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Friday, August 31, 2018

This Week's Reviews on...

Cruiser Dreams

Following on from Dream Dancer, Cruiser Dreams explores the continuing story of Shebat – Earth brat, outsider, and adoptive daughter and heir to the Kerrion Empire – and of the ongoing struggle she endures in the face of familial backbiting, intergalactic political intrigue and cosmos spanning dynastic aspirations.

But as we soon discover, it’s also a story about perspective: about embracing change or welcoming stagnation; choosing right or wrong; promoting rejection or acceptance. It’s a story where what “is” needs to be recognized, while what “might be” must still be brought into being.

Cruiserkind is evolving into more – much more – than the sum of their component parts and supremely advanced AI. The addition of the human mind and its freedom to express itself in any way it desires adds a hitherto unknown dynamic to the greater holistic “self” enjoyed by/between the ships that draws them into an entirely new narrative. One that encompasses a symphonic unity ushering them toward a higher and more complete kind of “being” than ever before.

But how to tread the minefield of this dawning new age?

Employing richly descriptive and meaningful prose, Morris is able to encompass a depth of understanding and expression that allows the reader to explore – and then savor – the full nuance of the symbiosis experienced by those brave pilots risking insanity, and their increasingly sophisticated, near sentient ships, and how that burgeoning relationship almost brings an empire to its knees.
Ethical and philosophical dilemmas abound. Is loyalty and love enough to win the day?

Find out in a superbly entertaining space opera that is as astute in its insight as it is disturbing


Directed by Leigh Whannell, the screenwriter who co-created the Saw and Insidious, Upgrade is new science-fiction cyber-punk thriller about how to exact bloody revenge with cybernetic implants.

The premise:

Imagine an existence where everything – from people to houses - is fully integrated into an artificial intelligence run digital net. Enter Grey Trace, played by Logan Marshall Green, an unapologetic stick-in-the-mud who ekes out a living by repairing and restoring muscle cars for the rich and famous).  He’s the kinda guy who when his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) suggests they order a pizza, suggests they make it themselves from scratch instead.
Asha works for a company that makes advanced prosthetics for combat veterans. Their worlds are far apart, but she means the world to Grey. Or she does until the moment she’s shot in the head by a group of anonymous mercenaries who leave Trace paralyzed and without a clue as to their motive.
Three month after the attack, Grey goes home to an entirely different situation. This once proud “hands-on” man is incapable of doing anything for himself and is completely at the mercy of techno-nurses to cater to his every whim . . . a living nightmare. Especially as the police haven’t managed to get any further in the hunt for his wife’s killers.
However, it appears good fortune is about to shine on Grey’s gloomy world. It just so happens his last job was for a reclusive technological genius named Eron (Harrison Gilbertson). Eron has a brand new invention: STEM, a cybernetic implant capable of reconnecting the nerves in Grey’s spine and – as Grey is shocked to discover – can not only speak directly into his brain, but enhance his autonomous and motor functions as well.
Alas, Grey has to be careful. Nobody can know he got this technology inside him. And it’s here that Upgrade starts to turn dark. You see, Logan Marshall Green portrays a man who has sunk into a pit of despair remarkably well. You really do feel for him as he seethes in a pit of boiling rage at his helplessness to do anything to right a terrible wrong. It’s no wonder, then, that he succumbs to the lure of what Stem’s other enhancements can offer, by accepting its help to hunt his wife’s assailants.
The thing is, once activated, Stem is capable of acting independently of Grey’s will, and it goes on a martial arts ninja rampage while Grey – who is a decent guy – can only watch, aghast, as people are torn limb from limb in front of him by his own hands. Logan Marshall Green sells this aspect perfectly, with just the right balance of grim satisfaction at seeing the bad guys get it, and macabre repulsion at what he is capable of doing to another human being. And the one liners . . . ? Outstanding!
Inevitably, things start to snowball away from Grey and the noose tightens.

And that’s when Whannell plays his trump card. Upgrade has the ending of a quality whodunnit, concluding its narrative on a high, and catching you completely by surprise. I’m sure I’m not the only one to think, “Did I really just see that?”

Bravo – an upgrade of a move to what’s out there at the moment.

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