Book Review: “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl
(432 pages, 2012)

It’s the story that failed to capture me due to unremarkable and uninteresting characters.

Gone Girl is a tale of tepid unrepentant characters who torture themselves and everyone around them with overwhelming selfishness and bull-headed ignorance. The first-person point-of-view that alternates from chapter to chapter is a unique “he said, she said” style, and the brilliance of the scheming by the antagonist is a big highlight, but none of that can completely overcome the character problem.

The characters are all self-centered and lacking in both empathy and sympathy. More than that, the only characters that weren’t bathing in a toxic mixture of smugness and cynicism were the two detectives. By the time the plot twist that so many other readers are celebrating rolled around, I had lost all interest in the protagonist and his plight. After soldiering through the first half of the book, watching as Nick made stupid mistake after stupid mistake, outright ignoring advice to the contrary from even his most trusted friends and family, I couldn’t dredge up even the slightest amount of interest in his plight. I didn’t care if he made it out, dead, alive, or otherwise.

Does that mean that I celebrated the villain? Only in the depth of how deeply the chess game was framed. Other than that, the villain’s intended plot was derailed based on the most simple of events that emphasized how much the character was lacking in even the basic street smarts one could attain from watching a police procedural on television. The entirety of the protagonist-antagonist relationship is built upon trying to find the way out of an emotional hole by continuing to dig straight down. To drag in the overly clichéd pseudo-quote that haunts every corner of the internet, these people keep doing the same thing over and over, honestly and sincerely expecting a different result each time. They are well beyond insane.

Reading this book became the same exercise in patience and endurance that was reading Twilight. In both cases, popular opinion told me that it was great and wonderful, so I fought to the end looking for that treasure. Alas, I never found the wild goose.

At the end of the day, the big plot twist doesn’t justify a cavalcade of uninteresting and uncaring characters. I just don’t see the draw in this story, and it certainly won’t be enough to draw me to the theater, despite how much as I like Rosamund Pike, when the cinematic adaptation opens in October 2014.


Timestamp #15: The Space Museum

Doctor Who: The Space Museum
(4 episodes, s02e26-e29, 1965)

Timestamp 015 The Space Museum

I enjoyed that this serial had a mystery that both the crew and the audience need to figure out. The second episode started into the background, but the first episode effectively roped me in with the question of what was going on.

There were some great moments in this serial. The Doctor gives the admonition to stay close, but then it’s the Doctor who lags behind gets taken by the rebels. Later he hides in a Dalek shell, and his Yoda-like mirth made me laugh. It was really nice to have him fool the mind-reading chair, and an equally nice touch to have the “curator” get rid of him once he’s of no further use. The typical sci-fi tropes would have had the baddie just stick the hero away instead of trying to kill him off.

The action scenes during the whole cat-and-mouse chase were engaging, and Vicki is brilliant in rewiring the armory computer. She’s really climbing the ranks as one of my favorite companions.

The thing that made me scratch my head was that this was apparently all started with yet another faulty component. It seems that the TARDIS is often just one bump short of falling apart at the seams.

Last but not least, there were new Daleks in the lead-in to The Chase. Unfortunately, the head light blinking sequences are way off, and I don’t like the super-shiny collar. It’s very distracting under the studio lights.


Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Chase


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #14: The Crusade

Doctor Who: The Crusade
(4 episodes, s02e22-e25, 1965)

Timestamp 014 The Crusade

It’s Julian Glover! General Maximillian Veers, Walter Donovan, and Aris Kristatos! Instead of an Imperial soldier, a Nazi, or a Soviet sympathizer, this time he’s a rather petulant King Richard the Lionheart.

Ian gets to use some of the swordfighting skills he’s learned over the last couple of years, and he gets knighted as well. The Doctor gets to display his interesting morals (once stolen clothes are fair to be stolen again), and displays a couple of character traits I’m glad have survived into the modern era (he does not suffer fools and cherishes bravery). The Doctor and Vicki really do have an adorable relationship, but the whole ruse of disguising Vicki as a boy is quite a stretch, especially given the rather conspicuous curves and facial features.

This was a simple story, but engaging and entertaining. The second and fourth episodes I watched were reconstructed from recorded soundtracks and screen caps.


Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Space Museum 


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.



Timestamp #13: The Web Planet

Doctor Who: The Web Planet
(6 episodes, s02e16-e21, 1965)

Timestamp 013 The Web Planet

This serial had so much ambition, but so little payoff in six episodes to cover a very threadbare story. The costumes were laughable, and the Zarbi noises grated on me with seconds of hearing them for the first time.

There were some nice moments with Barbara and Vicki comparing notes on eras they were familiar with, and the Doctor is starting to remind me of Yoda with his giggling. From the production side, I’m glad they removed the handicap of losing power to the doors trapping the travellers in the TARDIS over the years. It seems like a silly stumbling block, even though it gave purpose to the Doctor’s rings. It was good of them to acknowledge the thin air, but those jackets made me giggle over the absurdity.

I give the serial extra credit for the enthralled Zarbi called Zombo, but, honestly, I’d rather watch The Sensorites again.


Rating: 1/5 – “EXTERMINATE!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Crusade


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.


Timestamp #12: The Romans

Doctor Who: The Romans
(4 episodes, s02e12-e15, 1965)

Timestamp 012 The Romans

A nice humorous episode balanced with seriousness regarding the Roman slave trade. It was a true tour de force of popular Roman story tropes. The poor TARDIS keeps getting used and abused, this time falling off a cliff and laying in a ditch for a month. I loved Vicki’s energy, and the nice character moments between Ian and Barbara.

I also loved the allegory with The Emperor’s New Clothes.


Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Web Planet


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Book Review: “A Children’s Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination” by Bryan Young

An illustrated history of assassination seems like an odd topic for a children’s book. It seems even stranger when the topic becomes the assassination of the President of the United States. But, let’s face it: In the quest to explore the world around them, kids don’t come equipped with filters for social niceties. Topics that adults consider taboo, such as the death and murder – especially when it applies to the leader of one of the most power nations in the world – are often on a level playing field with the color wheel, multiplication tables, and the alphabet.

“A Children’s Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination” is a book geared toward those difficult discussions. Author Bryan Young simplifies the topic in prose that explains and educates without talking down or being condescending to the audience. Focusing on each of the presidents who was either assassinated or had an attempt made against them, his prose introduces each leader and places them in both an understandable political and historical context. Shying away from a simple list of names and dates, he makes each history lesson engaging and entertaining.

Accompanying the text are illustrations by two artists. Erin Kubinek provides detailed imagery with a simple and comic flair that illustrates key points while complimenting and enhancing the unfolding stories. Some of the drawings are a little gruesome, but that only helps the audience to understand how messy the topic truly is. The second artist is Scout Young, the author’s daughter, who adds a presidential portrait from the point of view of the book’s intended audience. Her drawings add a degree of whimsy to an interpretation of how she sees the topic, and as one of the inspirations for the book, it’s quite fitting to include her work as a touchstone for children and parents exploring of the darker sides of American history.

As a bonus, the book ends with a short story that provides a taste of the author’s fiction style. As a fan of Young’s “Lost at the Con,” both the short story and the history book were a wonderful display of his versatility and talent.

Bryan Young’s “A Children’s Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination” is a book I highly recommend.

A Children's Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination Cover

Veronica Mars

Call me ten years late to the party, but after a decade of hearing just how good Veronica Mars was as a series, I finally took the plunge.

I’ll patiently wait here for the inevitable “I told you so.”

Veronica Mars is a detective-style television series focused on the title character, elegantly played by Kristen Bell. The show is set in a fictional beach town named Neptune, which is an oligarchy in microcosm. Veronica is the teenage daughter of the town’s disgraced former sheriff, who was removed from office after accusing one of the town’s most prominent members of murdering his own daughter. Everyone in power (read: upper class) turns their backs on the Mars family, and Veronica’s mother eventually leaves the family. After he hung up his uniform and badge, Keith Mars opened his own private investigation firm, and Veronica has been learning the craft.

Thus begins the tale of a Gen-Y Nancy Drew who solves mysteries while surviving the artificial dramas of high school isolation.

Over three seasons, the homage to 1950s noir plays out as Veronica moves from high school to college, fighting corruption and crime as lives her life in social exile. The character development is top notch, spanning not only Veronica’s close circle of friends, but also among some of the rich snobs that castigated her family earlier. Watching them come to accept Veronica for her skills rather than her social status was nice, but even better was watching Veronica grow up and realize how closely linked consequences and actions truly are.

Seasons one and two are certainly the best of the three, and they dedicate an entire season to a single overarching mystery with smaller cases laced throughout. Fans typically look down on Season Three, which broke the season into several smaller mysteries with tenuous links between them, but I enjoyed it. The only things I didn’t like were the on-again-off-again relationship with Veronica and a certain character (no spoilers here) and the remixed title theme.

This series is far from clean cut, and not everyone gets a happy ending. That is especially true of the follow-up movie, which takes place nine years after the series finale. The movie did a great job of logically advancing the characters of Neptune while explaining exactly why it’s okay that we didn’t see their evolutions on screen. It also finishes off a great character arc for Veronica.

The only downside I found with the movie was with Navy uniforms. While not entirely a deal killer, I had a hard time pulling my eyes away from glaring errors that a few minutes on Wikipedia or with a consultant could have solved.

What I really want to see after watching the movie is a continued Veronica Mars television series. While I like the idea of Veronica on the silver screen, I think the small screen would work best in telling the ongoing stories. Perhaps, in this new era of distribution companies creating content, Rob Thomas would consider Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu as a platform instead of relying on a network. While he’s writing new content in follow-on novels, I really want to see more of this high-caliber work on a screen.

I guess that makes me a “marshmallow.”

Timestamp #11: The Rescue

Doctor Who: The Rescue
(2 episodes, s02e10-e11, 1965)

Timestamp 011 The Rescue

This one was a quick but interesting story to introduce Vicki as a new companion. She seems to be written as a direct replacement for Susan, but the Doctor treats her better. From a production standpoint, the creature designs were pretty cool, and I thought that Sandy was kind of a cute little beastie. I also like how they showed (deliberately or not) some type of TARDIS interior from outside the ship.

The story has a nice twist, but it’s also rather tragic. Overall, it helps further establish the Doctor’s view on preserving life with his anger toward the near genocide of the Dido.

There were two smaller things that grabbed my attention. First, that rocket ship has one strong antenna to survive the crash without breaking. Perhaps they should make the entire ship from that material. I’m kidding of course; they needed to show the audience that the ship was trying to communicate. Second, the TARDIS doesn’t land, but instead materializes.


Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Romans


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.