Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Henry Holt, 2015) audiobook read by Fred Berman, Brandon Rubin, Elizabeth Evans, Tristan Morris, Jay Snyder, Lauren Fortgang, and Roger Clark (Bolinda, 2019) A well-constructed heist fantasy, nominally young adult, with adept world-building, memorable characters, first-rate scheming and an audiobook ably served by its numerous voice artists. For a work this long, however, the…
Fantastic Four: Doomgate by Jeffrey Lang (Pocket Star, 2008); audiobook read by Jeffrey Kafer (Dreamscape Media, 2021) A workmanlike novel of the Marvel Universe, splitting the Fantastic Four up and pitting them against an insidiously powerful if anticlimactic new threat. Lang’s focus on characterisation is welcome, as is the more gritty approach, albeit that the prose is merely functional.
Doctor Who: The Doomsday Contract by John Lloyd; adapted by Nev Fountain (Big Finish, 2021) Originally commissioned during Douglas Adams’ tenure as script editor, The Doomsday Contract exhibits a Hitchhiker’s tonality but without quite the same zest. Tom Baker gives it some welly but the denunciation of bureaucracy via reductio ad absurdum seems a bit old hat.
MacGyver, Season 1 (CBS, 2016-2017) An enjoyable if formulaic reboot that stays true to the original’s ethos (and many of its key components) while upping the action stakes and bringing MacGyver’s improvisation skills to the fore. George Eads steals the show as MacGyver’s gung-ho partner Jack Dalton.
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010); audiobook read by Jennifer Ehle (Bolinda, 2011) The characters, setting and premise entice, yet this first book is overlong for what it offers, the story moves haltingly (even the action scenes suspend themselves for conversation and reflection) and the not-quite-smouldering not-quite-romance goes nowhere, left hanging along with everything else.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy dir. Garth Jennings (2005) Depressingly close to being really, really good. The Vogons are top-notch and the reworked characterisations have much to offer. Ironically, though, while the newly scripted scenes are vintage Adams, a great deal of slavishly reproduced old material fails to hit the mark.
All These Worlds by Dennis E. Taylor (Worldbuilders Press, 2017); audiobook read by Ray Porter (Brilliance, 2017) Hard to recommend by and of itself, but very satisfying as a continuation of (conclusion to?) the Bobiverse saga. Taylor’s nerd-SF enthusiasm remains infections and Porter’s audiobook reading is very much part of the narrative characterisation. Ties up all major plot threads.
Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks by Chris Chibnall; dir. Annetta Laufer (BBC, 2022) Third try lucky for Chris Chibnall and Dalek specials. The time loop is a winner (explainy bits aside), while the enclosed environment and localised stakes allow the pepper pots to rise above their usual pointlessness. The guest characters have personality beyond function.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Viking, 2020); audiobook read by Lesley Manville (Bolinda, 2020) A gentle murder mystery that is far more about life and people than crime. The nursing home protagonists are worthy, though the story itself and Osman’s delivery—expounding events through an omniscient narrator and, bizarrely, one overlapped first-person perspective—are nothing special.
Corpse Bride dir. Mike Johnson & Tim Burton (2005) Short for a feature film, refreshingly straightforward, and not weighed down too heavily by songs or Tim Burton’s trademark love of the macabre. The darkness in this case works with the story, and the Victorian era stop-motion character design is exquisitely ghoulish.