Review: A faux-paleo world with email stumbles on its contradictions

A strain of environmentalism sees civilization as a mistake, a wrong turn in history taken 10,000 years ago at the invention of agriculture. The error sparked a chain of events taking us down the path to global warming and if you extend the trendline, global apocalypse. It would’ve been better if the first seeds sown … More Review: A faux-paleo world with email stumbles on its contradictions

Review: The appropriated world of The Guild of Saint Cooper

Good artists copy. Great artists steal. — attributed to Pablo Picasso, among others Discussion of cultural appropriation has surged in the last few years in the context of race relations. White culture has borrowed and stolen from black culture for decades, particularly in entertainment, usually without enough credit to the origins of a style of … More Review: The appropriated world of The Guild of Saint Cooper

A Tale of Disappointment and Two Endings

Spoilers ahead, including details of book endings You’ve invested days, maybe weeks of time in a relationship, but at the end, you’re disappointed. It happens in real-life relationships, and it happens to readers invested in a novel’s characters. Fortunately, the latter is a rare thing, but when it happens, it can be a gut punch. … More A Tale of Disappointment and Two Endings

Why parents should take their kids to see the new Star Wars

Star War: The Force Awakens has taken in $1 billion in ticket sales, and I’m betting a large share comes from parents taking their kids to see the blockbuster. It’s more than mom and/or dad looking for ways to occupy the young’ns on a long holiday weekend. What was once a triennial or quadrennial ritual … More Why parents should take their kids to see the new Star Wars

Review: Gold Fame Citrus is tangy, acidic, and tasty

Climate science encourages the public to imagine global warming as a decades-long desiccation, a slow transformation of liquid water to vapor locked in the atmosphere, turning the planet into a wasteland of deserts, as if everything is dropped into a saucepan over high heat and cooked into Nevada. In speculative fiction and fantasy, the image … More Review: Gold Fame Citrus is tangy, acidic, and tasty

Why The Martian’s success probably won’t spawn a sequel

My two college-age daughters and I walked out of a showing of The Martian last weekend in a mild daze resembling postprandial satisfaction. You want that feeling of well-being to go on, and so the first question I asked them and an accompanying friend was, “Should it get a sequel?” The answer: “NO!!!!!” I agree. … More Why The Martian’s success probably won’t spawn a sequel

Review: “After Water” Radio Stories Put Climate Change In a New Light

Science fiction has a long, glorious history on radio, beginning in the medium’s golden age with Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Sci-fi dropped off radio’s radar as television took over, but the genre occasionally reappears in special projects. Chicago-based WBEZ-FM, one of the country’s leading public radio stations (This American Life; Serial), has produced a thoughtful … More Review: “After Water” Radio Stories Put Climate Change In a New Light

Mad Max: Fury Road sputters, despite its feminist cred

My college-age daughter Emily and I saw Mad Max: Fury Road over the weekend and we left the theater wondering what all the fuss is about. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the George Miller action thriller a 98 percent rating. Competitor Metacritic rates it 89 percent. I know three people who probably wouldn’t recommend … More Mad Max: Fury Road sputters, despite its feminist cred

Review: The Water Knife is bleak, but uncomfortably possible

The western drought has forced everyone to know their rights. From San Diego to Seattle, talk shows, newspapers, and blogs overflow with debates over senior water rights versus junior water rights, who is abusing their rights to water by wasting it, and how much government is trampling on those rights. A year ago, water was … More Review: The Water Knife is bleak, but uncomfortably possible

Review: Ex Machina and the amoral machine

Spoilers ahead… The key moment of Ex Machina arrives when eccentric tech CEO Nathan Bateman tells Caleb Smith, his employee, why the young programmer was selected to deliver a sophisticated Turing test on Ava, Nathan’s android invention. Nathan lists off the reasons, and one of them is Caleb’s “moral compass,” his understanding of right and … More Review: Ex Machina and the amoral machine

Review: Why aren’t ‘serious’ writers writing about climate change?

Policy wonks, eco-alarmists, and right-wing denialists dominate the climate change conversation with boring reports, deafening polemics, and forgettable op-eds. The mound of non-fiction reaches to the moon, and we’re no closer to a collective response to a warming world. In contrast, the number of novels written with climate change themes might not reach the top … More Review: Why aren’t ‘serious’ writers writing about climate change?

Review: Clade shows love and hope are timeless in a changing climate

The slow, rolling nature of the unfolding changes to the planet’s climate stump many storytellers, who fall back on the set-pieces–mega-storms, pandemics, floods–rather than focus on the subtler effects on the planet of rising CO2 levels. The long timescales are another problem; some transformations might be noticed in a human lifetime, others may take millennia … More Review: Clade shows love and hope are timeless in a changing climate

Review: Nature’s Confession is an impressive sci-fi epic

Nature’s Confession is an impressive sci-fi epic with a multi-versal scope. On the one hand, it’s a young adult romance featuring a mixed-race boy named “Boy” and his infatuation with Valentine, a red-haired beauty with a talent for particle physics. On the other, it’s a speculative story of a family falling on hard emotional times … More Review: Nature’s Confession is an impressive sci-fi epic

Review: Why can’t climate change be funny and romantic, too?

One of my pet peeves about environmental activists and climate change activists in particular is their shriveled sense of humor. Not all, mind you, but most beat a constant drum of doom and gloom that makes me want to jump off a cliff. Way to crucify my Jesus, people! That’s why it’s refreshing to read … More Review: Why can’t climate change be funny and romantic, too?

Review: How “Interstellar” resembles “How the West Was Won”

Interstellar is a glorious tangle, an ambitious film that accomplishes much, but fails to grab the audience by the throat. Director Christopher Nolan delivers a sci-fi epic true to the Hollywood form, spanning galaxies and taking the viewer to places impossible to visit in real life. It expands on a classic American (indeed, human) theme–striking … More Review: How “Interstellar” resembles “How the West Was Won”

Review: Peak oil fuels this dystopian survivalist novel

Scientists, pundits, and self-appointed prophets paint the impact of climate change with brushstrokes of extreme weather, upended economies, and pandemic disease. It’s up to writers and artists to imagine the effects of these changes on human relationships. More and more writers are examining the possibilities and dangers of life in a warming world, including Jennifer … More Review: Peak oil fuels this dystopian survivalist novel

The Windup Girl read as eco-fiction

It’s too bad more science fiction writers don’t address changes to Earth’s environment. Most are interested in the environment of other planets, while our home world’s atmosphere and biosphere grow more alien every day. Thank God for writers such as Margaret Atwood, with her Maddaddam Trilogy, Emmi Itäranta, author of The Memory of Water, and … More The Windup Girl read as eco-fiction

Review: The Adjacent Is Confusing, Maybe Unfinished

Cosmologists are embracing the idea of parallel universes or the multiverse, which writers of science fiction and fantasy have portrayed as mirrors or different versions of our own universe, with passageways between them. Other sciences have noticed that the laws of nature often lead to repeat, parallel performances, such as adaptations in unrelated creatures to … More Review: The Adjacent Is Confusing, Maybe Unfinished