books

REVIEW: “Stranger Things: The Other Side”

Stranger Things - The Other SideStranger Things is massively successful. It’s probably Netflix’s biggest hit in the past five years, or so. So, it was only a matter of time before it started branching out into other mediums. Earlier last month, the first official novel – Gwenda Bond’s Suspicious Minds (my review of it here) – was released, but prior to that, Dark Horse Comics released a limited series – written by Jody Houser and illustrated by Stefano Martino – telling the unseen story of Will Byers during the events of season 1. It’s a great idea for a tie-in comic, but is the execution as good as the concept? Mostly, yeah.

When Will Byers finds himself in the Upside Down, an impossible dark parody of his own world, he’s understandably frightened. But that’s nothing compared with the fear that takes hold when he realizes what’s in that world with him!

(more…)

REVIEW: Dark Horse Comics’ “American Gods”, Volumes 1 & 2

Buffalo ManFirst, American Gods was an award-winning novel by Neil Gaiman. Then, it lingered in development hell for a decade – first as a film, then as a TV series – only to finally be picked up by Starz and given its first season in 2017 (and currently airing its second). Lastly, it was adapted by Dark Horse Comics – and P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton – as a comic book. American Gods is a story that lends itself very well to the medium of comics as it’s a very visual book, with characters and locales that are large than life. It’s an adaptation that many fans have desired for a long time – given Gaiman’s beginnings in the world of comics with The Sandman – so, with two (of three) volumes of the American Gods comic now complete, how is this adaptation holding up? Answer: very well.

American Gods: Shadows
Shadow Moon gets out of jail only to discover his wife is dead. Defeated, broke, and uncertain where to go from here, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who employs him to serve as his bodyguard–thrusting Shadow into a deadly world where ghosts of the past come back from the dead, and a god war is imminent.

American Gods: My Ainsel
The bizarre road trip across America continues as our heroes gather reinforcements for the imminent god war! Shadow and Wednesday leave the House on the Rock and continue their journey across the country where they set up aliases, meet new gods, and prepare for war.

(more…)

REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The 13th Doctor – Volume 1”

Doctor Who - Thirteenth Doctor Vol 1Doctor Who has a long history in comics, branching all the way back into the earliest days of the show. That history continues in the present, with Titan Comics’ line of Doctor Who stories – the latest being a new series of stories featuring Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor. Just like the newest series of the show did, this comic – written by Jody Houser and illustrated by Rachael Stott – features an all-new adventure with all-new side characters and an all-new villain. Unlike a good chunk of the newest series, however, this story actually features a satisfying beginning, middle, and end.

Bursting straight out of her hit new television adventures, this first collection of the Thirteenth Doctor’s comic book tales is a scorchingly fresh incarnation, taking the show – and its comic strip adventures – where no Doctor has gone before!

Facing off against vile villains and misunderstood monsters in flavours both human and alien, the Doctor and her friends must push the limits of time and space, confronting evils deliberate and accidental all throughout history – and uncovering secrets long-hidden and wonders never-seen along the way!

Perfect for fans old and new alike, this is an awe-inspiring jumping on point to the Doctor Who comics mythos.

Buy it, read it, then travel back in time to read it for the first time all over again…!

Collects Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #1-4.

(more…)

REVIEW: “Stranger Things – Suspicious Minds” by Gwenda Bond

suspicious mindsMy biggest problem with Stranger Things is that there’s too much pre-teen drama and not enough spooky stuff/weird government conspiracy stuff. I find myself far more interested in what’s going on in Hawkins Lab than I am in what Dustin, Mike, Will, and Luke are up to. So, getting through the show is always a bit of an ordeal for me as I just want the weird, spooky stuff. So, when Suspicious Minds was announced as the first official Stranger Things tie-in novel, I was pretty excited. It sounded like I’d finally be getting my wish. I’m happy to report that this novel is full of weird, creepy government stuff and I adored every page of it.

A mysterious lab. A sinister scientist. A secret history. If you think you know the truth behind Eleven’s mother, prepare to have your mind turned Upside Down in this thrilling prequel to the hit show Stranger Things.

It’s the summer of 1969, and the shock of conflict reverberates through the youth of America, both at home and abroad. As a student at a quiet college campus in the heartland of Indiana, Terry Ives couldn’t be farther from the front lines of Vietnam or the incendiary protests in Washington.

But the world is changing, and Terry isn’t content to watch from the sidelines. When word gets around about an important government experiment in the small town of Hawkins, she signs on as a test subject for the project, code-named MKULTRA. Unmarked vans, a remote lab deep in the woods, mind-altering substances administered by tight-lipped researchers . . . and a mystery the young and restless Terry is determined to uncover.

But behind the walls of Hawkins National Laboratory—and the piercing gaze of its director, Dr. Martin Brenner—lurks a conspiracy greater than Terry could have ever imagined. To face it, she’ll need the help of her fellow test subjects, including one so mysterious the world doesn’t know she exists—a young girl with unexplainable superhuman powers and a number instead of a name: 008.

Amid the rising tensions of the new decade, Terry Ives and Martin Brenner have begun a different kind of war—one where the human mind is the battlefield.

(more…)

REVIEW: “What In God’s Name?” (aka “Miracle Workers”) by Simon Rich

coverTonight, TBS is premiering a new show, Miracle Workers, based on Simon Rich’s novel, What In God’s Name?, a book about God deciding he doesn’t want to keep dealing with humans, so he’s going to destroy the Earth instead – leaving two angels, Craig and Eliza, the task of convincing God that humanity is worth saving. Since the novel wasn’t too long, I thought I’d give it a read before the show premiered on TV to see how good it was. I’m happy to report that it’s a genuinely entertaining read.

Welcome to Heaven, Inc., the grossly mismanaged corporation in the sky. For as long as anyone can remember, the founder and CEO (known in some circles as “God”) has been phoning it in. Lately, he’s been spending most of his time on the golf course. And when he does show up at work, it’s not to resolve wars or end famines, but to Google himself and read what humans have been blogging about him.

When God decides to retire (to pursue his lifelong dream of opening an Asian Fusion restaurant), he also decides to destroy Earth. His employees take the news in stride, except for Craig and Eliza, two underpaid angels in the lowly Department of Miracles. Unlike their boss, Craig and Eliza love their jobs – uncapping city fire hydrants on hot days, revealing lost keys in snow banks – and they refuse to accept that earth is going under.

The angels manage to strike a deal with their boss. He’ll call off his Armageddon, if they can solve their toughest miracle yet: getting the two most socially awkward humans on the planet to fall in love. With doomsday fast approaching, and the humans ignoring every chance for happiness thrown their way, Craig and Eliza must move heaven and earth to rescue them – and the rest of us, too.

(more…)

REVIEW: “Doctor Who: Scratchman” by Tom Baker

ScratchmanDoctor Who: Scratchman is a story that’s been gestating for a long time. Beginning life as an idea for a film by the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, himself, Scratchman never resulted in an actual film, and the idea gathered a lot of dust as Baker moved onto other things. Until now, that is. Aided by prolific Doctor Who novelist, James Goss, Tom Baker returned to his Scratchman idea and turned it into the newest Doctor Who novel from BBC Books. So, is the novel worth the long wait? More or less, yeah.

In his first-ever Doctor Who novel, Tom Baker’s incredible imagination is given free rein. A story so epic it was originally intended for the big screen, Scratchman is a gripping, white-knuckle thriller almost forty years in the making.

The Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane Smith arrive at a remote Scottish island, when their holiday is cut short by the appearance of strange creatures – hideous scarecrows, who are preying on the local population. The islanders are living in fear, and the Doctor vows to save them all. But it doesn’t go to plan – the time travelers have fallen into a trap, and Scratchman is coming for them.

With the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, the Doctor must battle an ancient force from another dimension, one who claims to be the Devil. Scratchman wants to know what the Doctor is most afraid of. And the Doctor’s worst nightmares are coming out to play…

(more…)

SCRIPT REVIEW: “Network” by Lee Hall

network lee hall

Regular readers of this blog know that I don’t frequently review the scripts of plays. Most scripts are designed to just be the blueprint of a theatrical production; their main purpose in existing is to aid directors, designers, and actors in the creation of a live performance. So, it’s often unfair to judge a play based solely on its script as there are so many more elements that go into a successful play than just a good script. That being said, I recently read the script for Network – a new adaptation of the classic film – and I have some thoughts on it.

I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore. Howard Beale, news anchorman, isn’t pulling in the viewers. In his final broadcast he unravels live on screen. But when the ratings soar, the network seize on their newfound populist prophet, and Howard becomes the biggest thing on TV. Adapted for the stage by Lee Hall from the Paddy Chayefsky film, Network premiered at the National Theatre, London, in November 2017.

(more…)

REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Secret in Vault 13” By David Solomons

secret in vault 13I am beginning to notice a trend with these books featuring the Thirteenth Doctor: I am liking them more than I liked a lot of the episodes in her first season. Perhaps it’s the fact that the novels have a bit more time to fully tell the stories they are wanting to tell. Perhaps it’s because these writers have an amazing grasp on these characters and the kinds of Doctor Who stories that work well in prose-form. Whatever the case, The Secret in Vault 13 is another excellent Doctor Who novel.

The Doctor has never faced a challenge quite like this.
A sinister school where graduation means death . . .
A monstrous mystery lurking beneath a quiet London street . . .
A desperate plea for help delivered by . . . Hang on. A potted plant?

The Doctor has been summoned. The galaxy is in terrible danger, and only a Time Lord can save it. But to do so, she must break into the ancient Galactic Seed Vault. And at its heart lies a secret: Vault 13. The Vault has remained unopened for millions of years and is located on a remote and frozen world–from which nobody has ever returned alive. . . .

Can the Doctor and her friends Yaz, Ryan, and Graham uncover the shocking secret in Vault 13?

(more…)

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.’

(more…)

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.

(more…)