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Childhood's End, Babylon's Ashes & Rogue One

"It is unwise from some interstellar species to give us technology to leave the Earth - chances that we would use it for star wars are bigger than we would go the next level and use it for peaceful exploration of solar system and beyond." - What is Intelligent Life?

As promised in my last post story about one grim political view of the last forgettable year, please behold another glimpse to the humanity from another angle. Let's move today from raw reality to the reality-inspired fiction and make a little peek into three science-fiction masterpieces. Two of them, product of current almost expired year, that if you ask me, are making this forgettable year, well, little less forgettable. But before Daniel Abraham's and Ty Franck's "Babylon's Ashes", sixth book of The Expanse and "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story", Star Wars sequel, I think this is a perfect moment for me to start the review with another classic, in the most genuine meaning of the word - Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End" that also deals with the same topic - humanity, all his weakness and soundness and the potential future based on our current conditions. And about the war that is, as it seems, inwrought in our core to the bone. So deep, that we still can't imagine a life or our own evolution without it.

Childhood's End

In "Childhood's End", Arthur C. Clarke answered the question of what would happen if everybody on Earth disarmed and dismantled all their weaponry. In his novel, alien race forced people to do just that and the result of hypothetical 21st century without militaries and conflict and with just one world-state is described with these words: "The abolition of armed forces had at once almost doubled the world’s effective wealth, and increased production had done the rest. As a result, it was difficult to compare the standard of living of twenty-first-century man with that of any of his predecessors. Everything was so cheap that the necessities of life were free, provided as a public service by the community, as roads, water, street lighting, and drainage had once been".

But we are humans and evolutionary speaking only half a step ahead of the most advanced living creature on Earth in the realm of entire animal world. Therefore, for many years or decades and maybe even centuries in the future, world without armies, animosities and all kinds of hatred will only stay in fantasy stories like this one. On the other end, this is what I admire the most about Arthur C. Clarke. In most of his novels and stories, if not them all, this pacifist note is always present, including two other of his masterpieces "Rendezvous with Rama" and "Space Odyssey" series. Maybe this fact and the one that there are no real heroes in his imagination from the ordinary 'Hollywood' point of view, is what his books will always be considered as classics. "Childhood's End" is no different and the portrayed possible human evolution with total ascension of human collective mind is something that will give you lots to think about days after last page in the book is read. There is also a TV miniseries created last year based on the novel but I warmly recommend a book. They are not comparable after all, even though the script is not too much diverted from the original.

Babylon's Ashes of The Expanse

However, to make sure this post is true sequel to the previous one with reflection of this year political affairs or hatred if you will, let's get back to the old good war. The cliche, that if told or filmed right is guaranteed to bring you back success, glory and not the least, money. Please don't get me wrong here, I do like this kind of stories with lots of battles, heroes, villains, happy ends and well known fight between good and evil. After all, worldwide authors are not the ones who created the mess - they are only inspired with current political, religious and other types of conflicts in nowadays Earth and her history. This is the exact truth with "The Expanse", the novel series and last two books in sequel. What we had in first four was largely driven by science fiction and existence of alien protomolecule and the gates system. Last two are all about war and expanding conflict between people living on different planets, moons, stations and asteroids. Even though, concluding the conflict in the end of the "Babylon's Ashes" is anticipated from the beginning and with good guys winning as expected, the story is written pretty well and one year of waiting for conclusion, for me was worthwhile and with reading ended with great dose of entertainment. However, while "Childhood's End" is leaving you with many thoughts with its imaginative ending, "Babylon's Ashes" left only with bitter impression that humanity in its core didn't changed in the span of 200 years and all the hatred survived with only different background. All the racial, class, religious and all kind of known animosities survived just the same and spread across Solar system creating another series of wars, only this time with railguns.

On the other end, and also contrary to "Childhood's End", SyFy TV show of "The Expanse" is really extraordinary and exceptional. It is advertized as the best science fiction show after Battlestar Galactica and I agree fully. First season was simply great and visual effects are only adding another value to the equally exceptional novels. When I first wrote about "The Expanse" in posts Martian vs Expanse and Science of Life in Solar System, I expresed all the hope that all the characters, places, events and scientific tools as well as gravity and its changes, would be portrayed in the series just as it was in the books and after first season I can only confirm that they didn't divert at all and with all the filming technologies and effects managed to provide the same experience as the one from the reading. On some occasions even better, as one space opera, or franchise, is perhaps more suitable for the screen than for just the words. I do recommend both especially because the books are way ahead from the TV show keeping in mind that filming only started last year.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

And finally, at the end, the series that doesn't even hide the word "wars", even from its title. Sadly, since first three movies was filmed long ago in the era of the old FX 'analogue' special effects, "the war" in the galaxy far, far away didn't really look too great. Don't get me wrong again now, it was awesome for the time being, but indeed warfare was not the prime theme in the first movies, perhaps with little exception in "The Empire Strikes Back". But even that one only a little. Next three movies came later to fill the gap but, even with decent effects and storyline, with me they left only a feeling for "Star Wars" being more a fairytale for children than one serious franchise. Somebody says Jar Jar Binks? The effect was little improved with last year "The Force Awakens" but I have to admit that I had more hopes in that one. It was good alright, but still the feeling was not really perfect. Maybe over the years we all ended with too much high expectation?

And then just a week ago came "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story". Finally, the 'Star Wars' movie that really, well ... is about the 'war'. The real and raging war. Believable one. With tremendous action and fabulous end. With good guys dying just as the bad ones. With only a hint of the force and fairytales. And with believable death star and exciting space battles. If they removed the sound of spacecrafts in the void of space I would definitely be the happiest person in the theater as this was the only thing I noticed bad in the movie. Maybe for the good feeling, I should credit low expectation I fixed for the projection this time or maybe it was the festivity of the second half of the December or even the fact that Cineplexx opened brand new theater in our neighborhood but nevertheless, like in the end of the movie, I think Star Wars with this one earned new hope for the future.

Rogue One in new Cineplexx in Niš, Serbia

Well, that would be my glimpse to the world of science fiction for this year. There were more novels and movie sequels I can remember I read or watched during the year (Star Trek Beyond, Patrick Lee's The Breach Series, Matthew Mather's Nomad series, our Game of Life adventure, "The X-Files" season 10 and even decent "10 Cloverfield Lane" and "Spectral") and overall I dare to say that this year and especially this december improved the impression a little for one forgettable year I described in my last post. Let's see what the next one will be in both reality and fiction. Anyways, happy 2017th!

Image refs:

The Expanse, Expanded (Adam Savage):
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