While Star Trek fans may never agree on which series is the best (it will always be Original Series, hands down), most fans will agree that Star TrekWhile Star Trek fans may never agree on which series is the best (it will always be Original Series, hands down), most fans will agree that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the best entry in the long-running film franchise. In fact, were it not for Khan and it's success, it's likely we'd only have the original 79 episodes and a couple of movies to discuss when it comes to one of the greatest franchises in modern entertainment history.
A lot of ink has been spilled in recent years on the "kiss and tell" behind the scenes looks at the making of Star Trek. This time the behind the scenes look comes from director Nicholas Meyer, who admits that he had very little familiarity with Star Trek before he took on the task of crafting the story for Khan and serving as director for the second installment. And yet it's Meyer, along with Harve Bennett, who arguably have had the biggest impact on the Trek franchise outside of Gene Roddenberry himself and the oft-overlooked classic Trek producer Gene Coon.
The View from the Bridge offers a look at Meyer's life and career pre and post Trek and it's every bit as interesting as you'd hope it would be. It's also refreshingly honest from Meyer, who admits that all he ever wanted to do is grow up to write the kind of stories he liked. Meyer examines his career with honesty and little self-delusion. He is quick to point out things he believes he did right, but also to call himself for shortcomings or mistakes made along the way. (Most telling are a few comments about how Roddenberry was treated by the time Meyer assumed the director's seat for the sixth installment in the franchise).
If you're a Trek fan like I am, you're likely to eat this up with a spoon. But this memoir holds more than just the standard look at the franchise or serving as another kiss and tell book. Reading it made me want to re-visit much, if not all of, Meyer's output over the years to examine them again after seeing this inside look. I will admit I've never been a huge fan of his Holmes pastiche The Seven Percent Solution but after reading this book, I'm curious to look at it again, taking into account the behind-the-scenes information Meyer details here. And, of course, after reading this book, I want to dust off my oft-watched copy of Wrath of Khan and view it again. ...more
Guy walks into a bar and shares his greatest sexual conquests. That pretty much sums up my impression of "Clockwork Chloe," a steampunk short story thGuy walks into a bar and shares his greatest sexual conquests. That pretty much sums up my impression of "Clockwork Chloe," a steampunk short story that, unfortunately, isn't the most memorable or entertaining story.
But it was a free download for my Kindle, so I am only out the few minutes it took to read it. ...more
It's interesting that I'd read John Grisham's latest novel The Litigators just as the promotional blitz for the NBC series based on his first huge besIt's interesting that I'd read John Grisham's latest novel The Litigators just as the promotional blitz for the NBC series based on his first huge bestseller The Firm is kicking into gear. Based on what I recall of The Firm and having read the latest Grisham offering, I honestly think the premise of The Litigators has far more promise and potential as a weekly television series than The Firm does. (Of course, The Firm has name recognition and a Tom Cruise movie in its favor, so I can see why NBC might go for that over this one.)
With Grisham, it seems like every other novel these days is great and then the next one is kind of a disappointment. Unfortunately, it appears The Litigators is that next one that was kind of a disappointment.
It's certainly not due to a lack of trying by Grisham. At this point, it'd be easy for him to go on auto-pilot and churn out a legal thriller a year following a standard formula as many big-name best selling authors are content to do (I'm looking at you James Patterson). Instead, Grisham seems willing to push new boundaries with his novels. In the case of The Litigators that push is toward a more satirical and humorous novel than many of his previous installments. And while that take works in the first several chapters, it begins to wear a bit thin by the middle third of the book and I rapidly found myself losing patience with the story down the home stretch.
It's the story of a Finley & Figg, a lower scale firm that could best described as ambulance chasers. Wally Figg has always dreamed of the high risk, high reward work of class action law suits and when he stumbles onto a potential one involving a cholesterol drug from a pharmaceutical company with a history of settling before the trial hits the courtroom, he eagerly begins signing up cases. He also casts his lot with a big name litigation firm to try and put some fear into the company.
Onto the scene of Finley & Figg comes David Zinc, a young lawyer at a corporate firm. Riding the elevator to his 97th floor cubicle one morning, David decides he's had enough and walks away. After a day spent drinking in a bar, he stumbles into Finley & Figg and takes a job there to find out the other side of being a lawyer.
Of course, there's an inevitable worlds-colliding conflict from the two sides, from which much of the humor stems. But Grisham offers up more than just a bit of humor from his eccentric characters. He offers some real insight and commentary on the world of mass tort litigation and the positive and negative impacts of it. During the story, David stumbles across a potential lawsuit where someone has genuinely been harmed by corporate negligence and the world of litigation will have a positive impact on a family and the community instead of just being done for the sake of a quick profit via settlement. Those portions of the story are far more effective and interesting that the world of mass tort as seen through the drug company storyline. (And it's also abundantly clear where Grisham's sympathies are).
It's just too bad that the novel isn't better than the sum of its parts. During the middle and last third of the novel, I couldn't' help but wonder if this premise might be better served as a short story or novella.
It's not a terrible book, by any stretch of the imagination. It's just not quite up to the level we've seen from Grisham in his better works.
But the good news is that given his recent pattern, his next book should be a lot better. ...more
Following up on the success of "Hounded," Kevin Hearne offers the second installment in the Iron Druid Chronicles.
The good news is that everyone I enjFollowing up on the success of "Hounded," Kevin Hearne offers the second installment in the Iron Druid Chronicles.
The good news is that everyone I enjoyed from the first novel is back. After dispatching with a god in the past book, Atticus might think he's entitled to a bit of a breather. It's too bad the rest of the supernatural world doesn't agree with him. His vampire lawyer wants him to take out Thor, there's a new Bacchus cult running around town and then there's the matter of Atticus being caught in a tug of war between two supernatural women. Add in trying to train his new Druid apprentice and making sure Oberon has enough sausages and you've got all the makings of fun urban fantasy novel.
With "Hexed" you can see Hearne opening up the universe he introduced us to in "Hounded" a bit more. With a third book already in stores and a fourth yet to come, I'm hoping that we'll have several more years of exploring and expanding this universe. It really does feel like Hearne is putting some pieces on the board to come back to later.
"Hexed" is fast-paced, witty and a lot of fun to read. It won't revolutionize the urban fantasy genre, but it will keep you turning the pages. It's one of those books that I enjoyed every moment of, but ended up kicking myself because I consumed it too quickly. The good news is there's a third novel out there and I've already picked it up. The bad news is that once I've finished that one, it's a long wait until April for more.
On a side note, I will admit that while I love the series, the cover chosen aren't exactly the most reflective of what's inside. I want to see this series reach a wider audience (it's far preferable to the glut of vampire romance books out there thinly disguised as sci-fi and fantasy), but I'm afraid the covers may be a bit off-putting for fans browsing their local bookstore or library. ...more
Theories concerning the assignation of President John F. Kennedy seemed to hit a watershed moment when I was in college--or maybe it just seemed thatTheories concerning the assignation of President John F. Kennedy seemed to hit a watershed moment when I was in college--or maybe it just seemed that way because for one semester for an English literature class, we read Don DeLillo's Libra as well as re-visiting Oliver Stone's JKF. Toss in the Quantum Leap episode, "Lee Harvey Oswald" and you've got a lot of conspiracy theories running competing for time and attention.
So when I heard that Stephen King's latest novel was going to center around the assignation of JFK, I have to admit a part of my deep down inside groaned a bit. Oh sure, enough time has passed since that time of feeling like I was immersed in JFK theories and I still enjoy the JFK parody on Seinfeld's classic episode, "The Boyfriend," but I wasn't quite sure I was ready to leap back into more JFK conspiracy theories and stories.
Eight hundred or so pages later, I realize that I should probably have a bit more faith in Stephen King. Yes, 11/22/63 concerns the JFK assignation, but King has crafted something more in his latest novel. Continuing his career renaissance, King has crafted a time travel novel that is fascinating, compelling and human. Divorced school teacher Jake Epping is presented with an opportunity to travel back in time and to change history. A friend shows him a one-way door to the past that Jake can travel from current day back to 1957. King wisely limits his time travel conceit to travel to only one point in history at each side of the corridor. And changes must be made each time you travel back in time or else history "resets." No time for sight-seeing along the way and having Jake arrive each time at a point several years from when the assignation occurs means there's no use of re-dos or going back to correct previous mistakes without dramatic personal consequences for the traveler in question.
At first, Jake makes a small change to history, helping a student whose father abused him and destroyed his family. During this trip, Jake learns how hard history will work to ensure that changes aren't made on any major scale (the first traveler uses the corridor to purchase hamburger at 50's prices for his diner before deciding to try and stop the JFK assignation). Jake makes the change and then decides it's time to go all in and make some major history altering changes.
At close to 900 pages, 11/22/63 is quite a tome for Stephen King. Jake's time in the past is detailed as he settles in, creating a life for himself as he waits and readies for that fateful day. In many ways, the details of Jake's creating a life in the past, falling in love with a divorced fellow teacher and his small town life is just as compelling, if not more so, than the plot about trying to see if Oswald worked alone or if there was a larger conspiracy. And while you could argue that the entire establishing a life is a huge side step for the novel, I wouldn't trade one bit of it to make this novel any shorter.
King knows what's he's doing with this enjoyable, compelling and compulsively readable novel. Don't worry about a page count or getting lost in the subplots. It's all worth it in the end. One of the most enjoyable novels I read in 2011. ...more
Every once in a while as I browse the new releases area of the sci-fi and fantasy section of my local bookstore, I get depressed that a lot of it thesEvery once in a while as I browse the new releases area of the sci-fi and fantasy section of my local bookstore, I get depressed that a lot of it these days is probably better defined as paranormal romance rather than actual sci-fi and/or fantasy novels. It seems like more and more if I want to find something truly new, unique and worth my time, recommendations from friends, rather real world or on-line, are far more fruitful and promising than anything the big-box book retailers are pushing these days.
Case in point--Kevin Hearne's "Hounded."
An urban fantasy in the tradition of the Dresden Files, "Hounded" is a fun, refreshing story about the last of the Druids, Atticus O’Sullivan. Atticus lives in Arizona, where he runs an occult used book store and runs with his shape-shifting friend Oberon. Atticus has in his possession a certain sword that a certain other ancient god would like back and the novel chronicles the attempt to retrieve it and the battle over it.
"Hounded" hooked me in from the first page with its sense of humor, style and wit and kept me turning the pages for the compelling story, well thought out universe and Oberon. Atticus is able to talk to Oberon telepathically and the conversations between the two (many centering on Oberon's love of sausage and his desire for French Poodles) are the highlight of the book.
Reading "Hounded" reminded me of the first installments of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Atticus is a compelling, flawed hero and the novel feels like it's putting some elements into play for a larger universe that could unfold in future installments. The fact that three novels hit shelves in three months speaks well of the publisher's view of how well this series could go over. Easily one of the best urban fantasy novels of the year, "Hounded" is a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to more installments. ...more
As I've said in multiple reviews centering on the works of Richard Matheson, the best news in all the recent Hollywood adaptations of his work is thatAs I've said in multiple reviews centering on the works of Richard Matheson, the best news in all the recent Hollywood adaptations of his work is that much of the Matheson catalog is coming back into print, allowing readers to discover that Matheson is much, much more that the guy who wrote, "I Am Legend."
I will have to admit I was a bit surprised to find out the recently released "Real Steel" was based on a short story by Matheson. That fact alone made me want to see the movie more than any of the previews I'd seen for the film or the buzz I'd heard surrounding the film. (Honestly, it looked like little more than Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots: The Movie).
How much or how little of the original short story remains in the movie remains to be seen. But it should be interesting to see when I finally get around to seeing it (most likely when it hits DVD).
The good thing with a short story collection is that if you don't love one story, there's always another one coming up soon that may be more appealing. As a collection, "Steel" is far more hit and miss than the other Matheson collections I've read, but there are still a few gems in here. The title story is fairly well done, though it's not quite up the standards of other more solid entries in this collection. (Interestingly, it was turned into a "Twilight Zone" episode with Lee Marvin in the lead role. Fascinating to read it and then watch the episode).
In fact, several of the stories in here feel like they're ready to be translated into "Twilight Zone" episodes. Several early entries all lead up to that twist or tweak of things that linger with you after the final paragraph is read.
However, the misses in this collection outweigh the hits (see what I did there?!?) and I have to admit I was left feeling a bit less satisfied overall than I have been with previous collections. There aren't any out and out terrible stories, but there's not really a great one in here either. ...more
With the news of Terry Pratchett's declining health, it feels as if each new Discworld novel could be his last. It also made you want to savor each enWith the news of Terry Pratchett's declining health, it feels as if each new Discworld novel could be his last. It also made you want to savor each entry a bit more.
Unfortunately, the last couple of entries haven't been quite among Pratchett's best.
Thankfully, Snuff is a return to form for Pratchett and while I hope we get more, if this is the last Discworld entry we get, it will be a solid, entertaining high note for the series to go out on.
As I've said in other Pratchett reviews, Pratchett makes looking witty, funny and satirical look easy when he's on the top of his game. And he does that hear. The story of Sam Vines being forced to take a vacation to the countryside with his wife only to find a foul plot unfolding there is well done and keeps the story moving. Part of what makes it work is the constant running gag of how husbands have to defer to their wives on whether they enjoy consuming certain things like bacon, cigars and other products that may shorten the lifespan but are still eminently enjoyable. Add in a bit of social commentary and you've got the makings of one of the better Discworld novels in recent memory. ...more
One of the most memorable first Doctor stories gets a fairly standard adaption for the printed page. Part of that is the fact that this six part WilliOne of the most memorable first Doctor stories gets a fairly standard adaption for the printed page. Part of that is the fact that this six part William Harntell story has some stunning visuals of Daleks gliding through the streets of a deserted, invaded future London. And part of that is that Terrance Dicks struggles trying to compress a six part story in to the 128-page count mandated by Target novels at the time it was published.
This re-telling of the story combines elements from the television and movie version. This was one of the Hartnell stories adapted in what I call the middle period of the Target novels, when they didn't so much as enhance or deepen what we saw on screen but merely compressed the events onto the printed page without any flourishes or additions. Dicks does manage to make the Slither a lot more sinister than it appears on screen, but the rest of the novel is, unfortunately, rather a bland experience.
So why pick up the audio adaptation, you may ask. For one thing, it's read by William Russell, who's done a superlative job on his previous entries for the Harntell era stories. This alone makes listening to "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" worth the price of admission. The other is that while it's not a great adaptation, the story is still interesting and familiar enough to me that it serves as just enough of a distraction while jogging to allow me to work a bit harder but not so much that I'm not aware of what's going on around me (traffic, animals, etc.) or that I miss a critical detail of the plot that could be important later. ...more
In the days before we had access to many of our favorite shows via DVD or streaming, one of the only ways to re-capture the feeling of enjoying an epiIn the days before we had access to many of our favorite shows via DVD or streaming, one of the only ways to re-capture the feeling of enjoying an episode or two was via a tie-in novel. Most tie-in novels serve to remind me of why I like a particular show and serve as a nice bubble-gum type of book--enjoyable enough while chewing it, but not something I will necessarily recall long after I'm done.
Such is the case with Eureka: Road Less Traveled.
It's certainly not the worst tie-in novel I've ever read, but it's not the most memorable either.
Part of the problem is that Eureka is such an arc driven show--both plotwise and character wise--that a large portion of the first third of the book is spent trying to figure out what point during the series the novel is set. And while it's not Chris Ramey's fault that certain plotlines have moved forward since the book went to print, it did serve as a major distraction at times.
Not that a tie-in novel can't overcome these things. If they're willing to offer us something new or different or a unique perspective on things. Road Less Traveled doesn't do any of that and ends up being a light reading experience that I didn't necessarily hate but I didn't necessarily love either. ...more
While Chris Bohjalian isn't quite in my upper pantheon of favorite authors, he's rapidly working his way up the list. And his latest novel "The NightWhile Chris Bohjalian isn't quite in my upper pantheon of favorite authors, he's rapidly working his way up the list. And his latest novel "The Night Strangers" just may be the book that puts him over the top.
It's interesting to read this novel while attempting to watch the new FX series "American Horror Story." On the surface, the two would appear to share the common theme of a haunted house story. And while I've only seen one episode of "Horror Story" so far, I'd have to say that Bohjalian's novel is the far more sinister, gothic type of experience I was hoping for based on the ads for "Horror Story."
Chip Linton is a commercial airline pilot whose career is on track and whose family life is going well. He and his wife Emily are happily married with fraternal twin daughters. During a routine take-off, Chip's plane encounters a gaggle of geese, taking out an engine in the plane and forcing an attempted water landing. A freak wave ensures the water landing isn't quite as successful as the one in New York a few years ago. Chip is one of the few survivors and is haunted by these moments, even as he loses his job with the airline.
Chip, his wife Emily and the two daughters buy a house in New Hampshire, hoping the change of scenery will help Chip's PTSD and give the family a new start. At first, things go well, but there is something more going on not only with the house but the community the Lintons have moved into.
While it would be easy to sum up "The Night Strangers" as a ghost story, doing so would be to overlook a lot of what sets this novel apart from other haunting stories. Bohjalian's ably swifts between third-person narrative for all the characters but Chip and second-person narrative to allow us inside Chip's addled mind. It helped keep me guessing as to what exactly was going on within the story for a long period of time without feeling like it was dragging out certain revelations. It also helps us to understand Chip's behavior not only from within but also to see how it impacts those around him.
The story is haunting, the prose is hypnotic at times. "The Night Strangers" pulled me and wouldn't let go at times. It's one of those books that you need to set aside a good chunk of time to get lost in. If you do, you won't regret it.