QUICKIE REVIEWS: “Doctor Who” 50th Anniversary Short Stories #2-5

Doctor Who: The Nameless City by Michael Scott

Doctor Who meets Lovecraftian horror – though not quite as unspeakable horrifying as that sounds. Michael Scott perfectly understands the Second Doctor and Jamie – both as individual characters and as a truly dynamic duo. Here, he crafts this deliciously dark tale featuring the Necronomicon, a nameless city, and unknowable masses of swirling darkness that prove difficult to even look at. It’s quick-paced, perhaps a bit too quickly-paced at times. But it’s a thrilling read, and a lovely “what if” scenario imagining the Second Doctor in a very modern kind of Doctor Who episode.

Also, Frazer Hines (Jamie himself) reads the audio version of this story, and he does an absolutely remarkable job.

4 out of 5 wands

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REVIEW: “A House With Good Bones” by T. Kingfisher

I have a lot of mixed thoughts about T. Kingfisher’s “A House With Good Bones”. On the one hand, it’s a haunting, deeply effective look at the oppressiveness of familial trauma mixed with an incredibly creepy dose of unknowable horror. But on the other hand, it feels like a book that gets lost in its own ideas, bouncing back and forth between them.

Samantha Montgomery returns to her childhood home after getting furloughed from her latest archaeological dig. When she arrives, she finds the house repainted and her mom in a deep state of anxiety – as though something, or someone, is haunting her. And to make matters worse, strange occurrences keep piling up. Vultures seem to circle the house, as though keeping a close eye on all those inside it. There appear to be no bugs in the garden, yet swarms of ladybugs flood the house. And worst of all, Samantha’s mother seems to believe her grandmother, Grama Mae, is alive, twenty years after her death.

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REVIEW: “In the Lives of Puppets” by TJ Klune

Pinocchio’s had a bit of a resurgence as of late. After all, last year saw no less than three film adaptations, including Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning animated film. And now, T.J. Klune offers his own adaptation with In the Lives of Puppets. Mashing the basic story of Pinocchio with a post-apocalyptic android future, In the Lives of Puppets does everything a good Pinocchio story should. It explores innocence in a world of darkness, the idea of found families, and most importantly – what makes us human. It’s a heartwarming story of a vacuum, a nurse droid, a murder droid, and their squishy, human friend. If you’ve ever read a T.J. Klune book, you know exactly what vibes to expect – though you might not get everything you’re used to here. And if you’re new to his work, buckle up and prepare for a joyous ride.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who and the Daleks” (Illustrated Edition) by David Whittaker and Robert Hack

I don’t say this lightly, but this might just be the best way to experience Doctor Who’s very first Dalek story. Written in the first person from Ian’s point of view, Doctor Who and the Daleks takes everything exciting from the TV version of the story and just improves upon it in almost every conceivable way. It’s the story you know, but with an added layer that turns it into something entirely new.

If you’ve seen “The Daleks”, then you know the basic story. The TARDIS turns up on the planet Skaro, where the Doctor, Susan, Barbara, and Ian encounter the deadly Daleks and the mysterious Thals. Soon, they’re drawn into the middle of a centuries-long war, desperate to find a way to defeat the Daleks and leave this planet before the Daleks blow it to smithereens. A familiar story, and one that’s recreated fairly faithfully. But this isn’t a perfect, line-by-line adaptation. No, Whittaker adds a few twists to the story, spicing things up.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii” by James Moran

There are two kinds of really good Doctor Who Target novelizations. The ones that take the episode’s original story and gently enhance it and the ones that wholly reimagine their source material. James Moran’s adaptation of his episode, “The Fires of Pompeii”, is a perfect example of the former. This novelization doesn’t rock the boat in any meaningful way. It’s very much the original episode, just with a bit of extra stuff to enhance the story. And it’s all the better for that.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light” by Rona Munro

The Eaters of Light” wasn’t my favorite episode of Doctor Who’s tenth series – not by a long shot. But this novelization, written by the episode’s screenwriter, Rona Munro, takes an otherwise forgettable story and turns it into something that works relatively well. The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole arrive in second-century Scotland, trying to figure out what happened to the Roman Ninth Legion. Along the way, they uncover a small Scottish village under siege by a mysterious creature from another world. A creature that eats light. It’s up to the Doctor, Bill, Nardole, and the remnants of both the village and the Ninth Legion to stop this creature before it devours the universe as we know it.

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REVIEW: “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea is the very definition of an “if you can make it past the first hundred pages, you’ll adore it” book. The first hundred pages or so reads like a very Douglas Adams kind of satire on the inefficiencies of government. “Hitchhiker’s Guide” meets urban fantasy, if you will. But once Linus arrives at Marsyas Island Orphanage, the titular house in the cerulean sea, things take a much lovelier, heartwarming turn.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “The Destroyer of Worlds: A Return to Lovecraft Country” by Matt Ruff

The Destroyer of Worlds feels like a “middle installment” in every sense of the phrase. On the one hand, it offers a very welcome return to the world of Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country. On display once again is this startlingly haunting marriage of Lovecraftian horror and Jim Crow-era racism. While not quite as scary as the first book, it still offers a fast-paced, thrilling ride through some classic, pulpy sci-fi tropes. And getting to spend more time with these characters is a delight, too, especially those characters that didn’t get quite as much focus in the first book (like Hippolyta and Ruby). 

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REVIEW: Dark Horse Comics’ “Norse Mythology Volume 3”

Everything ends. And everything begins again. At least, that’s how Ragnarok goes in Norse Mythology Volume 3, the final volume in Dark Horse Comics’ adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. While the first two volumes follow the (mostly) light-hearted, irreverent misadventures of the Norse gods, Norse Mythology Volume 3 takes a turn toward the dark side, showcasing the end of everything and the rebirth of things anew. Adaptor P. Craig Russell once again brings Gaiman’s text to life beautifully, aided by artwork from David Rubín, Colleen Doran, and Galen Showman. And, truth be told, Norse Mythology Volume 3 is easily the highlight of the entire series.

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January 2023 Book Roundup

In any given month, there’s a lot of stuff I read or watch that I don’t feel the need to review in full. So, in lieu of reviews, I’ve decided to do little monthly recaps of what I’ve read, complete with smaller, mini-reviews of each title. So, without further adieu, here’s a look back at the month of January.

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