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The Making Of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

The Making Of Star Trek: Deep Space NineOrder this bookStory: The authors go behind the scenes of the first two seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, talking extensively with producers, writers, designers, make-up artists, special effects technicians, oh, and actors too – from the original premise and character lineup to the changes that were made and why they were made, touching on every step of the production process along the way.

Review: It’s rather ironic that the most poorly-marketed Star Trek spinoff (with the possible exception of Enterprise) has turned out to be the best documented one. Paramount initially threw tons of money at the launch of Deep Space Nine, and then backed off – there was a new Trek movie to promote, as well as yet another spinoff series upon which an entire network, and not just syndicated advertising profits, would be riding. From about the middle of year 2 onward, DS9 got the short end of the Star Trek stick. Continue reading

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine CompanionOrder this bookStory: A season-by-season guide to the television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Includes season overviews, episode summaries, behind-the-scenes info and insights, photos, production drawings, and anecdotes.

Review: As a huge fan of Deep Space Nine, I had patiently waited for a definitive episode guide to my favorite Trek incarnation. Fortunately for all of us with limited budgets, Pocket Books refrained from releasing a guide until the series had run its course, instead of releasing three or so versions with a little added each time.

So it was with great glee I ripped open that box from Amazon.com and grasped the official episode guide to DS9. The first thing that struck me was that it’s friggin’ huge. Weighing in at over 720 pages, the thing nearly has its own weather! The cover is also very nice, with a nice collage of the station, wormhole, and Sisko. And as much as I like the U.S.S. Defiant, I was pleased to see it absent from the cover. After all, the show was really about the three entities thusly displayed. Continue reading

G-Force: Animated

G-Force: AnimatedOrder this bookStory: The authors chronicle the origins and history of, and public reaction to, both the Japanese animè series Kagakaninjatai Gatchaman (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) and its heavily re-edited American counterpart, Battle Of The Planets, imported by U.S. syndication pioneer Sandy Frank. Cast members and the makers of the shows are interviewed extensively, and the recent revival of interest in the shows are covered in terms of merchandise and an extensive interview with Alex Ross, artistic director of a new latter-day Battle Of The Planets comic. (Ross also contributes the cover artwork.)

Review: A fascinating, one-of-a-kind guide to a classic animè series and its distinctly different but joined-at-the-hip Americanization, “G-Force: Animated” contains a wealth of information I’d never seen or heard elsewhere. It seems like a fairly thin book for the price, but for one thing, it’s an oversized trade paperback, and for another, I imagine a great deal of the price is tied into the licensing from both Tatsunoko Productions and Sandy Frank. It’s also full color throughout (with a great many rare merchandise photos, initial character design sketches, animation cels, and so on). It may not be cheap, but if you’re a fan of either or both of these shows, this is the only game in town. Continue reading

Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion

Battlestar Galactica: The Official CompanionOrder this bookStory: With complete access to the cast and behind-the-scenes crew of Sci-Fi Channel’s new version of Battlestar Galactica, author David Bassom traces the story of the making of the series, from the first murmurs of a revival series under the auspices of Bryan Singer (ultimately abandoned) through the fan reaction to the first season.

Review: It’s hammered home numerous times that Ronald D. Moore wanted nothing less than to reinvent the science fiction genre on TV with this show, and while it can be argued rather easily that he has succeeded in doing just that, “Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion” spells out his plans for doing so and how he put hose plans into action with this show. From the pitch to sell the re-imagined show through the series bible through material distributed to the cast, a Moore-written document about a less stylized, more naturalistic approach to SF is mentioned. If anything, it’s actually one of this book’s biggest omissions that, as many times as that document is mentioned, it isn’t reprinted anywhere. That aside, it’s at the heart of Galactica’s reinvention. Continue reading

Stepping Through The Stargate

Stepping Through The StargateOrder this bookStory: Authors and experts in several fields – ranging from experimental physics to parasite pathology to archaeology – chip in to offer their insights on what could make the universe of the TV series Stargate SG-1 work (or, in some cases, which parts of the fiction decidedly don’t work).

Review: Once upon a time, I wasn’t that crazy about books that bore the word “Unauthorized!” on the cover like a badge of unlicensed honor – chalk it up to a not-so-great experience (as a contributing writer) with the author and publisher of such a books several years ago. To me, this basically translated to “we’re tap dancing around the outskirts of legal action as fast as we can without blowing our chance at geting to the bank in time to cash the check.” But I’ve recently become a fan of BenBella Books’ series of pop culture anthologies – sure, they too are “Unauthorized!”, but they at least have some meat between the pages. In “Stepping Through The Stargate”, we learn why the Tok’ra are marginally more plausible than the Goa’uld from a parasitic biological standpoint, some possible explanations as to why the stargate makes such a big “splash” when it opens, whether or not Samantha Carter’s career trajectory in the U.S. Air Force is a realistic one, and even hear from the show’s special effects supervisor and one of its recurring guest stars. Not too shabby. Continue reading

Entanglement: The Greatest Mystery In Physics

EntanglementOrder this bookStory: Begin physics lesson: Entanglement is the property of quantum physics which allows for instantaneous movement – regardless of the speed of light. In short, two particles can be generated by a common process (like a photon hitting an excited atom). The properties of these two particles are tied together. When generated, they fly off in opposite directions. If we capture one of the particles and measure its properties, we can say with absolute certainty what the properties of the other particle are. We never have to touch it or see it. What’s better, if we change some property of our particle, we change those properties on the other particle instantly. We can, in theory, change a particle in the Gamma quadrant by tweaking its entangled partner as it passes Earth. End of physics lesson.

Review: In the world of “accessible” science books there are authors and there are Authors. Aczel definitely falls into the latter category. His style shines with the passion he feels for his subjects. When his subject is the precursor to real teleportation, the result is a great read.

Aczel knows how confusing this all is for physicists, so he makes every allowance for us mere mortals. He takes a chronological approach to the story of entanglement, and repeats concepts, definitions, and principles when possible to help the reader grasp the story. And this is a story. Beginning with Thomas Young’s proof that light is a wave in the early 1800s, Aczel takes entanglement from a glint in the eye of a young physicist, through decades of research, to experiments which actually manipulate matter instantly across miles. Continue reading

Beyond Evolution

Beyond EvolutionOrder this bookStory: Dr. Fox sounds the alarm bell for the proliferation of genetically engineered plants, animals and foods, warning that these man-made creations are bypassing normal channels of FDA approval and are being unleashed into the ecosystem – and our own bodies.

Review: Talk about a book inspiring some mixed emotions. It’s very interesting, though out of necessity it spends a lot of time educating readers in the scientific lingo, as well as the abbreviations and acronyms thereof. But the book boils down to this: a powerful assembly of giant food processing, pharmaceutical and genetic engineering corporations, wielding massive influence with lawmakers and federal agencies, have already placed consumers, small farmers and numerous indigenous cultures in a stranglehold. What’s at stake? Unforseen long-term consequences – diseases, ecological contamination, and the destruction of ecologically necessary regions to make way for industrializd farming. Fox also raises a very real question involving the suffering animals engineered to grow grotesquely overmuscled to produce more meat. This is an interesting aspect of the debate, because on the one hand, the animals are going to be slaughtered and eaten anyway – but should steps be taken to minimize their suffering until that time? Continue reading

Crowded House: Something So Strong

Crowded House: Something So StrongOrder this bookStory: One of the biggest – and yet most low-key – rock music success stories to emerge from the south Pacific, Crowded House formed from the ashes of New Zealand mondo bizarro supergroup Split Enz, reflecting songwriter Neil Finn’s desire to explore song arrangements more easily duplicated on stage. By the luck of the draw, Crowded House’s first album was boosted by “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, a single which climbed to #2 on the U.S. Billboard charts. But that immense success proved nearly impossible to duplicate later, with no further hits in America and a widespread cult following overseas. The book ends with the last known whereabouts of the musicians, managers, record company execs, friends and family members following the group’s 1996 farewell concert in Sydney, which went down in the history books as the biggest concert audience anywhere in the world that year. Not bad for a group that nobody recognizes by name anymore…

Review: I’ve always been fascinated by both Crowded House and Split Enz, so this book was a godsend for me, finally revealing something about the members of the group and the army of supporters and friends who helped them almost reach the top of the charts (however briefly). All of the group’s members are interviewed, as are all of the key players except for Craig Hooper (a “fifth Beatle” type who was ejected from the band just before their successful first album) and the enigmatic Youth (who produced the fourth and final non-compilation Crowded House album). Considering how many people play a part in generating this kind of success story, that’s not a bad bit of journalism. Continue reading

The Salmon Of Doubt

The Salmon Of DoubtOrder this bookStory: The writings of the late Douglas Adams (of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy fame) are gathered into four categories. “Life” collects essays by (and interviews with) Adams on the subject of his life, career, and reactions to seemingly everyday happenings; “The Universe” widens the scope to include Adams’ love affair with technology, computers, science and conservation; “Everything” covers everything else (including the author’s fascination with religion and evolution), and “The Salmon Of Doubt” collects the best drafts of the Dirk Gently novel Adams left unfinished at the time of his death.

Review: I think it goes without saying that Douglas Adams left us far, far too soon. I’ve been taking a crash course in bittersweet reminders lately as I’ve alternated between this book and the 3-CD Douglas Adams At The BBC set, which also chronicles his many interviews and early radio work. It’s brought back forcefully my feeling that Adams will go down not just as one of the 20th century’s most influential writers, but in time will be recognized as one of its foremost speculative thinkers as well. Continue reading

Don’t Panic! – The Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Companion

Don't Panic! - The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy CompanionOrder this bookStory: Coming from a somewhat unexpected source, this book can’t seem to decide if it’s a biography of Douglas Adams, or the definitive history of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” story as told in multitudes of media. But in any case, it would be virtually impossible to write the former without at least temporarily lapsing into the latter, so it’s okay. Neil’s just zis guy, ya know?

Review: Though there are wonderfully large amounts of previously unknown information about the behind-the-scenes machinations of “Hitchhiker’s Guide” on TV, on radio, in print, and – gasp! – on stage, I really have to single out the section on Adams’ fan mail as the most hilarious portion of the book. The fan mail itself isn’t that funny; in fact, some of it comes across as positively disturbing. But Adams’ answers never fail to give me a good belly laugh – especially at the thought that the original letter writers probably turned around and tried to read something into them! Continue reading