I am a fan of Doctor Who. To my friends and family who are not part of the whole Doctor Who world, I seem a bit mad and eccentric. To the people who inhabit the Whoniverse with all the love, fervour and passion of Doctor Who fandom, I’m probably a bit of an amateur. But I am passionate, and I write weekly episode reviews for a culture ‘zine blog. I’ve also done a couple of reviews of Doctor Who audio adventures for the extremely well-regarded BlogtorWho website. An honour indeed.
As an occasional contributor to the BlogtorWho website, the Blogtor himself (Cameron K McEwan) sent me this book to review. The Dalek Generation is written by Doctor Who legend Nicholas Briggs, who among his many talents provides the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the TV series.
In a recent interview, Russell T Davies, the man who brought Doctor Who back to our TV screens in 2005, admitted that he wished he’d asked Briggs to write an episode when he, Davies, was the showrunner. And so as I read The Dalek Generation I wondered whether Davies’s faith in Briggs’s writing ability was justified.
Well, yes and no, to be honest, although when I submitted my review to BlogtorWho, I did feel as though I’d shot Santa or something equally awful. I loved the way Briggs’s love of the show dripped from the pages of the book, but the story itself felt a bit saggy round the middle (hey, don’t we all! – Ed).
The whole experience, though, was a really positive one and it’s a good thing for me to be trusted by someone I admire and respect to write something for a website that has, until quite recently, been run solely by him. It must have taken a big leap of faith for the Blogtor to trust me and a couple of others to write for his site, and one I hope I’ve done justice.
I started the 6 Book Challenge with the aim of reading authors and genres I hadn’t come across before. I sent word to all my friends that I was on the look-out for new material and I asked them to tell me about their much loved books. The response was overwhelming, in fact it was so overwhelming that I retreated to my default setting and chose a book by an author I’d come across before.
Niffenegger’s much-lauded ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ has been one of my favourite books of the last few years. Beautifully written with that old favourite of sci-fi aficionados – time travel – given a new edge, this book is very sweet, extremely sexy and I can’t recommend it highly enough. But that’s not what I’m discussing here.
‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ tells the rather odd tale of the newly-dead Elspeth, whose spirit now inhabits the flat where her living being once dwelled; now owned by her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. It’s written in a rather sad and mournful tone, which reflects the book’s setting in and around London’s Highgate cemetery.
As the tale of the three women unfolds, it intertwines with the stories of Robert, Elspeth’s lover, and Martin, her obsessive compulsive neighbour, and you wonder where on earth (or elsewhere) this story can go. The ending, which is both mad and nonsensical and yet within the context of this tale, strangely logical.
I wouldn’t say I loved ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’, but it was certainly interesting and intriguing. If you don’t mind a bit of mad old nonsense in your reading materials, it’s well worth a go.
As part of the Liverpool Literary Festival, I’ve been taking part in the Six Book Challenge. This annual event invites people to pick six reads (not just books but poems, magazines articles, even digital games can count) and record their reading in a diary. You can register for the Six Book Challenge at your local library, and they will give you a reading diary. Complete the diary and return to your local library where you will receive a certificate and be entered into a draw to win a trip to London. Every library also has a collection of Quick Read Books to help you complete the challenge.
OK, so Book 1 of my 6 Book challenge. Now, I’m normally a bit of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy girl in my reading habits, but I thought for this challenge that I’d try some genres and authors I hadn’t experienced before. So I left behind my well-thumbed collection of Guy Gavriel Kay novels and my hard-backed limited edition Lord of The Rings and headed into the unknown.
I was given Ken Follett’s ‘Pillars of the Earth’ as a Christmas present after I’d thoroughly enjoyed the TV series. Now, enjoying a book and enjoying the filmed version of the same book, in my experience, can be a bit tricky. I’ve usually read a book and then found it filmed at a later date, as happened to me with ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ – one of those rare examples where the film and the book are equally excellent. But this can always work out quite badly – the film can ruin the book for the reader and vice versa. So it was with some trepidation that I approached ‘The Pillars of the Earth.’
Whilst the subject matter of this book – the building of a cathedral in 12th Century England – may sound rather dry, the reality is that the book – like the TV series – is a highly enjoyable Medieval romp full of attractive heroes and heroines and ya-boo-hiss villains.
Follet’s writing style is at times a bit prosaic, but nevertheless manages to keep a decent pace considering the tale is set over several decades. Credit also goes to Follet for creating a broad range of characters who are richly drawn and, to different degrees, flawed but endlessly intriguing.
The ending of the book has a slightly rushed feel to it and some characters fade out of the tale without much thought, however, overall I would say that I was pretty pleased with the way The Pillars of the Earth ended. The book was significantly different from the TV series, so I was sufficiently in the dark about how the tale would spin out for the story to remain full of thrills and surprises.
Overall, I would rate ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ a rollicking good read. Now on to Book 2!