Monthly Archives: June 2013

Review: The Night Gwen Stacy Died by Sarah Bruni

The Night Gwen Stacy Died

As a long time Spider-Man fan, the title of Sarah Bruni’s first novel caught my attention.

And while it would be easy to assume that The Night Gwen Stacy Died is another in the long trend of tie-in novels, retelling a classic comic book story line, that is not the case here.

Seventeen-year-old Sheila Gower doesn’t quite fit into her small town. Taking a job at a local convenience store to save up money to escape town by going to France, she meets a man who refers to himself as Peter Parker. And while Peter does have a secret identity, it’s not necessarily that of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler. Instead, it’s to hide the fact that his life is just as mundane and doesn’t quite fit into the small town life as Sheila does.

The two have a budding flirtation which gets taken up to the next level when Peter and Sheila decide to run off together and hit the road to Chicago with Peter even referring to Sheila by the name of Gwen. To add some zest to the story, Peter pretends to hold up the convenience store and kidnap Sheila (the store’s surveillance system only captures video, not audio).

With a lot of references and examination of classic Spider-Man storylines, The Night Gwen Stacy Died is a fascinating character novel for the first two-thirds of its run. It’s one the novel hits the final third that things begin to derail a bit, keeping what could have been a great book merely a good one. I can see what Bruni is trying to do here, but it feels like the final third of the novel works too hard to drive the point home and it all ends up feeling a bit less than satisfying.

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Summer Reading

It’s summer time and among other things, that means summer reading!

Over the summer, I’ve picked a couple of books that are either on my TBR shelf or are coming out that I want to read.   Hopefully by making a list, I will actually not get distracted too much and actually read them all.

1.  NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
2. Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
3. The Rithmatist by Brian Sanderson
4. Doctor Who: Harvest of Time by Alastair Reynolds
5. Joyland by Stephen King
6. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
7. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
8. The 5th Wave by Philip Yancey
9.  Wool by Hugh Howley

I’ve also got a few other books on the TBR pile that I should try and get to. But I won’t include them on the list for now.

So, what’s on your reading list this summer?

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Could This Be the Most Exciting “Doctor Who” News Since 2005?!?

Could we finally get the complete "The Tenth Planet?"  Rumors say it's happening!

Could we finally get the complete “The Tenth Planet?” Rumors say it’s happening!

It only takes a spark….

Internet Whovians have been buzzing the past two days with the rumor that the BBC has something really big up its sleeve for the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who.

And no, I don’t mean the special on November 23 nor do I mean the two-hour movie about the early days of the show.

This rumor is a bit more, shall we say, monumental.

According to Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool reliable sources have leaked the news that the BBC has found multiple lost stories (not episodes mind you) from the classic era.  Among the titles being bandied about as finally being complete in the archives are the first regeneration story “The Tenth Planet” and the Patrick Troughton story “Evil of the Daleks.”

Reports indicate the BBC is sitting on the discovery of these episodes and will tell everyone in November the good news.

You can read the rest of my thoughts on this rumor over at The Randomizer.

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Review: The Very Best of Spider-Man

The Very Best of Spider-Man

The problem with calling a collection “The Very Best of” something is that the definition of “best” can be so subjective. What I think is best may not necessarily mesh with what others think or believe.

So I admit I approached this collection of stories featuring my favorite super-hero with a bit of reluctance.

And having read the seven stories assembled here, I can say there are some fine examples of Spider-Man stories. But they’re not really what I would classify as the best (or even the most memorable) stories featuring my favorite wall-crawler.

Part of it is that the book starts out with “Amazing Fantasy 15” and the origin of Spider-Man. I’ll accept this is a classic and probably should lead off any collection that wants to be a “best of” for Spider-Man. It’s once we get into the later issues that just about every single story in this collection refers back to “Amazing Fantasy 15.”

I understand that Stan Lee had the attitude that every comic book should be treated as if it was someone’s first comic book and I don’t mind a bit of flashback or summing up the relevant back story points. But when a collection skips over pivotal stories like Spidey being unmasked by the Green Goblin and the revelation of who is behind the Green Goblin mask in favor of a story bringing back Crusher Hogan, I have to question whether the “best of” status and the editorial process for selected these stories. And don’t get me started on the fact that Doc Ock is only referred to in one of the stories in this collection but never seen on the printed page. Instead, we get a Venom story, which maybe at the time it was published was considered a “best of” but I don’t see it. Especially compared to various times in the Lee/Ditko era that Spidey took on Doc Ock.

I understand wanting to have a collection give us a taste of various eras, but this collection isn’t necessarily a “best of” Spider-Man.

Thankfully, Marvel has since begun publishing collections of the full run of various Spider-Man comics, allowing readers to relive our own favorite eras and to discover again the strengths and weaknesses of them.

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Review: The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

The Engagements

If you were curious about when and how the diamond engagement ring came into fashion, J. Courtney Sullivan’s latest novel The Engagements will give you an idea. Life long bachelorette Frances Getty dreamed up the famous marketing line “Diamonds on Forever” in 1947, never knowing the impact it could and would have on romance, marriage and sales of diamonds.

Woven into the story of Getty are five relationships and the impact that a single diamond ring can have on them. At first, the connection between these five relationships isn’t clear, but Sullivan deftly weaves together her various plot threads until the final tapestry is revealed in the novel’s last fifty pages.

Each of the relationships is at a different point, with various parties having a differing view on the diamond ring and what it symbolizes. For some it represents a feeling of being trapped, for others its a potential road to freedom and for others it’s something that isn’t wanted or need and is viewed with a bit of contempt.

What makes The Engagements works so well is the rich characters. There are some you will like more than others, but Sullivan gives the reader ample insight into their motivations and thoughts to help us understand where they are and their feelings on marriage. From the mother who is horrified at her son’s impending divorce and its implication to the woman who sees marriage as outdated and unnecessary, much to the horror and chagrin of various family members, all of these characters feel authentic.

The one downfall of the novel is a plot thread involving a lost wedding ring that seems to have been lifted out of a variety of sitcoms. In a novel where so much else rings true, this one doesn’t work as well as it was intended.

But it’s a minor quibble in what is, otherwise, a stellar novel.

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