The final televised Third Doctor story to reach the printed page was something of a disappointment when I read it initially thirty plus years ago. However, thanks to the audiobook line from BBC Audio, I was given the opportunity to visit the story once again.
In the years since I first read the novel, “The Ambassadors of Death” has grown a bit in my estimation. Yes, it’s still the weakest story of season seven, but that’s damning a bit with faint praise.
Terrance Dicks’ adaptation of the John Whitacker/Malcolm Hulke script does a serviceable job of trying to condense seven episodes into the mandated page count. Dicks is able to streamline some of the action sequences (Liz Shaw’s car chase, for example, takes about a paragraph or so) and give a bit more time and space to early developments. However, after listened to some of Dicks’ earlier works when he was given more time to develop the characters and add in some background details to the situation, I can’t help but wish he’d had don that here. Imagine the Dicks who wrote “Day of the Daleks” being allowed to fill in the history of the Mars Probe missions or even time to make General Carrington a bit more of a sympathetic villain (or at least give us a better understanding of his motives).
I can’t help walking away from this one feeling like it’s a missed opportunity more than anything.
And yet, for all of that, the audio version was still a pleasure to listen to. Part of that is narrator Geoffrey Beavers, who could probably read Malcolm Hulke’s grocery list and it would be utterly scintillating to the listening ear. Once again, Beavers shows he’s one of the jewels in the audio book line.
With the movie finally hitting screens and since my sf/f bookclub picked it for our next book, I’ve revisited Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. This time around, I decided to give the audio version a whirl. And while Wil Wheaton is spot-on in bringing the book to life in audio, I still found myself coming away from the novel feeling a bit satisfied.
While most of the geeky 80’s references hold up fairly well, I couldn’t help but feel like this book with all style and no substance the more I listened. While I enjoyed the references, I found myself yearning for something more to the novel that what I walked away this time. This time around, the novel reminded me of books I read based on several InfoCom games (they gave us Zork and other interactive text games back in the day). They were fun, but not necessarily all that filling. And in the end, they left me wanting to go back and play the games again rather than continue reading the novel.
Ready Player One feels like it’s all style and little substance here. And this time around, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a bit too predictable for its own good. (Some of this could be that I’ve read it before, but honestly I’d forgotten a lot of the specific story points in the seven or so years since I last read it). I’m not sure if this says more about me as a reader or the novel itself. Or it could be a bit of both.
I was struck this time by the predictable nature of the plot, the lack of any real depth for the characters, and the glaring lack of any strong, female characters in the book.
Again, I can’t say that I didn’t love it back in the day. I did. But I probably should have let my memory continue to cheat into remembering how much I’d enjoyed it then. Instead, I’ve come away feeling that this novel was one that had so much potential that just wasn’t realized.
If you want to visit my original review of the book, you’ll find it HERE.
For some reason, I missed reading Gerry Davis’ adaptation of his and Kit Pedler’s script for “The Tenth Planet” during the height of my reading and collecting the Target novels. It could be due either to that fact that I didn’t appreciate the William Hartnell serials as I do now during my initial viewing of Doctor Who or it could be that this one just didn’t show up at my local bookseller.
A pivotal story in the history of Doctor Who, “The Tenth Planet” features two huge firsts — the debut of the Cybermen and the first time the Doctor regenerated.
You’d think that for a story this pivotal to the long-running history of the show, the Target novelization would be more to write home about. Continue reading
The best DVD commentaries come when the participants have had an opportunity to perspective thank to the passage of time. It allows for a more honest assessment of what worked, what didn’t work and what could or should have done differently.
Listening to Suzy Favor Hamilton’s Fast Girl, I kept feeling like I wish she’d allowed a little more time to pass before penning (or in this case ghost-writing) her autobiography. Hamilton spends large chunks of the book focusing on the highs she got from first competitive running and later as a high-end escort in Las Vegas and very little (if any time) focusing on the lessons she learned from these experiences or the consequences and/or impact on her life and the lives of her family and friends. While the salacious details of her year as one of the top escorts in Vegas may sell a few books, I walked away from this book feeling like Hamilton left a lot of unexamined issues and questions on the table. Continue reading
For some odd reason, I never picked up a copy of “The Horror of Fang Rock” during my Target novel collecting days. Whether it’s because the bookstores I frequented didn’t have a copy or there were other books that got my hard-earned cash instead, I don’t know.
So, I came to the audio version of the fourth Doctor and Leela adventures without any memories of the original on the printed page.
And I’ve got to admit, this one was pretty well done. Adapting his own script, Terrance Dicks creates a bit more backstory for some of his characters and gives the reader some context as to the social norms and assumptions of the day. These additions give a greater depth to how some of the characters interact over the course of the novel.
And while his adaptation of “Horror of Fang Rock,” doesn’t necessarily create a larger canvas for the story like “Day of the Daleks” or “The Auton Invasion,” “Fang Rock” still feels a bit more substantial than others from this era that simply feel like Dicks is adapting the shooting script for the printed page.
The audio version of the story adds an extra layer of tension to the already tense story, thanks in large part to the performance of Louise Jameson. While the actress who brought Leela to life has been a fixture in the Big Finish range, this is her first Target novel reading. Based on the work she’s done here, I hope it won’t be her last. Jameson reads the story like we’re gathered around a camp fire and she’s sharing a scary tale with us. Jameson wisely doesn’t try to offer her imitation of each actor from the original broadcast but instead creates her own performances for each of her characters. It goes without saying that her Leela is a highlight of this novel.
When Eleanor Roxy-Frost and Billy Frost decide to go their separate ways, they decide to divide everything equally. This includes their twin daughters, Tabitha and Harper.
And so, at the age of seventeen, the sister play a game of rock/paper/scissors to decide who “wins” and gets to go with Billy and who “loses” and has to go with their mother. Decades later, the outcome of that game casts a long shadow over the lives of the estranged twin sisters.
When their father passes away, the sisters are forced back into each other’s orbit. Harper lives on Nantucket, where she’s done everything from landscaping to package delivery to being an unwitting drug mule. The last position has granted her a bit of infamy on the island (and the ire of the drug cartel she unwittingly helped bring down), but not nearly as much as the latest news that she’s having an affair with her father’s married doctor.
Tabitha lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her rebellious teenage daughter, Ainsley and works in her mother’s sinking boutique (based on her mother’s line of clothing and an infamous dress designed years before). Referred to by an ex-boyfriend as “a piss-poor parent,” Tabitha blames Harper for everything that has gone wrong in her life, including the death of her infant son, Julian, fourteen years ago. Continue reading