Collecting the "One Day More" arc of stories from the Spider-Man publishing canon. It sees the end of J. Michael Stracynski's epic, six-year run on th...moreCollecting the "One Day More" arc of stories from the Spider-Man publishing canon. It sees the end of J. Michael Stracynski's epic, six-year run on the flagship title for Spider-Man.
Going into the story, I was already aware of how some elements would play out. Peter must make the choice to save Aunt May for a gun shot wound and death--but at the price of giving up his marriage to Mary Jane. In a lot of ways, this is a huge reset button for the Spider-Man universe, especially in the huge coming out of Peter Parker revealing to the world he is Spider-Man during the Civil War arc. And while that does negate a lot of what happened in that story and the issues that followed it, JMS is able to weave a story that has some fascinating implications and observations about who and what Peter Parker is as a character. We see a couple of alternative Peters, showing what he might have been without the famous spider-bite and one that shows a future where Aunt May is gone but Peter and Mary Jane are still together. In those moments, the story is successful. In others, it struggles under the weight of decision clearly made by others besides the creative team to push a reset button and eliminate Peter's marriage to MJ.
The success of the Harry Potter series with both children and adults has opened a lot of doors in the fantasy genre. Publishers have issued a plethora...moreThe success of the Harry Potter series with both children and adults has opened a lot of doors in the fantasy genre. Publishers have issued a plethora of a new series and stories intended to capture the imagination and passion of readers in a simliar way to the stories of the young boy wizard. While a lot of these new fantasy stories have imitated what J.K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter novels, very few of them have really set the imagination on fire with an new, fascinating fantasy universe like J.K. Rowling did seven novels and one short story collection ago.
Which is what makes Alison Goodman's "Eon: Dragoneye Reborn" such a treat. It's a new fantasy novel, written for young adult but which should find great crossover appeal with adults, that captures the magic and wonder I felt picking up the first Potter novel so many years ago. "Eon" borrows some elements from the Harry Potter (and every other fantasy) universe, setting up a young underdog hero with potential for greatness undergoing extensive training against overwhelming odds. "Eon" is the story of a young girl, in the running to be one of the twelve dragoneyes. The Dragoneyes are the link between the spiritual world of the dragons and the physical universe. To be chosen is a great honor--and one generally reserved only for males.
Eon is a female, secretly going through the training and testing as a male. Her master saw great potential in her and went along with the ruse to win back power, favor and fortune for his house. The gamble pays off in spades when Eon is chosen not just to be that year's dragoneye, but chosen by the mysterious Mirror Dragon to be its dragoneye. Before you know it, Eon is plunged into rigorous training and the world of politics surrounding the dragoneyes and the emperor.
Goodman's novel is a fascinating, complex and entertaining one that will keep the pages turning. One of the fascinating aspects of the story is watching Goodman ground the "Dragoneye" universe a bit in ours, basing the political and social system on that of fuedal Japan and China but making it come alive in its own interesting and unique ways. A good deal of the first half of the novel is spent on world-buidling, but it's done in such an authentic, interesting way, building the character of Eon and those around her that it all feels natural and authentic. And the pieces put into play in the first half begin to quickly play dividends in the second as revelations come fast and furious, all leading to the novel's stunning and compelling conclusion.
"Dragoneye" is the first of a two-part story set in Goodman's universe. Thankfully, Goodman is able to resolve enough of the storylines to keep readers satisfied and make this a complete novel, while creating a cliffhanger and situation that will leave you wanting to pick up the next installment as soon as possible and find out what happens next.
"Eon: Dragoneye Reborn" is an entertaining, fascinating and fun fantasy novel that will delight both young adult and adult readers.(less)
Returning from an previous adventure, archaeologist Alex Benedict receives a call from best-selling author Vicki Greene, asking for help and saying th...moreReturning from an previous adventure, archaeologist Alex Benedict receives a call from best-selling author Vicki Greene, asking for help and saying that everyone is dead. Benedict tries to contact Greene, only to find she's undergone a full personality wipe--but only after she transferred two million credits into his account. Alex is intrigued and begins to trace the last journey Greene took and to discover whatever drove her or someone else to wipe her personality, effectively killing her.
Before long Benedict discovers that Greene was on the trail of something with large scale political implications for the universe as a whole. The path leads to a planet at the edge of the known universe, famous for its haunted areas. Greene was a best-selling writer of stories about things that go bump in the night, which doubles the intrigue into just what she discovered in her final journey.
McDevitt's fascinating sci-fi novel follows the mold of the Asimov Danell Bailey series, hooking the reader with a murder mystery that opens up the universe he is trying to create and leading to some other, bigger science-fiction issues. At times, were it not for the use of spaceships and other worlds, this story feels like a well written and well executed murder mystery. It's in the second half of the story that some of the bigger sci-fi concepts begin to take over, but not to the extent that we get info dumps or at the sacrifice of the mystery story at hand. The intrigue into what Greene found and how it lead to her death will intrigue you. And along the way, McDevitt does some nice character work and world building.
As a genre, sci-fi has too many books that overstay their welcome either by getting into too much technobabble or following unnecessary plot threads to prove the author knows his or her science. "The Devil's Eye" does neither. Instead it shows off an impressive knowledge of science without grinding the plot to a halt or forgetting why the readers are here in the first place. It stays just long enough to ensure readers will be satisfied by the resolution and it ably sets up the threads to come together in a logical and natural way. (less)
Dave Barry's attempt to mimic what Jean Sheppard did with "A Christmas Story."
It has its moments but overall isn't quite as heartfelt or warm as the...moreDave Barry's attempt to mimic what Jean Sheppard did with "A Christmas Story."
It has its moments but overall isn't quite as heartfelt or warm as the Sheppard story.
Part of this stems from the fact that Barry has to bring in a lot of plot threads for the wacky climax to the story, including the lead characters crush on the girl playing Mary, a church steeple full of bat guano and a new dog for Doug Barnes (the narrator) and his family.
I wonder if hearing Barry read the story might improve things a great deal. For some reason, I kept hearing the narration from "A Christmas Story" in my head and the two styles of humor are similar but also very different. Both have observational moments, but Barry relies more on being wacky and silly (as evidences by the way various threads come together for the story's climax and/or punchline).
Still, if you want a fun, quick read to put you in the Christmas spirit and will give you a smile, this is one to try. (less)
A contempoary Christian "chick-lit" novel about four, single housemates all in the early to mid-20s.
I'm not the target audience for this book, but th...moreA contempoary Christian "chick-lit" novel about four, single housemates all in the early to mid-20s.
I'm not the target audience for this book, but the title was fun and the back cover made it seem interesting. I guess I've never learned that whole "don't judge a book by its cover" thing.
Now, I have to admit I've only seen one episode of "Sex and the City" and that was only because it featured a guest-star turn by Sarah Michelle Gellar. So, my exposure to that show is limited, but I get the feeling this is a series intended to be "Sex in the City" for the contemporary Christian crowd. You've got four single women from various backgrounds, trying to figure out their careers and love lives, all while having various interactions. I think the biggest difference would the four are friends in "City" and that's not necessarily the case with each of the storylines here.
What I liked most about the story was that the characters weren't drawn as black and white. Each young lady had her own past, her own issues and faced trials and tribulations that felt authentic. One character in particular, Kendall, could have come off as being evil or judged harshly by the author for some of her choices over the course of the story. But Melody Carlson allows us to see enough of Kendall's story from her persepctive to at lead understand what motivates and is leading her down the path she chooses. We may not agree with the choices she make and there are several that we just know are going to turn out wrong for her, but Carlson still allows her to make the mistakes up to and including stalking a married man she had a one-night stand with. Watching her inner rationalization that he'll leave the wife for her if she just shows up is fascinating and frightening.
And that's just one character thread here. The stories are all loosely connected around the girls' interactions at the house and their desire to throw a Christmas party on Christmas Eve. The novel keeps coming back to the party as the driving factor and helps things all build to a necessary point in the final few pages. There are some resolutions, but Carlson leaves a lot of stories unresolved, setting up a sequel to come sometime early next year. She also ends the story on a cliffhanger of sorts. While it's not lifethreatengly massive, it may be enough for me to pick up the next story and see where things go next. (less)
Ed Kennedy is your typical, directionless "slacker." At the age of nineteen, he's barely graduated high school and finds himself in a no-end job as a...moreEd Kennedy is your typical, directionless "slacker." At the age of nineteen, he's barely graduated high school and finds himself in a no-end job as a cab driver--and he had to forge his age up a year in order to get that job. He's got an unrequited crush on his best friend, Audrey and he and his friends are you typical group of buddies, who hang out, drink beer and play cards. One day while waiting in line at the bank, Ed thwarts a robbery. He's dubbed a hero by the local paper, but his life doesn't make any huge dramatic change.
Except for the fact that he begins receiving the aces from a deck of cards, each with a hand-written list of people, addresses or instructions. It's then up to Ed to determine what the cards mean and determine what his "mission" is based on the list. Early on, Ed befriends a lonely widow, helps a young runner and drives off a man who is abusing his family. As the story progresses, Ed's missions become more and more elaborate and slowly being to hit closer and closer to home, until he gets the final card.
In a lot of ways, "I Am the Messenger" reminded me of "Quantum Leap" or "Reaper" with a hero being given missions to have an impact on the lives of people he comes into contact with. The "Reaper" part comes from the fact that we're not quite sure who or what is behind's Ed missions until late in the story, though Marcus Zusak does a good job of planting seeds of who and what could be behind these mission early and often.
And while the question of who is behind the missions and why Ed is being assigned them is intriguing, it's the character of Ed that makes the story work so well. We're taken on the journey with Ed, finding out about him, seeing his frustration at not being able to find a connection with Audrey and wondering why how and why he's making such an impact on those around him. Ed is a fascinating character because while he's a slacker in terms of his career and his life, we see that he can become devoted to a cause and passionate. At several points, it would be easier for Ed to "give up" or throw in the towel, but he won't do so. He wants to see the missions through to their conclusion, even when it means having to help his three closest friends--and in the end, himself.
As with "The Book Thief," the power of "I Am the Messenger" comes from the language Markus Zusak uses to create his world. Told from the first-person perspective of Ed, Zusak makes some interesting choices, placing the reader inside Ed's head and though process as the story unfolds. Zusak also foregos using the he said, I said to indicate dialogue at times, making it feel as though you are right there, talking to the people with Ed.
It's a fascinating story and, yes, I will admit there were some heavily cliched moments. Zusak doesn't break new ground with the missions Ed is given and some readers may be able to guess why Ed is there before he does. But I think part of this may be the experience of having read or seen so many other stories along these lines and not a fault of the story itself. I will give Zusak credit for not making Ed take too long to realize what the purpose of his mission is and how to achieve it. He walks a fine line of having the reader be more in the loop that Ed but not making Ed seem too dense or unlikeable.
And then, there's the ending and all of its implications. It's an ending that provides closure to this story of Ed and leaves the reader hopeful for more for this character. It's the perfect and logical ending to the story. Nothing more, nothing less. And it that, it's wholly satisfying. (less)
For me, Robert J. Sawyer novels are either hit or miss. They're either incredibly brilliant and I can't turn the pages fast enough ("Rollback") or I c...moreFor me, Robert J. Sawyer novels are either hit or miss. They're either incredibly brilliant and I can't turn the pages fast enough ("Rollback") or I can't wait for the final page to turn just to be done with the novel ("Homonids"). And I'll admit I picked up this one because ABC has put it on the fast-track for development for a potential TV series. One that could air after "Lost" and is being sold as a "companion" piece for one of my favorite TV shows.
Being a book-snob, I knew I had to try the original novel before the series comes out, so I can spend hours boring friends and family about how the book is better. I've tried to get help for this condition, but so far, no luck.
Thankfully, "Flashfoward" falls into the category of really good Robert J. Saywer novels. The premise is that on the day an experiment is conducted at the CERT supercollider, people experience a flash forward of thirty years into the future for two minutes. Everyone has visions for about two minutes of where they'll be and what they'll be doing thirty years hence. Then everything shifts back and we have to deal with the fallout and ramifications of things.
The driving focus of the story is a mystery. One of the lead characters sees no vision of the future, but by talking to others determines he was murdered two days before the events everyone saw. He then begins to slowly try and unravel who killed him and why in an attempt to prevent that future from becoming reality.
One of the many interesting debates in the story is whether or not the future is "set" or can we make changes to it. Two character are engaged, but in the future he sees himself married to another woman. So, should the two continue their path to marriage given than it appears things don't work out? Do we have free will? Is the timeline set or are there an infinite number of universes based on decisions we make today that change things in small but interesting ways? Or all we just robots acting out some grand drama and we have no control over our lives? Sawyer brings up these questions and some theories on the nature of time and free will vs determinism in a fascinating way. To counter the engaged couple, Sawyer gives us two scientists who have a vision of engaging in sexual intercourse at a lab during the flashforward. The moment is thirty years from now, but when they get back the two find each other, meet and begin a relationship. Will the passion still be there in thirty years or have they changed the future? Were they destined to meet? Did the flashfoward push them together sooner?
The novel also brings up the interesting idea of if you know too much about your future, can that be a negative thing? One aspiring author sees himself in the future, working as a waiter and having never "made it" as a writer. Rather than toil, he decides his life is over and commits suicide. The novel also brings up that this happens to a lot of other people, many of whom lose hope over not seeing their dreams come true or the future as something that want to move forward to.
Reading the novel, I can see the potential for a great TV series here and why it could be a good companion show for "Lost." You've got a diverse set of characters who are thrown together and must come to grips with a central mystery of what happened and why. There is a similar interconnectedness among the characters like we have in "Lost" as well. Will it work as a TV show if you remove or have to solve the "will I or won't I be murdered?" thread that drives the main plot? Yes, it could. While that plotline is sufficiently satisfying and drives the story forward, it's still the philosophical questions that Sawyer raises that really linger with the reader after the final page is turned. (less)
**spoiler alert** One of the good things to come out of the success of last year's "I Am Legend" is that a lot of Richard Matheson's catalog has come...more**spoiler alert** One of the good things to come out of the success of last year's "I Am Legend" is that a lot of Richard Matheson's catalog has come back into print. This collection looks like two separate works put together--the short novel "The Incredible Shrinking Man" and a set of short stories by Matheson.
"The Incredible Shrinking Man" It's interesting to come to a Matheson novel after finishing the latest Stephen King short story collection. The cover blurb has King stating that Matheson was one of his greatest influences and reading works by both authors close together, the similaritites in style and storytelling are very apparent. Both King and Matheson excel in putting ordinary people in extraodinary situations and showing how they react.
In "Man," it's Scott Carey who is slowly shrinking at the rate of an inch per week. Interestingly, the story begins with Carey about an inch tall and slowly shrinking away to nothingness. Flashbacks then tell us how he got to this point.
On one level, "Man" is an adventure and survival story (and a rather thrilling one at that) about a man vs his environment. But, as with most Matheson I've read, the story works on an entirely deeper level. Matheson examines the nature of masculinity in the novel. As Scott shrinks, we slowly see his authority and masculinity shrink with him. In the novel, he's married with a young child (I believe the film version eliminates the daughter) and, at first, everything is fine. But as the novel progresses, Scott is slowly seen as less and less of a man as he shrinks. His wife's desire for him slowly diminishes and she begins to treat him like a child more and more. This leads Scott to lust for his daughter's babysitter, becoming almost like a teenager in his fixation on her and his desire to catch a glimpse of skin. It also leads to Scott's encounter with a female midgit. Scott has a one-night stand, demanding that his wife allow it because she can't or won't see him as a sexual being anymore and brought about by his desire to feel virile and manly again. However, Scott quickly realizes that he will keep shrinking and it's only a matter of time before Clarice, the midgit, begins to see him as his wife does.
Matheson also explores the nature of how children react to their parents. At first, Scott is able to be a parental figure to his young daughter, Beth. However, as the story progresses and he shrinks smaller and smaller, his authority is slowly lost up to the point that she treats him as little more than a doll. Scott is injured and could have been killed by his daughter and is forced to cut off all contact with her.
And Matheson also explores some other extremely "adult" themes in the novel. At one point, Scott is picked up a child predator (his car has a flat tire) and the horror of what is unfolding is well realized by Matheson. It's interesting that Scott doesn't pick up on the vibes of what's going on earlier but maybe it's the day and age we live in more than Scott himself. The fascinating part is how Matheson is able to present what's happening without making this section overly prurient. It's a good example of how less can be more in some storytelling.
In his cover blurb, King says this is a horror story that he eagerly shares with readers and envies their discovering it for the first time. After reading it, I can see why he feels this way. The story is compelling, suspenseful and scary. Watching as every day things become objects of terror and horror for Scott is fascinating and Matheson conveys the frustration and terror Scott feels in the scenes with Scott trapped in his own basement. Scott's battle to find food, get water and fend off a spider that weeks before he could have easily crushed under his foot are compelling. The spider has seven legs and we find out in a flashback that ironically, Scott is the one who cost it that leg. Whether or not Scott "deserves" the fate of being terrorized by the spider, Matheson leaves up to the reader to decide.
Matheson wisely makes Scott not always a likeable character. He's not accepting of his fate and he alienates his family. He becomes extremely myopic in how he perceives the changes to himself and his family. And while we feel Scott's plight, it's not always easy to side with him, though his reactions are always believable.
In short (no pun intended), this short novel is something far more than just a simple story of a guy slowly getting smaller. It's a fascinating exploration of what it means to be masculine, adult and a a human being.
Short Stories: Billed as a selection of Matheson's short fiction, I'm not sure if these are intended as a "best of" or just simply to show what Matheson could do in short form fiction. There are some great stories, some good stories and one that I could see what he was trying to do but I didn't necessarily care for it as a whole.
Knowing that Matheson was a prolific writer for television in the 60's, it's fascinating to see two stories here that would later become the springboard for adaption for the screen. The first is the famous "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" which became the famous "Twilight Zone" episode of the same name. Reading the story, it's interesting to note differences between the story and the classic TV show. The same starting point is there, the same germ of an idea, but the Matheson story digs into the psychological aspects of the dilemma and is a bit more ambiguous on whether or not there is an actual gremlin on the wing. It's also odd to read the story today in our time of heightened plane security with our hero being able to openly take a handgun on the flight.
Then there's Matheson's story "Montage" which could be the basis for the Adam Sandler movie, "Click." A writer sees a movie and gets upset at the way the movie montages past the writing process. He wishes he could to his in real life and the wish is fulfilled. Large chunks of his life are gone in seconds and he misses out on actually living and enjoying life in the smaller moments. I am not sure if this was any influence on "Click," but it's fascinating to read how Matheson works with the same concept--and might I say, actually does it a lot better.
My favorite two stories in the collection are among the shorter. One is called "The Test" and presents a future (2003) in which citizens are given a test past a certain age to determine if they are still useful to society. If they fail, they are given a month to live and then killed. The story looks at the impact of this on a family, the stress and how the younger generation begins to see the value of older generations diminished. The story of a young son agonizing over the fact that he voted for the measure and that his father will fail the test is well done. To see how the son debates between having the father gone from his life and how he's a "burden" to the family really drives the story along. The ending is inevitable and heartbreaking. This could be my favorite story from the collection.
The other story is a model of economy. Clocking in at four pages, "By Appointment Only" tells the story of a barber who takes patients by appointment only. His one patient isn't feeling well, having just come from the doctor. There's a fascinating twist half way though and the story leaves you haunted. Basically, the barber has married a woman who practices voo-doo and is using hair and nail clippings to keep the customers sick and get kick backs from the doctor in question. It's four pages long, but it gets in, gets out and packs the punch it needs. The revelation of what's going on is nicely done, coming in one of the final paragraphs. But in just four pages, Matheson ably sets up a mystery and then solves in a satisfying manner that stuck with me long after I'd moved on to other stories in the book.
As for the story, I didn't like, it concerns a guy moving into the neighborhood and manipulating the neighbors into various acts. It's interesting and maybe I've read or seen other stories like it, so I kind of had an idea of what was going on early in the story. It's not a terrible story, but it's just not as good as the others in this collection.
I love Stephen King stories. There are lots of authors I read, but few that I am as eager to consume as any new work by King (Elizabeth George is a cl...moreI love Stephen King stories. There are lots of authors I read, but few that I am as eager to consume as any new work by King (Elizabeth George is a close second). Any new offering by King is a cause for celebration for me.
"Just After Sunset" is King's latest collection of short stories, written over a period of about two years. Thematically, several of the stories look at what happens to us in the moments and years after we shuffle off this mortal coil and several of them are heavily impacted by the real-life horrors of 9/11. No, King doesn't take advantage or exploit the day for commercial gain. Instead, he examines the implications on those left behind in the wake of the tragedy. One haunting story finds a man who was running late the morning of 9/11 and who worked in the Twin Towers, finding objects from his lost office and co-workers turning up in is apartment. He tries to get rid of them, but they keep returning to him. He then decides he has to bring them to the families to offer those families a bit of closure--even if it's from something as out there as a novelty ice cube or a whoopie cushion.
Another story finds a widow being able to connect with her husband who dies in a plane crash. The husband was calling on his cell phone as the plane went down and now finds himself in a limbo, waiting area. His phone is slowly dying and he laments he didn't take the time to charge it the night before in order to be able to talk longer before he passes onward. The story doesn't say or really imply that it's related to any of the crashes of 9/11, but it's hard not to read that into any story about a plane crash after that fateful day.
As always, the strength of King's stories is their grounding in reality with strong characters reacting in authentic ways to bizarre and supernatural circumstances. King has, in my mind, long since moved out of the realm of a simple horror novelist and inhabits a place as simply a great storyteller. Yes, he can and does tap into some of the more twisted and bizarre visions or our time, but he always does so in such a way as to make the stories work and feel real, even when the supernatural element is turned up to the n-th degree. These stories are about death--as is a lot of King's work--and how we react to it.
Will we be like "The Gingerbread Girl" who flees from life in the wake of the death of her child? She literally begins running away from the problem before come face to face with an even greater evil and horror that snaps her back into survival mode and where she finds the will to live. Or will we be like those who ghosts who have died, inhabiting a strange camp and dance hall, going through the same motions over and over again, denying that we've left this mortal coil and refusing to embrace or accept what can or does come next?
It's not to say that every story in this collection is perfect. Some work better than others and there are one or two stories that just didn't connect with me and enthrall me as much as I'd hoped. But in a collection of short stories, odds are that is going to happen. But when King is on in this collection, his stories are as compelling and engrossing as any author out there today. (less)
Lawyer Mickey Haller is back and this time he gets to share the spotlight with Connolly's L.A. Detective Harry Bosch.
It's been over a year since the e...moreLawyer Mickey Haller is back and this time he gets to share the spotlight with Connolly's L.A. Detective Harry Bosch.
It's been over a year since the events of "The Lincoln Lawyer" and Haller is looking to get back into the world of lawyering. He gets to do so in a big way, when a fellow lawyer is killed and leaves his practice to Haller. At stake are 30 or so cases, including a big one where a Hollywood movie mogul is accused of killing his wife and her lover. Circumstantial evidence and a killer (no pun intended) pre-nuptual agreement put the husband firmly as the prime suspect, but Haller figures his old friend had a "magic bullet" that was the key to the case. The only problem is his old friend was killed by an unknown attacker and had his laptop stolen.
As Haller begins to work on the case, he makes one alarming discovery after another. He crosses paths with Bosch, looking into the murder of the lawyer and Bosch drops hints that the FBI may be interested in both the murder and the big case. For a while, Haller can't figure out why but slowly begins to connect the pieces and find out the bigger picture.
Connelly is no stranger to creating good mysteries with an element of suspense to keep the pages turning. In "The Brass Verdict," he raises his game to the next level, creating a lot of plot threads that come together in a satisfying way. As the various plots and conspiracies unfolded, I found myself more and more intrigued by what was happening and curious as to where Conelly would take me next. And when he delivers the final twists and turns of the novels last 100 pages, they are easily some of the most satisfying of any mystery novel I've read in a long while. (Probably second only to this year's "Careless in Red" by Elizabeth George).
A lot of this can be credited to Connelly's decision to bring back Haller. Haller is an extremely flawed protagonist. He's not a perfect man and Connelly wisely doesn't portray him as such. He's haunted by demons from his past and driven by the desire to be a better man and laywer now. This comes into conflict each time he meets with his client, who is obviously hiding a lot of things from Haller, including just how far he'll go to retain his freedom. Haller's slow whittling away to the truth is compelling and fascinating.
The only part I didn't like is that, at the end of the story, we get a force family connection between Haller and Bosch and the story strongly suggests this is the end of Haller's career. I know we sort of had that at the end of "The Lincoln Lawyer" and we saw Haller come back here. Hopefully Connelly will find another story worthy of Haller's return in the future. (less)
A fairly straightforward audio adventure for the sixth Doctor and Charlie.
Trying to return an overdue book to a future library, the Doctor and Charli...moreA fairly straightforward audio adventure for the sixth Doctor and Charlie.
Trying to return an overdue book to a future library, the Doctor and Charlie must use the book to defend themselves against the Grell. The process chars the book and leads to the duo traveling back in time to find a replacement copy of the book.
Upon arrival, strange things are happening as fiction blends with established history.
The story gives India Fisher a chance to show off, playing three versions of Charlie. Colin Baker is up to his usual great audio acting standards and the story is an enjoyable enough little story. Nothing groundbreaking, but still an entertaining listen. (less)
Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s saga holds the distinction of being one of the only series to win back-to-back Hugo Awards. Both “Ender’s Game” and “Speake...moreOrson Scott Card’s Ender’s saga holds the distinction of being one of the only series to win back-to-back Hugo Awards. Both “Ender’s Game” and “Speaker for the Dead” deservedly picked up Hugos when published and now, 30 years and several sequels later, Card revisits the time period between “Game” and “Speaker” in his latest novel in the Ender storyline.
After creating the parallel novel, “Ender’s Shadow” and the subsequent series about Bean, Petra and Peter’s rise to power in the world, Card shifts the focus of the series back to the title character, Ender Wiggins. The war with the alien race, the Buggers is over. Ender has won the war, but at what price? Card provided some hints to this in the final chapter of the original “Ender’s Game” but now he takes readers back to the time between stories for a novel that examines the ramifications and implications of what Ender Wiggins did.
What if you were 16 years old, had just won a war and were now treated as a political football? Also, considering what we find out in later novels about how the war was won, what impact would that have on a young man who thought he was playing an elaborate video game and instead was sending soldiers to their death and committing genocide? Card ably explores all of these questions in “Exile,” showing us the impact not only on Ender but on his family. We’ve seen pieces of the pain Ender’s parents felt on losing their son, but here it is brought home in a particularily compelling way, as we see Ender’s parents realize they must give up their son yet again.
The novel also serves to transition Ender from the end of “Game” to the character we see in “Speaker.” Card is able to do this superbly and the chapters that look at Ender’s character are compelling and readable. Card inserts a fascinating dynamic between Ender and the commander of the colony ship Ender is on, as the commander seeks to try and one-up Ender and seize power. Watching Ender slowly bring the comander in question down to size and the way in which he does it makes for one of the more satisfying twists in the novel.
And yet, as I read this one, I had to wonder if it was really meant to be a novel. Yes, the story does show us the character arc of Ender and various others and it will answer some questions left over for the “Shadow” series. (In fact, I’d almost say if you haven’t read the “Shadow” series, you’d be better served to read them before tackling “Exile.” But there are some points where “Exile” feels more episodic than other novels in the series. At several points, I found myself getting impatient to have the focus shift back to Ender rather than on some of the sidesteps along the way. It’s Ender who is the most compelling character in the story.
However, any new novel by Card is something to be savored and a return to the Ender Universe is always welcome. It’s also nice to see Card get back to form after his disappointing novel, “Empire” last year. If you’re a fan of the “Ender” universe, this is a welcome and needed addition. If you haven’t read any of the Ender’s saga yet, I implore you to seek out “Ender’s Game” first and settle in for one of the best science-fiction sagas out there.(less)
When I first read Terrence Dudley's novelization of his two-part "Doctor Who" story more years ago than I care to count, I was struck by how Dudley to...moreWhen I first read Terrence Dudley's novelization of his two-part "Doctor Who" story more years ago than I care to count, I was struck by how Dudley took a simple, two-part story and added something to it. In many ways, "Black Orchid" as a novelizations as pre-cursor to what the Target range would later become--a chance to really expand "Doctor Who" stories beyond the small screen. A chance to fill in gaps, flesh out charcters, fully realize details. It's a novelization I have very fond memories of reading and always one I cite as one of the better novels of the Target range.
So, when I heard it was coming out on audio CD, I was eager to revisit it.
Only to find the memory can and does cheat.
It's not to say "Black Orchid" is a bad novel. It's still a splendid little book and it does a lot of justice to the Dudley's two-part script. But a lot of what I recall as expanding the story really boils down to extended sequences playing cricket (which I appreciate the attempt to explain the game more, though I really still don't grasp it) and the Doctor wandering along corridors for endless sequences.
Part of it is that "Black Orchid" is an interesting little Doctor Who story. It's a hybrid of a lot of various elements from the series past and it works well enough on-screen when you can buy that there are lots of doubles floating around. On-screen, it's easier to buy the mix-up of who is who with the dopplegangers of Nyssa and Anne. In the novel, Dudley has to work harder to keep the fun going, allowing the reader to know who is who while other various character aren't quite sure. Also, the visual tell of Anne having a mole that Nyssa doesn't really doesn't translate as well to the printed page or its audio version.
As I listened this time, I found that Dudley had expanded things, but maybe not enough. The novel assumes the reader hasn't seen the TV version and that works both for and against the story. Dudley doesn't give away the central mystery in the story until the exact right moment, though if you're paying attention it's not terribly difficult to pick up what's going on. But in a story where it's assumed most readers have seen the televised version, it might have been more interesting to hear more about George's trip up the Amazon and the discovery that led to his downfall. Or to hear more about how Lady Cranleigh reacted upon his return and the news of what happened to him.
I guess part of it is being spoiled by the New Adventures where sidetrips like this were allowed and encouraged. It seems like that despite all the pluses for this novel (and there are enough to keep it as head and shoulders above a lot of the Target line, though not in the elite class of novels like "Ghost Light" or "Remembrance of the Daleks"), there are still some missed opportunties in the story.
Not a bad telling of the story. Just not as great as it was in my memory. (less)