Skip to main content

The Matrix Revolutions, 2003 - ★★★½

If only in the interest of being ready for the new one, it’s worth being up to date with this. But actually it’s a much better film than I remembered.

Sure, the Zion battle scenes go on for much too long, and the overall story is not entirely coherent; but it’s much more coherent than I remembered, and just that much better. In the sense that it sits well with the second one, which I loved when it came out.

Neither of them is as good, as effective, as the first on its own, of course, but the whole ends up being more of a cohesive trilogy than I thought. XKCD notwithstanding.

See in Letterboxd

Neuromancer by William Gibson (Books 2021, 20)

This is another one that stands up really well. It has some amusing out-of-time moments, like ‘three megabytes of hot RAM’: imagine having that much computer memory! And the well-known geostationary satellite over Manhattan impossibility.1 But we don’t let those things bother us.

What’s interesting is just how much it influenced The Matrix. It was always fairly obvious that the Wachowskis named their virtual world after Gibson’s cyberspace, though Doctor Who got there first, and possibly others did too. But there’s a scene in Neuromancer where Case sees drifting lines of code overlaid on the reality that he’s perceiving. Very much seems the inspiration for Neo seeing the Matrix.

Anyway, it’s still a fine story, with some striking prose.


  1. You can only have a geostationary satellite over the equator, in case you don’t know. 

Our Last, Best, Hope for TV?

You wait years for a beloved three-letter-creator to return to a beloved SF show, and then two happen in one week. After the news of RTD returning to Doctor Who, we have… JMS returning to — and rebooting — Babylon 5?

I did not see that coming. And I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. Babylon 5was among my favourite programmes of the nineties. It was groundbreaking, in that it was probably the first such show to be planned from the start as a single long (five year) story. With many sub-stories and side plots along the way, as you might imagine.

It was, of course, flawed, especially in the rushed completion of season 4. They thought they were going to be cancelled, so JMS tried to tie up most of the loose ends in that season. Then season 5 was saved, and ended up being slow and underpowered by comparison.

For this proposed reboot — it’s TV, so nothing is definite till it’s in the can — he says he will ‘not be retelling the same story in the same way because of what Heraclitus said about the river’, but that ‘this is a reboot from the ground up rather than a continuation’.

If anyone else was running it, you could count me out. Straczynski could make it great again, but I sort of wonder why he wants to. Not unlike my wondering about why RTD wants to return to Who. I suppose we’re never entirely satisfied with our creations, so getting the opportunity to go back and rework them can be tempting. But I’m not sure it’s always healthy.

Still, we live in hope.

Lanark: A Life in 4 Books by Alasdair Gray (Books 2021, 19)

I read this a long time ago, and the strange thing now is that everything I remembered of it happens in the first two books: that is, in Book 3 and Book 1. As I’m sure you know, the internal books are ordered 3, 1, 2, 4.

Which sort of suggests that I didn’t finish it all those years ago, but I’m sure that isn’t the case. There were odd moments of the slightest sense of the familiar in the other books, so I guess it’s just vagaries.

Anyway, it was and remains a monumental work. It struck me as odd that the blurb describes it as ‘a modern vision of hell.’ I had never thought of it in those terms. True, Lanark’s situation is dark, difficult, and confusing, and he can be seen as Thaw after death, if Thaw dies at the end of Book 2, which seems likely. But hell? That seems extreme. Lanark has difficulties, but he’s not in a state of eternal torment.

He is, however, quite a frustrating character. He is thrown into a situation — several situations — where he doesn’t understand what is going on, or how the world works; and for the most part he doesn’t ask even the most obvious questions, or make any attempt to gain understanding. So he’s not so much protagonist as a character being pushed around by circumstance. Or by his author, whom we meet in the fourth-wall-destroying epilogue towards the end of the book.

Much more obviously, Lanark’s experiences in Unthank and beyond are a satire of late-stage capitalism. Which you could say is a form of hell, so maybe that’s what the blurb writer was getting at.

The Manchurian Candidate, 1962 - ★★★

This is a strange film. I knew the broad outline, or thought I did. An American gets brainwashed and ‘turned’ by the ‘other side’ during the Cold War, and then gets into the position of running for president. That’s not quite it, as it turns out, but it’s not far off. 

The thing that surprised me, compared to how something like this would be done by a modern filmmaker, was how explicit the brainwashing was. Most modern writers and directors would, I think, be more indirect, so you’d be thinking, ‘Is he or isn’t he?’ throughout. Here it was very clear that he was, so the question was more, ‘What’s he going to do?’

Which is a perfectly fine way to tell the story, too. It was OK, through not as good as I expected, and there were some very odd pieces of dialogue (‘Are you Arabic?’) and a couple of strange jumps in the plot. 

Worth a look, though, if you haven’t seen it.

See in Letterboxd

Rusty’s Return

Well that answers the question I asked in July. At least the bit I described as ‘arguably more important’. Russell T Davies is going to be the new showrunner.

That’s an interesting decision, and one I have mixed feelings about. At his best he was great, and some of the things he’s done since have been stellar. And I’m astonished to find that I’ve never mentioned either Years and Years or It’s a Sin here. Not least because I can remember recommending at least one of them online. Maybe it was just on Twitter, but I don’t originate many tweets there. Nearly everything that isn’t a reply comes from here.

Anyway, the great RTD is coming back, like the 456 in Torchwood. And I’m sure it’ll be great. I just think it’s kind of sad if the BBC couldn’t find someone new to take over. There must be plenty of people willing to take it on. Both willing and capable? That’s another question. But hell, JMS1 offered. He’s certainly capable, and it would have been amazing.

Also it’s a shame that RTD won’t get to work with Jodie Whittaker, because I think that could’ve been quite a combo.

Then there’s the reaction on much of Who-related Twitter, which seems to be, ‘Doctor Who is saved!’ When it doesn’t need saving due to having been really good for the last season and pretty good the season before that.

Anyway, I’m sure it’ll be fun.


  1. Of Babylon 5 fame. 

First Line of Defence?

Thoughts on Dave Winer’s thoughts about Facebook.

Dave Winer may be a very smart guy, who effectively invented blogging, RSS, and podcasts, but he’s lost his mind in this post:

We are now all complete newbies when it comes to understanding how networks can be used to spread misinformation. We might look back in a few years and realize that our first line of defense was Facebook, Inc. Maybe tearing them down is like the press tearing down HRC in 2016. I don’t trust their judgement on this stuff, do you?

The first sentence is fair enough, but the second? Facebook is the first line of attack, rather, on our democratic freedoms. See Cambridge Analytica stories, passim. Or if not the first, then the most powerful tool in the armoury of the anti-democratic forces that plague us.

The ‘them’ he refers to is, I think, journalists. Or ‘journalism,’ as a collective entity:

I judge journalism in the aggregate.

In other words, I say “journalism” did this or that.

One of the main things he does these days is to rail against journalism.

An American Story by Christopher Priest (Books 2021, 18)

It was strangely timely that I decided to start reading this a few days before the 9/11 anniversary, since it concerns a man’s obsession with what happened on 9/11. The narrator is a journalist who lost his partner in the attacks. Except her name doesn’t appear on any passenger manifest, and there are multiple mysteries around the whole event.

As there are in real life. But this story takes place in a slightly altered reality. Scotland already has its independence, and England — or at least the little we see of London — has become increasingly dystopian, plagued by militarised police and surveillance.

The action switches back and forth in location between the Isle of Bute (where Priest also lives) and various pars of the USA (and sometimes those places are oddly coterminous). And also jumps around in time, from the present of the story — roughly 2017-8, when it was written and published — to before and during the 11th of September 2001, to various points between the two. It even dips a few years into the future.

It touches on ideas and discussions that are considered the domain of conspiracy theories, but largely avoids going down those rabbit holes. As one review I read said, ‘Conspiracy theories purport answers, often paranoid and outlandish; An American Story is about questions.’

It’s well worth a read, though there a couple of threads that he starts and leaves hanging, that I think would have been interesting to follow.

I usually forget to link to the books I write about. Here we are.