Whether it's believing he's the subject of a reality TV show like The Truman Show or joining the school band to get invited to a big Halloween bash, GWhether it's believing he's the subject of a reality TV show like The Truman Show or joining the school band to get invited to a big Halloween bash, Greg Hefley's trials and tribulations never end. That's good news to this reader, who despite being too old to be in the targeted demographic for the Wimpy Kid novels continues to enjoy them.
Listening to the audio version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down, I chuckled and laughed out loud multiple times as Greg continues to grow up. Whether's it's conspiring to win a jar full of candy in his school's annual balloon launch or using the Internet to convince his parents that he's actually learning to play the French Horn, Greg's antics never failed to amuse. And despite not having the benefit of the cartoon illustration in the printed version, I found the novel and its narration creating some hilarious moments in my head as I traveled to and from work.
I also discovered that I've missed a couple of releases in the series and any now eager to go back and catch up on what I've missed....more
As the winter semester begins at Opportunity High School, most of the student body is assembled in the auditorium for the principle's welcome back mesAs the winter semester begins at Opportunity High School, most of the student body is assembled in the auditorium for the principle's welcome back message. There are a few exceptions to this from the track team preparing to defend their state title winning streak and the two guys trying to break into the principle's office to get a look at their permanent records.
A few minutes after ten, the doors to the auditorium are bolted shut and the first shots ring out. Former student Tyler has something to say and he's going to say it to everyone gathered at the business end of several guns and multiple rounds of ammo.
For the next hour, This Is Where It Ends puts readers in and around Opportunity High School, watching events unfold through the eyes of multiple narrators who all ask the same question, "How did this happen here?" As the story unfolds, we find out just what drove Tyler to plan and carry out the attack on his classmates, teachers, and administration as well as feeling the desperation of those in and around the school as they struggle to survive Tyler's attack.
The opening pages of This Is Where It Ends channel the confusion and terror of a high school shooting incident. But it's once Tyler settles in and begins to demand that the student body listen to him now that the novel slowly begins to lose its focus. As the possible step stones to this event are slowly uncovered, Tyler more like a comic book villain while the characters around him spend a lot of time wondering if they could have contributed to or stopped this attack somehow. Included in the narration are Tyler's ex-girlfriend, his sister and the girl he sexually assaulted on prom night. And while these characters offer different insights into who Tyler who then and is now, it never quite gels into something more. There's also a great deal of teenage angst thrown in along the way that feels a bit out of place at times in the story that's unfolding.
The novel also isn't helped because it feels like it's working too hard to make the adults appear as useless and ineffectual as possible. As the shootings begin, the track team is outside training for the upcoming season. The track coach is less effective at finding a way to address the situation and calm the fears of his team than one of his students (who happens to be Ty's ex-girlfriend and is a member of the ROTC). I'm not asking that the adults be superheroes that can somehow magically stop the rampage that Ty goes on, but it would be nice to feel as if one or two of them was somehow portrayed as having a bit more sense....more
My first exposure to this classic story came by way of the annual Halloween episode of The Wonderful World of Disney and clips from the animated versiMy first exposure to this classic story came by way of the annual Halloween episode of The Wonderful World of Disney and clips from the animated version of this story. The images from those clips interested me enough to seek out the original story as a young reader -- and to not necessarily love it.
Now that I'm a little (OK, a lot!) older and with an audio reading featured on last week's Audible Channels, I decided to visit the story again. This time, I came away with a whole different appreciation for the story.
As a younger reader, I grew impatient with the background and set-up for the story. Back then, I was all about getting to the headless horseman and the chase sequence. But as I listened to the story this time, I was impressed by the character and world-building done by Washington Irving. Horror stories are scarier when we have an investment in the characters -- and Irving does a masterful job of creating the characters and situation of the story. Irving paints an interesting portrait of our hero, Ichabod. Listening to the story, I couldn't help but wonder if Ichabod really loved the fair Katrina or instead loved her for her father's wealth and land. And while we certainly are meant to root against Brom Bones Van Brunt, I couldn't help but feel like he might be a better suitor in the long run because his intentions could have been more true than those of Ichabod.
With three-quarters of the story devoted to set-up, the final quarter pay-off when Ichabod finally meets the headless Horseman (or does he?) turns out be even more suspenseful and edge-of-your-seat than ever. Even knowing how the story ends and the questions that remain unresolved, I was still on the edge of my seat (or in this case, running a bit faster as I listened during a workout) as the story reached its final paragraphs.
The story also follows the adage that "less is more." Irving gives us enough details to tell the story, but allows the reader to paint in some of the finer strokes ourselves.
I've got to admit I loved visiting this story again. It's creepy, atmospheric and spooky. A perfect way to celebrate Halloween....more
While some of my peers were reading the Sweet Valley High or R.L. Stine's novels, I spent my teenage years reading Stephen King and Target adaptationsWhile some of my peers were reading the Sweet Valley High or R.L. Stine's novels, I spent my teenage years reading Stephen King and Target adaptations of classic Doctor Who stories. One of the most prolific authors of the Who range was former script-editor Terrance Dicks. If you take a step back and look at the sheer volume of novels published by Dicks during this era, it's staggering -- to the point that I had an image of poor Terrance chained to a desk, fed only bread and water and forced to hammer out adaptation after adaptation on his typewriter.
Visiting some of Dicks' output again thanks to BBC Audio has only underlined again just what Dicks was able to do for an entire generation of Doctor Who fans -- keep the series alive and fresh in our imaginations when we couldn't see all the stories we wanted to again, much less collect them to sit our shelves. The fact that these novels are still readable and enjoyable today is a testament to just how good Dicks was.
"The Claws of Axos" comes from an era when Dicks wasn't given as much time to adapt serials as he had in the bookends of his Doctor Who adapting career. "Claws" is pretty much a straight-forward adaptation of the original script with some nifty descriptions and one or two embellishments thrown in for good measure (for example, at the end when the serial ends with the Doctor's chagrin at being "a galactic yo-yo," Dicks allows the action to continue onward with everyone saying their farewells and the Doctor rushing out to ensure the UNIT guys don't jostle the TARDIS).
And while the TV version of "Axos" is hampered by the budget of the time, there are no such restrictions for the printed page. Dicks allows the readers to see a larger view of the world under attack from Axos, including a sparkling moment when the trap of Axonite is sprung all across the globe. The Axons are a bit more threatening on the printed page and their alliance with the Master makes a bit more sense. Even the Doctor's apparent betrayal of his friends in the fourth episode is given a bigger element of mystery and questioning if the Doctor is just playing along or if he really intends to throw Earth to the Axons and escape.
Even some of the battles between the Axons and UNIT seem bigger than they could or would on a television budget of the time.
It's one of the reasons I think that the story was so fondly loved by fans before it his VHS in the 90's. It was one of those stories that the televised version just couldn't quite live up to the picture that Dicks painted on our minds eye.
The structure of the original script by Bob Baker and Dave Martin also helps in adapting it for print. The Bristol Boys (as they were known) structured their stories to have a big revelation or turning point come every five or so minutes, building up to the cliffhanger each 25 or so minutes. These build-ups create some nice chapter breaks for Dicks and help make "Axos" a real page turner. And yet, there are still some faults to the story -- both on screen and on the printed page.
One of the biggest is that the audience knows Axos is up to no good from the early stages of episode two, but it takes UNIT and company a long time to catch up to the fact. Dicks tries to make this work a bit better on the printed page by playing up the Doctor's overriding desire to escape his exile on Earth using the Axonite. He also wisely has Jo become a bit suspicious his motivations earlier in the story so she's not nearly as blind-sided by his decision to join forces with the Master late in novel (or episode four on screens).
And yet for all of this, I can't necessarily say that "Axos" is one of my favorite stories or adaptations of that era.
But it still made for a nice little piece of mind bubble-gum while I was pounding out miles on the jogging trail this year. Richard Franklin's reading of the story is well done. Franklin attempts to get into the character of some of the regulars from the era with varying degrees of success. He creates an entirely different voice and tone for Axos and the Axons that works well here. At times, Axos gets a bit too excited in its reaction to events, but for the most part Franklin does a solid job with the material.
As with many of the Target novels, "The Claws of Axos" left me wanting to dust off my DVD copy of the original story and visit it again. I may just have to do that......more
Since the beginning of the Target audio book range, there have been a couple of the classic Doctor Who adaptations that I really wanted to see get theSince the beginning of the Target audio book range, there have been a couple of the classic Doctor Who adaptations that I really wanted to see get the audio treatment. So imagine my delight when the range included several of those titles last year, including my all-time favorite Doctor Who serial and one of my favorite adaptations, "The Curse of Fenric."
The Doctor and Ace arrive in World War II at classified naval base where one of the first computers is being used to break the German coded ciphers. But with the arrival of a group of Russians, it soon becomes clear that a bigger game is being played -- one that the Doctor has known was coming ever since he met Ace.
To number the ways I love "Fenric" could take all the characters I have left in this review and it wouldn't even crack the surface. While the storytelling in the late 80's wasn't quite as serialized as we see in many of the television series today, seasons 25 and 26 did insert a loose character arc for Ace.
The novelization comes from the end of the Target line when writers were given more than 126 or so pages to adapt the story, allowing original script-writer Ian Briggs to expand the story a bit and give us some more shading. As with the televised version, the key word is "undercurrents" (a word you'll hear/read a lot in the book) as Ace grows up and begins to understand what being an adult is about. Briggs fills in the history of various characters, painting a more sympathetic version of Ms. Hardacre and offering some shades of nuance to Dr. Judson and Commander Millington. Also included is a document that details the original battle between the Doctor and Fenric. This was one of the things I loved when I first read this adaptation close to twenty years ago and it still brought a big, silly grin to my face as I heard it again.
I'm not sure what it says about me as a discerning literary person that one of my favorite novels is a printed adaptation of one of my favorite television shows. But listening to this one again, I found myself becoming less and less concerned with that and instead enjoying the story Briggs is relating here. There's a lot of room on my favorites shelf for a wide variety of literary offerings -- and while this one won't necessarily be taught in an overview of great world literature, that doesn't mean it doesn't connect with me and speak to me in the same way some of the best literature in the world does (and if we're being honest here, in a way that Lord of the Flies never really did).
The audio version is performed by Terry Molloy, who is best known for his on-screen portrayal of Davros in several late 80's serials. Molloy's reading of this one is well done and his attempts to mimic certain characters speech patterns works well. It helps that he's got strong material to start with, but I'll say that Molloy's performance made me enjoy the story even more over the course of the four plus hours I spent revisiting this one.
I'm sure there are people who can and will point out flaws, defects and plot holes in the original tv version and the novel. This fan isn't one of them.
Simply put, I loved it then and I love it now....more
As Big Finish celebrates its 200th main Doctor Who range release, I decided to take a look back on some of the old favorites and see if they still helAs Big Finish celebrates its 200th main Doctor Who range release, I decided to take a look back on some of the old favorites and see if they still held up.
Intended as the Cybermen version of "Genesis of the Daleks," "Spare Parts" is one of the more revered stories from Big Finish. And yet as I listened, I couldn't recall when or if I'd heard this one before. I feel like I should have heard it when it first came out, but I couldn't recall many details beyond superficial ones.
Arriving on Mondas in the last days before the population became fully Cyber-ized, the fifth Doctor and Nyssa find themselves embroiled in the politics that helped created the earliest Cybermen. Listening to "Spare Parts," I couldn't help but feel that Marc Platt has crafted a superb prelude to "The Tenth Planet" and that I should dust off that DVD and visit the classic serial again.
What could have been a simple imitation of "Genesis of the Daleks" becomes something a bit deeper and different. There's no one unifying voice for the Cybermen as there was with the Daleks. Instead we see various members of the population and how they react to the developments taking place within their society and on their world. Platt allows us a bit of time to get invested and interested in these characters before he begins changing them into what will eventually become the Cybermen. (If you've seen the new series, there are certain sequences from the story that were used in the return of the Cybermen there, though I'd argue they are more effective here).
Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton are on the top of their game in this one. I'd argue that the story is a richer one for Nyssa than much of what we got in the classic series. But that's probably because the classic series was less character driven than the Big Finish stories or the new series are. Both actors rise to the occasion, though it's interesting to hear the Doctor shuffle to the sidelines for a bit of the story instead of the companion.
There are even some twists and turns along the way to really keep things interesting. I'll admit that Platt caught me by surprise with one of the cliffhangers and its implications. My reaction to the cliffhanger (which I went in unaware of it) leads me to believe I didn't listen to this one when it first came out because I can't see myself forgetting it.
The big question surrounding this one is -- can it really live up to the hype?
I'll go out and say yes, yes it can. There's a reason this one is so well regarded and it still shows through. Even with the new series delivering some stellar stories, this is one of the more engaging and memorable Doctor Who stories I've had the pleasure of experiencing.
The only negative is the realization of The Committee. The voice used sounds a bit too much like the Cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica and that makes some of their long bits of dialogue difficult to listen to and concentrate on. ...more
Christopher H. Bidmead's adaptation of his third (and final) classic Doctor Who script, "Frontios" restores parts of the script that were dropped eithChristopher H. Bidmead's adaptation of his third (and final) classic Doctor Who script, "Frontios" restores parts of the script that were dropped either due to budget constrnts or they were considered too dark at the time, making this seem like a glimpse of what could have been on our screens.
Bidmead's "Frontios" novelization was one of those Target novelizations I missed in my days of collecting them (as a younger viewer, the story wasn't among my favorites). So coming to it now as an older reader/listener, I must admit I was intrigued by the small flourishes that the adaptation indulges in. (It's also interesting to have the DVD now with the extended and deleted scenes and get some idea of where those scenes would go in the context of the story).
The TARDIS crew arrive on the edge of the Time Lord's knowledge of time and space, drug down to one of the last colonies of humans by a mysterious force. In trying to not become too involved in these later days of humanity, the Doctor is drawn into the mystery of the colony on Frontios. Seems that the colony has been enduring attacks from the skies for thirty plus years with no signs of the invaders coming to follow-up. In the course of one attack, the TARDIS is destroyed, stranding the TARDIS crew in this time and place possibly forever.
As far as cliffhangers go, the TARDIS' destruction is a pretty effective one. It's also a memorable one that was, to my younger self, the only real highlight of the show. As I've gotten older, I've started to appreciate the story a bit more -- and Bidmead's adaptation has helped me see what could have been if they'd had the budget for it. The Tractators who come across on screen as a bit silly are given a bit more menace in the novel. There's also the grim detail that the mining machine used the monsters of the week uses human parts to tunnel under the ground in Frontios as opposed to having it be all mechanical.
And yet for all of this, the same weaknesses that I see in the story are still on display here. Namely, it's a bit oddly paced at times. There are times when it feels a bit too much like the old Doctor Who cliche of wandering down a corridor and biding our time as we wait for something to happen.
As with his previous two scripts, Bidmead reads his own adaptation for the audiobook. And once again, he does a solid enough job, though it's not quite as memorable as some of the other readers we've had in the past couple of months. ...more
One of things you have to admire about Stephen King is how he is willing to keep pushing the boundaries of the publishing world. He's not just contentOne of things you have to admire about Stephen King is how he is willing to keep pushing the boundaries of the publishing world. He's not just content to churn out best-seller after best-seller in hard-cover format, but instead he's willing to take a chance or two along the way to challenge not only himself but his readers. Some of them work very well (The Green Mile) and some have withered on the vine (The Vine).
King has also been releasing stories via audiobooks for the past dozen or so years and every once in a while he puts out an exclusive audio only story. (King has admitted he's a an audio reader himself). Sometimes it's a fairly straight-forward short story and then other times it's something like Drunken Fireworks.
And while the story will be part of his upcoming short story collection, King said in an interview that this one was meant to be listened to.
It certainly shows.
Thanks to an insurance and lottery windfall, Alden McCausland and his mother spend the warmest months of the year at their three-room cabin on Lake Abenaki. One fourth of July, Alden and his mother light up a few sparklers and other fireworks, setting off an inadvertent contest with their neighbors across the lake, the Massimos. Each summer, Alden tries to find the next big thing to shoot off, only to have the Massimo family ready to counter them with something just a bit better. It would all be in good fun for the two families if Alden and his mother didn't feel like one member of their family was taunting them with his trumpet.
Listening to the story, I couldn't help but be reminded of the first season of True Detective and the brilliant interview sequences. From the start, we know that something has clearly gone awry this this year's celebration but it takes Alden a good hour to set things up and give us the background before we get to exactly what happened.
Drunken Fireworks doesn't have a supernatural twist or element to it like many of King's stories do. Instead what it gives us is King having a damn good time, crafting a story that is meant to be heard more than it is read. Part of what makes the story work is the voice he gives Alden. The voice is brought to life by Tim Sample, who does some great work here.
As a solid, entertaining short story Drunken Fireworks succeeds on just about every level. It's also made me that much more curious and enthusiastic about King's upcoming short story collection. If this one is just a sample of what we're going to get there, we are in for a treat. ...more