Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Review of True Path, by Graham Storrs.

book cover

True Path is either a techno-thriller or a science-fiction thriller, depending on the reader. Whatever label chosen, technology, in the form of time-travel, is a big part of the story. True Path is a sequel to the very good Timeslash, which showed the awesome destructive powers of time-travel. 

In Timesplash, author Graham Storrs, came up with a truly original take on the effects of going back in time and changing events. Time would rebound from any changes, correcting them, and depending on the magnitude of the changes, a backwash would hit the present time epicentre where the change occurred.

In Timesplash the people using the time-machines were thrill-seekers. Their search for bigger and greater thrills created increasingly devastating backwashes. In True Path the thrillseekers are replaced by terrorists. But this is no cliché as the terrorists aren’t Arab Muslims, instead they are American Christians. 

The main characters from Timesplash, time agent Jay and the rebellious thrill-seeker Sandra, reappear in True Path. The story begins with a terrorist kidnapping Sandra. He wants her to help them run a timesplash that will destroy Washington. Sandra’s daughter Cara seeks out Jay to help track down her mother. This leads them both to travel to the United States. 
One of the most interesting elements of True Path is its portrayal of a radically changed United States. In 2066, the United States is ruled by extreme religion ideology, sort of like the Tea Party on crack. The theocracy shuns science, in favour of religious doctrine, which has lead to a total collapse of the economy. Women are treated worse than those of the Taliban, and blasphemers face the death penalty.  Many readers will alternatively barrack for and against the freedom-fighter/terrorist. The novel’s resolution will surprise many. 

The story has two strong women and a strong man at its centre, with Jay’s agent training making him more inclined to think through consequences before acting. While the characters are sometimes a bit gung- ho, their motivations and actions are for the most part believable. 

True Path is a well-written techno/science-fiction thriller with an imaginative and original take on time-travel. It is a very enjoyable read.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Gravity - a review.

I finally saw Gravity - in 3D too - and I was impressed. The movie is set in orbit around the Earth where a group of astronauts are updating the Hubble Telescope. Unfortunately for them, those irresponsible Russians decide to destroy one of their own satellites and its debris cause havoc. From there on we follow the astronauts as they tried to survive.

Gravity stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Don’t let Bullock’s presence put you off as she gives one of her more subdued performances. She doesn’t do a Nicole Kidman, who managed to destroyed not one, but two science fiction movies (Invasion and The Stepford Wives).

Gravity is one of the most visually impressive science fiction movies ever made. Probably not since District 9 have I seen such a seamless incorporation of special effects into a movie. In that movie all the aliens looked real, unlike Avatar. In Gravity I never found myself thinking that doesn’t look like space.

Gravity’s writer/director, Alfonso Cuaron, gets it right by having no sound in space. Objects collide and explode silently. This movie is about as far away from Star Wars as Tony Abbott and science are. The only comparable movies that I can think of are 2001 and 2010. So I agree with James Cameron who said Gravity is probably the best space movie ever made. 

To me, the science looked real and the story was very believable. Only a couple of years ago the Chinese used one of their own satellites for missile target practice. Buzz Aldrin said he was "extravagantly impressed by the portrayal of the reality of zero gravity", although he suggested that the film's view of Earth from space was a little too clear. 

Although it is impressive to look at and has a lot of tension, Gravity lacked the vital ingredient of great science fiction films. Apart from answering the question, what if your shuttle was destroyed in space while you were on a spacewalk, Gravity did not explore any themes. I think Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men is a better science fiction movie with its exploration of a world where humanity is infertile. And because of its exploration of themes I still rate Oblivion as the best science fiction movie I have seen this year.

If you are into science fiction, you have to go and see Gravity. Enjoy a tense and visually impressive ride, but don’t expect to be challenged by themes and ideas. If you’re a science fiction writer, it might also have you questioning the mechanics of that scene you have just written where your character goes for a spacewalk.  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

So Much Pain.

What a lousy week, so much pain. A toothache - of all things - lead an assault by every inflammation in my body. From my swimmer’s knees, tight hamstrings, sore lower back, to my aching elbows and big toes. And to top that off, the eye on the side of the swollen tooth root ached too. Last week I was a supernova of inflammation.

My subconscious was not too rapt in the havoc my tooth caused too, because this morning, while sleeping I whacked the still swollen cheek with my hand. That sure did wake me up. Fortunately, antibiotics have started to reduce the swelling.

So this week was not a week of writing a new article for Divine, finishing reading a couple of books, catching up on my newspaper reading, and perhaps even finishing the first draft of my latest novel. Instead, it was a daze of pain, lack of sleep and painkillers. 

New Article on Asperger’s 

But one good thing did happen, I had another article posted on the Divine website. This one is about a panel I attended at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival on Asperger’s syndrome. The panel featured Graeme Simsion and his novel The Rosie Project, and Jo Case and her non-fiction book Boomer and Me. 

Next Article for Divine 

I have done most of the research and half written an article based on another of the sessions at the writer’s festival called Healing Words. The article will be much broader than the discussion of that panel.

Next week, I have various appointments for dentists, doctors and other organisations, and our kitchen and bathroom are being painted, so the fumes will probably inflame my asthma, so it does not look good for catching up on all things writing too. But hopefully I can come up with a more enlightening blog post.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My Two Weeks as a Copywriter.

Seven weeks ago I blogged that I was hopefully embarking on a new career as a copywriter at a local radio station. I thought I was going to be doing a few weeks trial and then they would decide whether to keep me on. That was at least what my job provider told me, but the radio station had different ideas. They only ever planned to give me a couple of weeks work experience. I had the attitude that I would treat it as a learning experience and learn everything I could about copywriting.

I turned up ready and raring to go at the start of September and I was told that my start date would be postponed for two weeks. For those two weeks I waited for the call telling me the whole thing had been called off. But two weeks later I turned up for my first day.

The copywriter was busy, announcing, so the producer asked me to write some community service announcements. The first one I wrote started with a question, and I was told, don’t start with a question as it is too easy for the listener to answer in the negative and then not listen to the rest of the announcement. Fair enough.

I had done a bit of research on copywriting before I started so I had a fair idea what a radio commercial should contain. I had found that about half the commercial scripts I looked at, started with questions, but I was not about to argue with the producer. Instead, I determined to come up with more original commercial beginnings.

That afternoon I worked with the station’s copywriter. He, like the producer, stressed that radio commercials have to be conversational, which was a real shift in the way I write. He then got me to write a few commercials.

I found the hardest thing to write was the opening sentence. Once I had the first sentence written I also had the tone and theme for the commercial. I then watched as the copywriter made my commercials punchier.

I was only there on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. On the days I wasn’t there I did a bit more research into commercials. My job provider kept on telling me I was doing well, which actually got me thinking I might end up with a job. I did seem to be getting on well with everyone I worked with.

But then, after two weeks, the learning experience ended. The producer told me that Edge FM was only a small radio station so everyone who worked there had to be multi-talented: copywriters also had to be announcers.

I think it was too steep a learning curve for myself to get over anyway. By the end of the two weeks I was relatively happy with the ideas I was coming up for commercials, but still thought my writing needed to become much more conversational and punchier.

The station manager got me back in last Thursday for a debrief. He said I fitted in well, but they did not have the money or work to employ me. He did say that they may get me in if the copywriter is sick or goes on holidays. So there is a slim hope.