Posts tagged Review
This review/interview has appeared on Bonzuko (aka Daily Cross-Swords)
I recently was given the honor of reviewing former colleague Kevin Casey’s new book The Ninja Mind. Enjoy the review below and the interview with Mr. Casey following. ~Prof. Jenn
Book Review: The Ninja Mind by Kevin Casey
Martial arts centered books tend to slant in one of two directions: either the spiritual side of things (which makes many of them read like self-help books), or the physical side (which turns them into a how-to manual for instructional use). Casey manages to combine both sides in The Ninja Mind, along with a generous throughline of personal narrative. It’s difficult to define this book therefore: it’s part instruction, as he describes various exercises one can try on one’s own; part memoir, as he recounts memories of his earliest forays into the exploration of the kuji studies in his martial art; part ode to his instructor, which to be honest turns into a bit of a Stephen K. Hayes worship-fest; and part storytelling, with the addition of the Hanzo tale at the end of the book.
This makes for an interesting mix, for sure, and each chapter is in bite-sized chunks, so anyone who is interested in the work can digest and manage each bit thoroughly before moving on to the next. It’s also a good move on Casey’s part to focus so much on his personal journey, as especially since he’s writing about a mental, spiritual practice (not mere physical technique), it perforce can’t really be explained other than on the individual level. His personal narration puts us there with him as he describes various fears, obstacles, and the overcoming of such.
The main problem with The Ninja Mind is the near-fawning over (albeit excellent martial arts teacher) Stephen K. Hayes. It of course makes sense that one would admire one’s teacher and, in the style of memoir, describe one’s impressions of him/experiences in learning, etc. But it goes just that much too far into putting Hayes on the demigod-guru-worship-pedestal, which tends to be off-putting in the midst of such sincere recounting of personal growth.
Bottom Line: If you can get past the teacher-worship and enjoy the personal narrative, The Ninja Mind is a detailed foray into one practitioner’s journey through the depth of martial arts spirituality in practice.
MinInterview: Kevin Casey
1) what made you choose To-Shin Do in the first place? What makes you stay with it as an art?
Unlike many of my friends that had followed ninja legends since youth, I seemed to stumble across this lineage as a series of random events. However, within just a couple of months, as a brand-new white belt in 1998, I realized that there were some larger forces at work that brought me to To-Shin Do. I had been looking for a very authentic and embodied spiritual path since early childhood. By the end of college, I had explored many different spiritual traditions and found them all to be either institutionally fossilized or irresponsibly unhinged. In frustration, I gave up on being part of a community of seekers and became determined to forge my own path to inner and outer spiritual truth. Just at that moment, I found To-Shin Do, and I was amazed to see that it already embodied so much of what I was trying to define for myself.
Now I’ve moved past the validation stage of trying to determine whether the lineage is legitimate and I am worthy. I’ve had a chance to get oriented within the landscape of To-Shin Do and the massive backstory of the ninja tradition. With that framework in place, I can really explore and develop myself as an artist and a seeker. The advanced stages of ninja training are a conversation between teachers and students, helping the students evoke their own potential in the most authentic way. My teachers provide the support, experiences and wisdom to help me realize the inner vision that was a whisper in my heart from my earliest memories.
2) why did you include the Hattori Hanzo anecdote at the end of the book?
The fiction piece at the end of the story seems to polarize readers – they either immediately resonate with it, or find it strange and out of place.
I see three major ways of relating to spiritual reality. One way I call the mythical way, where we gather stories that give the emotion and energy of the spiritual lessons. The stories are usually fantastical, over-the-top, and bring the lessons vividly to life. They are usually understood not to be literally true or historical. The Hanzo fiction is an example of this.
The second way I call the rational way. This is where we study and explain spiritual experience. This is exemplified by psychological and social analysis of how spiritual experiences work and what benefits they give us. It’s very detailed and intellectual.
The third way I call the mystical way. The mystical way is an integration and transcendence of the mythical way and the rational way. It brings the observational precision and intelligence of the rational way, but it infuses our literal, living histories with spiritual significance and emotion like the mythical way. We are the heroes of our stories. This is ultimately what I would like to offer to my readers.
The difficulty is, the mystical way is hard to transmit. Some will need a lot of explanation and data because they are rationally inclined. Others will need a lot of stories and emotion because they are mythically inclined. The Hanzo fiction is there to address that latter group.
I’ll teasingly half-share one more secret… the fiction is not entirely fiction. Fiction can be a place to record stories that are so outrageous that no one would believe they were true.
3) will there be more books addressing the other 8 kuji?
Indeed there will be. I have outlines developed for each of the other eight Kuji books, with lists of stories and examples from my life and others’. As my personal journey continues, I acquire more stories to fill in. An-Shu Hayes and I are having exciting discussions about Kuji book 2, and I have a first draft developed. I hope to submit something to my publisher next spring.
At this point, I feel I have something significant, clear and implementable to share about the first four Kuji powers (Strength, Energy, Dragon-Riding, and Healing). For Kuji five and six (Danger Sensing and Telepathy), I have great and clear stories, but not yet an organized platform for others to try it out. For Kuji seven and beyond, I have amazing stories, but I need a great deal more research to understand them. Luckily, each book takes almost two years, so expect the Ninja Mind of Invisibility around 2029. I should have a little more information by then.
4) have you ever studied other martial arts? Spiritual arts? If so, how do they compare/contrast with To Shin Do?
I have never been a committed long-term student of any other martial or spiritual systems. I have done workshop
training in boxing, fencing, judo, karate, tae kwon do, muay thai, kyudo, and kung fu. I’ve stopped in at Zen centers, Shambhala training, Catholic monasteries, shamanic drumming circles, Wiccan study groups and Jewish temples. I’ve also spent a bit of time here and there with my “cousins” in other branches of the ninja tradition and in Japanese Tendai and Tibetan Buddhist lineages, without formally being a student in those organizations.
I enjoyed all of those explorations, and I found I was never tempted to leave my home in To-Shin Do. There were attributes I admired in other approaches, and because To-Shin Do is intentionally a living framework that evolves with the individual and the culture, I could incorporate those attributes into how I train and how I teach.
To-Shin Do, and its root art of ninjutsu, emphasizes adaptability. This seems to be in contrast to most tradition-oriented systems. Yes, of course, we want to leverage the wisdom and past experiences of our lineage, so in that sense there is a tradition of passed-down methods, but the real heart of the ninja tradition is an unrelenting focus on what works and a commitment to discovering that in changing conditions. As such, we study principles and concepts from history, and then seek to manifest those ideals in the most tangible, meaningful and effective way.
The result of that, when done well, is a profound sanity and capability. To-Shin Do is not immune to the organizational neuroses of every human endeavor, but our values eventually navigate us out of it, or navigate the neurotic out of To-Shin Do.
5) to the extent that you feel comfortable, express how your recent life upheavals have informed your practice as it is laid out in your book.
This year was brutal. It was without a doubt the toughest year of my life so far, and I won’t be surprised if it stands as the toughest year of this lifetime. I’ll tell some of my stories in Book 2.
These experiences forced me to look in the mirror long and hard. Are these practices real? Do they hold up under major crisis?
Although the practices are magical, they do not magically solve your problems. Although they increase confidence, focus, and personal power, they do not remove all suffering from life. In truth, you mostly still have to solve all your problems in fairly ordinary ways.
The difference is, with these practices, you’ll actually get around to it. A lot of the solutions in our life are obvious but difficult. Consider improving fitness, getting a better job, improving finances, or developing better relationships with loved ones. These are critical and life-impacting, and you can Google all kinds of valid advice for free. We struggle not to understand but to implement.
Sometimes we internalize that failure to implement as evidence of character flaw. We get depressed and seek escape. The truth is, though, the failure to implement is a failure of spirit, and spirit has to be developed and maintained through spiritual practice. However gnarly and unfair life can be – and I’ve recently been put in touch with a pretty intense level of it – the only solution is to pick yourself up one more time and do what is needed. You can’t do that just through hollow internal cheerleading. You need a real cultivated perspective of personal power through a set of exercises and practices.
At my worst moments this year, giving up and dying felt like a real option. My spiritual practice reminded me of why I might get up one more time. I made a real choice to survive, and that alone is empowering. I don’t have to be here, enduring this travesty. I am choosing to be here, because there is something greater that’s worth fighting for.
The fact that the ninja tradition acknowledges this dynamic – as opposed to engaging in the fantasy of an untouchable invulnerable super-being who never suffers – gives mere mortals like ourselves a real shot at heroism. When we struggle, endure, adapt, outlast and overcome, we are ninja.
Book Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares by James Lovegrove
Review by: Prof. Jenn
Now obviously any Sherlock Holmes pastiche isn’t going to be Doyle. However, if one is going to set one’s pastiche in Victorian London, it needs to at least read like historical fiction. Especially if one is (rightfully so) writing said pastiche from Dr. Watson’s POV. It needs to sound like Victorian Watson’s narration. Stuff of Nightmares almost does this well, but the slip-ups are numerous enough to make it read in general as anachronistic. Here’s the low-down, according to me:
What I liked:
- background into Watson’s feelings about his wife, the invention of her miscarriages, his feelings about Holmes and the violent events he sees. He’s not simpering, but has honest reactions as a doctor and a human
- I always enjoy the premise of taking one of the many stories Doyle’s Watson was never going to put into print, and create it based on Sherlockian research. This isn’t your typical Sherlock-vs-whatever-1800s-villain-sounds-fun but original, actually well fleshed out, and action-packed
- an engaging, shudder-inducing villain in the lines of George Burnwell or Baron Gruner from Doyle
- feminism, but done correctly for the time period
What I didn’t like:
- Holmes’ character is inconsistent, unrealistic
- a long backstory narration almost as interminable as The Great Alkali Plain
- many narrative anachronisms in the form of contemporary word choice/diction
- steampunk Transformers?! Really, Mr. Lovegrove?! Seriously??
Bottom Line: it’s mildly entertaining but not among the best of the Sherlockian pastiches. You can find a better.
The Walking Dead is back! This is reason enough to celebrate, but it’s even more exciting now that we have seen the premiere episode from new showrunner Scott Gimple. The season 3 finale was packed with super-intense drama, but this new season isn’t picking up directly after the showdown with the Governor at Woodsbury. Instead, it seems like a month or two has passed since the end of the Woodsbury settlement with the Woodsbury survivors blending with Rick’s group. Everyone has a role in this expanded society at the prison and it seems like things are going pretty smoothly (for once). Instead of Dictator Rick, we have a ruling council that discusses the issues facing the survivors. Additionally, the roles that people have been assigned seem to suit them. Their manufactured society is functioning well, which takes pressure off of the individuals. There are enough adults so that not everyone is needed for high-risk ventures into the outside world. Glenn and Maggie talk about the possibility of having a child and a life at the prison, now that the environment is more stable. Even Carl is doing kid things like playing, reading comic books, and talking to other children.
The two big plot points of the premiere are Daryl’s group expedition to the big Target/Walmart type shop and Rick’s encounter with a stranger in the woods. It seems like Daryl’s competence is making the group more confident in their outside world maneuvers. The group’s trip to the store for supplies seems to go really well until newcomer Bob Stookey confronts his alcoholic demons a little too harshly in the booze aisle and causes the wine rack to come crashing down on him. Unbeknownst to the survivors but knownst to us, there are a good number of walkers on the roof of the store, along with a fallen helicopter. The crash of the wine rack attracts the horde and the roof gives up, causing the walkers to fall from the sky into the store. There is lots of head squishing, skin peeling and other awesomely gory gore. The cutie that Beth was flirting with gets eaten because that’s just how it goes. The crashed helicopter on the roof finally falls into the store basically ruining the good thing the survivors had going with this seemingly fully stocked warehouse store.
Back to Rick, who is now pursuing simpler goals like becoming a good pig farmer. He is taking care of Carl and baby Judith, still healing from Lori’s loss and his temporary loss of sanity. He encounters a woman while gathering things away from the prison. She’s a lone survivor and begs Rick for help. Rick, thankfully, is a lot more hesitant to help a fellow survivor than perhaps he would have been pre-Woodsbury. I don’t know why he chooses to follow her at all, but Rick is Rick and so he demands that if the woman and her husband want to come back with him, he has to meet her husband first. Big shocker: the woman is actually crazy and was just looking to feed Rick to her now zombified husband. Rick gets away and back to the prison where he reflects on how close he came to her fate. It makes sense that Rick would take pity on the woman and let her have her wish, which was to be with her husband as a walker. She was so obsessed with her husband’s fate that she gave up living for herself – literally – she kills herself in front of Rick. Rick realizes how close he came to losing it completely in the last season, and while he still can’t seem to catch a break, he seems to be more conscious of his health and his role in the group.
What I guess will be a major plot in this upcoming season is the mysterious disease that first took the pig and then the bespectacled youth. I don’t know why there wasn’t a scene with Herschel the vet checking out the pig before it died. This disease seems to act very quickly, within a day, starting with flu-like symptoms that worsen until the infected is dead. How this disease was introduced to the prison group should be interesting. Maybe it is a tool of the Governor, who is still lurking about. Maybe it involves the CDC somehow. Either way, I predict we are going to lose a lot of friends. I also predict that some characters will be conveniently immune to this plague.
This first episode sets up a lot in its 43 minutes, from subtle exposition to new dangers to our favorite group of survivors. I appreciate the showing rather than telling that is going on in terms of more subtle storytelling. I feel like the Walking Dead has become more intellectual in just that first episode and I sincerely hope it continues the trend. Lori and Andrea are gone, Tyrese is a member of the prison (and one of my favs from the comics), Carol and Daryl have the most adorable relationship ever, and Michonne has a cool horse and more screen time. I feel like it can only get better from here.
I had the pleasure of reviewing yet another book by an old friend, Ian Healy, again in his Just Cause superhero-laden universe. I also had the chance to interview him using my patented (okay, not really) 5-question format. Below find the review of his latest Just Cause book, Deep Six, and the interview, both of which also have appeared on bonzuko.com. ~ Prof. Jenn
Book Review: Deep Six by Ian Healy
What struck me about the first and second books I read in the Just Cause universe was how like Contemporary Realism they are–the only thing that makes the novels at all fantastical is the superpowers. They take place in the real, contemporary world, with such realistic history and backstory of the parahumans that one begins unable to differentiate between the real quotes from historical figures and those invented, from all the epigrams at the beginnings of chapters. These epigrams are well thought out as far as story structure–they function much like the loading screen of a video game: giving an extra framework to the story at hand.
Deep Six does something that no other super-hero story does: it focuses not on the heroes (or indeed on the villains) but places normal folks at the head of the story as our protagonists. Our main characters are wardens and workers in the prison built for parahumans gone bad, called Deep Six. They all have a touch of the parahuman about them, but none of them have any powers that are spectacular, or, well, powerful at all. Pitting these regular joes against the incredibly scary and powerful villain Misrule puts us readers on the edge of our seats.
When the almighty Misrule turns himself in to Deep Six, ultimate precautions are taken. The advanced technologies that Deep Six boasts, to keep the myriad villains under lock and key, are in place, superhero posse Just Cause is standing by, and the veteran wardens (plus our newbie protagonist) are ready to take him in. he says he’s terminally ill, and wants to do the right thing.
What could possibly go wrong?
The tension of the action is just as compelling as the realistically-drawn relationships, with only the barest touch of repetetiveneness towards the climax. I highly recommend Deep Six–and don’t worry, it stands alone just fine if you haven’t read any other Just Cause books. But of course, after reading this one, you will want to.
MinInterview: Ian Thomas Healy
1) What are some particular challenges in writing about superheroes? What tropes do you embrace, and which do you eschew?
The biggest challenges for writing superheroes are the same challenges as writing in any other genre: the characters have to stand true as believable and three-dimensional, not just cliché cutouts. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen from other writers who write about superheroes is that they focus on the powers first and the characters second. Superpowers should only ever be an aspect of superheroes’ characters, not the defining characteristic. I like to think that my JCU tales would be almost as good without the powers (although most of the plots require them to move forward).
As far as tropes go, I embrace the colorful costumes and nicknames that have been in comic books since Day One, but I also try to make costumes a little more realistic with powers. In Just Cause, for example, I went into a little more detail on Sally’s costume, because I didn’t feel it was enough for her just to throw on a pair of red and yellow tights. Her boots, for example, were designed by a team of an Italian footwear designer and a JPL engineer to make them both comfortable, friction resistant, and to provide traction even when she’s running at five hundred miles per hour.
One thing I’ve rejected overall are the so-called “cosmic-level” powers. Most of the characters in the JCU are fairly down-to-earth as far as their abilities go. Other superhero universes have characters who can toss around planets, or are the offspring of gods, or can accomplish anything through the judicious application of will. There’s nobody in the JCU like that. Mustang Sally is actually one of the most powerful characters on the planet, given her ability to break the speed of sound on foot. She’s an elite-level hero, and doesn’t even really give any thought to that because her day-to-day life and problems are largely the same as anyone else’s.
2) You have strong female characters in all your Just Cause Universe novels. Who are your influences in that area?
Naturally, it has to start with my mom, a strong woman who has overcome a tremendous amount of adversity in her life. I’ve always had a lot of female friends in my life, more so than male for the most part. Pretty much across the board, they are or have grown to become strong, forceful women who I’m proud to know. Some of them are mothers. Others are engineers, scientists, politicians, authors, actresses, and warriors. It’s pretty awesome company to keep, let me tell you. I write for them as much as I do for myself.
3) What can we expect next from the Just Cause universe?
Next spring will see the release of another expansion novel of the JCU, calledJackrabbit. It’s about a character only circuitously connected to the primary team, but who manages to pretty much single-handedly save the entire world from an interstellar menace. Also, he can jump real high. It’s a much more lighthearted approach to superheroing compared to some of the more gritty stuff I’ve done recently, like Day of the Destroyer and Deep Six. Next fall will be the next Mustang Sally book, called Champion. I’m planning to release some additional short stories over the next year and to collect them into an anthology. I’m starting to make plans for the next couple of JCU books to work on after wrapping up my current project load.
4) Are you marketing these books for YA audiences, or adults, or are they pretty universal?
Given the youth of most of the narrative characters in the JCU, I think that they’re pretty universal in appeal. In Just Cause, Mustang Sally has just turned 18. The characters in Day of the Destroyer are all in their 20s. I don’t explicitly state Katie Malone’s age in Deep Six, but she’s roughly 30. I’m marketing stuff to whomever I can, though, because the more people who read JCU books, the more they’ll tell their friends about them.
5) Leap up on your soapbox again for us about self-/online-publishing and traditional publishing.
I think anyone who says they are exclusively for traditional or exclusively for self-publishing is self-deluded. There are things that traditional publishing can accomplish that a self-publisher cannot without expending a tremendous amount of effort. And most self-publishers, like me, don’t have the luxury of time and capital to invest in the marketing and distribution reach that traditional publishers can do. On the other hand, I can bring a completed book to publication in only a couple of months (or less if I’m not going with print). I can make changes after publication if needed. I can respond to the vagaries of the industry faster than a traditional publisher. Also, I get paid faster than do authors through traditional publishers, although they receive advances (or should!) and my income trickles in via royalties. I’m not going to say one is better than the other, because there are positives and negatives to each side. I have a literary agent who is working on selling some of my work, and I hope she is very successful with it, because I’d really like to be working both sides of the publishing fence.
Ian can be found on Twitter (http://twitter.com/ianthealy), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/authorianthomashealy), Scenic www.ianthealy.com, and on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/ianhealy).
Deep Six releases worldwide in print and ebook formats on November 29, 2013. Preorders are available athttp://localheropress.ianthealy.com/pre-order-deep-six-today/. Check out the book trailer athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKchUGjSN2c.
Review: Doctor Who Prisoners of Time Vol.2 by Tipton, Tipton, Bond, Ridgway, Hopgood, Langridge, et. al
Review by: Prof. Jenn
This newest collection follows a mysterious cloaked figure as he ports himself through time to snatch the companions of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Doctors for some nefarious purpose known only to him. It’s a gripping opening sequence as we are walked through several panels of earlier companions, trapped and apparently sleeping, behind glass and fear for the upcoming companions’ fate while waxing nostalgic about the earlier Doctors.
The art in this collection varies widely between the various artists, as you’d imagine, but they’re all equally high quality in both story and art. Well, except for the last one in the collection.
I was delighted to see a story featuring the 8th Doctor–he doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves in the expanded Who canon, and it was neat to see him pop up after 5-7, right in order. But the art quality of this one was too cartoony without being charming (especially after having enjoyed the previous selections), and the storyline was so cliched as to be eye-rolling.
Bottom line: It’s a great collection, the last story notwithstanding. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Book Review: Ecko Rising by Danie Ware
Review by Prof. Jenn
What the heck did I just read?!
No, seriously, what? We started out in a lovely cyber-dystopia, like a well-drawn update of the worlds of Neuromancer or Snow Crash. But we’re not in that world for long enough to break it in before we’re transported to a lovely Fantasy realm which manages to be Tokien-esque without being derivative.
Now, as interesting as this may sound, it really is just too jarring on multiple levels:
1) We’re not in Ecko’s POV hardly at all when in the dystopia–we see him from another character’s perspective. Which means that when Ecko is transported to the new realm, we don’t know enough about him to care about his culture shock, nor do we ever see our erstwhile POV character (the one we actually connected to) again. Until one brief scene at the very end. The big revolutionary break-in that goes awry for Ecko we don’t completely understand–what is this powerhouse that we’re supposed to hate? What exactly is Ecko trying to do?
2) We don’t get a chance to understand the futuristic world enough before we’re kicked out of it. We also don’t get enough of the Fantasy world to let us know what the threat to it means/is–we don’t get told what’s going on, who’s who, etc. Except that there’s a traveling tavern for some reason that even those that live there don’t know. Believe me, I’m not asking for info dumps, not at all, but what I do need is something a little more than just the Viking Swimming Lesson.*
3) Though it is slightly amusing to hear Ecko pop-culture referencing (he wryly mentions that his adventure even starts in a tavern, like all D&D quests do), we again don’t have enough familiar to us to let this be part of the action. Of course, part of that is no doubt that Ecko himself is plunged into this world with no warning, and even thinks the world is his own construct that he, Matrix-like, is caught in as he’s trapped somewhere in his “real” world. But again, the “real” world wasn’t familiar enough to us first before we were yanked out of it.
Having said all this, there’s a lot fascinating and/or good about Ecko Rising. The Banned characters are pretty great–sort of a McKinley-esque horse-people that are part Rohirrim and all bad-ass. The fighters and philosophers are all diverse as far as gender, which is refreshing and fun. The relationships that we do get to know at all are realistic and compelling. And Maugrim is pretty gosh darned scary. The vivisection and the madness is squicky-keen, and once we actually get to know Ecko a little more, he’s a compelling character too.
And the story ends on a cliffhanger, which tells me we’ll (hopefully) be getting more of all this explained to us in the next book. It’s just kind of a long book to have so many loose ends still blowing in the wind.
Bottom Line: Ecko Rising is recommended, with reservations.
*One hard push into the deep end.
Comics Review: Crime Does Not Pay vol. 5 ed. by Philip R. Simon
Review by: Prof. Jenn
I enjoyed reading the 5th collection of Crime Does Not Pay for some of the same reasons I enjoyed Daredevil Battles Hitler: it’s a treat to look back in time with these collections. Just as entertaining as the stories themselves (if not more so) are the vintage ads–it’s fascinating to see the wartime admonishments to conserve, etc. Environmental historians would have a field day with just the ads alone.
The collection is a fun romp through the colorful world of 1930s “true crime” stories, both set in what would have been current times, all the way to retellings of crime from Renaissance Rome. The art is cartoony and fun, classic if you’ve looked at any comics from this era, and the recurring ghostly criminal mastermind character is actually creepy. The dialogue is very 1930s gangster movie (“hey copper, you’ll get nothing outta me, see), and the characters are delightfully stereotypical. Of course these were obviously made mainly for a male child audience, so the repeated warning that Crime Does Not Pay does get a bit, well, repetetive but it’s not really a problem, as reading this collection is more like looking through a time capsule than anything else.
Bottom Line: This is a fun collection, particularly for the fan of history, or crime.
Comics Review: Lenore–Purple Nurples by Roman Dirge
Review by: Prof. Jenn
The cute little dead girl is back, with a newly remastered collection of deranged adventures, the central plots of which surround the ghostly Creeping Creepig. Some highlight moments include: the scene with the Harbinger Chop, the origin story of Lenore’s nose, the Greatest Epic Battle Ever Seen, portal trips into Heck and back, and the gorgeous Bonus Material.
The Lenore series is famously two parts silly, one part cute, and three parts sick and twisted. This collection is no different.
Bottom Line: Purple Nurples is a very entertaining Lenore collection.
Book Review: About Time 7 by Tat Wood / Dorothy Ail
Review by: Prof. Jenn
The About Time series claims to be “the most comprehensive, wide-ranging, and at times almost unnervingly detailed handbook to Doctor Who that you might ever conceivably need” (p.5). This claim is absolutely true–it’s exhaustive in its detail, backstory, commentary, critical analysis, and etc. of episode by episode. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, these are a way to bolster your nerdly knowledge (or at least solve arguments as a reference).
Volume 7 of About Time covers the very beginning of the new Who: years 2005-2006, Series 1&2. Each episode is gone through with a fine-toothed comb, one by one, with such discussion categories as: Which One Is This?, Catchphrase Counter, History, Deus ex Machina, Analysis, Continuity, and Things that Don’t Make Sense, among many others. There are also essays interspersed with the episode sections, which honestly got into a slightly annoying flip-back-and-forth-between-pieces like a magazine. It’s enlightening to know not only the TV production culture surrounding the creation of these eps, but also the actors’ backgrounds, combined with the connection of the stories and characters to the old Who. It’s a particularly nerdily useful thing when the author refers back to previous volumes so one can flip back and forth to see how monsters recur and evolve, how the Doctor has changed and yet stayed the same, between the old series and the new.
Bottom Line: I highly recommend the About Time series in general, and volume 7 is stellar in its detail.
Book Review: Turbulence by Samit Basu
Review by: Prof. Jenn
Turbulence is a superhero novel, but unlike any other superhero novel out there. For one thing, it takes place mainly in Mumbai (and sometimes in London). None of our characters are American. For another thing, the myriad superpowers that our gaggle of characters finds themselves with are so unusual, so real, and often mysterious as the characters themselves wake up one day and have to figure out what it is they actually have “come down with”, and then decide what to do about it.
The main story surrounds two newly-superpowered people: Aman and Uzma. They are two of many that were on a particular flight to London, that ended up giving superpowers to everyone on the plane. In this book, we don’t ever know where the powers came from, but there is an upcoming sequel–maybe the origins of the powers will be explained there. Anyway, Uzma doesn’t know what her power is (she doesn’t discover it till the very end), but Aman’s power is the ability to go online. Like, without a computer. Not only that, he can bypass any security codes, etc. well you get the idea. Other superpowered people we meet include the super-strong, able-to-fly Vir, the indestructible bad guy Jai, Tia who can multiply herself indefinitely, among others. Our conflict arises when Jai and his peeps decide that taking over the world is a good idea, and our “good guys” disagree. Though the discussions between the super-folk about what is the right thing to do with the powers is pretty compelling, making us wonder whether the good guys and bad guys are really that different.
Bottom Line: Turbulence is highly recommended. Bring on the sequel, Mr. Basu!