The Martian

Goodness. Where have I been? And how in the world am I finally finding time to write in the midst of the holiday season? I don’t know. I do know I’ve missed this outlet for myself. Is it too early to be talking about New Year’s Resolutions? Well here’s mine: to start writing more. And not just here- it’s time to really work on getting the stories in my head down on paper.

TheMartianCover

Anyways. I remember when The Martian first showed up in the library. I didn’t check it out immediately, despite how interesting it sounded, because we have a strong policy at work that staff are not ever, ever, EVER to be the first to check out new books. So I put it aside and watched despondently as the waiting list grew and grew and grew. And when the list finally started to go down, news about the movie came out. The list, naturally, then climbed up even higher than it had been. Being myself, I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie and I really wanted to see the movie. So I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but I bought the book rather than wait for it to come to me at the library. It turned out alright though because I ended up loving it.

Mars has always had a special place in my heart. As a child, I had the most beautiful golden blonde hair and bright blue eyes (both of which, to my everlasting regret, darkened the older I got). Those aren’t unusual physical characteristics, to be sure, but when both parents and my only sister had brown hair and brown eyes, I felt out of place. And so, in my mind, I created a story where I was adopted from Mars. This solved the problem of my strange coloring for me. I loved Mars. I don’t know why; I have a feeling it’s because Mars was red (my favorite color) and that it was named after the god of war (I’ve always had a disturbingly martial side to my personality that is fortunately rarely acted on). Once I got older, that love grew with the discovery of Ray Bradbury and his sublimely beautiful stories of Martians with dark skin and golden eyes who lived in glass palaces and swam in clear blue canals.

I suppose it was a given that I would love this book then, since it combined my love of Mars with a fascinating survival tale. It was much funnier than I was expecting with science and math that mostly went far above my understanding, yet still incredibly heart-warming. And the movie was an admirable adaptation. I had some issues with changes to characters and events but it’s one thing to read about a man alone on Mars and it’s another thing to see a man, alone, on Mars. And getting to see the visual adaptation was a nice complement to the book. So yeah, you’ve probably seen or read The Martian already. But if you haven’t, I recommend it.

John Carter

Poor John Carter.

I had read A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs a little over a year ago. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much so I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up really liking it. I haven’t got around to reading the other novels in Burroughs’ Barsoom series, but I plan to some day. It’s a well regarded sci-fi and fantasy novel that influenced a good numbers of successors in the genre while even creating some sub-genres of its own. If you’re interested, you can read A Princess of Mars on gutenberg.org, as well as the next two novels, The Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars.

I was pretty excited when I first heard that they were making a movie adaptation. A Princess of Mars has plenty in it that would translate well to a movie screen. Exotic locations, unusual creatures and a fairly simple plot line that would (should) hold up well to the edits needed to adapt it. When the movie finally came out, it bombed. Embarrassingly so. Disappointed by the bad reviews and not wanting to waste money on a bad movie, I decided to wait to see the movie on DVD.

I finally got the chance the other night. And actually, I liked it. It wasn’t great, by any means, but it certainly wasn’t the piece of garbage I was led to believe by the reviews. Some of the bits they added to the story were unfortunate. (For example, I have no idea why the film makers felt the need to focus so heavily on Carter’s first wife. It was completely unnecessary.) But, the movie itself certainly looked good. And so many good actors attached to it too! Willem Dafoe, Ciaran Hinds, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong. Taylor Kitsch might not be winning any awards for his acting talent anytime soon, but he certainly makes a good action hero.

Overall, the movie was just a light, silly piece of entertainment fluff. I don’t recommend going out of your way to watch it but if happens to fall in your hands, go ahead and watch it. You’ve seen worse, I can promise you.

Space: The Final, Deadly, and Very, Very Scary Frontier

Last night I watched the movie Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle (the same one who directed 28 Days Later) and starring Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, and Rose Byrne, among others. The movie was good (with beautiful music) but about a fourth of the way into the movie I realized that I don’t like space movies. At all. Setting a movie in space has become the equivalent of putting a cornfield in your movie. Nothing good is going to come of it. My proof? Here goes:

WARNING: To make my point fully, there will probably be some spoilers in here. So if you haven’t seen the movies I mention and don’t want to know what happens, you’ve been warned.

First the movies set on a spaceship:

Sunshine: It’s 2057 and the sun is dying. The solution? Fly out there and send a nuclear bomb into the sun. The resulting explosion will create a new star and warm up Earth which is in the midst of a very long and very cold winter. The ship loses contact with the Earth early on in the movie (uh-oh!), then they discover the distress call of the previous failed mission and decide to alter their course to check on the old ship (oh no!) and then they split up to try and find out what happened to the crew (aaah!). It’s not too hard to figure out things are going to end badly.

Event Horizon: The spaceship Event Horizon was sucked into a black hole on its maiden voyage. Seven years later, it mysteriously reappears and the Lewis and Clark is sent out to discover what happened and whether anyone survived. They find the ship and discover that the Event Horizon was pulled into an alternate dimension of pure evil, which is now somehow contained on the Event Horizon. Oh, and did I mention the crew of the Lewis and Clark has been forced onto the Event Horizon due to catastrophic damage to their ship? Right. I think we all know how this is going to end.

Alien (and the sequels, spin-offs, etc.): A mining ship lands on a deserted planet after receiving an SOS signal. While exploring the planet, the crew finds a whole bunch of eggs, one of which attacks a crew member and knocks him unconscious. They bring him back on board (baaaad idea guys) and then realize the SOS signal was not actually a cry for help but instead a warning to stay away (oops!). The parasite hatches and runs wild over the ship.

Movies where bad things come from space:

Armageddon/Deep Impact: Big rocks from space are on a direct course with Earth. Oh no! Armageddon has a crew of rough and tough men flying straight to the asteroid to blow it up. Sacrifices are made, lives are lost, but in the end Bruce Willis saves the day. Deep Impact stars a pre-Frodo Elijah Wood and that’s really all I remember about that one. Oh, and there’s a really big wave when the comet hits. Lots of people die in this one, since apparently in the Deep Impact world, the comet can’t be blown up. The poor Earthlings are stuck trying to hide in underground shelters.

War of the Worlds: This is actually really creepy. Originally a book written by H. G. Wells, War of the Worlds tells the story of a Mars invasion. I’ve seen the more recent movie starring Tom Cruise (a pretty good adaptation, actually) but not the older one from 1953. There was also the famous radio adaptation from Orson Welles that supposedly caused widespread panic. The scariest thing about this story? We lose. We lose bad. No weapons or skills we possess are able to make the slightest effect on the Martians. Not until they breathe our air and our germs, do they show weakness.

Independence Day:  Now that I think about it, this one is clearly based on War of the Worlds. Aliens in high tech ships come from outer space and make it pretty clear that they aren’t here to make friends. There are so many side stories in this movie it’s hard to keep track of them all, but its got Will Smith in it. And Bill Pullman as the President. And eventually that scientist guy from Jurassic Park (Jeff Goldblum!) realizes that a computer virus can take these guys down.

And the general bad stuff just happens away from Earth movies:

Serenity: Based on the really popular Firefly series, Serenity was made to tie up some loose ends from the story and provide a bit more closure. Throughout the movie and the series the cannibalistic Reavers are a constant threat, plus the ruling government is hiding some pretty nasty secrets of its own. And there is the mystery surrounding two of their passengers.

Red Planet: Mars again. And a stranded crew struggling to survive in a hostile environment. I don’t really remember this one that well except that I think I kinda freaked out my new friends in college when I suggested we watch it on the SciFi channel. (Or was that Event Horizon? Hmm…) Anyways, people die. In ugly horrible ways.

Apollo 13: Scary because this was based on a true story! Yikes! Astronauts on a routine flight to the moon develop a problem with their spaceship and then desperately try to return home. Sure it ends well, but that movie is about 2 hours of stomach turning tension. I can’t handle it.

Some honorable mentions: Mars Attacks! where we get pummeled by the Martians again and Doom where a pre-Eomer Karl Urban plays a Space Marine sent to a research facility to investigate strange happenings. Gruesome killings ensue.

Well, that’s a pretty good sampling of how scary space is I think. Although perhaps I’m not being entirely fair to Space. Sure, there really aren’t too many space movies where good things happen, but most horror movies happen in remote, isolated areas like heavily wooded mountains, empty deserts, etc. So I suppose film makers just love the fact that space provides them with the perfect isolated environment for humanity to go absolutely crazy.

I’ll leave you with the scariest thing I’ve ever seen to come out of space.

The stuff of nightmares.



C.S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis was born on November 29, 1898. He was a fantastic writer and an amazing Christian apologist. He loved fairy tales and myths and wrote several  science-fiction and fantasy books, the most well-known being the Chronicles of Narnia series. My favorite books by him though are Till We Have Faces and what is commonly called the Space Trilogy.

Till We Have Faces is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth.  In the myth, Cupid falls in love with Psyche and marries her. Psyche’s jealous sisters convince Psyche that Cupid is really a monster and when she attempts to prove them wrong she is forced to perform a series of tasks in order to see Cupid again. Lewis’ version is more of a fleshed out story rather than a retelling except told from the point of view of Orual, one of Psyche’s ugly sisters. It’s a beautiful story of love, redemption, and sacrifice. Psyche is not the main character here, but rather Orual, who is selfish and ugly. Lewis’ Christian faith transforms this old Greek/Roman myth into a wonderful allegory.

Lewis also wrote a trilogy of science fiction books. Usually referred to as the Space Trilogy, the three books in the series are Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. That is the order the story goes but they can really be read in any order. I started with Perelandra, then years later got around to reading That Hideous Strength and finally finished sometime after that with Out of the Silent Planet. The books follows a philologist named Ransom (Lewis loved his allegories). Ransom quite accidentally travels into space, first to Mars, then to Venus, and then the final book deals with events on Earth. All of them are really interesting books and Lewis fills the books alternately with a wild joy and a portrayal of evil as it really is: stupid and destructive simply for the point of destroying. His evil characters are truly frightening.

Being the strong Christian that he was, Lewis poured that faith into his work and with the help of others like J.R.R Tolkien and George MacDonald, solidified the Christian Fantasy genre.