April 30th, 2010

tardis

April Books 27) The Runaway Train, by Oli Smith

This was a free giveaway Doctor Who CD from the Daily Telegraph last week, apparently to be released more formally in a few months as one of the planned series of Eleventh Doctor original audio books. It's set in the Wild West, which is less original a concept than it was before The Peacemaker (Tenth Doctor book and audio from 2008) and Freakshow (Companion Chronicle audio as told by Mark Strickson as Turlough from ealier this year), and of course was used in Old Who as early as 1966. Matt Smith is good at delivering both the background narrative and his own Doctor's voice; elsewhere he is decent at characterisation but distinctly less good at either Amy's Scottish or the other characters' American accents. Also the story itself is rather poorly paced for audiobook, which can sometimes be an unforgiving medium. So on the whole this one is worth looking out for free rather than buying.
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tardis

April Books 28) Short Trips [17]: The Centenarian, edited by Ian Farrington

I guess I've read half a dozen of Big Finish's Short Trips anthologies by now, and found them a bit of a mixed bag; sometimes a decent linking concept makes the whole better than the sum of its parts, sometimes one or two outstanding stories are all that can overcome the problems of a duff central idea. This is one of the better volumes I have read in the series. Edward Grainger, born in 1906, find himself bumping into the Doctor repeatedly over the following century. Poor chap, he often seems to be on the spot when alien invasion threatens Earth, but he is not the only character in the Whoniverse of whom this is true, and at least he spends part of his career as a spy so there is some excuse. The standount story for me was "The Church of Football", by Benjamin Adams, an account of the Fifth Doctor's visit to a Sheffield United v. Arsenal match in 1936 told in the first person by Peri Brown. I was a little disappointed that Grainger didn't pop up in the background of any of the Old Who stories with contemporary settings - the one reference to UNIT seemed anachronistic to me - but it's generally a good collection.
buzz

April Books 29) Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman claims here that he is returning to his roots, by writing a piece about his first serious fandom (though he does not put it like that); it is a two-part story about Batman's funeral, but in Gaiman's hands it becomes much more than that, developing into an exploration of story and modern mythology and what they might mean to those who experience them. I thought it was very good; the deluxe edition comes with several other Gaiman-scripted stories in the Batman universe, of which the best are the first two, one featuring the Joker and Batman sitting around waiting for their turn to appear on the page, the other exploring the character of Poison Ivy, constrained in the Arkham Asylum. So that's two of this year's Best Graphic Story shortlist read; I will be surprised if any of the other three beats this one.