Category Archives: Reviews

#scifitop7 Movies, With Brief Reviews

The #scifitop7 hashtag is back! This week’s #scifitop7 is gonna be movies. Not just blockbusters, but any #scifi movie you hold dear (later in the summer, we’ll go to blockbusters, indies et cetera).

In no particular order, my top seven science fiction movies are:

Alien: Scary, intelligently rendered and tense, this movie is a total genre-buster. It featured Ellen Ripley as one of the earliest modern examples of a female protagonist who combines intensity and complexity, in the type of role typically reserved for men (especially in the late 1970s); it also manages to be scary and outlandish without the plethora of plot holes that plague so many of its kind (and plagued, for example, its latest successor, Prometheus).

Blade Runner: Based on the Philip K. Dick story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, this movie is another Ridley Scott hybrid. It’s classically sci-fi in many of its trappings, but it’s also a compelling rumination on how we define, and defend, our concept of humanity. Rutger Hauer, the leader of a band of escaped android slaves known as Replicants, has some of the best one-liners ever delivered, including: “quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.” And then there’s always the classic “tears in rain” soliloquy…a last-second appeal to empathy from the John Brown (yes, I said it) of replicants.

The Thing: A faithful cinematic rendering of a Cold War-era story called Who Goes There?, John Carpenter’s 1982 movie was a claustrophobic look into the breakdown of civility and trust among a group that once thought they knew each other. It’s an allegory for many things, and its lack of gender diversity (along with Twelve Angry Men, it’s probably the only all-male cast movie that I actually have any regard for) is situationally conceivable due to the setting (an arctic expedition)–and is also offset by an ahead-of-its time ethnic diversity, including African-American characters who aren’t all the same guy. As we know, I tend to favor movies that manage to avoid ethnic and gender reductiveness without obviously trying so hard as to overdo it or distort the story…but I digress. This movie isn’t great because of the cast, though like the others on this list, it’s quite well acted. It’s great because it shows how ordinary folks behave when fear and mistrust catch fire in a group setting.

Gattaca: This is an interesting, methodically paced, well acted movie that is yet another rumination on how we define ourselves as human beings. In a society almost entirely driven by eugenics, a person of predetermined low caste decides to “pass’ into high society. Relevant in any time, independent of the more futuristic aspects of the story.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Not science fiction, you say? Consider the premise: the invention of a machine that can erase one’s unwanted memories. The movie follows a possibly doomed love story between a passive-aggressive head case and a mean-spirited narcissist, and inspires us to ponder both the meaning of love and the value of lessons learned. In many ways, it’s an updated version of Philip K. Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, except that PKD’s story was made into Total Recall–a classic cinematic case of ‘great idea, interesting premise, cheesy movie with a focus on all the wrong elements.’ If only Total Recall hadn’t been made in the 1980s, with Arnold as the protagonist…alas. Eternal Sunshine is a frustrating, thought provoking movie, well acted and worth watching a couple of times.

28 Days Later: Again, not sure if it’s sci fi? If The Andromeda Strain is science fiction, then so is a movie about a human-engineered “rage virus” that runs amok and almost crashes what we call civilization. This move has it all, and operates at a multitude of levels: it’s epic and panoramic in feel, yet both the violence and the relationships (the moment when papa-bear Frank apologizes for losing his temper, then tells Hannah “I love you very much…keep away from me” before changing over, still gets me every time) have an intense, first-person feel. 28 Days Later explores the breakdown of civilization, the awful choices people make in extreme times, the transcendence of a few brave souls, and the catastrophe that can ensue when humans tinker with virology. it’s got a strong (afro-Brit, moreover) female protagonist and non-reductive ethnic diversity. I think it’s Danny Boyle’s best film, and it’s probably my favorite film, and if not, then it’s mighty close.

That’s my list! Feel free to agree or disagree, diplomatically of course, with my list or with each other. Stay tuned for upcoming #scifitop7 lists, and follow me on Twitter @firstcausenyc to keep the conversation going.

Again, my #scifitop7 movies (not in order): Alien; Blade Runner; The Thing (1982); Gattaca; 2001; 28 Days Later; Eternal Sunshine/Spotless Mind


New review of First Cause by Alicia Justice

Cover of First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

Cover of First Cause

Alicia Justice had me on her show, Ali Talks Live, a week ago; you can listen to the podcast here. Today, on Ali’s Bookshelf, Ali released her review of First Cause; she called it “a great book” that she “couldn’t put down at all”…see her full review below.

Thanks for reading!


Paul West will be on Ali Talks Live on 9/17!

Tune on on Monday, September 17th, to listen to Paul West‘s guest appearance on to Ali Talks Live. We’re going to discuss writing, society, creativity, human possibility and other topic; there are also going to be giveaways! Alicia Justice, host of Ali Talks Live, is soon going to be posting her review of First Cause; as soon as it goes live, I’ll post about it.

To learn more about Ali Talks Live, click here.

To buy First Cause on Amazon, so you can check it out before the show goes on the air, click here.

Thanks for reading & listening,


Paul West’s next radio show on 9/17!

Cover of First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

Cover of First Cause

Tune on on Monday, September 17th, to listen to Paul West‘s guest appearance on to Ali Talks Live. We’re going to discuss writing, being an author, society, creativity, human possibility and other topics; there are also going to be giveaways! Alicia Justice, host of Ali Talks Live, is soon going to be posting her review of First Cause; as soon as it goes live, I’ll post about it.

To learn more about Ali Talks Live, click here.

To buy First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility on Amazon, so you can check it out before the show goes on the air, click here.

Thanks for reading & listening,


New review of First Cause in Target Audience Magazine!

Target Audience Magazine has a new review of First Cause, check it out at the link below! I’ve pasted the text, but please check out Target Audience–it’s chock full of good stuff, including music reviews and features on music and art. Many thanks to Gia Lee for taking the time to write a review, and to Editor-in-Chief Ellen Eldridge!

It’s hard to believe that “First Cause” is Paul West’s debut novel because he already writes like one who’s had several books under his belt.

By Gia Lee

It wasn’t at all surprising to read that Paul West has a B.A. in history and has also worked in the education and nonprofit worlds for many years, as his attention to detail regarding Earth’s history, even in this fabricated world, is believable because it follows Earth history in the real world in many ways.

This attention to detail is commendable because it creates a more willing suspension of belief/disbelief. A great example of this is seen when he explains the like time references between Earth and the alien place called Lucero.  As West explains,

Note:  events on both Lucero and Earth will be dated according to the same frame of reference; Eastern Standard Time on the United States’ Calendar” (P. 155).

For readers, like me, who look for continuity like that, it’s appreciated.

Readers should also be happy to know that this is the first book in “The Terranaut Trilogy,” so he will have several books in this series before all is said and done! “First Cause” is a novel about human possibility in many ways, so it’s fitting that West writes about what he knows, having worked in the fields of education and nonprofit, yet surprisingly enough, human potential in his novel is largely explored through “alien-interactions” with those who are from a place called Lucero.

So, these beings are technically aliens in the present, but they are really people originally from Earth, who are known as The Luceri. These Luceri once inhabited Earth as well. Arguably right or wrong, these Luceri are basically looking to reestablish their somewhat lost foothold on Earth.

Many things are impressive about the Luceri; they are generally taller and more physically fit than most humans, more mentally and spiritually advanced (as they have no prevailing religion, etc.), etc. However, that doesn’t mean that some aren’t a bit bellicose and without faults. Just like their human counterparts who were raised on Earth, they have their faults (as in some don’t have enough heart/love). Hence, Lucero isn’t exactly a utopian society—though there is sunlight without cancer and forests without malaria, et cetera. Nor is Earth seen as completely dystopian in West’s book.

This is a novel about human possibility all around, whichever place the characters happen to originally be from. West also manages to fit a wonderful love story in the midst of the action between a Luceri/Terranaut named Argralli in the Luceri language (her name is Angela in English) and Adam. Adam in many ways exemplifies human possibility in his bravery and in his quick-witted and forward-thinking. Yet, it’s ultimately Angela’s bravery and love that really shines through, so those who appreciate strong (both physically and mentally) female protagonists will like the ending—a lot!

In conclusion, I highly recommend this sci-fi thriller because it truly encompasses a great deal more. It could also be categorized as a philosophical read as readers are challenged to look inside themselves for answers and wonderful possibilities for both our future and now! Also, fans, like myself, of The History Channel’s Ancient Aliens should be right on board with this book as well as devotees of television series like Star Trek: The Next Generation which champion human evolution and indeed great possibilities.

First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

New First Cause review all the way from Germany!

Cover of First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

Cover of First Cause

Edi’s Book Lighthouse: Edi’s Spotlight: First Cause by Paul West

Don’t forget to come visit me at FandomFest 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky–in just three weeks!

To check out First Cause on Amazon, click here.


New First Cause review references old classics

Cover of First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

Cover of First Cause

The newest review is pasted and linked below!

4.0 out of 5 stars “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”, March 19, 2012

The best SciFi, isn’t about huge saucers vaporizing national monuments, it’s uses the genre of science fiction to give us things to think about.
The subject in the best SciFi, and in literature, is often our humanity, and the “human condition” – Blade Runner, Gattaca, 2001 A Space Odyssey
(AI self awareness & human potential/evolution) and so on. First Cause fits into this category as, while it is a science fiction story, it’s main
goal is to make the reader think. The SciFi genre is also often prophetic, as is the case here and its worth considering that this book was
conceived a decade before Sept 11, and alot of whats written here is very relevant to current events.

I wont go into spoilers or a synopsis as other reviews have done that here. There is alot of background information, but I dont see that as a flaw,
as it presents a more well developed story. A few chapters stand out, such as the chapter of the history of the man who assumes the Presidency during
the crisis, a snowy confrontation, and the highlight of the book, a history into the Luceri, those who are trying to “come home”. Being someone who
loves to see fiction give a alternate take on established history (one of my favorite things ever written was Robert E Howard’s ‘The Hyborian age’), I
enjoyed this chapter most.

The book tackles subjects like social justice, philosphy, political corruption,the ultimate human potential,and its interesting to
note, in the book, a race who attains “human perfection”, are still unable to overcome some hard wired human flaws. Someone had mentioned M Night, and
I think thats a good comparison as M Night tends to focus on small groups of people, in a large scale crisis.

Some nitpicks…The ending is abrupt, as the book obviously sets ups up a sequel. It’s also short, which makes good for reading it in a couple sittings, but
it also resolves some situations too quickly.

If you like stuff like Gattaca, Utopian themes, with some X-Files thrown in there, and think humanity has wasted its amazing gifts, then give First Cause a chance. Its a enjoyable enough read from a first time author and self publisher.