Book Review – Death of a Gossip

  • Title: Death of a Gossip
  • Author: M.C. Beaton
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/06/2017

I picked up this paperback, which turns out to be the first Hamish Macbeth mystery, quite some time ago, and finally got around to reading it. I liked the Hamish Macbeth mystery television series, which aired on BBC America quite some time ago, and which I have on DVD, so I thought I would like the mystery series, but really… well, there are a lot of issues with this book.

The story concerns a couple in the tiny village of Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands who run a “fishing school”. That is, every week during the Summer a small group of tourists stays at the local one and only hotel, and the couple teach them fly fishing. This year’s group, though, includes Lady Jane Winters – a horrible woman who insults everyone, is outright mean, and goes out of her way to hurt people. She even threatens to expose everyone’s secrets and “dirty laundry”. It should come to no surprise when she’s murdered.

However, it literally takes nearly 100 pages before she is murdered. So for the first 100 pages of the book, rather than following a typical cozy mystery format, we are “treated” to a treatise on more than I ever wanted to know about fly fishing, plus some characterization of the tourists in the fishing school, and a few characters who I would suppose are regulars in the series, including Constable Hamish Macbeth. You’d think this would be “background” and technically it is – but it’s also annoying. I wanted the book to get to the point, and I found the frankly sexist portrayals of the women in the group to be pretty awful. Lady Jane, the one person who’s background should be filled in, is a blank slate – other than manipulating the reader to really hate her. Then there’s a young girl, a secretary from a big accounting firm in London, who has a crush on her boss, falls in love with a young aristocratic man, lets him talk her in to sleeping with him – and believes all along that he will marry her. Of course, she’s dead wrong – and he runs off with Daphne – the brainless airhead bottle blonde that he accompanied to the hotel. The reader knows the whole affair is doomed, and the secretary comes off as incredible naive and even dumb. Not to mention that the secret in her closet is: she had been through the exact same thing before. Everyone else’s secrets are similarly silly, especially once Hamish gets to pull the “gather everyone in one room to solve the case” scene.

Once Lady Jane is murdered, the DI from the nearby city shows up, takes over the case, and throws his weight around. This DI is a brute – he bullies everyone, suspects, tourists, locals, and Macbeth. He’s also apparently dumb as a post because he can’t find a single real clue.

Hamish does some investigating as well, on the sly, as the DI has forbidden him to get involved. In the end he gathers everyone in the hotel parlor, reveals all the secrets everyone has kept (turns out Lady Jane was a gossip columnist for a London tabloid), and tries to needle someone – anyone – into admitting they killed Lady Jane. The killer turns out to be a sociopath who essentially kills Lady Jane for looking at her wrong.

Yep.

Needless to say – this makes no sense. It’s like the author gave up and pulled a name out of a hat to reveal as the killer. It’s almost like a parody of the “fair shot” mysteries of the 1930s, where the author included all the clues so the reader had a fair shot of discovering who the murderer was before or at the same time as the detective. Macbeth also later admits he was “guessing” about the identity of the murderer (though he may have been lying at the time) and refuses to take credit, allowing the world’s dumbest DI to take the credit for solving the case. Besides the horrible portrayal of women in the book – the native Scottish Highlanders, especially Macbeth, are portrayed as lazy and not too swift. Macbeth, however, and this was true in the television series at least, is like a blonde woman doing a “fluffy bunny” act – he’s pretending to be slow, so that people will under-estimate him. He also, again, definitely in the television series – but never mentioned in the book, has no desire to be promoted. He loves Lochdudh, his dog, the Highlands, and his life, and promotion would mean relocating to a big city. In this book, he does seem to be pretending to be slow, but his motivations for doing so are completely ignored. No mention is ever made of way he tends to act like a total idiot.

The point-of-view of the book is omniscient, with considerable time spent getting in to the heads of the various characters staying at the hotel, especially the secretary. It would have been better if the story was actually told from Macbeth’s point of view. At least that would have made the story more like a traditional mystery (in either third person or first person).

Finally, the book itself is only 205 pages. The rest is made up of advertisements and sample chapters. One sample chapter is barely acceptable in a paperback book, but three (roughly 80 pages)? That is highway robbery – another reason this book gets a low rating. Although I can honestly recommend the television series, Hamish Macbeth starring Robert Carlyle (The Full MontyOnce Upon a Time) as the titular character, I cannot recommend this book. It’s the first in a long series, so the series itself may improve later, but overall – Death of a Gossip was full of holes and annoying stereotypes.

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Book Review – Chopping Spree

  • Title: Chopping Spree
  • Author: Diane Mott Davidson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/28/2017

Goldy Schultz owns “Goldilock’s Catering: Where Everything is Just Right!” and she is now quite successful, making several thousand dollars a month from her catering company. She’s so successful that she is starting to burn out – not on catering, but the constant work is leading to exhaustion and insomnia. Her best friend, Marla, is concerned about her – and her son is acting out. This is the background to about half the novel.

Goldy is contacted by an old college buddy who now works as a manager at the local high class shopping mall. He hires Goldy to cater an event at the mall for the Elite Shoppers Club – people who spend $1000 or more per week at the mall. The friend, Barry, keeps telling Goldy he has to talk to her, especially on the day of the event. However, with one thing and another – they never talk. After the event, as Goldy goes to pick-up her son’s birthday gift (paid for but stored at the store where she bought it) and then to get the final check from Barry for the catering – Barry is murdered. Since Goldy is found knocked unconscious by his body – the police at first accuse her of killing him. They then accuse and arrest one of her catering assistants because he found Barry’s body and tried to take the knife used to kill him out.

Goldy is quickly cleared – but not so much her assistant, who happens to be a close, personal friend of her family (especially her son), and he’s kept in jail. Goldy, between trying to take care of herself, trying to repair her relationship with her teen-aged son, her getting ready for additional catering events by preparing food, tries to get her friend out of jail, and despite numerous warnings, investigates the case.

Goldy ends up inheriting Barry’s dog, who had initially been taken in by Barry’s neighbor. The dog proves to be crucial to the case, and Goldy ends-up at Barry’s house, investigating – and discovering evidence. She’s attacked by the murderer, but manages to knock him out, then calls her police officer husband, who had been barred from the case since it involves family. The case is wrapped up.

Background to the book includes Goldy running her catering company, actual recipes in the midst of the book (which I found annoying, actually. I would prefer if all the recipes were at the end of the book), and a “shopping addiction” group. That many of the suspects were spending way, way beyond their means for one reason or another, and therefore might have a reason to dispose of Barry both gives the book flavor and forms the Red Herrings of the book. For example, the husband of one addictive shopper who constantly competes with her wealthy gold-digger sister, claims that Barry was blackmailing him – he also owes the mall thousands in back rent, that he never paid, due to his wife’s shopping habit. The AA-style meeting Goldy attends is brilliantly written.

The final discovering of evidence scenes as well as the confrontation with the actual murderer were also well done. It’s a surprise, but the clues were all there – and certainly something did seem suspicious about what was going on – that led to the murder.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a quick read. The catering background was interesting and a bit different. All the characters, many of whom are probably regulars, were well-drawn enough in this book that it was interesting to read about them. I didn’t feel at all that the supporting cast was flat – a danger in any cozy-style mystery. Goldy’s first husband was also extremely abusive – both physically and mentally; when she witnesses a couple going at each other at the event at the mall – it brings up bad memories (and leads to one of the more plausible red herrings). That Goldy’s second husband is a cop with the local sheriff’s department makes sense – he probably rescued her from her ex-husband. Goldy’s issues with her son (from her first marriage) seem to be mostly typical teenaged stuff and her son probably feeling a little abandoned by her sudden focus on her business. The background material at the mall and with the AA-style group for compulsive shoppers also was surprisingly sensitive and well-written. The casual racism towards the Hispanic construction workers at the mall not so much though.

Still, this is a fun, light mystery with plenty of inside details on how a catering business works including some delicious-sounding recipes. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Timewyrm: Revelation

  • Title: Timewyrm: Revelation
  • Series: Virgin Publishing New Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/20/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Timewyrm: Revelation is the fourth and final volume in the opening “Timewyrm” series to Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who New Adventures. Unfortunately, the story spends most of it’s time in a strange dreamscape where both anything can happen and there are no consequences. So the story doesn’t really work – it’s unrelatable, and there’s no sense of jeopardy – if nothing is real in the characters world, it doesn’t matter. This is sad, as this is the final volume of the series, and it’s written by one of my more favorite Doctor Who authors.

The story opens in 1922, in the small village of Cheldon Bonniface, a village the Doctor has visited many times and in many of his regenerations. The local church is inhabited by Saul, a friendly spirit. And yes, Saul really is a friendly spirit. Older than the church itself, Saul’s presence means the area has been sacred to everyone, going back to the ancient Celts and beyond. The Doctor and Ace arrive, only for things to immediately get weird. It should be Christmas Eve, but the people in the village pub are constructs created by the Timewyrm. The local village church blasts off to the moon, and the explosion destroys the entire village and quite a lot of the surrounding area. Once arriving on the moon, a young couple, the vicar, and Saul are charged with protecting the barely alive, comatose bodies of Ace and the Doctor. At one point the Doctor arrives, thrusts a female baby into the young woman’s hands, then leaves with no explanation. Saul and in-universe magic keep a bubble of breathable air inside the church (not to mention normal gravity).

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Ace have been drawn into a dreamscape similar to the Time Lords’ Matrix as seen in the aired episodes, “The Deadly Assassin” and “Trial of a Time Lord”. Also present is a bully from Ace’s past, who, in an alternate reality made possible by the Timewyrm, killed Ace with a brick, and the British Nazi soldier from the alternate future in Timewyrm: Exodus. The Doctor and Ace literally must confront their demons in the dream world.

Unfortunately, in a very similar manner to previous aired episodes featuring the Time Lord Matrix, the vast majority of the book is spent in the dreamspace. Some chapters or sections of chapters flash back to the church, which is on the moon – and those chapters are more interesting taking place in the “real” world. Though at the same time, there’s two issues – first, it doesn’t make a whole lot of logical sense that a church would be successfully transplanted to the moon and the people inside survive, and second, everyone is literally stuck inside a relatively small building. There isn’t much they can do but talk. Saul and company, however, are, eventually instrumental in helping the Doctor and Ace to escape their dream prison.

In the dreamscape, the Doctor and Ace, separately, and together literally confront their demons. Ace shows just how much she has grown-up, especially by the end of the book. The Doctor doesn’t fair so well, especially when confronting his guilt over the deaths of his previous companions. But in the end, one of the people in the church, the young woman, has some latent psychic ability, between that and a medallion hidden by the Doctor in a previous incarnation, she and her mathematician husband, are able to enter the dreamscape to pull the Doctor and Ace out. At first, they seem successful in rescuing the Doctor at least – but without Ace, the Timewyrm, now possessing the Doctor, will win. The Doctor re-enters the dreamscape. Ace finds the Fifth Doctor, tied to the Doctor’s Knowledge Tree, where he has been since the Time War – when he objected to fighting at all. Freeing the Fifth Doctor allows the Seventh Doctor to confront and overcome the Timewyrm, who it turns out, is a natural part of the universe. The Timewyrm is more-or-less, as best as I could figure out, the goddess of cosmic karma, encircling the universe, eating her tail, and responsible for beginnings and endings. The Doctor takes her out of his head where she was hiding and moved her into the body of a clone baby (with no mind of it’s own) to be raised by the childless couple in the church who had desperately wanted a child in the first place.

The church is returned to where it came from. The destruction of the village is reversed. The Timewyrm’s time travel to urge the bully to kill Ace is also undone. The guy from the alternate future does not exist because Ace and the Doctor reversed it previously. In other words, pretty much everything is returned to status quo.

Overall, the first two books in the Timewyrm series were better than I remembered. Well, okay, technically, I think I only read one of them before when the series was published, not sure which one, but still – at the time I hated it. I disliked the third book, intensely. The last book seems to be obviously checking off items on an outline that “must be handled” as this is an on-going series of tie-in novels. So the author was probably constrained in what he could do (I’ve read a lot of other stuff by Cornell – he’s usually much better than this), but at the same time, having the vast majority of the book taking place in the Doctor’s head (literally) but in a dreamspace controlled by the Timewyrm, the enemy and “Big Bad” of the four books didn’t really work – I like having the Doctor in charge.

In terms of recommendations, if you’re going to read any of the Timewyrm series, read all four books, but overall, it’s a bit disappointing.

Read My Review of Doctor Who Timewyrm Genesys.

Read My Review of Doctor Who Timewyrm Exodus.

Read My Review of Doctor Who Timewyrm Apocalypse.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Timewyrm: Apocalypse

  • Title: Timewyrm: Apocalypse
  • Series: Virgin Publishing New Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Nigel Robinson
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/02/2017

Timewyrm: Apocalypse is the third volume of the Virgin Publishing Doctor Who New Adventures opening “Timewyrm” mini-series. The story features the Seventh Doctor and Ace. The TARDIS lands on a planet that seems to be perfect, which Ace, of course, immediately dislikes. The Doctor, however, surprisingly also dislikes the planet – finding the peace and harmony, and content people to be artificial. He and Ace decide they must figure out what’s going on after rescuing a young man who falls off a cliff, into the ocean and is quite beat-up by the rocks. Yet the next day, he’s fine without so much as a scratch or a bruise.

The main society on the planet is the Kirith, who live their days having all their needs from shelter to food taken care of by the Panjistri. The Panjistri are aliens who landed on the planet generations ago and saved the Kirith from war, destruction, and death. The Kirith can study or do whatever they like. Even leaving their city isn’t forbidden, it’s just considered a bad idea because of the dangers outside it.

The most talented of the Kirith are invited to study with the Panjistri, but instead of returning to teach in ten years, they never return. However, no one objects because as soon as a great artist, or musician, or dancer goes to the Panjistri – everyone forgets that person. This is a bit suspicious, but because of the wide-spread amnesia, it’s not something Ace and the Doctor learn about right away.

Ace convinces Raphael, the boy they had rescued, to go exploring with her outside the city. They discover in the Harbours, the embarkation point for the ships to the island of the Panjistri, a underground lab devoted to grotesque genetic experiments. They escape and meet the Unlike, the mutated survivors of the experiments. One of the Unlike reveals the food the Kirith eat every day is Soylent Green, opps, I mean, it’s made from people, specifically the left over genetic experiments and the dead of the city.

Ace, Raphael, and the Unlike return to the city. Meeting up with Miríl, a scholar, they start a revolution by cutting off the food supplies and electric power. This results in both unrest and a lot of death and destruction. But the Doctor has already left or been taken to the Harbours. The return there, and Raphael is forced to kill one of the worst genetic experiments. He’s devastated by this.

They steal a hovercraft and head to the Island to rescue the Doctor.

There they discover the Matriarch of the Panjistri is the Timewyrm. In defeating her, Raphael dies, taking over the “God Engine”, Miríl had died on the hovercraft trip to the Island. The society is broken and must discover for themselves how to survive without help, and Ace and the Doctor escape.

Timewyrm: Apocalypse is one case where everyone is actually much worse off after the Doctor and Ace interfere than they were before. Although the people of Kirith are described as a “stagnant” civilization, as they are also genetic constructs, one wonders if they are even capable of caring for themselves and creating their own civilization, now that their protectors are gone. In many ways, and not to be mean, the Kirith are like sheep or cattle – and the Doctor and Ace have just destroyed the farmers and the farm – then left, expecting the sheep (or cattle) to care for themselves. If the people of Kirith were being exploited the interference might have made sense, but these are happy, contented people. The Doctor’s argument that they need to be hungry to be alive sounds, well, like an argument made by someone’s who’s never been hungry and therefore romanticizes poverty. And there’s nothing “romantic” about being poor and starving.

The Panjistri are culling the “best of the best” to feed the Timewyrm’s GodEngine as the Doctor calls it, and the Panjistri’s genetic experiments are pretty horrible – but the novel doesn’t really portray those as being “bad”, but more of as side effects. That was disturbing.

Also, Timewyrm: Apocalypse feels very derivative, which doesn’t help.

Overall, this book was only OK. I didn’t care for it. It is one of the middle volumes of a four-book series, though, so hopefully the finale will make it worth the time spent reading it. Not really recommended, but because of it’s place in the series, it must be read, I guess.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Timewyrm: Exodus

  • Title: Timewyrm: Exodus
  • Series: Virgin Publishing New Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Terrance Dicks
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/28/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Virgin Publishing’s The New Adventures follow on immediately after Doctor Who was put on hiatus, and feature the Seventh Doctor as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy, and in this story his companion Ace. Timewyrm: Exodus is the second volume in the four-volume Timewyrm series. Timewyrm: Exodus opens with the TARDIS landing in London in 1951, but upon leaving the TARDIS the Doctor and Ace realize something is very, very wrong. They’ve landed in an UK where the Nazis won World War II. It’s a bleak, war-torn, depressed London, with no freedom. The Doctor and Ace stay just long enough to try and figure out where history went wrong, discovering that the Miracle of Dunkirk never happened, the German airstrikes on civilian British cities destroyed those cities (London and others in the Industrial North), and the Lightening War included a quick strike at England that the British were unable to combat.

Following some complications, the Doctor and Ace are able to return to the TARDIS and head back in time to correct the aberration.

The TARDIS lands in Munich where Hitler’s led a completely unsuccessful attack by the Nazis. As the defeated Hitler runs away, he remarks that he considers suicide an answer. The Doctor aids Hitler in his escape and talks him out of it. Ace is flabbergasted. But the Doctor insists that history must follow it’s course and if it doesn’t it could lead to the disaster they just left.

The next section makes up the bulk of the novel, as the Doctor and Ace arrive in Nazi Germany, just before the Germans invade Poland. Hitler welcomes the Doctor with open arms as the man who saved him in Munich. Ace is appalled by everything – the “No Jews” signs in parks; the atmosphere of fear on the streets, the Nazi-controlled newspapers that report that Poland is rattling the sabre at Germany and threatening the Germans (the exact opposite of the truth) and the other daily horrors of life under a racist dictatorship.

The Doctor and Ace attend a Nazi Rally in Nuremberg, and as Hitler finishes speaking the Doctor asks Ace what she just heard. Ace can only report vague thoughts: blame on everyone else, the idea to make Germany Great Again, etc. But mostly Ace only experienced emotions. The Doctor tells her that her emotions were played like a violin, manipulated, that it was a form of psycho-conditioning, and something that shouldn’t even exist yet. He suspects something alien is aiding Hitler. After the rally, the two are caught, Hitler welcomes the Doctor, and the Doctor meets with him alone. Hitler has a fit – a storm of psychic activity. Items fly off walls, swirl around the room, crash on the floor. The Doctor sees the Timewyrm in Hitler. Then Hitler collapses. Only Hitler’s private secretary (by instinct) and the Doctor (by knowledge and by his own telepathic abilities) can calm Hitler’s fits. The Doctor obtains a medical history.

But there are also rumors of the Black Coven, a secret SS group that is helping Hitler and the Nazis to gain power and control. An invitation is sent to the Doctor, but Ace receives it, and as she’s bored (she keeps getting left behind in hotel rooms with nothing to do) she goes to investigate. She’s captured, and a threatening message is left for the Doctor. Ace is taken to Drachenberg Castle, a secret SS stronghold and home to the Black Coven. In due course, the Doctor follows to rescue Ace.

At Drachenberg Castle, the Doctor and Ace discover the War Lords and the War Chief are out to manipulate time. These are characters from the aired Doctor Who episode, “The War Games”, and I must admit it was fascinating to read a story that bought them back, though their plans were horrifying (bringing about a Nazi Earth, then a Nazi Galaxy, and an Nazi universe – horrifying). Among other things, the War Lords have set up a nuclear reactor in the basement of the castle, have used conditioning on SS stormtroopers to not only make them totally loyal but to make them unafraid of death, and have found a way to bring dead soldiers back to life as zombies. The War Lords remark that it’s easy to finish conditioning the solders because they were half there already. Ace and the Doctor discover what’s going on. The SS plan to sacrifice Ace in a occult ceremony to the Teutonic gods (mostly to appease the superstitious Nazis). During the ceremony, the Doctor frees Ace and uses one of her Nitro-9 capsules he’d confiscated earlier to bring down the roof – and killing most of the War Lords and their SS hoards. The Doctor had also called in the “cavalry” so to speak, and the German regular army attack the castle and SS, and Hitler arrives in a plane. The Doctor explains he uncovered a plot to overthrow Hitler himself and replace him with someone more reliable. But the SS zombies attack. In the end, the Doctor overloads the reactor, and he and Ace escape in the TARDIS.

But the Doctor realizes he’s made one mistake – he taught Hitler how to control the Timewyrm trapped within him. He and Ace take the TARDIS to Felsennest, where the Doctor goads the Timewyrm to leave Hitler and be dispersed. The Doctor also gives Hitler a lot of bad military advice, which assures that World War II will follow it’s historical path – Dunkirk, the failure of bombing the UK, Germany’s attack on Russia, etc.

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor is extremely depressed. He can only think of all the death the six-year war will bring. He feels guilty and responsible. And he’s not even sure if history is on the correct path. Ace talks him into returning to 1951 London. They do and it’s the London they know. They attend a fun fair festival.

Although it was very hard reading a novel set for the most part in Nazi Germany, this was a good story. I can’t say I enjoyed it because who enjoys reading about Nazis slaughtering people because they are different or simply for kicks? But the story did flow well, and wasn’t predictable. I was not expecting the War Lords and War Chief to show-up, even though in the story the Doctor tells Ace they are dealing with multiple forms of manipulation of the time lines. The Timewyrm really isn’t in the story that much, much to my surprise. She’s basically trapped – and in the end, the Doctor must free her. No doubt she will be back as there are two more books in the mini-series.

Terrance Dicks does treat Ace terribly though – he keeps having her faint. This is completely out of character for Ace – this is the woman who attacked a Dalek with a baseball bat after all. But every time he wants to get Ace out of the way – Dicks has her faint. It’s pretty sexist writing. But aside from that, I can honestly recommend the book.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Timewyrm: Genesys

  • Title: Timewyrm: Genesys
  • Series: Virgin Publishing New Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: John Peel
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/12/2017

I originally read this book when it came out in 1991, and I remember that I didn’t like it much. TV Tie-Ins should feel like an episode of the show they come from, and, at the time, I thought this story didn’t. I also didn’t like the characterization of Ace. However, since I’ve decided to read my entire collection of original Doctor Who novels, I decided I really needed to start reading the entire Virgin Publishing Doctor Who The New Adventures series of original novels from the very beginning. So I started with Timewyrm: Genesys.

I actually really enjoyed Timewyrm: Genesys this time around. I read it in about a week. I realise it’s been a lot longer than that since I’ve posted a book review here on GoodReads but I started another novel that I just couldn’t get into, plus I hit one of those rare instances when I just didn’t really feel like reading a book. Anyway, I read this pretty quickly and I actually, honestly, enjoyed it.

The Virgin Publishing Doctor Who The New Adventures series takes place immediately after the aired episode, “Survival”, and follows the Seventh Doctor (as played on the BBC Series by Sylvester McCoy) and Ace, and later in the series, new companions, like Dr. Bernice Summerfield (an archaeologist). This novel begins with a prologue of an alien in a spaceship firefight with her people. Her ship is destroyed and she crash lands on Earth in an escape pod. However, one isn’t to feel sorry for her – she’s an evil megalomaniac who had destroyed her own planet. The alien first meets Gilgamesh, who refuses to help her – seeing her evil, but she becomes the goddess Ishtar and is taken to a temple in Kish by it’s King Agga.

It’s ancient Mesopotamia and Urak and Kish are posed for war. Ishtar (the Timewyrm though that doesn’t become clear until the end of the book) encourages this, and anything else that will help her gain complete control. She uses advanced technology to Touch soldiers and others in Kish, using them as her spies, slaves, and solders. Meanwhile, Ace wakes in the TARDIS with no memory of who she is. She wanders to the TARDIS control room and meets the Doctor. The Doctor had been deleting his memories – and moving them into the TARDIS data banks, when he overdid it a bit and hit Ace as well while she slept. He reverses the process and gives her, her memories back. This is an admittedly weird and strange scene, and it resembles nothing we’ve seen in Classic Doctor Who, though it did remind me of Sherlock Holmes deleting his memories and searching his “mind palace” in Sherlock but that’s besides the point.

The TARDIS lands in ancient Mesopotamia. Ace and the Doctor meet Gilgamesh and become involved in events. Before long, Gilgamesh, his Neanderthal servant, a fallen priestess of Ishtar, the Princess of Kish, and a wandering musician and songsmith, are working together to defeat Ishtar without Mesopotamia being destroyed.

It’s a fast-moving back and forth battle, with small victories being overcome by defeats. In the end, the Doctor saves Kish, but although at first he thought he had destroyed the Timewyrm (as she is by then known) by drop-kicking her from the TARDIS to the Time and Space Vortex, she returns to tell him she’s survived, escaped, and can now, with help from some Chronovores, travel to any place in space and time. And since there are three more books in the series, this provides a set-up to make her a stronger villain.

Overall, I honestly enjoyed Timewyrm: Genesys. It was a fast read, and full of high adventure. Ace did get to do things, beyond simply blowing things up with Nitro-9, though there’s plenty of that. The Doctor sends her, Gilgamesh, and the songsmith to the mountains to find the other aliens who, chasing the alien who had destroyed their planet had also crash-landed on Earth. Later, it’s revealed that the Doctor had done that simply to get the group out of the way and keep them safe. However, Ace learns to be a leader, to work with people, to deal with setbacks, and to use innovative thinking to solve problems. Plus she saved the Doctor, the princess, and the priestess – so there’s that. It seems obvious that we will see growth in Ace’s character in this new series.

Overall, I can honestly say that I recommend Timewyrm: Genesys both as a Doctor Who original novel and as historical science fiction adventure.

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

  • Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Script for a Play)
  • Author: J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/11/2016

This is a script book – a script for a play. I knew that going in, and I’ve read many television and film scripts before (though not as many plays) so I knew going in what to expect (dialogue labeled by character, very little description, etc). I also found that I was quickly absorbed into the plot as I have been by the rest of the Harry Potter series, and especially during the second act.

Harry’s son, Albus Serveus Potter is about to start his first year at Hogwart’s. But Albus and Harry are already having father-son problems. Harry isn’t really sure how to be a parent – and Albus doesn’t like being the son of the “oh so famous” Harry Potter. That would be enough fuel for a more generic “next generation” novel – but Rowling is a stronger writer than that and produces a much stronger play. In the first few scenes, Albus leaves his family and is happy about it (but for entirely different reasons that Harry’s joy at leaving his foster family) and on the train to Hogwarts meets Scorpius Malfoy who’s sitting all alone on the train because nasty rumors are already circulating about his parentage. Albus and Scorpius become fast friends – much to the horror of Harry. Albus is also sorted into Slytherin House.

Albus over-hears part of a conversation between Amos Diggory (father of Cedric Diggory) and his father, Harry. When Harry denies having access to a time turner and refuses to help “bring back Cedric” – Albus starts to jump to conclusions. When he finds out the Ministry of Magic has a Time Turner, and it’s in Hermione’s office (Hermione being the Minister of Magic), Albus talks Scorpius into helping him steal it. The two then plot to keep Cedric alive by stopping him from winning the first task during the Triwizarding cup.

However, though they succeed in causing him to fail – when they return to the present, things have changed, instead of marrying Hermione and running a joke shop – Ron is serious and married to Padil. Rose Granger-Weasley no longer exists. Hermione, rather than Minister of Magic, is a teacher – and not a good one. Albus and Scorpius realize they’ve made a horrible mistake.

Unfortunately, in trying to fix it – they make things worse, much worse, and we see a world where Harry Potter died and Voldemort won the Battle at Hogwarts. Now the world “lives” in an era of Nazi-like tyranny – with Muggles being sent to concentration camps, and upstanding wizards being in fear of their lives. Hermione and Ron are outlaws, and Snape is alive and with them. Ron, Snape, and Hermione give their lives so Scorpius can escape and reverse what has happened (Albus no longer exists because Harry died.)

Scorpius is able to somewhat set things right – but someone who had pushed Albus and Scorpius to use the time-turner in the first place turns out to be not who they think she is. The last half of the second act is a race – a race to prevent a re-writing of everything we know about Hogwarts and the characters who occupy that world.

This novel is about generational prejudice. Harry doesn’t want Albus to be friends with Scorpius because he’s Draco’s son. And Harry (especially in his alternate guise) is, well, not as much a “controlling” father – as someone who in trying to spare his son pain – fails to let him make his own choices, and even his own mistakes. The rest of the Wizarding World has similar issues – having ignored the signs of Voldemort’s return while Harry and company were at school – they now lean too far in the other direction and are beginning to see Death Eaters under every tree and bush. Especially for the children and grandchildren of Death Eaters and their allies – the prevailing thought is that family association makes one guilty. This is unfair to children like Scorpius, who really is a very good, yet lonely, child.