Sunday, 1 September 2013

Book review July / August 2013

After reading the original Frankenstein a couple of months back, this period I turned my attention to two ‘sequels’ .

The Revenge of Frankenstein
By Shaun Hutson
Published by  Hammer House of Horror

The first is an actual sequel, picking up after the original story as originally adapted by the Hammer House of Horror group into a film. This was their sequel to their film with Dr Frankenstein awaiting execution for his crimes. Somehow he manages to escape, we he would otherwise there would be no story that’s not really a spoiler. He then relocates and begins to rebuild his experiments with terrifying results.  This story does not try to be anything that it’s not, it was made a commercial follow up to a successful film, and I actually enjoyed it.

Monster (A Novel of Frankenstein)
By Dave Zeltserman
Published by Duckworth Overlook 

The second book also takes up the story of Dr Frankenstein but this time attempts to reconstruct the original story this time from the monster’s point of view. I admit this book started off for me on the wrong foot, by setting out to announce that Mary Shelly got it wrong, turning Mary Shelly almost into a fictional character who narrated her own book.  Let’s face it, if Mary Shelly had not written the book you would not have anything to work with – so don’t be so arrogant to begin with. It also attempts to accuse the original as depicting the creature created by Frankenstein as being nothing more than a monster but the original certainly gave the creature far more character than I expected.

Towards the middle I started to warm to the book but overall I felt it did not enrich the mythology for me.

Two more autobiographies this period, one a well known Doctor Who companion and the other a much loved actress from Blake’s 7 and a Doctor Who guest star. Both books very revealing.

Fantom Films Limited
From Byfleet to the Bush
By Jacqueline Pearce

Jacqueline Pearce will always be known for playing the Federation’s President in the popular cult series Blakes’ 7. Servalan had the glamour and the screen presence but as you read Jac’s own personal account of this period of her life, she neither enjoyed the recognition she deserved as an actress nor the glamour either. This is a very personal and very emotional account of somebody who never really knew who they were because of parental issues so very early in life and never fully found her feet until more by chance as the title implies, she swaps everything for a life looking after monkeys in the South African Bush. Here you will not find funny anecdotes of life on Blake’s 7 but you will find a very personal life exposed.   

Hines Sight
By Frazer Hines
Previously published as Films, Farms and Fillies by Boxtree in 1997

Frazer was not only Jamie in Doctor Who, and Joe Sugden in Emmerdale Farm (Yes it was about a farming community at one time) but he is also a qualified Jockey, and has quite a claim to fame on the cricket pitch as well.  Ok it’s quite well known Mr Hines has an eye for the ladies, and he does not deny it, but here you get to see the other side of the story and the lessons he learnt regarding relationships along the way. Nice one Frazer.

The Best British Fantasy 2013
Series Editor Steve Haynes
Published by Salt Publishing 

A curious collection of short stories paraded as the best of British fantasy, the introduction admits to being quite loose with the definition of fantasy but I feel it was also been quite loose with the definition of British and Best.

I did enjoy a few of the stories in the collection, but there were several that I found it very hard to care for at all. Stories like ‘The Last Osama’ have me wondering what they are doing in this collection as it certainly does not represent the British aspect of the suggested offering. In other cases I would question dark, being used for 'poor taste'.

The highlight of this collection for me was ‘The Scariest Place in the World’, a clever twist on the ghost story and it is probably no surprise why this story stood out above the rest, having been written by Mark Morris whose Doctor Who novels and audio dramas have entertained for many years. I would recommend those who like Mark’s work to track this little gem down outside of this collection.

Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural
Dracula's Guest & Other Stories               
By Bram Stoker
Published by Wordsworth Editions

I read Dracula earlier in the year, this edition was a bumper double book not only containing the original masterpiece of Bram Stoker but the previously publish separate collection of short stories. Now I’m turning my attention to the Dracula’s Guest and Other Stories.

Dracular’s Guest is presented as a separate short story but one that was lifted out of the original due to making Dracula too long, and being too much of a distraction to the original. Some have tried to work out where it would fit into the original story, but as a separate story it returns anyone who has read Dracula back into the Count’s dark world with ease.

The other stories in the collection go on to show an even darker side to Bram Stoker, and the fact the even then he did not pander to delivering a story necessarily for moralistic value. The Dualitists is not a supernatural story but certainly shows Stoker at his more darker side with his protagonists progressing from wanton destruction of property to vicious coldblooded murder and being praised and awarded for their deceit, certainly a story that should be read with great warning still today.

Finally I’m going to finish this review with another audio book. Having raved previously about the Mervyn Stone books by Nev Fountain I was delighted when Big Finished released a new adventure for our reluctant detective.

The Mervyn Stone Mysteries
The Axeman Cometh 
By Nev Fountain
Published by Big Finish Productions

The Axeman Cometh takes Mervyn into the recording studio for an audio re-launch of the drama ‘Vixens from the Void’.  Nothing goes to plan for Meryn’s new script, and that is only the start of things, as he has been warned by ‘a friend’ that to prevent a murder he must attend the recording. Let’s just hope this really isn’t Mervyn’s Last Adventure.

This drama comes over as a full cast audio drama, but with the two leads played by John Banks and Nicola Bryant with other parts played by members of the cast it is really a two hander that give these two performers a chance to really shine and prove what they can do. Listen to it; you would not believe that just two people provide 99% of the voices. The only additional voice comes from Big Finish production but I’ll leave you to spot that.

More details and to order visit the Big Finish website