‘All About Eve’ – NT Live, 11/4/19

I enjoyed watching “All About Eve” livestreamed to Vue from the National Theatre last night. Based on the 1950 film and Mary Orr’s play ‘The Wisdom of Eve’, this was a gripping experience!

Gillian Anderson (of ‘X-files’ fame, remember that one?) plays Margo Channing, an actress feeling the years tugging at her heels. Lily James plays Eve Harrington, the manipulative noir young lady looking to usurp Channing’s position in the theatre.

There was a delightful twist at the end from the theatre critic Addison DeWitt (played by Stanley Townsend) that was uncomfortable to watch with plenty of contemporary resonance.

A great play makes you FEEL something, and I left this one feeling depressed about getting old (really empathising with Margo) and excited to have seen such a great performance – recommended 🙂


“Hellstrom’s Hive” – Frank Herbert

I’ve just enjoyed reading Frank Herbert’s 1973 novel “Hellstrom’s Hive”. Originally published (in 4 parts, I think) in Galaxy Magazine, the book is a written version of the HellstromChronicles1971 film ‘The Hellstrom Chronicle’ directed by Walon Green (easily found on YouTube). Film-Book crossovers, and visa versa, are often unsatisfying experiences, but this novelisation by Herbert is an exception.


In the police-state world of this story, Dr Nils Hellstrom is the leader of a secret, (literally) underground society called ‘The Hive’. Using selective breeding, Hellstrom is seeking to manipulate human genes in order to create a new society modelled on the cooperative behaviours of insects.We learn that this process has been proceeding for hundred of years, that the Hive has nearly 50,000 inhabitants, and that it is getting ready to ‘swarm’.

A single document about the Hive’s “Project 40” is discovered by The Agency, who then send agents to the film studio that Hellstrom is using a cover for the Hive. The agents are captured, interrogated, killed and fed into the Hive’s “vats”. The book then revolves around a race against time as the Hive seeks to complete Project 40 (a weapon) before they are attacked by the State.

The story is not a dumb criticism of socialism/communism. While you can certainly find elements of that, Herbert takes his story to a higher level, treating the progression of humans in the Hive from being ‘wild’ to cooperative specialists, all working selflessly for their society. The means by which that adaptation are being achieved are horrific, but there is a relentless “why wouldn’t you do that” logic that makes the story very engrossing.

A classic read from a master author of themes like human survival and evolution.



Sci-FI author Ray Bradbury talking about love…

I just stumbled upon this wonderful quote about love from legendary sc-fi author Ray Bradbury…


“The only thing you’re ever going to own in your life is your work…

we belong only by doing, and we owned [things] only by doing, and we loved only by doing…

if you want an interpretation of life and love, that would be the closest thing I could come to.”

‘We love by doing…’ – does it get any clearer than that?

The full clip is from a 1968 CBC interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=If9hMwaGfdk

‘Photo by Alan Light’ 1975 – Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license

“Extinction Game” – Gary Gibson

There are more sci-fi books published every year than any reader could comfortably read in their lifetime. It is impossible to keep up with them all and I find myself discovering gems like Gary Gibson’s “Extinction Game” long after they were first released. ‘Extinction Game’ was first published in 2014 by Tor, but being only 5 years behind the curve on this occasion is actually pretty good for me.


The story revolves around a disparate group of adventurers called ‘Pathfinders’. Each Pathfinder is the sole survivor of an extinction event on their home planet. Having demonstrated unique survival skills, they are then brought to an island by ‘The Authority” using some hokum science called ‘transfer stages’ that allow people to be moved across alternate realities.

The Authority then sends the Pathfinders on missions to other alternate realities, to find information or technology related to the extinction event that happened there.

The Pathfinders eventually discover the real reason why the Authority is going to so much trouble to gather up those materials from the other realities, and then a rebellion begins.

This is a good and enjoyable book. I found that the pages turned quickly and I wanted to know what would happen next to characters that I had come to care about. Well-written and engaging, I recommend ‘Extinction Game’ to sci-fi fans.



“How the masters do it…”

I was recently re-reading some books in my collection to see “how the masters do it”.

I totally enjoyed Matt Reilly’s fast moving and tightly plotted “Ice Station”. Then I started Clancy’s “Red Storm Rising” and got so engrossed it was hard to put down! Eventually managed to do that that last night and now I’m into ‘Dracula’ for some ‘light relief’…

Reilly and Clancy~100219
What do you guys read for inspiration?

Netflix – making great stories and strongly disrupting traditional entertainment media…

Netflix has profoundly changed how we consume visual entertainment in our homes. Founded in 1997, the company has rapidly expanded from an online DVD rental store into a market-dominating internet streaming service, distributing mainstream TV programs and Movies, as well as a growing portfolio of ‘Netflix Originals’.

‘Netflix Original’ films are either produced, co-produced, or distributed exclusively by them. I’ve found that ‘Netflix Originals’ tend to have good story lines and strong production values that easily rival the traditional cinema experience, all enjoyed from the comfort of my own armchair.

Last July I wrote about how much I had enjoyed the Netflix series ‘Spectral’ but that ‘Annihilation’ had been rather disappointing (see the links below). I guess they can’t get it right every time, but I’ve also just finished watching ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’, which was excellent, and the short series ‘The Rain’ which was truly superb.


‘The Rain’ is a (near-future?) science fiction adventure story in which scientists from the company “Apollon” have released a biological agent that has caused rain water to become aggressively lethal. Even exposure to a single drop of rain water will kill, and those deaths are typically fast, painful and shocking. Small groups of people are surviving and we follow one group of protagonists as they attempt to find Simone’s father, an Apollon scientist who they think might be looking for a cure for The Rain. They have many adventures on the way as the episodes slowly reveal aspects of their backgrounds from before ‘The Rain’, transforming them into believable characters.

It’s well-acted and well-produced… and I’m quite jealous of its success because I have a plot outlined in my notebooks which is very similar – from 24/8/15:

“1) Rain isn’t necessarily water any more – climate change, pollution, sunlight etc has created a biologically active “something” that rains down on people. Maybe this is bacteria /microbes that have been changed – this effects humans and makes it profoundly hard for us to touch each other  – but we want/need to continue touching each other for comfort/reproduction etc – what would this mean for us?

… This would probably have profound impacts on the food we can eat, the water we can drink, and what we can breathe. Would we use tech to make those things safe or we would we evolve biologically?”

That’s the problem with being a part-time author… I just can’t write fast enough to keep up with all the ideas I’m generating!


My review of ‘Spectral’ is at https://ljrussell.wordpress.com/2018/07/11/spectral-netflix-2016/

For ‘Annihilation’ see https://ljrussell.wordpress.com/2018/07/14/disappointed-with-annihilation-on-netflix/




First Alpha-reader feedback about “Evil Eye”…

I’m just getting the first feedback from my Alpha-readers about ‘Evil Eye’. One lady told me today that it is well written, fun and moves along at a good pace, with an obvious link for a Book 2, which she would also like to read –

“You should feel proud of yourself,” she said – not bad, Lee. Not bad!


picture: “#EB Photo January challenge” by lee roberts on flickr.com (Creative Commonas Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license)

Hav you ever wondered how the planets formed? …

Have you ever wondered how the planets formed? Now you can see for yourself with the updates that are starting to come through from the New Horizons probe’s flyby of Ultima Thule…

“We’re looking at one of the first building blocks that came together to form the planets and moons,” says Jeffrey Moore, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “It looks like somebody left it out in the back of God’s freezer for the last four-and-a-half billion years.”
The full article is at Scientific American

Picture Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the Southwest Research Institute