books

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…)

“Rose” and “The Christmas Invasion” Round Out the First Wave of “Doctor Who: The Target Collection” With Enjoyable Stories

target collection - rose and christmas invasionI already reviewed the last two titles in the revamped line of Target Books Novelizations of Doctor Who episodes, so I figured I’d go ahead and review the first two titles in the line. Like The Day of the Doctor and Twice Upon a TimeRose (by Russel T. Davies, based on his script) and The Christmas Invasion (by Jenny T. Colgan, based on a script by Russel T. Davies) are novelizations of two episodes from the 2005 revived series of Doctor Who. Both episodes were written by Russel T. Davies and both novelizations follow the same plot as the episodes, but with added embellishments and asides.

Doctor Who: Rose (by Russel T. Davies)
In a lair somewhere beneath central London, a malevolent alien intelligence is plotting the end of humanity. Shop window dummies that can move – and kill – are taking up key positions, ready to strike. Rose Tyler, an ordinary Londoner, is working her shift in a department store, unaware that this is the most important day of her life. She’s about to meet the only man who understands the true nature of the threat facing Earth, a stranger who will open her eyes to all the wonder and terror of the universe – a traveller in time and space known as the Doctor.

Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion (by Jenny T. Colgan)
Earth is under attack by power-hungry aliens. This is no time for the Doctor to be out of action. When a British space probe is intercepted by a sinister alien vessel on the eve of Christmas, it marks the beginning of an audacious invasion of the Earth by the Sycorax – horrifying marauders from beyond the stars. Within hours, a third of humanity stands on the brink of death with not a single shot fired. Our planet needs a champion – but the Doctor is not fit for service. He’s just regenerated, delirious in a new body and a dressing gown. Forced into his battered shoes is his friend, Rose Tyler, a girl from a London council estate. Will she save the world from this nightmare before Christmas – or see it destroyed?

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Titan’s Doctor Who: “The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor #1” More Mediocre Than Exciting

Doctor Who - The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor 001 - Tenth Doctor Special-000aTitan Comics, publisher of the Doctor Who comics, have started their special miniseries leading to the launch of the ongoing 13th Doctor title: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more mediocre than exciting really, and a lot of that comes down to the way they’ve marketed the miniseries. Issue 1 of Doctor Who: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor is written by James Peaty and illustrated by Iolanda Zanfardino (with colors by Dijjo Lima) and features a short story involving the Tenth Doctor, Cindy, and Gabby, as well as featuring a small backup story from the creative team behind the 13th Doctor title (Jody Houser and Rachael Stott (and colors by Enrica Eren Angiolini))

The first of three stand-alone stories featuring the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor – each issue contains a serialised short from the creative team behind the new Thirteenth Doctor ongoing series.

The Tenth Doctor has his work cut out when he encounters a lost spaceship… whose crew are being absorbed by mysterious ghostly creatures! Everything is not as it seems, however, especially when disturbing facts about the crew come to light!

Note: there may be spoilers for this comic below so read at your own risk.  (more…)