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.
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
Since 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
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
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.
Cassie’s mother taught her a lot of things — including how to read people. But Cassie’s ability is far more than just figuring out clues about a person in order to give them a psychic reading. She has a natural ability as a profiler — something the FBI is aware of and wants to take advantage of.
Recruited to a team of fellow teens with natural abilities (Dean can profile, Lea can read if you’re lying, Sloane is gifted in reciting facts and figures and Michael can really, really read people), Cassie is promised that she’ll get to enhance her abilities and maybe use the FBI resources to finally track down who killed her mother.
The world that Jennifer Lynn Barnes has created for her The Naturals series is a fascinating one. The idea that there would be five teens who would come together as a kind of Criminal Minds for the younger set works very well. It also creates a very bizarre household where there are body outlines in the swimming pool, a test lab in the basement and a library full of cold cases for Cassie to train on.
When The Naturals sticks its procedural aspects, it works very well. I’ll give Barnes a lot of credit — she was able to put in enough red herrings as to who the central villain of this novel was to keep me guessing (wrongly as it turns out) over the entire run of the book. Continue reading
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