Who Travels with the Doctor?: Essays on the Companions of Doctor Who

Who Travels with the Doctor?: Essays on the Companions of Doctor WhoWho Travels with the Doctor?: Essays on the Companions of Doctor Who by Gillian I. Leitch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Since Doctor Who took to the air over 50 years ago, his companions have been the audiences view into his adventures. In the 10 essay collection Who Travels with the Doctor? the role of the companion is examined from various viewpoints as a character, as a mirror on the Doctor, as a reflection on the audience, gender roles, and many more ways.

In the introduction the book’s editors by Gillian I. Leitch and Sherry Ginn, who also contributed, conceded that the most studied companions in the volume were from the “New Who” era than “Classic Who” but many of the more famous or infamous were included as well. The essays early in the book look at companions as a group before really focusing on individual companions. While getting an overall sense of the makeup of companions and their collective reactions to the Doctor is an important facet of examining them, the early essays came off as dry and laborious without really engaging the reader. Studies on gender roles—in which one acknowledges the debate surrounding Steven Moffatt’s alleged misogyny—are then the focus and only really click when making case studies of characters. It’s when the essays turn to studying companions themselves that the writing and arguments seems to make an impression. Essays about Sarah Jane Smith & Jo Grant, Rory Williams, and River Song are three of the strongest in the book. The last two essays of the book about “the companions who weren’t” and “companions in print” finish off the book on a strong note.

With the admitted focus on “New Who” companions as well as current showrunner Steven Moffatt as a result, the essays in which these factored heavily did not fully address the current state—as of 2014—of the show itself. As a fan and watcher of Doctor Who, one of things I found increasingly irritating and impacting my experience in viewing is the lack of a coherent narrative over the course of a season (series in UK). While this complaint would be an essay itself, to me the biggest factor in how current companions are viewed is not only how they are written but the quality of stories they are in. To me this was a missing dimension in the early essays in the book when they discussed the Moffatt era in particular and why I found early essays laborious, they weren’t address a key issue.

However my thoughts about the issues in the first third of the book; the latter two-thirds is where this book of essays takes off and makes the reader think. Yet even without a good fundamental grounding when look at companions on a whole, the study of them individually is undermined.

I received this book for free though LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.

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Warriors 1

Warriors 1Warriors 1 by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warriors 1 brings together short stories from across all genres by authors whose only criteria were to write about a warrior. This is the one of three paperback volumes of the whole anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois in which Martin is joined in contributing by Joe Haldeman, Steven Saylor, Tad Williams, Cecelia Holland, and Robert Silverberg.

Save for the opening story, this volume is packed with great writing and stories. Of the five stories that are truly outstanding two are historical fiction, one is science fiction, and two are fantasy. Not all the stories are full of action as seen in Robert Silverberg’s “Defenders of the Frontier” is more a psychological study but still a well written and compelling narrative. Only two of the stories featured in this volume are connected in some way to established universes by their authors, Joe Haldeman’s Forever War universe and Martin’s own world of A Song of Ice and Fire. But while Martin’s “The Mystery Knight” is compelling story with action and intrigue, Haldeman’s “Forever Bound” just doesn’t seem to really connect to a first time reader of his work. I would be remiss if I forgot to praise the excellent historical fiction stories by Steven Saylor and Cecelia Holland that featured Romans, Carthaginians, and Vikings.

While the opening story doesn’t seem to connect well, the rest of the stories in this volume more than make up for it. These tales of warriors whether based in our own history or worlds far off in space or in a fantastical realm are excellent reads. The same is true for action, political intrigue, and psychological struggles. I really loved this collection of short stories and highly recommend it to those interested in get or reading this volume.

Individual Story Ratings
Forever Bound by Joe Haldeman (3/5)
The Eagle and the Rabbit by Steven Saylor (5/5)
And Ministers of Grace by Tad Williams (4/5)
The King of Norway by Cecelia Holland (5/5)
Defenders of the Frontier by Robert Silverberg (4.5/5)
The Mystery Knight by George R.R. Martin (5/5)

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And Ministers of Grace (Warriors 1)

warriors-1

And Ministers of Grace by Tad Williams
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Assassin Lamentation Kane attempts to “do the will of God” by killing the leader of the ultra-secular planetary coalition whom he has been trained since childhood to hate by his ultra-religious government. However, Kane fails and is captured then is experimented on to learn about the cybernetic technology he has been enhanced with only for him to escape not only physical captivity but the cybernetic implant of the secular government as well. Yet once free and his mind clear, Kane realizes he has to think on his own.

Forever Bound (Warriors 1)

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Forever Bound by Joe Haldeman
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Setting in Haldeman’s own The Forever War universe, “Forever Bound” follows Julian Class who is drafted into a Remote Infantry unit in which soldiers are cybernetically linked to both robots and everyone in his squad to fight against enemies of the United States. Most of the story revolves around Julian and his fellow squad member Carolyn having an intense relationship thanks to their cybernetic link until Carolyn suddenly dies because of the effects of the implants have on her brain causing Class to go into a severe depression that can only be alleviated during his 10 days on duty every month when he and the rest of his squad are linked as a collective whole.

Mockingjay (THG #3)

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The nation of Panem collapses into a state of civil war and both sides are looking towards for the appearance of the Mockingjay. The final installment of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy finds Katniss Everdeen contemplating her role in the fight against the Capitol along with coming to terms with everything that has been going on her life the last two years.

The book begins with Katniss in the ashen rubble of her home District 12 before returning to the underground stronghold of the once thought to be destroyed District 13 where she’s amongst a political struggle for her face on the rebellion. But it is only after seeing a Capitol controlled Peeta that Katniss begins promoting the rebel cause. Over the course of the book, Katniss is mentally and physically tested by not only the conditions but also propaganda moves by President Snow via Peeta until the rebellion rescues him, only for everyone to find out he is not himself. Through the rest of the book, Katniss’ battles both military and political forces in her personal mission to end the war and Snow so those she loves can live in peace. Yet victory comes at such a high cost that it truly breaks Katniss more than the Hunger Games or anything else.

Given where the end of the previous book ended, Mockingjay has to start slowly before getting into a flow similar to the first book of the trilogy. In fact, Mockingjay is truly the better follow up to The Hunger Games than Catching Fire as Katniss truly comes to terms with everything she has previously and currently going through, so much so that it seems that she is having a slow motion mental breakdown before hitting rock bottom.

In the final chapter of The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins gives a satisfying and well-written conclusion to Katniss’ story. If not for the slow start, Mockingjay would be on the same level as the first book. If you’ve read and enjoyed The Hunger Games then make it through Catching Fire to see why >Mockingjay is so fantastic.

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Catching Fire (THG #2)

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The aftermath of Katniss Everdeen’s rebellious performance at the end of the 74th Hunger Games has consequences far beyond what happens to Peeta and herself in Catching Fire. Suzanne Collins’ middle installment of The Hunger Games trilogy is all about how a dictatorial government responds to rebellion.

The story Katniss Everdeen begins just as she’s about to begin her Victory Tour with Peeta to the other Districts and the Capitol when President Snow expectantly shows up at her new home and threatens her to perform well or else. Katniss fails to stop the growing unrest in other Districts and the Capitol cracks down everywhere, including District 12 which makes Katniss realizes that while her life was bad before now it would have been impossible. Then the stipulations for the 75th Hunger Games sends both Katniss and Peeta into the arena with 22 other previous victors. And in the arena, Katniss begins to realize that there is more than one game going on.

Unlike its predecessor, Catching Fire is more about the aftereffects of decisions than fighting to survive. Throughout the entire book, there seems to be more going on behind the scenes than Katniss knows and the reader is able to connect things a little ahead of her at some points. The twist and turns inside the arena might have been meant to surprise the reader, but an astute reader will realize that they are being set up for another book and the realization that the threat to Katniss and Peeta is very small clamps down on the dramatic tension gets closer to the end.

While I enjoyed Catching Fire, there was not the same quality or tension as there was in The Hunger Games though while I’m intrigued to know what is going to happen in the final book of the trilogy my enthusiasm is not at the same level it was after the first book.

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The Hunger Games (THG #1)

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the biggest young adult book and film franchises since Harry Potter has been The Hunger Games trilogy, named after the first book of the series. In The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins introduces the reader to a dystopian North America and a country that controls its citizens by taking their children and forcing them to watch them kill one another for honor and glory, because they can.

The reader is introduced to Katniss Everdeen who volunteers to take her little sister’s place in the titular Hunger Games via Katniss first person account of her journey from 16-year old young woman to victor of the 74th Hunger Games. Although from the beginning it is obvious that Katniss will survive to the end of the book, it’s her journey of preparation to victorious survival and possible finding love that keeps the reader interested throughout the book. The details and descriptions throughout the book bring added depth to the story, especially because of the first person perspective that Collins’ choice to write the story in. Even though the book is around 450 pages, Collins’ word choice makes it an easy read that has depth and breadth that makes the pages turn quickly.

Overall, The Hunger Games follows in the great tradition of dystopian science fiction but is still original in concept and execution. The finish and aftermath of the 74th Hunger Games sets up the further story of Katniss Everdeen that will have the reader wanting to continue on to see what twists and turns in her life that she has in front of her. So I cannot give a big enough recommendation.

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