Who Goes There ?
22 April 2024 | 5:36 pm

Who Goes There ? is a 1938 science fiction horror book written by John W. Campbell. This novella got movies adaptation such as the famous John Carpenter’s The Thing in 1982. In French, the novel is entitled La Chose, which is the translation for “The Thing”. The actual title may translated by “Qui va là ?” in French.

A group of Americans researchers are living in a scientific station in Antartica, near the end of the Winter. They discovered an alien spaceship buried in the ice crashed twenty millions years ago. While trying to excavate the ship using thermite explosive, they accidentally ignited the magnesium-based ship hull and destroyed it. However, they managed to recover a creature which was on board, an alien entity whose appearance is hideous and makes the crew uncomfortable. In front of this historical discovery, the scientists try to unfroze the creature. But they’ll discover it’s still alive.

I think I’ve seen Carpenter’s movie once. But it’s been a while and I barely remember it. So I was curious to discover the original story behind it anyway. Who Goes There ? is a short story of less than 90 pages. It’s a closed-doors story in which the characters already had few intimacy in this scientific station, and following the discovery and the escape of The Thing, they have less. We encounter there some classics of horror : closed doors and characters becoming paranoid because of the shape-shifting and telepathic abilities of The Thing.

It’s a story that goes pretty fast actually, with several time jump and sometimes I’ve had some difficulties to follow the line. Actually, this novella was the shortened version of a longer book never published by Campbell. The manuscript has been discovered and thanks to a kickstarter campaign, released in 2019. It doesn’t seem to have been translated in French. Despite it’s short length, I’ve enjoyed the growing suspicious atmosphere and the final plot twist. In fact, this novella was a very influent one because you find here some very common places seen in horror stories. A nice reading.

The Space Trilogy
19 April 2024 | 4:51 pm

Following Childhood’s End, my exploration of Arthur C. Clarke books made me read three other works regrouped into a series entitled The Space Trilogy, which are Islands in the Sky, The Sands of Mars, and Earthlight, or Les îles de l’espace, Les sables de Mars, and Lumière cendrée in French. Even if they’re not really related between each others, these novels are early Clarke’s works that take place in space with the point of view of different kind of people. This article will be a short review of these stories.

Islands in the Sky

Released in 1982, Islands in the Sky is the story of an ordinary sixteen teenager, Roy Malcom, who won a contest and got the opportunity to travel in the human cislunar space settlement during the first half of the 21th Century.

The story is written using the first person as Roy’s travelogue during all the steps of his journey in space. With at first, the preparation and the trip explaining his acclimatising of zero-G environment. Later, he his welcomed at the Inner Station, located around 8 000 kilometres above the Earth, by the Commander Doyle who introduces him to a team of apprentices. With this team of students, Roy will discover the life in space and encounter various adventures in just two weeks.

This story is pretty nice and accessible. As usual with Clarke’s work, the setting is detailed and every precise regarding the orbiting of the Stations, the stakes of the life in space, and the various category of populations we could encounter there. A very accurate fictional tour written in an optimistic way that helps the main character to discover his future way.

The Sands of Mars

Released in 1951, The Sands of Mars is a story about the red planet’s colonisation. It’s Clarke’s first published novel actually. It features Martin Gibson, a famous science fiction novelist travelling to a three months trip to Mars as a guest aboard the Ares, the first commercial space ship, during its maiden flight. There, he would meet the Chief Executive of Mars and the mayor of the first colonies established inside inflated domes. During his trip, Gibson will learn about the life on Mars, and also on himself regarding the Aries crew members he befriended with.

Written ten years before humans achieved space flight, the novel remains pretty accurate on various details such as zero gravity environments and ideas regarding the colonisation of a new planet. The Mars imagined by Clarke was inspired by the contemporary knowledge about it, even if some ideas such as Martian canals were already discredited. Some fun fact is the still usage of low-tech office tools such as typewriters and carbon paper while computer technology would have expanded. The book explores the idea of inflated domes that connects the various parts of the colony and the usage of specifically designed vehicles to travel on the red planet.

The story revolves mostly around two main topics. One is the relationship between Earth and Mars which reminds a lot the American continent colonisation by the Europeans. In this novel, the settling is still very fresh and driven by a global government entity, not countries competing. And it’s also considered by lot’s of people as a waste of public money. However, the same idea of growing Independence and “Martian” identity is visible in the story. The other main part is more personal to Gibson, because the youngest Ares crew member, a student and aspiring astronaut named Jimmy, put him back twenty-years ago in a time when the novelist was an engineering student himself who dropped his studies because of a nervous breakdown.

The Sands of Mars has some relationship with later Clarke’s work such as the Saturn exploration mentioned in this story that would be later featured in 2001 : A Space odyssey. Orbital spaces stations are also described here, similar to the ones developed in Islands in the Sky.


Published in 1955, Earthlight (Lumière cendrée in French - translation based on the Ashen light supposed subtle glow that claimed to be seen on the night side of the planet Venus, in this case the Earthlight is as seen from the Moon) is the third part of the “Space Trilogy”. It features Bertram Sadler, an Earthian observant sent on a Moon Observatory to evaluate the cost usages of the science projects. Actually, Sadler is a secret agent from the Earth government investigating about confidential data leaks detected in this facility to the Federation. Undercover, Sadler has for mission to discover the spy before a major world crisis happen between the Earth and the other planets Federation.

Actually, if I’ve recalled the idea of the colonisation and the independence wish during my reading of The Sands of Mars, Earthlight is more advanced in this topic and is actually mentioning the American example several times to explain the geopolitical situation. Earth is a united government with the sovereignty over the Moon meanwhile several space settlement such as Mars and Venus have formed a Federation. Because of political tensions between the Federation and the Earth, a war is about to erupt.

So in Earthlight, the story develops into a conflict escalation between two major entities. We follow this narrative as an investigation that also explores the Moon facilities from the perspective of someone who never been there. In this novel, Clarke proposed a very interesting display of the cities in the Moon, the installations, and also the culture. One nice idea is the language difference. On the Moon, the people are speaking more directly and simply, the protagonist thinking it was maybe to not waste air. It’s a comprehensive descriptive novel and I’ve enjoyed this because the background and the setting is very consistent. The various elements are associated to accurate technological and scientific ideas regarding the space mechanics such as orbital movements or travelling. One chapter is dedicated to a space battle between Federation cruisers and the Earthian facilities told with a lot of technical details and a pretty nice rhythm. Later, the aftermath of the battle is explained on another perspective and tells about a space rescue.

A nice story, longer than the two other, but well executed.

About these three novels

Despite being unrelated, I’ve understood why these stories have been republished as a series. Actually, it’s the same idea with an escalation is stakes and intensity.

In the Islands in the Sky, we follow a teenager doing a leisure travel and discovering the space stations around the Earth. The relation between the Earth and the colonised planets is barely mentioned.

In The Sands of Mars, we develop more the colonisation of planets and the story is mainly told from the Martian perspective, but as seen by an Earthian eyes. Mars remains an Earth-managed colony.

In Earthlight, we are more advanced and now the geopolitical theatre is more complexe with independent nations in Planets regrouped as a Federation with the threat of a war.

So we have here a timeline that could represent the various stages of evolution of human development in space with these three story.

My next reading is The Thing written by John W. Campbell, the novel behind some movies of the same named including John Carpenter’s.

Fallout (TV Series)
18 April 2024 | 3:34 pm

Fallout is a Post-apocalyptic TV show based on the eponymous video games series. Amazon bought on 2020 the rights for the TV adaptation and the series premiered on April 2024 with 8 episodes. The show has been renewed for a second season.

The story takes place in 2296, in the aftermath of the Great War of 2077 that triggered a massive apocalyptic nuclear bombing around the world. Among the survivors exist the Vaults dwellers, people who have been able to refuge themselves into Vault-Tec’s fallout vaults. One of these Vaults is composed of three twin facilities interconnected independently managed and occasionally opening to each other. Lucy is a resident of Vault 33 and today, it was her marriage with one of Vault’s 32 inhabitant. However, Vault 32’s has been infiltrated by raiders from the surface who now assault 33 during the ceremony. Having her father kidnapped by a raider gang, Lucy decides to leave Vault 33 to rescue her father in a world she knows nothing about.

Despite having never really written about it here, I like Fallout. I’ve mostly played Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 (which disappointed me actually), and a little Fallout 3 but the game age and its random stability on modern systems made me abandon it. I’ve also gave a try to the first game, which Bethesda offered one time for reasons I don’t exactly remember but that’s not the kind I like. So my biggest experience with this series is Fallout 4 will all of its expansions, bought for 10€ on Steam during some random sales period, and having played 150 hours on it. Worth it.

More than the game I actually enjoyed for its gameplay and its story, I’ve found out the univers being very attractive with its retro-futuristic design and a lot of satirical perspective. Last year, I’ve developed a small game using the Pip-boy interface as a small dev project. Called Pyp-Boy, because it’s Python-based, it was a text RPG. Actually, it’s one of the projects that helped me to discover a passion for writing stories. Unfortunately, I’ve never finished it. Close to the end, and recently I’ve had some ideas to publish it another way.

Anyway, let’s talk about the TV show. When I’ve learned about this series production, discovering it was written by Westworld’s writer (a show I’ve really enjoyed too) and directed by The Boys studio (I liked it too), I was enthusiast. And as usual, I watched almost no trailers. I don’t like trailers, they spoil the whole movies or show nowadays. Especially TV series because they’re shorter than before.

Allow me digress for a second. Since a couple of months, my current watch in progress TV show was The X-Files, the 90’s series (with their 26 episodes per season, and watching one episode a day, I’m good for a long time). I’ve watched the first seasons while I was a kid and had the envy to rediscover it. Well, it confirmed me something I’ve always felt with recent shows : they had more to offer in one episode than an entire season of a modern TV series. Because each episode was standalone despite a main conductor in background. End parenthesis.

To summarise my opinion, I’ve honestly enjoyed this first season of the Fallout TV series. The aesthetic and setting is pretty accurate and immediately, a game enjoyer like me knew almost everything. The story began in a Vault, like a lot of Fallout games, following a Vault dweller. It was fun to see how I’ve identified in the Pip-boys our modern smartphones. They’re used for various communication and organisation tasks, but with this old school terminal appearance and noises that made them pretty realistic. All the retro futuristic style was here and I’ve loved it. The series debuted by introducing its three main characters : Lucy the Vault dweller, Maximus the Brotherhood of Steel recruit, and The Ghoul. This last one reminded me the Black Hat Cowboy from Westworld actually with a lot of similarities in character and being an unnamed one (but the audience is quickly made aware of his original identity).

As we could expect from the Fallout world, the show is violent and displays the lack of humanity of the characters. Stealing or killing your neighbour in this universe is the basic daily run, the world is in ruins, dirty and the towns are a bunch of scrapyard. Something I’ve disliked to be honest was the over exaggerated innocence of Lucy. She was naive and candide at the beginning and the few scenes about it annoyed me because it was clearly too much insisted. Yes, she is a girl who was born in a Vault that was mostly a Care Bears park (because in French, we have a say inspired by these toys, called Bisounours which is : “On est pas des Bisounours”, meaning living in an utopian world thinking everyone is nice and happy), but no I couldn’t buy how much they made her at the beginning. Maximus also bothered me because it’s mostly a bully victim with a constant bad luck and jealousy of his misfortune. Actually, the Ghoul is the main contrast with the two other main characters introduction because he is presented as a badass bounty hunter.

As the Fallout games always depicted, the Vaults were conducting experiments on their inhabitants and the TV series bring it too. Actually, I’ve been disappointed by the revelation regarding the three twin Vaults 31, 32 and 33. The idea I was constructing in my head while watching the show enjoyed me better. But the journey was still nicely executed and the series followed the path of various stories : Lucy’s quest to find her father and her encounter with the two other main characters, and the reconstruction life in Vault 33. The third main story is also a flashback before the apocalypse that explored Vault-Tec and involved characters. If Vault 33 plot twist disappointed me, the main story didn’t. Very nicely constructed and directed, just like Westworld I’ve enjoyed it.

On the artistic side, the series is very accurate with Fallout’s iconic designs such as the Factions flags, the obvious Power Armor, the high retro futuristic tech, the various attires of the raiders and surface dwellers, and so on. Yep, when you watch the Fallout TV series, you recognize being in the Fallout universe in several ways and without over exploiting it. The direction is impressive with great quality in visual effects and the costumes. The Power Armors were actual costumes I think, because they were quite realistic. And I think some Ghouls we encounter were animatronics.

So, despite of some weakness at the beginning, I really enjoyed this show. Nicely executed and a good cast for the characters. I hope the second season will continue in this direction.

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