Review: The Complete Peanuts, Volume 1: 1950-1952 by Charles M. Schultz

The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 1: 1950-1952The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 1: 1950-1952 by Charles M. Schulz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Growing up, I loved checking collections of Peanuts comic strips out of the library. During my younger years, there were two size to the Peanuts collections — the smaller, standard size paperbacks, which rarely included the Sunday strips and the larger trade paperbacks that included more comics per page and the Sunday strips. I have found memories of reading those collections over and over again and always heading to that section of the library with the hope that a new collection was on the shelf today — or at least one I’d only read a dozen or so times before.

Part of this love stemmed from the animated Peanuts specials and the feature length movies. And part of it came from the collection of Charlie Brown records, where dialogue from the animated specials was put onto vinyl and I could listen them over and over again. Like the books, there were two sizes — the shorter play records that ran from eight to fifteen minutes and the LP that included pretty much the entire special in audio form. In the days before we had VHS (yes, there were such dark days. We also walked to school, against the wind both ways through snow drifts, even in the middle of summer or when I lived in climates that didn’t have snow), those records helped me to enjoy the stories of Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and Snoopy over and over and over again.

It was always fascinating to see the strips that became some of the source material and inspiration for those various animated specials (and records). Continue reading

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TV Thoughts: The Flash, “Pilot”

theflashMarvel may be crushing it at the movie theaters these days, but when it comes to super heroes on TV, DC is more than holding its own.*

* If you count cartoon franchises, DC wins by a mile. The best Marvel animated series of the past decade was cancelled after two seasons (that series being The Spectacular Spider-Man).

As much as I liked the post-Captain America 2 run of Agents of SHIELD last year, I have to admit it had to do a lot of heavy lifting to get there. If you’re a fan who tuned out, I suggest you check out the last two DVDs from the set, catch-up and come back in. And while SHIELD came into its own late last year, it was Arrow that consistently delivered the best live-action comic book stories last season.

One of the many threads from Arrow last year was the set-up for a potential spin-off centering on The Flash. Now, I was a fan of the late 80’s CBS version, mainly because we got a preview of Mark Hammill’s genius work to come as the definitive Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. But I’ll admit that it’s been a while since I watched the show, so my memory could be cheating a bit.

Of the new fall shows, I’d have to say it was The Flash I was most looking forward to. So much so that I passed on the chance to obtain a copy of the pilot when it leaked on-line earlier this summer and instead made myself wait to see it actually unfold on its premiere date. One reason is that I didn’t want to have to wait two months for the next installment if the show was good and the other was I wanted to enjoy the show in all its HD glory.

So, I’m a bit behind some of my fellow geeks out there when it comes to enjoying this pilot. But I’m glad that I waited to see it because it gave me something to look forward to during the fall premiere season.

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Big Finish Reviews: “The Light at the End,” “The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs”

Doctor Who: The Light at the End (Standard Edition)Doctor Who: The Light at the End by Nicholas Briggs

While I loved just about every last moment of “The Day of the Doctor” (including getting a bit lump in my throat at a certain surprise scene), part of the classic Whovian in me was still a bit disappointed that we didn’t an appearance by all the remaining living Doctors. I realize that time has passed and that seeing the Doctors older might interfere with our memories of them (since they’re all ageless on the DVD releases), but I still think it would have been fun to see the Doctor run into some of his previous selves from the classic series run.

Leave it to Big Finish to fill in the gap with a year of connected audio stories, a series of adventures from the audio Doctors centered around the year 1963 and the jewel in the crown, “The Light at the End,” featuring all the remaining classic series Doctors and their companions in a huge, sprawling, convoluted and utterly enjoyable adventures that celebrates the fiftieth anniversary in style. The story even manages to find passable imitators of those Doctors no longer with us so we really can have a sprawling story featuring each of the first eight Doctors in a rousing adventures.

Interestingly, the story centers around November 1963 and several adventures by various Doctors all converging together. The script has just enough continuity nods and Easter eggs to the classic era, all while managing to tell a solid little tale. Of course, a lot of my enjoyment of this story could be the nostalgia factor alone and the realization that this is as close as we’ll get to the Doctors getting back together for one last reunion before we push on to the sixtieth anniversary. Continue reading

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Review: Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In

After a flu-like virus sweeps the world, a percentage of the population is “locked into” their bodies — unable to interact or communicate with the outside world. One of the victims of the virus is the wife of President Hayden, leading to the nation and world putting an emphasis on research to find ways to combat the disease as well as help those suffering from its after-effects find a way to once again become a participating member of society.

The result is a variety of new technologies stemming from a neural network that allows victims to download themselves into mechanical bodies known as threeps or into the minds of willing flesh and blood surrogates, for a limited amount of time.

As John Scalzi’s Lock In opens, governmental subsidies and funding for the victims of Hayden’s syndrome is about to be reduced, leading to protests and conflicts on both sides of the issue. And that would be the week that Chris Shane, one of the most visible victims of the syndrome thanks to famous parents, is about to take a job with the FBI’s crime unit that investigates crimes related to the neural network.

To welcome Chris to the job, a murder has taken place — one that could have implications far beyond those that are immediately apparent. And it’s up to the team of Chris and a partner who was trained to be part of the mind-sharing program but dropped out years before.

In many ways, Lock In reminded me of Issac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel. And if you know my preferences in reading material, you’ll know that is some pretty higTh praise since Caves of Steel ranks among my favorite novels — genre or otherwise. The pairing of two unlikely cops on a case that has implications far beyond the initial blush feels like it’s right out of Asimov. But there’s also an examination of how changes in technology can reveal what it means to be human and the implications for that on our rights as we move forward. Like a lot of the more memorable science fiction, Lock In if offering up an examination of certain issues of our time, all under the disguise of a future world setting.

And, for the most part, it works very well. The novel is part science-fiction novel, part procedural and it works very well as that hybrid. The familiar nature of the police procedural helps Scalzi set the table to some of his bigger ideas and concepts to the table, keeping them palatable to readers and not feeling like he or we have bitten off more than we can chew. He also weaves in enough detail to make the resolution of the mystery fit not only as from the murder mystery aspect but also within his science-fiction universe.

Reading Lock In, I can’t help but feel as though this is an early front runner for the Hugo Award for best novel next year. It’s certainly on the running to be one of my top five books I’ve read this year.

One final note.  I’ve seen a couple of reviews stating that you have to read an earlier Scalzi novella in order to fully enjoy Lock In.   I’ll say that I went into the book without reading the prior story and had no issue with figuring out what was happening or losing patience with Scalzi for not filling in certain details quickly enough.   I’m certainly curious to go and read the novella now, but I don’t think it’s essential to have read it in order to fully enjoy the novel.

Of course, you can take that with a grain of salt since I also love with the current series of Doctor Who and from what I gather, I’m in the minority there as well.

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Doctor Who Target Audiobook Reviews: “The Leisure Hive” and three quarters of “The Trial of a Time Lord.”

Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive (Target Doctor Who Library)Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive by David Fisher

Revisiting some of the original Doctor Who Target novels in audio form has been an interesting experiment, especially going back to those that I have strong memories of or recall enjoying a great deal the first time around.

One that elicits good memories and feelings of enjoyment is David Fisher’s adaptation of his script for “The Leisure Hive.” My recollections of the novel were that it did a nice job of world-building and character development, all while keeping the basic story from the television screen in tact, even if it wasn’t necessarily a beat for beat adaptation.

In fact, I’d say that Fisher spends the bulk of his time adapting what is (on-screen anyway) the first installment of the story that the rest of his novel ends up feeling a bit too rushed to get to the finish line. I’d love to know what Fisher might have done without the publisher imposed page-count on the Target novels of this era.

Alas, it appears that Fisher isn’t going to re-work his initial novelization or expand it any for the audio release, which I think is a bit of a shame.

All of that said, this one holds up remarkably well. Again, a lot of it comes down to Fisher’s world-building and filling it details that are merely hinted at in the television version. Fisher also brings a bit of a Douglas Adams sensibility to certain passages of the novel, which works fairly well, for the most part.

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Mini-Reviews: Leviathan Wakes, Wool, Dad Is Fat

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes languished on my to-be-read pile ever since it was nominated for the Hugo Award a couple of years ago. I’m not sure what this says about me as a reader, but it was news that the novel was being developed for a potential SyFy series that finally drove me to crack the cover and give it a chance.

Also, the notion that with the series reaching a fourth book and getting some good buzz, I’d better jump in now or risk being so far behind that I’d never want to catch up.

I’m glad I waded into the book because it’s one of the more enjoyable space opera novels I’ve read in a long time. Space opera can be a bit bleak at times and while this one does have those moments, it still manages to rise above them at others and keep things entertaining. Part of it could be the parallel stories that intersect at just the right point and then continue to escalate events from there. Part of the hook is that one is a mystery set within this genre universe and that helped me to connect to the story and want to keep reading. It also helps that both storylines reveal different aspects of the politics of this universe and how they are unfolding and developing. Even the info-dumps necessary for a novel like this don’t feel like the entire plot is screeching to a halt in order to have characters stop and give us information we need in order for the story to continue. Continue reading

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Review: 24: Underground

Part of the hook of 24 is the real-time component of the show. Take that away and you lose some of what makes the show work so well and what makes Jack Bauer one of the more entertaining fictional heroes in recent memory.

I’ve tried reading some of the tie-in novels for the series and found them lacking, namely because the real time concept doesn’t translate quite as well to the printed page. With this collected comic book, 24: Underground, I was hoping the graphic novel structure might lend itself better to the show’s structure.

Unfortunately, that turns out not to be the case. Set before the events of the recently concluded 24: Live Another Day, this five-issue series attempts to fill in some of the gap of what happened to Jack Bauer between the end of season eight and the start of season nine. Jack’s working the docks somewhere in Russia and his past is about to catch up to him.

My big issue is that there’s too much of a “been there, done that” feeling to the story. Jack’s hiding out and making friends, but then his past comes calling and his new friends are caught in the middle. Feels like the start of a lot of previous days in the life of Jack Bauer. And since we’re only given a brief glimpse into his current life, we never quite feel any connection to these new characters or much concern over their fate.

There’s also the issue of the art for this series, which I find hit or miss. I must be getting too old for tie-in comics because I actually feel like the characters should look like they do on the show and be easily identifiable. And I also wish there were more distinctions between the supporting characters and villains, many of whom simply blurred together as I read. (And I read the entire arc in two sittings. I can’t imagine waiting a month between issues and losing track of who is who!)

If you’ve missed 24, stream a season via various on-line services, watch it on DVD or pick up the latest shortened season to get your fix of Jack Bauer. This one is a miss.

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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