Category Archives: review

Review: Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

Tunnel in the Sky

For years, a good friend has been recommending Robert A. Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky to me and for years it’s sat on my to-be-read shelf, silently accusing me of neglect. One excuse I’d used was I was part of a sci-fi/fantasy book group that read a novel by Heinlein to start the year and I figured we’d eventually get around to Tunnel.

But the book group became extinct and the book just kept sitting there, expectantly. So, I finally dusted it off and cracked the cover.

If you follow my reviews, you know that I’m not a huge fan of Heinlein. I know he’s an influential writer in the science-fiction genre, but I find that I enjoy less of his output than most people do. Part of it could be that my first entry into the universe of Heinlein was some of his later works, which I’ve come to understand aren’t the best entry points or examples of what makes him so well regarded.

I will also say that I find his “juvenile” novels to be far more entertaining and readable than some of his novels intended for more “mature” readers. And that’s the case with Tunnel in the Sky.

With Earth exploring the universe by a series of gates, young Rod Walker wants nothing more than to leave Earth behind and explore a new horizon. Signing up for a survival course, Rod and his classmates’ final assignment is to take a trip through the gate to an unexplored, unknown world and survive for up to a week. Encouraged by his older sister (who is a member of the military and took the course during his school years), Rod sets out on the assignment, but soon finds something has gone wrong. Cut off from Earth and hopes of returning home, Rod and his classmates set out to not only survive but also to create a society for themselves.
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Review: Doctor Who: Lights Out by Holly Black

Lights Out

For the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who, Puffin gave readers a series of novellas by popular young adult authors, each one focusing on a different incarnation of our favorite Time Lord. With the dawn of the Peter Capaldi era, Puffin has given fans a complete set of Doctors with Holly Black’s “Lights Out” story.

And yet as I read the novella, I couldn’t help but feel this was less a Doctor Who story than one that Holly Black might tell with the Doctor inserted into it.

In many ways, this story reminded me of stories from the (then) annual Strange New Worlds collection that were written by fans about just one installment of Enterprise aired. Black’s story feels like it was written right after “Deep Breath” aired with multiple references to the Capaldi Doctor’s eye brows and his over more gruff demeanor. He comes across our first-person narrator on a future world where coffee is scarce and the two meet while waiting in line for some.

As a set-up, it’s decent enough, but even as a novella it feels like the Doctor’s involvement is tangential at best. Even given the more “at arm’s length” approach to the companions that Capaldi’s Doctor has taken, it still didn’t quite feel right here.

The second half features a few attempted twists and turns that I’m not sure work as well as they could or should.

All in all, I came away from this entry feeling a bit disappointed. I wonder if I’d read it closer to the time that Black wrote it and instead of having a dozen episodes to get to know this new Doctor if my feelings might have been different. As it stands, I have to call this one of the lesser entries in Puffin’s offerings.

I received a digital ARC of this novella from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Flash: “The Man in the Yellow Suit”

yellowsuitI don’t know what Arrow or Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD have up their sleeve, but it’s going to be VERY hard for them to top The Flash‘s mid-season finale.

“The Man in the Yellow Suit” hit just about every button of what has made The Flash my favorite new show of the season.  And I couldn’t help but thinking as I watched the hour unfold that whoever is in charge of the DC movie empire might want to call up the writers from The Flash for some pointers on how to do a DC superhero movie right.    Quite frankly, this single hour of The Flash was far more entertaining and compelling that the last couple of DC related superhero movies I’ve seen (really much of anything outside the Nolan-verse Batman films) — especially Green Lantern and Man of Steel.   I’ll also have to admit it makes me less enthusiastic to see the big-screen version of The Flash simply because I’m loving what this show is doing with the character and universe here.

Call me a fan-boy if you want, but I love this show.

And “The Man in the Yellow Suit” delivered on just about every level, answering just enough questions while raising a few more.    Continue reading

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Review: Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever

Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever

Considered by many to be the finest hour the original Star Trek ever produced, the televised version of “City of the Edge of Forever” is very different from the initial storyline submitted by Harlan Ellison. Ellison has been famously unhappy ever since his story was re-written by various Trek staff members including Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon and Dorothy Fontana, even going so far as to publish the original script and various drafts a decade ago, along with a long rant about how terrible Gene Roddenberry was.

As a long time fan of Star Trek, I read the book though I’ll have to admit that I find reading a television script a bit dry. Years later, IDW got Ellison’s blessing to adapt the original script as a comic book and give fans a taste of what the story might have looked like visually had it gone before the cameras as Ellison intended back in 1967.

The result is the five-part mini-series collected in this volume.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t find a lot in Ellison’s original draft that is any better or more nuanced than the final version of “City on the Edge of Forever.” In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that the televised version is a better episode of Star Trek than what we see either in the script book or in this comic book adaptation.
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Short Story Review: Five Fires by Laura Lippman

Five Fires

I love a good short story and Laura Lippman’s Five Fires is not only a good short story, it’s a great one.

It’s summer time in the small town of Bellville and Beth is holding down a job at the local sandwich shop while dreaming of escaping to college and a major in Criminal Justice. But when a series of fires breaks out across town, Beth puts her deductive skills to the test and thinks she’s got the tip that will break the case wide open for the police.

As with her other works, Lippman is more than just about the mystery, she’s about the impact of the mystery on her characters and the community as a whole. In her typical fashion, there’s more going on here than meets the eye and having Beth as a first-person narrator helps set things up for the final few reveals and some well-earned surprises.

Lippman’s storytelling is sound. As I generally say with all Lippman works, if you haven’t read her yet, you should be. And if you’re looking for just a taste to find out what those of us who love her have been raving about, then this short story is a quick way to get hooked.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this story from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Complete Peanuts, Volume 2: 1953 – 1954

The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 2: 1953-1954

Just like its predecessor, there are a lot of Peanuts cartoons collected here that I don’t recall reading in my younger days. How much of that is that the memories of those collections are lost to the ravages of time and how much of it is that these particular cartoons weren’t included in previous collections, I can’t really say. What I can say is that reading the entire creative output of Charles M. Schulz from two years is a fascinating journey.

In this second collection, the characters and characteristics of those characters are starting to come into better shape. Snoopy still acts like a regular dog, only occasionally talking to the audience and rarely having the flights of fancy that will later define him. Lucy comes to the fore a bit more and feels like the showcase star of this collection — from her being a fussbudget to her dissatisfaction with going to nursery school. There are hints of the Lucy that many of us associate with the character developing here, though I’d argue she has a gentler, more human side than we see in later years. (This may be something that I will have to observe as I continue to read these collections).

Over the course of two years, you can see Schultz refining his technique, his humor and his characters. There are some characters who make appearances here that will slowly fade into the background, while others are just emerging. Schroeder has his love of Beethoven and serves as a sounding board for budding cartoon artist Charlie Brown. Pigpen makes his debut toward the later half of the collection, with various observations that you can kick up a cloud of dust everywhere you go and still be happy and well adjusted. One of the more intriguing introductions toward the end of 1954 is Carlotta Brown, who essentially looks like Charlie Brown, drawn in a dress and with curly hair. Her other defining characteristic is that she talks in a loud voice (think Monty Python’s guy who likes to shout). It will be interesting to see how long she stays around and if and how Schultz fazes her out. I’ll be honest that I’ve never come across her in previous collections — and there may be a reason.

The book remains a fascinating look at an iconic comic strip as it develops. It also continues to show that Peanuts is never static.

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Review: Fairest, Volume 4: Of Mice and Men

Fairest, Vol. 4: Of Men and Mice

Fans of Vertigo’s on-going comic book series Fables will find a lot to like in this spin-off. Collecting six issues of Fairest centering on Cinderella as a secret agent hot on the trail of a new human-rodent hybrid. Her adventures take her across the entire world, where she has various run-ins with familiar fairy-tale faces.

If you’re not familiar with the on-going plot threads from Fables and the first three collections in this series, you may be a bit confused at first. This comic series doesn’t follow the old Stan Lee rule of consider every issue to be someone’s first issue.

But even not knowing every detail, I was still able to dig in and enjoy some sparkling (at times) dialogue and a good fairy-tale spy thriller. Adding to my enjoyment of this book is a consistent artistic style that allowed me to identify each character from issue to issue with ease. The included single issue covers are also a highlight of the collection, paying homage to the spy novels and thrillers of a by-gone era.

Of Mice and Men reminded me that there are interesting things being done in comic books today and that I’m behind on a lot of it. It encouraged me to seek out other collections within the Fables universe and maybe get caught up a bit before the series winds down early next year. Maybe after reading some of the issues that lead up to it, I will give this one another shot and come away with a greater appreciation for how some of what I read hit fits into the larger narrative unfolding.

But even if I don’t, I still enjoyed the art, the story and the characters. A solid collection of six issues — and you won’t turn into a pumpkin if you don’t read it before midnight.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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