Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Scotsman Abroad | Little Green Men and Big Blue Dudes

Oh, Avatar. For all your faults, I haven't forgotten you. In fact, nearly three years on, I remember you as fondly as any fanboy. Sure, you were awfully silly, but equally, you were sweet, and - no two ways about it - you were breathtaking to boot.

So when I heard sci-fi stalwart Stephen Baxter would be writing a book about the science behind your fiction, I got quite excited. I dusted off my thinking cap and steeled myself for a marathon rewatch.

But you weren't ready yet.

You weren't ready until very recently, even. You took years longer than you were supposed to... but that's alright. I was still open to your science.

I'll tell you this, though: I wasn't expecting it to be quite so sensible.
With more than $2 billion in the bank before it had even hit home video (where it shattered the stats all over again) James Cameron’s Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time. That’s the fact of the matter.

As to the fiction, well... we all remember the broad strokes. The blue people. The big ol’ tree. The incredible flora and fauna. Lest we forget the baddies who laid wanton waste to all of the aforementioned in their unabashedly allegorical quest for the mythical mineral unobtanium.

Good times, right? But obviously well outwith the realms of possibility.

Actually, as it happens, one of the most extraordinary things about Avatar - an all-round extraordinary exemplar of epic SF at the cinema in any event, be damned the backlash - is its oftentimes painstaking engagement with that very thing: possibility. Rarely is the relationship between science fact and science fiction portrayed with such determined attention to detail, especially in a blockbuster of Avatar’s caliber, and it’s easy to grasp why. It’s one thing to be honest, after all, and quite another to be entertaining, but to be both must be doubly difficult — and that, I think, is a conservative estimate.
Which is to say my most recent review for Tor.com went live a little while ago. 'Twas of The Science of Avatar by Stephen Baxter, and I really rather liked it... that is, with a couple of caveats. You need only click through the link to read the rest.

Please and thank you! :)

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