Review: “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human” By K. W. Jeter (Novel)

Well, since it’s November 2019, I thought that I’d re-read another “Blade Runner” – related book. I am, of course, talking about K. W. Jeter’s 1995 novel “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human”.

Yes, long before “Blade Runner 2049” appeared in cinemas two years ago, Jeter had written three totally different (and, now, non-canonical) official sequel novels to “Blade Runner”.

Although the final one (“Blade Runner 4: Eye And Talon”) seems to be somewhat rare and expensive, I happened to find cheap copies of the first two sequels in a second-hand bookshop in Petersfield a couple of months before I prepared this review (because I couldn’t find my old copies of both books).

Since it has been about eleven years since I first read “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human” during a holiday in France, I thought that it was the perfect time to re-read it 🙂

However, since this novel is a direct sequel, you need to watch “Blade Runner” before reading this book. Likewise, although it isn’t essential, it is also well worth reading “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick (the novel “Blade Runner” is based on) before reading this novel, since you’ll get more out of it if you do 🙂 Of course, you don’t need to watch “Blade Runner 2049” before reading this book – since it tells a totally different story.

So, let’s take a look at “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

– This is the 1996 Orion (UK) paperback edition of “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human” that I read.

Set nine months after the events of “Blade Runner”, the novel begins with Chief Bryant drinking alone in his office in the hours after Gaff’s funeral. To his surprise, a mysterious person enters his office and, after a short conversation, draws a gun and shoots him.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, Deckard is living in a cabin in the woods with his replicant lover Rachael. Since she is nearing the end of her pre-determined four year lifespan, she spends most of her time in a stasis booth that Deckard acquired from several of his contacts, only regaining consciousness every few weeks to spend a single day with Deckard. Most of the time, Deckard is alone. So, when he hears the sound of a spinner heading towards the cabin, he isn’t sure if he’s imagining things.

This is especially true when the spinner lands and a woman who looks exactly like Rachael emerges from it. She introduces herself as Sarah Tyrell, head of the Tyrell Corporation since the death of her uncle Eldon nine months ago. Sarah wants Deckard to return to LA and do a job for her and, with the contingent of armed Tyrell Corp security she’s brought with her, he doesn’t exactly have much choice in the matter…

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that, even though it can get a little contrived and convoluted at times, it’s a really cool alternative sequel to “Blade Runner” 🙂

Not only is it reasonably true to the tone of the original film, but it is also darker, more spectacular and very atmospheric too. It’s the kind of sequel that was written for enthusiastic “Blade Runner” fans and, in some ways, is probably a more “accurate” sequel than “Blade Runner 2049” is.

In terms of the novel’s sci-fi elements, it is a “Blade Runner” novel. Not only is it set during the summer in a slightly more expanded version of the grim, dystopian proto-cyberpunk world of the original film (with some of the hot, dusty post-apocalyptic atmosphere of “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” too), but it also expands on a lot of the film’s thematic material too.

In other words, this is a novel where – thanks to the existence of ultra-realistic robots – no-one can be quite certain who is human or even if they are human themselves. In addition to this, the novel also adds a lot of conspiracy-based paranoia which is evocative of the untrustworthy, unreliable world of “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” too 🙂

The novel also expands on several of the moral questions posed by the film, with Deckard being presented in an even more morally-ambiguous way, several references to times that blade runners have killed humans by mistake and more disturbing details about replicant slavery in the off-world colonies.

This, of course, brings me on to the novel’s horror elements. Whilst this novel isn’t a “horror novel” as such, there are quite a few disturbing moments and/or psychological horror elements here.

Whether it is a chilling train-based scene that subtly references the Holocaust, the scenes involving a “repaired” version of Pris or some hints about Eldon Tyrell’s backstory, this can be a surprisingly unsettling and disturbing novel at times. Yet, all of this horror is very much in keeping with tone of the original film – even if there is more emphasis on it than you might expect.

Surprisingly, this novel is also more of a thriller novel than you might expect. In addition to a few spectacular fast-paced action set pieces (some of which reminded me of “Blade Runner 2049” and the spin-off anime), this novel also focuses a lot on conspiracy-based paranoia, suspense and things like that too. Whilst this novel as a whole isn’t a particularly fast-paced thriller, it’s certainly a compelling one.

However, as mentioned earlier, some elements of the story’s conspiracy thriller plot can get a little convoluted at times. There are also a couple of small plot holes (eg: video filtering technology that works inconsistently in one scene) and a few scenes can also feel a little contrived too. Still, the level of plot complexity here is vaguely reminiscent of Raymond Chandler at times 🙂

In terms of the writing, it’s really good 🙂 This novel’s third-person narration uses a very descriptive, but appropriately hardboiled, style that goes really well with the story. Given that the original film is a masterpiece of visual art, it is really cool to see narration that captures this level of harsh hardboiled beauty. Yes, the descriptive elements of the narration do slow the story down a bit, but they also make it feel like a genuine part of the “Blade Runner” universe too 🙂

This novel also rewards your knowledge of both the film and Philip K. Dick’s novel, with numerous references to familiar locations from both things, a plot point involving a script error in older versions of the film, a dramatic scene involving the off-world advertising blimp, slightly more focus on background characters from the film (eg: Holden, J.F.Sebastian etc..) etc… Seriously, if you’re a massive fan of “Blade Runner”, then this novel is the kind of sequel you were probably secretly hoping for in 2017.

In terms of the characters, this novel is fairly good. In addition to seeing what has happened to familiar characters from both “Blade Runner” and “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?”, they also get a bit more depth too (after all, this is a novel).

In addition to this, the novel also contains a couple of new characters who are interesting alternative versions of familiar characters. If you’re a fan of the film, then all of this extra characterisation is an absolute joy to behold 🙂

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is interesting. At 340 pages in length, it doesn’t look too long, but it will take you longer to read than you might expect. In other words, whilst this novel contains a few fast-paced moments, the story’s pacing is a little bit closer to the slightly slower, more atmospheric pacing of the original film. Even so, this novel can probably best be described as a moderately-paced thriller.

As for how this twenty-four year old novel has aged, it has mostly aged well. Yes, there are a few “politically incorrect” moments (eg: some of Bryant’s dialogue, a somewhat transphobic scene etc…), but the novel as a whole feels almost as timeless as the original “Blade Runner” film. Not only that, the focus on post-apocalyptic wastelands and spectacular action set-pieces in some parts of the novel is also fairly evocative of the recent “Blade Runner 2049” film too 🙂

All in all, whilst this alternative sequel isn’t as good as the original film, it certainly comes close 🙂 Even though it may no longer be canonical, it is still well worth reading if you’re a fan of “Blade Runner”. It’s atmospheric, dark, complex and dystopian. It’s also somewhat closer in style and tone to the original film than “Blade Runner 2049” was too.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Today’s Art (1st November 2019)

Woo hoo! It’s November 2019! Since this is the same time period that the classic 1982 sci-fi movie “Blade Runner” is set in, I thought that I’d make some fan art 🙂

Since this is fan art, this painting is NOT released under any kind of Creative Commons licence.

“Fan Art – Blade Runner – November 2019” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” By Philip K. Dick (Novel)

Woo hoo! It’s November 2019! So, it seemed like the perfect time to re-read Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” 🙂

For those of you not in the know, this sci-fi novel was later adapted into the cinematic masterpiece “Blade Runner” (which is set in the distant future of November 2019). And, yes, there are some fairly major differences between the book and the film. But, more about those later.

Although I first saw “Blade Runner” on VHS at least a year or two before I discovered the novel, I read it at least twice during my mid-late teens (and even ended up getting two different editions of the book, one of which I can’t find). So, I was curious to see whether it was as good as I remember.

So, let’s take a look at “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 1986 Grafton Books (UK) paperback edition of “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” that I read.

Set in the dystopian future of 1992, most of the Earth’s population have emigrated to other planets following the nuclear devastation of World War Terminus. Even so, some people still live in the habitable parts of Earth. One of those people is Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter for the San Francisco police who tracks down and kills android labourers who have illegally returned to Earth.

Rick is having a bad day. After having arguments with both his wife and his neighbour in the first hour after he wakes up, he goes into work and learns that the police’s top bounty hunter, Dave Holden, is in hospital. Holden had been tracking an escaped android called Polokov, who had got the drop on him and let rip with a laser tube.

But, whilst Rick is eager to collect on all of Holden’s outstanding bounties, Chief Bryant wants him to go to the offices of the Rosen Association and run some tests on their latest android model – the Nexus Six – to see if they can still be detected by the police’s testing equipment.

Meanwhile, in a run-down block of flats in one of the abandoned parts of the city, a driver for an artificial pet repair company called J.R. Isidore is getting ready for work. Isidore is stuck on Earth because he didn’t pass the IQ requirements for emigration. Stigmatised as a “chickenhead”, he finds solace in the empathy box – a virtual reality device central to the new religion of Mercerism. But, just before he is about to leave his apartment, he hears someone else in the building….

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it’s even better than I remembered 🙂 It’s an atmospheric, quirky, hilarious and thoroughly imaginative retro sci-fi novel that has stood the test of time surprisingly well 🙂 It is a novel that has a lot of personality and manages to cram a surprisingly large amount of detail, story and worldbuilding into what, by modern standards, is a fairly short novel.

I should probably start by talking about how this novel differs from the film adaptation. Basically, although a few character names, several themes, a couple of plot elements and a few lines of dialogue are the same, everything else is different. Yet, at the same time, you can see where the inspiration for pretty much everything in the film came from. In fact, even the Las Vegas locations in the recent “Blade Runner 2049” film take heavy inspiration from this novel’s dusty, kipple-filled, decaying locations.

Yet, despite all of these major differences, the novel and the film adaptation are pretty much as good as each other. Both have very detailed fictional “worlds”, both have a lot of intellectual depth, both are wonderfully unique things etc… Seriously, don’t let the numerous differences put you off of reading this book.

In terms of the novel’s sci-fi elements, they’re really brilliant. In addition to the laser guns and flying cars that you’d expect, this novel has a lot of brilliant worldbuilding. With Earth being a semi-apocalyptic irradiated planet, almost everything in the novel’s world is defined by this.

Whether it is the lead codpieces men wear to stave off infertility, whether it’s the more prosperous off-world colonies, the much higher (financial, legal and emotional) value placed on the few surviving animals, the prejudice towards those born with radiation-induced brain damage, the empathy-based religion of Mercerism etc… Everything in this novel feels like a logical extension of the story’s dystopian premise.

Another awesome thing about this novel is it’s atmosphere 🙂 Although the novel is set in a realistic semi-apocalyptic version of Earth, all of this bleakness is balanced out with lots of subtle moments of comedy and brilliantly quirky background details. If you’ve read any other Philip K. Dick novels, you’ll know what I’m talking about here. Seriously, this is a story that has a lot of personality to it 🙂

Thematically, this novel is really interesting too. In addition to being an exploration of the value of empathy and how it makes us human, this novel is also a critique of nuclear war, a psychological tale where reality is never an entirely certain thing, a humanist exploration of the emotional/social nature of religion, a tale about old evils still existing in the future (eg: slavery, jealousy, violence etc..), an exploration of nihilism and a tale about how ideals and reality often come into conflict.

Not to mention that some of the novel’s other themes feel more relevant than ever. Whether it is the unprincipled tech company owners who always try to stay one step ahead of any official oversight, the scenes involving emotions being manipulated by technology (which are somehow more ethical than their real equivalent) or the possible implication that human androids aren’t allowed on Earth because of fears that they may replace humanity, this novel still feels surprisingly relevant at times.

In terms of the characters, they’re fairly interesting. Rick Deckard is the sardonic, morally-ambiguous main character than you might recognise from the film. However, he gets a bit more depth in this novel and is also portrayed as much more of a middle-class suburban “everyman” than the “film noir” detective you might expect if you’ve only seen “Blade Runner”. In addition to this, the novel clearly states that Deckard is a human rather than an android.

Like in the film, the novel’s android characters are presented as being fairly “human”. However, they are presented in a much less sympathetic way than in the film, with their lack of empathy meaning that they act in a much colder, crueller and more selfish way than most of the novel’s human characters. In fact, this in itself is a really interesting plot point – since, when Rick meets a cynical and cold-hearted guy called Phil Resch, he can’t be entirely certain whether Resch is human or not.

The novel’s other main character, John Isidore, is really well-written too. He’s a really sympathetic, if slightly naive, guy who gets a decent amount of characterisation and is also designed to evoke empathy in the reader too. Plus, although many of the novel’s other characters don’t get a huge amount of characterisation, they get enough to come across as interesting and/or realistic people.

In terms of the writing, it is really good 🙂 The novel’s third-person narration is written in a descriptive and atmospheric way which, whilst slightly more formal than most modern novels, has a lot of personality to it 🙂 Seriously, I cannot praise the narration in this novel highly enough 🙂 Yes, it’s a bit more slow-paced than you might expect but it’s good enough to justify this 🙂

As for length and pacing, this novel is really good. At a gloriously efficient 183 pages in length, this novel tells a story that most other sci-fi writers would struggle to tell in 300-400 pages. But, due to all of this detail and worldbuilding, this novel is a bit more slow-paced than you might expect. Even so, this isn’t a bad thing. Thanks to a compelling story and lots of fascinating background details, you’ll probably want to spend more time with this novel 🙂

In terms of how this fifty-one year old novel has aged, it has aged surprisingly well. Yes, the novel’s gender politics are a bit dated at times, there are a couple of references to the Soviet Union and the writing style is a little bit more formal than most modern sci-fi novels, but the novel as a whole has stood the test of time really well 🙂 It’s atmospheric, the settings feel believable, the quirky humour still works and the story still remains compelling too.

One other interesting thing about reading this novel these days are the novel’s references to the old sci-fi novels of the 1930s/40s. In the book, these are presented as artefacts of a more imaginative and optimistic age. Of course, now that this novel is also an old sci-fi novel too, this adds a whole new dimension to these parts of the story.

All in all, this novel is brilliant 🙂 If you love the movie “Blade Runner” or if you just want an imaginative and quirky dystopian sci-fi novel, then this one is well worth reading 🙂

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.

How Much Do You Have To Explain About Your Fictional “World” If You Want A Re-Readable Story?

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about worldbuilding and re-readability. But, although this is an article about writing, I’m going to have to spend most of the article looking at stories told through the mediums of film and computer games – mostly because there are two brilliantly contrasting examples that I really want to talk about.

The first is a classic computer game from 2004 called “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines“, which I seem to be re-playing at the moment. Despite the fact that I’d started playing another game called “Under A Killing Moon”, I got distracted by re-playing this game:

This is a screenshot from “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” (2004). It’s a bit like that “Hotel California” song – you can check out, but you can’t leave…

In addition to being a really interesting mixture of several types of game, one of the most fascinating parts of “Bloodlines” is the incredibly detailed fictional “world” that it takes place in.

Not only does the game have you navigate a secret society of vampires in mid-2000s California, but the game also gives you lots of detailed background information about different types of vampires, different political factions of vampires and many of the game’s characters.

This is another screenshot from “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” (2004), showing one of the characters explaining a tiny part of the game’s backstory.

Even the game’s loading screens take the time to explain even more about the fictional “world” of the game. And, I found myself so fascinated that I not only began to replay the game, but I also even ended up spending quite a while looking at fan sites online in order to learn even more about this fascinating fictional world.

In short, this game explains a lot about it’s highly-detailed fictional “world” and it is fascinating enough to make you want to return to it again and again.

By contrast, my favourite film is a sci-fi film from 1982 called “Blade Runner“, which I must have re-watched at least five times. Although there was a sequel last year that expands more on the futuristic “world” of the film, the original film explains relatively little about the world it takes place in.

Yes, we get to hear a bit of basic backstory and we meet a few characters but, for the most part, the film only shows us a relatively small (but visually-dense) part of an absolutely fascinating futuristic world. It’s kind of like the old writing adage of “show, don’t tell“:

This is a screenshot from “Blade Runner” (1982), showing a tiny part of the film’s fascinating setting.

And, yet, this lack of obvious background information is one of the things that makes this film so fascinating. It makes you search for and extrapolate from the film’s many small visual background details, like you are some kind of detective who is looking for clues. This, of course, makes you want to return to the film again and again.

This lack of explanation also means that you have to use your imagination if you want to “see” more of the film’s fictional world. Needless to say, this also makes it an absolutely great source of creative inspiration too.

So, “Blade Runner” and “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” take completely opposite approaches to worldbuilding, and yet they are both the type of thing that just begs to be revisited again and again.

Whilst both approaches to worldbuilding have their merits, one interesting thing to note is that both creative works not only have a detailed (and atmospheric) fictional world but also one that is populated by fascinating and unique characters. So, characterisation is an important part of making your audience want to return to your story.

But, more importantly, both things rely heavily on curiosity. “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” gives the appearance of satisfying the audience’s curiosity, whilst also hinting that there’s a lot more to learn (through brief descriptions of complex things etc..).

On the other hand, “Blade Runner” presents a tantalising glimpse at a fully-formed fictional world and then just says “you’ll have to work it out for yourself“. Both things rely heavily on curiosity in order to make the audience return again and again.

But, I guess that the best lesson to take from all of this is that detailed, complex, unique and imaginative fictional worlds are inherently fascinating things. It doesn’t matter if you explain a lot about them, or explain next to nothing about them. They are fascinating things that will make your audience want to come back again and again.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Great Stories Don’t Always Need Complex Plots – A Ramble

Although I’m busy making this month’s webcomic mini series at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk very briefly about writing and storytelling today. In particular, I thought that I’d talk about how great stories don’t always have to have complex plots.

The idea that great stories have to have ultra-complex, intricate plots can be something that can be off-putting to new writers. But, this is something of a misconception. In fact, great stories can have incredibly simple plots…. and still be great. But, how?

Simply put, it is more about the journey than the destination. Many great stories (in a range of mediums) are more about the characters, the atmosphere, the emotional tone, the style etc.. of the story rather than because of how detailed or complex the plot happens to be.

To use a cinematic example, take a look at the classic 1982 sci-fi masterpiece “Blade Runner“. On the most simple level, it is a film about a detective who is ordered to find and kill several human-like robots who have travelled to Earth illegally. There’s also a romantic sub-plot too.

But, of course, the film is much more than just this. Despite the relatively simple premise, this film is revered as a masterpiece for so many reasons.

First of all, this basic premise is used to explore a host of complex themes (eg: the meaning of life, corrupt authority, morality, capitalism, discrimination etc..). Likewise, the film’s characters are often intriguingly ambiguous and fairly distinctive. Finally, the general “look”, atmosphere and style of the film is a brilliant blend of science fiction and film noir that has been hugely influential on many things made afterwards.

So, a “simple” plot can be used as a skeleton to build a much greater story around. Because, as I mentioned earlier, great stories can often be more about the journey than the destination.

So, if you want to tell a really brilliant story, then it’s ok to use a fairly simple or obvious premise. The trick is to focus on everything else, like the characters, the dialogue, the style of the story, the atmosphere of the story etc…..

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Apologies for the ridiculously short article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

Today’s Art ( 30th August 2018)

Well, today’s art is a monochrome piece of “Blade Runner” fan art. If you’re interested in the reasons why I made this piece of fan art (and the creative decisions I took whilst making it), then check out this article of mine.

Since this is fan art, this drawing is NOT released under any kind of Creative Commons licence.

“Fan Art – Blade Runner – But, Then Again, Who Does?” By C. A. Brown

Here’s Yet Another Thing Computer And Video Games Can Teach Artists And Writers

Well, I thought that I’d look at the topic of gaming and creativity yet again, mostly because of a mundane experience I had when looking online for a desk chair for the backup computer I recently installed.

I was comparing all of the chairs on a website and sorting them by price, when I suddenly thought “This reminds me a little of an upgrade screen in an early-mid 2000s action game.

If you’ve never played these games before, then they often tend to feature bonuses etc.. that can be collected in-game and then used to “buy” upgrades and items for your character. There’s a degree of skill in choosing what to buy with the resources you have. The upgrade screens look a bit like this:

This is a screenshot from “Alien Shooter” (2003), showing the game’s upgrade screen.

This is a screenshot from “X-COM: Enforcer” (2001), showing the game’s upgrade screen.

So, what does any of this have to do with creativity? Well, it’s all to do with how creative works can make mundane experiences (eg: shopping etc..) seem much cooler and more dramatic.

This provides lasting value to the audience, by both making everyday moments seem cooler and by immersing them in the game/story/comic/painting etc.. more by linking it to common, everday things.

Because games are interactive, they often tend to contain the best examples of this sort of thing. For example, if you’ve ever had to find a way to re-arrange your stuff in order to make more space, then “Tetris” can spring to mind.

This is a screenshot from “Techlogica TechTris” (2006) – a “Tetris”-style game.

This is a game that revolves around quickly fitting tessellating shapes into a limited space. And, thinking about re-arranging things as “a live-action version of Tetris” can be a way to inject some fun and/or humour into what is basically an arduous and tedious task.

But, other things than games can also evoke this feeling too. For example, if you’re looking at or editing a picture on your computer and you zoom in on it, then you might possibly think about the ESPER machine from a classic 1980s sci-fi film called “Blade Runner”.

If you’ve never seen this film before, the ESPER machine is a photo-enhancement machine that plays a brief, but important, role in the film. It’s this hulking, whirring analogue thing that still somehow looks really futuristic. And, yet it does the same thing as a basic photo viewer or image editing program does these days.

This is a screenshot of the ESPER machine from “Blade Runner” (1982). In the 1980s, this was a cool piece of sci-fi tech. These days, even the most basic computer programs will do more than it can.

In conclusion, finding ways to make mundane tasks seem cool, interesting or exciting can be one of the easiest ways to ensure that your creative work lingers in your audience’s imaginations – since experiencing everyday things can remind your audience of the things that you’ve made.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂