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Jane Aland (England)
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The Price of Fear (Classic BBC Radio Horror)
The Price of Fear (Classic BBC Radio Horror)
by British Broadcasting Corporation
Edition: Audio CD

4.0 out of 5 stars The Price of Fear, 24 Oct 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This double CD set presents four half-hour radio plays, each featuing the inimitable Vincent Price. Price doesn't just present the plays, but plays a leading role in the proceedings, with each story including the actor (in character as himself) somehow caught up in the events. The stories were broadcast in 1973-4, and given their age and the warning blurb on the back cover I was suprised at how good the sound quality actually is - far from being murky artefacts from the past these could have been recorded last week. What has dated slightly are some of the supporting performances and characterisation, but Price himself gives an engaging and warm performance, always relishing the macabre moments of horror whilst maintaining a distinct humourous undertone. The four stories themselves are a bit of a mixed bunch - the 'twist' in 'Speciality of the House' (a restaurant serves an exclusive mystery meat - I wonder what it could be?) is so obvious that waiting for the punchline becomes tedious, whilst the tale of a cat's revenge in 'Cat's Cradles' seems similarly obvious from the start. More interesting are 'The Ninth Removal', a tale recounted from a mental hospital with a subtle twist, and 'Come as You Are', a neatly plotted ghost story with Price as a guest at a fancy dress party.

All in all a worthwhile release from the vaults - though it's undoubtedly Vincent Price rather than the stories that's the star of this show.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 25, 2010 10:31 AM BST


Doctor Who: Demon Quest: Relics of Time v. 1
Doctor Who: Demon Quest: Relics of Time v. 1
by Paul Magrs
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £8.85

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Demon Quest- Part One, 30 Sep 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Following the success of last year's 'Hornets' Nest', Tom Baker returns as the Fourth Doctor for another series of original audio adventures. As before, all the stories are written by Paul Magrs, and each forms a fragment of a greater whole. Whilst this opening installment doesn't depend upon the plot of 'Hornet's Nest', all the familiar elements return: the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey, Nest Cottage and a cameo from Mike Yates. Again, the production is a pleasant mix of Tom Baker's first person narration and dramatised scenes, and the general atmosphere is one of a fireside winter's tale.
So far, so good - but it has to be said that 'Demon Quest' doesn't quite hit the ground running in the same manner that 'Hornets' Nest did. 'The Relics of Time' is a fairly straight-forward case of the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey encountering evidence of historical anachronisms in Roman Britain, and the tale lacks the more outre weirdness that usually colours Magrs work. Still, it's early days yet, and whilst this CD offers little more than a mildly intruiging mystery, past evidence gives confidence that the tale as a whole will be worthwhile.


Farewell Summer
Farewell Summer
by Ray Bradbury
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Farewell Summer, 15 Sep 2010
This review is from: Farewell Summer (Paperback)
A sequel appearing many years after the original is always likely to be looked on with suspicion, but for this reader at least 'Farewell Summer' is a great success. An admission: despite being familiar with Bradbury since my youth, I had never actually read 'Dandelion Wine' before, so I ended up reading both books back to back. Far from noticing any drop in quality, I personally found 'Farewell Summer' to be slightly the more enjoyable of the two. Bradbury's writing here is sharp and economic, with the slightly rambling nature of 'Dandelion Wine' giving way to a pacier and more incisive read. This is helped by the ending, which whilst initially slightly shocking in its flagrant introduction of sexuality into Bradbury's nostalgic childhood realm, acts as a satisfying and oddly moving resolution.
I loved both 'Dandelion Wine' and 'Farewell Summer'. My advice? Buy 'em both!


Zoo City
Zoo City
by Lauren Beukes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Zoo City, 10 Sep 2010
This review is from: Zoo City (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At heart, 'Zoo City' is effectively a whodunit, with a heroine hired to find a missing person rapidly turning into a murder investigation. What sets it apart is the colourful SF/fantasty setting - a near-future South Africa made even more exotic by the animal familiars that appear out of nowhere and attach themselves to those with the blackest secrets. Heroine Zinzi is a pleasingly complex character - a drug addict with a dark past and a nasty sideline in confidence scams, she still manages to evoke enough sympathy to engage the reader's interest.

Beukes writing is fluid and her characters' dialogue is peppered with hip slang, which both adds to the evocative setting and occasionally slows the pace as the non-South African reader turns to the internet for explanations. As with 'Moxyland', this is an enjoyable read from an interesting new genre voice. If I do have one minor criticism, it's that when all was said and done I found myself far more enamoured of 'Zoo City's exotic background than I did the actual mechanics of the plot, and the sudden ending is rather underwhelming after all the effort.

Not a classic SF/fantasty genre by any means - but a good solid novel from a young author who looks to be going places. 3.5/5


Doctor Who: The Ring of Steel
Doctor Who: The Ring of Steel
by Stephen Cole
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £7.75

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ring of Steel, 1 Sep 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This Eleventh Doctor audiobook features a fantastic central image - electricity pylons coming to life and attacking humanity. Unfortunately this is pretty much the only redeeming feature of this release, as the plot that author Stephen Cole weaves to justify this image is a ridiculous tangled mess of pseudo-science and overly complex invasion schemes. Predictably, the alien menace comes complete with a handy weakness that the Doctor can exploit, but to add insult to injury it's one so hackneyed most long-term fans will instantly recognise the Troughton-era source. It's not all bad news - Arthur Darvill provides a solid narration, and though his Doctor bears no relation to Matt Smith he does get to have fun as various Scottish supporting characters. Unfortunately when the aliens are given a voice it turns out to be a laughable high-pitch treated whine. There have been some very good Doctor Who audiobooks. This one is - at best - mediocre.


A Matter Of Blood: The Dog-Faced Gods Book One (DOG-FACED GODS TRILOGY)
A Matter Of Blood: The Dog-Faced Gods Book One (DOG-FACED GODS TRILOGY)
by Sarah Pinborough
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.50

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Matter of Blood, 14 July 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The first in the 'Dog-Faced Gods' trilogy, 'A Matter of Blood' appears to be marketed as a horror/thriller gross-genre novel. How it reads for the most part is as a police procedural with a few colourful but slightly ephemeral fantasy trappings thrown in.

As far as the thriller content goes, 'A Matter of Blood' works well. The plot is suitably gnarly and complex, with an investigation into two seemingly unrelated crimes (the drive-by shooting of two schoolboys and the work of a serial killer dubbed 'The Man of the Flies') dovetailing into a larger conspiracy. There are numerous twists and turns along the way, including an additional twist after it appears the novel has already reached one climax, and central character Detective Inspector Cass Jones is an intruiging enough character to sustain the interest throughout. Sarah Pinborough's prose is functional rather than flashy, but she manages to invest enough drama into the proceedings that by the climax you'll be tearing through the pages to find out what happens next. The near future setting is also a nice touch, allowing the narrative to function in a world subtly different from our own.

As for as the fantasy element: its certainly intruiging - but that's about as far as it goes. This isn't necessarily a criticism - 'A Matter of Blood' is the first in a trilogy, and doubtless these elements will be further explored in the two novels to come. As it stands however, whilst we are offered some teasing hints about angelic (or demonic) entities directing the action, the author is still keeping her cards very close to her chest. The result is a novel which works well as an opening installment in a series, but is just too open-ended to be very satisfying when read in isolation.

'A Matter of Blood' is an enjoyable read, but its ultimate impact will depend upon the success or failiure of the 'Dog-Faced Gods' trilogy as a whole. Personally, I'm looking forward to the next installment, and hope that the author can deliver on the promise of this book.


Erasing Sherlock (Faction Paradox)
Erasing Sherlock (Faction Paradox)
by Kelly Hale
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Erasing Sherlock, 25 Jun 2010
'Erasing Sherlock' is the fifth novel in the Doctor Who spin-off Faction Paradox series, though the continuity links are so tenuous (indeed, this novel was first published as a stand-alone novel in its own right) that no previous knowledge is necessary. All you need to know is the basic premise: a modern-day time academic travels back in time to observe the young Sherlock Holmes, going undercover to work as a maid at his Baker Street residence. The novel is probably not one that will be enjoyed by Holmes purists: the novel delights in pushing the character into directions alien to Doyle's original work (romance and sexuality, both herero and homosexual), and the central murder mystery plot is simply too linear and simplsitic to really engage the imagination. Where 'Erasing Sherlock' is succesful is in highlighting the character of Rose and her experiences of living in the Victorian era. The first half of the novel is particularly engaging, but it has to be said that the further it progresses the more it begins to resemble romantic fan fiction, with the breathelessly passionate Holmes bearing little relation to Doyle's cold and analytical creation. Nevertheless, this in an interesting and not wholly unsuccesful experiment in perverting Sherlock Holmes into something new. (3.5 out of 5)


Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical
Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical
by Robert Shearman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.14

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Songs For the Shy and Cynical, 16 Jun 2010
Robert Shearman's second collection of short stories maintains the high quality of 'Tiny Deaths', offering nineteen new tales based around the theme of love. The stories are a beguiling mix of the mundane and fantastic, with Shearman populating the most bizarre scenarios with realistic and believable characters. The author's touch is also light when it comes to the prose, with a deceptively straightforward writing style that only serves to highlight the intensity of the sudden plot twists or intrusions of the bizarre. The result is rather like being led into a back alley by the friendliest of teddy bears, only to find oneself visciously mugged and beaten moments later.

Despite the theme there's nothing cosy about this book, with heartbreak and painful consquences being more prevalent than romantic fulfilment. There is also plenty of humour however, albeit usually of the blackest variety. I don't really want to talk about the specifics of any of the stories themeslves, because to do so would rob the reader of the suprises in store. Suffice to say, 'Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical' is amusing, horrifying and frequently affecting, all at the same time.


One
One
by Conrad Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One, 10 Jun 2010
This review is from: One (Paperback)
Whilst diver Richard Jane is below sea working on a Scottish oil rig, a devestating apocalyptic event sweeps across the land destroying all in its wake. Against all reasonable hope Jane begins to walk through the decimated remains of the country, desperate to reach London and his young son...

'One' is very much a book of two halves. The first half, detailing Jane's journey to London is sublime. Williams use of language to describe the post-apocalyptic landscape of Britain is evocative and awe-inspiring. There are no overt supernatural or fantastical elements, just one man's desperate attempts to make sense of the nightmare world he finds himself in. The use of dreams and the fragile nature of Jane's own mental state give this section all the colour it needs, the result being reminiscent of J G Ballard's early extreme environment novels at times.

The second half jumps forward ten years to find Jane one of a pocket of surviving humans scavenging an existence in the remains of London. William's prose is just as assured here, but the change into overt SF/horror territory is marked, with the previously dead returning to life for a variation on the zombie genre. It's still very well written stuff, but somehow the sense of reality is lost along the way, making this slightly less affecting than the devastating first half. As for the complaints about the ending, I'm not sure I see the problem. The novel is ambiguous in some areas, but only to the extent of avoiding pat resolutions to a world-wide disaster, and Jane's story is taken to a satisfying if inevitable conclusion.

Ultimately the plot may be slight, and the direction of the second half open to question, but the quality of Conrad Williams vision and writing is more than worth the price of admission. An essential read for fans of modern British horror.


Doctor Who Storybook 2010 (Annual)
Doctor Who Storybook 2010 (Annual)
by Various
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Storybook 2010, 28 May 2010
For a slim volume The 2010 Doctor Who Storybook offers a deceptively large amount of material, with eight new short prose stories and one original comic strip.

Admittedly the stories can get a little samey en masse, with various bizarre situations inevitably ending up revealed as the machinations of another race of alien monsters, but the fast pace and varied illustrations help keep the pages turning. Highlights include the return of 'The Unquiet Dead's Gelth in Mark Gatiss' spiritualist expose 'Scared Stiff'; various inanimate objects coming to life in Matt Jones' 'The Shape on the Chair' and typically bonkers fare from Paul Magrs with the Eath under attack from invading alien doors. It's James Moran though who actually manages to imbue his adventure with some emotion, with the time-slip chaos of 'The Haldenmor Fugue' highlighting a tough but necessary choice for the Doctor.

All in all, the 2010 Storybook isn't quite as strong as the best of the previous volumes, but this is still leagues ahead of the official Doctor Who Annual in terms of quality. If you only buy one hardbacked stocking-filler for Xmas, make sure it's the Storybook!


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