In my normal blogs, I usually feature what books I’ve been reading and audio books I am listening to. However, for the last couple of weekly blogs they’ve been so long (but wonderfully written!) that I’ve promised a separate mini-blog. So here it is.
Old skool paperbacks
‘The Nautical Chart’ by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Ostensibly a modern version of an old-fashioned sunken treasure story. It is this but there are actually two other themes going on as well. First, the hero is obsessed with his former life on the sea and really this could be anywhere. It suggests how we can live in another world whilst just existing in real life. And this book is a story of unrequited love. The hero is obsessed with a woman who isn’t really in love with him and ultimately just uses him to satisfy her obsession. But he cannot ignore her demands like a modern Odysseus drawn to a siren.
‘Synners’ by Pat Cadigan
This was written in 1991 and is one of those bits of sci-fi way ahead of its time. It actually won the Arthur C.Clarke Award which is very prestigious. The theme is around human inter-action with machines, with humans getting physically plugged in to enjoy an online life (now it may well be possible through wireless). It foresees ethical discussions taking place now around virtual and artificial reality as well as concerns about kids spending too much time on video games. And there are hackers, viruses and illegalities that seed confusion and destruction. So a cyberpunk book full of great ideas and predictions. Where it falls down is that it is a very confusing story and I really had to carry on ploughing through it. Ultimately this was worth it as I was left looking over an amazing panorama but I can’t really explain the story or the characters.
Doctor Who audio adventures
I haven’t written about the Dr Who audio adventures I have been listening to for about a couple of weeks. So bear this in mind rather than thinking I’ve listened to five in just one week. If, of interest, there is a great Wiki page (I love Wikipedia) that lists all the Dr Who audio adventures that have been made by Big Finish. It can be found here.
Exotron (fifth Doctor Peter Davidson + companion Peri)
An OK story about humans harming creatures they think are dumb but who are actually telepathic. There is also intertwined secret testing of advanced military machines, keeping dead humans alive, and the story of a love affair. It’s perfectly fine to listen to but there really is too much going on and I got lost at times. Basically it’s too clever for its own good. The extra story (Urban Myths) is much more fun reflecting on how events can be viewed and skewed by different people.
Nocturne (seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy + companions Ace and Hex)
A slightly dreary story about the Doctor landing on an art loving planet though one also at war (the latter is a bit of a red herring to the story). A number of unexpected deaths happen and the Doc & co get blamed before revealing the real culprits. Which, if I understand correctly, are a long dead species who function via sound. Disappointing and perfunctory, quite forgettable.
Renaissance of the Daleks (fifth Doctor Peter Davidson + companion Nyssa)
Now I liked this one. The Doctor lands on Earth at the point when the Daleks should be occupying and he helps to end the occupation. But that hasn’t happened because humans have found out how to change time. However the Daleks are trying to ‘correct’ things. A thoughtful and entertaining time-romp with various characters from different histories. Ultimately it’s all about the knock-on effects from changing time to avoid bad things. And that little evil is sometimes necessary to stop much bigger evil. Though that is no comfort to those who suffer under the little evil.
100 (sixth Doctor Colin Baker + companion Evelyn Smythe)
The 100th Dr Who audio adventure created by Big Finish and a series of four short stories like ‘Circular Time’ listened to previously. However Circular Time was much better. Stories here about Julius Caesar’s parents, a Mozart who lives into old age, a cursed family, and an infected Doctor needing to visit his other incarnations. Sadly none of these really worked for me. I’m not saying that these stories aren’t worth listening to, simply that I expected better. Treat yourself and listen to Circular Time instead.
Son of the Dragon (Peter Davidson + companions Peri + Erimem)
My favourite of the five listed here in addition to Renaissance of the Daleks. A good old fashioned story set in human history with no aliens or monsters. And this is one of those glorious stories lasting over a long period of time with the characters having to fit into everyday life. All this rather than everything happening over a few hours. The Doctor and his companions meet the original Dracula – Vlad the Impaler. They are then caught up in his war with the Turkish Sultan to be free of his empire. Also this is a pretty gory story for Dr Who with people being impaled and killed in detail. Very different to the usual assumption that people have died and no suffering is further elaborated on.