logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: science-fiction
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
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 face when writing their own original creations. For such works to succeed, they must capture a certain tone of the series in a way that is true to the source material while broad enough to acknowledge their readers' often differing 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 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one that is even more challenging for the Doctor Who franchise, with its shifting tone over the decades and often outdated elements, Yet Simon Guerrier manages the feat successfully.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.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
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.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-08-13 10:41
Star Wars: Ahsoka
Star Wars Ahsoka - E.K. Johnston

It was probably a coincidence, but at the same time, Ahsoka had been around long enough to know that coincidence and the Force rarely went together. There was always some sort of link.

 

When Lucas created the Force, did he know he’d be forcing countless future authors into lazy (if entertaining) writing? Force Ex Machina: the easiest way to get your characters from point A to point B. For example:

 

Ahsoka – “I’m going to hide on this tiny Outer Rim agricultural moon that couldn’t possibly be of immediate interest to the Empire.”

 

Empire – “We are immediately interested in this tiny Outer Rim agricultural moon because reasons.”

 

OMG, WHAT ARE THE ODDS?! (Never tell me the odds!) The Force is to Star Wars books what London fog is to cozy mysteries, and the number of Force non-coincidences in this book is high.

 

Blatant for(c)eshadowing aside, I was hoping for an entertaining account of what Ahsoka got up to between her last appearance in The Clone Wars (which I absolutely recommend watching before reading this novel) and her first appearance in Rebels, and this delivers. Mostly. The climactic confrontation was a bit meh. Based on this book, I’d say writing action isn't E.K. Johnston’s strong suit. Her characterization is pretty good, though, so I’m looking forward to her upcoming Padmé novel.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-08-12 23:31
To Terminator, With Love by Wes Kennedy
To Terminator, With Love - Wes Kennedy

Dexter Wu isn't a terribly social guy. He's a grad student whose life currently revolves around his big project, a robot named HAL that's supposed to be able to read stories to children. He has one close friend, Sandhya, who's about to move back to India. He's trying not to let that fact utterly wreck him, but it's hard. He's tired, stressed out about finals and HAL, and...suddenly in a confusing and terrifying amount of danger.

According to a powerful device owned by a shadowy group known as the Agency, HAL is going to destroy the world. Dexter's work on it must be stopped at all costs. The Agency's people don't normally try to kill their targets, but for some reason protocol is being broken this time around, and Dexter's running for his life. Luckily he has one agent on his side, Andre Jackson.

I bought this because it was listed as sci-fi with an asexual main character and its description sounded decent. The title and relatively vague description made me think that HAL would be prominent and that there would be time travel. This turned out not to be the case. There were a few brief Terminator references, but the nature of the Agency's secret device meant that it had more in common with Minority Report.

Sci-fi and fantasy pop culture references were all over the place. The one I enjoyed the most had to do with Dexter's efforts to figure out his role in this action story he'd suddenly been plopped into:

"Because he wasn't Neville Longbottom. He wasn't even Jar Jar Binks; he was Leeroy fucking Jenkins." (76%)

It's the kind of line that's fun if you know who Dexter's referring to but that would be completely incomprehensible to every one else. As it was, I had to google the Leeroy Jenkins reference - I'd heard the name before but that was it. The text is peppered with this sort of thing. I mostly liked it, but I could see it being annoying and exhausting for anyone who doesn't have the right pop culture background.

I was a bit iffy about the asexual rep. While it was nice that there was zero drama and nastiness over Dexter being ace, it felt really weird that he and Andre didn't talk about it at all beyond a brief mention. The two of them started making out, Dexter paused things to tell Andre that he was asexual and that he enjoyed kissing but wasn't interested in having sex, Andre calmly accepted this, and they never talked about it again. Granted, I'm not sure if they could be considered a couple since the story only takes place over a couple weeks, but it ended with Dexter hoping they could keep in touch and continue their relationship. I don't know.

In the end, I wanted to like this more than I actually did. Andre and Dexter were adorably geeky together, and the humor was decent. Unfortunately, the story was so-so, Andre and Dexter's relationship didn't really work for me, and I was disappointed that HAL was ultimately unimportant, little more than another one of the story's many SFF references.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-08-09 18:45
ROGUE PROTOCOL by Martha Wells
Rogue Protocol - Martha Wells

 

ROGUE PROTOCOL, the third entry in the Murderbot series was a lot of fun!

 

This volume was a bit slow going at the beginning but once Murderbot got situated and the action started it became very difficult to put down. It is still trying to solve the mystery that started in the first volume and as more information is gleaned from various sources, Muderbot's position becomes more and more precarious.

 

What's fun about these books is that Murderbot isn't your average Security Unit (SecUnit) bot. It hacked its governor module a long while back and now, it has real feelings. It tries to ignore and/or deny them, but they're there. These emotions are not what it's used to and it has a hard time disguising them, and I think that's where the most interesting part of this story lives. It's not in the mystery it's trying to solve, it's in the mystery of Murderbot's feelings and how it deals with them. Oh, and it's also in the humor and sarcasm that it's now developing.

 

This was a fun addition to the series, even though it started a bit slow, and I'm very much looking forward to what happens next!

 

*Thank you to NetGalley and to Tor for the e-ARC of this novella in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?