I picked up Ray Blackston’s first novel a few years ago just because the title was so great. I mean, titling your first novel Flabbergasted is a great...moreI picked up Ray Blackston’s first novel a few years ago just because the title was so great. I mean, titling your first novel Flabbergasted is a great selling point and I will admit that I came away from the first book feeling just that. Blackston’s story of Jay Jarvis, a single guy who visited various churches to meet single women and found the girl of his dreams who turned his life upside down was a hoot.
So, I quickly read it and then its sequel. Now, come the latest entry in the series that finds Jay still dating Allie and moving toward taking the new step in the relationship. And the thing is—three books in, Blackston still makes all of his characters feel authentic. Jay struggles with his faith journey, but it never feels contrived or predictable like you get in other contempoary Christian fiction stories, such as any book with the name Tim LaHaye on the cover. The book starts off slowly as Jay and Allie, Steve and Darcy all take a trip to the Outback of Australia. Jay intends to propose to Allie while Steve has planned the same. But, as is typical for a Blackston book, things go a bit awry. OK, they go a lot awry. Before you know it, Jay and Ally have wrecked their Land Rover and are stuck in the Outback with no way to communicate and call for help.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a stretch, but the thing is Blackston says—just go with me here and as a reader, I can. Because he makes the characters so interesting. Also, the question of will she say yes does keep you turning the pages.
Anyway, to say more would be giving away much of the later portions of the book, but I will say this—the momentum picks up in the second half of the book. My only real complaint is the ending which is a bit contrived. Blackston takes his characters to a crisis and gives them an almost fairy-tale like ending that just doesn’t quite ring true. But hey, it’s not enough to make you not enjoy the overall book.
Give this series a try—I think you might like it.(less)
For a man who retired after he finished the Dark Tower saga, Stephen King sure is working hard. Not that I’m too upset about it, mind you since I’m a...moreFor a man who retired after he finished the Dark Tower saga, Stephen King sure is working hard. Not that I’m too upset about it, mind you since I’m a big fan and every new book by King is like crack with pages to me.
King’s latest novel is an end-of-the-world type thriller similiar to “The Stand” in that things go to hell in a handbasket and a group of rag-tag survivors must band together to figure out what happened and survive. Instead of a deadly plague, this time the end of the world comes from cell phones, which all send out a deadly pulse that turns users into zombies. The world descends into chaos as the zombies take over, but instead of just running around undead and eating brains, the zombies begin to organize and follow a group-mind mentality ala the Borg from Star Trek. We meet a group of people, led by Clay who are struggling to stay alive and for Clay to get back to his family.
King does a great job, as usual, with taking an every man character and putting him into an extrodinary situation and seeing if and how he’d cope with things. The overriding arc of Clay’s wanting to get home to his family drives the story and the story does end on a Twilight Zone like moment. It’s not so much an ending where everything is neatly resolved so much as it’s that this part of the story has reached a conclusion. King recognizes this and doesn’t let the story over stay its welcome, though I imagine some readers may be disappointed by that.
While it’s not as great as “The Stand” or “Bag of Bones”, “Cell” is still an example of why Stephen King is one of the best writers we’ve got working today.(less)
It’s only fitting that Lance Parkin, the first author to bring the eight Doctor to the printed page be the author who writes the coda to the eighth Do...moreIt’s only fitting that Lance Parkin, the first author to bring the eight Doctor to the printed page be the author who writes the coda to the eighth Doctor’s era. (Well, at least in print)
And with the sheer number of dangling plot threads from the BBC’s run of publishing on-going Doctor Who novels, the fact that the story is comprehensible in any way is nothing short of a miracle. Parkin has a lot of weight to life in this novel and he does it fairly well. But while the book is good, it still falls short.
One thing that really pushed me away from the BBC book line was the need in just about every book I picked up by the author to have some kind of homage to the classic show and some kind of running commentary on the fandom. Oh look, we’ve arrived on a world where everyone watches a show that is exactly like Dr Who. In The Gallifrey Chronicles Parkin at least tries to play with this assumption a bit, by having a character who has written down the entire history of Gallifrey in fictional form. It turns out to be essential to the plot in the later stages of the book but is it really worth it? Is it as clever as Parkin wants it to be?
The answer: not really.
Also, if you’re looking for a satisfying wrap-up of all the threads of the BBC books and tying them to the new series, you’re going to have to keep looking. We don’t see the regeneration happen in the novel but instead leave the door open to more future eighth Doctor novels. In a way, it opens the door to the books leading into the Big Finish continuity.
It the end, it’s not as satisfying an end of an era as it could have or should have been (less)