Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Book Reviews

Doctor Who: Night of the Humans
David Llewellyn
BBC Books

Available Now - £6.99 (Hardback)
Review by Kelly Prior

In Doctor Who: Night of the Humans, we join the Doctor and his headstrong time-travelling partner Amy Pond on another whirlwind adventure. This time round, the TARDIS has left the pair smack bang in the middle of a feud between a colony of Humans and an Alien race called the Sittuuns. The two companions find themselves fighting to survive when it is revealed that a comet is heading straight for them. Beliefs and allegiances are tested as Amy and the Doctor discover that the “Humans” are not quite all they seem.

The BBC’s Doctor Who novels seem to follow quite a similar pattern. The pair of adventurers find themselves in a dangerous situation where their help is needed, they become separated for a period of time, and are reunited just in time to return to the TARDIS. Of course, following a pattern is not necessarily a bad thing. The entire Doctor Who series is based on the premise that the Doctor will eventually regenerate and meet a new assistant.

The relationship between Amy and the Doctor in Night of the Humans is really endearing. Their witty and affectionate banter really helps to make this book an easy going and satisfying read. It is only a shame that they spend the majority of the book apart from each other. It would have been nice to have more dialogue between them.

This book is packed full of well established characters and large personalities. Keep an eye out for Dirk Slipstream, the book’s devious villain, who will provide you with a great deal of entertainment throughout. Readers will find themselves investing in each of the characters individually, and they will not be disappointed.

Llewellyn really succeeds here in showing us that famous Doctor Who humour, with some “laugh out loud” moments, just put in there to embarrass you when you are reading in public. The fast paced, gripping narration, along with the intense, action packed plot, means that Adults will enjoy this book just as much as children will. There is plenty of excitement and adventure for the boys, and even a touch of romance to keep the girls happy.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Child friendly, some references to weapons.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: It’s an easy read for the summer and you can enjoy it without putting in a great deal of effort. Doctor Who fans will really love this one, and it works pretty well as a stand-alone novel too. One for the whole family. 7/10

Thanks For Nothing
Jack Dee
Black Swan

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

In this frank account of his life, Jack Dee finally reveals what turned a once optimistic young man into a grumpy, middle-aged git. It’s a journey that takes him from a first gig as a ventriloquist’s dummy, to working in an artificial leg factory and delivering incontinence pants for the NHS, before he finally ends up on stage at The Comedy Store. Along the way, Jack shares his views on everything from the “overrated moon landing” to boutique hotels, personal trainers and “people who hold their cutlery the wrong way”.

Half autobiography, half literary stand-up set, Thanks For Nothing could really have been a bit of a scatterbrained mess. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. Rather the alternating “autobiography – random piece of ranting – autobiography – random piece of ranting” chapter style really works. The autobiography segments are interesting, and frequently filled with rather satisfying acidic anecdotes, and the ranting segments are almost as good as any of Dee’s stand-up routines.

What helps the book to engage with the reader is that Dee’s voice is very prominent throughout, rather than being hackishly ghost-written. Whether he be recounting his string of embarrassing incidents in hotel rooms, or his rather dark yet touching battle with alcoholism, you get the sense that this is really him talking to you – and that goes a long way with autobiography.

Admirers of Dee will lap this up, but there are more than enough laughs here to make this worth picking up even if you’re a more casual fan of his stand-up.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
None.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Some, but nothing too extreme. Usually funny, though.
Summary: An essential read for fans of Dee and a good hoot for more casual admirers. His voice is felt throughout the book, and gives rise to some real laugh-out-loud moments. 8/10

Warhammer 40,000: Fireborn
Lisa Bowerman, Nick Kyme & Toby Longworth
Black Library

Available Now - £10.00 (CD)
Review by Brad Harmer

The world of Sepulchre IV stands on the brink of destruction. From the stars the Red Rage decends, intent on murder and massacre. Into the fray are thrust the Firedrakes, peerless champions of the Salamanders. Their mission: retrieve the 'holy relic' of Sepulchre and prevent it falling to the enemy. Tsu'gan, latest recruit to the vaunted order, must learn to temper his inner anger if he is to succeed in the First Company.

Facing an indestructible foe, the Firedrakes will be tested as never before. Victory is possible against the Red Rage, but only if Tsu'gan can master his wrath and even then the sacrifice will be great ...

From the instant you press ‘play’ and are hit by a barrage of bombastic orchestral music worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, you know that you’re in for a good time. Narrator Toby Longworth turns in a fantastic performance, augmented by the fantastic production, where necessary, to give each character their own individual personalities – and they are all easily recognisable. The sound effects, be they ambient or dramatic, are also fantastic.

The story itself, whilst far from the most original Warhammer 40,000 military science-fiction thing, is still very enjoyable, propelled along – as you are – by the great effects and music. The story may not be earth-shattering, but the descriptive passages are excellent, and Fireborn feels like a real team effort between writer, narrator and director. It’s a team effort that has paid off.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several gory battles, explosions, and macabre weapons.
Sex/Nudity: None audible.
Swearing: None.
Summary: An astonishingly good audio-drama, and the closest thing there is (so far) to a Warhammer 40,000 movie. The story is far from the most inspired, but the acting and production is phenomenal. 9/10

Ultramarines: Courage and Honour
Graham McNeill
Black Library

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

The noble Ultramarines epitomise the Space Marines, the genetically enhanced warriors who protect the Imperium from its foes. Newly returned from the Eye of Terror, Captain Uriel Ventris must redeem himself in the eyes of his battle-brothers, who fear he may have been tainted by Chaos. When the planet Pavonis is invaded by Tau, what better opportunity could Uriel have to join his Chapter in combat and prove that his honour is beyond reproach?

A great writer and a great franchise, but there’s just something about Ultramarines: Courage and Honour that never really takes off. Maybe it’s that the first half of the book is given over to the characters admiring their wargear and talking about how they’re doing nothing. Maybe it’s that forces are just too bland (Ultramarines = Blandest of all Space Marines, Tau = Bland Eldar substitutes). Whatever the cause is, this is a bit of a tiresome slog to get through.

The call to adventure arrives far too late, and when things do actually start to happen, Courage and Honour rapidly devolves into the same cookie-cutter Warhammer 40,000 novel that we’ve read a hundred times before – only more boring.

A rare strike-out for Black Library, this is one for Ultramarines fans only.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Lots of gunfire, tank warfare, explosions, shanking...pretty much the usual fare for Warhammer 40,000 novels, to be honest.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A middling and relatively unengaging military science-fiction that, rather unfortunately, feels like Warhammer-By-Numbers. A rare miss for Black Library. 5/10

Rogue Trooper - Tales of Nu-Earth 01 & 02
Boluda, Steve Dillon, Brett Ewins, Gerry Finley-Day, Dave Gibbons, Trevor Goring, Cam Kennedy, Alan Moore, Robin Smith & Colin Wilson
Rebellion/2000AD

Available Now - £15.99 each (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Nu-Earth, a planet ravaged by war, its atmosphere poisoned by chemical weapons. In this battle-scarred landscape, the Norts and the Southers fight where only the Genetic Infantrymen can survive unaided. Rogue is one such soldier, and these are his tales.

I first encountered Rogue Trooper back in 1995 or 1996, when I came into possession of a load of the American reprints. Looking back at it, it was a pretty arse-about-tit way of reading a 2000AD strip, but that was the way it went. Rogue Trooper has always been a strip that I’ve loved because it’s somehow a mash-up of Full Metal Jacket, The Lone Ranger and Commando comics. When you’re me, that’s a pretty awesome concept.

I was very pleased to discover that my childhood memories weren’t ruined and that Rogue Trooper was as good as I’d remembered, albeit in slightly different ways. The stories highlight one of the greatest things about 2000AD – its ability to generate a thousand interesting stories from one character/concept. Dave Gibbons’ artwork is staggeringly good; able to convey an epic scale conflict in one black and white panel.

Those who are already fans of Rogue Trooper will already want to pick this up, and the bargain price (£15.99 for 89 Progs worth of comics! That’s about 400 pages!) should encourage newcomers to do so too. You won’t be disappointed!

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Gunfire, explosions, scuffling, knife combat, tank warfare.
Sex/Nudity: Some partial male nudity.
Swearing: None.
Summary: An essential pair of compilations of Rogue Trooper. Flawlessly printed and at a bargain price, too. 9/10

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