PKD flashback: ‘A Maze of Death’ (1970) (Book review)

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really liked “A Maze of Death” (written in 1968, published in 1970) on my first read. I enjoyed it when religions were made fun of, so I found it amusing that Philip K. Dick invents a reality wherein prayer is demonstrably real. Prayers give measurable results, and those doing the praying devise distinct strategies of how to pray and which gods to pray to. On this reread, I found that aspect of the novel to be minor. My general impression is that “A Maze of Death” is a shadow of the 1982 group-paranoia movie “The Thing,” albeit with a few neat Dickian ideas on top of that structure.

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‘Firefly’ flashback: ‘The Unification War’ (Boom! Studios Issues 1-12, 2018-19) (Comic book review)

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hen talking about the first arc of Boom! Studios’ “Firefly” comics, we have to address the elephant in the room: Despite being titled “The Unification War,” the arc comprising Issues 1-12 (2018-19) is not about the Unification War, the conflict six years before the events of the TV show that pitted the Alliance against the Independents on the Rim worlds. Thrown off by the title, some online guides place this story at the start of the timeline. But rather, it’s set amid the heart of the TV series’ events, with Unificators tracking down “war criminals” – a.k.a. Browncoat leaders.

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An outsider’s take on the James Bond saga: ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ (1997) (Movie review)

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ith “No Time to Die” coming out in November, I’m looking back at the eight modern-era James Bond films from the perspective of a newcomer, from July 11-26. Next up is the 18th Eon-produced film and second starring Pierce Brosnan, “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997):

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PKD flashback: ‘Galactic Pot-Healer’ (1969) (Book review)

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alactic Pot-Healer” (written in 1968, published in 1969) could be seen as the start of Philip K. Dick’s heavy interest in God and religion that defined his 1970s work (although it is definitely found in prior works, too). The back half of the book – wherein an alien called Glimmung aims to raise a Cathedral from an ocean on Plowman’s Planet – is almost entirely a religious metaphor. That said, it’s quite readable despite its bizarre turn, as the titular Joe Fernwright holds our attention.

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‘Firefly’ flashback: ‘The Sting’ (2019) (Comic book review)

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irefly: The Sting” (November 2019) is an ambitious hardcover graphic novel centered on Saffron, from writer Delilah S. Dawson and a team of artists. But it’s a step down in characterization from the double-length one-shot “Bad Company” from earlier in the year, and it arguably contradicts Saffron’s moral growth. The more generous interpretation is that “The Sting” shows her manipulative side, the one we know from “Our Mrs. Reynolds” (1.6) and “Trash” (1.11).

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Superhero Saturday: Hong Kong-set caper ‘Push’ (2009) is a tight, stylish answer to ‘The Gifted’ (Movie review)

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ush” (2009) is a movie-length version of what TV’s “The Gifted” would later show: people with superpowers on the run from government agents. Director Paul McGuigan’s film makes a strong case that this material works better in a movie than in a drawn-out TV series. One thing is notably missing: character development. But there is no padding to the narrative, and no melodramatic ennui.

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PKD flashback: ‘The Simulacra’ (1964) (Book review)

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he Simulacra” (written in 1963, published in 1964) is one of Philip K. Dick’s grand absurdities. It’s an expansion of his amusing short story “Novelty Act,” about a pair of jug musicians who dream of performing at the White House for the First Lady – who is actually an actress, and whose husband the president is actually a simulacrum. PKD throws in elements of novels that were unpublished at the time, including “We Can Build You,” “The Broken Bubble,” “The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike” and “Humpty Dumpty in Oakland,” along with new satirical concepts like living advertisements that people swat down like pests.

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‘Firefly’ flashback: ‘The Magnificent Nine’ (2019) (Book review)

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ames Lovegrove’s first “Firefly” novel – 2018’s “Big Damn Hero,” co-plotted with Nancy Holder – spans several genres. But his second is a straight-up Western, all set on one dusty planet. “The Magnificent Nine” (March 2019), as the title suggests, has the same plot as the 1960 Western film classic “The Magnificent Seven.” But we get to see how our big gorramn heroes deal with the situation: The already bedraggled townsfolk of Coogan’s Bluff on Thetis are being harassed by murderous, rapist bandits who aim to control the water supply.

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PKD flashback: ‘Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb’ (1965) (Book review)

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he hydrogen-bomb war (or atomic, or nuclear – pick your poison) was a regular obsession of Philip K. Dick’s. Many of his contemporary-set stories find people worrying about a bomb that could fall at any moment, and many of his future stories are set in a post-bomb world. But “Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb” (written in 1963, published in 1965) is a rare novel where he shows the day of the bombings (Emergency Day, in the future of 1981) – presumably between the USA and the USSR — and the immediate aftermath.

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