The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (John Lane, 1920); audiobook read by Hugh Fraser (Harper Collins, 2006) An agreeable debut for both Christie and Poirot; yet for all the ingenious conception and deft foreshadowing, its mystery nevertheless comes across more as an intellectual puzzle for the author to have pieced together than as a whodunnit to engage the…
The Terminator dir. James Cameron (1984) Though irrevocably lodged in the 1980s, the original Terminator nevertheless stands up well as a nightmarish SF thriller. The final effects are a bit ropey but Hamilton, Biehn and Schwarzenegger nail their roles, allowing James Cameron’s straightforward plot to carry the day.
The Mystery of Holly Lane by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1953) An enjoyable bit of detective work for the Five Find-Outers (and dog), stumbling upon another mystery and outwitting Goon. As ever, the investigation itself doesn’t amount to much. Fatty, however, remains irrepressible, and has much the same conceited appeal as Sherlock Holmes.
Voyage of the Star Wolf by David Gerrold (Bantom, 1990) Gerrold’s second book in the Yesterday’s Children / Star Hunt universe features a similarly disreputable ship and an even more grim scenario, and for reasons unknown brings back First Officer Korie (with scant regard for continuity). The story itself is darkly compelling.
Decoy by John Christopher (Science Fiction Stories, July 1955) Not much of a (short) story. Christopher’s world-building hints at a complex near-future society worthy of greater exploration, but the characters are presented as if the reader should already be familiar with them. The result is an untethered, over-simple tale of matchmaking.
The Box of Delights adapted by Alan Seymour; dir. Renny Rye (BBC, 1984) A nostalgic favourite, apparently, but perhaps you had to be there. The storytelling is bonkers, most of the adult cast are shamelessly overacting, and the villain dismisses the protagonist—quite rightly—as being too much of an exasperating squit to bother with.
Johnny and the Bomb by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday, 1996); audiobook read by Richard Mitchley (BBC Audiobooks, 1997) Pratchett gifts middle-grade readers the perfect introduction to time travel, albeit that his mid-1990s ‘now’ is itself receding into history, in rapid pursuit of the Second World War ‘then’. Thought-provoking and wryly funny, with memorable characters and a rich vein of dialogue. …
The Man from R.O.B.O.T. by Harry Harrison (Analog, July 1969) This novelette sees Harry Harrison in one of his lighter moods. The ‘one man against a world’ scenario is reminiscent of Eric Frank Russell, as is the irreverence threaded throughout, but the journey in this case leads to a rather banal denouement.
Snoopy Treasury by Charles M. Schulz (Book Club Associates, 1981) A large-format book combining much of “Peanuts Treasury” (1960s dailies and Sundays, black and white) with the colour Sundays from “Sandlot Peanuts” (1960s-1970s baseball themed). The result is nearly 200 pages of wit and wisdom, somewhat lopsided in favour of Charlie Brown.
A Touch of Diphtheria by Roger MacBride Allen (Analog, February 1993) An odd SF novelette told with workmanlike prose and involving a convoluted crime within several layers of deception; also, an intergalactic murder investigation where the protagonist does no investigating. She merely intuits the solution behind closed doors and plots a big reveal.