Check It Out: Get close with spacey encounters

For years, mankind has gazed up at the stars and wondered what exists beyond our planet. Is the universe a vast sea of nothing? Are we alone or is there intelligent life elsewhere?

Science fiction postulates what sort of marvelous sights we'll encounter when we leave Earth. But what if the universe isn't what it's cracked up to be? Space could very well be a dark, cruel place. Science fiction gave us prison planets, harsh mining colonies and other barely inhabitable places to house the universe's undesirables.

There are also evil, primal alien creatures that exist only to antagonize defenseless humanoids both on Earth and beyond. Many science fiction classics, films and video games explore the imaginative, intriguing and often darker side of science fiction, where aliens, haunted vessels and humanity itself are capable of delivering spine tingling chills.

Developed by Vicarious Visions, "Dead Space" is a video game about Isaac Clarke, a deep space engineer who is recruited by a small security team to reestablish communications with the USS Ishimura, a vast mining ship that has suddenly gone quiet. It's not long before Clarke finds the ship infested with a parasitic race of aliens called Necromorphs who use the dead as hosts. Clarke must fight his way through the ship and uncover the mystery of an alien artifact and strange visions of his girlfriend who served on the large vessel.

Our haunted derelict space ship theme continues with the Paul Anderson film, "Event Horizon." Dr. William Weir is the inventor of a new FTL (faster than light) drive equipped on a research vessel called the Event Horizon, whose mission was to go beyond the boundaries of our solar system only to disappear after engaging the new engine. Seven years later, the ship suddenly reappears in orbit around Neptune, and Weir, along with the crew of the Lewis and Clark rescue ship, are off to investigate, unaware of the hellish horror the Event Horizon brought with it.

In the science fiction classic "Day of the Triffids," England is under siege by a new, bioengineered race of intelligent and aggressive plants called Triffids. A green-tinged meteor shower fills the night sky, blinding those who watched the celestial light show. Bill Masen is one of a small number or people who kept their sight and must struggle to survive as society crumbles around them while the deadly plants roam the city.

Horror doesn't always have to involve nasty aliens. More often than not, it's the evil that men do. Humans leave Earth, bringing with them their prejudices, greed and ethical missteps. Giant business corporations establish themselves on colonies in order to reap the rewards of celestial commodities while leaving their ethics at the door.

The Weyland-Yutani company from the "Alien" film series wants to unlock the secrets of a terrifying and deadly alien species in order to turn it into a weapon, declaring their own employees expendable in the process. Lunar Industries, as seen in Duncan Jones' film "Moon," sends a man to the moon for a three-year stint on a mostly automated gas harvesting facility and when things go wrong, the insidious nature of the company is revealed.

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.

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