Book Reviews: Shakespeare, Ninja Turtles, and Kraken

If someone admits they’re a compulsive liar, don’t say, “I find that hard to believe!”


The Shakespeare Conspiracy

A meaty fictional novel on how the author thinks Christopher Marlowe staged his death and lived on to be the actual writer of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. Note: I’m a huge proponent of the theory that Shakespeare didn’t write the plays; my favorite notion is Marlowe, but I don’t insist on it. I had no idea this book was about that when I digitally picked it up, but I’m sure that played a part in why I enjoyed it. On the other hand, there was much that could have been done better.

First and foremost, I think the author is pushing it when he insists that the common lines between Marlowe and Shakespeare are proof of the former still being alive. Plagiarism would seem to be the horse rather than the zebra here. There were points where I thought the writing could have been improved as well. But the other historical evidence he uses, some of which I hadn’t heard before, is spot on, and the fact it plays right into my own beliefs only makes it all the more fun. My favorite line is about Shakespeare holding horses for the gentry while they were watching the plays; so he wasn’t even a good enough actor, he was just the valet!

A bunch of notes, almost a fifth of the book, at the end on what is fact and what is fiction; some are rather startling.



Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Amazing Adventures Volume 1
The title really says it all, doesn’t it? The actual plots are hardly necessary, just a framework for the mayhem that ensues.
In the first story a bad guy goes around collecting all the animals—mutant version—of the Japanese zodiac. Evil guys are like that. Some heroes these turtles are, felled by a supersonic cluck. Never having watched any of the movies or TV shows, I have to wonder: did they always suck? They lose every fight.
But that’s hardly the important thing here. Most graphic novels are written, if not with adults in mind, at least smart enough for older teenagers to enjoy. This one is not; it feels more like middle-school level, while occasionally sprinkling in big words. I felt at times like the whole thing had been dumbed down, not so much for me, but for kids that must have already read better than this.
The second story hardly had the turtles at all, but since the new protagonists were much more interesting, that was okay. I’d never seen cold pizza used as a deus ex machina, but whatever works.
The third story is drawn—and I know the irony in putting it this way—cartoonish, like it was done for, or by, kindergarteners. The writing is similar: “I guess I’m just a silly.” But since this was obviously done on purpose I’m going with it.
The fourth story has a bored turtle making his own graphic novel; hope it doesn’t turn out meta!
The fifth story has Michaelangelo taking an out of town friend to Coney Island, where of course all heck breaks loose. The lesson here is humans suck, but not all of them; yes, it’s that anvillicious.
In the last story a human redhead hunts down a boom box after a cassette was found in the junkyard.
The first story was the worst in how it related to the audience; after that it felt like they were more in on the joke. Still, none of them were all that exciting, or made the heroes interesting. It feels like a lost opportunity.

The Demonic Kraken Debacle in Hollywood
A guy, a demon, and a dog fight off a skeleton army on a beach in a room that’s technically not on earth, all to get some buried gold. Exactly the circumstances where you want a dog around, though Doggie might go crazy with such a humongous selection of bones to choose from.
Other adventures follow, including a flying castle and its resident dragon, and a trip to Hollywood, which might be even more unbelievable. (Take it from someone who’s lived in El Lay all his life.)
Though obviously written for kids, it’s a fast-moving enjoyable romp through fantasy worlds—yes, Hollywood is included in that. Plot is hardly important as they jump from one mess to another, meeting new characters along the way. Sara’s my favorite, and it bodes well that at the end she’s joining up with the regulars. The fact the demon can’t stand her is a bonus.
All in all, a cute story for preteens.

The Perfect Escort
American woman working in Sydney is lonely, so a friend hooks her up with an escort she hired before getting married. That’s really all there is to it, as the story is extremely short, just a setup and two scenes: getting to know one another, and sex.
I enjoyed the main character, not at all surprised that a techie was also a Trekkie. The guy was fairly typical, thankfully confident without falling into overconfident, and good at his job; as noted in the text, repeat business is the bread and butter of that industry. But it was the lady who carried the story so well, one of those career women who have no idea how attractive they are because they’re always choosing the wrong guy. Her characterization actually makes the story as realistic as such a story can be.



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