Category Archives: review

Review: Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

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As part of the 2016 Sci-Fi Experience and getting in early for Vintage Sci-Fi month, I thought I’d offer up some thoughts on Arthur C. Clarke’s classic genre novel Childhood’s End.

I read this one a decade ago as part of a vintage genre campaign, but large chunks of it had slipped my memory. So when SyFy’s new mini-series showed up on the DVR, I decided to re-visit the original material before I started watching the new adaptation.

So, here we go….

Childhood's EndOne of my big complaints about the current state of science-fiction and fantasy is the overwhelming need to make EVERY single concept into a trilogy or on-going series.

Which is what makes going back to the classics of the genre such a pleasure.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End is one of the most economic genre novels ever published. But I’d argue that the novel packs more ideas and punch into its two hundred pages than some on-going series have packed into their thousand plus (and counting) pages.

In many ways, Clarke created the mythology of the alien invasion. The Overlords arrive in ships that hover over the greatest cities on Earth, saying that they are here to help humanity. The Overlords put an end to petty conflicts and help point humanity toward a better tomorrow — but there could be a price to it all. They refuse to allow human beings to see them as they really are for the first fifty years of their overseeing our world. Instead, a single human is chosen as the intermediary for humans and Overlords. Continue reading

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Reviews: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything

Madeline lives a fairly contained life. She’s home schooled, rarely ventures beyond the the walls of her house and has little contact with the outside world beyond her mother and her nurse, Carla.

Madeline has a very rare condition that makes her extremely susceptible to any kind of germ. Her immune system can’t fight them and so Madeline has to live inside her sterile, clean home, experiencing the outside world only by looking out the window and the books she reads (all brand new and properly sterilized, of course!)

She’s perfectly content in her world until one day a new boy moves in next door and Madeline has become intrigued by him and his family. Suddenly, her world seems a bit smaller and Madeline is willing to do and risk whatever it takes to get to know this boy and possibly fall in love with him. Continue reading

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Review: Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation by Gary Russell

Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation

When a pyramid from another world appears in Sydney Harbor, the Doctor begins to investigate how it got there and what can and should be done about. Also hot on the trail is a familiar time-travelling archaeologist, though as the cover warns you, it’s not necessarily the one you were expecting.

In his afterward, Gary Russell says that the reason he decided to use Benny Summerfield instead of River was because series runner Steven Moffat nixed the idea. Russsell goes on to say that Moffat suggested bringing Benny back because he’d always liked the character and that then novel turned out to be better because of it.

I’m glad Gary thinks the novel turned out better than he originally imagined. Because this reader found the novel a pretty big disappointment. Continue reading

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Review: Make Me by Lee Child

Make Me

After a couple of a disappointing entries in the Jack Reacher saga, it’s nice to see Lee Child get back to form with Make Me.

Traveling cross country by train, Reacher stops in the town of Mother’s Rest. Curious about how the town got its name, Reacher inadvertently steps into a conspiracy and cover-up. He meets up with Michelle Chang, a private investigator who came to Mother’s Rest at her partner’s request. Now that partner is missing and Reacher is drawn into the mystery behind his disappearance.

The set-up for Make Me is classic Reacher. And for the first half, watching Reacher take swings in the dark as to exactly what he’s stumbled across is a great deal of fun and makes for a compelling mystery. It’s once we get to the second half of the story that that things begin to break down a bit. It’s not terrible by any stretch of the imagination and it certainly fits well into the Reacher mythology. But I couldn’t help but feel a bit like, “That’s it?” when we finally figure out what’s going on in Mother’s Rest and meet the various forces behind a massive cover-up. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Ark in Space by Ian Marter

Doctor Who and the Ark in Space: A 4th Doctor novelisation

Whenever I’m asked by new Who fans for a good starting point to watch classic Doctor Who, I don’t point to “An Unearthly Child” but instead to Robert Holmes’ classic fourth Doctor serial, “The Ark In Space.”

Not only does the story kick off a great run of stories, but it comes from an era this is (arguably) the most consistent and best in the entire fifty plus year run of the show — classic or otherwise.

The story includes a minor call back or two to the previous installment, but for the most part it’s a self-contained horror story set in the near future. Promising Harry a quick trip to the moon to prove the TARDIS is what the Doctor says it is, our trio instead ends up in the far future thanks to Harry’s twisting the helmic regulator a bit too much. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrive on a future space station that is home to the final remnants of humanity in suspended animation waiting their chance to awaken and begin the conquering the Earth again. But something has gone wrong and humanity has overslept.

What’s gone wrong is the Wirrin, an insect race that can survive in deep space and has journeyed to the ark seeking our humanity. The Wirrin are also driven to survive and are looking for a new home — and the ark and the Earth look like just the right place to get started. Continue reading

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Review: The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes

The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes

Murder was easy. The tricky part was getting away with it.

Doak Miller is a retired NYPD cop spending his golden years in sunny Florida. He keeps himself in the game a bit by occasionally doing favors for the local sheriff’s office.

His latest assignment is wearing a wire to incriminate a woman who wants to do away with her husband. But it just so happens that that woman in question is the girl of Doak’s dreams and not only does he help her to not incriminate herself, but he begins a relationship with her that leads to his working out just if and how the husband should be killed.

The latest entry in the Hard Case Crime series, Lawrence Block’s The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes is everything that a reader has come to expect. A sexy cover, a hard-boiled protagonist and a fem fatale. The fact that Doak is carrying on affairs with not only the title character but two other women only helps to underscore his role as the noir lead.

Told in quick chapters, Girl is not for the faint of heart. This novel is an homage to pulp fiction at its best — lurid, quick to read and full of all kinds of graphic details that aren’t normally discussed in polite company. If you’re squeamish about adults acting like adults (for good and bad), then this book probably isn’t for you.

At multiple points in the story, Doak takes in a few classic noir films that have people trying to get away with murder and always getting caught. These sequences seem to be Block calling upon a shared vocabulary for this type of story and it helps us see how he’s trying to not only pay homage to it but give it a bit of a new twist in this story.

Not for the faint of heart, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes is gritty, raw and compelling.

I’ve not read a lot of Block’s previous works but after reading this one, I’m intrigued to look at his extensive back catalog and see what other gems are there.

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Review: The Doctors Are In by Graeme Burke and Robert Smith?

The Doctors Are In: The Essential and Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who's Greatest Time Lord

Reading The Doctors Are In reminded me a lot of those heady days when I first got on-line and discovered there were fellow Doctor Who fans out there who loved to debate the show as much as I did. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to me since I’ve had debates with at least one half of this writing duo about various aspects of my favorite television show long before I picked up this book.

But reading this in-depth look at each era of the good Doctor (wisely divided up into two eras for the fourth Doctor because, let’s face it, there are two eras to Tom Baker’s run on the show), I couldn’t help but feel like certain only flames were being fanned and I kept looking around for the reply button so I could begin to debate Robert Smith? and Graeme Burke on various points they have about each era of the show. (This is especially true when they pick their five stories that represent each era of the show. Because really — “Planet of the Spiders”?!? You must be messing with me!)

Reading Smith? and Burke’s debates about various eras of the show and the actors who played the Doctor is entertaining and informative. And while this book isn’t exactly breaking new ground, it has a leg up in that you can feel the passion and fandom these two have for the series.

This may be a selling point for some and it may be a detraction for others. If you’re looking for a by the numbers look at the Doctors, you may want to look elsewhere. If you’re looking for spirited debate among two long time fans who don’t agree on everything, this is worth picking up and spending time with. It may even make you want to debate the two and it may even make you want to visit the stories they refer to in their top five of the era. And while I can find some points of contention I have with some of their arguments (I’ve finally found that one fan who doesn’t love “Genesis of the Daleks.” He’s wrong, of course.), these come more from my feelings on the show than on Smith? and Burke laying out their points.

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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