Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

03/06/20 -- Vol. 38, No. 36, Whole Number 2109

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I LOST MY BODY) film reviews by Mark R. Leeper)

Novella Reviews ("Exit Strategy: The Murderbot Diaries" and

"Come Tumbling Down") (reviews by Joe Karpierz)

THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020) (film comments by Evelyn C. Leeper,

with spoilers)


1900) by David Edgerton (book review

by Gregory Frederick)

This Week's Reading (Plato, FOUNDATION'S EDGE) (book comments

by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Mini-Reviews, Part 4 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper)

More mini-reviews:

ABOMINABLE: If this film had been released something like seven to

ten years earlier than it was it might have been considerably a

reasonably good animated and it would have showcased some recent

animation technology.  It could have had some reasonably current

social messages for its audience.  The figures would have had some

impressive visual surface textures for its characters.  That was

then.  This is now.  ABOMINABLE builds more character in its

figures than most animation, but the creature seems like a ball

removed from a long-hair cat, not really cute, just homely.   Three

teenagers decide to try to reunite the creature with its family.

Rating: +1 (-4 to +4).

AMERICAN FACTORY: When a director films a documentary it often

seems to go in unexpected directions.  That is just part of the

game.  In this case the film covers what happens when Chinese

company Fuyao and General open a factory in Moraine, Ohio.  They

run it with Fuyao's managing and with General Motors management.

The workers start out very positive on the each company's

cooperation with the other.  Just how the two companies work

together is the subject of the film.  The subject matter is

serious, but the style is familiar.  It is very much the sort of

story Michael Moore would have told but with more humor in the

telling.  Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4)

I LOST MY BODY: In a French animated feature of feature-length a

young boy loses his hand in a horrifying tools shop accident.  We

see in a flashback what led up to the incident.  The style--

particularly the visual style--is enigmatic and surreal.  Often the

weird images seem to be heavily influenced by Bill Plympton and his

Plymptoons.  It is often hard to follow what is happening,

especially so when we see through the eye of a fly and we see its

connection with metaphysics.  Jeremy Clapinis, the lead actor,

directs.  The boy finds as he loses his hand he gains

understanding.  Rating +2 (-4 to +4)



TOPIC: Comments on the 1944 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic

Presentation Category (Supplement) (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

After Mark published his overview of 1944 candidates for the Retro

Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Cora Buhlert pointed us to a

spreadsheet that containing several presentations Mark missed; we

also had input from Nicholas Whyte.  Some are very short films

(e.g., Warner Brothers cartoons) or radio programs, and Mark was

concentrating on what were considered at the time feature films.

Mark is currently tied up on other projects, but I have decided to

jump in and comment on the new additions to the list (feature films

only).  And here they are.

Long Form:

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: This is one of those English fantasy films so

popular in this period: not the high fantasy of elves and dragons,

but the "Twilight Zone" sort of fantasy where ordinary people end

up in a weird situation.  In fact, the "Twilight Zone" episode

"Passage on the 'Lady Anne'" bears more than a passing resemblance

to this one.  In this one, ten people find themselves on a

steamship--somehow--that is going ... somewhere.  They are

supposedly a cross-section of society (including Americans), and we

are given ample opportunity to like the likeable ones and dislike

the others.  Not *quite* as talky and preachy as THEY CAME TO A

CITY, but of the same ilk.

THE CANTERVILLE GHOST: Based on the Oscar Wilde story, this suffers

from too much "thee" and "thou" and "yea" and heavy under-cranking

in the first scene, and one wonders how the Allies won the war if

American soldiers were this wacky.  Then again, this is in keeping

with other American comedies during the war--the soldiers seem a

cross between Abbott and Costello, and the Marx Brothers.  (I

suppose the idea is to downplay the fact that these soldiers are

supposed to go out and kill people, and make them just like the

friendly neighbor back home.)  Charles Laughton is a bit over the

top (but he always is) and Una O'Conner is way over the top (but

she always is).  And while the curse will be lifted when a

Canterville has to do something brave while wearing the signet

ring, no one thinks to give the ring to Margaret O'Brien, who keeps

doing brave things.  Still it's more enjoyable than something like

THEY CAME TO A CITY or the many low-budget horror films Mark

covered in his article.

Short Form:

COBRA WOMAN: Maria Montez, Jon Hall, Sabu, Lon Chaney (Jr.), Jack

Pierce, Vera West, ... in Technicolor, no less.  Clearly designed

as a (low-budget) adventure romance, it has no real fantasy

elements--it doesn't even seem to be a lost race story.

THE HALFWAY HOUSE: (We were unable to find a copy of this.)

IT HAPPENED TOMORROW: Not quite along the lines of BETWEEN TWO

WORLDS and THEY CAME TO A CITY, this is another fantasy that is

similar to a "Twilight Zone" episode--in this case, "Printer's

Devil".  Larry Stevens is a reporter who gets copies of the next

day's newspapers, but when he tries to act on the advance

information, things don't turn out as he hoped.  (No surprise

there.)  There is also a romance, and a lot of comedy, but

altogether it is nothing special.

THE PHANTOM: (We were unable to find a copy of this.)

THEY CAME TO A CITY: Like BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, this is one of those

English "Twilight Zone" fantasy films of the period.  The best

known is probably DEAD OF NIGHT, but there are enough that someone

should write a book about them (and probably has).  In this one,

nine dissatisfied people are transported from their ordinary lives

to ... someplace, and someplace with very striking art direction

(by Michael Relph, who also did the art direction for DEAD OF

NIGHT).  The "Twilight Zone" episode this evoked for me was "Five

Characters in Search of an Exit".  THEY CAME TO A CITY is very

talky--Lord, is it talky!--being not much more than a filmed stage

play, and extremely heavy on its socialist message, but still worth

watching.  As noted above, very similar to BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, but

much more stylized and artificial.  (By the rules, this could be

relocated into Long Form.)

TIME FLIES: Though this is claimed by some to be the first film

with a time machine, there is apparently an earlier Hungarian film.

However, since the latter is basically unavailable, this should be

recognized as the first widely seen.  That said, Mark observed it

was more on the level of a "Carry On" film that a serious look at

time travel.  It is mildly amusing, full of puns and the like, but

not Hugo material.  (By the rules, this could be relocated into

Long Form.)

THE TOWER OF THE SEVEN HUNCHBACKS: The only fantasy content in this

Spanish film is a ghost that wants the main character to protect

his daughter from a gang of hunchbacks.  The main story involves

this gang counterfeiting money in an underground city built by Jews

who were hiding there after the Expulsion.  The latter idea may be

more bizarre than the ghost, and the set design is more interesting

than the plot.  (By the rules, this could be relocated into Long


WHILE NERO FIDDLED (a.k.a. FIDDLERS THREE): Not the 1948 Three

Stooges movie.  (We were unable to find a copy of this.)



TOPIC: Novella Reviews ("Exit Strategy: The Murderbot Diaries" and

"Come Tumbling Down") (reviews by Joe Karpierz)


2018,, ASIN: B078X1N8VF)

"Exit Strategy", the fourth novella in "The Murderbot Diaries",

brings to a close (well, sort of) the chronicles of the Murderbot,

part human, part machine, and trying to find its place in the

galaxy.  "The Murderbot Diaries" have been wildly popular and

successful, with both the first ("All Systems Red") and second

("Artificial Condition") entries winning Best Novella Hugos.  The

stories are well written in a clear, concise, and easy to read

manner that can--and should--be read on multiple levels.  "Exit

Strategy" follows that formula.

The plot is basic.  The Murderbot has evidence that will bring

GrayCris Corporation down.  GrayCris is the outfit that tried to

murder one Dr. Mensah in the opening installment.  Dr. Mensah is

the closest thing the Murderbot has to a friend, and so the

Murderbot plans to bring that evidence to Dr. Mensah so that

GrayCris can be shut down and the Murderbot can ride off into the


We all know it can't be that easy.

As with the other three installments in the series, "Exit Strategy"

is exciting and interesting.  The Murderbot is always conflicted,

and here it's no different.  The Murderbot has to reconcile its

feelings about people in general with its feelings, if any, about

Dr. Mensah.  It's a nice, fun read.  If you've read the first

three, read this one.  If you haven't read any of them, I recommend

that you go do so.


In the first paragraph, I said that "Exit Strategy" "brings a close

(well, sort of) to the chronicles of the Murderbot".  I say "sort

of" because NETWORK EFFECT, a full length Murderbot novel, is

coming out later this year.  You see, you just can't get enough of

a good thing.

I like "The Murderbot Diaries".  It's well-written adventure

fiction that has a message that doesn't hit me over the head.  It's

interesting and fun.  The four-novella set tells a nice story.  But

it should stop here.  What I fear is going to happen is that Wells

will continue to write Murderbot stories until people get tired of

them.  There is no beginning, middle, and end to the Murderbot

story.  Well, there was, but now it keeps going.  People want to

know what happened to the Murderbot after "Exit Strategy".  People

*always* want to know what happens to their favorite characters

once a story is done, and they clamor for more.  More is not always

better.  Eventually the great stuff becomes good stuff becomes

mediocre stuff becomes bad or uninteresting stuff (see Orson Scott

Card's "Ender" Series--and yes, I have an Ender book on my stack

waiting to be read and reviewed--and the "Dune" series (and I have

three of those waiting to be read)).

Stop now, so our memories of the Murderbot will be fond ones.

COME TUMBLING DOWN by Seanan McGuire (copyright 2020,,


"Come Tumbling Down" is the latest installment in Seanan McGuires

Wayward Children series, and it's a good one.  In a sense, it's a

direct sequel to "Down Among the Sticks and Bones", the second

Wayward Children book, and my favorite of the first four.  It's not

clear to me whether the new entry is better than "Bones", but it

certainly is better than the other three books in the series.

Sisters Jack and Jill were last seen leaving Eleanor West's School

for Wayward Children.  This is nothing unusual--children leave the

school all the time, either by going back to their birth home or

going back to the world they visited when their door opened for

them.  In this case, they were leaving for the Moors, their new

home on the other side of the door.  The local area is precariously

balanced between the scientist and the vampire.  When Jack and Jill

went back, however, Jill was dead because she was killed by Jack.

One thing that we know to be true.  Once you go to your final home,

you never come back to the school.  Well, not any more.  It seems

things have gotten a little bit out of control in the Moors, and

Jack comes back--sort of--in an effort to enlist help to get things

straightened out.

As has been the case with the first four entries in the series, the

story is about family, friends, and identity, and that a person

needs to be who they need to be.  This is a terrific entry in the

series.  I've read this is supposed to be an eight-book series, so

I hope McGuire finds room for one more adventure with Jack and

Jill.  The opening is certainly there for it.



TOPIC: THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020) (film comments by Evelyn C. Leeper,

with spoilers)

THE INVISIBLE MAN does not credit H. G. Wells anywhere, other than

naming its main character Griffin.  This is just as well, since it

has nothing to do with the Wells novel, other than that they both

have an invisible man.

Wells's novel is about how a normal man who is doing research to

improve the world ends up corrupted by the power invisibility

brings.  The movie's invisible man is a psychopath before he even

becomes invisible.  In the Wells novel, there is some suggestion it

may be the chemical involved that makes Griffin insane.  In the

film, it's a suit that makes him invisible, not a chemical, but

he's already insane anyway.

And the movie telegraphs almost everything important.  There are

many instances of "James Bond" syndrome; in a James Bond film, when

Bond is shown some device, you know it will be important later.

And Cecilia is apparently every man's victim: her husband controls

and abuses her, her brother-in-law manipulates her, her male friend

refuses to believe her, and her prospective employer comes on to

her in her job interview.

And far too much of the film consists of people being savagely

attacked by the invisible man.  [-ecl]



1900) by David Edgerton (book review by Gregory Frederick)

This history book puts forth the idea that though technology and

invention has expanded and grown in the last hundred years there is

still a dependence on old technology for many years.  An example

includes the following: by 1920 half of all farms in the US mid-

west had cars, and telephones.  But only 10% of these farms had

tractors, running water, or electric lights.  Those farmers where

still using horses to do farm work, and did not have indoor

plumbing.  And another example is that during WWII the German army,

which many would think was highly mechanized, actually had a very

large amount of their soldiers and equipment moved by horses.

Total amount of horses in the German army in 1945 was around 1.2

million.  An Air Force bomber, the B-52, which was first made in

the early 1950's was still in use to fight in today's modern

warfare.  Though this is an interesting book with an original

perspective on the history of technology, the author can be hard to

follow and his writing is too wordy.  [-gf]


TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

For the philosophers among you, I have just discovered the

following two BBC adaptations of Plato by Jonathan Miller:

"The Drinking Party" (from "The Symposium"):


"The Death of Socrates" (from the "Phaedo"):


FOUNDATION'S EDGE by Isaac Asimov (ISBN 978-0-553-29338-8) is the

fourth book in the "Foundation" series, or (alternatively) the

sequel to the "Foundation Trilogy".  (One story is that the

publisher was originally going to label it "The Fourth Book in the

Foundation Trilogy", though he later claimed it was intended as a

joke, and they decided people would not get it.)  Written over

thirty years after the original trilogy, there are noticeable


First, there are more women and they have more central roles.  The

trilogy had only four women characters: Bayta Darrell, Arkady

Darrell, Lady Callia, and Mrs. Palver, and the last three appear

only in the third volume.  Of course, the attempts to increase the

role of women in this novel often consist of throw-away lines, such

as "Palver's wife had been a speaker in her own right," while Preem

Palver himself gets a lot of mentions as a major historical

character.  And though there is a woman mayor, sexism is still

alive and well.  When Trevize meets Bliss, he says, "She's only a

girl," and thinks "it was irritating, though, to have them send a

girl.  They might have sent a military officer, for instance, and

given us a sense of some value, so to speak.  Just a girl?"  Given

that Bliss is treated as an object of sexual attraction, either

these characters are pedophiles, or "girl" here is just a

disparaging term for "woman".  And one major female character

decides she is happy just being a helpmate to a man, when it is

clear she could be so much more.

(Is it just me, or does Harla Branno appear to be modeled on Golda


Second, the names seem marginally less European.  Although the

names in the trilogy are not names currently in use, there is

definitely a European structure to them.  I am sure a linguist

could define it better, but I'll just give some examples that I

have made up.  "Morven" has a European choice and arrangement of

consonants and vowels; no one would mistake it for, say, East

Asian.  But "Fokihara" is clearly derived from Japanese, not from a

European language.  So Mun Li Compor's middle name is more East

Asian than European, and Jogoroth Sobhaddartha's and Namarath

Godhisavatta's names are definitely South Asian.  (And in passing,

I'll note that "Janov Pelorat" is almost definitely named after

Asimov's wife, "JANice asimOV".)

There is also more questioning of the validity of Salvor Hardin's

predictions after the Mule, and of the role of the Second

Foundation.  The former is rather glossed over in the trilogy, with

the claim that after the Mule was gone, everything would return to

Hardin's predictions.  As noted in FOUNDATION'S EDGE, though, once

the Mule has upset all of Hardin's predictions, there is no way for

everything to return to what it was.  That would be as if someone

prevented World War II, but within a hundred years, everything

returned to what it was in our world: complete with the

geopolitical situation so obviously the result of the (non-

existent) war.

But one respect in which Asimov (or his characters) is sloppy is

that everyone talks about how it has been five centuries since Hari

Seldon, and hence the Interregnum is half over.  But Seldon

predicted the fall of Trantor in three centuries and a thousand-

year Interregnum *after* that.

Someone refers to himself as a groundhog; did colonists really take

groundhogs throughout the galaxy?

Asimov seems of two (or more) minds regarding information

technology (and technology in general) in the future.  One the one

hand, he seems to assume hard-copy books will be the standard: "He

had printouts in his possession which had been taken off

hyperradiational signals from as far away as Infia."

But he also says, "When one's home has a really excellent computer

capable of reaching other computers anywhere in the galaxy, one

scarcely needs to budge, you know," and, "My library.  It's indexed

by subject matter and origin and I've gotten it all into one

wafer."  And he refers to "fat computer-discs" (I have no idea what

he was thinking of).  Admittedly, one can be connected to other

computers, etc., but still have to print out books--it just seems

very unlikely, and certainly by the 1980s, the concept of reading

books on a screen would be an obvious possibility for the near

future, let alone thousands of years in the future.

He seems to predict the idea of a GPS (and possibly even an

autonomous vehicle), though his character seems to worry that "the

computer [might not know] the one-way streets and the traffic

regulations."  And there seem to be "plastic coffee containers" as


Given how Asimov's technological assumptions for a society

thousands of years in the future are often somewhere in our past,

the claim that "however brilliant this semimythical science of

psychohistory must have been, it could not rise out of its roots.

It surely would not allow for *rapid* technological advance," seems

more than a bit ironic.

This is the book where Asimov decided he had to start tying all his

novels into a single "Future History".  This may be a good idea

when one is just beginning, but his post hoc attempts to connect

his robot works and THE END OF ETERNITY with his "Foundation"

series are just clumsy.  (I am reminded of the Showtime "Outer

Limits" series, which was an anthology series of unconnected

stories--except at the end of each season, they had an episode that

somehow tied them all together.  It looked pretty silly, too.

(Even the "Foundation" series doesn't hang together, though it was

back in SECOND FOUNDATION that it really fell apart.  In that book,

it seems to be vital that the existence of the Second Foundation is

a secret, yet in FOUNDATION, Hari Seldon reminds the viewers of its

existence every time he appears in the Time Vault.  This continues

in this book as well.)

It is not a terrible book, and the discussion of possible futures

at the end is mildly intriguing.  But it still has all the flaws of

the earlier works (long expositions, sexism, etc.), without the

excuse of them being typical of the time.  [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          A dog reflects the family life.  Whoever saw a frisky dog

          in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one?

          Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have

          dangerous ones.

                                          --John Holmes