29 November 2009

Books: Huge by James W. Fuerst (2009)

Eugene “Huge” Smalls is 12, has an IQ of 133 and has enough anger issues to make him seem -at times - a danger to himself. His only friend is a stuffed frog named Thrash and he also fancies himself a detective -one of those 1940's Raymond Chandler noir types. When someone tags his grandmothers nursing home, he is handed an assignment by his grandmother to find the culprit.

Set in the 1980's New Jersey, the debut novel by Fuerst sparkles with great dialogue and has a hero who has created some sort of faulty logic for his anger. However, at times I was distracted by his conversations with Thrash (which kind of convinced me Huge was a little off his rocker) and the kids self-awareness dialogue that made me feel that I was not listening to a 12 year-old talk. Besides having a dirty mouth, Huge spoke more like an adult.

At the end of the day, its an impressive debut, but I got bored with it, and began to wonder why it was set in the 1980's, because it really did not seem to impact the story. I mean, really, what was the point unless (as most first books tend to be) author Fuerst grew up during that time, thus adding a little autobiographical notions to the novel.

15 November 2009

Doctor Who: Waters of Mars

As David Tennant's tenure as the Doctor nears its end, it appears the Russell T Davies is finally pulling the stops out. After last years less than exciting Christmas special, The Next Doctor and this past Easter's less than spectacular Planet of the Dead" which where good, but nothing new, I wondered what he was planning.

"The Waters of Mars" takes the show into a much darker realm, one where the Doctor (not for the first time) must decide to break the rules of time his fellow Time Lords vowed never to do -the notion that there are historical moments that are fixed in time; that he cannot change those events.

In some ways, I'm reminded of the classic fourth Doctor serial "The Genesis of the Daleks". The Timelords - in a rare moment of interference in historical events - sends the Doctor and his companions to Skaro to prevent the creation of the Daleks. Though the Doctor fails -and even he admits that maybe even he does not posses the right to end a species - he tells Sarah Jane and Harry that although the Daleks will create havoc and destruction for millions of years, he knows that out of their evil must come something good.

The Doctor has this dilemma in "The Waters of Mars", after he realizes when he has arrived. All through the story, he wants to leave, because he knows this accident on Mars - with the first people to have a colony on the Red Planet - will bring bring a sort of renaissance (ala Star Trek: First Contact). That the granddaughter of Captain Adelaide Brooke will be inspired by her grandmothers sacrifice. So this fixed moment in time he cannot change, that all of them must die.

And while the Doctor learns of what caused the accident, he still cannot leave and is soon reminded that he is the Last of the Time Lords. He tells Adelaide, after saving her and two others, that the laws of the Time Lords were only valid while their civilization existed, and since Gallifrey and his fellow Time Lords are gone, he has total control over time.

But she is clever, pragmatic and less emotional than the Doctor is at this point. She points out, quiet correctly (and something Donna Noble pointed out also), that the Doctor has too much power, that the "Time Lord Victorious" he calls himself is wrong.

And with Adelaide's suicide, which reverts the changes that the Doctor has made to the timeline, it triggers a realization that he has crossed a line, one he knows he cannot go back on. When Ood Sigma appears (encountered in "The Planet of the Ood", where he predicted the events of "Journey's End", and the Tenth Doctor's death) on the snowy street, the Doctor realizes his mistake, that there will be a price to pay for his interference. But when Sigma vanishes, apparently not there to end his life, the Doctor staggers back into the TARDIS to the ominous sounds of the Cloister Bell. With a roar of "No!", he sets out.

But the die has been cast.

A nearly flawless episode, one filled with a sense of its past history and what is yet to come. Tennant gives another bravo performance, especially when he leaves the dying crew members of Bowie 1 and listens to their deaths.

This episode also takes a look at why the Time Lords highest crime was interference. They realized what can happen when people try to change things, why even the Daleks could not be stopped.

The trailer for the next episode -out at Christmas - sees the return of Donna Noble. What role she has to play is not know, but one assumes its the Master who'll set the endgame in motion.

11 November 2009

What I'm reading now

After carting Under the Dome around, it's time to clean the palate with Huge.

10 November 2009

Books: Under the Dome by Stephen King (2009)

While Stephen King’s Under the Dome is more thriller than a chiller, it can scar you. Mostly for its heft, clocking at 1072 pages. Then there’s the town of Chester Mill, it’s elaborate map and it’s large cast of characters that include most of King’s colorful archetypes.

But while the thickness may seeming daunting, the novel -surprisingly - moves fast.

When the town is suddenly surrounded by an invisible force field, the people inside must do almost anything to survive. But things go from bad to worse rather quickly, with the dome's ecological effects on the town and the maneuvering of one Big Jim Rennie, an deviling local politician and drug lord who quickly realizes he can now make Chester Mill’s his own little private kingdom, with himself as absolute ruler. Our heroes include Iraq veteran Dale “Barbie” Barbara, newspaper editor Julia Shumway, a group of skateboarders and many others.

One of King’s traits is he loves people, and he loves to see what happens when the nine circles of hell open up and see how it slowly unravels their worlds. While the story has been noodling around King’s head since 1976, Under the Dome (which, in the end, resembles the old Twilight Zone episode The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street) is rife with current day issues. He takes the old 1950's communist fears and opens a can of present day terrorist notions to create a nearly flawless novel.

At times funny, disturbing (especially how the people of Chester Mill easily let the fabric of their daily lives unravel), and even moving, Under the Dome is as close to a nonstop thrill ride you can get when a novel tops 1000 pages.