books

REVIEW: “Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds – The Musical Drama”

war-of-the-worlds-coverH.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds has always been a better premise than it has been a story. The premise is just so interesting and malleable that it can be adapted and readapted into any number of different permutations. It’s this ability, more than the content of the actual story, that has allowed the novel to stand the test of time. Most of the well-known adaptations of the novel bear strikingly little in common with it – Orson Welles’ radio drama moves the action to America in the 1930s, and the two major film versions do the same thing, just in different time periods. One of the most well-known adaptations – that also skews pretty closely to the content of the original novel – was Jeff Wayne’s musical adaptation of the story. First released as a concept album in the 1970s, his adaptation has seen massive popularity in multiple worldwide tours. On the fortieth anniversary of the original release of that adaptation, Audible has released a new adaptation of Jeff Wayne’s musical – an audio drama featuring music from the musical and a new script. Is it as good as the musical? Well, I’m not sure I’d quite go that far, but it is pretty darn enjoyable.

When H. G. Wells first published The War of The Worlds in 1898, the novel quickly became a sci-fi classic. The story of extraterrestrials from Mars invading Earth captured the public’s imagination, inspiring a famed 1938 radio broadcast with Orson Welles, several feature films, countless video games, and a best-selling musical concept album by Jeff Wayne in 1978, among others.

Immersing listeners in a world that is as thrilling as it is desolate, Jeff Wayne’s eerie and pulsating score brings the suspense, drama, and urgency of Wells’s original novel to a fever pitch in this Audible Original Drama. Michael Sheen headlines an ensemble cast of talented performers that also includes Taron Egerton, Adrian Edmondson, Theo James, and Anna-Marie Wayne.’

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REVIEW: “Mythicals” by Dennis Meredith

MythicalsI love a good sci-fi book, that much is well known. But what about a sci-fi book that puts forth the idea that all the mythological creatures from Earth’s history (fairies, pixies, werewolves, vampires, etc) are actually alien species exiled to our planet as punishment for crimes made on their own planets? Well, a book like that would be right up my wheelhouse. That’s exactly the kind of book that Dennis Meredith’s Mythicals is. It’s also a very good one, too.

Drunken journalist Jack March can’t believe his bleary eyes when he stumbles onto a winged fairy! She vaults away into the night sky, and his unbelievable—and unbelieved—encounter leads to a stunning revelation that all the creatures of myth and legend are real!
Fairies, pixies, trolls, werewolves, ogres, vampires, angels, elves, bigfoot—all are alien exiles to the planet. For their crimes, these “mythicals” are serving out banishment disguised in flesh-suits enabling them to live among the planet’s natives.
Jack reveals their secret to the world, along with a horrendous discovery: they have decided that the native “terminal species” must be eradicated before it ruins its home planet’s ecology.
In this riveting scifi/fairy tale, Jack joins with sympathetic fairies, pixies, and ogres to attempt to save the planet from the mythicals, as well as the mysterious alien cabal known as the Pilgrims.

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Review: “Doctor Who: The Good Doctor” by Juno Dawson

912z0swceqlWith every new season of Doctor Who comes a new set of tie-in novels featuring the current Doctor. As season 11, the first season to feature Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, just recently premiered, it’s time for the tie-in books to be released. The first of these, The Good Doctor, was released October 26 and was written by the New-to-Who author, Juno Dawson. It’s a novel that explores the impact the Doctor’s visits can have on a world and how religions might spring forth from them. It’s a pretty darn good book.

For a Good Doctor there’s only one rule: first do no harm.

On the planet of Lobos, the Doctor halts a violent war between the native Loba and human colonists. Job done, the TARDIS crew departs – only for Ryan to discover he’s left his phone behind. Again.

Upon returning, the Doctor finds that the TARDIS has slipped hundreds of years into the future – and that something has gone badly wrong. The Loba are now slaves, serving human zealots who worship a godlike figure known as The Good Doctor.

It’s time for the Doctor to face up to the consequences of her last visit. With Lobos on the brink of catastrophe, will she be able to make things right?

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REVIEW: “Alice Isn’t Dead: A Novel” by Joseph Fink

coverI’ve been a fan of Welcome to Night Vale, the podcast cocreated by Joseph Fink – author of this novel, Alice Isn’t Dead – and Jeffrey Cranor since around about 2013. It’s a lovely little podcast that perfectly mixes together a whole bunch of genres into its own little piece of brilliance. When it was announced that Fink and Cranor would launch an entire podcasting network, named “Night Vale Presents”, with a brand new podcast written by Joseph Fink, I was immediately interested. And then… I never got around to listening to it. It had a cool premise and seemed really intriguing and spooky, but I just never quite found the time. Then, it was announced earlier this year that Joseph Fink was going to turn that podcast, Alice Isn’t Dead, into a book that, essentially, told the same story as the podcast and I figured I’d just wait for the book to come out and experience the story in that medium. Months passed and I’ve now read the book and, I gotta tell ya, it’s really, really good.

From the New York Times bestselling co-author of It Devours! and Welcome to Night Vale comes a fast-paced thriller about a truck driver searching across America for the wife she had long assumed to be dead.

“This isn’t a story. It’s a road trip.”

Keisha Taylor lived a quiet life with her wife, Alice, until the day that Alice disappeared. After months of searching, presuming she was dead, Keisha held a funeral, mourned, and gradually tried to get on with her life. But that was before Keisha started to see her wife, again and again, in the background of news reports from all over America. Alice isn’t dead, and she is showing up at every major tragedy and accident in the country.

Following a line of clues, Keisha takes a job with a trucking company, Bay and Creek Transportation, and begins searching for Alice. She eventually stumbles on an otherworldly conflict being waged in the quiet corners of our nation’s highway system—uncovering a conspiracy that goes way beyond one missing woman.

Why did Alice disappear? What does she have to do with this secret war between inhuman killers? Why did the chicken cross the road? These questions, and many more will be answered in Alice Isn’t Dead.

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REVIEW: “Dear Evan Hansen” by Val Emmich

51t4hrr2yllI’m on the record as not being a particularly big fan of the musical Dear Evan Hansen. I always found Evan to be a super unlikable character (what with the whole lying to a grieving family for the entirety of the musical thing) and so that made it a bit hard to fully connect with the, admittedly interesting, plot. But my bigger problem with the musical was the songs. I just didn’t like them. They didn’t work for me. They didn’t feel like they were serving the story and they just sorta brought everything down. So, when I saw that Hachette Book Group was publishing a novelization of the musical, I figured I’d give it a shot. I did like the plot of the musical, and novels often make even the most unlikable character sympathetic in ways that more visual mediums aren’t able to. I’m happy to report that while Val Emmich’s novelization of the musical still has that one pretty big flaw in relation to Evan as a character, the novel is far more enjoyable than the musical is.

From the show’s creators comes the groundbreaking novel inspired by the hit Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen, Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s griefover the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend.As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

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REVIEW: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek” by Anthony O’Neill

dr-jekyll-and-mr-seekThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson, was one of the only books given to me as assigned reading in high school that I actually enjoyed. It’s a wonderfully macabre Gothic novella that explores the duality of man within a really interesting sci-fi scenario. I enjoyed the book so much in high school that it actually led to me watching the fantastic BBC series Jekyll (a show that actually ended up being a really interesting sequel to the original story). So, naturally, when I saw that Anthony O’Neill’s Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Seek, a sequel to the original Jekyll & Hyde, I was immediately interested. The question is: how good is this book? Is it a worthy sequel to such an amazing original? The short answer is: no, not really. But it’s more complicated than that.

In this dark, atmospheric sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s timeless classic, the strange case continues with the return of Dr. Jekyll . . .

Seven years after the death of Edward Hyde, a stylish gentleman shows up in foggy London claiming to be Dr. Henry Jekyll. Only Mr. Utterson, Jekyll’s faithful lawyer and confidant, knows that he must be an impostor―because Jekyll was Hyde.

But as the man goes about charming Jekyll’s friends and reclaiming the estate, and as the bodies of potential challengers start piling up, Utterson is left fearing for his life . . . and questioning his own sanity.

This brilliantly imagined and beautifully written sequel to one of literature’s greatest masterpieces perfectly complements, as well as subverts, Stevenson’s gothic classic. And where the original was concerned with the duality of man, the sequel deals with the possibility of identity theft of the most audacious kind. Constantly threading on the blurred lines between reality and fantasy, madness and reason, self-serving delusions and brutal truths, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek honors the original Stevenson with a thrilling new conclusion.

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REVIEW: “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” by Hank Green

an absolutely remarkable thing coverA book about giant robots from space that mysteriously appear out of nowhere in 64 cities all around the world written by Hank Green, one-half of one of my favorite YouTube channels? Sign me up! An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is the debut novel from Hank Green, co-creator of the YouTube channel Vlogbrothers and the brother of best-selling YA novelist John Green. It’s a book about more than giant alien robot statues invading the Earth. It’s a book about how fame corrupts us, the dangers of radicalization, and what makes us human. It’s also really, really good.

The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship–like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor–April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world–everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires–and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity, and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

Compulsively entertaining and powerfully relevant, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing grapples with big themes, including how the social internet is changing fame, rhetoric, and radicalization; how our culture deals with fear and uncertainty; and how vilification and adoration spring from the same dehumanization that follows a life in the public eye.

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An Exclusive Interview with Michael J. Martinez (Author of the “MJ-12” Series)

mjm-new

Photo by Anna Martinez

A few weeks ago, the third (and final) book in the MJ-12 series, MJ-12: Endgame, was released (and you can check out my review of it here). It’s a super good, super satisfying conclusion to the series and I fully recommend anyone who’s a fan of superheroes, spies, alternate histories, or speculative fiction check it out. Recently, I got the chance to ask Michael J. Martinez (author of the MJ-12 series and the Daedalus trilogy) some questions related to the MJ-12 series, his inspiration behind it, his process of writing it, and his thoughts and feelings related to certain characters and events that happened throughout the book. NOTE: About 2/3 of the way through the interview, a few of the questions ventured into spoiler territory. Those questions have been clearly marked with a large block of texts that indicates when the spoilers begin and end. If you haven’t finished MJ-12: Endgame, I highly suggest you skip past that section until you’ve read the book.  (more…)

REVIEW: “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic #1”

mst3k-issue1-coverIn news that should surprise absolutely no one, Mystery Science Theater 3000 makes for a really funny, really enjoyable, and really good comic. Written by a team of writers that includes series creator Joel Hodgson, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic features Jonah Heston, Crow T. Robot, and Tom Servo being forced into the pages of public domain comics by Kinga Forrester and her lackey, Max. To survive these trips into those comics, Jonah and the ‘bots must riff their way through them.

MST3K as you’ve never seen it before! The riffing hilarity of Mystery Science Theater 3000 comes to comics when Kinga Forrester pairs her Kingachrome Liquid Medium with her latest invention –the Bubbulat-R! Jonah Heston, Crow T. Robot, and Tom Servo find themselves thrust into the 2-D world of public domain comics, with riffing as their only defense! Created for comics by Joel Hodgson! The hit Netflix show has come to comics! Variant cover by longtime MST3K DVD artist Steve Vance!

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“MJ-12: Endgame” (by Michael J. Martinez) is a satisfying conclusion to the MJ-12 series.

mj-12 endgameWhat do you do when you’ve written a stellar first book of a series and an even better second book? You write a satisfying conclusion that blows both of the previous books out of the water and delivers everything fans of the series could want! I’m pleased to report that this is exactly what Michael J. Martinez did with MJ-12: Endgame, the third and final book in the MJ-12 series.

Josef Stalin is dead. In the aftermath, the Soviet Union is thrown into crisis, giving former secret police chief Laverentiy Beria exactly the opening he needs. Beria’s plan is to secretly place his country’s Variants―ordinary people mysteriously embued with strange, superhuman powers―into the very highest levels of leadership, where he can use them to stage a government coup and seize control of the USSR.

America’s response comes from its intelligence communities, including the American Variants recruited for the top-secret MAJESTIC-12 program, who are suddenly thrown into their most dangerous and important assignment yet. From the halls of the Kremlin to the battlefields of Korea, superpowered covert agents face off to determine the future of the planet―a future their very existence may ultimately threaten.

(This review may contain minor spoilers for the book – great efforts have been taken to remain as spoiler-free as possible, but you’ve been warned nonetheless)  (more…)