Book Review – Dalek by Robert Shearman

Here we are then. Some new Doctor Who Target books. Dalek was an interesting choice for the novelisation treatment as it was an episode that was adapted from the Big Finish story ‘Jubilee’ from 2003. Russell T Davies asked Robert Shearman to adapt the audio story when the show returned in 2005 and it instantly became a fan favourite. So the question is, after two previous iterations, does the novelisation have anything new to add to the story?

The answer is a resounding yes. It’s a cracking book that I managed to read in just one sitting. Shearman has added back stories to some of the characters from the episode including the Dalek itself. My personal favourite is the backstory for Denton, the torturer of the Dalek. It’s clever and inventive and feels like a story from one of Shearman’s short story collections. It also has to be up there as one of the darkest sections of any Target book. Elsewhere, the Dalek story is really beautiful and evocative. Shearman really adds something to the Dalek that expands on the beats of the original episode.

Given that this is one of the earliest stories since the show returned it is testament to Shearman and the quality of the story itself that this feels like an essential Doctor Who read in 2021. Highly recommended.

A Holly Jolly Christmas by David McAllister

I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact point that I slipped through into a different reality. At first I thought it was pretty much the same as our world; I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I always avoided drinking on Christmas Eve for fear of ruining the big day but since I’d just got a new job with a bit of a pay rise, I was celebrating. I may have gone a little too far. I’d meant to leave the bar hours ago, but the huge electrical storm and the fact I’d left my coat at the office was giving me an excuse to stay for one more drink. A selection of Christmas dinner treats were put out at the bar for us. Turkey, roast potatoes, parsnips, carrot and Christmas pudding. And of course there was Alice. Alice had started at our office a couple of months back and we had really hit it off. I’d been looking forward to this night for weeks. Just one more drink and I’ll go over and ask her out properly. At least that was the plan.

The last thing I remember before passing through was going to the bathroom at the back of the club. The floor was wet and I slipped and must have hit my head. Maybe I’m dreaming, maybe the electrical storm has made the walls between parallel worlds thinner than usual. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get to find out the truth.

I wake in darkness. I’ve got a splitting headache and it’s clear that I’m tied down at the wrists and ankles. I call out and no one answers. The air feels different here. It’s clammy, and it’s hard to breath. There’s a smell that reminds me of pine mixed with the smell of nature, like a garden centre or a farm. I feel movement all around me and I can hear ruffling and scraping sounds. The cover is pulled from my head and I see I’m strapped to a table. There are lots of eyes staring at me. Not human eyes. Animal eyes.

If these creatures weren’t six foot tall I’d swear they were turkeys. They start to gobble in tandem and the sound becomes deafening. It sounds like a brass band from the bowels of hell. I strain to bring my hands to my ears and remember that I’m tied down. The giant monstrosities bear down on me and begin to peck at my flesh. Searing pain cripples my whole body. As I struggle to try to get free I see another shape at the head of the table.

A large decorated Christmas tree.

In the confusion I could swear it was moving towards me. What I first thought were baubles appear to be large glowing eyes and where the tinsel is coiled around the tree, large silver teeth drip saliva as its gaping maw gets closer and closer. I think about Alice and the slices of turkey from the buffet. I remember hacking a dying Christmas tree to pieces every year with a saw to dispose of it. I wonder how they’ll dispose of what’s left of my body?. The last thing I realise is the Michael Bublè version of Holly Jolly Christmas is playing in the background. Hey, they have Bublè in this universe too!

Book Review – Biohacked & Begging by Stephen Oram

Some of you may remember my review for Eating Robots and other stories by Stephen Oram. It completely blew my mind. Needless to say, I had high expectations for the follow up. I was not disappointed.

The stories follow a similar theme of technology and near future imaginings. If anything, the stories in this volume are like more mature older siblings to the stories in Eating Robots.

The highlight for me was ‘The Envoy of the Ultimate Observer’. Essentially the tale of an alien lifeform observing the human race over a period of twelve months. He tries to make sense of out handling of currency and relationships and eventually tries to fit in to pur way of life. It wonderfully crafted, funny and thought provoking.

The wondrous experience of carrying this book on the commute and being able to dip in and out is what makes it so special. Oram is like the grand master of near future fiction. Highly recommended.

You can buy the book now on Amazon.

Biohacked & Begging: And Other Stories (Nudge the Future)

Books That Changed My Life – Part One – Beaver Towers by Nigel Hinton

For the first in a new series of blog posts about the books that have affected my life the most over the years I’ve selected my earliest ever book memory.

I fell in love with Beaver Towers in primary school. It was magical, surreal, exciting and a real page turner for 8 year old me. I recently read it again and it brought those memories flooding back. It’s a delightful children’s story. Very Harry

Book Review – Marionette by Wilbur Seymore

Here’s something a little different. What if Pinnochio got angry at a world that wouldn’t let him be a real boy. What if the resulting story was less a fairytale and more a creepy horror. One look at the cover of a quick read of the blurb got me excited for this book. It doesn’t disappoint.

The blood flows from the first few pages and never stops and Pinnochio stalks anyone and everyone who he thinks has wronged him.

The world is painted in just enough detail to make it convincing and the cast of characters and their fear of Pinnochio is expertly done. It’s a very unique horror fairytale

It’s a quick, gory read and great fun. Recommended.

Book Review – Lovegun by Gavin Jefferson

So, where to start with this one?

The electric pink cover?. The tub of sperm on the back?. The crudely drawn penis?. The fact that the authors name isn’t on the front cover?

How about the tagline ‘A dark comedy from a nobody writer’. Which by the way has to be one of the best taglines I’ve ever come across. This of course could only apply to an author completely unshackled from expectation. Stephen King or Gavin’s beloved Neil Gaiman this is not.

If you’ve read ‘Almost Surely’ you’ll know what a great writer Jefferson is. Lovegun confirms he can do it in a completely different genre. Lovegun made me feel sick, made me laugh out loud and got me some pretty strange looks on the commute. This is NSFW fun and in parts pure filth. I say parts, it’s pretty much filth from start to finish. And all the better for it.

A man wanking to release bullets and murder people is an equally bizarre and genius concept for a story. For lesser writers, this could fall flat. It has to be funny, it is. It has to be over the top, it is. It has to be brilliant, it is.

Read it now. Preferably in paperback on public transport. Trust me, that pot of cum on the back really gets a reaction. Top stuff.

LOVEGUN (Gavin Jefferson’s ‘Lit’ Grindhouse)

Book Review – The Ethereal Squadron by Shami Stovall

I must admit, I was a little dubious of the use of magic in a WW1 setting. This is cleverly explained in chapter one and by the brutal end of chapter two I knew this book was something special.

Geist is a fantastic female lead character and is convincingly drawn by Stovall. The other characters are just as memorable especially antagonist Prince Leopold who is particularly evil and unhinged and adds a genuine sense of threat to the story. No one feels safe. It had to be this way, being set in The Great War, but it’s done very well here.

The battles that the characters encounter are historically spot on and it’s clear that Stovall has done her homework. The world that she has created here feels real and foreboding. I got completely lost reading this story. For me that’s the highest praise possible. This is an interesting, exciting and addictive story that I would highly recommend to lovers of magic, war stories or fantasy.

The Ethereal Squadron: A Wartime Fantasy (The Sorcerers of Verdun)

Book Review – The Last Titan by Craig Wainwright

Do not be fooled by the front cover of ‘The Last Titan’. This is no child friendly superhero story. What it is, is an intense and enthralling page turner of a book.

Daniel White thinks he’s a normal man. His world gets turned upside down when a mysterious woman tells him of his true heritage. Cue intrigue, different worlds and the introduction of an evil that will really put him in harms way al oing with a man struggling to control the powers he never knew he had.

The realistic way the characters are crafted was my favourite thing about the book along with the world building. Everything feels real. When the subject matter is as sci-fi as this story, making things feel so convincingly real and believable is a true credit to Wainwright.

The door is clearly left open for a follow up and I challenge anyone to not dive straight into book two after you’ve experienced this one. Fans 9f fantasy, sci-fi and superheroes are well catered for with this excellent story. Check it out now.

The Last Titan

Goodbye Lucy…

The Doctor stood, alone. Once again minutes away from oblivion. He hated new years eve.

No, hate was too strong an emotion. He disliked new years eve. The fact that his last memory of NYE was stepping out of the TARDIS and being gunned down and thus beginning his most recent regeneration didn’t help of course.

The wind blew through his hair. Memories of the early days of this stage of his life flooded his mind. Grace, then Charley. Of course Lucy. A smile crossed his lips briefly at the thought of where his old friends might be in some alternative timeline. A timeline where they didn’t meet him. This time of year on planet earth always made him think of them. His human friends. His brief reconnection with Susan had filled him with joy for a short period of time too. But now, even that was at an end.

Lucy was gone. It was his fault. His hearts ached. The years of his vast life suddenly seemed so heavy on his shoulders. Did any of his friends ever have a happy ending?

As Big Ben chimed in the new year he turned and strode back into the TARDIS. He had nothing else to do, after all. Onwards to oblivion he half whispered to himself as he pushed forward on the controls. It was all he knew…