THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH (2013) was the other film I was able to catch at Nevermore and happily a good one: A man returns to his mother’s home after her death and finds it apparently haunted by her ghost (voice provided by Vanessa Redgrave)—or by something … This is very good-looking and interesting for being almost a one-man show (other than the lead, other characters are only on videotape or voice-over. Nicely done; Redgrave’s turn dealing with lonely spirits in They would make that a good double-bill. “The woods belong to God—but sometimes something comes out of them that isn’t godly.”
GALAXY QUEST (1999) is, of course, the fun Star Trek tribute/parody in which the stars of a legendary TV SF series (variously including Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver are recruited to help out aliens who’ve been monitoring our broadcasts for years and are firmly convinced in the reality of the show—which inevitably forces the humans to live up to their on-screen icons. In its own way, one of the best Trek films; The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space would be a logical though much-inferior double-bill. “That episode was badly written!”
Edgar Rice Burroughs’ THE MASTERMIND OF MARS is a good example of how ERB blended his stories into the real world: It opens with a letter to Burroughs from a crippled WW I vet who managed to duplicate John Carter’s feat of sending his spirit to Mars. There he becomes the assistant to mad transplant scientist Ras Thavas, which suits him until his master transplants a withered crone’s brain into the body of a beautiful young girl and the protagonist decides enough is enough. Points to ERB for not just cloning John Carter (this protagonist is nowhere near Carter’s level of combat invincibility), but a lot the plot elements (manipulating cultists by faking their god’s voice) are pretty old hat.
When a doctor insists one of his wealthy patients suffered an UNNATURAL DEATH, it draws Lord Peter Wimsey’s attention despite the fact there’s no evidence of murder, nor any reason for the heir to bump her off, which he tells Parker makes it a Perfect Crime (“No method, no motive, no clue.”). Dorothy Sayers’ third Lord Peter novel is a really good one, introducing Peters’s Miss Marple-ish investigator Miss Climson and giving Peter an extremely formidable adversary. The heavy emphasis on the villain’s lesbianism is off-putting though (particularly because Sayer’s dances around it so much).
THE SUMMONER: Book One of the Chronicles of the Necromancer by Gail Z. Martin has a young prince narrowly escape when his older brother seizes the throne, then try simultaneously to master his latent Ghost Whisperer abilities while organizing the resistance (being an epic fantasy, there’s the added threat that the evil wizard working with the brother will unleash the Dark Lord of Death). Competent, but I’d have liked it better at half the 600-page length. The interesting part (the hero dealing with his responsibilities to the dead) gets swamped by too much talk and a lot more detail about the world than I needed to know (admittedly this is common in epic fantasy—one reason I don’t read a lot of it).
As I liked Irredeemable‘s later volumes better than the first, I thought I’d see if the same was true of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary. But no, PLANETARY: Spacetime Archeology didn’t work for me any better—Ellis’ use of pastiches of classic characters (the Fantastic Four in this case) really adds nothing to the story (both Venture Brothers and Astro City have done better with the FF), and the SF elements are routine (reality is just information in a gigantic cosmic computer!). Not really bad, just not terribly interesting.