Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book catch-up: March

Mostly non-fiction this month. Quicker reads and better received than February's books. Then again, two of them are Who-related, so I've kind of stacked the odds there.

Up Till Now, William Shatner with David Fisher
Autobiography of the Shatman with openly credited ghost writer. (Well, what it looks like is that Shatner may have dictated the text into a recorder, and Fisher might then have typed it up and tided it a bit. I'm not absolutely sure.) An excellent read, very lively and chatty, very candid too (especially about Leonard Nimoy's alcoholism - um, is this the right book?).

The Target Book: A History of the Target Doctor Who Books, David J Howe
An enormous full-colour paperback chronicling the rise and demise of the DW novelisation, that noble strain of short-to-medium-length book that brought the old Who stories to new readers in the days before video tape. Every book cover is represented, along with several rough drafts and unused alternatives, so it's a heady combination of nostalgia and new discovery. Unmitigated pleasure in book form.

The Enterprise of Death, Jesse Bullington
Review book, for which the review can be found here. I didn't have a lot to say about this one, did I? The thing is, there's not a lot that can be said without giving away at least one massive twist, and this is a book that twists like we did last summer. It also has all the funk of The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, previously mentioned on m'blog in the January 2010 book reviews, but with the novel and advantageous difference that the major characters aren't all unspeakable bastards, and one can actually comfortably root for them. Short version: it's good, but you wouldn't recommend it to your granny.

Cheek by Jowl, Ursula le Guin
A collection of essays by le Guin that, according to the cover, examine the question of "why fantasy matters". There's a definite lean towards children's literature - more than one essay includes a defence of children's literature against what le Guin (rightly, I think) perceives as a kind of maturity-snobbery among critics and readers, and one essay is entirely given over to reviewing a selection of classic and obscure children's fantasy books. The book does also contain some material on fantasy in general, what it is and why it matters.
It's only about 100 pages all told once you discount the blank pages and title pages, it's set in pretty large type, and I think it only took me a couple of days to plough through it, but there was a fair amount of thought-provoking matter in there, and nothing that was less than enjoyable.

The Unsilent Library, eds Bradshaw, Keen & Sleight
Essays on the RTD era of the new Doctor Who. Like most books of the type, it's a mixed bag. There's an impartial look at the use of deus ex machina in the 2005 series and a close rebuttal of the portrayal of the traditional Doctor/companion relationship in School Reunion that I found enjoyable, but light. There are essays examining the show's attitude to authority and Donna's character journey in the 2008 series that I found gave me a lot more to get my teeth into. There's a rather cheeky item that suggests - quite persuasively - that the endless bloody Dalek rematches are therapeutic re-enactments of the Time War that gradually allow the Doctor to come to terms with his past and move on (to another series with Daleks all over it... but still...). There's only one essay in the book that I didn't care for, and that was the one which set itself the extremely broad goal of "Approaching Character in New Doctor Who", and which specifically looked at the show's multimedia approach to character building (the author's revolutionary conclusion: new media offer new ways to develop characters outside the TV show, and other essayists might want to look at this in more detail). But this was a mere blip. A fine addition to the library.


Strabec said...

When are you going to start reviewing the new doctor who series? I look forward to your reviews!

John Toon said...

Soon... real soon! At this point I might just as well wait until I've seen the seventh episode and approach the whole half-season en bloc.

Plus got May's books to write up, not to mention the Christmas Who that I still haven't griped about. Stay tuned!