April 2012

Living Proof by Kira Peikoff

In the interest of full disclosure, here are the books we received in April.

The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod
The Restoration Game
Ken MacLeod
Pyr
The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod
The Night Sessions
Ken MacLeod
Pyr
Cowboy Angels by Paul McAuley
Cowboy Angels
Paul McAuley
Pyr
Living Proof by Kira Peikoff
Living Proof
Kira Peikoff
Tor Books

Yes, that’s prominent Objectivist Leonard Peikoff’s daughter.

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The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is a supernatural genre-bender penned by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. It is a bizarre story that grows odder as it goes, but there is a focus on character, a decent atmosphere, success in keeping a young and handsome cast from becoming mere plastic eye candy, some intelligent dialogue and a few inspired approaches to scenes. There was enough skill involved in its creation to make a fine work. It had me at the opening; it kept me as events unfolded; it lost me at the end.

To summarize the plot past a certain point is to risk ruining a first viewing. At the beginning, five college students go to a cabin in a woods to spend a weekend drinking, playing games, and committing acts that many religions proscribe outside of matrimony. It is safe to share that the students are being monitored and manipulated, because this aspect is revealed from the outset. From the conversations of the monitors we piece together that the students are going to be put through some sort of gruesome trial, and that these students will, unwittingly, determine the nature of that trial. Beyond that I prefer to say only that beneath this bizarre surface is a whole lot more story to be uncovered.

There are a number of things the movie gets right. Despite the fact that the nature of the cabin is explained early on, there is still a mood of enigma about everything. The monitors become the mystery, rather than the cabin. The dialogue, despite Whedon’s continuing penchant for corny one-liners at the wrong moment, is streamlined, full of character, and delivers just enough information without talking directly to the audience. Tantalizing phrases suggest a deeper plot, hints of which are continuously doled out to us. Even one aspect that seemed initially disappointing, regarding the trite order in which characters must die in a horror movie, is given a surprising yet sufficient explanation later on.

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Tor Books

Tor Books

It’s been a news-heavy month. Here are a few more tidbits:

  • Yesterday, Tor/Forge announced that it will make all of its ebooks completely free of DRM by early July 2012. This is a momentous and welcome change. Tor/Forge is a genre imprint of Macmillan, one of the Big Six publishers. It’s the first of these publishers to cave to author and cusotmer pressure on DRM. It may have helped that Macmillan is not a publicly traded company. Cory Doctorow believes more Big Six publishers are sure to follow; he’s “had contact with very highly placed execs at two more of the big six publishers.”
  • Last month, James Cameron promoted private deep-sea exploration. He’s also partnered with Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and Ross Perot Jr., to back private space company Planetary Resources. Immediate plans are to design and build low-cost robotic spacecraft for survey missions. The firm, founded and chaired by Peter Diamondis (creator of the X-Prize Foundation) and Eric Anderson, hopes to then build on this technology and begin mining Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) within the next ten years. For an extended explanation of how and why Planetary Resources can succeed, read Phil Plait’s post on the Bad Astronomy blog. We live in exciting times for the exploration and exploitation of space.

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Atlas Shrugged, Part II — Either-Or

Atlas Shrugged, Part II — Either-Or

Brian Doherty of Reason.com was able to visit the set of Atlas Shrugged, Part II — Either-Or, based on Ayn Rand’s inspiring novel, during part of its ongoing 31 day shoot. After poor box office sales and being panned by critics, including our own Matthew Alexander (read his review), many wondered whether the second and third installments would ever be filmed. Encouraging DVD and VOD sales convinced the wealthy “rights”-holder, John Aglialoro, to persevere and a few new Randian investors to hop on board. I’m not sure whether the budget is the same, but in a risky move two things certainly aren’t: the director and the entire cast.

Yes, you read that right. The director and the entire cast from the first film were not retained for the second and third installments. The irony is not lost on those of us who both recognize that so-called intellectual property is illegitimate and are painfully aware of how fiercely most followers of Ayn Rand cling to it that copyright appears to have played a major role in this potentially devastating turnover. As one of the producers, Harmon Kaslow, himself explains,

[Keep reading…]

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