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review 2018-08-16 12:53
Crossing the high bar of authenticity
Doctor Who: The Time Travellers - Simon Guerrier

I don't envy authors who write novels for established media franchises, as doing so poses challenges that they don't have in writing their own original creations. For the novel to succeed, it must capture a certain tone of the series in a way that is true to it while broad enough to acknowledge other readers' interpretation of it. This is especially true in terms of characterization without the filtering role that an actor or actress plays by taking scripts from multiple authors and filter them into their standard performance. Without this standardizing step, authors risk writing characters that can seem false to their source, even before having to address how an audience already familiar with these characters regards them.

 

For these reasons, writing such a book means crossing a high bar of authenticity in order to succeed, one that is even more challenging for the Doctor Who franchise, with its shifting tone over the decades and often outdated elements, Yet Simon Guerrier manages the feat successfully. His novel goes back to the beginnings of the franchise itself, offering a story in which the first Doctor and his original group of companions — his granddaughter Susan and teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright — arrive in London in 2006 after the TARDIS encounters a man while traveling inside of time and space. The crew finds themselves in a future in which the city is under attack from an unknown power, with a team of scientists developing a primitive form of time travel in the hope that it might prove the key to victory. As the Doctor and his companions discover, though, the experiments have resulted instead in a mounting series of problems, all of which must be solved amidst an impending invasion and while dealing with a hidden agenda.


Working as he does with the very first group of travelers Guerrier tackles attitudes and outlooks that are increasingly dated to his readers. Yet he manages to portray them in a way that is respectful while making it work for a story very different from the ones written by the writers of the day. His characters find themselves in a nightmarish world ingeniously constructed by Guerrier out of other stories from the show, imagining the world that would have resulted had not the Doctor defeated the threats that faced it. While the result is a world traumatized and grim, the genius of his approach is that because this is happening so early in the Doctor's travels he and his companions are unable to recognize the situation for what it is: an alternate future shaped by the evil the Doctor would go on to avert. None of them appreciate that the broader setting is wrong; for them it is simply is a future that is far darker than they imagined it could be.

 

In this respect what Guerrier has accomplished is much more than simple fan service, as he has drawn from nearly a half-dozen serials from the original series to develop his plot. And while the logic of the story does not hold as well as it might, overall the book is a remarkable feat: a novel that entertains on multiple levels while remaining true to its original source material. It is a book that every Doctor Who fan should read, ideally after having seen the episodes from which Guerrier draws the elements that serve as the source material for his novel so as to better appreciate the extent of his success with it.

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review 2018-08-16 11:01
Supreme Alchemy of 17th century
A-Ma: Alchemy of Love - Nataša Pantović Nuit

During the time of enlightenment during the 17th century we meet Ama and her circle of friends working on the Alchemy of Humanity, their spiritual journey and the enlightenment of humankind. A mix of spiritual stories with the historical exploration ofr China and Chinese philosophy.

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review 2018-08-16 09:01
Strategy Strikes Back
Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict - Max Brooks

[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]

A collection of essays relating real-world strategies to examples from the ‘Star Wars’ franchise. As usual with this kind of book, some were good, and some not so good, and there were a few that didn’t do much for me, and/or seemed to repeat themselves (as well as be repeats of others). Still, I found it interesting, and a good starting point for more reading, since many of the essays don’t only rely on Star Wars, but also on actual strategy theories (Clausewitz, modern strategy-related articles, and so on).

Having only watched the movies, and not the animated Clone Wars series (and not having laid my hands on more than a couple of books from the former SW extended universe), I can’t speak for the accuracy (or not) of the essays discussing, well, other aspects of SW. From what I know, though, these essays are fairly accurate in their interpretation and depiction of the chosen excerpts from the movies.

Rating: 3.5 stars. Apart from the couple of points I made above (mostly the redundancy), I think it’s more interesting in terms of Star Wars than in-depth military strategy, and I’d have appreciated seeing more examples of real-world situations contrasted with the SW ones.

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review 2018-08-16 01:08
The Green Lama by Adam Lance Garcia
The Green Lama: Scions - Adam Lance Garcia,Douglas Klauba

This story was way more fun than I expected. I do enjoy pulp fiction but I usually have to be in a mood for it as so much of the genre can be campy and sexist. Not this one! I was happy to see so many female characters in the book – and they get stuff done too! They don’t just look pretty while being rescued.

Set in New York, there’s a variety of characters for the Big Bad Evil to infect and/or kill. The creeptastic aspects lead back to a ship that crashed into Liberty Island. It’s something out of a horror movie and it has the police baffled. But never fear! The Green Lama knows what this evil is, much to his sadness.

For such a short story, it’s a pretty big cast of characters. I did have a little trouble keeping them all separate. However, they are all interesting. There’s Jean Farell, who is a good shot and doesn’t shy away from rescuing men knocked unconscious. Frankie, who is French Black American, has a soft spot for kids that need rescuing.

Jethro Durmont, the hero of this tale, is a bit standard. He’s a millionaire white guy who lost his parents under horrible circumstances, and ran off to Asia to learn some mystical self-defense arts. Sound familiar, no? Batman, Iron Fist, The Arrow, etc. He does have at least one unique aspect – he needs his special radioactive salts on a regular basis to maintain his special powers. I hope he labels those appropriately so the guests don’t use them to flavor their soup!

Betty Dale, a newsreporter, has me wondering what will happen in the next book. She knows the Green Lama’s secrets but he also knows who she is. Then there’s poor Lt. Caraway. He made me laugh a few times but things didn’t go well for him in this story. Overall, it was a fun story. 4.5/5 stars

The Narration: Jiraiya Addams puts on a great performance. He has unique voices for all the characters and his female characters sound feminine. He went all out voicing the Evil, which was multi-layered voices for individual characters affected by it. Chilling! There were no technical issues with the recording. 5/5 stars
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review 2018-08-15 19:39
Unidentified by Michael McBride Audio Review
Unidentified - Michael McBride,Joe Hempel

This is a brief little novella that runs a little over 2 hours on audio. It’s narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Joe Hempel, who helps the story leap off the pages. He also never grates on my last nerve like some narrators do. His pace is on the slower side and it draws you into the chilling atmosphere of the story and his performance of the characters sounds natural. If you like audio and scary tales, this is a really good one. 

40 years ago a group of teens stumbled across something terrible in the aftermath of crop circles, missing teens and animal mutilations. They woke without memories of the events that cost them a friend but now that another child has gone missing and one of them writes a chilling email saying only “I remember everything”, they reunite to start digging into the past and end whatever it is from tormenting their hometown once and for all. 

Since this is such a short story I don’t have a lot to say about it. It left me guessing and I loved the bleak threads running throughout it and if you listen to the author notes at the end, and you should, you might be a little terrified of the sky!

 

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