"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Podcast Review of Dark Matter 1.3-1.4


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 387, in which I review Dark Matter 1.3-1.4 on AppleTV+.

Further places:

 


Check out this episode!

Dark Matter 1.4: The Multiverse Unveiled



A highly informative episode 1.4 of Dark Matter up on Apple TV+ today, as Jason 1 and Amanda make their way through "The Corridor" (the title of this episode) and therein partake of the doors to the multiverse.

And I have to say that my favorite spoken line in this episode is when Jason tells Amanda that the entire corridor with its doors don't really exist, they are rather the result of their human minds struggling to make a little sense of a reality that the human mind cannot comprehend.  The only thing missing in this astute observation was that the true conduit(s) to the universes Jason and Amanda were accessing were the thing-in-itself, which Immanuel Kant realized the human intellect could never comprehend.

Kant made that observation in the 1700s (in our universe).  Jason 1 also draws upon a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics, which of course brings us to the 1900s, and underlies all of Dark Matter. That principle is that the mere observation of a subatomic particle can change it.  Jason explains that he and Amanda can get to the alternate reality they seek by merely clearly thinking about that reality.  This QM on the macro-level has been a staple of lots of science fiction, and Dark Matter is parlaying it very effectively.

Indeed, Jason goes on to explain that his kidnapping that launched this narrative was the result of Jason 2 figuring out in which alternate universe Jason 1 was residing, because Jason 2 wanted to give Jason 1 some of the pleasure of having Jacob 2's accomplishments as a world-famous scientist -- actually, not figuring it out, but envisioning it in some intense way, and thereby finding and identifying the door into that reality.  Since the multiverse consists of all possible realities, which in practice is an infinite number of places, this QM way of locating the place that you want to visit is a good thing to have on hand.

And Dark Matter, as of its fourth episode, is a very good thing.  It's rare to find philosophy woven so well into a thriller, inside a corridor with so many tempting and dangerous doors.

See also Dark Matter 1.1-1.2: Break-Neck Action and Philosophic Contemplation ... 1.3 Missing Fingers



the corridors under Fordham University figure in this novel ...



Thursday, May 16, 2024

Dark Matter 1.3: Missing Fingers


Just saw Dark Matter 1.3, the third episode of what I'd call the interchanging alternate reality series on Apple TV+.  I thought it was excellent.

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

Dark Matter 1.2 ended with the shocking murder of Daniela 2 in Jason 1's reality -- that is, not the Jason who actually built the full-size superimposition box/room that makes shifts into alternate realities possible -- and this in effect is an announcement that this story, or at least some of the characters in it, really mean business.  Their motives are still not clear by the end of the third episode, but Dawn losing a few of her fingers as she tries to stop Jason 1 and Amanda after firing a gun at them confirms that this narrative means business indeed.

The loss of the fingers also serves another important purpose.  We're told that four characters in World 2 entered the box/room, and, who knows, there could be more.   We'll at least now know immediately that if Dawn suddenly shows up in World 1 with missing fingers, she's actually Dawn 2.

But lest you think that Dark Matter is all quantum mechanics and gore, there's also some nicer clever touches in 1.3  My favorite is the guess who's coming to dinner party in World 1, in which Jason 2 struggles to know who everyone is and what they do -- using an iPhone to help (of course it's an iPhone, the series is on Apple TV+) -- and Ryan 1 tells Jason 2 that he's looking good (which he should -- award-winning scientists probably do live and look at least a little better than their harried professor counterparts).

Dark Matter continues to be philosophically provocative, hard hitting, and we can now add, suitably wry. More than enough for me to eagerly continue to watch.

See also Dark Matter 1.1-1.2: Break-Neck Action and Philosophic Contemplation




Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Paul Levinson interviews Mark Dawidziak about Edgar Allan Poe


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 386, in which I talk to Mark Dawidziak about his latest book A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe, and another iconic author Mark has written about, Mark Twain.


Check out this episode!

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Podcast Review of Dark Matter 1.1-1.2


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 385, in which I review Dark Matter 1.1-1.2 on AppleTV+.

Further places:

 


Check out this episode!

Dark Matter 1.1-1.2: Break-Neck Action and Philosophic Contemplation



Dark Matter, the first two episodes of which debuted on Apple TV+ today, is the third alternate reality narrative I've seen on the screen in the past month (see my reviews of Quantum Suicide, a film created by Gerrit Van Woudenberg which should be streaming on some major app by the Fall, and Constellation, another series on Apple TV+).  All three bounce off the at-once famous and infamous Schrödinger's cat.  Quantum Suicide has the feel of Primer and the work-at-home scientist.  Dark Matter, as of the first two episodes, has a similar feel.  And I'm beginning to think I don't want to think about these matters too hard, because the more I think about them, the more I think it's possible that I could be in an alternate reality myself, right now.  But, hey, I'm so dedicated to doing this review, that I'll risk it, anyway.

[Some spoilers ahead ... ]

One thing that makes Dark Matter, adapted by Blake Crouch from his novel of the same name published in 2015 (which I haven't read), different from the many other alternate realities that I've encountered on pages and screens is that the two versions of the lead character Jason, once the story gets going, share the same knowledge of themselves and the alternate worlds they inhabit, up to a point.  Or, to be more precise, the two versions of Jason have switched realities -- for some reason we do not yet know -- and each quickly learns about their new reality, while retaining knowledge of their original reality before the time that their original reality split in two.  

We also are beginning to understand that the fork in this particular double reality happened 15 years earlier, when Jason had to make a decision about how he felt about his girlfriend Daniela's pregnancy.  Our story begins in the present, with Jason and Daniela happily married, with Charlie their 15-year-old son.  Before too long, Jason is kidnapped and ends up in an alternate reality in which Jason didn't want to be a father, Daniela had an abortion, and they're living separate lives.  As the two episodes unfold, with an appealing mix of break-neck action and philosophical contemplation, we find the Jasons beginning to struggle with the question: In one reality, he's a happily married father, but he and Daniela have lackluster careers.  In the other reality, Jason is a pathbreaking, enormously successful physicist and Daniela a famous artist, but neither has much of a personal life.  Which life will/would Jason choose?  That is, assuming Jason has the power to now make such a choice.

I'll definitely be watching every episode of this new series, and posting reviews here as appropriate.





Sunday, May 5, 2024

The Singer Sisters: The Musical Mystique


There's a meta-genre of fiction epitomized in different but overlapping ways by Eddie and the Cruisers, Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap, and Daisy Jones and the Six -- the first and the third adapted to the screen from novels -- that helps us understand what those who make music that lights up our nights are doing when they're off-stage and not in the studio.  Sarah Seltzer's The Singer Singers, a debut novel to be published this August, not only fits well in that narrative family, but in some ways exceeds it.  I'd expect to see it adapted on some kind of screen before too long.

The Singer Sisters actually tells us two stories, deftly interwoven.  One is a moving snapshot of the folk-rock music scene,  and therein the larger music venue in which folk-rock played, in the last third of the 20th century.  The other is a tableau of upper middle class Jewish culture, in New York City, Boston, and beyond, in the same period of time.

The Singers -- aka the Zingleman sisters -- strive to succeed across two tempestuous generations along with other fictional singers and writers, against a backdrop of real superstars that even non-devotees of folk-rock will instantly recognize.  The characters worry about "stealing from Dylan".  One of the singers concludes that "Joan Baez was right and Dylan wrong, that kindness mattered more than genius" (I would say that both are crucial).  There's a quote from Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain" -- "see the silver bird on high" -- and a mention of Phil Ochs (not a superstar but shoulda been).  And there are fictitious characters that the cognoscenti will surely know, like the rock critic who uses his way with words to unfairly lambaste brilliant work (as the real rock critic did to Phil Ochs -- not to mention Paul McCartney). Meanwhile, the Singer songs are not only spoken of by the characters, but Seltzer actually delivers more than a dozen sets and snippets of original lyrics, demonstrating a considerable talent not only as a novelist but a lyricist, and leaving the reader yearning to hear them put to music and fulfilled in song.  In addition to a movie or a limited TV series, The Singer Sisters also has the makings of a Broadway musical.

The Zingleman sisters are Jewish, and their Yiddishkeit permeates the novel, not only in cream sodas, but their parents' wise view that they'd rather see their children fed with goishe food than go hungry without it. In this sense, The Singer Sisters has a kinship with Philip Roth's Goodbye Columbus, and I hope the novel is recognized as the compelling portrait of Jewish culture in America that it is.  It's especially important, given the rising wave of anti-Semitism that's afflicting our country and the world.

In case it's not obvious, The Singer Sisters is very much a woman's novel, explored in sisterhood, motherhood, and daughterhood, with love, heartbreak, pain, exultation, and a panoply of uniquely female emotion in every chapter.  But men might well get a necessary education from this novel too, and I heartily recommend it to any human being.

Pre-order The Singer Sisters here.

============

"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller ... it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." 

-- Jack Dann, Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Podcast Review of Rebel Moon, Parts 1 and 2


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 384, in which I review Rebel Moon, Parts 1 and 2.

Written blog post reviews of Rebel Moon, Part 1 and Part 2.


Check out this episode!

Rebel Moon, Part 2: The Robot and the Freshness



Just saw Rebel Moon, Part 2, on Netflix the other night.  I enjoyed it.  For some reason, my favorite character was the robot, JC-1435, aka James or Jimmy.

I'm not sure what that says about this second part of the movie (which, based on the ending, may well be the beginning of a series of two-part or one-part movies in a saga that now feels to me much more like Dune than Star Wars).  Maybe it's the antlers on Jimmy's head.  Maybe it's the voice -- you can't go wrong with Anthony Hopkins doing the voicing of anything.  But all in all, James conveyed a sensitivity that's rarely seen in robots or androids in movies or TV series, and which in its own way had a subtlety that even Data in Star Trek: TNG seldom quite achieved.

The battles were good and exciting, strong edge-of-your seat stuff.  The villains, however, often verged on cartoonish.   The heroes had more subtlety, and maybe that's because there were more of them than the villains.  I won't warn you about spoilers, because there won't be anything specific in this review, but I will say that this part of the movie which I hope will be a series concluded with fewer heroes than it had at the beginning.

Yeah, I hope we'll see more.  I like looking at the state of the human species at times like these, when we've gone way out into the cosmos, and met other intelligent beings, some of them now deadly foes, others of them loyal friends.  The problem with both Star Wars and Dune, and we can add Foundation to this list,  is that if we've done any reading or watching, we already know who the major characters are and who they will be.  Sometimes we even care about them so much, we don't like it if they're substantially changed in the new treatment (or at least, I feel that way).  But Rebel Moon, even though it deals with very well worn tropes, has a winning freshness and relevance to it.  The heroes in Rebel Moon, when they're not fighting Nazis, are harvesting grain.  Just like they do in Ukraine.

And that's why I'm totally aboard to see more.

See also: Red Moon, Part 1: Galactic Heroes and Villains




Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Podcast Review of Constellation


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 383, in which I review the first season of Constellation.

Written blog post review of Constellation.

Mentioned in the podcast:

 

 


Check out this episode!

Sunday, April 21, 2024

50 Years After Understanding Media: Audiobook of My 2014 Keynote Address at Baylor University



Just published:  Audiobook of my 2014 Keynote Address at Baylor University, "50 Years after Understanding Media".  Listen to a free audio sample, buy the audiobook here.


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Podcast Review of American Rust 2


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 382, in which I review the second season of American Rust.

  • written blog post review of the second season of American Rust

Check out this episode!

Monday, April 15, 2024

Constellation: Alternate Realities and Family



I've read and seen many alternate reality stories.  Some are caused by quantum entanglement -- the mega version of two subatomic particles colliding and then moving in opposite directions but still intimately and instantly connected -- and some just happen or are already there.  I just reviewed a movie with that schema, and have written a few double realities stories and a novel with that premise myself.  But none explore the existence and impact of that on families the way that Constellation does.  Indeed, none do much of that at all in the at once deep and startling way that this new series on Apple TV+ does.

[Some spoilers ahead ... ]

The title and the start of the series makes you think it's a story about space travel.  But space is just the catalyst for a powerful, heart-tugging story that takes place right here on Earth.  Jo is an astronaut on the International Space Station, which suffers a devastating accident.  Most of the astronauts, cosmonauts, and space travelers from Europe manage to return to Earth.  Jo and Paul are left on station. Paul dies of his injuries.  Jo manages to get back to Earth, and that's when the fun begins.  That is, fun for us, quite the opposite for Jo and her family.

Jo soon discovers that things aren't quite the same with her family as when she left for the voyage to the ISS.  Her husband Magnus is surprised with how much Jo seems to like him.  Her daughter Alice doesn't seem quite the same person. We soon learn that this voyage to space has split Jo's reality into two -- literally.  There are, or were, two Jo's, two Magnus's,  two Alice's.  We hear about macro quantum entanglements.  In this case, two families, which in fact are two versions of the same family. And things get really crazy when they try to communicate with one another. 

There's a history to this -- the strange effect of going out into near space has been happening at least since the 1970s.  There's a touch of alternate history, too.  There's an Apollo 18 mission (in our reality, the Apollo Program ended with Apollo 17's trip to the moon).  But the heart of this carefully crafted narrative is the agony that Jo's two families -- the same family, in two slightly but significantly different versions --  go through as they struggle to make sense of Jo's return from space and what's happening to them.

The narrative is immensely savvy, with winks to all kinds of things.  There's a cat that lives and a cat that dies -- the same cat, actually, in alternate realities -- apropos Erwin Schrödinger.  Alice lives up to her literary tradition, in wonderland on both sides of the looking glass.  And the story is lifted by powerful performances, especially Rosie and Davina Coleman (twins) as the Alices, and Noomi Rapace as Jo.  Jonathan Banks as Henry/"Bud" Caldera, an astronaut on that Apollo 18 mission and still very much around in twofold form in the 2020s, puts in an even more memorable than usual crusty performance. And it was good to see Barbara Sukowa as Irena, a cosmonaut whose double plays a crucial role in this story.  Hats off twice to Peter Arness (Wallander) who created and wrote the series.

All in all, a thought-provoking, tightly woven, emotionally valent eight episodes of what could well be the first season of more to come, and I won't soon forget in any case.



Saturday, April 13, 2024

Quantum Suicide: Beholding the Eye of the Storm



Gerrit Van Woudenberg's Quantum Suicide movie (which he wrote, directed, and -- with Shane Morgan - co-produced) won the Best Sci-Fi Dramatic Feature award at the Philip K. Dick Film Festival last week in New York.  I was at the Festival, and moderated a panel with Van Woudenberg, but I had another appointment when the movie was shown at the Festival.  Van Woudenberg was good enough to give me the URL for a screener, which I just saw and greatly enjoyed.  Herewith a non-spoiler review.

The clockwork of the movie is quantum mechanics, something which will be familiar to readers of my novelette, The Chronology Protection Case, and viewers of the short film that Jay Kensinger made from my story. The multifaceted gist of QM is that is that mere observation of quantum particles affects their location, speed, and existence; that when two particles collide and go off in opposite directions, anything that happens to one instantly influences the other, regardless of how far apart they are, and because this "quantum entanglement" happens regardless of the distance between the particles, it contradicts the widely held notion that speed of light is the ultimate speed in the universe.  Further, particles in themselves exist in either/or states, and observation of a particle determines which state the particle is in, and can even destroy it -- much like, I always think, what trying to fathom the texture of a snowflake with your fingers does to the snowflake.

Quantum Suicide takes this one crucial step further, drawing on the quantum suicide thought-experiment -- in which a gun pointed at the observer can either be shot at the observer's head or not -- and hypothesizing and weaving a story around the premise that therefore the observation of a subatomic particle can also destroy the observer.  Or, more precisely, the experimenter in the eyes of the observer.

But don't think you need to be a quantum physicist to understand and really enjoy this movie.  I'm not, at least in this universe  If you have been a big admirer of Primer -- the now classic 2004 time travel movie -- or any movie that features the scientist or scientists doing concept-bending and earth-shattering work in their spare bedroom or garage, you'll love Quantum Suicide.  Like Kensinger's The Chronology Protection Case, Quantum Suicide features detailed scientific explanations woven into the action, which always feel to me to be something Hugo Gernsback would've greatly appreciated.   And as for work-at-home science, the movie not only features the scientist and his significant other, but their next-door-neighbor, a little girl who also spends her time building radios and ant farms. 

Kennedy Montano does a good job as that precocious girl, Emily, as does Andrew Rogerson as the work-at-home experimenter Cayman with a penchant for self-destruction, and Kate Totten as his life partner Gen who observes Cayman with increasing misgiving. The music in Quantum Suicide, an original score by Mark Lazeski, is suitably pitched between anxiety and terror producing. The movie is currently making the film festival rounds, nominated for six awards and winning another. It will likely be on one of the streaming services this Fall.  If you crave a little hard science in your science fiction you can't go wrong with Quantum Suicide, and if you don't, you don't know what you're missing.

More information about Quantum Suicide here, including a synopsis of the plot and a trailer.



watch the movie on Amazon Prime Video


Sunday, April 7, 2024

Fatal Crossing: Anatomy of a Serial Killer



[Big Spoilers ahead ... ]

I've heard -- in television shows and movies about serial killers, I've never done any research into them myself -- that female serial killers are very rare.  Fatal Crossing, the latest Nordic Noir TV series from Kristine Berg and Arne Berggren, does a masterful job of portraying one, and how she came to be.

The villain, Lisbeth/Jyte, tells her interrogator, the journalist Nora Sand, that she's not afraid of being abandoned, she's afraid of being forgotten.  That's as an astute a statement of the obsession with fame that I've come across.  As part of Lisbeth's quest for fame, she likes to be quoted.  I hope this fictional character appreciates that I've at least paraphrased her.

Fortunately, most people who value fame and enjoy a bit of it, including me, don't achieve it and seek to maintain it by killing people.  Lisbeth discovers how much killing attractive young women really appeals to her when she and her best friend Lulu are kidnapped by a man with a taste for harming young women himself, and Lisbeth turns the tables on him, not killing him, but running him and Lulu in support of satisfying her own deadly needs.

We follow the path to discovering this depraved menage a trois via the central character, Nora Sand, an intrepid journalist with her own backpack of emotional baggage.  She's played in compelling detail by Marie Sandø Jondal, whom I've never seen before on the screen.  Indeed, I've never seen a searcher for serial killers portrayed with quite the range of emotional valence Sand brings to the part.

Berg and Bergson deserve a lot of credit for this, as does Lone Theils, herself a Danish journalist and author of the novel of the same name from which this TV series was adapted.  Fatal Crossing is itself the first in a series of novels, and I very much look forward to seeing more of this Nordic Noir with a twist from this team.

See also my reviews of these other Berg and Berggren TV seriesCatch and Release and Outlier

And my 2022 interview with Berg and Berggren:


=====





Saturday, April 6, 2024

'It's Real Life' at the Philip K. Dick Film Festival


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 381, a special Saturday episode of this podcast, in which Captain Phil and I talk about the Philip K. Dick Film Festival going on today at the Musuem of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens; a panel I'll be moderating there at 2:40 this afternoon on the Anatomy of a Feature Winning Script; my novel It's Real Life: An Alternate History of The Beatles which has just been published and for which no movie or TV script has yet been written (but a radio play has been adapted from the first chapter, see the links below); Philip K. Dick; and much more.

 

 


Check out this episode!

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Podcast Review of 3 Body Problem season one


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 380, in which I review the first season of 3 Body Problem.


Check out this episode!

Monday, April 1, 2024

American Rust season 2: Zooming In on that Ending



My wife and I really enjoyed the first season of American Rust on Showtime nearly three years ago, and we enjoyed the second season on Amazon that we binged in the past few days even more.

Everything ranging from the dialogue to the plot to even the ending was in high gear in this second season.

[And here now is an advisory about Spoilers in what follows.]

Plotwise, it took a really long time before you could tell who the killer was.  And once we found out and he was disposed of, our heroes were challenged by another killer, which led to the high-octane, ambiguous ending.

By high octane, I mean Grace and Del and Billy and family sitting around a dinner table for several harrowing minutes as Fisher gets them in his sniper sights, perched outside.  When Billy, now with the benefit of some Army training a marksman, spots a red dot, he goes outside to take care of the sniper.  And there second season ends, as we hear a shot ring out.  I looked over that final scene several times, and it looks to me that though Fisher is aware that Billy or someone has exited the house, he hasn't had time to refocus his aim on Billy.  So if there is a third season -- and I surely hope there is one -- I predict we'll find out that Billy shot and killed Fisher before he got off a shot.  (My wife takes a more ambiguous view.) On the other hand, it's certainly also possible that Fisher got off that shot, not at Billy, but at someone inside the house at that dinner table.)

I will say that one problem I had with that great ending is why didn't Fisher shoot at Del or Grace right after he had them in his sights?  Of course, I'm no sniper, so maybe that's what snipers do, play around with getting their targets just right.

Meanwhile, another acutely cliff-hanging note near the ending comes when Steve's assistant cop Hannah comes to in the hospital.  She was pretty much awake when Del gave Steve his confession.  And though Steve was killed by Grace -- another great scene -- and the recording of Del's confession destroyed, Hannah could trigger an investigation of Del and the three murders he confessed to if she remembers what Del said at that moment and anyone in authority believes her.  But, optimist that I am, I think even remembering what Del said is fairly unlikely given the bad shape that Hannah was in -- having been shot by Russell and barely hanging on that moment. Also, I assume that even if she remembers what Del said, anyone defending him at a trial could impugn Hannah's testimony, by letting the judge and jury know what condition she was in when she heard or thought she heard Del talking.

Now, I said that the dialogue was in high gear.  My favorite line: when Vic walks into the bar with his broken finger in a bandage, and the bartender asks him that perfect, sarcastic question.  Not only a great line, but she delivered it with just the right tone of voice.

I read somewhere that Amazon cares less about what reviewers are saying than how many people are viewing a series.  Here's hoping that they're legion, and we see a Season 3 before too long.

See also American Rust 1.1-2: Pennsylvania Noir ... American Rust 1.3: Highs and Lows of Life at the Same Time ... American Rust 1.4-5: Tightening Noose and Fraying Relationships ... American 1.6: The Debts ... American Rust 1.7: The Dead Can't Buy Drugs ... American Rust 1.8: Finally, Some Hope ... American Rust 1.9: Needed, Another Season, or at Least Episode



Sunday, March 31, 2024

3 Body Problem: The Joke Was Great, and the Last Few Episodes Were Even Better



I haven't read the novel by Liu Cixin and its sequels, and I didn't read much about the series because I wanted to be surprised.  I'd say the first season of 3 Body Problem was superb -- a powerful mix of thought-provoking, stunning action, and heartbreaking human stories, all in support of a story of a life-threatening interstellar intelligent species, the San-Ti, who have been in contact with our planet for more than 50 years and now are approaching us, some 400 years away from arriving, which may mean the end of our species.  And there was a wise and funny joke about Einstein and God which I hadn't heard before.

But almost all of that happened in the last few episodes, and the beginning and middle of the eight-episode first season was bogged down with a computer game the interstellar beings are doling out to various people on Earth for various reasons.   I've always enjoyed science fiction about computer games interacting with reality, beginning with Orson Scott Card's path-breaking and brainy Ender's Game, but its situation in 3 Body Problem was needlessly repetitive.  The heart of 3 Body was closer to Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End and Damon Knight's "To Serve Man" (see this collection of Knight's stories), and the first season of the 3 Body television series, whatever may have been done in the novel, should have spent more time on that.  (This slow start is reminiscent of another iconic novel in science fiction, Frank Herbert's Dune, that also took a long time to get going, but once it did was fabulous, and led to not just a trilogy but a whole series, exceeded in excellence only by Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels, in my opinion.)

But speaking of hearts and brains, biology was actually far more the star of the first season than was space travel.  This puts 3 Body Problem in a league with Andrew Niccol's debut motion picture Gattaca.  If I'm making 3 Body sound derivative, that's because it is, but that's ok, because the first season puts all of these perennial elements of science fiction together in an original, compelling way.  It's not every day you see a science fiction series starting in Mao's China and its emphasis on ideology over truth (a problem unfortunately arising now in the United States and other parts of the world, off the fiction screen and for real), moving into a life-and-death James Bondian present fighting for the survival in the future of our very species.  

Ironically, the unflattering depiction of intellectual life in Mao's China at the beginning of the 3 Body Problem television series contradicts the warning that five Republican US Senators sent to Netflix in 2020 that the TV series would just be spreading Chinese propaganda. Of course, those Senators and no one other than the creators of the TV series had any idea what would actually be depicted in the TV series, and thus those Senators based their concerns on the novel. The original Chinese publication of the novel indeed did not begin with the jolting scene of a physicist brutally killed in the throes of the cultural revolution -- because he believes in truth over ideology -- but that scene did appear in the middle of the original Chinese novel, and at the beginning of the English translation (Liu Cixin confirms that he wrote the novel with that scene at the beginning). Apparently those US Senators didn't take the time to read the novel before offering their ill-founded concerns about the TV series.

In any case, I don't recall seeing anything quite like this TV series at all, and I'm eagerly awaiting the second season and more.  The dialog, by the way, was excellent, as was the acting.  Nearly everyone was new to me, other than Game of Thrones' Liam Cunningham, and it was good to see him on the screen again. Kudos to David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and Alexander Woo for creating the series, and kudos to me for not having to warn you about spoilers in this review, because they really aren't any, are there?




Saturday, March 30, 2024

Podcast: Book Launch and Reading of It's Real Life: An Alternate History of The Beatles novel at The Players


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 379, in which I take you into the Book Launch and reading I did of It's Real Life: An Alternate History of The Beatles, my new novel, based on the award-winning short story of the same name, in the historic Players Club in New York City on March 27, 2024.

  • "Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History
  • Watch the video of the Book Launch here.
  • Get the book here.
  • Listen to the radio play adapted from the short story here.
  • Listen to "If I Traveled to the Past" here.
  • Interview about the novel here.
  • More about The Players.
  • More about the New York Society for General Semantics (sponsor of the Book Launch.)

 


Check out this episode!

Friday, March 29, 2024

A Night at The Players in New York City


A night in which I read the first chapter of my new novel, It's Real Life: An Alternate History of The Beatles, play a little music, introduce a character who appeared in the novel, who was in the audience, and answered all kinds of questions from the audience. 

You can get the novel here.

  • "Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Podcast: Why Banning TikTok in the US Is a Bad Idea


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 378, in which I present the many reasons that banning TikTok in the United States -- or even threatening to ban TikTok in the U.S. -- is a bad idea.


Check out this episode!

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Podcast Review of Hightown season 3


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 377, in which I review the third season of Hightown.

  • written blog post review of the third season of Hightown, with links to my written reviews of most of the episodes of the first two seasons.

Check out this episode!

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Hightown Season 3: A Satisfying Wrap-Up that Calls Out for More



Hightown ended its third and final season on Friday.  I thought the season and series finale was the best episode of the season, and the season in turn was the best of the three seasons.

First, as someone who spends several months or more a year on Cape Cod with my family, I'll admit that I was very likely to like the series.  But it exceeded all my expectations, beginning with the theme song, "Vacation," the 1980's Textones's rendition of the 1980's Go-Go's song.  It's plain and simply my favorite punk rock song, and most of the time the only punk rock I really like.

But let's get to the storyline of the final season.

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

In a phrase, the final episode of the final season wrapped everything up in a way that left a path wide open for a fourth season or a movie somewhere down the line.

I was glad to see Frankie killed.  I was glad to see Jackie finally get in a sobre groove -- but I didn't like her siding with Alan against Ray.  Hey, maybe that's just me, but I love the relationship Ray and Renee have, and I approve of him doing whatever is needed to protect her.

I'm also glad Osito is surviving and is thriving.  Atkins Estimond did a great job in the role, and this is a good time to mention that the acting across the board was outstanding.  Just think about the difference between Monica Raymund in Chicago Fire and what she did as Jackie in Hightown, where she delivered an Emmy-worthy performance.  James Badge Dale as Ray was memorable, as was Riley Voelkel as Renee.  Garret Dillahunt has been memorable on the screen for many years, and came through again as Shane in Hightown.

Let's talk about Hightown picking up the story some time in the future.  As I said, there's more than enough room for that.  Ray now being in Osito's pocket is more than enough for a season right there.  It's the price he had to pay for protecting Renee., and it's a ticket for a future in the series. Jackie as a clean cop is a good story, made all the more powerful that she turned on Ray.  In a new season or movie, I'd expect her to revisit that wrong decision.

Big thanks to everyone for putting together this unique and uniquely satisfying series, which I look forward to seeing some more of, someday.

See also Hightown 2.1: Switching Ups and Downs ... Hightown 2.2: Some of My Favorite Things ... Hightown 2.3: Dinners and Almost Dinners ... Hightown 2.4: Approaching Midseason Predictions ... Hightown 2.5: Bullets and Love ... Hightown 2.6: True Love and Deception ... Hightown 2.7: Getting Down to Business ... Hightown 2.8: The Devil His Due and Therapy for the Soul ... Hightown 2.9: Heroes and More Seasons ... Hightown 2.10: Brilliant End-Up, Looking for 3

And see also Hightown 1.1: Top-Notch Saltwater and Characters ... Hightown 1.2: Sludge and Sun ... Hightown 1.3: Dirty Laundry ... Hightown 1.4: Banging on the Hood ... Hightown 1.5-6: Turning Point and the Real True ... Hightown 1.7: Two Things ... Hightown 1.8: Up and Down and Up



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