Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Book review: The Long Mars

Terry Pratchett's final novel has been published, but I'm still a couple of books behind, including the series he co-wrote with Stephen Baxter. To be honest I've never felt that Pratchett had a huge amount of input into the actual writing of the Long Earth novels - I know the idea of parallel worlds that could easily be visited was his, so that could be the only reason his name remains on the books. It makes sense that with Pratchett's failing health while the series was being written, Baxter would do most of the heavy lifting, and there's never been much hint of Pratchett's style in them - either in terms of humour or of story. Instead the books seem primarily concerned with creating a universe based on the initial conceit, rather than having particularly involved stories take place in it. So as the name suggests, the third book The Long Mars expands that further to include a trip across the various versions of Mars. But these don't run parallel to the Long Earth, instead stretching out into yet another different series of alternate universes. As usual there's also various storylines going on across the Earths as well, including the rise of a possible new evolution of humans. With the series nearly over I might as well continue to the end (although I guess Baxter could keep going on his own, in which case I'll bail out) but this sweeping look across the whole of a new universe doesn't really leave much room for the kind of story development I was hoping for.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Your face looks Familiar

Everyone got - rightly - excited about Michelle Gomez returning so quickly to Doctor Who, Missy's "death" hand-waved away as promised, but there was another returning name I was excited about: Beautiful Thing director Hettie Macdonald also came back for the opening two-parter. Given her only previous episode was "Blink," you'd think it would have been commented on more.

"The Magician's Apprentice"/" The Witch's Familiar" by Steven Moffat, directed by Hettie Macdonald. Spoilers after the cut.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Book review: Revival

As with the murder mysteries that dominated my early teens, my reading nowadays rarely revisits the horror novels that I loved in my late teens. So it's many years since I last read one by the biggest name in the genre, Stephen King. I only even downloaded Revival - one of three new books King published in 2014, so I guess he's as prolific as ever  - when there was a cheap kindle deal for it, and I figured I'd get a good week or two's worth of commuting reading matter for a couple of quid. And that's true enough; King's not exactly known for being concise and Revival is a rambling story that only really starts to build to its point about 80% through. The narrator is a rock guitarist who's spent a lifetime playing in small bands. Every few years he also bumps into Pastor Jacobs, a figure from his childhood. When he lost his family in a car crash Jacobs also lost his faith, but later in life he cynically starts a moneymaking career as a healing preacher with a revival ministry. The cures he carries out are real, but they're part of a mysterious lifelong experiment, and for some there's frightening side effects. After such a long buildup the revelation at the end of the story is something of an inevitable anti-climax; I might have felt differently if I had been reading other King books all these years and was tired of his rambling style, but as it is even if the destination was on the disappointing side, I enjoyed the journey.