Star Quest: Terrorsaur! by Terrance Dicks (W. H. Allen, 1981) Dicks concludes his Star Quest trilogy with a fast-moving but inconsequential adventure. The young protagonists are reunited with their friends from the first book and defeat the same enemies—hapless space supremacists—thanks to some guff about a possibly sentient planet-wide ecology.
For We Are Many by Dennis E. Taylor; read by Ray Porter (Brilliance Audio, 2017) Book 2 of Taylor’s Bobiverse series is very much an instalment, not a self-contained work. As the story progresses, we’re given greater character development and a less boundlessly optimistic narrative viewpoint, plus (at last!) a genuine antagonist/threat. Peculiarly engrossing open-ended SF speculation.
Ghost in the Shell dir. Rupert Sanders (2017) A cyberpunk dystopia extrapolated from current scientific trends and mapped onto Japanese society. The usual question is asked—what is human?—but the film offers no real advancement from Blade Runner, preferring instead to focus on action and effects. Watchable but derivative.
Endeavour, Series 4 by Russell Lewis (ITV, 2017) Appreciation of classical music aside, the young Morse drifts further away from both his older and younger selves. The resulting characterisation is less quirky and the mysteries more susceptible to policework. WPC Trewlove (Dakota Blue Richards) starts to make her presence felt.
How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) While not shying away from the hardships of her protagonist’s life—the cycle of neglect, growing up too soon, a barely functioning mother—Blake subtly shifts the emphasis to the difficulty of embracing good possibilities within that bad situation. Heartfelt and absorbing.
Anchored by Bridget E. Baker (Purple Puppy, 2021) An engaging blend of YA fantasy, intrigue and romance, the invented-world magic sitting nicely alongside its urban counterpart. Alora is a winning character—her sister-brother relationship with Jesse is a highlight—and the story unfolds nicely, though it trails off into open-endedness.
Doctor Who: Illegal Alien by Mike Tucker & Robert Perry (BBC, 1997); audiobook read by Sophie Aldred (Bolinda, 2016) Blandly written and at least twice as long as it needed to be. Great chunks of the story involve treading water, running around pointlessly, and building up characters (both major and minor) that turn out to be nothing more than gross…
Lucy dir. Luc Besson (2014) Marketed as action SF, Lucy hardly even qualifies as a film. Director Luc Besson oversees a mood collage of philosophy and cod-scientific speculation spliced to a b-grade gangster plot. If not for Scarlett Johansson, this would barely have warranted a direct-to-video release.
The Ragamuffin Mystery by Enid Blyton; ill. Gilbert Dunlop (Collins, 1959) The final ‘Barney’ mystery is a fast, pleasant read, set in Wales and introducing another memorable animal (a goose named Waddle). Although there’s a sense of adventure, the children trip along rather than detect, and have too much access to adult help.
Doctor Who: Dark Universe by Guy Adams (Big Finish, 2020) Even if his schizophrenic personalities lack individual depth, the Eleven is a villain to be reckoned with and one of Big Finish’s great contributions to Who. Adams scripts a story of conscious bravura that deflates with the Seventh Doctor’s usual cop-out masterminding.