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#1 Virgil Vox

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Posted 22 May 2016 - 01:03 AM

I decided to start this thread as a place where I, and any other member if they want to, could post book reviews. My reasoning is that there are quite a few books I want to review but never do because I figure there would be almost no interest in them. The few reviews I have done have generated almost no replies. I think my review of Lois Lane: Fallout (the sequel of which I plan to review shortly) never received one reply. I thought having one thread where I, and others hopefully, could review multiple books would be better than starting a ton of review threads that would probably die a quick death.

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The Trials of Apollo Book 1 – The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

I have to admit that I approached The Trials of Apollo with some trepidation. While I’ve loved Riordan’s other series – Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Kane Chronicles, and The Heroes of Olympus – his newest series, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, just didn’t click with me. I think it felt too formulaic. Still, this book promised to continue the adventures of the Greek demigods so I was game. Luckily this book was extremely fun to read and I loved it.

At the end of the Heroes of Olympus series Zeus blamed Apollo for the war with Gaea and promised to punish him. His punishment comes six months later when Apollo is turned mortal and thrown into a dumpster in New York, where two thugs accost him. He’s saved by Meg, a young demigod who has apparently been living on the streets. She is powerful for her age, though, and she claims Apollo’s service. They head to Camp Half-Blood, where Apollo discovers that several campers have gone missing, no communications are getting in or out, and that all of his Oracles have been cut off from their power. No Oracles means no quests for the demigods. Apollo and Meg have to figure out who’s behind the missing campers, who is taking over the Oracles, and find a way to get prophecies going again.

What makes this novel work is Apollo himself. He’s a great character to focus on because he used to be a god and now has to contend with being a mortal with no powers, with acne, and with, horror of horrors, flab instead of abs. He’s a funny narrator as he compares his old life to his new situation and finds it very lacking. He has no powers and his memory is fading since his mortal brain can’t contain every detail of his millennia old life. He’s also saddled with Meg, a demigod he finds annoying and endearing. He also has room to grow as he starts to realize that he was a pretty horrible person as a god and his vanity and pride led to a lot of people dying. It makes him a sympathetic character and one that you want to see improve himself and get a better understanding of what it means to be mortal.

Meg is a good addition to the cast of demigods. She’s young but not stupid and pretty brave. There’s also a twist with her character that I didn’t see coming but which is definitely going to make the next novels pretty interesting.

Another thing the novel has going for it is low stakes. Yes, by the end of the novel a major threat has been revealed but the adventure in this novel is kept contained to Camp Half-Blood (aside from the New York opening) and there’s no counting clock to some end of the world doomsday scenario. Apollo and Meg travel into the woods surrounding the camp to find the missing campers, two of which are Apollo’s children. After the world ending stakes of the last series having a smaller, more intimate quest was a breath of fresh air. There was an air of quiet menace to the book since it was the woods themselves that were luring campers away and they didn’t know when someone else might be taken.

Even the ending felt fresh despite it being another attack on Camp Half-Blood. What sets this apart from the other times the camp has been attacked is that the camp is lightly defended. It’s not yet summer, so there are only about 13 demigods in the camp. It’s also being attacked by a hundred foot tall nude statue of Apollo. It’s absurd and tense at the same time since nothing the campers are doing seem to be working to stop the statue and Apollo has sympathy pain every time the statue is hit in the groin.

The book also addresses two problems I had with the finale of Heroes of Olympus. The first is Nico and Will’s relationship. Nico was revealed to be gay and in love with Percy in that series. In the final book he quite suddenly gets over his crush on Percy, which was fine but it didn’t get the resolution I was hoping for. Then, Riordan hints that Nico and son of Apollo Will Solace might hook up. However, it was left ambiguous which annoyed me since the three main heterosexual relationships were clearly defined. Here though it’s quite clear that Nico and Will are dating, with Will calling Nico his boyfriend and the two of them being attached at the hip. They make a cute couple, something Apollo notes on several occasions. I would love to see a novel or e-book or something focusing on those two having an adventure.

Not only are there two prominent gay characters, but Apollo himself is bisexual. He says he has no problem with his son dating another boy (though he was surprised Will went in for that brooding bad boy thing) and mentions on several occasions his previous lovers, both male and female. His daughter, Kayla, is the result of a union between Apollo and Kayla’s dad. Apollo mentions finding fellow camper Paolo cute. He also takes time in the ending battle to mention how son of Athena Malcolm Pace looks in red briefs (he forgot to put pants on when the giant attacking statue showed up). Of course, the fact that there are gay and bisexual characters in the novel has created a backlash, as evidenced by some of the reviews on Amazon stating that the book was a travesty and how dare Riordan push his liberal agenda on them and their kids and how he’s taken a series aimed at kids and sexualized it. Let’s be honest, though. The gay content is kept to a bare minimum. Nico and Will never kiss, and aside from a kiss on the cheek for good luck from Paolo, Apollo never gets any action of any kind. Besides, romance has played a part of Riordan’s book from the start. This isn’t something new. The only difference now is that it’s two young men in love instead of a young man and young woman.

The other problem I had with the end of Heroes of Olympus was Leo’s incredibly selfish act to let his friends think he was dead so he could fly off to Calypso and have some alone time. That action really made me dislike the character. Here it’s revealed that he did send a message several days later letting everyone know he was alive, and he and Calypso got lost in the Sea of Monsters and that’s why he hadn’t returned yet. Still, all of the campers line up to punch him for doing that which I think is what he deserves.

For those wondering, Percy Jackson is in the book. He has a small role, appearing at the start of the novel to help Apollo get to the camp, and then returning at the end to help fight the giant statue. He refuses to go on Apollo’s quest to free the Oracles because he promised his mom and Annabeth that he would focus on his studies, pass the SATs, and get accepted into the Roman college. Annabeth herself is absent because she’s making her appearance in the first Magnus Chase novel. Jason, Piper, Frank, and Hazel are not in the book either. Leo shows up at the very end. I have to say, that didn’t bother me. I liked the focus being put on the lesser known campers and I liked Nico and Will having bigger roles.

The villains introduced here, the Triumvirate, might not be the giant threat that Kronos or Gaea were, but they were the ones helping to bankroll those operations. The Triumvirate has been around for centuries, slowly building up power and making plans to weaken the gods and their offspring. They supplied Luke with his ship and weapons and did the same for Octavian and the Roman army. They are now ready to make their move and they do that by taking over the places of power for the various Oracles, cutting off the demigods from the prophecies and using that power for themselves.

In the end, this first book in The Trials of Apollo series was a home run. It’s a good continuation of the story Riordan has been telling since the first Percy Jackson book, but it’s also a good stand-alone novel that sets up its own story. I highly recommend it to fans of Riordan’s other books, or just anyone looking for a good adventure story.

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Hardy Boys Adventures #1 – Secret of the Red Arrow by Franklin W. Dixon

I’m not sure why I decided to buy a Hardy Boys book since I haven’t read a HB book in many, many years. I think it popped up as a recommendation on Amazon or on my tablet or something so I decided to give the Hardy Boys a try. I decided to start with the Hardy Boys Adventures because it was the newest series to feature the brothers and was described as a soft reboot. I did a little bit of research just to get familiar with the characters again and then bought the book. Overall it was pretty good.

SotRA finds the two brothers, Frank and Joe, forcibly retired from being teen detectives. They’ve received too many lawsuits and angered one too many police officers of late and so a Deal was struck. The boys would stop investigating and just be regular teens again or they’ll be sent to a particularly nasty reform school. They’ve stuck to the deal but are about to be tested when they’re asked to help a fellow student who seems to be on the receiving end of some nasty pranks. They decide to help him covertly, and end up stumbling upon a criminal organization called the Red Arrow that has been operating in Bayport unchallenged for years.

This was a good first book to start the series on, and a good one to be re-introduced to the characters. The book is told in first person, alternating between Frank and Joe. Their inner voices are distinct enough that it’s easy to tell who is narrating. They offer enough information about the people and places around town that I never felt completely lost.

The Red Arrow was a pretty formidable opponent for the brothers to tackle because the group has just about everyone in Bayport scared to speak up for fear that they will find themselves targeted. Even the boys’ father is scared of this group. I liked the mystery behind the Red Arrow but did have some complaints. The first is that this group has operated in Bayport since probably before the brothers were born but in all their years of being teen detectives they never once heard about it. Then, once they do find out about it, they see signs of Red Arrow influence everywhere. The second problem is that the boys discover the culprit behind the organization rather quickly. This probably should have been a threat that extended beyond a single book. I’m sure the series is more or less intended to be stand-alone novels but for a threat that’s built up this much it either needed two or more novels or just a longer novel.

The Deals adds some tension to the book because the brothers have to hide their investigating from everyone, including their parents. They have no desire to be sent to reform school but they also can’t stop helping people in Bayport.

The cover is misleading which sucks. It shows the boys tied up to a crane and about to be drowned in the hold of a ship while someone watches. The boys do find themselves trapped in an enclosed space that is quickly filling with water in the book but it’s nowhere near as exciting as what the cover promised. I know that many covers can be misleading so I’m not really complaining about that but it just sucks that the event was so different in the book.

I enjoyed this novel enough that I bought the second in the series already. I also have ordered the first few Hardy Boys Casefiles novels which were apparently aimed at an older audience and were more action packed. It will be intriguing to see the differences between the two series.
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#2 RJDiogenes

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Posted 22 May 2016 - 05:27 PM

Nice idea to have a book review thread.  :thumbs-up:

View PostVirgil Vox, on 22 May 2016 - 01:03 AM, said:

Even the ending felt fresh despite it being another attack on Camp Half-Blood. What sets this apart from the other times the camp has been attacked is that the camp is lightly defended. It’s not yet summer, so there are only about 13 demigods in the camp. It’s also being attacked by a hundred foot tall nude statue of Apollo. It’s absurd and tense at the same time since nothing the campers are doing seem to be working to stop the statue and Apollo has sympathy pain every time the statue is hit in the groin.  
I wonder if he was inspired by the growing scene from "Who Mourns For Adonais?"  I always kind of wondered what kind of a view Kirk and crew had.  :lol:

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Of course, the fact that there are gay and bisexual characters in the novel has created a backlash, as evidenced by some of the reviews on Amazon stating that the book was a travesty and how dare Riordan push his liberal agenda on them and their kids and how he’s taken a series aimed at kids and sexualized it.
It boggles my mind that this sort of thing still goes on.  If you had told me fifty years ago that the Right Wing would even still exist in the 21st century, I wouldn't have believed (or that the Left Wing would have become such a mess).

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I’m not sure why I decided to buy a Hardy Boys book since I haven’t read a HB book in many, many years. I think it popped up as a recommendation on Amazon or on my tablet or something so I decided to give the Hardy Boys a try. I decided to start with the Hardy Boys Adventures because it was the newest series to feature the brothers and was described as a soft reboot. I did a little bit of research just to get familiar with the characters again and then bought the book. Overall it was pretty good.  
So the Hardy Boys are still around, too, along with Nancy Drew. Do these stories take place in the present, or are they period pieces?

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I enjoyed this novel enough that I bought the second in the series already. I also have ordered the first few Hardy Boys Casefiles novels which were apparently aimed at an older audience and were more action packed. It will be intriguing to see the differences between the two series.  
That's kind of interesting.  I wonder if the characters are older, too.
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#3 Niko

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Posted 23 May 2016 - 07:51 AM

View PostVirgil Vox, on 22 May 2016 - 01:03 AM, said:

I enjoyed this novel enough that I bought the second in the series already. I also have ordered the first few Hardy Boys Casefiles novels which were apparently aimed at an older audience and were more action packed. It will be intriguing to see the differences between the two series.
Now you have me intrigued to try the Casefiles books, too.  :)  I read my fair share of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew growing up, but haven't thought about them in years.  Did the Adventures one keep the basic characterizations the same as the classic Hardy Boys formula?
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#4 RJDiogenes

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Posted 23 May 2016 - 05:17 PM

I never read much Hardy Boys that I can remember, though I read a handful of Nancy Drews.  And in the early 90s, a couple of Lesbian friends gave me a series of books that were Gay pastiches of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.  My favorite version of Nancy Drew is actually those movies with Bonita Granville from the early 30s.
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#5 Virgil Vox

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Posted 23 May 2016 - 07:48 PM

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Nice idea to have a book review thread.  :thumbs-up:

Thanks.

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It boggles my mind that this sort of thing still goes on.  If you had told me fifty years ago that the Right Wing would even still exist in the 21st century, I wouldn't have believed (or that the Left Wing would have become such a mess).

Same. Aside from the fifty years ago thing since I wasn't around then. Still, it surprises me just how well the Right Wing has held on and even grown.

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The Hardy Boys Casefiles #1 - Dead On Target by Franklin W. Dixon

The Casefiles are definitely a different take on the Hardy Boys, at least compared to Adventures. The trappings are the same, but the boys are dealing with bigger threats and the book is aimed at an older audience than the original novels or the Adventures. This is made clear on the first page when Iola Morton, Joe's girlfriend, is killed in a car bomb meant for the two brothers. An international terrorist organization called the Assassins has come to Bayport to kill a presidential candidate who has promised to crack down on terrorists. The boy's father Frank is working security for the candidate, and has been researching the Assassins. They wanted to blow up the Hardy Boys to send Frank a message. However, the brothers are now determined to find the mastermind behind the bomb and stop him from good. They get assistance from the Network, an intelligence agency without borders that battles the Assassins.

There's definitely a lot more action in this novel than in any of the Adventures I've read so far. Frank and Joe are both expert fighters and they have quite a few chances to put those skills to use. There are also sever car and foot chases, including a pretty tense one in the mall at night between the boys, their friends, and the Assassin responsible for killing Iola.

Joe does use a gun, but only to shoot out the tire of the car chasing them and he ditches it pretty quickly. Later Frank, Joe, and their friends use tranquilizer guns.

Frank and Joe are more or less the same as in Adventures. Frank's the computer expert and the more level headed one whereas Joe is the one more likely to go barging in and lets his fists do the talking. Joe is messed up after Iola died, obviously, and is filled with anger in this novel and has made getting the man responsible his top priority.

Aside from Iola, the Assassin who killed her also dies as he plummets to his death after being thwarted in his attempt to kill the candidate during a speech he's giving at the mall. Joe at first thinks about letting him fall, but then tries to pull him up. The Assassin, however, would rather die and lets go of Joe's hand.

I enjoyed Death On Target. It's a departure from the Adventures but that's not a bad thing. It was aiming at a modern (well, 1987 modern anyways) audience and an older audience as well and I feel that it succeeded in that endeavor.

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So the Hardy Boys are still around, too, along with Nancy Drew. Do these stories take place in the present, or are they period pieces?

Both Adventures and Casefiles take place in the present. Well, the Casefiles are now older since this first book was published in 1987 but for the most part it doesn't have any references that truly date it. If anything, the focus on terrorism makes it relevant to today's audience.

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That's kind of interesting.  I wonder if the characters are older, too.

In both Adventures and Casefiles the brothers are about the same age. The difference is that I buy them as teens in Adventures. Yes, they're teens who solve crimes and have skills most teens don't but they still deal with teen problems and they act like teens. The brothers in Casefiles feel like they should be in their twenties and not around 17 or 18.

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Now you have me intrigued to try the Casefiles books, too.  :)  I read my fair share of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew growing up, but haven't thought about them in years.  Did the Adventures one keep the basic characterizations the same as the classic Hardy Boys formula?

As far as I can tell the characterizations are more or less the same but remember that I'm going off memories of reading the original novels at least 15 years ago. There has been some updating like Frank being a computer whiz but the personalities seem more or less unchanged.

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I never read much Hardy Boys that I can remember, though I read a handful of Nancy Drews.  And in the early 90s, a couple of Lesbian friends gave me a series of books that were Gay pastiches of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.  My favorite version of Nancy Drew is actually those movies with Bonita Granville from the early 30s.

Those might be fun to read. Do you remember the names?

I saw that the Nancy Drew Files, a similar attempt to modernize Nancy Drew back in the 80s like the Casefiles, has been turned into e-books. I might try out the first novel in that series to see how it stacks up. I wish the Casefiles were available as e-books as well. Trying to track them down on eBay and Amazon is a pain.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
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It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#6 RJDiogenes

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Posted 24 May 2016 - 06:04 PM

View PostVirgil Vox, on 23 May 2016 - 07:48 PM, said:

The Casefiles are definitely a different take on the Hardy Boys, at least compared to Adventures. The trappings are the same, but the boys are dealing with bigger threats and the book is aimed at an older audience than the original novels or the Adventures. This is made clear on the first page when Iola Morton, Joe's girlfriend, is killed in a car bomb meant for the two brothers. An international terrorist organization called the Assassins has come to Bayport to kill a presidential candidate who has promised to crack down on terrorists. The boy's father Frank is working security for the candidate, and has been researching the Assassins. They wanted to blow up the Hardy Boys to send Frank a message. However, the brothers are now determined to find the mastermind behind the bomb and stop him from good. They get assistance from the Network, an intelligence agency without borders that battles the Assassins.  
Wow, the Hardy Boys go all 80s.  That's really not what I think of when I think of the Hardy Boys. Sneaking around the swamp at night with flashlights, trying to figure out who stole the Widow Brown's family broach is what I think of when I think of the Hardy Boys.

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Those might be fun to read. Do you remember the names?  
Nancy Clue and the Hardly Boys by Mabel Maney.  I thought there were four, but there's only three. The first two were really nice, but I was kind of disappointed in the last one.  There was a bit of meanspiritedness about it, as if the author had grown bitter.
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#7 RJDiogenes

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Posted 24 May 2016 - 06:07 PM

And they're available for the Kindle.
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#8 Virgil Vox

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Posted 27 May 2016 - 12:37 AM

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Wow, the Hardy Boys go all 80s.  That's really not what I think of when I think of the Hardy Boys. Sneaking around the swamp at night with flashlights, trying to figure out who stole the Widow Brown's family broach is what I think of when I think of the Hardy Boys.

Yeah, it's definitely a different take on the Hardy Boys, which is what they were going for. Considering the series lasted well over 100 books it must have been a successful approach that readers embraced. While I like the Casefiles, I think I prefer the less high stakes crimes that the brothers seem to investigate in the Adventures.

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And they're available for the Kindle.

Thanks. I'll have to check them out.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#9 RJDiogenes

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Posted 27 May 2016 - 06:18 PM

I hope you like them. My impression of the first couple, as I recall, was more pastiche than parody; the idea being, why can't these nice, wholesome characters just happen to be homosexual, which is a great concept. It would be nice to see more like that.
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#10 Virgil Vox

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Posted 08 August 2016 - 06:50 PM

I bought three Doctor Who books not that long ago, and decided they would make a good addition to the book review thread.

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Doctor Who: Deep Blue by Mark Morris

I stumbled across this book on a Doctor Who site and the synopsis sounded intriguing. I decided to buy it, but there were a few barriers to my enjoyment of the book that had to be overcome. The first is that this featured a Doctor (the Fifth) that I had no knowledge of as well as two companions (Tegan and Turlough) that I wasn’t familiar with. Not only that, but the novel was placed during the Third Doctor’s era and featured UNIT and the characters associated with UNIT (the Brigadier, Mike Yates, Benton, etc). Basically, there were huge gaps in my DW knowledge that I had to plug. Thankfully there are plenty of sites on the Internet that gave me enough information to feel comfortable reading the book and not feeling completely lost.

The novel sees the Doctor taking Tegan and Turlough to a 1970s resort town on the coast to relax after the events of Warriors of the Deep. What the Doctor doesn’t know is that an alien infestation of the town has begun. A species called the Xaranti landed in the ocean not too long ago. They are spreading an infection that is slowly turning the human inhabitants into new Xaranti. It’s not long before UNIT is on the scene and all hell breaks loose.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It has a definite horror vibe to it that I appreciated. The Xaranti are pretty gruesome creatures and the newly turned Xaranti have no control over themselves yet so they end up going on a killing spree throughout the city. This leads to some desperate escape attempts for many of the characters. Not only that, but most of the characters (including the Doctor) end up infected so they’re not at their best levels which adds to the tension. Only Turlough remains uninfected, but he gets separated from the Doctor and has to make his way through the city by himself as he’s hunted down by the Xaranti so they can get the location of the TARDIS and use him as bait.

I found myself liking Tegan and Turlough. Tegan’s a brash, unapologetic woman who speaks her mind. She has a nice arc here as she is weary from her adventures with the Doctor and tired of him keeping secrets from her. She strikes up a small romance with a local police officer. When she gets infected she freaks out, understandably, because it wasn’t that long ago that she was taken over by another alien presence. Still, when things get bad she more or less keeps a level head and helps gets a wounded Doctor to safety and uses her infection to get key details about the Xaranti’s plot.

If I’m being honest with myself, Turlough is the kind of companion I would be. He’s happy enough to travel with the Doctor and see the sights, but less keen on throwing himself into danger. When the Doctor, Tegan, and UNIT head into a building to capture a single Xaranti, Turlough elects to stay behind. This is understandable because it wasn’t that long ago that he and the Doctor traveled to the Xaranti ship and were almost killed by the hordes of Xaranti within. I do find Turlough interesting because he did join the TARDIS crew with the intent of killing the Doctor. He’s also, as noted above, not someone that will willingly walk into danger. It does set him apart from previous companions (at least the ones I’m familiar with). His relationship with Tegan is rocky to say the least. She doesn’t completely trust him and finds him insufferable a lot of the times.

The UNIT crew seems interesting, though Mike Yates gets the most focus and the other UNIT members get infected rather quickly. I did like Yates. He seems like a good guy and he deals rather admirably with an infected Tegan, keeping her from completely succumbing to the Xaranti. I like UNIT’s reactions to a new Doctor, one who is apparently pretty different from the one they’re used to and who isn’t too keen on doing everything by UNIT’S book.

The Xaranti are a lot like the Borg. Or I guess I should say the Cybermen. They travel in a ship that they’ve adapted with technology from many different species. Their whole goal is to turn everyone in the universe into a Xaranti and to gain the knowledge from those they turn. They have a collective consciousness which means that what one Xaranti knows, they all do. Despite these similarities I found the Xaranti to be distinct enough not to be a carbon copy and felt that they were a pretty menacing threat. Maybe UNIT could have stopped them if they didn’t all get infected but given how strong the Xaranti are and how numerous they are that’s a pretty big maybe.

Morris populates the town with new characters so that it’s not just random people getting killed and/or infected. Not all of the characters are likeable or are meant to be but it’s still shocking when they die. I think he does a good job of showing the grief and horror of what’s going on and how it’s affecting the people. There’s a slow build to the all out attack where people are being infected and just one or two are murdered and that lets us see the grief up close and personal through the eyes of a family who lose a child to the Xaranti early on.

The book itself is split into four parts (to mimic the TV show’s style at the time I’m assuming) with each part ending on a cliffhanger. I liked that approach and felt that it worked here.

The book does end rather abruptly. The Doctor saves the day, explains how he saved the day rather quickly to Yates, and then leaves with the companions. I was hoping for a little more wrap-up with some of the characters.

Overall, I found Deep Blue to be an enjoyable novel. I liked the Doctor, Tegan Turlough, and Mike. The novel specific characters kept my attention. The horror elements were well done. It also featured a pretty clever Doctor Who style way of getting the Xaranti to leave.

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Doctor Who: War of the Daleks by John Peel

Much like Deep Blue, I had to do some research before reading this novel as it featured the Eighth Doctor and novel only companion Sam.

War of the Daleks sees the Doctor and Sam getting swept up into the machinations of the Prime Dalek as he attempts to get rid of Davros and his supporters once and for all. The TARDIS ends up on a salvage ship that has recently also salvaged Davros’s life support pod. It isn’t long before the Thals show up, intent on using Davros to end their war with the Daleks. Before they can do anything though, the Daleks arrive and take everyone to Skaro to place Davros on trial.

The book is heavily enmeshed in Dalek history and actually retcons a DW storyline where the Doctor tricks Davros into destroying Skaro. It turns out that Davros actually destroyed a planet made to look like Skaro by the Dalek Prime. It’s an odd retcon to be sure but one that didn’t really bother me since I haven’t seen the original episodes where Skaro was blown up anyways. From reviews I read there are quite a few DW fans that weren’t happy with that aspect of the novel at all.

I quite liked this Doctor, who seems to be a more romantic Doctor than some of the other incarnations. He also uses the sonic screwdriver which was missing from the Fifth Doctor’s adventure. He gets rather intense, but he is dealing with the Daleks at the height of their power as they’re spreading throughout the universe. Sam seems like a fine companion, but she spends most of the novel feeling like she has nothing to offer compared with the other characters they encounter, and upset that Chayn, the good looking engineer they meet on the salvage ship, has the hots for the Doctor. I couldn’t tell if Sam was jealous because she was in love with the Doctor or just upset because she believed she might get replaced.

The other main characters are Chayn and Ayaka. Chayn, like I wrote above, is the engineer of the salvage ship that the Doctor ends up on. She’s a competent, levelheaded woman who is pretty calm in a crisis. Ayaka is a Thal soldier who has participated in many campaigns. Despite this, she still has a strong moral center that comes into direct conflict with her superior, who has lost all humanity in the war with the Daleks and has no problem blowing up a planet full of people or killing innocent crewmen if it means ending the war with the Daleks. Ayaka has a great character arc throughout the novel and I hope she appeared in another Eighth Doctor novel down the line.

This novel is called War of the Daleks, and it definitely provides that. It opens with a battle between the Daleks and Thals that’s well written and intense. There are three interludes in the novel that show other battles between the Daleks and various other forces. Then there’s the civil war between the Daleks loyal to Davros and those loyal to Dalek Prime. The Thals also take part, so it becomes a giant three way fight on Skaro. It’s pretty epic, and you can tell Peel really loves the Daleks as he uses just about every type of Dalek that existed at the time (and maybe some that didn’t).

The novel does look at how war can warp people and a culture as the Doctor regrets his role in the Thals becoming more militaristic. Sam, who starts out very much a pacifist and against war, ends up seeing it in a different light when she’s right in the middle of it. Ayaka also shines a light on the dehumanization effects of war and the toll it can take on people.

Like with Deep Blue, I enjoyed this novel. There are plenty of twists and turns to the plot that kept me guessing. The action was well written. The characters were enjoyable. The novel addressed deeper issues dealing with war which was nice. The Daleks here are pretty terrifying because they are at the height of their power, and the characters end up on Skaro surrounded by millions of Daleks. What I liked is that, even when the Doctor and Sam escape, it’s only because it’s part of the Dalek Prime’s plan. The novel made the DP a great adversary for the Doctor. He’s extremely cunning and ruthless. I definitely recommend this novel to anyone who’s a fan of the Daleks.

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Doctor Who: Imperial Moon by Christopher Bulis

While the synopsis for Imperial Moon made it sound like a fun book, I expected to like Deep Blue or War of the Daleks more. Imagine my surprise when I read IM and liked it better than those two books. This isn’t a knock against either of those books. They’re both great. It’s just that IM is an extremely fun book filled with insane creatures, an outlandish premise, a decent twist, and great villains in the form of the Vrall.

The Doctor, Turlough, and Kamelion are zipping about in the TARDIS when they’re hit by a temporal wake that lands them on the moon. Right after that the time safe deposits a journal for the Doctor to read. It tells of a British expedition to the moon in 1878. It seems as if the British found a way to create spaceships (or astral ships as they are named) and built three of them to send to the moon to claim it as part of the British Empire. While reading the journal, the Doctor comes across a passage that reveals that he and Turlough met the expedition. He quits reading, and decides to travel back to 1878 to figure out what’s going on, because history doesn’t have a record of the expedition.

Once on the moon in that time period, the Doctor and the expedition discover a giant crater on the moon that has a breathable atmosphere and that is populated by an assortment of dangerous plants and animals, as well as a city that is seemingly controlled by robots and a group of exiled female aliens. Unfortunately, the city seems to be putting out an energy field that makes it impossible for the British ships or the TARDIS to leave.

For me, there was just a lot to love here. The adventure aspect of the story works well. The crater is full of dangerous monsters that the British are hard pressed to fight and defeat. Bulis also gives a good explanation as to why a crater on the moon is full of deadly creatures. It’s an illegal hunting preserve set up by some unknown benefactor. Despite the fact that no hunters have visited for a long time, it’s still up and running thanks to the warden and its army of robotic servants.

The journal also adds a wrinkle to the proceedings. It’s written by the man in charge of the expedition, Captain Haliwell. The Doctor says that they can’t read anymore because their knowledge could either cause things to come to pass or cause things to not happen how they’re supposed to. Turlough, though, can’t help but try and sneak a peek every now and then. He does this because he wants to know if he survives and to make himself seem smarter than usual. However, the weight of what’s he doing begins to press on him, especially when he reads a passage about an action he will take in the future that he’s not sure he can do.

Speaking of Turlough, he takes center stage here for the most part. The novel gives his character some growth. He’s still concerned with surviving and facing the least amount of danger, much like in Deep Blue. However, he wants to try and change that aspect of himself. He has some pretty brave moments here.

Kamelion even has a part to play here, though it is rather limited. The energy field that keeps everyone from leaving also interferes with Kamelion and he can’t step outside of the TARDIS. Still, he has a few good moments throughout the book.
The Doctor more or less takes a backseat in most of the novel. He still has a presence, and he gets more page time towards the end of the novel, but Bulis focuses more on Turlough and several novel only characters. There’s Haliwel, captain of one of the astral ships, and leader of the expedition. He’s an all around good guy with the usual Victorian sensibilities. He gets captured and taken to the city with Emily, the daughter of the scientist who created the technology that allows the astral ships to fly and the only female in the expedition. The two are subjected to various trials to determine their fitness as prey for the hunters. Predictably, a romance blossoms between the two. What adds some spice to it is that Emily is a progressive woman who believes in the equality of the sexes and Haliwel doesn’t. Emily is able to hold her own in the trials and the shared danger does forge a pretty strong bond between the two.

The novel also focuses on the plight of one of the astral ships that was shot down by the city defenses as they were trying to rescue Haliwel and Emily. The captain presses on into the jungle and ends up getting a lot of his crew killed. One of the men, the pilot Henry, eventually stages a mutiny. This part deals with class struggle as Henry believes that the captain, Green, doesn’t know what he’s doing and only got his rank due to his connections. Henry snaps under the pressure and a lifetime’s worth of resentment at his “social betters.”

While the creatures that populate the crater are cool, the Vrall are the best. They’re only mentioned throughout the novel at first, with them being cited as the most dangerous creatures in the hunting ground. Once one gets loose on one of the astral ships, we see why. A single Vrall manages to kill pretty much the entire crew one by one. It reminded me a bit of Alien, to be honest, which is a good thing. The remaining Vrall end up back on Earth, where they besiege the rest of the expedition survivors and the Queen herself and become a threat to every person on Earth if they’re not stopped.

I’ll be re-reading Imperial Moon many times. It’s just a really good book. There was nothing about it that I didn’t like.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
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#11 RJDiogenes

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Posted 09 August 2016 - 05:55 PM

Very interesting.  The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, is "my" Doctor, because it was with his regeneration that I really started watching the show regularly.  I loved Tegan as a Companion.  Turlough was a very strange, but interesting, companion.  I had actually forgotten about Kamelion until I read this. The third book, Imperial Moon, does sound really good, almost Steampunkish.  I like the idea of a trip to the Moon in the 1800s.  And that abandoned hunting preserve is a very Science Fictiony idea.
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#12 Virgil Vox

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 02:52 PM

Quote

The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, is "my" Doctor, because it was with his regeneration that I really started watching the show regularly.  I loved Tegan as a Companion.  Turlough was a very strange, but interesting, companion.  I had actually forgotten about Kamelion until I read this.

That's cool that the Fifth Doctor is your Doctor. I think I might buy a DVD featuring him, Tegan, and Turlough because they did intrigue me in the novels. With Kamelion, I assumed it was a guy in a costume but apparently it was an actual computer controlled robot prop. It's an interesting story since the only guy who really knew how to work it died and didn't leave any notes behind so the crew didn't know what to do with him.

Quote

The third book, Imperial Moon, does sound really good, almost Steampunkish.  I like the idea of a trip to the Moon in the 1800s.  And that abandoned hunting preserve is a very Science Fictiony idea.

I liked it a lot. There were some great ideas in there. I found it cheap on Amazon so I'd recommend trying to find it as well if you're interested.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#13 RJDiogenes

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 05:29 PM

View PostVirgil Vox, on 12 August 2016 - 02:52 PM, said:

That's cool that the Fifth Doctor is your Doctor. I think I might buy a DVD featuring him, Tegan, and Turlough because they did intrigue me in the novels. With Kamelion, I assumed it was a guy in a costume but apparently it was an actual computer controlled robot prop. It's an interesting story since the only guy who really knew how to work it died and didn't leave any notes behind so the crew didn't know what to do with him.  
I hope you enjoy it if you do buy it.  I may do the same.  It's been ages since I've seen any of them. Did you ever see that short film that David Tennant did with Peter Davison?  He says the same thing. "You were my Doctor."  It's very sweet.

Quote

I liked it a lot. There were some great ideas in there. I found it cheap on Amazon so I'd recommend trying to find it as well if you're interested.  
I'll take a look.  Maybe it's available for the Kindle.
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#14 G-man

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 12:59 PM

I've been dipping into These Are The Voyages ..., volume 1, by Marc Cushman, which goes into depth about getting Star Trek on to the air, and the production of season one, episode by episode and what was going on behind the scenes. What I found interesting, among numerous things, is that by reading about what was happening during the writing of the episode, through its various iterations, to the filming, and even cost elements and ratings, is that it gave me a whole new appreciation for the episode (even with the original effects) when I rewatched it.

I've gone and ordered volume 2, so impressed have I been with volume 1.

I recommend it to anyone who is fan of TOS.

/s/

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#15 RJDiogenes

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 06:01 PM

That sounds interesting.  I do like insights on how a particular story evolved, and what was lost or gained in the final version.
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#16 Virgil Vox

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 09:00 PM

Quote

I hope you enjoy it if you do buy it.  I may do the same.  It's been ages since I've seen any of them. Did you ever see that short film that David Tennant did with Peter Davison?  He says the same thing. "You were my Doctor."  It's very sweet.

I have not watched that. I'll have to since it is on the season 4 box set.

Quote

I'll take a look.  Maybe it's available for the Kindle.

Doesn't look like it is on the Kindle, or in any e-book format unfortunately. There are other Doctor Who books from that era on the Kindle so maybe one day it will get the e-book treatment.

Quote

I've been dipping into These Are The Voyages ..., volume 1, by Marc Cushman, which goes into depth about getting Star Trek on to the air, and the production of season one, episode by episode and what was going on behind the scenes.

I love those kind of behind the scene books that go into how an episode or comic or movie was made. Not being a big TOS fan (my knowledge of that era comes primarily from the movies and some of the books set in that era I've read) I don't think I'd get the book but it would still be interesting to hear about the second volume when you get it.

Not too long ago I bought the Smallville Season 1 Official Companion by Paul Simpson that goes into detail about the making of the first season and like These Are the Voyages it breaks it down episode by episode. It's a fascinating look at how the first season was made. There are some interesting tidbits in there, like how the studio gave them almost free reign when it came to budget on the first half of the series but started making severe cuts in the last half, forcing the crew to cut back a lot on the visual effects (though it never really showed in the season). There are also interviews with all the main actors, and it made me feel bad for Eric Johnson. He says he knew by the middle of the season that his character probably didn't have much of a life left on the show because the writers seemed to be burning through a lot of material for him. He says that he and the writers tried to make Whitney a more likeable and sympathetic character but that a lot of the audience still hated the character because of his actions in stripping Clark and tying him up in the cornfield. It's sad, because they did make the character a lot more likeable and interesting by the end of the season but it was too little, too late.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#17 Virgil Vox

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Posted 21 November 2016 - 01:21 AM

Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne by David Gaider

I’ve been in a Dragon Age mood lately having played all three games in the series recently. I knew that a series of books existed that tied into the games but had never felt compelled to buy them. After finishing all three games I stilled wanted more DA goodness and the books seemed like a logical next step. I was surprised at how much I loved this first novel in the series.

The Stolen Throne is a prequel to the game series and details how the Fereldans rebelled against the Orlesian occupiers and took back their own country. The rebellion has been led by the Rebel Queen, the legitimate ruler of Ferleden. At the start of the novel she is murdered by Ferelden nobles loyal to Meghren, the Orlesian usurper. Her young son, Prince Maric, flees the massacre and hooks up with Loghain, a young farmer turned fugitive who moves around the country with his father and a small band of fugitives. Loghain and Maric become friends, and the two eventually meet back up with the rebel army and continue to try to free Ferelden.

I was surprised at how new reader friendly this novel is. Someone who has never played the games can pick this book up and read a light fantasy novel about a young, naïve prince who suddenly has to lead a rebellion and make hard choices to free his nation. Gaider, who is the lead writer on the DA games, does a great job of world building and explaining all the different concepts, like the Chantry, the Templar, the Circle of Magi, the Deep Roads, the elves that live as part of the Dalish and those that live in alienages in human cities, and the darkspawn. The concepts aren’t always looked at in-depth but there’s enough there that new readers aren’t left in the dark.

The Orlais occupation of Ferelden is a good plot to use for the first book, because Loghain is a major character in Dragon Age: Origins and here we see his origins, so to speak. It expands his character and makes the actions he takes in the game more understandable, if still reprehensible. While Maric isn’t in the game, his son Cailan is. The back story introduced in the book helps flesh out the events of the game.

The novel focuses mainly on Maric, Loghain, Rowan, and Katriel. Maric is the main character and over the course of the novel he goes from a young prince in over his head to the true king of Ferelden and a man who has to make some truly hard choices. It’s a great arc for the character and Gaider does well with it.

Rowan is the daughter of the arl of Redcliffe, and has been promised as Maric’s bride since they were young. She has feelings for him, but suspects that those feelings aren’t completely reciprocated. Rowan could have been a cliché but Gaider does his best to make Rowan her own character. She’s a tough woman who is one of the best warriors in the army and she also knows she has to make sacrifices for the sake of the country.

Katriel is an elf and an Orlesian bard. Orlesian bards are like jack of all trades, able to do all manner of dirty work like assassinations (whether actual or just character), act as spies, and be convincing entertainers. Katriel is hired to get close to Maric and set up an ambush so that the Orlesians can crush the rebellion once and for all. She finds herself falling for Maric and torn between her job and her growing love. Somewhat of a cliché, but the plot does take a dark turn that surprised me.

My favorite part of the novel was probably the Deep Roads section. The Deep Roads used to be this sprawling underground dwarven kingdom. Then the darkspawn (think orcs) came. The darkspawn conquered much of the Deep Roads centuries prior to the novel. Our heroes have to venture down there in hopes of beating the Orlesians to the rebel city. Of course it all doesn’t go as planned and the foursome meets various beasts, darkspawn, and the Legion of the Dead. Also, for fans of the game they travel to Ortan thaig.

Speaking of, while this is new reader friendly there’s plenty here for fans of the games. Obviously there’s Loghain and Maric. There’s also Wilhelm, Maric’s head mage and Wilhelm’s golem. While Wilhelm is dead by the start of DA:O, his golem becomes a companion for the Grey Warden (provided you have the DLC, that is).

Gaider knows how to write an action scene. The battles here are tense and well depicted. It’s not all battles but there’s enough to whet the appetite of any action fan.

I only have two problems with the novel. The first is the middle section. The novel spans multiple years and several of those go by in the middle section. There’s nothing wrong with that per se but it puts a lot of the character interaction and development on hold as Gaider explains how the rebel army survived and tried to gain new allies. Honestly there probably wasn’t a great way to show the passage of time but it did stick out to me.

The second problem is that the book has a rather abrupt ending and then most of the story is wrapped up in the epilogue by having a character finish telling the story to Cailan, Maric’s young son. The novel ends with the rebels striking two big blows against the Orlesians (wiping out the reinforcements being sent to Ferelden and killing Meghren’s mage and second in command) and then it goes to the epilogue where we learn that after several more years the rebels won and that Maric and Meghren had a duel on top of Fort Drakon that Maric won. I would have loved to see that play out on the page rather than just be told it happened. I don’t know if Gaider thought this was the best way to tell the story or if there were constraints on him or what but it left me feeling disappointed.

I will say that at least those two events had an emotional impact on the characters. Maric is the one who kills the mage and there’s a very personal reason for that. Loghain leads the rebels against the reinforcements and it’s that battle that cements his legend in Ferelden and makes him a hero to the people of Ferelden.

Those complaints aside, I am so glad I bought this book. I’ve already ordered the other four books in the series and am excited to read them. If you’re a fan of the games I highly recommend the novels and if you’re someone just looking for a fun, quick read you could do a lot worse than The Stolen Throne.

Gravity Falls: Dipper and Mabel and the Curse of the Time Pirates' Treasure!: A "Select Your Own Choose-Venture!" by Jeffrey Rowe and Emmy Cicierega

If you’re a Gravity Falls fan then you need to own this book. It’s as simple as that. It feels like an episode of the show. Rowe has the characters down pat. There was never an instance where I felt the characters were written out of character. Emmy Cicierega’s illustrations look like they could have been lifted out of one of the episodes.

As the title aptly says, this is a novel where the reader gets to choose what happens next. I haven’t read a book like this in years (probably since the Animorphs series put out two choose your own adventure books) and I have to say this type of novel is perfect as an e-book. What I always hated about these kinds of books is that it was always so easy to catch a glimpse of what was happening on other pages as you flipped to whatever page you needed. No chance of that happening here as you just click a link and it takes you to the correct page.

The novel has Dipper and Mabel agreeing to help time traveler Blendin Blandin search for the fabled Time Pirates’ Treasure, supposedly the biggest haul of loot in all of space and time. Blendin has the location of the Time Key needed to access the treasure narrowed down to three time periods: Medieval Times, the Wild West, and the Future. Once you choose which time period you’re off on an adventure.

I chose Medieval Times first. It was a blast. The trio ends up before a king who has the key but won’t give it to them unless they perform one of three tasks for him. I chose to go get a cup from a dragon. I ended up getting the heroes barbecued by the dragon at first, but eventually managed to get the key and head for the treasure.

What I loved about the novel is that there are so many paths to take and sometimes they loop around. Other times they end in death, though usually the novel gives a more inventive ending for the characters. One saw Dipper and Mabel become notorious outlaws in the Wild West. Other endings, while not the true ending, offer satisfactory closure to the novel. I still haven’t been through all the options yet.

I found the novel to be funny. There were a lot of times I laughed out loud. One of my favorite jokes is a slightly recurring one where either Dipper or Mabel complains about always being confronted by just two choices (why can’t they ever get a third option!). It’s a nice meta wink at the nature of the novel.

While Dipper, Mabel, and Blendin are the only characters from the show to have a lot of page-time, other characters like Grunkle Stan or Toby Determined do show up in odd places. I always smiled at those little cameos.

I can’t praise this book enough. It totally filled the Gravity Falls void in my heart that I’ve had since the show ended. I would love for more books like this to be released. One can hope.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#18 Virgil Vox

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 12:52 AM

Dragon Age: The Calling by David Gaider

The Calling is a sequel to The Stolen Throne but still acts as a prequel to the Dragon Age: Origins video game. The novel is set about 14 years after the events of The Stolen Throne. Maric is king, but has been in a depression since Rowena died and is feeling the burden of being king even more acutely. Not even Loghain can break him out of it. Maric sees his chance to break free of his kingly responsibilities when a small contingent of Grey Wardens from Orlais arrives asking for his help. They are going after another Grey Warden who went to the Deep Roads to die, but didn’t. This Warden knows where the Old Gods are buried, and if the darkspawn can get that information out of his head then they can start a new Blight. They need Maric’s help because they believe the Warden is in the vicinity of Ortan Thaig, and it was Maric, Loghain, Rowan, and Katriel who explored that thaig many years ago. Maric agrees, and sets off on a dark journey to the Deep Roads.

As much as I loved The Stolen Throne, I believe The Calling to be the better book. One of the reasons for this is that it has better characters overall. I loved the main foursome from The Stolen Throne, but there is a slightly larger and better mix of characters in this novel.

There’s Genevieve, the Warden Commander who is pushing for the expedition to the Deep Roads because the Warden that they’re after is her brother. She’s a tough, unrelenting commander who will do whatever it takes to find her brother. Then there’s Duncan, who fans will recognize from his role in DA:O. Here he’s a young man just recently inducted into the Wardens and he hasn’t quite given up his thieving ways and hasn’t really embraced the Grey Warden role yet. Next is Fiona, another character fans might recognize from Dragon Age: Inquisition. If gamers choose to support the mages, then she will become a minor character that can be interacted with at Skyhold. Her she is an elven mage and Grey Warden who hates Maric and wants nothing to do with him. Her reason why isn’t ground breaking but it fits the character and leads to some nice moments. Kell is an excellent tracker who has a trained war dog. Utha is a dwarf and former Silent Sister who doesn’t speak and mainly uses martial arts to kill darkspawn. Then there’s Julien and Nicholas, who we find out later are lovers with plans to leave the Grey Wardens before their Calling and live out in the wilderness.

On the villain side of things, the main baddie is the Architect, who fans will recognize from the Awakening DLC. While he is a bad guy (though not the only one) it’s easy to see his point of view. He wants to end the war between the darkspawn and the other races permanently. It’s a worthy goal, but his plan calls for millions to perish.

It’s a good group of characters and Gaider does an excellent job of fleshing them out and making us care about them. It adds tension to the action scenes because I didn’t want any of them to be hurt, though I knew that not all of them would make it out of the Deep Roads alive. The characters also take some surprising turns that I didn’t see coming but that makes sense for those characters.

This novel also doesn’t share the same flaw as the previous one. I did not like how The Stolen Throne wrapped everything up in a quick epilogue by having one of the characters narrate how the war ended. It felt like a cheat and ended the novel on a sour note. The Calling makes sure to wrap everything up. The Architect gets away because he has to be alive to appear in the DLC but his allies and plan to end the threat of the Blight are taken care of. It is a much more satisfying ending.

There is a revelation here that some fans might not like. In DA:O it is discovered that Alistair is Maric’s illegitimate son, born out of an affair Maric had with a chamber maid while still being married to Rowan. In The Calling, Maric and Fiona end up sleeping together, and Alistair is born out of that night of passion. It is decided that a story will be made up about Maric sleeping with a chamber maid instead of a mage who is an elf and a Grey Warden. This new revelation about Alistair’s birth mother doesn’t really mesh with what we learn in the game but I prefer it to Maric cheating on Rowan with a chamber maid.

Much like in the first novel, the action here is fierce and unrelenting. It does take a while to start, however. It’s about 160 pages in before there’s a big action scene with the Wardens facing down darkspawn. I had no problem with this because Gaider uses those pages to flesh out the characters and the world.

Being a fan of the Deep Road, I loved that this novel is mainly set in them. While a lot of the novel is set in new locations within the Deep Roads, Gaider does revisit some of the same areas from the previous book. Ortan Thaig shows up again, though Gaider introduces new areas for the characters to explore in that underground city.

The Calling is a well written dark fantasy quest novel. It can be read on its own though I don’t think it is as new reader friendly as The Stolen Throne and believe that it has more of an emotional impact being read after TST. It is a novel that stayed with me well after reading it.

The Flash: The Haunting of Barry Allen by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith

The Haunting of Barry Allen is the first tie-in novel for the Flash TV series and boy does it deliver. If you’re a fan of the show I highly recommend picking up this book. It is that good.

The story takes place early in season 2 though don’t expect too many mentions to major events in that season. Zoom is talked about but other than in a hallucination-like sequence doesn’t appear. Jay is never even mentioned. However, the novel does deal with Caitlin’s grief over Ronnie and Barry’s guilt at not saving him. The wormhole, or at least the aftermath of Barry stopping it, also plays an important part in the novel.

There are two problems that Barry and friends are dealing with in the novel. The first is that Hartley Rathaway, aka the Pied Piper, has created a team of Rogues that are unleashing hell on Central City. Those Rogues are Weather Wizard, Peekaboo, The Mist, and Roy G. Bivolo. They excel at hit and run attacks, unleashing devastating storms using Weather Wizard and sending people into rage fueled frenzies with Bivolo. Of course, Hartley has way more in mind than just attacking the city or demanding a ransom.

The other problem is the titular haunting of Barry. The Scarlet Speedster is experiencing fluctuations with his powers that cause him to hallucinate while also freezing him in place and making him intangible. The hallucinations allowed the writers to bring in characters they might otherwise not have been able to use and allow them to explore Barry’s psyche and the incredible amount of guilt he carries with him. It also ups the suspense because Barry doesn’t know when one of these fluctuations will occur.

The writers have nailed the characters. There was never a moment where I thought that Barry or Iris or Joe or whoever was doing or saying something that they wouldn’t do or say. The interactions between them all, whether in a large group or in smaller pairings, works. I appreciated the writers having Iris and Caitlin go out and bond with a girls’ night out. The two women don’t seem to interact as much on the show as they should so it was nice seeing them share several scenes together here. The bromance between Barry and Cisco is treated wonderfully here as well.

When Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle show up the writers handle them just as good as the regular Flash characters. It was like watching a cross-over episode. The mentor/student and brothers-in-arms relationship between Barry and Oliver is extremely well done.

The Rogues are written great as well. I love that they used Hartley as the main villain. He was great on the show, and the fact that he’s a prominent gay character doesn’t hurt, either. The writers don’t shy away from the fact that he’s gay (it’s mentioned several times that he finds Weather Wizard hot) but it’s presented as simply part of who he is. Hartley comes across as supremely competent here, getting a group of villains who aren’t used to working as a team to act as one. Not only that, but he’s always several steps ahead of The Flash.

Peekaboo probably gets the most page time amongst the Rogues after Hartley. I liked her character in the show and it’s nice to see her return. She’s uncomfortable amongst the Rogues which given her history isn’t a surprise but she sticks with it because she believes that the money she earns will finally give her a way to leave her old life behind and because she semi-trusts Hartley.

When it comes to action, the writers don’t skimp. It can be hard translating superhero powers, which are extremely visual, to the page but the Griffiths handle it with aplomb. Barry faces down tornadoes, fires, floods, rage induced citizens and more throughout the novel and all of it is written well and are intense. The same is true for when Oliver gets in on the action. He obviously has a very different skill set than Barry but the writers have no problem going from the super speed action of Barry to the bow and arrow and martial arts action of Oliver.

What I appreciated about the novel is that while it is set in season 2 of The Flash the writers don’t hit us over the head with that fact. It feels like the writers wanted to write a novel that could be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel whether someone is reading it now with memories of season 2 still relatively fresh or five years from now when memories of that season might be dim. It’s a fine line to walk and I think the writers pulled it off. There’s plenty of references to events in both The Flash and Arrow but not enough to completely date the novel.

Not to worry, though. There are some fun references, like when Cisco and Oliver compare the pipeline and the island where both characters have illegally held villains. When Oliver tells Barry that he’s going to train him Barry asks if he can keep his shirt on and Oliver makes no promises about that.

The threat from the Rogues is wrapped up in this novel, but not the threat of Barry blurring and hallucinating. That is going to be the focus of the next novel, Arrow: Generation of Vipers also by the Griffiths. It is due to be released on March 28 and I am so ready for it.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#19 Niko

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Posted 23 December 2016 - 05:39 AM

Hmmmm... I have mixed feelings on that Flash book.  On one hand, I'm pleased to hear that there are Flash tie-ins coming out and that this one captures the spirit of the show really well.  I don't read a ton of tie-ins (mostly Stargate), but when I do, I reeeeally need the character interactions and banter to be on point, so that's a big plus.  But I'm soooo not a fan of Arrow.  Even when they do crossovers on tv, I usually record and skim the Arrow half of the episode, so having part of the story continue to an Arrow-based book is a real negative for me.
- Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.    (Matthew 25:40)

- Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.  (Proverbs 3:3)

#20 Virgil Vox

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Posted 27 December 2016 - 02:52 PM

Hmm, that is a conundrum. I do recommend checking out The Haunting of Barry Allen because it is really well done and I'd think you like it. On the other hand, while it does wrap up the plot with the Rogues, Barry's problem with his powers is left on a cliffhanger for the Arrow novel which as you said is a negative. On the plus side the Arrow novel has to feature Barry prominently since he's the one with the problem and at the very least Cisco and Caitlin will have to play a role in it.

I like to read tie-ins though some are pretty bad. Some series get more lucky than others. For the most part, all of the Supernatural tie-in novels are great. There were three Dark Angel novels released after the series ended that wrapped up the major story lines and they were rather good (though I had issues with the first novel which was a prequel). The Buffy and Angel tie-ins were rather strong. I haven't read many, but so far I've liked the few Smallville novels I've read.

I've never read any Stargate tie-in novels, though. Any recommendations?
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman



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