Wednesday, 17 October 2018

MMM: "By The Big Bang!" - Ulysses 36


Blasting on to Volume Three, the end (of the universe) in sight....


EPISODE 19

"This is Nereus calling the universe. Is anyone listening?"

The Odyssey intercepts a "universal signal of distress" and as such rescues a lone girl on a spaceship, assuming it to be her. The girl, Princess Galitea, is quiet and unresponsive, enough for the crew to consider her a robot or automata. Just as Ulysses and the children are suddenly taken prisoner by The Sharkmen, the Odyssey surrounded by Tridents, the message is decoded by Shirka as relating to Nereus instead. They are all taken by spaceship to the planet of Skolopolis (renamed from Nereopolis by their new overlords) and locked in jail, soon to be subjected to pilot control, the means by which everyone is enslaved....


Ulysses plots his escape with his cellmate while Telemachus makes similar schemes with Prince Glycon. Ulysses makes his dramatic escape and Telemachus uses his participation in the games - he battles Glycon in a Gondola fight - to do the same. Ulysses finally meets King Nereus, who has been hiding amongst his people all this time, and together they hope to free the people of Neropolis and convince them in time that their king has returned. Chance reunites fathers and sons and they head to the locket office control room, conspiring to erase the control programs forever....



EPISODE 20

"Let all the underworld explode into light!"

This episode opens with the Odyssey being attacked from all side by Trident spaceships. Ulysses attempts to fight them off, fearing for the safety of Telemachus and Nono (who are currently manning a shuttle craft). Telemachus spots a great hole in a nearby planet and our heroes escape there just in time, the pursing Tridents exploding mysteriously. Shirka announces they are in "a region of intense energy" and that any damage they sustained, including that to the compartment containing their inert companions, has been repaired. A voice announces that they are protected, sheltered from the Gods of Olympus....



The Magician in Black then transports our heroes to his palace and, by "the great power of my will", he revives their companions. Of course, he wants something in return and Ulysses, Numinor and Telemachus step forward, willing to be hunted for the magician's sport (but not before Ulysses bargains for his companion's freedom). Should the three of them escape the hunt they will be freed, otherwise they will be enslaved forever. Ulysses chooses the terrain of the hunt, selecting an environment close to that of Earth, and the deadly hunt begins. Will Ulysses manage to outwit the crafty magician or perhaps his companions will escape and save the day...?



Another episode with the usual glut of Star Wars FX peppered throughout the opening Trident space battle. Also noteworthy for the rendering of pixellated and blocky backgrounds within The Magician In Black's computer generated hunt terrain - a nice (imaginative) touch....



EPISODE 21

"You don't trick a tyrant. You just stop obeying him!"

The Odyssey approaches a Saturn-like planet, Shirka suddenly receiving "signals from a shuttle vehicle in difficulty"....


Ulysses takes his own shuttle and, with the canny use of a tether, rescues the other ship. The pilot is Hypsipyle, daughter of the overthrown Thoas, who is fleeing the base at Lemnos for the security of the one at Istria. The men of Lemnos have retreated to the High City, using the women as slaves in the factory to build Tridents for the Sharkmen - when the women rebelled they imprisoned them. Sadly the base on Istria has been destroyed, leaving our heroes no choice but to return to Lemnos to try to persuade the inhabitants to unite and defeat the Sharkmen....



With the women freed and fighting the men, Ulysses helps devise a plan to trap the Sharkmen within the factory and to jettison it, freeing those of Lemnos from their tyranny (and just maybe discovering the route back to Earth from Thoas in the process). Naturally, no one thinks to tell the children who, with Yumi having sensed Ulysses was in danger, have made their way to the factory to assist. Will unity be restored in time to overthrow the Sharkmen and reveal the way home....



Interesting to note that the look of The Sharkmen has been overhauled since Episode 19 - one can only guess that different animation studios either interpreted the outline in different ways or that perhaps lazy dubbing saw the two alien "species" lumped together to save on effort. More Star Wars FX crammed in at the conclusion of this episode too.... 


EPISODE 22

"Machines only obey machines. Order rejected."

A gentle opening to this episode, everyone idling on the Odyssey - Ulysses even has time for a cuppa - before things begin to go awry. Firstly, Nono has to content with unruly cleaning robots before Shirka ceases to respond. "Look! The Odyssey is veering off its course!" Our heroes strap themselves in and attempt to take manual control (to no avail)....



The command cabin is hermetically sealed, Ulysses and the children now prisoners of Cortex, chief of the planet of the machines. On their arrival on the planet robots begin to immediately board and dismantle the Odyssey, breaking it up so that Cortex may make new machines. Nono befriends Nanette, a similar small robot, and together they free Ulysses and the children....



Seeing that Cortex plans to dismantle the Odyssey's Iris, and that all would be lost, Ulysses threatens to destroy his city... Cortex, who reveals himself as a servant of The Gods, must be stopped. Can Ulysses fend off the attacks of a cyborg lion in time for Nono and Nanette to locate and disconnect the power line to Cortex's brain....



Friday, 12 October 2018

One From The Vault - Tropical Man


My attempt at a character as created (in real time? I forget) by my nephew, James Miller. Those are apples gripped by the cables from his backpack and at the end of those emerging from his wrists/gloves we have mangoes....

Thursday, 4 October 2018

A Philip K. Dick In Time Saves Nine....


The Zap Gun
(pub. 1967) - Gollancz, 2006

After the Plowshare Protocols way back in 2002, Lars Powderdry, Wes-bloc's brilliant weapons fashion designer, has been inventing elaborate devices that only seem to be massively lethal. And the deception is taking a heavy toll of his personal life. But when the alien satellites appear in the sky and it's clear that they aren't friendly, the world suddenly needs military might like never before. So, Wes-bloc and Peep-East temporarily patch up their differences and Lars meets up with Lilo Popchev, his eastern counterpart, in the hope that they can create a weapon to save the world. It's a difficult task made even trickier by Lars falling in love with Lilo even though he knows she's trying to kill him . . .


The first 30 pages of this book are, quite frankly, dizzying in their intensity - almost to the point of being off-putting - I quickly jumped away from this then returned to start anew, my mindset better refreshed. Thankfully, a display of typically human hubris at the conclusion of the 3rd chapter helps crank things into a somewhat more accessible (and recognisable) gear. Originally published as Project Plowshare in the United States in Worlds Of Tomorrow - 'plowsharing', as I understand it, is the process of replicating a weapon as a harmless domestic product like, say, a shaver. As such, this has to be one of the weirdest PKD novels. The crunching of the number of ideas here - weapons conjured from trance states, our usual teen temptress, comic books, imposing aliens - really push things to the outer limits, even by his outre standards. The cheap, lurid 3D comic is called The Blue Cephalopod Man From Titan, so that ought to give you some idea of the (unchartered) territory being explored here. There's a great moment about 2/3 of the way in where I was 'gigglin' like a loon, marvelling at sheer twists and turns of the plot - pretty wacky and ridiculous stuff! A satisfying book, but best approached expecting plenty of rather obtuse "eh?!" moments as PKD fits/jams the pieces of his puzzle together as the plot(s) hurtle out of control towards the barely formed finish line....


....It was about time that someone with universal knowledge like himself got on the UN-W Natsec Board instead of the usual morons, the mass pursaps who read nothing but the headlines of the homeopapes and naturally the sports and animated cartoon strips and of course the dirty stuff about sex, and otherwise poisoned their empty minds with toxic, mass-produced garbage which was deliberately produced by the large corporations who really ran things, if you knew the inside story-....


          "What bothers me," Lars said as the up-elevator came and he and Maren entered it, "is that the elite, in this case, doesn't even bother to guard that knowledge which makes it the elite." There is, he thought, probably a free pamphlet, distributed by UN-West for the asking, called something like,  HOW WE RULE YOU FELLAS AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?


          Ahead, beyond an open door, sat a-a stick-like clothed skeleton, whose dim, retracted, withered-pumpkin, caved-in face revolved slowly as if motor-driven. The eyes did not blink. The features were unstirred by emotions. The organism had deteriorated into a mere perceiving-machine. Sense-organs that swiveled back and forth ceaselessly, taking in data although how much eventually reached the brain, was recorded and understood, God knew. Perhaps absolutely none.




Galactic Pot-Healer
(pub. 1969) - Grafton Books, 1987

Joe Fernwright's skills as a pot-healer are obsolete. Stuck in a miserable subterranean room, he can't even affort to keep up the payments on his window-hologram.
And every week there's a rush to the supermarket before galloping inflation wipes out the value of his dole.
Until the Glimmung offers a way out.
On Plowman's Planet this curiously fallible deity is gathering a team to raise the submerged cathedral of Heldskalla.
The Book of Kalends says it can't be done.
But following an animated conversation with his own corpse beneathe the Mare Nostrum, Joe decides to do battle with fate itself ...


Another great PKD novel - and one you can actually judge by its cover! - following on from Ubik and leading into A Maze Of Death (and continuing his frankly stellar run throughout the mid-60's). You can see how by comparison, being it's surrounded by pretty heavyweight contenders - in much the same way as equally excellent Our Friends From Frolix 8 seems to have been forgotten, sandwiched as it is between A Maze Of Death and Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said - the novel is often overlooked and as such currently out of print. I always feel a responsibility when writing about PKD books to not give too much away. All I can say is that Joe Fernwright, your standard PKD hopeless case, near jobless and suicidal, is recruited by the seriously idiosyncratic and exceedingly humourous alien, Glimmung, to assist him in his task of raising the cathedral of Heldskalla on Plowman's Planet in this novel that is by turns funny, grotesque and deeply thoughtful. I've opted to quote some of the best, most personally affecting passages below.... (As something of a strange bonus, this Grafton edition was "printed and bound in Great Britain by Collins, Glasgow".)


Death is very close, he thought. When you think in this manner. I can feel it, he decided. How near I am. Nothing is killing me; I have no enemy, no antagonist; I am merely expiring, like a magazine subscription: month by month. Because, he thought, I am too hollowed out to participate any longer.


Strength. The strength of being, he thought, and opposite to that the peace of non-being. Which was better? Strength wore out in the end, every time; so perhaps that was the answer and no more was needed. Strength - being - was temporary. And peace - non-being - was eternal; it had existed prior to his birth and would resume for him after his death. The period of strength, in-between, was merely an episode, a short flexing of borrowed muscles - a body which would have to be returned . . . to the real owner.


...his fear deprived him of his sense of being human, and of being a man. It was not a man's fear; it was the fear of a small animal. It shrank him, as if devolving him into ages past; it eradicated the contemporary aspects of his self, his being. God, he thought. I am feeling a fear that is millions of years old.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018