04 August 2015

Review: Doctor Who: When Worlds Collide by Tony Lee, Matthew Dow Smith, & Mark Buckingham

Before we get started, I should note that my review of the Doctor Who audio drama The Highest Science is now up at Unreality SF.

Okay, so like I said yesterday, on Tuesdays from here out, I'll be reviewing books in what I call my "reading projects"; books I read on some kind of regular schedule. First up is the series of Doctor Who comics from IDW that I read issue-by-issue over breakfast from June to December 2014. I've already reviewed some of them, but I left off with The Ripper; next up is:

Comic PDF eBook, 90 pages
Published 2012 (contents: 2011)
Acquired May 2014
Read September 2014
Doctor Who: When Worlds Collide

Written by Tony Lee
Art by Mark Buckingham & Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by Charlie Kirchoff
Lettering by Neil Uyetake, Chris Mowry & Shawn Lee

There are two stories here, curiously undifferentiated in the collection. The first, only an issue long, has the Doctor, Amy, and Rory playing soccer with Anglo-Saxons, and it is not as fun as that description ought to imply.

The rest of the volume is made of what I can only assume is the title story. It's one of those tales where time zones get all mashed together, and to be honest, I find those tedious if they have no more substance than that-- Doctor Who long ago passed the point where temporal juxtaposition was innately interesting. Thankfully, this one does have a little bit of something to offer, mainly an army of temporal duplicates of the TARDIS crew, Sontarans on flying carpets, and a robotic dinosaur named Kevin. Also, Matthew Dow Smith's artwork, which is one of the real high points of IDW's Doctor Who stories over all. When Worlds Collide isn't great, but it's an above-average adventure for the range.

Next Week: The Doctor, Amy, Rory, and Kevin return in... It Came From Outer Space!

03 August 2015

Reading Roundup Wrapup: July 2015

There are to be some changes around here! Instead of blogging on my usual M-W-F schedule, and kind of doing things in themed chunks (i.e., last week I did three Bernice Summerfield New Adventures, the week before that I did three New Jedi Order stories, and so on), I'm going to try to blog every day, and to work simultaneously to clear out my backlog of 177 unreviewed books and stay on top of the books I read as I read them. To this end, I'll be restructuring a bit, reading themed books on certain days:
  • Mondays: These will be the days I review books I've read most recently.
  • Tuesdays: I'll review books that I read as part of my various "reading projects," such as my working through of all IDW's Doctor Who collections, or all the James Bond 007 novels, or whatever.
  • Wednesdays: "Faster than a DC Bullet" will continue as long as I continue to check graphic novels out of the library. Batman is up next!
  • Thursdays: On Thursdays, I'll focus on clearing out my backlog, prioritizing books without many reviews on LibraryThing (because why not).
  • Fridays: I'll witter on about something else-- my current research project(s), my teaching, my comic books, or whatever strikes my fancy.
But first, there's a roundup to be had...

Pick of the month: The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium & Discovery by Amitav Ghosh. I read this because when I went to the Science Fiction Research Association and presented on Manula Padmanabhan's story story "Gandhi-Toxin," the first question I got asked was would I draw any parallels between the mosquitoes in her postcolonial science fiction story to the mosquitoes in Ghosh's postcolonial science fiction story. I deferred the question, and then made sure to read The Calcutta Chromosome on my next vacation.

All books read:
1. Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Force Heretic III: Reunion by Sean Williams and Shane Dix
2. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
3. The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium & Discovery by Amitav Ghosh
4. Doctor Who Magazine: Special Edition #40: The Art of Doctor Who edited by Marcus Hearn
5. Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor: The Ripple Effect by Malorie Blackman
6. Erimem: The Last Pharaoh by Iain McLaughlin and Claire Bartlett
7. Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge by Geoff Johns
8. Richard Meier & Partners: White is the Light by Philip Jodidio
9. Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! by Matthew Sturges

All books acquired:
1. Bernice Summerfield XIII: Secret Histories edited by Mark Clapham
2. David Copperfield: The Author's Personal Prompt Copy by Charles Dickens
3. The Merritt Parkway: The Road That Shaped a Region by Laurie Heiss & Jill Smyth
4. Gothic Science Fiction, 1818 to the Present by Sian MacArthur

Books remaining on "To be read" list: 606

See you tomorrow for a review of Doctor Who: When Worlds Collide!

31 July 2015

Review: The New Adventures: Twilight of the Gods by Mark Clapham and Jon de Burgh Miller

Acquired March 2015
Read April 2015
The New Adventures: Twilight of the Gods
by Mark Clapham and Jon de Burgh Miller

What a way to go out! And what I mean by that, is that the New Adventures have gone out with a total whimper: the last three novels have just been boring and dull, the narrative potential of the Gods arc totally squandered. Here, basically Benny just got to do some technobabble and the allegedly universe-shattering problem that she's been up against is solved so easily. Add in yet another previously-unseen-but-supposedly-very-well-known-colleague-of-Benny's-from-St.-Oscar's, and you have a banal action-adventure plot that delivers on none of the neat stuff about faith set up by Rebecca Levene and Simon Winstone in Where Angels Fear.

(As a side note, it was amusing to note that I don't think Dave Stone ever read this book, as nothing he says about the hell dimension Jason was in in The Dead Man Diaries and The Infernal Nexus really relates to the one he ends up in here; probably someone just told him, "Jason's in a hell dimension," and he just went and did his own thing, as he so often does.)

I've been reading the Bernice Summerfield New Adventures on-and-off for ten years now, and since April 2012, I've read one of them every three months (more or less) in an effort to finally finish the series off-- which now I've done at last. To be honest, I don't think it ever really delivered on its potential. The narrative arcs were either halting or uninteresting, the early insistence on providing frothy sci-fi standalones meant Bernice never really grew or developed as a character, and the writers/editors obviously never really committed to a recurring cast of characters-- the only characters who were carried from book to book were the ones already introduced in Doctor Who (Jason, Braxiatel, and Chris). There's a lot of potential in Benny as a character, as Big Finish's later work would show, but these twenty-three books have a surprisingly few number of highlights.

29 July 2015

Review: The New Adventures: The Joy Device by Justin Richards

Acquired October 2014
Read November 2014
The New Adventures: The Joy Device
by Justin Richards

Never has a 254-page novel felt so long. Richards maybe has enough of an idea here to fill up a brink novelette at best. The premise is that Bernice is in a bit of a funk (she lost some of her memories in Return to the Fractured Planet), and decides she needs a vacation to cheer herself up, and her friends don't want her to experience anything that's more fun than them, so they decide to manipulate events to make her think life is boring. Well, one or two times of having her attention diverted would be amusing; fifteen chapters of it is not. In between those bits, the book is pure tedium anywhere. A colossal misfire, not to mention a weird one, given how well Richards handled these characters in Tears of the Oracle, and how the events of the last few books ought to have provided fertile ground for something much more interesting!

27 July 2015

Review: The New Adventures: Return to the Fractured Planet by Dave Stone

I'm going to try to be better about noting what I've been up to elsewhere-- before you read this review, note that I have a review of a novel in a different book series about a Doctor Who companion who originated in the spin-offs over at Unreality SF. (I think, weirdly enough, that this is the first time I've ever reviewed prose fiction for USF, despite having written for them for over six years now!)

Previously read February 2005
Reread September 2014
The New Adventures: Return to the Fractured Planet
by Dave Stone

This sequel to Stone's previous New Adventure, The Mary-Sue Extrusion, feels like a bit of an also-ran-- a rehash of that book's approach, and, like I said of it, a dry run for what Stone would do better in The Two Jasons. Though nothing is really wrong with the book per se, there's a strong feeling of filler here, that the urgency that Where Angels Fear initially imparted to the series has largely been wasted, aside from Tears of the Oracle. Putting a God at the root of the book's plot does not automatically make it more exciting.

24 July 2015

Return of the New Jedi Order, Episode XX: Rebel Dream by Aaron Allston

Mass market paperback, 304 pages
Published 2002

Acquired 2002(?)
Reread December 2014
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream
by Aaron Allston

Year Three of the Invasion (Months 2-3)
If you've been read all of my reviews of The New Jedi Order, you might note that I spend my time either complaining that the book is deeply dull or otherwise flawed, or praising the book for being excellent. So far there's been a real dearth of solidly competent novels. Well, that changes here with the late Aaron Allston, who was probably the definition of "solidly competent" when it comes to Star Wars. This made him not a great fit for things like Legacy of the Force, alas, but spot on for books like this-- basically the function of this book is to provide a fun adventure during the lull between hardcovers. There's plenty of great fleet tactics, starfighter battles, and intelligence skullduggery-- no one ever really did Star-Wars-as-military-sf better than Aaron Allston and Michael Stackpole, and here Allston proves himself more adept at adapting his style to the needs of the overall NJO story than Stackpole was, by eschewing the Force stuff and just focusing on the space battles. Disposable, I suppose, but enjoyable.

22 July 2015

Return of the New Jedi Order, Episode XIX: "The Apprentice" by Elaine Cunningham

Kindle eBook, n.pag.
Published 2002

Reread December 2014
Star Wars: "The Apprentice"
by Elaine Cunningham

Year Three of the Invasion (Month 2)
This is a short story, originally published in Star War Gamer magazine; I acquired a scan of it via my university library's document delivery program. It essentially serves as a missing chapter within Dark Journey, detailing a mission that is referenced in Dark Journey but unseen. It's okay-- like in the book it was seemingly cut from, Jaina and Kyp seem out of character in an odd way. Still, I am glad to have read it.

20 July 2015

Return of the New Jedi Order, Episode XVIII: Dark Journey by Elaine Cunningham

Mass market paperback, 301 pages
Published 2002

Acquired 2002(?)
Reread December 2014
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Dark Journey
by Elaine Cunningham

Year Three of the Invasion (Month 2)
I think Dark Journey would be disappointing at any point, but it's especially disappointing after the really strong run from Recovery to Star by Star. Everyone in this book seems a little... overdramatic, somehow. Like, Jaina makes small decisions, and everyone reacts really bigly to them, and things seem off-- like Jaina would ever marry into the Hapan royal family, yet it's treated like a real possibility. In terms of showing how the fallout of Star by Star has affected Jaina, this book doesn't really succeed, unfortunately.

It's probably worth noting that my experience of reading this book was somewhat diffuse, as I read it interspersed with other books in chronological order; this is a period where the novels all overlap with one another. The order I followed was:
  1. Dark Journey, chapters 1-11
  2. Traitor: "Embrace of Pain"
  3. Dark Journey, chapters 12-21
  4. "The Apprentice"
  5. Dark Journey, chapters 22-25
  6. Traitor: "Cocoon"
  7. Rebel Dream, chapters 1-8
  8. Dark Journey, chapters 26-28
  9. Traitor: "Nursery"
  10. Rebel Dream, chapters 9-17
  11. Traitor: "Garden"
  12. Rebel Stand
  13. Traitor (to end)
But reviewing them that way would be nuts, so I'll be doing them in whole parts despite how it doesn't represent my actual reading experience.

17 July 2015

Faster than a DC Bullet: Prose Fiction #8: Project Crisis!, Part XXXIII: Infinite Crisis [novelization]

Trade paperback, 371 pages
Published 2006

Borrowed from the library
Read September 2014
Infinite Crisis
by Greg Cox

I enjoyed Marv Wolfman's Crisis on Infinite Earth novelization, but Greg Cox novelizing Geoff Johns's story didn't have anywhere near the impact of Marv Wolfman novelizing his own. Part of what has motivated my reading of superhero prose fiction is to see how the writers handle superhero interiority-- a potentially tricky area, I think. Well, Cox doesn't: these people are flying code names and backstories. This might be interesting if you haven't read the comic, but it adds little depth to it if you have. Breezily written, but still felt like it took me forever to read.

15 July 2015

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part XXXII: 52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen

Comic trade paperback, 144 pages
Published 2008 (contents: 2007-08)
Acquired December 2012
Read August 2014
52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen

Writer: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Pat Olliffe
Inks: John Stanisci
Letters: Pat Brosseau, John J. Hill, Travis Lanham

This is one of those comic books that has no narrative reason to exist. You know, someone's like, "52 was popular, let's do a book with '52' in the title. People will buy it!" And the joke's on me, because I did buy it and I even read it, too. Even at six issues, though, this is pretty substanceless; the Four Horsemen were one of the less interesting aspects of 52, and I did not really desire to see them face down against Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Nothing of what made 52 work-- the rich tapestry that is the DC universe-- is present in this banal spin-off. Which is a shame, because Keith Giffen can do so much better!

Coming to the end of the Infinite Crisis tie-ins marks a switch in Project Crisis!; I'll be reviewing Batman: Year One comics next before coming back for Final Crisis and its tie-ins. Though first, on Friday, I'll be hitting up a bonus story...