Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Book Review: Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Editions' Ten Little Aliens

Of all the things you might want to do in the Universe, apparently bumping into the Schirr is NOT one of them. After all, Schirr are nasty, body-snatching creatures hell bent on the destruction of the human race, permanently at war with Earth’s far-flung outposts. At least that’s what the human’s elite Anti-Terrorists forces believe. But the First Doctor – Dr. Who, that is --- and his companions Ben and Polly are not completely convinced. That’s the confusing landscape into which the reader is dropped in the first of the Dr. Who 50th Anniversary Edition novels, Ten Little Aliens by Stephen Cole.

The TARDIS lands First Doctor, Polly and Ben in the 30th Century, on an asteroid that appears to be the final resting place of 10 alien corpses, who just happen to be the most wanted criminals in the known universe – a Schirr terrorist known as DeCaster and some of his followers. The TARDIS crew is surprised by a group of cadets from an elite anti-terrorist military academy who have arrived at the planetoid for military exercises, along with their training instructors, Haunt (a female veteran of the Schirr wars) and her assistant, Shel. First Doctor begins to suspect a trap when half the asteroid splits off, taking the cadets’ ship with it. With the TARDIS mysteriously locked, the group is cut off from the Universe.

And then cadets and corpses begin to go missing in pairs. And did I mention the creepy little cherub statues scattered about the asteroid? One of the party must be responsible for the disappearances – which turn out to be murders. Is this beginning to sound a bit familiar?

I love classic mysteries. And I love Dr. Who. So the idea of reviewing a Dr. Who homage novel based on Agatha Christie’s classic Ten Little Indians (perhaps better known in the US as And Then There Were None) was pretty irresistible. And I wasn’t disappointed.

But I will admit that I was confused at times. The sci-fi gadgets and pyrotechnics muddied the narrative waters for me. I felt like I had to spend a lot of time figuring out what was actually going on in the futuristic physical world. Maybe this was meant to put me in the place of Ben and Polly? I did admire the author’s attempt to provide multiple viewpoints for the same events, without giving the reader an idea of which of the narrators was reliable. But the narrator transitions were accompanied by all kinds of directions that were distracting, and interfered with the flow of the book for me.

Cole’s novel definitely reflects its early 20th century British origins, which means there’s a good bit of post-colonial angst. Shade, one of the cadets, is notable for his Earth-born origins – he’s in turns respected and reviled for his unique position. There’s also a politically correct spin on the old “terrorists vs. freedom fighters” question that is pretty interesting. But the subtexts were only revealed in bits and pieces, and some of them were never fully explained, so at some points I thought the backstory actually detracted from what was in fact a really interesting Who adventure.

Still, for all its “fan-fiction” flaws – and all my fan quibbling – this was a fun book. Like the television series, it required attention to detail. Adding First Doctor and companions to the Christie set-up was a neat creative twist, despite the unevenness in the narration that the addition entailed. Who fans will definitely love this book. I can’t say the same natural affinity exists for Christie fans, because the mystery element really takes a back seat to the sci-fi. But the combination was really fun for me!

I read this book as part of a TLC book tour, and received a free copy of the book – and a companion volume, Whoology -- in return for my honest opinion. Thanks, Lisa, for including me on the tour. For other opinions on this book – and all the books in the anniversary series – follow the links here.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Greek Chicken and Grain Burgers: Col’s VB6 Recipe of the Week

I'm a huge Mark Bittman fan, and my plan for getting back to Weekend Cooking was actually a review of his new book, VB6, which outlines the eating plan he described in his previous book, Food Matters. But then I read the reviews of the book, and many noted there wasn't much in there except a more persuasive case for his vegan-during-the-day-omnivore-at-night concept, and some very easy recipes based on it. And since I've been making an attempt -- sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much -- to incorporate VB6 into our lives since I read the previous book, I didn't think I could justify the cost of (yet another) book. So instead, I thought I'd share where I took one of his ultra-flexible Meat and Grain Burger recipe from Food Matters. Both my carnivorous husband and omnivorous daughter LOVED these, and they'll definitely be finding their way to the grill throughout the summer!

Greek Chicken and Grain Burgers 1 6 oz. bag baby spinach 2 tbsp. olive oil 12 oz ground chicken thighs 1 cup rolled oats 2 ounce block feta, diced finely ¼ cup minced red onion 1 clove garlic, minced 1 egg 2 tbsp. ketchup 1 tbsp. Greek seasoning Salt and pepper, to taste 8 small whole wheat rolls Tzatziki for serving

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Don't dry spinach -- just toss in hot pan, and cook until the spinach is wilted. Set aside to cool, then wrap in a clean kitchen cloth and twist to release as much water as possible. Chop the little spinach block that remains finely, and toss with all ingredients through salt and pepper. Refrigerate for an hour, then form eight small patties. Grill until cooked through (165 degrees), and serve on whole wheat buns with tzatziki sauce -- or ketchup, if you're my daughter!

These make small burgers, so they don't dry out during cooking -- kids will likely eat one, but my husband eats 2.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. Thanks to Beth Fish Reads for hosting!