Doctor Who: Cat’s Cradle: Warhead by Andrew Cartmel

The ‘New Adventures’ range of Doctor Who novels has a reputation for being very adult and very bleak – Cat’s Cradle: Warhead is the first in the series which fits that description to a tee. However, while Timewyrm: Genesys, for example, features over the top sex and violence (which would never have been seen on the TV series) this is the first one to have what I would say was a much more mature approach to adult content.

It’s set in the near future and a huge corporation called the Butler Institute is one of many factors which are running the world into the ground. It’s a real dystopia, with the air so polluted that people are becoming ill just be breathing it in their day to day lives. There are gangs everywhere, because everyone is living in poverty and the likes of cancer and AIDS are claiming many young lives. People are disillusioned and have pretty much given up hope. With so many ties and references to things in our own world, it’s easy to believe that this could be the genuine future we are headed for. It’s the kind of thing Doctor Who doesn’t usually cover, but I’m really glad they did.

Of course, The Doctor has decided to stand up to the corporate powers that are destroying the world – but he’s not the impish and whimsical figure that he is often portrayed as. This is a much colder Doctor, a grand chess master using people as pawns in his unending quest to destroy evil. Ace assists him with his work and I honestly felt quite bad for her, because she and the Doctor are separated for much of the novel and he seems to force her to do all the leg work in his plans – often leaving her to face very dangerous situations alone. But I like Ace and it is nice for her to get a lot of focus. I like her a bit more with each new NA.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and, actually, it draws very little from the rest of the Doctor Who mythos and would probably work well as novel on its own. Having said that, some fans of Doctor Who might dislike it due to the fact that it is so different to traditional Doctor Who stories. Still, this is a solid piece of dystopian science fiction that I’d recommend to anyone with a passing interesting in the franchise.

Rating: 9.5/10

Buy it here.

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Do Books Age Better Than Films?

I’m a fan of old books – I’m sure the fact that I’ve got a comprehensive collection of book reviews on this site (many of which are over a hundred years old) can attest to that. I’m also a fan of old films, which is something I’ve not written about before. Just as I love the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, I also love the film adaptation. I know I’ve written about the weaknesses of the film genre before and I may have been a little too critical, but I do genuinely love many films.

The only thing is, that I am sure books age much better than them. When I watch a film from the 30s or 40s, I will probably enjoy it, but I find it rare that they’ll be really as moving or emotional as a more modern film. I think the reason for this is that acting methods have improved over the last century and this means that actors are now better able to capture the way that people behave within their day to day lives – or could just be that the way people behave in their day to day lives has changed significantly in the last 80 years or so (it’s probably a bit of both).

Meanwhile, when I read a book from, say, 150 years ago, while the language may be a bit different, it can still move me just as much as a modern film – often moreso. The reason that I think this is, is that when reading, you insert yourself into the story much more than you do with a film. Because you have to use your own mind, you fill in the blanks with your own experience of day to day life, whereas in a film, you’re shown exactly the way that everything looks and sounds – making it easier for it to feel more dated. For this reason, I think that books stand the test of time much better than films and it’s just another reason that I love them so much.

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Kirby Super Star

I’d played a few early Kirby games and I thought they were alright, but it was when I played Kirby Super Star that I realised it was a franchise with enough quality to stand side by side with the ‘giants’ of Nintendo that everybody loves.

The structure of the game is a little unusual, in that it is broken down into several sub-games with a loose over-arching story. I don’t know anything else which has done this – especially not any 2D platformers. The first of these sub-games (Spring Breeze) is a simplified remake of Kirby’s Dream Land. Unfortunately, one or two levels are missing, but if you’ve never played the original, this is a good substitute.  It’s nicer visually and it has Kirby’s copy ability (which the original does not) so it is a pretty good remake.

The next one is something original: Dyna Blade. It tells the story of a giant bird causing trouble in Dream Land, which causes Kirby to step up and to sort things. It’s a bit basic, to be honest. It’s certainly not badly made: levels are fun enough, controls are fine and the music is quite good, but it does come across as a bit of a generic 2D platformer to me. I suppose that might just be because I’ve played so many of them.

The rest of the game, however, is anything but generic. The next one is The Great Cave Offensive, which is basically Kirby deciding to go treasure hunting. While this may not sound that interesting, it may be my favourite part of the game. You’re put into an open 2D world and can explore it as you please. Not only does this world look really good in all its 16-bit glory, but the soundtrack is fantastic as well. To make things even better, many of the treasures are references to other Nintendo games! You can collect the triforce, ‘Kong’s Barrel‘ and even a Mr. Saturn! If Kirby Super Star was just The Great Cave Offensive, I’d still love it.

Next up you have Revenge of Meta Knight, which sees Kirby coming up against Meta Knight on board his ship, the Halberd. What surprised me about this game was just how intense it was. The music, the visuals and everything else about it made it feel like it was coming from a realistic action game and not a game about a friendly pink blob. Quite a change of pace after The Great Cave Offensive, as there’s not really time to explore now – you really need to hurry through each level if you want to survive. In general, it makes Meta Knight a lot cooler.

The final game is Milky Way Wishes, which acts as a finale to the game. You’re given the freedom to choose which order you do the levels in this time and, once again, things get quite serious… they also get pretty weird. I don’t really want to spoil anything, but it will defy your expectations and you’ll have a lot of fun along the way.

There are also a couple of mini-games included, which never really appealed to me that much. There’s Gourmet Race (footraces between Kirby and King Dedede), Megaton Punch (press buttons at the right time to do hard punches), Samurai Kirby (a quick draw game) and The Arena (a boss rush.) I guess they pad the game out a bit, but I didn’t feel they had much substance to them.

Nonetheless, this is a game that I strongly recommend and one of my favourite SNES games. Plus, one nice bonus is that you can essentially play the whole game in co-op mode with a friend, which is pretty cool. So, whether you want a multiplayer experience or a single player experience, this game has you covered.

Rating: 9.1/10

Buy it here.

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The Writing Catalyst

This is probably a sign of the fact that I am still a rather amateur writer, but I find that whenever I read a different author, their writing style has quite an impression on me. It’s kind of like I absorb aspects of their style and then regurgitate it along with aspects of my own writing. It’s actually to the extent that I can sometimes tell what I was reading at the time of writing certain things.

It’s honestly quite hard for me to imagine not being so impressed by other author’s styles that I absorb aspects of them. I suppose, in a way, I feel like my mind is a little bit of a catalyst and every new book adds something to it and everything that I write will, in some small way, contain something of everything that I’ve read before. Sure, you’d have to extrapolate quite far to make connections between certain things, but I think it could be done. This includes the unpublished work of my friends, because they definitely do sway my work. The difference between me and the famous writers will be that they’ve had the ideal property come out of their catalyst, while I’m still experimenting with mine.

It’s also pretty nice to consider that every other writer is a catalyst. Every book that you read will have been inspired by the books that the author read, which in turn will have been inspired by the books read by the authors of those books. It essentially means that all creativity is part of one growing web of ideas which stretches all the way back to the tall tales told by our cave-dwelling ancestors.

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Ironically, despite being called Helmet the helmet featured in the game is so inconsequential that it may as well not appear at all. In fact, it would probably make more sense if your character wasn’t wearing a helmet – then it could have acted as a kind of cautionary tale.

Anyway, for those who don’t know, this is one of Nintendo’s Game & Watches. In this one, you leave one building and have to walk a small distance and enter another building. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well, it’s not because there are loads of tools raining from the sky. There’s literally an infinite supply of them falling down. Thankfully, they’re all falling quite slowly, meaning that you are able to move strategically and avoid getting hit by them. You are wearing a helmet, but if one lands on you, you lose a life either way.

I think this is one of the better Game & Watches and I can get quite into it. It is quite tricky though and once you’ve been thrown off, you’re likely to get a Game Over before too long. You can be playing perfectly, then you get hit, then you’ll loose your other two lives before too long. I think it’s all about confidence and concentration – once you’ve been thrown off, it’s hard to recover. Or, at very least, that’s the case for me.

Like most of the others, you can choose to play with a harder difficulty too, but I think the normal level of difficulty is already high enough in this case. Plus, of course, it can be used as an alarm – not that I really imagine anybody doing so these days. Fans may also recognise Helmet as it was incorporated into a Super Smash Bros. stage, which is pretty cool. Overall, it’s not a bad game and worth a look, but it’s nothing earth-shaking.

Rating: 6.8/10

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Joys Within Reality

Something I love doing when I’m at home by myself is playing video games. I’m sure the fact that there are literally hundreds of reviews on this blog does a good job of illustrating that point. Similarly, I very much enjoy reading – or even posting a status on Facebook and watching the likes pile up.

But something I enjoy even more, is spending time with friends. For me, no matter how great the things I mentioned above may be, they can never equate to the joys of things which actually exist within our world. This was made especially clear to me a couple of months ago when a friend stayed over at my house.

They went to have a shower and, as they did so, I took out my 3DS to pass the time. I was in the middle of playing through Donkey Kong Country 3 and when I played, I was on one of my favourite levels. It is, for reference, also one of my favourite games. Normally, that would be a particularly exciting activity for me, but it just felt quite flat. The reason was that I had a friend near – yes, they were unavailable at that exact second, but I was still in the social-mindframe and when I’m in that mindframe, it makes me realise that other activities really pale in comparison.

So, for me, it’s kind of hard to understand how some people can be so completely captivated by their mobile phones. I appreciate that some people use their phones to ease anxiety and others need to communicate with friends about urgent subjects, but I think the majority of people are just doing it to look at their likes or to see the latest Instagram photos. If asked, I am sure they’d tell you that they value the things in reality more than the things on their phone, but in practice the phone would get the priority.

I think that’s quite sad, because it essentially means that people are often not focusing on the things which are most important to them. It all comes down to the fact that checking your phone can actually be quite an addictive thing. A lot of people are offended when they meet up with somebody and they’re on their phone (it doesn’t personally bother me) but, really, it’s the person on their phone who is missing out on what they really appreciate in life.

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Darkness and Light

There’s a lot of darkness in the world. As much as I like to try to be an optimistic person and keep the tone of this blog generally optimistic – this is a fact that I simply cannot ignore. If I were to ignore this, my optimism would not be grounded in realism at all. In fact, it’s true that sometimes I am guilty of focusing too much on the darkness.

But every person, every friend is a light in the darkness. Not every person is an equal source of light, but everyone is important. Somebody might be a candle burning against the dark, another might be a lantern – others may even be street lamps or as bright as lighthouses. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I’ve known a sun in my time,

The darkness is a sad fact, but without it, perhaps I’d fail to notice the beauty of the lights and to take them for granted would be a terrible shame. The light will always outshine the darkness – but the important thing is to remember that it’s always there, if you know where to look… and sometimes that’s within, because we’re all a source of light in our own ways.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

There’s one thing that people probably know about this novel before going in, because there’s one single feature which seems to have resonated in our public consciousness: the idea of a man who does not age, because he has a painting of himself which ages instead. While this is certainly one aspect of The Picture of Dorian Gray (and an interesting one at that) there’s still so much more to it than that.

At the heart of the story are three friends: Basil Hallward (my favourite), Lord Henry and, of course, Dorian Gray himself. Dorian is an innocent young man (at least initially), Basil is a sensitive artist (who paints the titular picture of Dorian) and Lord Henry is a hedonistic man who sees people as nothing more than a means through which to experience sensations. I appreciate that the three main characters all have very strong personalities and are all very distinct.

Something I should also mention is the fact that Basil is in love with Dorian. Since it was the nineteenth century, they never outright say that he’s gay (or at least not heterosexual) but the extent to which he talks about how much he loves Dorian in a way that he’d never loved a woman makes it pretty obvious. With this in mind, it’s also especially good that he’s the moralistic one… Although it’s not too surprising, since Wilde himself was bisexual.

The bulk of the plot is about the corruption of Dorian at the hands of Lord Henry, but ultimately Dorian ends up as much, much worse person than Lord Henry. The two of them share many conversations about their attitudes towards other people and, honestly, their perspectives are disgusting – but they’re also fascinating. These parts were probably my favourite bits because as much as I disagreed with Lord Henry, I enjoyed his perspective so much.

If you think that that sounds like it would be really boring, I should mention that there are several huge and highly distressing events which take place which I couldn’t mention without spoiling things. But, basically, this is a pretty shocking book. In the best of ways: do brace yourselves. Also, if you’re someone who struggles with classic literature, I feel like the writing style in this novel is a little more accessible, so you should definitely give it a try. I strongly recommend this for everyone – a glorious portrait of human nature.

Rating: 9.4/10

Buy it here.

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Running in the Dark

A few months ago, I started going on an evening run most days. I used to go to a gym, but then I stopped that for money reasons and went to Wii Fit, but then it ended up being unbearably hot inside, so outside running it was. For me, the ideal time is quite late at night because that means that I get to avoid all of the obstacles that runners face during the day.

One of my favorite places to run is down a road which runs through a small wooded area. At the time of day that I do it, it is completely black. Going here regularly has helped me to make an interesting observation about running in the dark. For whatever reason, it’s much less tiring. It’s very noticeable that when I come out of that area and back onto the path with street lights, I all of a sudden feel the weight of my exercise crashing down on me. Similarly, when I’m in the dark, my mind wanders, but I am never really conscious of aching.

I suppose that when I am in the dark, I can’t see any part of myself, which then makes me forget about the effect that the running is having on my body. But what’s interesting about that, is that it’s not what you would expect to happen – or certainly not what I would expect to happen. I wonder if that would work at all in regards to pain relief? It just goes to show how fickle our senses truly are.

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Parallel Moments

In October 2016, I came to the end of a job which I did not enjoy very much. When I left, I accidentally left behind a yellow smiley face stress ball which I was quite fond of. It was especially useful for that particular job, since it involved a lot of stress. I texted a colleague who had remained there and asked her if she could retrieve it for me, but sadly I discovered that it had been angrily thrown into the bin after I’d gone. It was a sad loss.

Almost two years later, I found myself coming to the end of a job which I had enjoyed quite a lot. It was better than that other job in most every way and was certainly not a cause of stress. While working there, I had regaled one of my colleagues with horrific tales of my older job – including the sad fate of my smiley face stress ball. So on my last day, as a parting gift, she gave me a new smiley face stress ball (among other things.)

It was identical to the original and was such a satisfying gift in many ways. I lost the original when leaving a place of stress – its purpose potentially served. I gained the replacement when leaving a stress-free environment, potentially entering more stressful times – its purpose renewed. I lost the original as the result of bitterness from a very unlikeable person. I gained the replacement as a result of kindness from a very likeable person. I like to think of it as having been reincarnated by the power of kindness. I like when things fit together perfectly.

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