Book: Doctor Who and The Blood Cell

"The Blood Cell"

An asteroid in the farthest reaches of space–the most secure prison for the most dangerous of criminals. The Governor is responsible for the cruellest murderers, so he’s not impressed by the arrival of the man they’re calling the most dangerous criminal in the quadrant. Or, as he prefers to be known, the Doctor.

But when the new prisoner immediately sets about trying to escape, and keeps trying, the Governor sets out to find out why. Who is the Doctor and what’s he really doing here? And who is the young woman who comes every day to visit him, only to be turned away by the guards?

When the killing finally starts, the Governor begins to get his answers…

I haven’t read many Doctor Who novel tie-ins, but the ones that I have read haven’t really been all that memorable. Still, I picked this book up because it was one that starred the Twelfth Doctor, the latest incarnation of our titular character. You see, I wasn’t really happy with the stories since he came into the picture, and I felt like this latest version of the Doctor was getting short-changed. I figured, if I still didn’t like him in book form–then maybe I just wasn’t interested in the Doctor anymore.

The thing is: I fell in love with the Doctor again while reading The Blood Cell.

Story-wise, The Blood Cell isn’t really anything special. It’s a space thriller with conspiracies and timey-wimey stuff. But it worked–because we weren’t seeing The Doctor through Clara’s eyes. It worked because we were getting a new perspective on the adventures of The Doctor and his companion–from someone who is just as flawed as they are.

Sure, the Governor bordered on annoying at times, but he never broke character. Not that there was a lot to begin with. He was the perfect reader surrogate; reacting when we’re supposed to react, and discovering the mystery of the prison along us.

But what I loved most about the book was how The Doctor was written. I could imagine Peter Capaldi saying the lines. And I loved that he didn’t have a lot of interactions with Clara, allowing him to have a personality that isn’t reliant on this particular companion. And there was a sense of suspense. Something that was missing in most of Series 8.

After putting the book down, that’s when it clicked for me: I wasn’t really tired of the Doctor after all. I was just tired of the epic adventures that he seem to be getting sucked into every episode. That’s why I loved Time Heist–when he just had to penetrate a bank and steal something. And the Flatliners, which, although it threatened the existence of the world as we knew it, also had a sense of smallness.

I’m tired of grandeur. Epic isn’t special when it happens all the time.

And until the television series learns to scale back on what’s big and what’s making a splash, I think I’ll pick up more books to balance out the program’s too-fast-too-furious take on Doctor Who.

Book: Frozen Heat

"Frozen Heat"

NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat gets more mystery than she imagined when she arrives at her latest crime scene. The body of an unidentified woman has been found stabbed to death and stuffed inside a suitcase left sitting in a freezer truck. A startling enough death, but an even bigger shock comes when this new homicide surprisingly connects to the unsolved murder of Detective Heat’s own mother. Killed gruesomly, the Jane Doe on ice launches Heat on a dangerous and emotional investigation, rekindling the cold case that has haunted her since she was nineteen. Paired once again with her romantic and investigative partner, top journalist Jameson Rook, Heat works to solve the mystery of the body in the suitcase while she also digs into unexplored areas of her mother’s background–areas Nikkie has been afraid to confront before, but now must.

Facing relentless danger as someone targets her for the next kill, Heat’s search will unearth painful family truths, expose a startling hidden life, and cause Nikkie to reexamine her own past. Heat’s passionate quest takes her and Rook from the back alleys of Manhattan to the avenues of Paris, trying to catch a ruthless killer. The question is, now that ther mother’s cold case has unexpectedly thawed, will Nikki Heat finally be able to solve the dark mystery that has been her demon for more than ten years?

The title of this novel is very apt. It’s frozen, and it takes time (and some chapters) before it completely thaws. Once it does though, it definitely takes you for a ride. But first, a detour.

I haven’t been a very good fan of Castle, the television series, for a couple of years now. Work has me tangled up in a lot of things, and my viewing habits suffered a little. Not that I’m complaining about the work. I love what I do. It does create an interesting predicament for me with regards to Frozen Heat though.

See, most of my complaints about the Nikki Heat novels is that they read too much like an episode of Castle. In some cases, events in the show also appear in the novels. And with a cast of characters that are very similar in both medium, it’s really hard to distinguish one from the other. And I have been wondering what the point is in providing new content when it’s a retread of what was already shown.

Of course, because I haven’t been watching Castle regularly for two seasons now, I have no idea if that’s the case for Frozen Heat. I do know for sure though that the new person in-charge of the precinct in the show is nothing like the one in the novel, but that’s just one difference. That’s pretty much the only thing I can say to compare the two nowadays.

On Frozen Heat alone though, I have more.

Now, as I already mentioned, the novel starts our at glacier pace. Well, no. Not really. But because it starts much like most mystery novels do, it feels glacier-like for me. There’s nothing new. And, once again, it reads too much like a novelization of a Castle episode–even if it’s one I haven’t seen.

That is, until they take the show on the road–and, in one case, overseas. That’s when things become interesting.

In Frozen Heat, we delve deeper into the mystery of Nikki Heat’s mother. Parts of the mystery mirror events that happen in the show, but I think this is finally where the novel separates itself from its source material. And I’m loving it.

As we unravel the death of Cynthia Heat, we also get a new look at who Nikki is as a person. And while past Nikki Heat novels has her pretty much being a printed copy of Kate Beckett, the one we get to know in Frozen Heat is someone new, someone different. And as the case blows open, we are introduced to a new arc that I hope will carry on (and get solved) in the next novel.

Another thing I loved about the latest book is the development of new characters introduced in Heat Rises. These character don’t exist in the show, for budgetary reasons I’m presuming, which is great for the novel because it adds to the series’s identity.

I must say, this is the first time I’m actually looking forward to the next Nikki Heat novel. Let’s check out if I’m the only one who is:
If You Like Books
Book Him Danno!
Doux Reviews

Book: Deadly Storm

Richard Castle's "Deadly Storm"While tracking down a missing husband for a desperate wife, private investigator Derrick Storm discovers there’s a lot more to the job than he’s been led to believe when he discovers the missing husband is actually a rogue CIA operative involved in selling national security secrets to enemy forces. He soon finds himself knee deep in international intrigue when he’s recruited by the lovely and dangerous Clara Strike, a CIA agent with a penchant for trouble and adventure.

So I picked up the Castle graphic novel. Yeah. I haven’t even gotten around to finishing the third season yet, and here I am reading. Granted, it took me less time to read the book than it would take me to finish the episodes I’ve yet to watch. And why am I explaining this anyway?

Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm is anything but deadly. It reads like the first (really) published Richard Castle book: Heat Wave. It has a servicable story, but it’s mostly a set-up to what seems to be a series of graphic novels–much like what they are doing with the Nikki Heat books. That said, there’s nothing bad about the title. It’s just very ordinary. Of course, once we move past this first issue and delve into the stories without the need for set-up and introductions, my guess is things would start to pick up. That’s assuming Marvel will greenlight another one.

The art though isn’t very ordinary. It’s very well done. Especially how they likened Derrick Storm’s features to Nathan Fillion’s. Unless that wasn’t the intent. In that case, the art was still very well done. But what were they thinking?!

Okay, so that indignation was completely fake. Let’s move on.

What I really liked about the Deadly Storm title was the extra in the end. Castle the show has mentioned time and again the other novels Richard Castle has written. Except, aside from the Nikki Heat novels and, now, Deadly Storm, we don’t really know much about the other books aside from their titles. The extra in this book had summaries for the other Derrick Storm books, and the supernatural-thrillers our titular author has supposedly written. Some of them read like the usual supernatural-thriller books I enjoy, so I am looking forward to those–if ABC decides to license them too.

Hey, maybe Christopher Golden can ghost-write a few!

Overall, I enjoyed the extras more than I did the graphic novel of Deadly Storm. But when Marvel does come out with another title, I’m sure I’ll be picking that one up too.

Check out what other people are saying about the graphic novel:
Geek Dad (@Wired)
YA Book Nerd
Multiversity Comics

Book: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Freefall Part 2

"Freefall" written by Andrew ChamblissWith the destruction of the seed, the fight against Twilight was brought to an end, and magic’s connection to our earth was severed. No more Slayers will be chosen. No more Slayer army. No more gang: Buffy’s a waitress in San francisco; Dawn and Xander are attempting normal domesticity; Willow is struggling with the loss of her powers. It’s a new(ish) world, but there are still demons and vampires to slay–even as tehir popularity with the masses continues to grow–and Buffy is on point to do what she has always done…

She is the Slayer.

Dead people are turning up at San Francisco and Buffy Summers is the number one suspect. And it sure doesn’t help when our heroine escapes detainment after the police catches her dusting a vampire.

I’ve been thinking if I should do a monthly thing with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I’ve done two previous reaction posts, if I remember correctly. I was wondering if I should make it a monthly thing with the start of Season 9, but I worried that the series’s run would be too much like Season 8–which wasn’t very self-sustained/independent. But with the release of Season 9’s second issue, I think I can put my fear to rest.

The first issue showed us the current status quo of the gang. We know where the core members are, and where Riley, Andrew and Spike stand with the group. It was pretty much self-contained, breaking only at the end with two plot openings–one of which immediately gets answered in the first few pages of the second issue. The other plot thread is left to dangle though, as we are introduced to what (I think) would push the story forward for the next few issues.

Someone is killing vampires–and leaving an actual body trail. Buffy is surprised. And so am I, actually. Vampires go poof. And we actually see one do so after Buffy slays it. But more and more vampires are reverting to their human form–dropping the “un” in their undead status. And the issue takes us on a short journey of Buffy’s wonder and confusion at this new development–two feelings that we, the readers, are wont to feel too–leading to the eventual reveal of how the vampires are being de-vamped.

It’s a great twist. It harkens back to the old days of Buffy, back in the WB era. And just like then, the issue ends. Sure, back in the day, this would only take us to a short commercial break. Nowadays though, we sit and wait a whole month to find out what happens in the next gap.

One thing’s the same though: we’re definitely going to want to find out what happens next.

Book: Heat Wave

"Heat Wave" by Richard CastleA New York real estate tycoon plunges to his death on a Manhattan sidewalk. A trophy wife with a past survives a narrow escape from a brazen attack. Mobsters and moguls with no shortage of reasons to kill trot out their alibis. And then, in the suffocating grip of a record heat wave, comes another shocking murder and a sharp turn in a tense journey into the dirty little secrets of the wealthy. Secrets that prove to be fatal. Secrets that lay hidden in the dark until one NYPD detective shines a light.

Tough, sexy, professional, Nikki Heat carries a passion for justice as she leads one of New York City’s top homicide squads. She’s hit with an unexpected challenge when the commissioner assigns superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook to ride along with her to research an article on New York’s Finest. Pulitzer Prize-winning Rook is as much a handful as he is handsome. His wise-cracking and meddling aren’t her only problems. AS she works to unravel the secrets of the murdered real estate tycoon, she must also confront the spark between them. The one called heat.

Does the book’s blurb sound familiar? It would if you’re a fan of ABC’s Castle, a cop drama/comedy that has a mystery writer tagging along “one of New York City’s top homicide squads.” And that is this book’s biggest conceit–it’s a book from the fictional universe set by the show. But it’s also the novel’s biggest cop out. Reading the novel is just like watching an episode of the show: the names are different, but the characters are the same. Except for the supporting the characters–from having rich on-screen personalities, they’re toned down into one-dimensional characters in the book.

I’m not dissing Heat Wave. The writing is good, the mystery is decent–it’s just that I was expecting something more than what I got. I knew that Nikki Heat, the main character of the novel, was based off the show’s female lead Kate Beckett. I knew that from the show, and I knew that when I started to read the book. What I didn’t know was that Nikki Heat, for all intents and purposes, is Kate Beckett–except more sexually needy.

I have no problem with sex, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that reading the novel is like reading Castle fan fiction–written by Richard Castle himself.

But I have to say this about the book: it does read like a mystery bestseller. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, is totally up to the reader.

Richard Castle’s Heat Wave is a light-read, and it’s totally recommendable as something to read while juggling work deadlines. But, as I always say, this is just my opinion. Check out a few more that can be found at Suite 101, Steph the Bookworm blog, and Bashing in Minds!