Book Review: Warlock by Andrew Cartmel


AuthorAndrew Cartmel
TitleWarlock
Publication Info: London Bridge (1995)
Previously read by the same author: Through Time: An Unauthorised and Unofficial History of Doctor Who
Summary/Review:

Andrew Cartmel was the final script editor on the original run of Doctor Who on tv from 1987-1989, and is known for allegedly having a master plan for the Doctor’s story that would be revealed over time.  Interestingly, he never wrote a screenplay for a Doctor Who tv  screenplay, so it is in books that one gets to see how he’d tell a Doctor Who story.  And this one’s a doozy.

The Seventh Doctor is living in a cottage near Canterbury with Ace and Benny, using the cottage to carry out research while sending his companions on missions. Benny goes undercover with a top secret drug enforcement agency (called IDEA) in New York to find out about a mysterious new street drug called warlock, while Ace becomes involved in a pair of animal rights activists working to undermine animal testing at a nearby research facility.

What’s stands out about this book is that the Doctor is hardly involved in the story at all, and it can also go chapters at a time without checking in with Ace or Benny.  Full plotlines are carried out by the characters Cartmel invented for the story including the NYPD detective Creed, IDEA agents, the lab researchers conducting experiments, and a couple named Vincent and Justine who have psychic powers (and were introduced in an earlier Cartmel novel).  It’s a tightly-plotted crime drama with just hints of science fiction/fantasy underpinning.  There doesn’t even seem to be an extraterrestrial element unless you consider, …. well I won’t give away the ending, but readers will probably figure it out well before then.

The strangest thing about this book is that a reader with little to no knowledge of Doctor Who could pick it up and read it as a solid, standalone novel.  And it’s a strange book which includes things such as human consciousness entering animals, a woman suddenly forced into prostitution and just as quickly rescued, the complete destruction of Canterbury cathedral, and a couple sneaking into Buckingham Palace to have sex, and these are all relatively minor plot points.  Whatever you’re expecting from a Doctor Who story, this novel will defy expectations.

Rating: ***1/2

Previously Reviewed:

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 16


60-Second Science :: Ancient Women Had Awesome Arms 

Thanks to science, we now know that prehistoric agricultural labor is the way for women to build upper body strength.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: The Bleeps, The Sweeps, and The Creeps

Did you ever think that the noises from your phone, computer, car, etc were actually designed by someone with specific ideas in mind.

Slow Burn :: A Very Successful Cover-up

This series on Watergate continues with the history of just how uninterested people were in the scandal during the 1972 Presidential Campaign

Science Talk :: The Skinny on Fat

The science behind fat, it’s importance to the body, and the mythology of fad diets.

Life of the Law :: Traditions

Stories from prisoners about their memories of Christmases past and the new holiday traditions they create while incarcerated.

Code Switch :: With Dope, There’s High Hope

The history of the demonization of marijuana by linking it to African Americans and immigrants, the inordinate arrest rate of African Americans on marijuana charges, and how people of color are being left out of the legalized canabis market.

The Truth :: Mall Santa

This story of a disenchanted mall Santa who finds hope in a young, drunken Santa-Con participant really touched me in the feels.

 

Movie Review: Dope (2015)


Title: Dope
Release Date: 19 June 2015
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Summary/Review:

Growing up in “The Bottoms” of Inglewood, California, Malcolm and his friends Diggy and Jib get good grades, play in a punk band, and are obsessed with 1990s hip hop music and fashion.  As geeky misfits they have to navigate themselves around bullies, drug dealers, and gang members on a daily basis.  When a young woman invites Malcolm to a drug dealer’s party at a nightclub, they find themselves in the middle of a shootout and with a backpack filled with Molly and a gun.  All sorts of hijinks ensue as the trio attempt to get rid of and then sell the drugs. It’s reminiscent in many ways of teen comedies of the 1980s updated with contemporary references. It’s probably most analogous to Risky Business, but since I always hated that movie I’ll point out that it shares commonalities with Real Genius in the ways the young protagonists use their smarts to outwit and outsmart everyone else.  While this movie is laugh out loud funny, grim realities are close to the surface and it does not shy away from depicting gun violence, drug use, and the frequent use of the n-word.  This is a pretty spectacular movie on all levels – script, acting, cinematography, and the brilliant use of music.

Rating: ****

Podcast of the Week: “All Hopped Up” by BackStory


I love history because it so often provides perspective on current events that you don’t get from politicians, journalists, and your friends with short memories. The American History Guys at BackStory fill in the history of the use and abuse of recreational drugs, and when and why these drugs became illegal in the episode “All Hopped Up.”

Things I learned include:

  • Mexico’s historic squeamishness about drugs
  • America criminalizing narcotics because of their colonial empire in the Philippines
  • The cultural history of the “mother’s little helper” drug problem for suburban white women in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Sherlock Holmes cocaine use and how the cultural response to it changed over the decades

Podcast of the Week: “The Fix” – Radiolab


I started listening to podcasts regularly a decade or so ago. I have a running list of podcasts I regularly listen on the Panorama of the Mountains home page and I’ve written about them many times before.  At the time I started subscribing, I thought podcasts were the next big thing and I was just a follower.  But apparently I’m more of a trailblazer than I realize.  A recent article by Matt Baume relates “Only about half of Americans have ever heard of podcasts, according to the Pew Research Center, and only 17 percent have ever listened to one.”

Since I already try to recommend a new song every week I figured I’ll add a new feature where I recommend a podcast episode I think deserves wider listenership.

For the debut POTW post, here’s the most recent of of one of Baume’s favorite (and my favorite) podcasts of the WNYC radio program Radiolab.  The Fix explores addiction and the possibility that it could be treated successfully with medication. The most fascinating part of the show for me is the suggestion that throughout human evolution, the people who responded most to the reward receptors in their brain were the fittest, but in the modern world are the most susceptible to addiction.

If you’re listening to a good podcast, let me know in the comments.