Voyager in Night by C. J. Cherryh, plus a film catch-up

Anthony G Williams

Voyager in Night by C. J. Cherryh, plus a film catch-up

This 1984 book by Cherryh is uncharacteristic of most of her other work (at least, that with which I am familiar – I have by no means consumed all of her oeuvre). Three young prospectors are travelling in their makeshift spacecraft through a distant solar system when the fall into the path of a vast alien starship, which collects their craft before moving on. It transpires that the ship is ruled by a being normally referred to as "", but there is a motley collection of individuals on board who are far from in agreement with their leader, or each other. None of them appears in person, communicating via a virtual image of one of the prospectors. can also manufacture virtual copies of the prospectors, including their personalities and memories. The story follows the prospectors' struggle to understand what is going on and to resolve their own identities, against the background of a mutiny on board.

If the beings who inhabit the starship are bizarre creations so is the ship itself, appearing to be more organic than metallic. This is a relatively brief tale (only 220 pages in my paperback) without the long introspective passages which normally fill her work. Rather dark and grim, it is a work which is more intriguing than enjoyable.
I felt like some mindless entertainment (my brain cells go on strike with increasing frequency) so I watched My Super Ex-Girlfriend, the 2006 Uma Thurman film. It's about a guy who discovers that his new girlfriend is a super-heroine - and subsequently finds that there can be hazards in dumping such a being. A good popcorn movie, pleasantly entertaining and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. I particularly enjoyed the scene with the shark...
Sadly, I was less impressed by the DVD of Hogfather, based on Terry Pratchett's Discworld comic fantasy novels. It was just about watchable but dragged very slowly, and when it ended after 1½ hours and I discovered that that was only Part 1 – there was a Part 2 on the disk – I gave up.
Back on course again with the latest Star Trek movie, the prequel to the original series. Entertaining and with some good CGI, it even got a round of applause from the cinema audience! I do wonder why Hollywood finds it so hard to make such a movie without inconsistencies in the plot, though….and I found the film rather forgettable (I'm already struggling to recall the story).
The Spiderwick Chronicles is a neat piece of storytelling. A mother and her children move into a house left to them by a distant relative, only to discover that they're not alone. Their relative had been investigating the world of magical creatures and had accumulated a precious store of knowledge in a book, which a particularly nasty denizen of that world was determined to get hold of as soon as he could break the magic circle protecting the house. An intriguing adventure, with the children a lot less annoying than they usually are in Hollywood films.
Wanted puts us back into superhero territory. This 2008 film is apparently based on a comic book figure, although as I don't read comics I wasn't aware of that when I saw it. With a cast including Morgan Freeman, James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie it obviously had a big budget. It concerns the existence of an old-established group of assassins with superhuman powers, including the ability to speed themselves up and to bend the path of their bullets. A young man (McAvoy) is hauled out of a humdrum life by this group, as he is the son of one of their members who died in a series of attacks by a renegade assassin. McAvoy is trained up and despatched on the trail of the renegade. All is not as it seems and there are various twists and turns before the usual cataclysmic conclusion. Not a bad effort, with some exciting scenes. Jolie fans will love it…

(This entry is cross-posted from my science-fiction & fantasy blog.)