purplecat: (books)
I'm not sure what I can say about Secret Histories, a Benny anothology edited by Mark Clapham, which I haven't previously said about half a dozen other Benny anothologies I've reviewed on this blog. My overall opinion of them remains broadly that Benny increasingly seems like a caricature of a real person (some would say she was always a caricature), and that authors who's Who books I've really enjoyed are persistently attracted to write for her (hence why I keep buying the anthologies) and often seem to mysteriously underperform. I think it's probably true to say that I don't really get along with Who and Who-offshoot short story collections. I often find them a little pointless (which I realise is odd coming from someone who reads fanfic). I felt this about about the stories in this collection. There were a couple I really didn't like but most of them were fine, some of them were good, but ultimately I didn't really see the point to any of them.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/40166.html.
purplecat: (books)
I'm not sure what I can say about Secret Histories, a Benny anothology edited by Mark Clapham, which I haven't previously said about half a dozen other Benny anothologies I've reviewed on this blog. My overall opinion of them remains broadly that Benny increasingly seems like a caricature of a real person (some would say she was always a caricature), and that authors who's Who books I've really enjoyed are persistently attracted to write for her (hence why I keep buying the anthologies) and often seem to mysteriously underperform. I think it's probably true to say that I don't really get along with Who and Who-offshoot short story collections. I often find them a little pointless (which I realise is odd coming from someone who reads fanfic). I felt this about about the stories in this collection. There were a couple I really didn't like but most of them were fine, some of them were good, but ultimately I didn't really see the point to any of them.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (benny)
I know I keep saying I'm going to stop buying the Bernice Summerfield books but they keep putting ones out with strong author line ups: in this case Mags L Halliday, Kelly Hale and Philip Purser-Hallard. I remain unconvinced by the three novella format. I would have welcomed more depth and complexity to each of the three stories here. But I think this is, nevertheless, the strongest Benny book I've read for a while.

more under the cut )
purplecat: (books)
Since I now officially only purchase Dr Who related books that look promising I would appear to have missed an important part of the Bernice Summerfield story. In fact, I was always missing important parts of the Bernice Summerfield story since I never listened to her audio adventures. I purchased Nobody's Children (which is another book consisting of three linked novellas) almost entirely because it had the names Kate Orman, Jonathan Blum and Philip Purser-Hallard on the author list (which, as a team, are a hard to beat combination). I was, needless to say, expecting great things.

So I'm a little disappointed. Firstly, this book is irritating to someone who doesn't have the complete back story. It's not confusing, there's nothing I needed to know and didn't but still I was kind of "the Draconians have invaded? when? why? how?" not to mention I am completely lost about what is happening with Benny's boss, Braxiatel. Last time I looked he'd mysteriously vanished for reasons largely unclear but which apparently had something to do with trying to turn her ex-husband, Jason, into a Cyberman. Now he's back, only "different" and completely off-stage for the whole novel except at the very end when four mutually contradictory viewpoints are offered for his take on the events - I suspect these were supposed to be significant of something but without the other pieces of the jigsaw they were just a "you what?" moment and thus a bad way to end.

Anyway the good points. You have three author's all with a strong grasp of character, plot and theme. These authors are working closely enough together to make this feel like one novel not three loosely linked novellas. You can see the skill in evidence, in particular, in scenes where Benny and Jason argue. These are normally distinctly tiresome in the hands of most authors but are used here to good effect. The High point of the relationship comes in Purser-Hallard's Nursery Politics when Benny is tearing a strip off Jason for endangering himself and he reveals that he had some sperm frozen "as a precaution" beforehand.

"Which is when she blows her top, and the conversation takes something of a tangent."

And yes, this novel is all about children and our responsibility both to our own and to other people's.

Orman's novella All Mimsey were the Borogroves, the first in the sequence, is the weakest of the three. A fairly generic tale of infiltration and espionage enlivened by a distinctive and affecting first-person narration by a shape-shifting alien sponge anxious to rescue his/her children. Blum's The Loyal Left-Hand is a taught novella built around a Draconian female right of passage with a clear focus and a unity of structure. If anything this novella loses by its connection to the over-arching structure since it seems to lose its way a bit once an evil shape-shifting alien sponge intrudes upon the action. Purser-Hallard's offering plays around with multiple viewpoints and narrative voices weaving a story of diplomatic intrigue. It's more inventive than Blum's novella but could probably have used a full novel length (diplomatic intrigue tends to look a bit simplistic in under 100 pages).

They are all strong stories but, in the end, I felt they were more constrained than anything else by the need to link together and my general weariness with Bernice Summerfield in general, and the Benny/Jason dynamic in particular didn't help to make this the great reading experience it occasionally looked like it might be. Nobody's Children is probably one of the strongest Benny novels/novella collections out there but, if my reaction is anything to go by, it's not a good jumping on point for the range.

Old Friends

Jun. 8th, 2007 04:14 pm
purplecat: (books)
I can't quite decide if there is any point in reviewing a run of the mill Bernice Summerfield book here. One of you might decide to pick up a good one if I recommended it but I don't suppose any of you would be disposed to read one otherwise so there seems little point in informing you that "this one's a bit naff" but here goes anyway.

To recap Benny Summerfield is a space faring, archelogist, former companion of the Doctor who proved sufficiently popular to generate her own series of spin off novels.

Revew of Old Friends )

Genius Loci

May. 9th, 2007 09:52 am
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I just finished reading Genius Loci by Ben Aaronovitch. This has taken me over six weeks to do which sounds a bit like an appalling comment on the book, but has more to do with Gwendolen's occupation of our bedroom during the whole electrician thing. However it does tell you that the book was not sufficiently gripping to make it out of bedside reading and get taken downstairs.

Review of Genius Loci )

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