Sam Explains

Endymion – Part 1

This week Sam takes us back to Hyperion with the1996 Dan Simmons novel Endymion. Hyperion is back and Danielle is thrilled! Picking up around 274 years after the conclusion of the previous book, Endymion opens with some narration by a man named, wait for it, Raul Endymion. We learn that Raul grew up on Hyperion, did a bunch of odd jobs, and eventually ended up leading a duck hunting expedition that went disastrously wrong. Raul is blamed for the temporary deaths (remember those cruciform parasites? They’re back in a big way!) of the people he was leading on the hunt and is sentenced to death. However, just as he is about to be executed by just one of many overly complicated death machines to appear in this book, he is in fact only rendered unconscious. It’s also important to note that in the years since the “Fall” a new theocratic government has taken over lead by the Catholic Church and based around the gift of immortal life via the cruciform parasites which they now control. When Raul wakes up, he’s in the ruined city of Endymion (yup, it’s a city too!) and, notably, not executed. He is soon brought to see the nearly mummified, but still living, poet Martin Silenus who wants to give him a job. Brawne Lamia’s daughter, the One who Teaches, disappeared into the Sphinx Time Tomb when she was 12, over 260 years ago. Somehow, Martin knows she’s scheduled to emerge in just a few days and wants Raul to retrieve her and keep her safe from the Church and its military arm the Pax, who also somehow know this schedule and want to kill or capture her. Speaking of, Father-Captain Federico de Soya is pulled off his task-force hunting Ousters (still considered an enemy) to engage in some secret mission of the utmost importance. If you’re feeling lost in all of this, you should probably go back and listen to all the Hyperion episodes again; it won’t help, but they’re pretty fun!

Check out Sam and Danielle on the Mind Duck Books podcast episode about the Fall of Hyperion. Find Mind Duck Books on Twitter @mindduckbooks, Instagram @mindduckbooks, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Rock & Rule

This week Sam brings Danielle the 1983 animated rock adventure film Rock & Rule. In the distant future, mutant animals have taken over the planet, and they only want one thing: To rock out! Well, most of them do. Semi-retired super-rocker Mok (who looks like an old rat version of David Bowie) wants to find a magical voice that will activate the Armageddon key so he can summon a monster of destruction from another dimension for reasons that are spectacularly unclear. Anyway, when Mok’s magic ring (just go with it) detects the voice of down-and-out rock band member and rat singer Angel’s voice, he knows he’s found the right person. So he promptly kidnaps her and escapes in a zeppelin that transforms out of his home (this movie is bananas). They are perused by Angel’s band mates, including her kinda boyfriend Omar, who follow them to Nuke York on a rescue mission. However, Mok has both tricks and magic up his sleeve to thwart them, so they’re in for a real fight. If this movie seems light on plot, that’s because it’s heavy on rock with many original songs by Cheap Trick, Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, and Iggy Pop. It may be short, but Sam certainly has a blast with this insane animated rock-venture, and Danielle is just amused to hear Sam reciting so many lyrics. There’s only one question left: Are you ready to rock?!

Crater

This week Sam brings on the Disney with the 2023 direct to streaming movie Crater. In the not too distant future, humanity has just gotten kind of bored with Earth and decided to invest everything in a new planet Omega. This movie is not about that, instead we follow some kids, and specifically Caleb, living in a mining colony on the Moon. Caleb’s father recently died in a mining accident, and since his mother died a few years earlier, Caleb is awarded a one-way trip to Omega, hooray! Only Caleb doesn’t want to go to Omega and leave all his friends behind. Friends like Dylan, Marcus, Borney, and the new addition, Addison. Caleb’s father always told him about how he used to take Caleb’s mother to visit a special crater, so Caleb and his friends decide to steal a rover and take a road trip during a meteor storm lock-down. They make their way across the moon’s surface, stopping briefly to play baseball (sure), and then also to use their oxygen tanks to play jetpacks (what?!). The jetpack game, predictably, goes awry, but once everyone is back safe inside the rover, they head to an abandoned model home showcase to restock. It should also be mentioned that, although this is a largely upbeat children’s movie, this society is freaking dark. We learn that the miners on the Moon are essentially indentured servants laboring for a ticket to Omega that never comes and passing down that burden of servitude to their children. There’s also no entertainment on the Moon, no books or music, the children only learn about mining in school, and are never allowed to leave the small colony dome. And lest you think Earth is doing any better, Addison recently moved to the Moon from Earth after her parents divorced and her mom took her younger brother to Omega (a 75-year trip in stasis) so then her dad took her to the moon to spite her mom. Absolutely terrible. Anyway, the children continue their adventure to the crater, but what they find there is totally bonkers, as is the ending of this movie which left both our hosts completely baffled.

Moonfall

This week Sam crashes to Earth with the 2022 Roland Emmerich film Moonfall. During a routine satellite repair mission—which astronaut Halle Berry (Sam forgot her character name) went on instead of her honeymoon—things go terribly wrong. A mysterious goo causes the space shuttle to lose power and Halle Berry is knocked out. Luckily, her astronaut buddy Ryan (née Brian) manages to land the shuttle safely. For his heroism, he’s promptly fired and loses his wrongful termination lawsuit against NASA. Years later, a man pretending to be a professor is convinced that the Moon has been knocked from its orbit and, oh by the way, is also a massive alien built mega-structure powered by a captured white dwarf star; ya know, normal stuff. No one believes him (obviously) even though NASA, now with Halle Berry in a leadership position, has noticed the Moon moving closer to Earth. This is, obviously, a massive problem, and the standard disaster elements of floods, meteorites, and earthquakes pummel Earth. Halle Berry calls on her old buddy Ryan to pilot a mission to bring an EMP bomb to the Moon to defeat the evil goo, which she is convinced is a malevolent, alien AI that, once defeated, will allow the Moon to correct itself back to its normal orbit. It’s at this point Sam’s head explodes with the terrible science and insane conclusions jumped to in this movie. There’s also a subplot where Ryan’s delinquent son is on a mission to take Halle Berry’s son to Colorado where her ex-husband is holed up along with Ryan’s ex-wife and her new husband. Apparently, Colorado is the safest place to be if the freaking Moon crashes into the Earth. Ryan and crew mount up to take the fight to the Moon, but can they defeat an alien AI? Why is the AI intent on attacking humans in the first place? What the heck is the Moon? We promise, the answers to all these questions and more are both forthcoming and extremely stupid.

Warriors of Virtue 2: The Return to Tao

This week the kangafus are back as Sam brings the 2002 movie Warriors of Virtue 2: The Return to Tao. What becomes most apparent in this episode is how bad of and idea it was for Sam not to prepare by listening to the previous Warriors of Virtue episode as he remembers almost nothing about the story, the characters, or even what he and Danielle talked about during that episode. This is extra unfortunate since this movie dives right in expecting you’re already a Warrior of Virtue expert as we rejoin Ryan Jeffers, now in Beijing for the international highschool wushu tournament. After the previous captain of the US team had to drop out, Ryan, who hadn’t even made the team, was brought in as the substitute captain, and already this film is bonkers. You might expect Ryan to be very good at wushu if they brought him in as the new captain, but he is, in fact, quite terrible. Anyway, after he and his buddy bop around Beijing for a few days, entirely unsupervised, Ryan once again finds himself in an abandoned building and being sucked through a portal to the land of Tao. There he meets Yasbin, who serves as the exposition machine of the movie and, true to purpose, tells Ryan that Tao is once again under threat, this time from Dogon and his absolutely incredible henchman. Seriously, that man henches better than anyone Sam has ever seen. Anyway, Ryan goes to see Queen Amythis (who knew Tao has a queen?) and learns that the Warriors of Virtue have been nearly all defeated and captured by Dogon. You’d think the mystical land of Tao would have someone better than a not-very-good-at-wushu teenager from Earth to help them, but nope, Ryan is the best they got apparently. If this plot all seems both dull and convoluted, don’t worry, as the movie progresses things make way less sense and thus are way more fun. Also, be sure to stick around to see Sam at the angriest he’s ever been as this film betrays him on a deeply personal level. Fun!

Cinderella II: Dreams Come True

This week Sam is back on his direct-to-home-video adventure with the 2002 movie Cinderella II: Dreams Come True. Cinderella is back, and this time Sam is doing the previous movie to see if it fixes the timeline that Cinderella III absolutely destroyed (Spoiler: it does not). In this collection of three animated shorts loosely tied together into what could be generously called a “movie”, we start with the mice who have decided to write a book for Cinderella about Cinderella and her adventures. Mice, it turns out, are not very smart. And so they take us through three stories about Cinderella planning parties, because that’s apparently the main (only) export of this kingdom. The individual stories are pretty much what you would expect: Cinderella and her friends learn valuable life lessons, though no one, it seems, had learned the Prince’s name. The good news is that, aside from planning parties, these stories are chock-full of insanity. In no particular order: Jaq gets turned into a human but continues to be stalked by a cat determined to eat him, the Forbidden Curtains in the castle are finally opened, Anastasia finds several fountains to cry over, chocolate pudding is made that almost certainly contains hantavirus, and a horse kicks Anastasia through a building which would certainly kill her. While we never manage to understand the Cinderella timeline any better, we do learn two things from this movie: Cinderella is almost certainly a sociopath, and Pompom is our new favorite character.

The Fall of Hyperion – Part 7

This week Sam brings the culmination of six previous episodes with the final part of the 1990 Dan Simmons novel The Fall of Hyperion. Kassad is back and he’s ready to kick some Shrike butt! However, the Shrike is still a master of time so Kassad ends up in the distant future where he leads a band of humans against hordes of Shrike in a final battle that also determines how many Shrike get sent back in time. Also, Moneta is there and it’s her first time meeting Kassad due to time shenanigans. Back in the valley, Brawne sets off to the Time Tomb known as the Shrike Palace because her trip to the datumplane showed her that it has some connection to the Tree of Thorns. Sol goes back to the Sphinx to sit and wait for Rachel. Meanwhile, Keats/Severn has a not-very-helpful conversation with Ummon and then dies (kinda) and Leigh Hunt buries him under the watchful gaze of the Shrike (don’t ask how), and then finds himself stranded on Earth. Back with the Ousters, the Consul is informed that the Ousters are not, in fact, invading the Hegemony, it’s the TechnoCore, gasp! He’s also informed that at no point did his actions stem from freewill, but were manipulated by just everyone around him. He does not take that well. Also meanwhile, Meina Gladstone is struggling to find a path forward that doesn’t involve using the TechnoCore’s plan of a deathwand bomb that may or may not wipe out humanity (Spoiler: it probably will). that’s when the ghost consciousness of Severn/Keats decides to bop-around the datumplane/Metasphere a bit having shed his corporeal body. He takes this opportunity to get into the dreams of Meina and also His-Brand-New-As-Yet-Unnamed-Holiness Paul Duré, and give them some very cryptic information that really saves their butts. Will Meina be able to thwart the Core? Will humanity survive? How the heck does Brawne turn the Shrike to glass? Answers to two of those question, and definitely not all three, can be found in this action-packed, jumbo finale of the Fall of Hyperion! While you may be sad this is the end, Danielle could not be more stoked that it’s over.

Hyperion – Part 1 (Rerun)

Far into the future after humanity has spread through the stars to many planets, a group of seven people are tasked with undertaking a pilgrimage to the Shrike, the mysterious and deadly creature that guards the Time Tombs on the planet Hyperion. The Time Tombs are opening and there is also an Ouster migration cluster that is threatening to take the planet, and the secrets of the Tombs, away from the Hegemony. Thus Meina Gladstone, the CEO of the Hegemony, sends a message in a “fatline squirt” to the Consul, who is one of the pilgrims, and tells him to be on the lookout for an Ouster spy among the group. If none of that made sense to you, don’t worry, Danielle is convinced this story is perhaps the most incomprehensible one Sam has ever shared, and totally crazy to boot. Aboard a massive spaceship made from an actual, living tree, the pilgrims gather and agree to tell their stories so they can better understand why each of them was chosen for this journey. First up to share is the Catholic priest Lenar Hoyt, who tells the story of another priest, Paul Duré, who was exiled to Hyperion by the Church for falsifying data at an archaeological dig. Duré plans to study an isolated tribe on the planet, which is composed of people supposedly descended from the crew of a seedship which crashed there hundreds of years ago. To reach the village, Duré must traverse the deadly Fire Forests filled with tesla tress which both absorb and emit lightning, a phenomenon that greatly annoys Danielle since the trees don’t seem to burn themselves down in the resulting conflagration. When Duré finds the tribe, he notices they are dimwitted, physically bland, and seemingly bereft of humanity, and show a cult-like devotion to maintaining their population at seventy people. As he stays with them, he starts to uncover a horrifying secret that shakes his faith and leads him to extreme actions. Before all that, however, is the introduction of a word gross enough to challenge “khui” for the throne of uncomfortable words: Gymnosperm. So get ready for a deep dive into a massive space opera, full of stellar sci-fi words and technobabble, that only gets weirder and more incomprehensible the more it’s explained.

The Fall of Hyperion – Part 6

This week Sam brings the penultimate episode of the 1990 Dan Simmons book The Fall of Hyperion. Picking up where we left off last time, Severn takes a little meditation time to have visions of Meina Gladstone’s war room where the TechnoCore has just the best idea to defeat the ousters: Herd all the Hegemony people to safety in the labyrinths then use a novel WMD they just happen to have to wipe out the ousters. While many of the FORCE leaders love this idea, Meina, and also Danielle, are not on board. Severn also sees the consul being rescued from brigands by his friend Theo Lane, which is the most interesting Danielle has found the Consul to be in quite some time. Severn comes too and is joined by Leigh Hunt who has come to take him to talk to Gladstone while Father Duré goes to God’s Grove to talk to the Templars. Unfortunately, as Severn and Hunt step through the farcaster, they end up not in Government House, but in what Severn identifies as Earth, or its recreation, far from the web. Severn recognizes the area as Italy and he and Hunt are pushed towards Rome on the abandoned planet. Also, Severn develops an instant case of tuberculosis, because Keats. While Severn and Hunt conduct their slow trek to Rome, Meina and her generals observe the first invasion of Heaven’s Gate, which ends in the planet being destroyed from orbit, so not a great start. Meanwhile, the Consul makes it back to his ship with the help of Melio Arundez, but instead of returning to Sol and Rachel, he is requested by Meina to liaise with the Ouster swarm in the Hyperion system to negotiate a ceasefire. Also, Kassad is fighting the Shrike and while not doing too badly, is definitely not winning. Back on God’s Grove, Father Duré has a tête-à-tête with the True Voice of the Worldtree and the Bishop of the Church of Final Atonement. A lot of things are revealed in this conversation, and this is about the time where Danielle’s brain just gives up trying to understand everything. While this section is definitely jam-packed with intrigue and complications, we do at least get a new pope. Unfortunately, said pope is not our two hosts, but maybe next time.

The Fall of Hyperion – Part 5

This week Sam returns to his comfort zone with the 1990 Dan Simmons novel The Fall of Hyperion. The Time Tombs have opened and the Ousters are invading the WorldWeb, so things could be going better for the Hegemony. Severn is woken up just in time to take a little walk through the first-wave invasion worlds after filling in Meina Gladstone on the current goings-on of the pilgrims. Meina clues in Severn that his “dreams” of the pilgrims are extending beyond his supposed connection to the other Keats persona cybrid, and somehow this never occurred to Severn. Severn decides to meditate into a vision, and sees Martin Silenus stuck on the Tree of Pain, but through the power of reciting poetry he’s able to ease his pain, and that of those around him, enough to apologize to Sad King Billy who just happens to be impaled right near by. Convenient! Anyway, Severn then goes to Renaissance Vector and meditates again, this time getting a vision of Meina in her war room deciding on a plan to abandon the first-wave worlds so they can take the fight to the Ouster swarms to save the rest of the Web. Severn wakes up and is suddenly chased by a mob of Shrike Cult zealots before escaping into a library with a dedicated room full of Keats poems. Super convenient! Severn takes yet another nap and sees Brawne and Johnny traversing the Megaspehere to find Ummon, Johnny’s “father”, a megalith that loves to speak in koans, so that’s fun. It informs them about a war between a machine-created Ultimate Intelligence and a human-derived Ultimate Intelligence from far in the future, where part of the triune human Ultimate Intelligence fled back in time to the “present” to hide and keep from losing the war. Thus, the Shrike was sent back in time to track it down and finish the battle. That’s just such a brief summation of the lunacy contained in Ummon’s story. Also, Paul Duré is back in the web on Pacem. How did he get there? Two words: Corpse tunnels.