which includes the movie on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital download. If you simply must possess the awkward middle child of the Riddick franchise, this is as good an excuse as any.
Doom (Steelbook Blu-Ray Combo Pack)
On the other hand, I think there is literally no good reason to pay, well, any amount of money at all to take home a copy of the aggressively forgettable Doom movie. Wait, are you going to use it for target practice? Or maybe to prop up an uneven table leg? Those are acceptable.
“The Goliath Stone” by Larry Niven & M.J. Harrington
Summary via Amazon:
The Goliath Stone is a visionary new tale from Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington.
Doctor Toby Glyer has effected miracle cures with the use of nanotechnology. But Glyer’s controversial nanites are more than just the latest technological advance, they are a new form of life—and they have more uses than just medical. Glyer’s nanites also have the potential to make everyone on Earth rich from the wealth of asteroids.
Twenty-five years ago, the Briareus mission took nanomachinery out to divert an Earth-crossing asteroid and bring it back to be mined, only to drop out of contact as soon as it reached its target. The project was shut down and the technology was forcibly suppressed.
Now, a much, much larger asteroid is on a collision course with Earth—and the Briareus nanites may be responsible. While the government scrambles to find a solution, Glyer knows that their only hope of avoiding Armageddon lies in the nanites themselves. On the run, Glyer must track down his old partner, William Connors, and find a way to make contact with their wayward children.
As every parent learns, when you produce a new thinking being, the plans it makes are not necessarily your plans. But with a two-hundred-gigaton asteroid that rivals the rock that felled the dinosaurs hurtling toward Earth, Glyer and Connors don’t have time to argue. Will Glyer’s nanites be Earth’s salvation or destruction?
“The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz” by Dan Simmons
Simmons pays homage to the iconic Dying Earth series created by Jack Vance, who passed away last month.
Jack Vance’s stories of the Dying Earth are among the most indelible creations of 20th century fantasy. Set on a far future Earth moving toward extinction under a slowly dying sun, these baroque tales of wonder have exerted a profound influence on generations of writers. One of those writers is Dan Simmons, who acknowledges that influence in spectacular fashion in The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz, an informed and loving act of literary homage.
The narrative begins at a critical moment in the Dying Earth’s history, a moment when signs and portents indicate that the long anticipated death of the planet is finally at hand. Against this backdrop, Simmons’s protagonist–Shrue the diabolist–learns of the death of Ulfant Banderoz, ancient magus and sole proprietor of the legendary Ultimate Library and Final Compendium of Thaumaturgical Lore. Determined to possess its secrets, Shrue sets out in search of the fabled library, guided by the severed nose of the deceased magician. The narrative that follows tells the story of that quest, a quest whose outcome will affect the fate of the entire dying planet.
The result is a hugely engrossing novella filled with marvels, bizarre encounters, and an array of astonishing creatures–the pelgranes, daihaks, and assorted elementals of Jack Vance’s boundless imagination. Written with wit, fidelity, and grace, and rooted in its author s obvious affection for his source material, The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz is something special, a collaborative gem in which the talents and sensibilities of two master storytellers come powerfully–and seamlessly–together.
“The Last Full Measure” by Jack Campbell
As the author of the bestselling Lost Fleet series, Jack Campbell s name is well-known to fans of interstellar heroics. Now, with his thrilling new novella The Last Full Measure, Campbell brings his keen eye for military adventure and political intrigue to a tale that is earthbound, but no less wondrous…
In a transformed mid-nineteenth century America dominated by plantation owners and kept in line by Southern military forces, a mild-mannered academic from Maine, Professor Joshua Chamberlain, stands accused of crimes against the nation. In court alongside him is Abraham Lincoln, whose fiery rhetoric brands him a ‘threat to the security of the United States of America.’ Convicted, Chamberlain is sentenced to forty years hard labor, while Lincoln s fate is indefinite detention at Fortress Monroe. But Professor Chamberlain then encounters military minds who understand the true ideals upon which the country was founded and who want to foment revolution. To succeed, they need a leader, someone to inspire the people to take up the cause of liberty: Lincoln. All they have to do is flawlessly execute a daring plan to rescue him from the darkest federal prison.
In The Last Full Measure, Campbell delivers a riveting look at an America where war is imminent, and nothing is as it should be.
Nova: Australia’s First 4 Billion Years (Blu-Ray & DVD)
This series recently wrapped up its run on the Science Channel, but if you missed it there you can check it out on DVD now.
Of all the continents on Earth, none preserves a more spectacular story of its origins than Australia. NOVA’s four-part Australia’s First 4 Billion Years takes viewers on a rollicking adventure from the birth of the Earth to the emergence of the world we know today. With help from high-energy host and geologist Richard Smith, we meet titanic dinosaurs and giant kangaroos, sea monsters and prehistoric crustaceans, disappearing mountains and deadly asteroids. Epic in scope, intimate in nature, this is the untold story of the Land Down Under, the one island continent that has got it all. Join NOVA on the ultimate Outback road trip, an exploration of the history of the planet as seen through the mind-altering window of the Australian continent.
Paul (Steelbook Blu-Ray Combo Pack)
Now this is more like it. While Paul wasn’t quite as good as other Simon Pegg/Nick Frost joints such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, there’s still a lot to like about their alien road trip flick. The pair star as a pair of geek friends who make a pilgrimage to San Diego Comic-Con, only to cross paths with an honest-to-gosh alien named, well, Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen).
Pitch Black (Steelbook Blu-Ray Combo Pack)
Of the two Riddick-related Blu-ray releases today, this is definitely the one to pick up. Even before it was the first movie of a would-be franchise, Pitch Black was a lean and effective sci-fi action flick with an unforgettable antihero in the form of Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) and gorgeous, stark visuals from director David Twohy.
Serenity (Steelbook Blu-Ray Combo Pack)
Let’s be honest here. If you’re a regular GFR reader, it’s pretty damn likely that you already own Serenity. Possibly in multiple different formats. Possible kept on a shelf in the closet next to your Malcolm Reynolds cosplay gear. But hey, maybe you need a gift for somebody.
Shaun of the Dead (Steelbook Blu-Ray Combo Pack)
Again, you should really already have this in your collection. But if not, what are you waiting for?
“The Universe Versus Alex Woods” by Gavin Extence
Summary via Amazon:
A rare meteorite struck Alex Woods when he was ten years old, leaving scars and marking him for an extraordinary future. The son of a fortune teller, bookish, and an easy target for bullies, Alex hasn’t had the easiest childhood.
But when he meets curmudgeonly widower Mr. Peterson, he finds an unlikely friend. Someone who teaches him that that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make it count.
So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the front seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he’s fairly sure he’s done the right thing …
Introducing a bright young voice destined to charm the world, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a celebration of curious incidents, astronomy and astrology, the works of Kurt Vonnegut and the unexpected connections that form our world.
Upside Down (Blu-Ray & DVD)
Two worlds exist literally on top of each other in this bizarre love story… as in, you can look up and wave at the people on the other Earth, suspended upside down from their Earth above you. It’s the sort of high-concept movies do very well, but unfortunately Upside Down never quite pays off.
Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #6 (IDW Publishing)
This 12-part series serves up a new adventure of the Sixth Doctor.
Futurama (Comedy Central, 10/9c) — “T: The Terrestrial”
It’s kind of astonishing to me that, as far as I know, nobody has yet used the above play on E.T.’s title for anything yet. It’s kind of brilliant in its simplicity. The “Terrestrial” in question is Fry, who is marooned on an alien world and befriends a young alien. There will almost certainly be Reese’s Pieces jokes.
MythBusters (Discovery, 9/8c) — “Painting With Explosives/Bifurcated Boat”
Any episode of MythBusters where the episode title includes the phrase “With Explosives” is pretty much a sure thing.
Star Trek #22 (IDW Publishing)
The ongoing Star Trek comic series continues to explore the aftermath of the events of Star Trek Into Darkness.
Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman (Science, 10/9c) — “Will Sex Become Extinct?”
Only after you get married, amIrite? Hello? Anybody? But seriously, this week’s episode ponders questions whether forms of artificial reproduction could someday supplant the real thing. To borrow a punchline from Patton Oswalt: “Science: all about could’a, never about should’a.”
Independence Day-saster (Syfy, 9/8c)
Expect to see that title repurposed as a review headline if the long-stewing Independence Day sequel eventually crashes and burns. In the meantime, here’s a horrible-looking Syfy original that somehow escaped the Saturday-night confines they normally keep these things penned inside. Tune in to watch as “an alien invasion cripples America’s conventional defense forces. When the President’s helicopter is shot down, his brother (a small-town hero) and a renegade scientist must find the aliens’ weakness and defeat them.” You betcha.
Continuum (Syfy, 10/9c) — “Second Skin”
“Liber8 and Agent Gardiner interfere with Kiera’s pursuit of someone she believes is another time traveler.” We aren’t getting into Quantum Leap “Evil Leaper” territory here, are we?
Cult (The CW, 8/7c) — “The Devil You Know / Off to See the Wizard”
Remember this show? The CW is betting you didn’t, because they’re burning off the last few episodes of Rockne O’Bannon’s metafictional mess while, let’s face it, pretty much nobody will be watching.
Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited — The Sixth Doctor (BBC America, 7:30/6:30c)
The ongoing specials examining the tenure of each of the Doctors passes the halfway point with a look at the Sixth Doctor, played by Colin Baker from 1984 – 1986.
Primeval: New World (Syfy, 10/9c) — “Angry Birds”
“A pair of drug dealers kidnap Evan and Dylan.”
Falling Skies (TNT, 10/9c) — “Search and Recover”
When a mission goes terribly awry, Tom and Pope must rely on each other to survive. Meanwhile, Weaver and company search desperately for two members of the 2nd Mass who have gone missing. And Marina (guest star Gloria Reuben) takes matters into her own hands in Charleston, disregarding Tom’s authority.