42 Word Reviews

Fabulous Monsters

Fabulous Monsters: Dracula, Alice, Superman, and Other Literary Friends by Alberto Manguel; ill. Alberto Manguel (Yale University Press, 2019) A series of non-fiction vignettes, each of which takes a literary figure as its starting point. Manguel is widely read and lets his intellect wander, musing about this and that and not very much. His insights are engaging enough in small…

Dr. Ninth

Dr. Ninth by Adam Hargreaves (BBC, 2017) As if inspired by a particularly insipid Terrance Dicks novelisation, Hargreaves doesn’t so much attempt a mash-up here as a clumsy retelling of Rose’s first story. The text is belaboured and even the pictures offer little. Jack Harkness is a middling highpoint.    

The Ardlamont Mystery

The Ardlamont Mystery: The Real-Life Story Behind the Creation of Sherlock Holmes by Daniel Smith (Michael O’Mara, 2018) Whereas Smith sifts every last scrap of the defendant’s and victim’s backstories, the key medical witnesses—Joseph Bell and Henry Littlejohn, upon whom Doyle based Sherlock Holmes—have walk-on parts at best. An assiduously researched historical non-event with a reprehensibly misleading subtitle.    

Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate by Jukki Hanada; dir. Hiroshi Hamasaki & Takuya Satō (2011) Viewers are dropped without exposition into a character-rich scenario that encompasses both fantasist imaginings and SF disruptions to the timelines. Beyond the shock of immersion, Steins;Gate unfolds as a serious (though frequently funny) and ever-more-tangled thriller turned love story. Classic Japanese anime.    

Polity Agent

Polity Agent by Neal Asher (Tor, 2006); audiobook read by Ric Jerrom (Macmillan, 2017) Science fiction at its most futuristic and sweeping, yet totally lacking in heart. For all the complex characters, grand ideas and unstoppably momentous tectonic-plate plot clashes, listening to this was the aural equivalent of chewing through cardboard. Aborted at the two-fifths mark.    

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (Raven, 2018); audiobook read by Jot Davies (Bolinda, 2018) The combination of body-swapping protagonist and Groundhog Day recurrence makes for an intricate, shifting tangle of a murder mystery. The plot is skilfully woven overall yet clumsy in places, and becomes overlong as Turton works towards a purpose beyond his original premise.…