Sunday, May 17, 2009

Summer reading for Dollhouse fans

Ahhhhhhhh... Dollhouse has been renewed. I admit, I didn't think it would happen, while my girlfriend (she who is both wise and beautiful) always kept the faith. It'll be nice to see some more episodes, hopefully of the interesting variety, and not of the "Echo has an assignment as X" style.

But what to do for the next five or six months before we get another fix of Dollhouse? We go to the library and the video store, of course. For my fellow Dollhouse fans, a selection of stories that cover the same themes: body swapping, identity, reality when the mind is a commodity.

Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan. I've already mentioned this one, but both this book and its sequels, Broken Angels and Woken Furies, explore the possibility of wholesale body swapping and immortality through cloning and downloading. It's dark, grim, noirish post-cyberpunk with lots of sex and violence. The politics become more explicit with the follow up books, but they never take over the story.

The Anubis Gates, On Stranger Tides, and Last Call,  by Tim Powers. Again, body swapping and dark quests for immortality, but in Powers case using magic. The best of the bunch is probably The Anubis Gates, although my favourite will always be On Stranger Tides for its sword fightin', piratical ways. Far, far superior to any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Dark City, directed by Alex Proyas. A year before The Matrix came out and everyone started talking about bullet time, there was a much quieter, much better film that covered the same territory and then some. Dark City is about a man who wakes up next to a murdered woman, seemingly her killer. But he can't remember anything. He flees through a shifting city that never sees dawn, and in which people are swapped from home to home and role to role much like... dolls in a dollhouse? With its synthetic personalities, it's the closest analogue to Dollhouse you can find. Plus, a chance to see Keifer Sutherland before he got all annoying as a torture-monkey on 24.

Diaspora, by Greg Egan. This staggeringly brain-twisting novel concerns both AI and uploaded personalities. In similarly-themed short stories, Egan has also explored creating multiple copies of oneself, in some cases to undertake suicidal scientific research, such as travelling into a black hole.

The City of Lost Children, directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. A mad scientist kidnaps children in order to harvest their dreams and save him from his nightmares. A steampunk setting with clones, blind radar-enabled cultists, and Ron Perlman with a bizarre hairstyle, speaking French.

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