Category Archives: audiobook

Audiobook Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down by Jeff Kinney

Double Down (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, #11)Whether it’s believing he’s the subject of a reality TV show like The Truman Show or joining the school band to get invited to a big Halloween bash, Greg Hefley’s trials and tribulations never end. That’s good news to this reader, who despite being too old to be in the targeted demographic for the Wimpy Kid novels continues to enjoy them.

Listening to the audio version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down, I chuckled and laughed out loud multiple times as Greg continues to grow up. Whether’s it’s conspiring to win a jar full of candy in his school’s annual balloon launch or using the Internet to convince his parents that he’s actually learning to play the French Horn, Greg’s antics never failed to amuse. And despite not having the benefit of the cartoon illustration in the printed version, I found the novel and its narration creating some hilarious moments in my head as I traveled to and from work.

I also discovered that I’ve missed a couple of releases in the series and any now eager to go back and catch up on what I’ve missed.

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Audio Review: Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos: A 3rd Doctor novelisation

While some of my peers were reading the Sweet Valley High or R.L. Stine’s novels, I spent my teenage years reading Stephen King and Target adaptations of classic Doctor Who stories. One of the most prolific authors of the Who range was former script-editor Terrance Dicks. If you take a step back and look at the sheer volume of novels published by Dicks during this era, it’s staggering — to the point that I had an image of poor Terrance chained to a desk, fed only bread and water and forced to hammer out adaptation after adaptation on his typewriter.

Visiting some of Dicks’ output again thanks to BBC Audio has only underlined again just what Dicks was able to do for an entire generation of Doctor Who fans — keep the series alive and fresh in our imaginations when we couldn’t see all the stories we wanted to again, much less collect them to sit our shelves. The fact that these novels are still readable and enjoyable today is a testament to just how good Dicks was.

“The Claws of Axos” comes from an era when Dicks wasn’t given as much time to adapt serials as he had in the bookends of his Doctor Who adapting career. “Claws” is pretty much a straight-forward adaptation of the original script with some nifty descriptions and one or two embellishments thrown in for good measure (for example, at the end when the serial ends with the Doctor’s chagrin at being “a galactic yo-yo,” Dicks allows the action to continue onward with everyone saying their farewells and the Doctor rushing out to ensure the UNIT guys don’t jostle the TARDIS). Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric by Ian Briggs

Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric: A 7th Doctor NovelisationSince the beginning of the Target audio book range, there have been a couple of the classic Doctor Who adaptations that I really wanted to see get the audio treatment. So imagine my delight when the range included several of those titles last year, including my all-time favorite Doctor Who serial and one of my favorite adaptations, “The Curse of Fenric.”

The Doctor and Ace arrive in World War II at classified naval base where one of the first computers is being used to break the German coded ciphers. But with the arrival of a group of Russians, it soon becomes clear that a bigger game is being played — one that the Doctor has known was coming ever since he met Ace.

To number the ways I love “Fenric” could take all the characters I have left in this review and it wouldn’t even crack the surface. While the storytelling in the late 80’s wasn’t quite as serialized as we see in many of the television series today, seasons 25 and 26 did insert a loose character arc for Ace. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: Frontios by Christopher H. Bidmead

Doctor Who: Frontios: A 5th Doctor novelisaton

Christopher H. Bidmead’s adaptation of his third (and final) classic Doctor Who script, “Frontios” restores parts of the script that were dropped either due to budget constrnts or they were considered too dark at the time, making this seem like a glimpse of what could have been on our screens.

Bidmead’s “Frontios” novelization was one of those Target novelizations I missed in my days of collecting them (as a younger viewer, the story wasn’t among my favorites). So coming to it now as an older reader/listener, I must admit I was intrigued by the small flourishes that the adaptation indulges in. (It’s also interesting to have the DVD now with the extended and deleted scenes and get some idea of where those scenes would go in the context of the story).

The TARDIS crew arrive on the edge of the Time Lord’s knowledge of time and space, drug down to one of the last colonies of humans by a mysterious force. In trying to not become too involved in these later days of humanity, the Doctor is drawn into the mystery of the colony on Frontios. Seems that the colony has been enduring attacks from the skies for thirty plus years with no signs of the invaders coming to follow-up. In the course of one attack, the TARDIS is destroyed, stranding the TARDIS crew in this time and place possibly forever.

As far as cliffhangers go, the TARDIS’ destruction is a pretty effective one. It’s also a memorable one that was, to my younger self, the only real highlight of the show. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to appreciate the story a bit more — and Bidmead’s adaptation has helped me see what could have been if they’d had the budget for it. The Tractators who come across on screen as a bit silly are given a bit more menace in the novel. There’s also the grim detail that the mining machine used the monsters of the week uses human parts to tunnel under the ground in Frontios as opposed to having it be all mechanical.

And yet for all of this, the same weaknesses that I see in the story are still on display here. Namely, it’s a bit oddly paced at times. There are times when it feels a bit too much like the old Doctor Who cliche of wandering down a corridor and biding our time as we wait for something to happen.

As with his previous two scripts, Bidmead reads his own adaptation for the audiobook. And once again, he does a solid enough job, though it’s not quite as memorable as some of the other readers we’ve had in the past couple of months.

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Audiobook review: Drunken Fireworks by Stephen King

Drunken Fireworks

One of things you have to admire about Stephen King is how he is willing to keep pushing the boundaries of the publishing world. He’s not just content to churn out best-seller after best-seller in hard-cover format, but instead he’s willing to take a chance or two along the way to challenge not only himself but his readers. Some of them work very well (The Green Mile) and some have withered on the vine (The Vine).

King has also been releasing stories via audiobooks for the past dozen or so years and every once in a while he puts out an exclusive audio only story. (King has admitted he’s a an audio reader himself). Sometimes it’s a fairly straight-forward short story and then other times it’s something like Drunken Fireworks.

And while the story will be part of his upcoming short story collection, King said in an interview that this one was meant to be listened to.

It certainly shows.

Thanks to an insurance and lottery windfall, Alden McCausland and his mother spend the warmest months of the year at their three-room cabin on Lake Abenaki. One fourth of July, Alden and his mother light up a few sparklers and other fireworks, setting off an inadvertent contest with their neighbors across the lake, the Massimos. Each summer, Alden tries to find the next big thing to shoot off, only to have the Massimo family ready to counter them with something just a bit better. It would all be in good fun for the two families if Alden and his mother didn’t feel like one member of their family was taunting them with his trumpet. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin: A 4th Doctor novelisation

It’s rare to find a Doctor Who novel that will allow us inside the mind of the Doctor. More often than not, we’ll see into the mind of his companions and those around him.

That makes a story like “The Deadly Assassin” difficult to adapt for the printed page since it’s the only story in the classic canon that doesn’t feature a companion for the Doctor. It’s also a story whose third episode features a lot of action pieces and very little in the way of dialogue.

Because of this, Terrance Dicks’ attempt to adapt the classic Robert Holmes four-parter falls a bit short. I can’t help but wonder if Dicks had produced this story at the beginning or the end of his association with the Target range if he might have expanded some things a bit or made some different storytelling choices. As it is, this comes from the middle period when Dicks rarely had time to do more than adapt the shooting script for the printed page. He didn’t have time to add the flourishes that made novels like “The Day of the Daleks” so memorable.

With two mysterious adversaries for the Doctor to battle (one works for the other), Dicks decides to give away the identity of one earlier in the novel than the televised story does. I can’t help but wonder if it might have been better to let readers in on who is working for the Master rather than the Master himself. It’s disappointing that one of the more pivotal and controversial stories in the classic series run only gets a novelization that’s par for the course. Dicks tries his best, but this is a story that works better visually (at least the sections inside the Matrix do) than they do on the printed page.

Thankfully, the audio version features a reading by Geoffrey Beavers, the only actor who played the Master in the classic series who is still with us. Beavers reading is, as always, a delight and he brings a lot to the read, especially when called upon to read lines for the Master. You can just hear Beavers voice dripping with contempt as he channels the Master in this one. I can’t help but wonder why this line hasn’t seen fit to let Beavers read a story or two that doesn’t feature the Master. I think he’d be great. Why not let him read “Day of the Daleks” — one of the truly great entries from the Target line that hasn’t yet been adapted for audio.

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Review: Doctor Who: Full Circle by Andrew Smith (Audiobook)

Doctor Who: Full Circle: A 4th Doctor novelisation

After a two year hiatus, the Target audio range returned earlier this year and I couldn’t have been more delighted at the selection of titles headed to audiobook. Among them was the fondly remembered adaptation of what I consider to be one of the better fourth Doctor stories, Full Circle.

Andrew Smith (a fan of the show) wrote the script for the story and went on to adapt his story from the printed page. I remembered reading this one on a weekend retreat with my family during quiet times and devouring every last page — even though I was already fairly familiar with the story. Smith’s novelization came in an era when the Target novels were beginning to be more than just straight forward adaptations of what we saw on screen. And while Smith’s re-telling of the story is fairly faithful to what we saw on screen, he includes a couple of items and scenes that didn’t make it into the broadcast version — either for time or because Doctor Who couldn’t necessarily make these sequences come alive on its budget.

Answering a summons to Gallifrey, the TARDIS passes through a mysterious distortion in space. To the scanner, it appears the Doctor and Romana have arrived in the outer wilderness of Gallifrey. Stepping outside the time and space machine, it appears they’ve arrived somewhere entirely different.

The world is Alazarius — and it’s one that is about to undergo a change. But instead of the usual political revolution or stopping an evil force, this time around the Doctor and Romana will battle the forces of evolution and stagnation. The two come into conflict during mistfall, a time when the planet Alazarius and its lifeforms begin to undergo a change.

I have to admit when I heard that Full Circle was getting the audiobook treatment, I was fairly delighted. Smith makes the most of the standard Target book page count, inserting in background scenes and character moments that enhance the story and give you a new appreciation of this four-part serial. Smith does a nice job of keeping things moving and I found myself getting lost in the story again as I listened to it.

Part of this credit goes to narrator Matthew Waterhouse, who was introduced to the Doctor Who canon as Adric in this story. Waterhouse has shown himself to be a solid narrator in the past with his reading of The Visitation. If that one was good, this one is better, partially because the novel is a richer one that the fairly straight-forward adaptation of The Visitation.

Full Circle was a delight to hear again. It made me want to dust off the DVD of the original story and watch it again, mentally inserting some of the scenes from the novel into the televised version. It’s releases like this one that remind me just how much I enjoyed the Target novels back in the day and just how much fun these audiobooks can be as a journey down memory lane.

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