Category: 42 Word Reviews

Lords of Uncreation

Lords of Uncreation

by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit, 2023); audiobook read by Sophie Aldred (Tor, 2023)

Book cover: “Lords of Uncreation” by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit, 2023); audiobook read by Sophie Aldred (Tor, 2023)

A long book that for its first half promises little progression. Tchaikovsky does, however, repay the faith, escalating the military-political conflict (social commentary turned catharsis) and then plunging his characters deep into the void—and having them all contribute to the resolution.

Dangerous Remedy

Dangerous Remedy

dir. Ken Cameron (ABC, 2012)

Film poster: Review of “Dangerous Remedy” dir. Ken Cameron (ABC, 2012)

A disquieting if murky ‘based on’ historical drama centred around Australian abortion laws and police corruption in the late 1960s. Medical campaigner Dr Bertram Wainer (Jeremy Sims) acts almost as an antihero, evincing bullying manipulation in single-minded pursuit of a just cause.

Edges

Edges

by Ashley Herring Blake

Fools in Love, ed. Ashley Herring Blake & Rebecca Podos (Running Press Teens, 2021)

Book cover: “Fools in Love” ed. Ashley Herring Blake & Rebecca Podos (Running Press Teens, 2021); review of “Edges” by Ashley Herring Blake

A YA short story focussing less on queerness as an identity issue, more on the precariousness of teen romance, and how relationships can be brought undone (self-sabotaged) by faulty preconceptions and negative self-image. As ever, Blake affords her protagonist a cogent backstory.

Legenda Maris

Legenda Maris

by Tanith Lee (Immanion, 2015)

Book cover: “Legenda Maris” by Tanith Lee (Immanion, 2015)

A collection of fantasy short stories linked by ocean settings, merfolk, otherwordliness and loss, remoteness, death, and the murky, mist-laden borders between realities. Lee writes dreamily and somehow without burdening the reader. Unfortunately the two new stories (five pages total) are non-events.

Sugar Skull

Sugar Skull

by Charles Burns (Jonathan Cape, 2014)

Book cover: “Sugar Skull” by Charles Burns (Jonathan Cape, 2014)

To his credit, Burns ties all the loose threads together and brings the trilogy to a coherent close. On the downside, everything weird, dark and seemingly portentous in the previous volumes is revealed to have mundane origins, rather cheapening the overall experience.

Opal

Opal

by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, 2018)

audiobook read by Will Patton (Scholastic Audio, 2019)

Book cover: “Opal” by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, 2018); audiobook read by Will Patton (Scholastic Audio, 2019)

A wistful, dreamy novelette that serves more as a link between The Raven Cycle and the Dreamer trilogy than as any sort of standalone (non-fans beware). Opal’s POV drips with otherness. Patton’s by-now-familiar drawl lends a seductive quality to the audiobook reading.

Prince of Thorns

Prince of Thorns

by Mark Lawrence (Voyager, 2011)

audiobook read by Joe Jameson (HarperCollins, 2012)

Book cover: “Prince of Thorns” by Mark Lawrence (Voyager, 2011); audiobook read by Joe Jameson (HarperCollins, 2012)

Lawrence’s debut is an impressive piece of genre subversion, casting adolescent antihero Jorg Ancrath against every convention of what is appropriate from a fantasy protagonist, yet still retaining the reader’s backing. Jorg’s conversational sociopathy is particularly well served by Jameson’s audiobook reading.

Doctor Who: The Devil’s Chord

Doctor Who: The Devil’s Chord

by Russell T Davies; dir. Ben Chessell (BBC, 2024)

TV poster: “Doctor Who: The Devil’s Chord” by Russell T Davies; dir. Ben Chessell (BBC, 2024)

Maestro presents as a seriously deranged threat—albeit one that would have hit home harder had (a) Gatwa’s Doctor an established track record (beyond happy-go-running-away), and (b) they not been meekly sacrificed to a larger story arc (plus delirious show-choir song-and-dance routine).

Doctor Who: Space Babies

Doctor Who: Space Babies

by Russell T Davies; dir. Julie Anne Robinson (BBC, 2024)

TV poster: “Doctor Who: Space Babies” by Russell T Davies; dir. Julie Anne Robinson (BBC, 2024)

Part exposition for new watchers, part setup for the rest of the series, but mostly just the only story that Russell T Davies could come up with having pulled the title ‘Space Babies’ from a random text generator. Ebullient but rather forced.

Father Brown, Series 4

Father Brown, Series 4

(BBC, 2016)

TV poster: “Father Brown, Series 4” (BBC, 2016)

Series Four focusses less on social issues and more on striking humorous sidenotes to Kembleford’s ongoing binge of cosy murders. (Bravo the pineapple byplay in ‘The Sins of the Father’!) A new inspector, even more one-note than his predecessors, detracts a little.

Derelict Space Sheep