G.W.Dahlquist - The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters
Dahlquist's debut novel has become, perhaps justifiably, notorious for the huge amount of money he was advanced on it ($2,000,000) which, to nobodies surprise, it singularly failed to recoup upon publication.
It's a shame as it's not the authors fault, the book itself is very good, but someone at the publishers really should have taken a step back and wondered if a fairly cerebral steampunk novel was ever going to generate that sort of return.
Glass Books is a sumptuously written experience that follows it's 3 very different protagonists, heiress Celeste Temple, assassin Cardinal Chang & doctor Captain-Surgeon Abelard Svenson, as they attempt to make sense of the conspiracy they find themselves embroiled in.
The books themselves are sheets of chemically engineered blue glass that can pull the thoughts from the mind of anyone looking inton it and then replay these stolen experiences (in the first person) to other observers. The creators of this wonderous glass are a cabal of deliciously old fashioned villianous cads and n'er-do-wells who are using them to convert, pervert, infiltrate and control the government of the, German-esque, duchy of Macklenburg. Our heroes, through a variety of unlikely means find themselves at loggerheads with the cabal and in an unlikely union with each other as they attempt to take them down.
As a reader I found the core triumverate to be a mixed bunch. Cardinal Chang I could happily read about all day long. His deliciously cold take on the world was a joy to experience. Svenson is a pompous bore but his unshakeable sense of duty gives his chapters a compulsion and he is a likeable enough pompous bore. Miss Temple though is a spoilt horror and in a way that she would utterly approve of she holds the lion share of the readers attention. She is the least interesting of the characters though and the one which I personally invested the smallest amount of emotional attachment in.
The book is written from the, chapter long, perspectives of each of the three mains in turn. whilst this does give a ridiculously thorough overview of the plot and the action it does result in a lot of repetition which does become slightly tiresome although the pace keeps this from becoming too large an issue.
The book ends on an open note - and indeed there is a sequel which I'll come to another time - so it's not the most satisfying on conclusions but the ride getting there is fun and fairly furious with a nice sense of time and place. It's slightly cerebral nature means it's not going to be for everyone but if you can get through the opening chapter then I think, like me, you'll enjoy the rest of the ride.
David Davies (ed) - Sherlock Holmes: The Game's Afoot
This is modern selection of Sherlock stories written by a horde of people I've never heard of with the exception of Mark Valentine.
Mark has two stories, one solo piece about the match trade and one duet about a coat of arms. Both are nifty little pieces. Quite low key but entertaining and unusual.
Low key would seem to be the watchword of the entire book and each author puts forward a nice little tale with no-one really standing out. The only bad story is the very last which is an utterly pointless retelling of the Reichenbach incident that was just shoddy really.
A good read though but I'm still not a fan of the short story anthology. I like more meat on the bones of my stories.
Russell T. Davies - Doctor Who: Damaged Goods
Now that was an unexpected treat. Obviously he's a very able scriptwriter but in his one and only attempt at a novel there was always going to be an element of trepidation as to whether it'd work.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. What a very different Doctor Who series this would have made. It's pitch black in tone and filled with drugs and sex - impersonal, alfresco gay sex mostly. It's set on a London housing estate and features a family called the Tyler's (any relation?) who have a terrible secret that's tearing them apart. Across town is Mrs Jericho and her very I'll son who looks very much like the Tyler's youngest, so much so that the already unhinged Mrs Jericho begins a rapid descent into outright lunacy upon setting him. Into this mix we have an alien weapon possessing the body of a dead cocaine dealer (and all who've partaken of his wares) and of course The Doctor and his entourage.
The giant robot ending (shades of the Other Doctor Xmas special) is a little OTT but the characters and the settings are spot on. The doctor is note perfect and the scene in the kitchen and the dining room when Mrs Jericho finally loses it and goes homicidal is utterly sublime.
There were places where I thought it dragged a little but for the most part I thought this was a real entertaining piece of work that would have made for a very, very different show.
Gerry Davis - Doctor Who & the Tenth Planet
The BBC have started reissuing the old Target novelisations of the old Doctor shows. This is the first of a few I picked up cheaply recently.
As is always the case with these Target books the writing is pretty poor and they are a very simplistic sort of beast due to their target (sorry) audience. They are a bit of nostalgic fun though.
This one is the last of the first Doctor stories and he was ailing throughout so he's barely in it. The story is fairly simplistic due to the shows limitations and also pretty daft. The Cybermen are a great idea though but you can see why they were reworked over the years. They were always my favourite Who villains though
Jamie Delano & Jock - Hellblazer: Pandemonium
And it's like he never went away. Delano once again proves why he's the quintessential Constantine writer. The other have all grabbed a bit of him - Ennis really got the romantic manipulator, Warren Ellis got the heart of gold, Azzarello the scary bastard and Carey the family man - Delano's version is all of these and more. He is scarily well realised and a wonderful bastard to boot.
Constantine is forcefully pulled into the Iraqi war by some deeply unwise government spooks and is sent out to participate in the interrogation of a captured Iraqi who has been doing some weird shot. Along the way he meets a friendly native before discovering that an old nemesis is one of the major players in the situation.
It's a lovely little one piece story filled with humour and warmth and ridiculous devilry. It's beautifully painted by Jock with a real sense of dislocation to the art.
I'd love it if they got Delano back on the title but that's not likely.
Aaron Dembski-Bowden - Horus Heresy: The First Heretic
The 14th of the Warhammer Horus Heresy books.
Thoroughly enjoyed this one though truth be told this series has been great fun almost throughout. The only duff ones were the two Dark Angels ones, especially the first.
This was about the fall of the Word Bearer legion, written mostly from the perspective of a captain named Argel Tal. It had a nice balance of 40k style WAAAAAARGH! and some pretty solid story-telling. It was exciting when it needed to be and intriguing when that was called for. Plus, and this is a big plus, lot's of Custodes stuff which I love.
The writer has definitely got some chops. I'd not read much by him before. He's done 3 Night Lords 40k books which I'd not bothered with and an imperial guard book called 'Cadian Blood' which I've read but can't remember - not much of a recommendation really. This one was good though.
Peter Dickinson - The Weathermonger
This is the first of the trilogy that formed the basis for the 1970s TV series 'The Changes' although this one barely featured in the TV show at all except for a vague similarity in terms of the ending.
It's the sorry of two kids - Geoffrey and his little sister Sally - who are travelling through a Britain that is hostile, barbaric, superstitious and which has somehow regressed back to the middle ages in order to find the source of the problem. With the assistance of an ancient Rolls Royce and Geoff's (titular) weather magic the two plough their way across the country being attacked by wild boars, angry superstitious peasants and lightning whilst being pursued by a feudal lord and his pack of dogs.
It's a little romp of a book and I'm really surprised it isn't better remembered although I wonder if the drugs at the end had a part in that. Personally though I thoroughly enjoyed and I am very pleased to have the other two installments here ready for reading.
Terrance Dicks - The Three Doctors
The first audiobook to make an appearance in these pages but certainly not the last.
This is the dramatisation of the episode featuring the first, second and third doctors.
The three have been drawn into conflict against the rogue Callifraean Omega in his anti-matter universe where he has been trapped since he kick started the whole Time Lord dealy.
It really was great fun and the second and third Doctors make a great double act. Hartnell is hardly in it as he was too ill to appear in anything more than a cameo but he is perfectly portrayed and is treated with great reverence.
It's a 70s Doctor Who so it's not overly concerned with complexity of plot or depth of characterisation but it's hugely entertaining nonetheless. Top book. A good way to pass a couple of hours while driving and cooking.
Terrance Dicks - Doctor Who: Planet of the Daleks
A novelisaton of one of the 3rd Doctor series from 1972 read by Jon Pertwee in 1995 which meant that on the whole this was a pretty strange experience. Pertwee easily slips into the Doctor's shoes again but sounds really odd when he does a dalek voice.
The book itself was quite poorly written and often came across as sounding like a schoolkids essay. This aside, the plot was a giggle and moved along at a cracking pace as the Doctor and Jo bump into a group of Thals out to destroy a massive Dalek army on the planet Spiridon.
Terrance Dicks - Doctor Who & the Day of the Daleks
A reprinted adaption of a Target novelisation of the third Doctors first encounter with the pepper pots.
It's a cool little read that romped along at a frantic pace which is pretty much the exact opposite of how these old Pertwee episodes actually were with the story dragged out over 6 or so episodes.
Here the Doctor and Jo are brought in to investigate mysterious attacks on a peace envoy which turns out to be a guerrilla fighter from a Dalek controlled future attempting to change the past. The Doctor is surprisingly passive throughout south only occasional burst of martial arts.
I liked this. It took about an hour to read and was monumentally daft but it was a lot of fun.
Thomas M. Disch - The Prisoner
This is a sort of sequel to the original series which sees the title character returned to the village. At least that's what I gathered from the Wiki page write-up of the books. When you read though it features many instances of repeated storylines from the TV show; indeed there is a section where #6 finds film of his previous time there.
Truthfully, even though it started off well enough it soon degenerated into a bit of a mess and ended as a real disappointment.
John Dorney – Doctor Who: Lepidoptery for Beginners
Another of these fab little ‘Short Trips’ audio stories returns to the Second Doctor, Zoe and Jamie.
The trio are trapped by a young man determined to control the future through the computer he’s created using Chaos theory that allows him to control the future through predicting the past.
He has the three in a trap from which none of them can devise an escape as he has already predicted everything. Unfortunately he hasn’t predicted his own machines dislike of him and his actions which leads to a very welcome and satisfying ending.