Category Archives: audio book review

Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos by Philip Martin

Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos: 6th Doctor NovelisationThanks to the quirks of KTEH’s (a bastion of Doctor Who in the U.S. back in the day) scheduling of Colin Baker’s first season as the Doctor, I saw season 22 of classic Who a lot during my first decade or so as a fan. That kind of explains why it’s been a hot minute since I dusted off that particular season on either my VHS or DVD collection. It’s probably been at least a decade since I really dabbled in season 22 in a serious way — and boy, did revisiting Philip Martin’s adaptation of his script for “Vengeance on Varos” show that.

Martin takes a page from the master of the Doctor Who adaptation, Terrance Dicks, and gives us essentially the same story we get on-screen. Though to Martin’s credit (and Dicks in the early days before they chained him to a typewriter and he churned out eight novels in a year), he does at least try to make the story feel like it unfolds over a longer duration of time than what we got on-screen. Martin makes it feel like the Doctor, Peri, Jondar, and Arata spend a bit more time wandering around the punishment dome, trying to find a way out and escape. He even extends things out enough so it appears the Doctor has passed away for longer than five-minutes than we see on-screen.

There is an extended sequence where we pull back the curtain and see how the Governor truly lives when he’s not negotiating with Sil or being sprayed with death rays. And don’t forget that part where he has Sil fall into the vat of liquid that he’s constantly being sprayed with on-screen.

But despite all these flourishes, it’s the story of “Varos” that continues to shine through and where the success or failure of this particular story lies. Continue reading

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#VintageSciFiMonth Review: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

H. G. Wells: The Invisible Man

One of the eternal questions debated on many a playground is if you could pick one superpower, which one would it be and why? Odds are that a lot of the responses are going to be the old standards of flying, running fast, or becoming invisible.

The becoming invisible portion is the basis for one of the building blocks of the science-fiction genre in H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. Odds are that even if you haven’t read it, you’re aware of the basic outline of the story thanks to multiple pop-culture retellings or uses of the character over the years.

vintage-sf-badgeFor this year’s Vintage SciFi Month, I decided that I’d take a look at the foundational novel in the genre and see if it holds up.

Since it was included as part of my Audible subscription, I decided to take advantage of it and began listening. And immediately found myself not really looking forward to going back to it. The story of a scientist who invents a serum that allows him to become invisible and then becomes a raging ball of id just never quite connected with me this time around. Doing a bit of research, I found that Wells initially serialized the story, which then put into the Doctor Who frame of mind of figuring out where the cliffhangers all were. And maybe the story would have worked better unfolding in weekly or monthly installments. But I’m honestly not so sure. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks: 4th Doctor NovelisationThanks to a myriad of media releases and repeats, “Genesis of the Daleks” is a story that’s never been very far from the zeitgeist of Doctor Who fans. Regarded as one of the finest installments in the series long run (classic or new), it’s one that many fans (including this one) can recite key moments from (especially those on the abridged LP released in the ’70s and re-released on every possible format since).

Knowing the key dialogue from these moments only makes the differences between what we saw on-screen and what Terrance Dicks adapts to the page stand out a bit more. It’s clear that Dicks is working from an earlier draft of the script since the cliffhangers are moved about and fall in different places than we see on-screen. (The lore has it that the cliffhanger to episode five was supposed to be the famous “Do I have the right?” speech and not the Dalek battling an uncased Dalek mutant). But while minor moments are different, Dicks is still able to do justice to this undisputed classic when it comes to translating it to the printed page.

Dicks is able to condense a bit of the running back and forth between the Kaled and Thal cities (it’s a six-parter, so there’s a lot of running about) and he even makes the three corridors sets that double as both cities on-screen seem more expansive than they are on-screen. And while Dicks can’t quite capture how great Michael Wisher is in creating Davros, Dicks is still able to convey the menace and tragedy of the character here.

While this script is Terry Nation’s finest hour for Doctor Who, it isn’t necessarily Terrance Dicks’ finest hour in the Target line. But you can still tell that Dicks has put some care and time into crafting this story for the printed page. It’s certainly miles better than many of the adaptations to come during the fourth Doctor’s tenure.

The audiobook of this one is quite good. Jon Culshaw does his usual great work at imitating Tom Baker. Wisely, Culshaw doesn’t try to sound exactly like the screen versions of each character and his performance here continues to cement him as one of the better readers in this range. And, of course, Nick Briggs is on-hand to give us authentic Dalek voices.

All-in-all, this is another solid audiobook in this range and I find myself beginning to become nostalgic as the end of the range looms nearer.

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Audiobook Review: Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters

Keeping You a Secret

Heading into the final semester of her senior year, Holland is trying to figure out her future. Where will she go to school? What are her goals in life? Will she stay with her perfect boyfriend Seth?

Instead of taking an extra study hall, Holland takes an art class. She also starts to notice and make friends with the new girl, CeCe, who has just transferred to her school.

Before the semester ends, Holland’s life will change completely in ways she couldn’t expect.

Julie Anne Peters’ Keeping You A Secret is a coming of age and coming out story for Holland. Over the course of the story, Holland begins to realize that the dreams her mother has for her (and seems to consistently force upon her) aren’t the dreams she has. Her mother dismisses her interest in art, continually belittles any school that isn’t Ivy-League-level, and even casts dispersions upon Holland’s growing friendship with CeCe, at one point telling Holland she needs to drop CeCe as a friend. (SPOILER alert — things get a lot worse when Holland comes out to herself and is then forced out by her vindictive ex-boyfriend, Seth). Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Don’t Move by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth

Don't Move

Don’t Move starts off with a gruesome, chilling first chapter and never lets go.

Enjoying a summer evening at the local traveling carnival, Megan Forrester’s life shatters before her eyes when a horrific accident claims the lives of her husband and son. Months later, Megan is trying to get her life back together and overcome the near-paralyzing guilt she feels. A church camping trip seems like the perfect way to ease herself back into the world a bit and start claiming her life.

Little does she or any of the other members of her party realize that what started out as an innocent weekend excursion will soon become a terrifying, deadly fight for survival in an isolated part of the Monongahela National Forest. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World by Ian Marter

Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World: 2nd Doctor Novelisation

Until five missing episodes miraculously turned up in time for the series’ fiftieth anniversary, the only thing most Doctor Who fans had to judge “The Enemy of the World” on was an orphaned middle-episode that didn’t really highlight the story’s strengths and Ian Marter’s Target adaptation. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that once we had the complete serial back in the archives and available to view that the collective fan assessment might rise over the last half-dozen or so years.

It’s hard to blame Marter for the failings of this Target novelization. Clocking in at a mere 127 pages, Marter is hard-pressed to compress six episodes. He does try nobly to do so, but in the end, it never quite works. Scenes are dropped and while the outline of the story is still there, it never quite feels as solid as the David Whitacker scripts were on-screen. There are some interesting choices of what to leave out and what to include by Marter over the course of the novel.

But it’s not like Marter hasn’t shown he can compress a large number of episodes into a smaller amount of pages. He will later do it with the Patrick Troughton era serial, “The Invasion.” Of course, having emotionless adversaries at the heart of that one may have helped a bit.

As with all of Marter’s novelizations, there is a darker streak running through this story with all the on-screen deaths being just a bit more gruesome on the printed page.

At least the audio version of this story has Patrick Troughton’s son David performing the story. His interpretations of his father and the other actors in this story are spot-on and well done. I’m just glad the serial is back now so we can compare his take with what the actors did on-screen.

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Smugglers by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who: The Smugglers: 1st Doctor NovelisationUnless you were watching in 1966, odds are you haven’t seen Doctor Who‘s season four debut story, “The Smugglers.”

Sure, we’ve got a couple of clips thanks to the Australian censors (though why they kept the clips and not the full episodes is something I’d really like an answer to) but there isn’t much out there to experience when it comes to this lost historical serial.

And yet, for some reason, I skipped the Target adaptation of this one when it was released in the late ’80s. Whether it was to save my money for another Target book coming later or that I was weary of Terrance Dicks’ adaptations, I can’t quite recall. But my omission then allowed me to enjoy the audiobook release of this one now as something (almost) new to me.

And I have to admit, I kind of liked it. Unless they somehow recover part of all of it tomorrow, this four-part serial’s biggest claim to fame will be a link to “The Curse of the Black Spot” from the modern series. As a historical, it works fairly well, though it does feel a bit as if the script is borrowing a bit of Ben’s reaction to time traveling for the first time from Stephen’s reactions in “The Time Meddler.”

After barging into the TARDIS, Ben and Polly are sent back in time with the Doctor to a seventeenth century Cornish town under assault by pirates. There’s a bit of chasing back and forth during some of the middle episodes from the pirate ship to the town settings, but overall the story moves along at a crisp pace and works fairly well. Of course, there’s a pirate treasure at the center of all this and apparently, the Doctor is the only one with the necessary clue to try and uncover it.

Read by Anneke Wills who played Polly, this audio adaptation is another solid release from this range. I realize that we’re slowly getting to the end of this range and there are fewer fondly remembered adaptations ahead of us. But having the chance to experience this one, I find it a solid offering from Dicks. It’s not quite on the level of his early work, but it’s not quite the translating the script to the printed page with a few descriptions that we got in the Tom Baker era.

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Audiobook Review: My Life as a Villainness by Laura Lippman

My Life as a VillainessThere’s something intimate about getting to hear an author read their work. In the case of Laura Lippman’s collection of essays My Life as a Villainess, it feels just a bit more intimate — almost as if you’ve been invited to coffee with Lippman and are getting the chance to hear bits and pieces of her story.

Fifteen essays covering a wide range of topics from our obsession with celebrities to her early days as a newspaper reporter in Waco to her thoughts on her unconventional approach to motherhood. (One particular sentence that haunted me is about seeing your child go through the same types of things you once faced and being powerless to stop them from hurting someone you love so much). As with her fictional writing, Lippman hits home time and again with observations and a self-deprecating sense of humor. Lippman turns the searchlight on herself time and again, detailing not only successes but also shortcomings in her life. At times as I listened to this audiobook, I felt myself thinking, “You know I could be friends with Laura Lippman.” That is, of course, assuming we lived anywhere near each other and I didn’t try to man-splain The Wire to her (I must apologize because as of this stage in my life I haven’t found the time to watch all of The Wire yet. It’s not for lack of desire, it’s just that I’m a slacker when it comes to catching up on my quality tv shows).

Of course, as with all sets of non-fiction essays, there are times I found myself nodding in agreement with what Lippman was saying and times when I felt myself disagreeing and wanting to discuss our differences with her (again, without mansplaining. At least I hope I wouldn’t.). Reading these essays, we get to see inside the world and mind of one of the best writers working today. If you’re a Lippman fan, this is a must read.

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: Paradise Towers by Stephen Wyatt

Doctor Who: Paradise Towers

How you feel about Stephen Wyatt’s adaptation of his own script for “Paradise Towers” probably depends on how you feel about the televised story. If you liked the broadcast version, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you weren’t a fan, there isn’t much here to really add to what we saw on television screens.

Back before season 24 aired, I met Sylvester McCoy at my local PBS station’s hosting of the Whomobile (a semi packed with props, set pieces, and an opportunity to sit in Bessie). McCoy regaled the audience with stories about his first season, making it sound far better than season 24 turned out to be.

“Paradise Towers” isn’t necessarily a terrible story. It’s one that has some ambition to it, but given the limited budget of the time and that it’s a studio-bound story that features a lot of running up and down corridors, it still ended up disappointing me at the time. The novel is extremely faithful to what we saw on screen, though Wyatt does try to make certain characters a bit more credible on the printed page. Pex, for example, seems to look the part a bit more in the descriptions we’re given in the book than the actor did in the television version. It also helps the Chief Caretaker be a bit more menacing when I’m not constantly taken out of the story by Richard Biers playing the role (though I will admit the audiobook isn’t done any favors by Bonnie Langford doing a fairly good impression of what Biers does on-screen).

All-in-all, this is a solid enough adaptation that ranks in the middle of the range. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great as other Target books featuring the seventh Doctor would be.

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Audiobook Review: Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallero and Emily Henry

Hello GirlsLucille Price and Wynona Olsen met the night they headed to the local police station to turn in various family members for a variety of crimes. Realizing that going to the cops will probably make things far worse than better, the duo decides to head for a local dive-bar that won’t look too closely at their fake IDs for a few G&Ts.

That night a new friendship is born. Each girl has someone (or multiple someones) they want to escape from. Wynona’s is her controlling father, the popular, enigmatic weatherman Stormy Olson. Stormy keeps Wynona on a short leash, saying he’s saving her from becoming like her drug-addicted mother who passed away a decade ago. Stormy cultivates an image of the perfect family and life, all while abusing Wynona and keeping her rich grandfather carefully under his thumb. Continue reading

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