Category: books

Jun 01 2010

Flashforward from TV to Book

Flashforward logo
Imagine if the entire world stopped for a moment in time and got a glimpse of themselves at some point in the future? Imagine the ramifications of that moment – not just the effects of being stopped in place, but what happens to ambition and free will when you know what’s already going to happen?

That basic idea was what hooked me on Flashforward, first the TV show, and then, just yesterday, the book by Robert Sawyer. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? People need hope, they need to believe they can succeed. What happens if you KNOW your efforts will be fruitless? Or on the flip side – if you know you will succeed anyway, how hard will you try?

Flashforward, the TV show, just finished airing its only season. It was extremely disappointing, a great idea that was executed poorly from start to finish. It didn’t deal with any of the issues I mentioned above, but it did ask a lot of questions it never got a chance to answer. As entertainment, it was ok, but it came up very short of fulfilling what I thought was amazing potential. So when I found out there was a book, I jumped on it.

I read the book cover to cover yesterday. I don’t think that’s a major accomplishment, I don’t believe it was particularly long (it’s hard to tell relative book size on a kindle), and I had a long flight with nothing else to do. I also, admittedly, could not put it down.

The book had me at go just like the TV show did because of the concept, but where the show became immensely complicated and overwraught with useless subplots, the book remained simple – almost too simple. The story is about Lloyd. There are some small subplots, but they’re fairly unimportant to the overall story.

The book does completely, and very, very thoroughly, explore the science behind the Flashforward. It explains in great detail how the Flashforward happened. If you think the idea of a multi-page discussion on how Schroedinger’s cat fits into the idea of “moving the perception of now” in time travel than this is the book for you.

…but you can see the problem. While I did find that discussion fascinating, I’m not sure how many people would. And by the time I got to the end of the book, the excessive scientific detail was starting to get grating.

Unfortunately, the book does not offer any insight whatsoever into the television show. The flashforward in the TV show could not have been caused by the same thing that caused it in the book, and there is no FBI, secret spies, CIA, Mark or Olivia. No ring, no test in Somalia, no military connection at all.

Everything is different. Lloyd is Canadian, and he works for CERN. There is a character named Demetrius, but he’s not Demetri from the show. The Flashforward was 20 years ahead, and the Matrix put together not only each person’s individual flashforward, but an entire timeline of what happened between now and the flashforward. Big and small, people were able to figure out what would happen. What companies went bankrupt, who was elected president, what revolutions would fail, what marriages would last, even the lottery numbers for the day, it was all revealed.

The book kind of fizzled out at the end, I don’t even know how to describe it, it almost became another book and twisted in a very unexpected, not really enjoyable direction. But up until that point, it was a very, very enjoyable read.

I still believe that this is an amazing concept that has yet to be executed well, and I would love to see it done. Flashforward the movie, maybe?

Nov 05 2008

Michael Crichton 1942 – 2008

Michael Crichton passed away yesterday, after a battle with cancer. I’ve written about Michael Crichton books and movies more times in this blog than probably any other author, most recently my rants about the terrible disaster that was the Andromeda Strain miniseries. His writing always managed to perfectly hit the things I adore reading about, medicine and law mixed in with science fiction. Others have come close, but he’s always been the absolute best at that.

While I’m saddened that such a wonderful mind is gone, I am at least brightened by the fact that these are books that stand up to re-reads, and movies that stand up to deeper analysis. Even though I hated the miniseries, I still watched the commentary from the DVD’s (I had to know WHY they went so far away from the book. Now I know.). My favorite way to spend a weekend is still to curl up with one of his books, and read it cover to cover. It doesn’t matter if I’ve read it before. The story’s still there and still solid.

If you haven’t ever read any Michael Crichton, now is a great time to start. Check out a full list of his stuff at Wikipedia.

Jun 25 2008

Ridley Scott Remaking Brave New World???

Come ON, he just ruined the Andromeda Strain. Now he’s on to yet another of my absolute favorite books of all time?? I’m starting to think this is personal.

Unlike the Andromeda Strain, Brave New World has never really been done well on film. It was made into a TV movie a few years back, but it didn’t quite work. Maybe it’s one of those books that will never work on camera? Like the Andromeda Strain, it isn’t exactly a story with lots of action.

The Stand (Steven King) was the same way, I think. No matter how good the film production was ever going to be – and it wasn’t bad – it would never hold up the way the book did. You just can’t “show” fear and psychological terror on a screen.

Brave New World. Coming soon to a theater near you.

Ugh.

Jun 02 2008

Andromeda Strain’s Sad Remake

Ok, this is long, I admit. But once I opened the flood gates on this, I kept going on and on and on. What can I say – mess with a story I ADORE, and this is what happens.

I love Michael Crichton books. I don’t think there’s a single one that I haven’t flown through, and then reread multiple times.

My favorite book and movie of his has always been the Andromeda Strain. It’s one of those rare book to movie adaptations that held pretty strictly to the original script. The result is not the most exciting movie in the world, after all, over half the story takes place in a dreary lab, but I love it.

The original movie was low budget, but still had some really memorable images, including a very graphic scene of a monkey dying from the virus. The scene looks horribly real, but the directors and producers still swear to this day that although they did knock the monkey unconsious, they did not hurt it. Don’t ask me how, it sure looks like a dead monkey to me.

…Spoilers follow…

To describe the plot of the original story:

A satellite lands in Piedmont, Utah. The entire town is killed, save for a baby and a drunk. The Wildfire team is called to determine what the virus is, and how to destroy it. The president tries to nuke Piedmont, but the team stops him first. They figure out what Andromeda is, but the virus renders itself inert due to its ability to continually mutate, so they just let it dissipate in the air. End of story. Epilogue: pilot burns up on reentry.

The plot of the miniseries:

A satellite lands in Piedmont, Utah. The entire town is killed, save for a baby and a drunk. The Wildfire team is called to determine what the virus is, and how to destroy it. Add in lots of backstories involving the various members of the Wildfire team, which now has five members (not four), two women, three men. A big conspiracy is going on involving the army, the department of homeland security, and the president. A reporter dude is following the story – he later becomes a target of an evil military plot to kill him. The virus keeps spreading, partially because a nuclear bomb is set off on Piedmont (hints of an additional conspiracy here – I was almost expecting to be told that an alien did it). Turns out the virus was sent from the future back to the past so it could be stopped, underwater mining was killing the natural bacteria that fought andromeda. There was a message coded into the virus container with a number and a logo (I still haven’t wrapped my head around how a virus replicates within a container – does it replicate the container? What’s a container, for that matter.). Wildfire replicates lots of the bacteria, the army drops it over the virus, virus is destroyed. End of story. Epilogue: Astronaut on the space station storing andromeda in a satellite.

First off – the miniseries just wasn’t a good movie. There were an insane number of dropped or unnecessary plot points, padding for time, I assume.

This may be science fiction, but there normally is at least some “reality” to the story. this? Grass would turn brown as Andromeda moved through it like a wildfire, with a computer screen updating in real time. The big action sequence came when the military dropped bacteria on the virus to kill it “right before it spread to LA.” Wouldn’t it be neat if you could SEE a virus in the air? And track it? “We have an outbreak of flu in the Arlington area today, winds suggest it could be over Georgetown by noon.” That’s just comical.

There are so many things that I had wanted to see redone in this movie that weren’t even in the miniseries, it’s sad. Andromeda replicating is an amazingly memorable image from the original film. The killing of the monkey, Dr. Leavitt having her seizure, THAT’s what I wanted to see in this movie.

I think I would have been ok with this miniseries had it been “Based on The Andromeda Strain.” But it wasn’t, it was billed as a remake. If something is going to be “remade,” it should be REMADE. Not changed beyond all recognition.

I’m just disappointed. I had a feeling this was going to be a mess – I mean, Ridley Scott doing a movie with no action? I never expected what I got, though. It was just awful.

So in case you were going to see the Andromeda Strain miniseries? Don’t. Rent the movie from 1971 instead.

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