Movie Reviews 413 – Sunset Boulevard (1950)

November 8, 2019

Hollywood. The place where dreams are made and just as quickly shattered. Where the mansions are enormous but are easily overshadowed by the cesspools they obscure. Marlon Brando once famously quoted “Most of the successful people in Hollywood are failures as human beings.” This damning assessment of Tinseltown is captured in Sunset Boulevard, a film noir that ends with one of the eras most iconic lines as the camera zooms in on a faded movie star.

Down to his last few dollars and without any hopeful prospects to sell any of his movie scripts, Joe Gillis (William Holden) dodges the repo men after his car by slipping into an empty garage of a run down mansion of the iconic Sunset strip. But what he initially mistakes for an abandoned abode is the home of former silent screen starlet Norma Desmod (Gloria Swanson) who at first mistakes him for the undertaker of her recently deceased pet monkey. Having clarified that idiotic notion Norma reluctantly shows the scribe a script she wrote that she hopes will be the stake for her return to the big screen.

Joe realizes the script is a disastrous mess but gives a calculated response that will ensure he can sponge off the eccentric but wealthy crone with a few days of script cleaning. Hoping for not much more that to get himself out of hock and back to a dreary, but steady job, his temporary one night stay in a room above the garage is soon a move into the plush boudoir next to Norma’s. Initially rebuffing her advances and hysterics, he soon finds himself in an uncomfortable balancing act of lover/writer just as he begins to fall for the fiance of his best friend (Nancy Olson) as she too wants both his love and his writing acumen.

Skillfully narrated by Joe’s voice-over, this brilliantly scripted film (Co-written and directed by Billy Wilder) begins with a body floating in a pool, but so mesmerizing is the underlying story that I forgot what this was slowly driving back to. The excellent performances by the main cast includes Norma’s sympathetic butler, played by former director Erich von Stroheim, who even manages to induce a bit of levity.

While the final act of Swanson swooning into the camera proclaiming “I’m ready for my close-up now Mr. Demille” is probably the most referenced scene, there are plenty of other gems such as Joe exclaiming “You were once big.” upon meeting Desmond who retorts “I AM big. It’s the films that got small.”

The special features that were included on my DVD revealed a fascinating number of parallels between the story and the cast. Swanson, like Desmond was fifty at the time of filming and was indeed a former then fade star having made a single film in the preceding 15 years. Ironically, this Oscar nominated performance (as were that of all the other stars – all deserving I might add) did return her to glory. Holden was also a forgotten player whose career was not only revitalized, but was the beginning of a long and prosperous career. I’ll leave the surprise of von Stroheim’s casting to those who have not watched the film as it’s too good to spoil here.

Hollywood at its best by exposing Hollywood at its worst. Only in Hollywood can such a self-deprecating movie become such a success.

Movie Reviews 412 – Easy Rider (1969)

October 31, 2019

When Peter Fonda passed away this past summer, it was the end of an era of sorts. Never having achieved the stardom of his father Henry or his sister Jane, the black sheep of the family will forever be recognized for his role in Easy Rider, a film he wrote and produced with director and co-star Dennis Hopper released fifty years ago. A defining moment for the rebellious sixties youth movement that many would say reached its apex that year, the film also presented a radical departure from traditional storytelling, with an emphasis on characters, and a minimalist almost inconsequential plot.

The story centers on two bikers who have just scored a small fortune after flipping a load of cocaine from some Mexicans operating from a dust filled pueblo to a rich dealer chauffeured in a Rolls Royce (a cameo role for renown and now reviled music producer Phil Spector). After the score, “Captain America” (Fonda) and Billy (Hopper) make their way to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras carnival, picking up a hitchhiker (Antonio Mendoza), an alcoholic small town lawyer (Jack Nicholson), visiting a commune, spending a bit of time in the slammer, before finally pairing up with some hookers (Karen Black and Toni Basil) in The Big Easy.

The film chronicles multiple journeys. On the surface we have the internal journey of flag draped pessimist Captain America. His timid soul searching (between acid trips) a sharp contrast to that of folded brim slouch hat wearing Billy who is optimistic of their fortunes while not trusting anyone. On the other hand the celluloid journey captures the panoramic beauty of the desert vistas across America itself as the boys roll on the highways. Once could easily claim that the vehicles of this journey, the two iconic chopper motorcycles they ride are just as much the stars of the film as any of the human actors.

Capturing the essence of this sixties youth would of course be inconsequential without a fitting the music score, and in that regard Easy Rider delivers from the outset with Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild and The Weight (Robbie Robertson/The Band) with a sprinkling of Hendrix, The Byrds and Roger McGuinn (allegedly the main characters being loosely based on McGuinn and David Crosby of The Byrds).

Numerous scenes highlight the dichotomy of the hippie, freewheeling lifestyle compared to mainstream America including a small town restaurant scene in which local townsfolk were employed to provide a realistic point of view of the disparity. The symbolism of seeing Captain America hoisting his bike to repair a tire while a farmer re-shoes his horse only a few feet away is unmistakable. The film ominously concludes with a memorable, jarring, perhaps overly harsh statement on that tenuous bridge between those two worlds.

Watching the film I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those stunning open highway landscapes are now dotted with condos, parking lots and fast food outlets. It’s far from a perfect film, but it does effectively capture a time that is now lost.

Movie Reviews 411 – Firestarter (1984)

October 25, 2019

Stephen King‘s cinematic legacy has always been one in which adaptations of his writing either fell in the “Terrific Film” category or “Dismal Dreg” cinematic swill bucket. You have your Shinings, Carries, Shawshank Redemptions and Mists against your Dreamcatchers, Maximum Overdrives and Thinners and there are very few that fall in between those extremes.

With an esteemed cast that includes George C. Scott, Martin Sheen, Drew Barrymore, Art Carney, Heather Locklear and Louise Fletcher, you could be forgiven if you presumed that Firestarter would fall in the “Terrific Film” camp. (OK, I was just kidding when I included Heather Locklear’s thespian chops as a selling point). However this is not only not one of the better adaptations but would easily vie as one of the worst.

Firestarter is about a young couple who underwent experimental pharmaceutical testing for some secretive government agency which resulted in long lasting psychic abilities for the subjects – well for those that survived the ordeal anyway. As both Andy (David Keith) and Vicky (Locklear) were test subjects, their daughter Charlene “Charlie” (Barrymore) later proved to have even more powerful faculties. As a “firestarter” with unknown limits to her increasing powers, the same organization that administered the drug trials are now deeply concerned and want to get her into their labs for testing. As told from a series of flashbacks, the couple, fed up being confined and tested have long been in hiding with new identities. Accidental firebursts from Charlie allow the men in black to find the family and in trying to retrieve the girl Vicky is killed. Andy and Charlie, now on the run from one crummy roadside motel to another find a brief sanctuary with an elderly farm couple, but eventually they are hauled back to “The Shop” for analysis, and possible ‘threat eradication’.

The list of problems with this film is longer than a Green Mile. An occasional trait of Dino De Laurentiis productions is that he sometimes opted for money and star power alone In lieu of a good script and production values for his film productions – the 1976 King Kong, Orca, and David Lynch’s Dune come to mind as prime examples. This was the fate here, but only the first obstacle.

Barrymore, somewhere between her “cute preschooler who can innocently repeat swear words” debut in E.T. and her current adult director/producer/comedy actor phase, seems to be merely putting on choreographed faces while memorizing lines and is clearly beyond her range. Scott, ever the hard-as-nails heavy is just that, but his macho demeanor and murderous intentions aren’t really backed up by any real threat so he comes off as a delusional psychotic. He inexplicably sports an eyepatch during the latter half of the film (apparently an eye infection developed early in production), but no attempt is made to reconcile it in the film. He also sports and long ponytail coif that is at odds with his military precision facade. Carney is the lovable grampa figurehead as the farmer, but I’m at a loss as to what Fletcher was even thinking as she cardboard-coasts her delivery as his wife. Sheen’s character as the guy running “the Shop’ is meant to counterbalance Scott’s hard handed approach towards Charlie, but in the end he does absolutely nothing. Even a small part for everyone’s favorite “Huggy Bear” (Antonio Fargas) as a cabbie is basically squandered.

Now with a premise completely based on a character that can spontaneously start a fire, one can imagine to type of special effects featured in the film. A few car explosions and inferno’s aside, a lot of the FX are laughable. The zoom in on Charlie every time she is about to unleash her power in which we see her hair suddenly going airborne to an invisible wind tunnel loses its charm the second time we see it and would make for a good beer drinking game by the halfway mark. By the end of the film she can bounce bullets off her like Wonder Woman and start shooting what I can only describe precision meteors to those who stand in her way. Yes it gets that silly and all this before a groan worthy Three Days of the Condor ending.

I never read the novel so I can only conjecture that there may have been a lot of the narrative that  got trimmed as the story does suffer from broad jumps and sparse background of what I suspect may have been a compressed plot. Interestingly, this film was once slated to be directed by John Carpenter but the perceived failure at the time of The Thing resulted in him being removed from the film. (Yes, you got that right. The Thing was not a box office smash and only later received acclaim once it was released on home video.) We can only imagine what his version would have been like.

My Firestarter DVD happens to be the dual set that includes the sequel Firestarter: Rekindled, a TV miniseries made 20 years after this original. I haven’t watched it yet but it stars Malcolm McDowell and Dennis Hopper so it’s gotta be good right? What are the odds I get burned on that one? (I’ll be sure to have some burn ointment close at hand.)

As for Firestarter itself it would be no loss if someone burned all remaining prints and copies off the face of the Earth. I’ll start rubbing sticks. Throw a little gasoline on it for good measure…

 

Rocket Ryder & Little Putt-Putt Go Down Swinging – Timothy Friend (2018)

October 17, 2019

The only negative thing I can say about this novella is that it has an overly long and somewhat misleading title. However once I read it and the liner notes that included author’s intent, I understood how it came to be yet still wish a more apropos title was used. I say this because it was only a matter of circumstance that I picked up the book in the first place . But I’m certainly glad I did.

This is a 1950’s era murder mystery that includes Film Noir clichés like a murder, a set of compromising photos of a well-to-do individual, rogue cops on the take, some down on their luck characters, and revenge as a central driving force. What distinguishes it from Film Noir is the decidedly spicy language used throughout. No Hays Code filtering here!

The author also clearly has a fondness for classic day-time kiddie shows like Captain Video, Space Ranger and other bygone low budget silver suited heroes. In this case the titular characters Rocket Ryder and Little Putt-Putt, the star and sidekick of a miserly Kansas TV station have just learned that their TV show has been cancelled and that they are out of job. But that’s just the beginning of their problems.

When our protagonist Scotty Crane (AKA Little Putt-Putt) gets a late night call from Rick Tanner (AKA Rocket Ryder) to meet him he is shocked to find that their former show’s director and longtime army buddy has been murdered. The trail leads to the wealthy station owner and his son, but as is always the case while piecing together the clues, the motives, repercussions and conclusion have a number of twists and turns.

Told from the point of view of Little Putt-Putt, his relationship with Rocket Ryder develops nicely as the story progresses. The sleuthing itself is not that remarkable, however the trail is an interesting one. A minor plot device of Scott also having to keep an eye on his bad ticker (that’s a slang reference to his heart you young’uns!) which he nicknames his “Yobo” was more annoying than adding to the tension, but was not bad enough to take me out of the story.

I really enjoyed the nostalgic feeling reading about a world with Brownie cameras, The Dumont TV network (look it up!) and pump jockeys. This was a short, but enjoyable read of neo-Noir that I don’t come across too often, but would certainly like to read more of. I picked up this book from Myth Hawker books and will be shopping for more.

Movie Reviews 410 – Shock (1977)

October 11, 2019

In the mood for a vintage giallo this week I perused my movie library and was happy to find Shock (original Italian title Schock and released in North America as Beyond the Door II) by none other than director Mario Bava, the patriarch of the giallo maestro triumvirate (the others being Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci of course). Sadly this, one of his last films, was mediocre at best, and nothing comparable to any of his classics such as Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, or even the quirky Sci-Fi horror Planet of the Vampires. This despite the contribution of Daria Nicolodi in the starring role.

As a young family is moving into a house we sense that the wife Dora (Nicolodi) who seems quite familiar with the place is nonetheless not happy about the move. We soon learn that this is because she once lived there with her former husband Claudio, now deceased. Her distress is more than just a reminder of Claudio, but an actual apprehension of the house harboring some malevolent entity. Moving back in was her new husband Bruno’s (John Steiner) idea, one she only reluctantly accepted.

Their young son Marco (David Colin Jr.) seems quite taken with the house, especially the cellar and Dora can at least enjoy his amusement. That is until he starts muttering things like “Pigs, pigs, PIGS!” when his parents engage in any hanky-panky, or when he innocently tells his mom “Momma, I have to kill you”. But Dora’s worries are not confined to her son’s sudden odd behaviour. She starts seeing floating drawings, a razor laced piano playing by itself and even learns that Bruno, a pilot, briefly lost complete control of the plane he was flying at the same time Marco was having a psychotic episode at home. All her torment seems to be related to her troubled past husband who was a drug addict before he disappeared. But what exactly were the circumstances of that disappearance?

While there is a decent payoff when we learn the truth of what happened, the reliance on cheap scares and the wavering between Dora being insane and imagining all these events or Marco really being possessed gets stale fairly quick. Putting all the clues together it isn’t really all that hard to see where things end up going, at least in the big picture sense. However some of the details of the ‘big reveal’ were surprising.

Rating the movie itself I would have to say that it is more for die hard giallo fans than for casual horror lovers. My Blue Underground DVD did include a number of features that were somewhat interesting, the main one being an older Bava interview. A second interview where son Lamberto Bava describes working on the production and learning ‘the chops’ (literally and figuratively) was fascinating in that we know he was on his way to becoming a respected director himself, eventually directing the classic Demons.

Movie Reviews 409 – Memories of Murder (2003)

October 4, 2019

Between the years 1986 and 1991 the South Korean city of Hwaseong experienced that country’s first serial killer. The series of 10 rapes and murders galvanized and terrorized the citizens. Memories of Murder is a dramatization of the investigation as told from the point of view of the two prime detectives who worked on the case.

Detective Park (Song Kang-ho) is the first one the scene when a body is found wedged under ditch crossing in a field. A bumbling cop, he is prone to quickly jumping to incorrect conclusions while eager to be in the spotlight as the case advances. The discovery of a second victim brings detective Seo (Kim Sang-kyung) from Seoul to help with the investigation. Methodical and quiet spoken he not only sheds light on new evidence but the fact that there has already been a third victim who hasn’t even been found yet. But the third victim is not the last in what becomes an interminable case.

Park and his willing partner and sidekick Cho resort to coercion and beating confessions, leaving Seo to mock their tactics and disprove their findings, which only ratchets up the tension between the two as the case wears on. While some clues including a rather strange modus operandi becomes evident, even crafty traps fail to capture the assailant. The key lies with a most unusual suspect, a retarded young boy who is being ‘trained’ by Park to provide a believable confession.

While the mystery itself if riveting enough, the complex relationships between the officers and the impact of the stress they are put under is just as much a part of the drama. Seo is the perfectionist unaccustomed to dealing with failure especially on such and important case while Park suffers from anxiety and his own ineffectiveness coupled with wife’s worries for him. But as time goes on a mutual respect develops but not without lingering effects from the prolonged investigation.

Despite the somber circumstances being portrayed, the film also includes a number of strangely comical scenes when it comes to Park and Jo’s antics such as one in which he discerns that since no evident non-victim hair was found on the bodies the perpetrator must be hairless. While I enjoyed this comedy as I watched the film I had no idea that this was based on true events. It was only while watching the DVD special features did I learn that the serial killings were not only real, but not solved at the time of filming, which makes the comic aspect somewhat morbid. Ironically, as did a bit more digging into the story I learned that the crime was solved only this past year.

Writer-director Joon-ho Bong would call again on actor Song Kang-ho to star in The Host shortly after this outing with equally entertaining results.

Movie Reviews 408 – Laura (1944)

September 28, 2019

I’ve been saving this one for quite a while as I’ve been plowing through tons for Film Noir this past year. While I can’t say Laura is my favorite – that’s still a toss up between All About Eve, Double Indemnity and Leave Her to Heaven – it clearly ranks as one of the best murder mysteries of the the era, which, being the heyday of the genre, makes it one of the best period.

There are so many unique aspects to the plot that I hardly know where to begin. From the very beginning voice over, we know that Laura (Gene Tierney at the top of her game and beauty) has been murdered and detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is already working on the case. The prime suspects are the two men who were very much in love with Laura and fighting for her affections. In one corner we have the cultured and respected Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), a newspaper gossip columnist. Older than Laura but appealing from an intellectual point of view he has steered and looked after her for years. His nemesis for her heart is the brash young philanderer Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price) whom Laura has had an on again, off again, engagement. But these two contenders loath one another beyond the battle for Laura’s love.

This is no mere whodunnit. While this begins as some love triangle gone too far, the triangle (such as it could be given that the love interest is dead) becomes a square as detective McPherson is clearly falling in love with the object of his inquest.  But the mystery goes one step further when Laura suddenly walks back into her apartment, oblivious to her own headline making murder. Aside from figuring out whose body was really found, Laura must now contend with the exposed events and revelations that have surfaced since her departure. And the victim now becomes a suspect in what was assumed to be her own murder.

Directed by Hollywood rebel Otto Preminger – while he gave us a litany of great films, for myself he will always be foremost remembered as the POW commandant in Stalag 17 – this film is brimming with delightful eccentricities. McPherson’s incessant need to pull out one of those old child toy dexterity puzzles (where you have a number of balls rolling across a flat cardboard with a few shallow holes and by gingerly tilting the toy the player tries to seat each ball into one of the holes). Then you have Lydecker doing all of his writing sitting naked in his bathtub with his typewriter on a platform. While I cannot be sure this could only have been an allusion to famed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who had that habit in real life. (While your at it. do yourself a favor and watch Bryan Cranston’s Oscar winning performance in Trumbo.)

The performances are superb with Webb at his best, and a reminder that Price was a distinguished mainstream actor long before he became synonymous with horror. Although you would never know it Tierney was well on her way to mental instability that would soon end her career while filming this.

Film Noir at it’s best.

Movie Reviews 407 – Basket Case (1982)

September 20, 2019

The title of Frank Henenlotter‘s 1982 film Basket Case is not so much a double entendre as it is a triple one. It refers to an actual woven carrying basket seen throughout the film, the emotional instability of our protagonist who basically carries said basket with him at all times, and lastly it also references the aberrant contents of said basket.

The movie is about a young man, Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) who has travelled to New York city to hunt down a group of individuals who long ago performed a backroom surgical operation on him, separating him his semi-formed twin growing along the side of his body. Despite living with “Belial” and forming a telepathic link with him, his father hated the outgrowth and blamed it on the death of Duane’s mother during the birth. The father had procured the services of three doctors to forcibly remove the growth and disposed of it in the trash where it was rescued by Duane. Now a young man, Duane is hunting down the doctors responsible with the aid of the diminutive yet powerful Belial to do the dirty work.

This is 80’s camp at it’s best.  Duane moves into a seedy 42nd second street hotel to seek out the last two targets on his list and this hotel provides ample odd interactions with the other denizens of the dump. Belial – Hebrew for The Devil -is an oversized deformed head with nothing more that two powerful arms and somewhat demonic hands. While mostly shot as a puppet or just a masked actor (strategically placed where the actor’s body can be hidden under something) there are a few scenes in which he is shown scampering about and for those some really cheesy, uneven stop-motion was used.

Things begin to go awry when Duane starts to date a secretary (Terri Susan Smith) behind Belial’s back. (Well if he had a back.) and triggering Belial’s anger when he and Sharon get too frisky. Turns out Belial wants to sow some oats of his own and not having the necessary appendage is not going to stop him. The scene where he exercises a bit of necrophilia is both disturbing and comic at the same time.

While there is plenty of slashing going on a blood, those are far from shocking. In fact, probably the most shocking scene is on in which Duane runs stark naked through the streets with some full frontal nudity. That odd filming choice is but one when it comes to pace and continuity. The film includes a rather lengthy flashback explaining the backstory which stands out as by the time we get to it late in the film we already know most of the story so it is only exposition.

Two sequels were made, Basket Case 2 (1990) And Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1991) but I have yet to watch those, only being lucky enough to find this movie for the first time because I recently set myself up with the free streaming provider Tubi to see what gems may be there. This certainly qualifies.

Movie Reviews 406 – Private Parts (1972)

September 14, 2019

If you were looking for a review of the Howard Stern biopic, you’re not going to find that here. The Private Parts we’ll be discussing here are quite different, though equally disturbing. Here, we’ll be indulging in director Paul Bartel’s Private Parts (so to speak). While he will forever be closer associated as the director of low brow classics Eating Raoul and Death Race 2000, Private Parts was Bartel’s first feature and shows some of the blemishes due to inexperience. But the film does entertain if you are looking for the niche it fills. Filmed in and around Manhattan’s seedy 42nd Street at the height of it’s sleez era, this rather tame slasher horror delivers more on eccentricity than any scare or comedy it intended.

Cheryl (Ayn Ruymen), a young runaway living with her best friend Judy in Los Angeles has an argument after being caught peeping on Judy and her boyfriend doing the horizontal. With nowhere else to go she heads to the Big Apple where her aunt Martha (Lucille Benson) owns a dilapidated hotel a stones throw from the dingy Peepshows, Adult magazine shops and other sordid dens of sin. Martha only reluctantly agrees to let Cheryl stay, but makes clear her distaste for any wanton lifestyles.

Cheryl encounters some of the eccentric boarders but takes a particular shine to George (John Ventantonio) a photographer loner, the one person her aunt has warned her to stay away from.

As she settles in to her new digs Cheryl continually hears questions about Alice, a former resident who suddenly disappeared. But it’s her developing womanhood that fills her mind and the enigmatic George becomes a lustfull obsession. Instead of being shocked and outraged when she finds peepholes in her room and shower, she purposely poses for her concealed audience.

An electrified key only discovered when Martha’s pet rat accidentally triggers it opens up a new world to Cheryl, those looking for Alice, and a few other mysterious disappearances. But those are nothing compared to be one big secret shared by Martha and George.

While the performances are nothing to write home about, it’s the sheer weirdness that captivates audiences here. Aunt Martha’s penchant to go to funerals – mostly for people she never knew. George’s inflated sex-doll which he fillls with water and to which he has tacked on a picture of Cheryl’s face which he cuddles to sleep. The old eccentric lady walking the halls and the priest who wears the collar by day but transforms in the sadomasochistic, leather bound homosexual by night.

Produced by Gene Corman, the brother of legendary B-movie producer/director Roger Corman, this film doesn’t get as much exposure as it should. While I can’t say it’s “must see” material no matter which genre peaks your interest, as a historical cult curiosity it is still worth a watch.

 

The Quantum Magician – Derek Künsken (2018)

September 7, 2019

The novels that have made the greatest impact to me are those that bring something new to the table at a conceptual level. Now you would think that when it comes to science fiction, this would be the norm, but actually, it’s rarer than you would think. Sure there are new races, strange and exotic planets, and gadgets by the handful, but presenting an actual novel concept remains rare.

As and example, reading Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep actually tripped me up and forced me to go back after reading a few pages because, for a minute, things did not make sense. And then it clicked. A game changer and all of a sudden I had to read the book from an entirely new perspective. The introduction of the new concept not only adds another layer to the story but forces you and the author to define new boundaries and break old ones.

While quantum computing has been a burgeoning topic in the electronic processing world, especially with the potential consequences to computer security (both pro and con), Derek Künsken’s debut novel The Quantum Magician imparts the notion of quantum states to sentient consciousness. But that is just the backdrop to a rollicking space opera where protagonist Belisarius Arjona, one of the Homo Quantus, leads a ragtag team of misfit recruits on a mercenary mission of galactic proportions. The operation must be performed under the noses of the Puppets, aliens that worship the Numen, the species responsible for multiple evolutionary branches they have created, Homo Quantus being just one of the cavalcade of characters in the novel.

Hired to aid the Union forces in their fight for independence from the Congregate (think evil empire), Bel is tasked to transport a dozen warships discreetly through a wormhole facing overwhelming odds. He recruits former accomplices and acquaintances that include an older, dying friend, a robot who believes he is Saint Matthew, a geneticist, an aquatic being, a mutant Puppet, and a playful natured rebellious female who likes to blow up things. Last but not least is Cassandra, another Homo Quantus who once had close ties to Bel.

This high rik venture also has a myriad of other aliens, complex relationships, trust and betrayal side plots and all based on hard science concepts like entangled particles in a slight-of-wormhole adventure with more than a few surprises along the way. Künsken has compared it to the movie The Sting (a big favorite of mine) wherein the overarching deception in the plot contains many other deceptions within the envelope. A fair enough assessment here but I would add that it includes a blend of assembled characters like The Dirty Dozen or even more that resembling Kelly’s Heroes.

The first of an intended two book series – the follow up The Quantum Garden is about to hit shelves – this can be easily read as a standalone without any cliffhanger leaving you pining for a conclusion.