Review: Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror (New Series Adventures, #55)

Being a Doctor Who fan these days is interesting. What was once a more solitary fandom has now become more social. Where it was once just me enjoying my VHS copies of the stories and haunting my local bookstores for the latest novel, it seems like these days you can’t turn around twice without seeing Doctor Who merchandise for sale everywhere.

It’s become so pervasive that there were copies of “Deep Breath” for sale in Wal-Mart the other day. Wal-Mart! It appears we’re in a golden age for tie-in merchandise to my favorite series.

And with a new Doctor arriving on the scene, it seems that the BBC is doing all it can to capitalize on fan enthusiasm, starting with the release of three new Peter Capaldi Doctor stories this week. Thanks to the kind people at NetGalley, I was able to secure ARC copies of the books a week or so before Capaldi made his debut on our screens. But being the obsessive fan that I am, I couldn’t bring myself to crack the digital covers of the books until I’d at least seen his debut story. I didn’t want to unintentionally spoil myself on details of the first story or to create any more notions of what I wanted from the Capaldi Doctor.

First up in the reading list was Mike Tucker’s The Crawling Terror. The Doctor and Clara arrive in a small town that is literally crawling with giant, potentially deadly insects. Investigating further, the Doctor uncovers unnatural experiments taking place that could have a tie to British and German experiments from the second World War and a potential alien invasion just waiting to happen.

While the concept of an alien invasion of our planet through the U.K. isn’t necessarily the most original Doctor Who plot, Tucker throws in just enough references to the classic and new series and gives it just enough of a twist that I didn’t necessarily mind that much. I’m also impressed with how well Tucker had translated Capladi’s take on the Doctor to the printed page. There are many instances where I could hear Capaldi delivering the dialogue that Tucker gives the Doctor. Clara is also well served by the story and feels authentic as well.

It makes me curious how much background material Tucker and his fellow authors were given to the early episodes. Did they read scripts or see test footage?Was it BBC sanctioned or did they have to get the scripts and footage via alternate means (since the first five scripts and working prints of a couple of episodes leaked to the Internet).

Whatever the case, Tucker does a solid job with The Crawling Terror. The story is effective and creepy.

As I said before, I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Why Do You Run? Two Books Help Provide Some Insight

During my sports editor days, I covered a lot of athletes. But one that has stayed with me was the story of a local woman who was involved in a serious car accident.

Doctors were able to save her life but they told her she’d never walk again nor have children. Two years later and a lot of hard work, physical therapy, prayers and a miracle or two, she not only gave birth to a child, but she was getting ready to run the Disney Marathon. Interviewing her for the story I was writing, she said she wanted to put on a running event in her home town as a way to give back. At one point, she said that I should consider running in the event and my first thought was — not unless I’m being chased by a bear.

Back then, I was exercising, but I didn’t really get how or why people ran.

Fast forward a couple of years and one evening I couldn’t go to my regular spin class. Instead, there was a running class and the instructor invited me to join. I did and while I didn’t love it right away, I began to understand a bit more why people run.

It’s hard to explain to people who don’t have any interest or desire to run (as I once did). But a couple of books I’ve read have shed some new insights and given me a couple of new ways to respond when I’m asked, “Why do you run?

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long DistancesThe Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman

Before I started running, I often wondered why people who ran did it. After all, as the old joke goes, you never see a runner smiling widely or looking like they’re having much, if any, fun.

Like author Matthew Inman (better known as The Oatmeal from his on-going web-comic), I didn’t really understand the appeal of running long distances until I actually got out there and started doing it.

Inman’s attempt to explain why he runs long distance is chronicled in The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.

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Doctor Who: “Into the Dalek”

intothedalek“Fantastic idea for a movie. Terrible idea for a proctologist.”

“Dalek” was an early classic for the new Doctor Who, ranking among my favorite stories of all-time.  So a story that features callbacks to that classic Christopher Eccleston era story was already going to be right in my wheelhouse.  Add in another superb performance by Peter Capaldi and some interesting bits about just who this new Doctor is and you’ve got another winner for this new era.

I know I’m probably in the minority on fully embracing and loving this one, but then again, I was quick to embrace and love “Victory of the Daleks” at the start of the Matt Smith era.  And while that episode hasn’t held up as well as my initial reaction, I still think it’s a lot better than most fans give it credit for.

“Into the Dalek” finds the Doctor brought in to heal a malfunctioning Dalek — one that has become “good” instead of wanting to exterminate everything it encounters.   Conflicted about what he should do, the Doctor brings Clara onto the scene because she’s a “carer” and does his caring for him.    Not sure if there really can be a “good” Dalek, the Doctor and Clara agree to be miniaturized and head inside the Dalek to fix what’s gone wrong and hopefully find some redemption for the Daleks as well as the Doctor.

In a story that calls to mind not only “Dalek,” but also “The Invisible Enemy,” the Doctor and Clara’s journey inside of a Dalek proves to be a fascinating one, not only because we have to contend with Dalek antibodies but we also get a look around inside the internal portions of the blobs of hate in bonded poly-caribide armor.  Much of the episode centers on just how alien and distant this new Doctor is, including his disdain for soldiers (setting up something when the Doctor and Clara’s new love interest Danny Pink cross paths, I’m sure) and the fact that he doesn’t believe there can be anything good in a Dalek.  In the end, the Doctor and Clara reconnect the memories that made the Dalek “good” and send it back among the Daleks as a changed Dalek — one that exterminates the fleet invading the ship and then convinces the Dalek fleet that all the humans have been exterminated.

The Dalek gets a look inside the Doctor’s mind and proclaims that he would not longer make a good Dalek as we heard during Eccleston’s era but that he is a good Dalek.  His hatred of the Daleks is so all-consuming that he’s become not much better than his mortal foes — the Doctor even references that it was his original visit to Skaro that defines who he is and when he became more than just a name he chose for himself.

It all adds up to some great speeches for Capaldi.  Of course, the episode also includes a lot of scenes that we’ve seen referenced in the trailers including the aforementioned “carer” and the “Am I good man?” question.   It seems as if the question may be one that the entire series is going to have to address and look into.  It may also come into question when and if we find out who Missy is and why she’s choosing certain victims of the Doctor’s influence to bring back.  Interestingly, she’s chosen two people so far that the Doctor doesn’t hold in high regard — the clockwork robot and a solider.  Is she collecting people the Doctor has dismissed to teach him a lesson or to create some kind of force to go up against him later in the season?

After a solid debut in “Deep Breath,” “Into the Dalek” is a nicely crafted hour that works well on just about every level.  I love the new storytelling pace that allows the show time to breath and to allow things to sink in a bit.  I also love the work Capaldi is doing  and the solid scripts he’s getting.   We’re two for two in this new era and this is one Doctor Who fan who is wholly satisfied.

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Two by Harlan Coben: Missing You, Six Years

Missing You

Given a year membership to a popular singles dating site, New York detective Kat Donovan reluctantly logs-on, hoping to give her love life a jump start. What she finds instead is a profile from the man who broke off their engagement eighteen years before and has mysteriously disappeared (she’s drunk Googled him a couple of times and comes up short).

Kat reaches out to him, using the lyrics of one of their favorite songs to catch his attention. But when he abruptly shuts down their communication and warns her not to contact him or seek him out again, Kat’s suspicions are raised. Could the disappearance of this guy be somehow linked to the death of her father all those years ago and the man who is about to die in prison for confessing to her father’s murder (as well as several others)?

And is her former fiancee connected to a string of rich widows who are disappearing under mysterious circumstances?

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Doctor Who: Deep Breath

doctor_who_deep_breath“Clara, I’m not your boyfriend.”

Looking back on the year leading up to the fiftieth anniversary, I can’t help but wonder if Steven Moffat and BBC America were doing something even more subversive with the Doctor’s Revisited than just introducing new series fans to the classic Doctors.  Could it have been that Moffat knew that he was going to take the series back to its classic roots with the next Doctor and was getting fans ready for it by showing us four-part classic Doctor Who stories that had a moment or two to breath and were paced a bit more leisurely than much of what we’ve seen for the past ten years?

It certainly seems like it could be the case based on “Deep Breath.”

If this is how the rest of series eight is going to be, consider me fully on board for this one.

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Bookstore Frustration

While running errands this weekend, I stopped into my local brick and mortar large chain bookstore, feeling the urge to possibly engage in some impulse book buying.

And I left empty handed.

Why you ask?

Pretty much the same frustration I have every time I enter a brick and mortar location of a large chain bookstore these days — the lack of space actually given to books coupled with the lack of selection once you actually start browsing the shelves.   As a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, I am perpetually frustrated by the lack of any substantive selection in the “new” section.  I often feel as if a lot of what’s put in this section is classified wrong.  I get that supernatural romance novels are selling well these days, but that’s not the only thing being published in the world of science-fiction and fantasy, for heaven’s sake!  

Of course, there are also the tie-in novels, which I am not above admitting that I’ve read more than my fair share and I’ve enjoyed them.   But I’m at the point with a lot of tie-in novels that I’m so far behind in the ever-increasingly continuity driven, interconnected, you have to read six books before this one and four books before those six to understand or enjoy what’s going on, that seeing these tie-in novels only reminds me how far behind I am and how much out of control my to-be-read pile is and that adding ten plus books to enjoy one new one doesn’t seem like the most realistic goal.  (Yes, that was a run-on sentence, but I hope it conveys my frustration and my thought process.)

Please don’t get me started on the ever-growing issue of having book three of a series but not book one in stock.  Nothing frustrates the side of me that wants/needs to read a series in order to be curious about book three, but not able to find book one on the shelf.  (This extends to my local library as well, though I will admit they’re doing better about having as much of a series as they can available to either check out or put on reserve).  

While browsing, a thought struck me.  I recalled seeing that the Hugo Awards were announced last weekend and so I decided I’d look for the newest winner, Ancillary Justice.   Pulling out my smart phone and connecting to GoodReads, I found the author information and began to skim the shelves, hopeful to spend a little discretionary income on the book.   And I found no copies of the book in the store.   I even checked the store’s “find a book” kiosk to find no copies in the store.

I could understand if this were some niche book that few had heard of, but this book just won the Hugo Award for heaven’s sake!  Couldn’t we spare some space for a copy or two so that impulsive shoppers like myself could pick it up.  I will admit I hope that maybe I was just behind the curve and that the one or two copies they did have were sold out, but given my earlier frustrations with the store, I highly doubt it.

And they wonder why so many readers go to the on-line retailers to buy our books….

For the record, I managed to leave said brick and mortar chain without purchasing a single book. 


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Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies

Something happened on trivia night at Piriwee Public — something so tragic that the police had to be called in to investigate and try to separate the truth from the rumors.

Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Liars starts with the tease about trivia night and then sends us back in time to build up to that night for four-hundred pages. It’s the story of three women — Jane, Celeste and Madeline — who each have children enrolled in Miss Barnes’ kindergarten class. At an orientation day, Jane’s son Ziggy is accused of bullying another girl in his class. Despite Ziggy’s denials, the incident polarizes families for and against Ziggy.

Jane secretly fears that Ziggy could have a bullying streak based on the one-night stand she had with his father, whom she hasn’t seen since. As Jane slowly becomes part of the community and friends with Madeline and Celeste, the three begin to discover that each of them is hiding things and that things aren’t as rosy as they would appear on the surface of their lives.

Over the course of Big Little Liars, Moriarty lays the foundation for everything to come to a head at trivia night. There are some fascinating but expertly set up revelations that come from the evening and what happens there. I’ll give Moriarty credit that while I was able to suss out one of the revelations, most of the others were a satisfying surprise.

To say much more is to give away too much and to rob readers of the opportunity to experience this novel for themselves.

Go, read it. I think you’ll like it.


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