With what seems like hundreds of Star Trek tie-in novels published over the last forty-plus years, I understand that finding new, unexplored areas of the “final frontier” can be a bit difficult. I also understand there are only so many ways you can tie together elements from the original seventy-nine episode run and have it still feel fresh.
Much of Devil’s Bargain has the feeling of “been there, done that,” to it for the crew of the starship Enterprise. In many ways, it feels like a third-season episode of the classic series and if you’ve watched the show, you know that isn’t exactly a compliment.
The frontier world of Vesbius is facing destruction because a huge asteroid is bearing down on the planet. The population withdrew from the Federation years ago, but that doesn’t mean the Federation is willing to let them all die in the coming catastrophe. They send Captain Kirk and company to try and evacuate the colony, but the colonists refuse to leave the planet. We eventually discover why they can’t and won’t leave as well as finding out that the population is a bit xenophobic. Ironically, it’s Spock who comes up with a potential solution — warp over to Janus VI and pick up a batch of Horta to mine the asteroid and break it up into chunks that will be more manageable for the Enterprise to take out or that won’t cause as much damage upon impact to the planet.
Along the way, Kirk falls in love with the daughter of the planetary leader and spends a lot of time pondering this. There are entire passages in which one or the other reflect on their relationship and how its only going to be a limited thing, but by golly, they sure are in love. I can see what Tony Daniel was trying to achieve here, but the execution is a bit lacking.
Daniel’s first Trek novel has some potential, but it never really all comes together.
Each time I pick up a new Trek novel, my memory is cast back to my teenage years when I couldn’t get enough of the Pocket novels. I’m beginning to believe my memories of most of those books are better than the actual novels themselves. Or else my tastes have changed (in large part because of the output of one Peter David) and I don’t find the standard, cliche ridden Trek novel quite as satisfying as I once did. Either way, I have to admit this one didn’t so much disappoint as it’s guilty of not living up to my memories and expectations.
Once upon a time, Evelyn was a “good” girl, but when her family fell apart around her, she began to rebel against her good girl image. This included quitting most of her extra-curricular activities, dressing in a provocative fashion and secretly dating and sleeping with Todd. Her distant parents (she calls him The Stranger because he cheated on her mother and left for a while and her mother has thrown herself into work) are so disconnected that don’t realize that Todd is sneaking over most nights for a little extra-curricular activity with Evelyn right under their noses.
The only thing that matters to Evelyn is maintaining her GPA and escaping from Jacksonville to a better life in college.
And then things go from bad to worse when Evelyn discovers she’s pregnant and she can’t bring herself to tell Todd, much less her parents. Evelyn struggles with the decisions she must now face and worries about losing her one last friend and the implications of her decisions on what she will do about the baby. It doesn’t help that Todd abandons her, saying he can’t bring shame on his family by telling them about Evelyn or her condition. Continue reading
Anyone worried about a post-Avengers letdown can breathe a little easier – at least as far as Iron Man 3 is concerned. The beginning of Marvel’s phase two of its movie empire begins on a high note with the best-in-the-series entry, Iron Man 3.
Set after the events of The Avengers, Iron Man 3 finds Tony Stark have a difficult time emotionally dealing with the events of last year’s huge hit. Unable to sleep and obsessed with building an entire fleet of upgraded armors, Tony has isolated himself from the world and his friends. What brings him back to the world is an attack by the ruthless terrorist called the Mandarin on United States soil. The blast puts Happy in the hospital in critical condition. In a heated moment, Tony calls out the Mandarin on live television, swearing revenge and justice on the terrorist.
It’s one of multiple gripping moments during the course of Iron Man 3’s two hour plus running time. And it’s one that is superbly played by actor Robert Downey, Jr., once again confirming what most of us have known since the original Iron Man installment – he’s the perfect actor to play Tony Stark and Iron Man. Of course, it helps that Downey has a strong supporting cast who are all given a moment to shine in the sequel.
Had it not been for Gone Girl, I think I might have liked Deb Caletti’s first “adult” novel He’s Gone a great deal more.
Dani Keller wakes up on a typical Sunday morning to find her husband has gone missing. They had a mild argument the night before and Dani had a bit too much to drink at a party for her husband’s company. Initially not concerned, she assumes he’s out blowing off steam and will come back soon. However, as the hours stretch on and he won’t answer his cell phone and she discovers his car and his car keys have been left behind, Dani slowly begins to worry something more is going on than meets the eye.
Comparisons to Gone Girl are probably inevitable and I think that’s a bit unfair to both books. But it’s going to happen given that the two share a similar starting point for the narrative. He’s Gone works well when it’s filling in the details of how Dani and her husband met (they were both married to someone else at the time and began an affair) and we are slowly given glimpses of their life together. Where the novel tends to grinds its gears a bit too much are in the present situation as Dani reflects on their current life and marriage and the implications of whether her husband has left her or something more sinister is in play.
It all leads up to an ending that I found rather anti-climatic. I can see what Caletti is trying to achieve, but I’m not necessarily sure He’s Gone achieves it. A lot of this comes down to the fact that as a first-person narrator, Dani is a bit too reflective and honest with us. There’s a lot of telling us things that have happened or are happening.
In short, He’s Gone was good, but not great. I was hoping it would be something more.
While pursuing a lead about a young man pulled from the subway tracks by a mysterious woman, lawyer turned journalist McKenna Wright uncovers more than she bargained for. A video shot on a cell phone reveals the identity of the woman — someone who looks a lot like McKenna’s old friend Susan, who went missing five years before under mysterious circumstances. Not content to let sleeping dogs lie, McKenna begins to slowly peel back the layers of the current story and discover just how much of a connection is has to the disappearance of her friend all those years ago.
For the past couple of years, Alafair Burke has given readers some of the more entertaining, character driven legal thrillers that don’t have the name John Grisham attached to them. But with her newest novel If You Were Here, Burke tries something different from the legal thriller (though there are links to McKenna’s legal past and her time in the district attorney’s office) and goes in for a full-blown suspense thriller. Using short chapters, Burke keeps the surprises coming at a good clip that you’ll keep turning the pages and wondering just what the next dramatic revelation could or should be. It makes the novel a page turner, but not one that necessarily holds up well to scrutiny if you start to think too much either while taking a break from reading or once the entire picture is revealed.
It’s interesting that this novel is headed for shelves in time for the summer season because as I read it, I kept thinking just how well it would work as a beach or poolside read.
And while Burke’s previous works have taken a page from the legal thriller column and the works of Grisham, this one seems a bit more to take a page from the thrillers of Lee Child and his Jack Reacher series. (Eagle eyed readers will spot several homages to Reacher, though thankfully no one in this book is obsessed with coffee and that the fold-up toothbrush is the single greatest invention in the history of humankind).
This isn’t necessarily my favorite offering from Burke, but it’s a nice stand-alone novel that may open the door to readers discovering her other novels and enjoying those.
I’ve got to give the tie-in line of Doctor Who novels credit — at least the line is willing (once a year or so) to take a risk and give the fans something different from the standard tie-in novel.
First it was Michael Moorcock playing in the Doctor Who sandbox and now it’s Stephen Baxter. And the line is even willing to allow the big-name sci-fi and fantasy authors to play with other Doctor/companion teams besides the ones currently seen in the latest batch of episodes. That alone intrigues me enough that I’m willing to put aside my preconceptions and at least give these annual offerings a chance.
In the case of The Wheel of Ice, I have to admit I wondered how Baxter’s usual hard-SF style would fit with the less-than-hard-SF style of the classic series and, specifically, the second Doctor’s era. For the most part, it’s a successful hybrid. The result is a hard-SF based base-under-seige story in which Baxter comes closer than many other writers in the Doctor Who fold have come to capturing the second Doctor on the printed page.
The Wheel of Ice feels like a six-part Patrick Troughton era story, with all the strengths and weaknesses. The TARDIS trio of the Doctor, Jaime and Zoe come across well on the printed page and while the central dilemma and threat facing the TARDIS crew and a group of isolated humans is a bit more modern feeling, it all still works well enough to keep the pages turning. Baxter even throws in some continuity references to the second Doctor era to make fans happy.
All that said, the story isn’t perfect. There’s a lot of shuttling back and forth between various locations. And while that might work on the TV screen, in the novel it becomes a bit tedious. Add in that Baxter tries to translate Jaime’s Scottish accent to the printed page and there were moments that the novel became a bit frustrating.
Comparisons between classic Doctor Who writer Robert Holmes and current series runner Steven Moffat have been inevitable ever since Moffat’s first story “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances.” But these comparisons were even more inevitable (at least for this fan) on a weekend in which BBC America aired both “The Bells of Saint John” and the classic third Doctor serial “Spearhead from Space.”
Both stories find Earth under threat of invasion by aliens who are willing to use something mundane and turn it into something scary. In the case of Holmes, it was using plastics. In Moffat’s case, it’s wi-fi.
Of the two, I can tell you I vastly prefer the Holmes invasion story and not just because I’ve seen it multiple times.
It’s because the Holmes story didn’t feel like a mash-up of greatest hits from other successful installments of Doctor Who.
Every reader has his or her guilty pleasures. One of mine is young adult novels.
Or should I say young adult novels as audio books to listen to while I’m working out (in this case, running). In many cases, young adult novels serve as a solid distraction as the miles go by without demanding that I hang on every word and stop paying attention to my pace or things coming up ahead like mud, vehicles, fellow runners or roaming animals.*
So imagine my surprise when I downloaded the audio version of Saving Zoe to my iPod and the novel not only toyed with my expectations but actually exceeded them. It was entertaining enough that not only did I listen while exercising, but I worked in other times to listen to the story, hooked in by the narrator and the story itself.
As the story begins, Echo fully admits that she’s stuck in the stages of grief because of what happened to her older sister, Zoe, a year before. As her family tries to pick up the pieces of their lives with Zoe gone, Echo isn’t sure how to relate to anyone anymore, her mother is on “happy pills” and her father is burying his grief by working too much. Entering high school should be a new and exciting time for Echo, but the specter of her older sister hangs above everything and everyone that Echo comes into contact with.
The latest collection from the long run of The Amazing Spider-Man is a trip down memory lane.
Long before I knew about the existence of stores exclusively devoted to comic books and in the years before I was given mail subscriptions to my favorite books, I was at the mercy of which issues of my favorite books were at the local grocery store or drug store when I got to visit with parents or grandparents. The fact that I managed to collect a solid run of many of the issues featured in this book is a testament to the patience of all those people, who put up with my looking through the racks for the latest issue or that one I’d miss so I could have a complete story.
This run of issues is helped by the fact that it has a consistent creative team churning out the stories. I’m not sure how the comic book community as a whole feels about Roger Stern’s run at writing Spider-Man, but I’ve got to admit it holds up pretty well. Stern did a nice job with creating story arcs that lasted just long enough to sustain reader interest and tell a good story without feeling like he was extended things out to sell more issues (I’m looking at your modern comic books writers). Stern also clearly follows the model of Stan Lee, who said that you should treat every issue as if it’s someone’s first. Each issues offers a well integrated recap of what’s going on in the story and Spidey’s life without it necessarily feeling like an info-dump.
Ever since Stieg Larson’s Millenium trilogy hit it big, it seems like the mystery shelves have been flooded with a ton of imported mysteries and thrillers, all attempting to capture lighting in a bottle for a second time.
Of the translated thrillers I’ve read over the past couple of years, it’s Snow White Must Die that not only captured me and wouldn’t let go but also left me hoping that the rest of this series will get translated and published in America ASAP. Simply put, Snow White is one of the most entertaining and enthralling mystery novels I’ve read in a long time.
Over a decade ago, two girls with a romantic connection to Tobias Satorius went missing. Suspicion centered on Tobias, who experience a 24-hour blackout around the time of the disappearances, leading to Tobias’ conviction and ten year jail sentence. As he’s released from prison, Tobias returns home to find his parents estranged, his father’s business in ruin and the town unwilling to forget the crimes of which he was convicted.