Stephen Gregory’s Wakening the Crow invokes not only the spirit of Edgar Allen Poe but also some of the psychological and supernatural aspects of the...moreStephen Gregory’s Wakening the Crow invokes not only the spirit of Edgar Allen Poe but also some of the psychological and supernatural aspects of the master’s writings that has had readers mesmerized since the 19th century . In Gregory’s haunting and puzzling novel, Oliver Gooch is a marginally working librarian until his 7 year old daughter Chloe is in a car accident. She suffers brain damage and Oliver is only slightly uncomfortable that he prefers this version of Chloe, mute and pliable, to pre-accident Chloe who he describes as “a horrid child” and “rude, petulant, and defiantly uncooperative.” He is also minimally guilty that the large settlement allows him to open up his own book store which he names “Poe’s Tooth” due to a gift he is given by an elderly bookseller. The reason the gift is given to Oliver is unknown but the bookseller has a connection to the Gooch family that Oliver is yet aware of. The gift comes with a letter stating it to be Edgar Allen Poe’s actual tooth that was pulled from his mouth when Poe was a small boy.
Anyone faintly familiar with the supernatural psychological novel knows that this is not going to go well. Along with the spectra of the tooth, Oliver, Chloe, and his wife Rosie are also visited by a ragged and somewhat sinister looking crow who is reluctant to leave the confines of the bookstore, formerly used as a church. The crow seems to have a strange connection with the mute child. The reader as well as our narrator wonders if the tooth may be some kind of curse and, in many ways, this novel is just as much a homage to W. W. Jacob and his classic short work, “The Monkey’s Paw” as it is to Poe. Yet Gregory is not just writing a homage to the old horror writers and their talent at creating a work of atmospheric terror. He is also creating his own tapestry of a dysfunctional family caught in an inexplicable horror and he does it with the minimum of gore and the maximum of dread and angst. Oliver is not very likable. His relationship with his daughter is creepy at best. And at worst? That is a question the author leaves out there. Rosie seems to be the grounding for the family yet we suspect that grounding is tenuous. Chloe is the question mark. In her post-accident cherubness, she seems to be a tabula rasa for the interpretation that Oliver places on the events. Eventually the entire family become unhinged by the presence of the crow or is it just the secrets, guilt and consequences of the behaviors of this family catching up to them due to the catalyst of supernatural forces?
Gregory doesn’t let you know too much too soon. His hoarding of details and doling out of information only until you need it is quite masterful. It is also why some may feel this book moves a little too slowly. Yet the slow psychological reveal is fast becoming a lost art in storytelling especially in the horror genre. This is why I recommend Wakening the Crow so highly. It is a nice example of introspective storytelling yet when it is necessary, and especially at the end, Gregory can scare the pants off you. The average reader may also feel uncomfortable with the relationships in the Gooch family yet this adds to the eeriness and developing horror of the tale. Overall, Wakening the Crow is an above average work of horror that will stay with you quite a while after you read the last page. (less)
Red Tides is the second novel of Mikhail's exciting Z Plan series and the sequel to Blood on the Sand. It remains a riveting hybrid between zombie thr...moreRed Tides is the second novel of Mikhail's exciting Z Plan series and the sequel to Blood on the Sand. It remains a riveting hybrid between zombie thriller and military novel. The main character, American soldier Cale, has experienced the beginning of a zombie holocaust while in Iraq and is now headed on a journey through the Middle East and Europe to find a way home to his family in the States. When we left him in Blood on the Sand he was stranded in a boat on the Mediterranean Sea and waiting for a possible rescue by an unknown ship. Not surprisingly that unknown ship, actually a submarine from what is left of the Egyptian Navy, is not good news. In the beginning of Red Tides, it start right where the first book left off and we find that Cale has been taken prisoner and forced into slave labor, chained to another prisoner and is scavenging supplies in the midst of rampaging zombies. This epic of a apocalyptic journey continues in high fashion as we wonder if Cale will ever be able to resume his quest to go home.
I don't think it is too much of a spoiler to say Cale's imprisonment is only a small part of the journey in this second installment. More importantly though, it helps us know more about Cale and how he copes with crisis and with others. His interaction with the person he is chained to reveal much about his humanness and will to persevere. In Red Tides, Cale becomes more than just a soldier trying to get home.
The author continues to use his military experience to write believable scenarios and excellent action scenes. One surprise is that Lerma chooses an alternating narrative to take the story "home", so to speak, and let us know what is going on in the States and specifically with Gale's family. At first it was a bit disorienting. However it does help us know about his family, their own ordeal, and what Cale has to look forward to. It also assists us in knowing a little of what to expect in book 3. Another part I liked is how Gail's vision of his dead friend Zach lets us know about Gail's own doubts and fears. It should probably be mentioned that the zombies for the most part take a back seat to other issues in this novel. This is actually expected since we all know, in a zombie apocalypse, the biggest monster becomes each other.
Overall I was just as happy with the second book as I was the first one. In many ways, I think it trumps the first book in both plot and character development. This is a series that will please both the action adventure fan and zombies lover.
Some short fiction writers have told me they are not fond of single author collections even if it is their own. They claim that the short story collec...moreSome short fiction writers have told me they are not fond of single author collections even if it is their own. They claim that the short story collection corrals the works into a hodgepodge that doesn’t respect the power of a stand-alone short story. You read one and off you go on another without digesting the first tale. But what are you going to do? The sad fact is, without anthologies and collections, short fiction has a short life. One exposure in a magazine and poof! Gone! And we all know short fiction doesn’t pay the bills. Edward Bryant, one of the greatest short fiction writers in fantasy, science fiction, and horror told me that he wanted this engraving on his tombstone: “Died broke. Only wrote short stories.”
But the fact remains that short fiction often brings out the best in a writer. It challenges the writer to flesh out their ideas and emotion in a few pages while still involving and entertaining the reader. When it works, it can be astounding.
In the single author collection, Where All Light is Left to Die, Robert S. Wilson shows that he can compete with the big names in the field of worthwhile short fiction. There are thirteen works ranging from science fiction to fantasy and horror and a couple that are hard to classify. All of them can be referred to as dark fiction, a description of the type of stories that bring out the more undesirable and fearful moments in our emotional landscape. The first story in the collection, “The Death Catcher”, is typical and one of the best. It is about a man who can bring dead souls back to the bodies but with questionable results for both the dying and the catcher. It exhibits a number of similarities in the author’s stories; a cautious sensitivity for relationships and families, a mindfulness of the effects of loss and death, and a fondness for the thoughtful ending. “The Boy in the Elevator” is an uncomfortable tale of child molestation with a weirdly satisfying ending. “Forcipules” is an ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ type tale that might also have a hint of dark comedy for anyone who is afraid of bugs. Not all the stories are successful. “Self-Aware” is an attempt to bring detective thriller and science fiction together but it doesn’t work for me. It misses the emotional connection that the other stories have. “The Resurrection of Tommy Derringer” fares better but seems like an intro to a longer and more involved story. However, most of the other stories succeed quite well and should heighten your anxiety factor to an uncomfortable level.
Besides the short fiction, Wilson has included two novellas and one novelette; “The Quiet”, “The Nesting Place” and “Through the Mindhole”. All three shows that the author can branch out and expand his ideas in more complex ways. I read “The Quiet” two years ago and had mixed feelings. Yet this revised and expanded version proves that the author has certainly developed his skills nicely. My favorite of these longer works, and best in the collection, is “Through the Mindhole”, a complex story involving a detective who is transported to an alter universe in a version of himself that is precisely his opposite in many disturbing ways. That one novelette is worth the price of admission.
Overall, this is a good collection and a nice introduction to a young and promising writer. Anyone who appreciate short fiction should check out Where All Light is Left to Die and enjoy some pleasurably scary moments of dark fiction. (less)
Tim Waggoner's novella The Last Mile is one of the wildest literary rides I have taken in a long time. It is amazing how much the author has given us...moreTim Waggoner's novella The Last Mile is one of the wildest literary rides I have taken in a long time. It is amazing how much the author has given us in just 140 pages. Waggoner has created a hellish post-apocalypse word full of demonic ancient ones that have enslaved humans and much worse. The Lovecraftian influences are undeniable but the author has created his own distinct hellhole which he calls The World After. It a terrible but riveting bit of landscape.
In The Last Mile, Dan used to be a normal family man. Yet when the Ancient Ones arrives he is forced to serve them to save his family. Now marked as one of the ancient ones' thralls, he is taking an abducted woman, Alice, to his master to serve as a sacrifice. Most of the story happens in the last mile to his master's residence but we are given flashbacks to Dan's and Alice's life during the arrival of the terror that now dominates the world. The change of narrative from the present to glimpses of the two protagonist's past flows effortlessly with no lull and plenty of surprises. It all leads to a very satisfying twist at the end.
The tale is so short that to say anything else would give too much away and if there is a downside to this novella, that is it. I wanted the story to continue. There is enough fascinating descriptions and glimpses into the World After that I felt there was enough to continue into several novels. I truly hope Waggoner continues to explore his demonic world with or without the characters in this book. In the meantime, we have this delicious terror romp and it comes highly recommended to all those with a yearning for tales of horror that do not let up or disappoint. It is another home run from Darkfuse's impressive series of short novels.
As much as I loved Nick Cutter's previous horror novel, The Troop, I felt that the author was capable of something even more intense, scarier, and dis...moreAs much as I loved Nick Cutter's previous horror novel, The Troop, I felt that the author was capable of something even more intense, scarier, and disturbing the next time around.
Boy! Was I right!
In The Deep we learn that the earth is devastated by a new disease called the 'Gets. Those who are infected start to forget little things, then the bigger things, then pretty much everything to the point they forget to breathe and eventually die. In the deepest part of the Pacific ocean, scientists are researching a substance called Ambrosia found eight miles down in the Marianna Trench. They think it might be a cure. Veterinarian Luke Nelson receives a message from his brother Clayton, who is one of the scientists in the deep sea station Trieste, "We need you. Lucas. Come home."
The Deep is one of those novels that is acutely visceral and insanely intelligent at the same time. Part science fiction, part very deep sea adventure, and 100% horror, there is barely any part of it that gives you time to rest before something else either scares the hell out of you or grosses you out. Plot wise, most of the minor characters exist to fulfill their purpose. However the two main protagonist are deftly drawn and provide plenty of emotional connection. Luke is a troubled adult with a missing child and estranged wife and a very dysfunctional childhood. His brother Clayton is a brilliant but sociopathic scientist whose love of discovery trumps his lack of connection and empathy. When Luke and his submersible pilot, Alice, descend eight miles to the deep sea station, the reader is treated to a haunting and uncomfortable description of an environment that redefines the term "claustrophobia". It is both the interaction between the brothers and the starkly written creepiness of the station that keeps the reader on edge. When we finally meet the "monster" It is something that is as terrifying to us as it is mystifying to our protagonists. As stated above, I found The Deep to be one of the most intelligently visceral books I have ever read.
The Deep may turn out to be the best horror book I've read this year. It will be hard to beat it. If The Troop was punch number one and The Deep is punch number two, I am awaiting nervously for the knock-out punch.
Black Horizon is one of 4 books by horror writer Robert Masello that have been reprinted as ebooks on July 1st, 2014 by Open Roads Media. I have not p...moreBlack Horizon is one of 4 books by horror writer Robert Masello that have been reprinted as ebooks on July 1st, 2014 by Open Roads Media. I have not previously read Masello but he appears to be interested in writing about the supernatural as in topics of spiritualism, life after death, and spiritual communication. Black Horizon was originally published in 1989 and feels very much in the mainstream style of the supernatural fiction of that era. The novel is about a musician who literally brings a dying man back from the dead. The press picks up the story and a scientist, translate to "mad", persuades him to become a subject in his experiments. Needless to say, Dr. Sprague's "experiments" are not exactly approved by the Board of Behavioral sciences. The musician, Jack, is however beginning to see other apparitions, most importantly his mother who died when Jack was born. It is an interesting story with some nicely written parts. I especially was moved by a scene where a man dying of cancer believe Jack can heal him despite Jack's admonitions that he can not heal anyone. But overall, it felt a little too old fashioned and formula. None of the character really stood out and on their own. It was good enough to consider reading another of his novels or one of his non-fiction works. He seems to know a lot about the field of paranormal investigation. There is a number of passages that center around deprivation tanks which were a huge things in the 80s. Yet based on the high quality of good supernatural thrillers since the 90s, I am not sure Masello really stands up well...or at least this particular novel doesn't stand up well. Two and a half stars.(less)
Nerds have been treated the same for centuries. None of it good. I can only personally vouch for half of my own current century. However, I feel reaso...moreNerds have been treated the same for centuries. None of it good. I can only personally vouch for half of my own current century. However, I feel reasonably certain that Archimedes was familiar with the wedgie. I also feel a little less reasonably sure that Jeff Strand knows something about wedgies. How else could he put so much humor that feels like "I've been there" in his main character Henry Lambert of the very funny Young Adult novel, I Have a Bad Feeling About This?
Henry might best be called a wimpy kid if not a nerd. He is a smart and likeable kid...whatever that gets you in the childhood food chain. He gets picked last in all the playground sports. He is scared of a lot of things including seahorses. "I'm not proud of that one." he says. His father, with clear reluctance from Henry's mother, signs him up in a survival camp to make the proverbial man out of him. What is advertised as a professional boot camp environment is really a barely hanging together camp whose victims include five boys led by a drill sergeant type who,if not the guy from Heavy Metal Jacket, is at least to be trying to emulate him.
I Have a Bad Feeling About This is one of those YA novels that will appeal to children and teens because they can identify with the protagonists. The humor is plenty but grounded in reality and not condescending. The sharp humor is also why this novel will appeal to adults. The first half of the novel deals with the boys' learning, but just barely, the survival skills of the instructor. Some of the funnier moments are derived from these events such as their first time at archery ("That bird shouldn't have been there"). There is also a sweet moment when Henry meets a girl from the Music Camp down the road. As a veteran of teen music camps, I can assure you that we are bad ass! The boys are not placed in danger, which comes from an unexpected chain of events, until the second half of the novel. While is it fun to watch the kids awkwardly defend themselves, I found the real strength of this tale in the first half where we can identify with the teen's reluctance struggles. Yet the entire book is a delightfully fun read. The author also does us a service by adding in helpful survival tips like "Tree bark is not edible, even with peanut butter."
Overall this is one of the funnier and more enjoyable YA novels I have read. I admit I am not an expert in YA books but I have a lifetime of expertise in nerdology, so that has to account for something. It is a truism that in the long run, nerds do better in life than jocks but that is little comfort for the young adults struggling with the fine art of growing up. Books like this are helpful in giving a good perspective. OK. So I may be exaggerating! It is still a funny book!
Journalstone's Double Down Series is a bit of a throw-back to the Ace Doubles of the 50s. They were small paperbacks that featured two novels in each...moreJournalstone's Double Down Series is a bit of a throw-back to the Ace Doubles of the 50s. They were small paperbacks that featured two novels in each book. You would simply read the first tale, then turn the book around and upside down to read the other novel.They were noticeable for featuring both established science fiction and fantasy authors and introducing newer talents. The only thing wrong with the old Ace books is that they were cheaply made and fell apart easily which is why you rarely see them in used book stores nowadays (plus they would now cost you a pretty penny). Journalstone's new Double Down series is much higher quality in the production department. But the real test is the quality of the writing and Biters/The Reborn, the fourth book of the Double Down collection lives up to the challenge.
Biters by Harry Shannon is the shorter of the two novellas and it is the first swing in an effective two punch combination. Biters appears to be a return to the author's zombie infested post-apocalypse previously seen in The Hungry and The Wrath of God. The twist in this novella is that Biters is more related to the crime noir genre that any zombie excursion. There are plenty of walking dead brain-eating types around but Shannon's tale is more about love and betrayal than surviving the apocalypse. Ryan is a post-apocalyptic drifter with a crush on a femme fatale named Sarah. There's a deal involving murder, an evil lawman wanting in on the deal, and so many chances for violence and double-crossing that Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain would be envious. The real surprise is how well the author merges these two elements of zombie horror and crime noir into a satisfying whole. It is a nice pulp fiction ride that manages to breathe a little more life into an over used genre...maybe two overused genres. Easily four stars.
The Reborn is also a riveting novella but the only thing they really have in common is an apocalyptic setting. Brett J. Talley's novel is more of a dystopic novel with a complex back story neatly woven into the plot. Marcus is a recently laid off police officer that is offered a new position in a clandestine organization. In this Washington DC of the future, reincarnation is an assumption and the powers-that-be have developed the ability to trace an unborn's DNA to previous lives. Anyone whose DNA is traced back to an undesirable "reborn", meaning past murderer or worse, is instantly killed in the womb. As you can surmise, there is a lot of gist in this story for social commentary. However Talley never loses sight of the fact that the plot is everything and has written an ever moving action allegory of unparalleled power. The protagonist in a story like this always has the potential trap of being drowned in the action but Marcus is given a lot of dimensions with a past that propels the plot into more than just pulp fiction. Talley's dubious partner Dominic is a little less dimensional but is given just enough "true believer" qualities to scare us. The Reborn is very different than Talley's Lovecraftian fling titled That Which Should Not Be yet is very much equal in its quality and its excitement. Four and a Half stars.
So overall, this particular Double Down volume is a worthy successor to the old Ace Doubles and is definitely worth checking out.(less)
Disclaimer No. 1: I write book reviews for Dark Discoveries. In fact, one of my reviews appear on page 102 of this issue.
Disclaimer No. 2: I am not ab...moreDisclaimer No. 1: I write book reviews for Dark Discoveries. In fact, one of my reviews appear on page 102 of this issue.
Disclaimer No. 2: I am not above bragging about it.
OK. On to the review.
Dark Discoveries is a quarterly magazine devoted to the horror and fantasy genre and published by Journalstone, LLC. The first thing that hits you is the professional allure of the magazine. there is a catchy cover that features a provocative looking female running from a zombie. Dark Discoveries magazines as of late seem to have a fondness for provocative and sexy females but I must say I enjoy the mildly camp but slick cover style.
But there is nothing campy about what is between the covers. Dark Discoveries includes both fiction and non-fiction, usually covering a specific theme per magazine. This issue, number 28 has a zombie theme. Most of the articles relate to that theme in one way or another. This is the kind of magazine I sit down with and read from cover to cover in one continuous session. It is that good.
It is the fiction I read it for. It offers only original material and the six stories for this issue are by Graham Masterson, Kevin J. Anderson, Gene O'Neill. Harry Shannon, Brett J Tulley, and Tim Waggoner. They are all worth reading but Gene O'Neill's psychopathic (and non-zombie) delight titled "On the Right Side of the Road" is perhaps the best of the lot. TIm Waggoner's "The Talking Dead" comes in a close second with its unusual take on the undead. The only disappointment was Graham Masterson's "Unholy Ghost" not because it was not good but because it was not a short tale but an excerpt from his upcoming novel, Plague of the Manitou I must admit though. It really sells the novel.
But let's not downplay the non-fiction. There are interviews with Graham Masterson, Doug Bradley, Jeffrey Combs (one of my favorite B-movie actors), Troma's Lloyd and Pat Kaufman and Native-American horror writer Owl Goingback. I also enjoyed the retrospective look at Italian zombie films. On top of all this, you will find an ongoing comic series by Joe McKinney and Patrick Freivald. There are also plenty of regular features written by such luminaries as Yvonne Navarro, Jonathan Mayberry and others that cover cryptozoic creatures, YA novels, movie monsters and other things that go bump in the night. Last but not least are the book and movie reviews which are selected from the Hell Notes web site, also owned by Journalstone, LLC.
Overall, there is a lot of entertainment and information packed in 110 pages. Just like its predecessors, Dark Discoveries Issue # 28 is sure to be an enjoyable read as long as you have that yen for horror fiction and movies.
Greil Marcus may be the best living music writer on the planet. He has a scholarly edge but that doesn't hide his emotional enthusiasm for the music h...moreGreil Marcus may be the best living music writer on the planet. He has a scholarly edge but that doesn't hide his emotional enthusiasm for the music he writes about. He writes in an almost free associational way that fills you with facts and emotions but always managed to come back to his point and his passion.
That is what makes his new book, The History of Rock N' Roll in Ten Songs so utterly fascinating. The author takes a different approach to the history of rock. Gone are the linear citing of performers and dates. Instead he takes ten songs that he sees as representing the essence of the music and describes their hold on us. In the chapters for each song, he tells about the first recording of the song but will also mention later version showing how they become timeless in our psyche.
A couple of the songs he mention are puzzling. "Shake That Action" by the Flamin' Groovies is in my opinion, one of the great trash heap songs with little redeeming value. But the author, and many other rockers, obviously disagree with me. Most importantly, Marcus makes his points about the immortality of the song quite well even if he doesn't convince me. Other songs like the Buddy Holly's "Crying , Waiting, Hoping" and the standard oldie "In The Still of The Night" are much better choices and their greatest is easily understood. Marcus does not fail to forget the later masterpieces either paying special attention to "Transmission" by Joy Division. The author in his unique style brings importance to these songs and is saying...Yes, the performances is awesome but the meaning and emotion of the actual songs is also part of the magic of rock 'n' roll.
It is nice we still have veteran writers like Greil Marcus around. It seems like most have either retired (Robert Hilburn) or died too early (Lester Bangs). The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs can be read as either an unconventional history of rock or a fine example of literary prose. Either way, it is an enjoyable and informative read. The one thing I would recommend is to listen to the song before reading its chapter. Most of these songs and recordings can be found on YouTube.(less)
Every writer of science fiction and horror seems to have an apocalypse. But Richard Farren Barber's version may hit too many people too close to home....moreEvery writer of science fiction and horror seems to have an apocalypse. But Richard Farren Barber's version may hit too many people too close to home. In The Sleeping Dead the world is hit with a suicide epidemic. people are killing themselves and those who do not actively commit the act will sit down and waste away. These are the ones our protagonist calls the sleeping dead. The two survivors Jackson and Susan battle against the voices and their suicidal urges using their short term goals goals and the support of each other as their only weapons.
This is a short novella where its strengths and weaknesses end up battling each other not unlike its two protagonists. On one hand, the author is skillful in putting to print the thoughts of a suicidal person and the conflicts that engulfs them. On the other hand, it may be a misstep to take a struggle many people live each day and place in in a apocalyptic setting. With the suicide plague unexplained, the reader may wonder where real life begins and the horrors ends. Or maybe there is no separation. Perhaps that is Barber's point. Yet I found myself hoping for and never receiving an explanation. In some apocalyptic novels , the lack of explanation works well. Here it doesn't. There is an incompleteness to this novella that conflicts with the excellent emotional description and skillful prose. To put it bluntly, it's a good start to a longer story. I find myself wanting to recommend it for what it is and simultaneously wishing it was more. Overall, it doesn't hit the three star level so I am l left with a two and a half star tale. (less)
It should be noted that Z Plan: Blood on the Sand is the first book in a series. There is nothing more annoying to me than a novel than has a cliffhan...moreIt should be noted that Z Plan: Blood on the Sand is the first book in a series. There is nothing more annoying to me than a novel than has a cliffhanger ending when the author does not warn you it is the first book of a series. So when Mikhail Lerma and his publisher avoids this trap and lets the reader know this from the beginning, I become extremely grateful.
But it also gives me another challenge. No longer is the review just about whether I like the book or not. it also becomes: Is it good enough to warrant investing time and money to the rest of the series?
Let's hold off on that question and consider the first one.
Blood on the Sand starts in Iraq with US army soldier Cale involved in his tour of duty and missing his family. However a unexplained plague of zombies cuts him and his friends off from the rest of the world when the creatures invade the army base. With the base virtually destroyed, Cale and three of his friends make a Zombie Plan; to leave Iraq and head to the Mediterranean where they hope to catch a boat to go home to America. Technically they are deserters but with the rest of the world on the brink of extinction, it seems to be a moot point.
One of the best things about this novel is how the author uses his military experience to write a very believable scenario, except for the zombies of course, involving the attack on the base. The first third of the novel is a creative blend between a military novel and a zombie tale. Lerma's zombies are pretty much straight out of Walking Dead; mindless and always hungry. However the author does the very wise move of focusing our attention on one character and his reason to survive. Cale is likable and determined but no superman. He has his weaknesses and doubts which makes me want to root for him even more. We feel his pain when he needs to make a decision that has no easy answers. The ability for the author to make his main character a good man in a bad situation is what makes this zombie novel different from the rest of the pack. The action segments are very well written which again attests to the author's focus on the military aspects and the reality of combat even as our heroes leave Iraq to go on their journey.
There are some aspects to the book that tells me this is a first novel. For instance, the changes in perspectives seems a bit awkward and there are some lulls in the book that break up the tensions more than necessary. But these are minor things considering how well most of the book moves and how the author keeps the reader involved in the story. Overall it is a formidable debut
But what about that cliffhanger? Am I ready to invest emotionally in the series?
In a word, yes. When I got to the end, even knowing that it would be continued, I felt I read a complete first part of the series. The ending, which of course I won't reveal, was a satisfying first installment that had me looking forward to a more revealing second installment. That is the way a series should work.
Those who crave the Zs (Zombies) and want a series whose Z Plan (Zombie Plan) has a determined and realistic protagonist will enjoy this novel. Hopefully the rest of the books will be as intriguing as Blood on the Sand for it is a very promising start.
I was first introduced to Doctor Who in the 70s. At that time we Americans were getting the episodes of Tom Baker as the fourth doctor. Tom Baker was...moreI was first introduced to Doctor Who in the 70s. At that time we Americans were getting the episodes of Tom Baker as the fourth doctor. Tom Baker was pretty much responsible for taking Doctor Who from an obscure BBC import on PBS to an legitimate cult phenomena in the states. To most of my generation, Tom Baker will always be The Doctor. But the fans still keep up and now thanks to BBC America, we are now enjoying the 12th doctor (or is it 13th? That turn with John Hurt has me confused).
I even went to the first U.S. Doctor Who convention (1978?) in Los Angeles. While I was there, I loaded up on the the novelizations of the TV episodes that were only available as British imporst. Terrence Dick wrote most of them and he was the primary script editor of the show. All in all, they were very disappointing, aping the dialog and action in a rather pedestrian way. They also seemed rather childish which makes sense since Tom Baker's episode were in many ways the bridge from thinking of Doctor Who as a children show to a cult show loved by adults. It basically led me to believe that the original script writers were not very talented when it came to writing books. But of course there is always an exception as in Douglas Adams who fooled everyone and wrote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Now it is 40 years later. The Doctor Who franchise is stronger than ever. The series can not in any way be called children TV and the plots and themes are complex and they are not even afraid to throw in a few innuendos now and then. So here I am, holding another novelization, this time about the 12th doctor and his sidekick, Clara titled The Crawling Terror. I am holding it with both excitement and dread.
I have to say. Not all good but not bad. Douglas Adams should be proud if not overjoyed. The dialogue is true to the show. I have not seen the episode The Crawling Terror so I can't say for sure but i would not be surprised if the dialog is pretty accurate. Friends who have seen the new doctor tell me this book catches his personality well. More importantly, the author Mike Tucker is a galaxy better than the older novelization and he moves both the action and interplay between characters well. The novel reads fast and will entertain you for a couple of hours max.
The plot? This is where I am a little fascinated with it. Doctor Who and Clara land in a village in Wiltshire where there are giant insects and zombiefied villagers. There is a stone ring involved, mad scientists and even Nazi collaborator. (The TARDIS is a time machine, remember?) The fascinating thing is that, for my first pick at a recent novelization, I seem to pick an episode that feels like a throwback to the old doctors: Buggy monsters, military allies, those nazi scientists, and a misquided earthling. But I still enjoyed it.
The bottom line is, if you are already a Who fan you will enjoy this. But no way it is essential. If you do not know The Doctor, this little novelization may be a good introduction since you do not need to know much back story to be entertained by it. But the TV show is really where to start. First read up on the Doctor's background (Wikipedia may do the trick) so you can understand some of the complexities and intricacies, then flip on the show and munch on some popcorn. (less)