The Year of the Storm

I don’t review books on this blog anymore. It got too time-consuming, so now I do it over on my Goodreads page instead. But I wanted to take a moment to talk to you about a book I really loved: John Mantooth’s The Year of the Storm. I thought this story of a 14-year-old boy convinced his mother and autistic sister, both of whom went missing during a huge Alabama storm, are still alive in another world that exists beside our own was so amazing I wanted to share my Goodreads review with you here, too:

Mantooth’s debut novel shows a sure and steady hand in creating a fully believable, literary coming-of-age story peppered with hints of the supernatural. He writes compelling characters with authentic motivations and emotions, all in an evocative, confident voice. Don’t miss this one. It’s a strong contender for best novel of the year. (5 out of 5 stars.)

I read it as an ARC. It’s coming out from Berkley in trade paperback in June. Check out the last two sentences of my review again, and then order a copy for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

Season 4 Is Almost Here

Oh my God, yes! I cannot wait!

 

Doctor Who: “Nightmare in Silver”

I thought Neil Gaiman’s previous episode, “The Doctor’s Wife,” was pretty much the highlight of last season. Which is why, I suppose, “Nightmare in Silver” felt like such an enormous letdown. It wasn’t just bad, it was terrible, and it was written by Neil Gaiman, which adds an extra layer of disappointment. Cybermen! The distant future! Warwick Davis in a major supporting role! Neil Gaiman scripting! It should have been magnificent. Instead, it was a litany of squandered opportunities and lazy storytelling that with every instance only made me grow angrier. By the end, I was ready to swear off Doctor Who for good. Because if there’s one thing in the world that turns me into a ridiculous fanboy drama queen these days, it’s how far Doctor Who has fallen in the past three years.

Spoilers follow! Be warned!

What do I mean by squandered opportunities and lazy storytelling? Well, for starters, suddenly Clara’s charges Angie and Artie are traveling in the TARDIS, too. When did that happen? How did Clara bring it up to the Doctor? What was the initial meeting between the Doctor and the children like? We’ll never know because it’s never shown to us. Instead, they’re just there, and as a result some scenes with truly amazing potential are simply skipped over. Instead, we get the children acting like spoiled brats (What? You’ve been to space before?) and then being almost immediately kidnapped. Once the Cyberiad (what?) has them and begins to upgrade them into Cybermen, it tells the Doctor that it needed children to revive the Cybermen, for reasons never actually explained, and the Doctor has brought it children, thereby unwittingly becoming the savior of the Cybermen. Oh no! Except after it claims the children are vitally important, the children do nothing at all. They spend the rest of the time standing around in cyber-comas while the Doctor plays chess with himself. Because nothing is more exciting than watching someone talk to himself while playing chess!

Of course, the whole chess match with the cosmos at stake thing was already done, and done better, in the 1989 Sylvester McCoy 7th Doctor serial “The Curse of Fenric.” Speaking of, “Nightmare in Silver” has a weird atmosphere and tone problem that reminded me a lot of the worst of the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy years, where everything was either literally or tonally about juvenilia and carnivals gone bad. Here, it’s a far future amusement park, where our heroes decide to hide from the Cybermen in something called Natty Longshoe’s Comical Castle. “Does it have a moat and drawbridge?” Clara asks, wondering if it’s a defensible spot. “Yes,” comes the reply, “but…comical.” And when we get to the castle? There’s nothing comical about it. Like, nothing. It’s just a castle. “Squandered opportunity” doesn’t even begin to describe this.

As for lazy storytelling, how about “We’re all going to die and there’s nothing we can do about it” being answered with “But wait, I’m secretly the Emperor of the Universe and even though this plot twist was not earned in any way by anything that came before it, I can get us all off the planet before it explodes!” Yes, you read that right. Someone is secretly the Emperor of the Universe and will use that to save everyone at the last minute. No, really. Here’s another example: The same person explains his situation with, essentially, “I didn’t want to be Emperor anymore because it’s so lonely, so I ran away so I could hide inside a box where no one will ever see me and operate a fake Cyberman chess game.” Or how about there not being a smidge of romantic chemistry between Clara and Porridge, what with them having maybe four scenes together, but he asks her to marry him anyway, because Steven Moffat? Or how about the Doctor fixating for a moment on how tight Clara’s skirt is, which is not just lazy storytelling but bad storytelling, since there is not a smidge of romantic chemistry between them, either, no matter how much this show likes to try to force romantic chemistry between the Doctor and his companion. Give it a rest already, people! There’s nothing there!

Once again it’s mentioned that the Doctor has been erasing himself from historical records, and once again it makes zero sense. One might assume the Cyberiad (or the Daleks, or any race, really) has its own memory banks and record books, rather than everyone jacking into the same cloud storage or whatever. So how did the Doctor get into the Cybermen’s memory banks and change it? When did he do that? Did he have to fight or trick his way in? What else did he find in there? Wouldn’t that have been a much more interesting story? You don’t have to answer that last one.

I could go on, but why bother? The episode is crap and I’d rather forget it. Like the worst of the Moffat years, it doesn’t even feel like Doctor Who. It feels like some weird, cheap, tonally deaf mix of Doctor Who and bad SyFy Original Movies. There’s only one episode left this season, plus the 50th Anniversary special in November. If those aren’t any better, I might just finally give up on Doctor Who.

Ray Harryhausen, R.I.P.

Ray-Harryhausen

The great Ray Harryhausen passed away Tuesday. He was 92.

I have a lifetime’s worth of fond memories of his work in stop-motion animation: Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad trilogy, Clash of the TitansMysterious Island, and so many more. He meant the world to me before I even knew his name. I have a feeling it was that way for lots of Monster Kids, who only learned who Harryhausen was years — maybe even decades — after his films had already burned themselves indelibly into their minds.

I loved the sense of awe and wonder that emanated from his best work: Talos the living statue from Jason and the Argonauts, the cyclops vs. dragon fight in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, the Ymir in 20 Million Miles to Earth, Medusa in Clash of the Titans, Joe in Mighty Joe Young, the enormous cephalopod in Mysterious Island, the centaur vs. griffin fight in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. God, I could keep listing things until dawn. Everything he created was magic.

The Sinbad movies were my favorite of his oeuvre. (One of my earliest moviegoing memories is of seeing 7th Voyage during an early-1970s re-release at a New York City movie theater with my grandmother and brother. I cried when it was time to leave, because I didn’t want the experience to end.) The Sinbad movies launched a thousand daydreams of my own adventures with magic and monsters, and set me on the path to becoming the writer I am today — a job where I’m allowed to continue those same daydreams. So thank you, Ray Harryhausen, for everything you gave us. They just don’t make movies like yours anymore, and I think we’re all the poorer for it.

 

 

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