Tag Archive: The X-Files


Review by C.J. Bunce

Another pandemic delayed production finally makes its way to TV audiences this week.  It’s the Syfy Channel series Resident Alien, based on the crazy-good Dark Horse Comics sci-fi/crime/mystery mash-up comics by Peter Hogan (2000 AD, Tom Strong) and Steve Parkhouse (Milkman Murders, Doctor Who)–first reviewed here at borg back in 2013.  Airing Wednesday nights, the show stars Alan Tudyk as the extra-terrestrial hero who survives a ship crash on what was supposed to be a quick mission to Earth, Coneheads-style.  Taking on the part of Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, he is able to mask his appearance using his otherworldly powers.  Like E.T. he just wants to go home, but he must wait until his friends come to find him in the town of Patience, Colorado, an Everwood-style small town full of medical crises that he must attend to after the town doctor is found dead.  He gets pulled into a murder mystery, which he takes to like Agent Cooper in the town of Twin Peaks.  It’s this police procedural drama-meets-sci-fi blend that is taken forward in the story.

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Everyone needs some good news, right? In advance of Black Friday, this week Amazon announced its annual list of the Best Books of 2020. The list includes the Top 100 adult titles and the Top 120 children’s titles broken down by target audience (20 titles named for each of baby to age 2, ages 3-5, ages 6-8, ages 9-12, young adult, and a separate category for non-fiction). Amazon went on to select the Top 20 Children’s Books from this group. We’re happy to report that frequent borg contributor Elizabeth C. Bunce‘s mystery Premeditated Myrtle was named to Amazon’s Top 20 Children’s Book of 2020!

Premeditated Myrtle was previously named an Amazon Best of the Month Editor’s Pick and #1 Amazon New Release, and last month the second book in the series, How to Get Away with Myrtle, was a #1 Amazon New Release.   Online webzines Netflix Life and Fansided included the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series on its list of “7 Books to Read if You Like Enola Holmes on Netflix.”  

Elizabeth’s first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, won the American Library Association’s inaugural William C. Morris Award for a young adult debut novel and was named a Smithsonian Notable Book.  Her high fantasy Thief Errant series includes the novels StarCrossed, A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book for 2010, and Liar’s Moon, one of Kirkus Blog’s Favorite YA Novels of 2011.  StarCrossed and A Curse Dark as Gold have appeared on Oprah’s Kid’s Reading List.  Her novels have been named to the ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and she is a three-time Kansas Notable Book winner.  Elizabeth completed her eighth novel and third novel in the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series, Cold-Blooded Myrtle last month–it is slated for release next year. Learn more about the series and major industry reviews of Elizabeth’s books here.

In Premeditated Myrtle, readers will meet the quick-witted and fearless Myrtle Hardcastle, a twelve-year-old girl with an unseemly obsession with forensic science and criminology. When Myrtle’s wealthy neighbor dies under Mysterious Circumstances, Myrtle is the first to notice anything amiss. With the help of her unflappable governess and opinionated cat Peony, Myrtle takes it upon herself to follow the clues investigators overlooked. As more evidence emerges, she begins to believe that the town prosecutor, her own father, is pursuing the wrong man. Myrtle pores over toxicology textbooks, interrogates suspects, and does the one thing no Young Lady of Quality is ever supposed to do: she Goes Outside Alone After Dark. Myrtle Hardcastle may be just a twelve-year-old girl, but she is not the type to sit by while grown men botch a murder investigation. 

It’s no surprise that Myrtle can’t stay out of trouble for long, even when her father sends her off to the English seaside for some relaxation. In Book Two, How to Get Away with Myrtle, Myrtle, her governess, her insufferable Aunt Helena, and, of course, Peony the cat are loaded onto a private railway coach where Myrtle makes the acquaintance of Mrs. Bloom, a professional insurance investigator aboard to protect the priceless Northern Lights tiara. But before the train reaches its destination, the tiara vanishes and Myrtle discovers a body in the baggage car. The trip is derailed, the local police are inept, and Scotland Yard is in no rush to help. What’s a bored aspiring detective stranded in a washed-up carnival town to do but follow the evidence to discover which of her fellow travelers is a thief and a murderer?

Other titles selected by Amazon for its Top 20 Children’s Books of 2020 are Amy Timberlake and Jon Klassen’s Skunk and Badger, Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Bob, Rita Lorraine Hubbard and Oge Mora’s The Oldest Student, Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Black Brother, Black Brother, Tami Charles and Bryan Collier’s All Because You Matter, Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Paolo Santiago and the River of Tears, Derrick Barnes and Gordon James’ I Am Every Good Thing, Jacqueline Woodson’s Before the Ever After, Jonathan Auxier and Olga Demidova’s The Fabled Stables, Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey’s The Old Truck, Terry Fan’s The Barnabus Project, Lev Grossman’s The Silver Arrow, Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohammed’s When Stars are Scattered, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Every Night is Pizza Night, Peter H. Reynolds’ Be You, Chris Naylor-Ballesteros’ The Suitcase, Frances Stickley and Anuska Allepuz’s What Will You Dream of Tonight?, Ibram Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky’s Antiracist Baby.

Elizabeth C. Bunce’s Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series is published by Algonquin Young Readers, a division of Workman Publishing Company.  Cover artwork for the series is created by Brett Helquist (A Series of Unfortunate Events) and Laura Williams. 

Congratulations, Elizabeth!

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

It’s not every day you get to be part of a project that is exciting and fun.  My wife, borg contributor, and author Elizabeth C. Bunce has been writing her Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series for a few years now.  Prompted by a quick utterance of “premeditated murder” and a cat that showed up one night in the rain, a character and an idea took hold and before we knew it she had created and sold the first four books in a new series of mystery novels.  But as Tom Petty said, “the waiting is the hardest part.”  Tomorrow, after the obligatory pandemic delay, not only does the first book, Premeditated Myrtle, arrive in bookstores, but the second installment, How to Get Away with Myrtle, too (available in hardcover, eBook, and audiobook).  How often do you begin a new series and can hardly wait that next year for the second installment?  Solved! 

It’s been exciting to watch Elizabeth build the story from the ground up, featuring 12-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle, an irrepressible and tenacious heroine living in England in 1893 as the sciences of criminology and forensics are taking off.  Her father is a local prosecutor, and with her governess Miss Judson she forms a sort of dynamic duo, solving crimes as she faces the pressures of Victorian society and growing up with other kids whose interests are less… morbid.  And the team is only complete with Peony, a truly opinionated neighbor cat, who joins her on her sleuthing.

“Bunce crafts a truly captivating murder mystery, throwing in a delicious mix of twists, red herrings, and relatives excluded from the family fortune…the book will make readers yearn for more of Myrtle’s (mis)adventures.”  —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 

Premeditated Myrtle is currently an Amazon Best of the Month Editor’s Pick and #1 Amazon New Release, and last month How to Get Away with Myrtle was a #1 Amazon New Release (and is currently a #3 New Release).  Last week Netflix Life and Fansided included the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series on its list of “7 Books to Read if You Like Enola Holmes on Netflix.”  

“In the tradition of heroines like Flavia de Luce and Harriet the Spy, Myrtle is a fine example of the Victorian scientific female—smart, inquisitive and fearless,” says Rhys Bowen, the New York Times bestselling author of the Her Royal Spyness series. “Written with a terrific mixture of humor and suspense, Premeditated Myrtle is a perfect read for any budding detective.”

Elizabeth’s first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, won the American Library Association’s inaugural William C. Morris Award for a young adult debut novel and was named a Smithsonian Notable Book. Her high fantasy Thief Errant series includes the novels StarCrossed, A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best book for 2010, and Liar’s Moon, one of Kirkus Blog’s Favorite YA Novels of 2011. StarCrossed and A Curse Dark as Gold have appeared on Oprah’s Kid’s Reading List. Her novels have been named to the ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and she is a three-time Kansas Notable Book winner. 

Here is more industry praise for Premeditated Myrtle and How to Get Away with Myrtle, coming to online and brick and mortar bookstores next week in the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series:

PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY

Channeling classic Victorian whodunits, Bunce’s detective series opener features a quirky, winning narrator and a lively secondary cast… A generous, well-wrought relationship between governess and charge complements tightly plotted twists… Myrtle is as clever as she is determined, and her expertise—seen in evidence collection and courtroom antics—is certain to delight genre stalwarts and mystery novices alike. 

BOOKLIST STARRED REVIEW

There is something afoot at Redgraves… Myrtle’s above-average intellect, passions for justice and science (an endearing blend of her parents’ professions), fondness for detective stories, and predilection for asking questions make her the perfect person to investigate what is obviously a crime most foul. Written very much in the style of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries, Myrtle’s spirited investigation—aided by her governess, who champions the Socratic method of learning—is a joyful thing to behold. Well-crafted red herrings throw Myrtle and readers alike for a loop or two…Set in Victorian England, this mystery gleefully overturns sexist norms and celebrates independent women of intellect, with Myrtle Hardcastle leading the charge.

BOOKPAGE STARRED REVIEW

Premeditated Myrtle is a book young readers will love and adults may well sneak out of backpacks and off of nightstands for their own enjoyment… Myrtle has an investigator’s tool kit and access to her prosecutor father’s law library; she is curious to a fault, brave and persistent. Bunce keeps secondary characters grounded in reality as well—even a cat has an interesting character arc—and the quest to determine who killed Miss Wodehouse is as keenly plotted as the best adult cozy. Here’s hoping for more adventures with this delightful, heroic protagonist. 

BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Bunce crafts a truly captivating murder mystery, throwing in a delicious mix of twists, red herrings, and relatives excluded from the family fortune. Miss Judson and Myrtle work as a power duo, with Myrtle offering up big ideas and Judson giving those ideas practical applications. Myrtle is an entertaining protagonist, not afraid to get her hands dirty, sneak into mansions after dark to find a clue, or call out sexism of men toward her scientific interests or the racism toward her governess… the book will make readers yearn for more of Myrtle’s (mis)adventures. 

HORN BOOK MAGAZINE 

This clever and lively Victorian English village murder mystery starring precocious twelve-year-old fledgling detective Myrtle Hardcastle has all the trappings: households with cooks and governesses and groundskeepers; church luncheons and afternoon teas; mysterious newcomers; missing wills. Also, poisoned elderly ladies… Bunce does an excellent job of making Myrtle the lead actor but gives her a strong set of (mostly female) supporters… Myrtle’s narration is Arch with a capital A (“Dear Reader, kindly permit me to pause to properly introduce one of the Key Players in this narrative”), but it suits the novel’s setting and subgenre to a T.

KIRKUS REVIEWS 

A saucy, likable heroine shines in a mystery marked by clever, unexpected twists. 

BOOKLIST

Bunce fully utilizes the story’s classic mystery settings (the train, a grand hotel full of unusual guests, and a small town of memorable characters) as she spiritedly chucks red herrings at readers and Myrtle alike. Humor and wit make the narrative sparkle, and, happily, Myrtle is as irrepressible as ever.

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

Readers who enjoyed Premeditated Myrtle will rejoice in this second installment featuring the plucky protagonist, her beautiful and multitalented governess Miss Judson, Peony the cat, and a whole new cast of strong female characters. References to Scotland Yard and investigative techniques will delight young Sherlock Holmes aficionados. The advanced vocabulary will send even the most sesquipedalian readers scurrying to the dictionary… VERDICT This deeply plotted sequel is an additional purchase for collections serving the most precocious readers who long for a fast-paced mystery where women shine.

Elizabeth will be appearing at several virtual events in the coming weeks beginning with a virtual book launch at Watermark Books, Tuesday, October 6, 2020.

Congratulations to Elizabeth on her book launch!

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

Review by C.J. Bunce

After World War II, in essence a world stunned with death and destruction emerged to try to forge its way into the future after one of the planet’s most trying challenges.  Inspiring tens of millions was the true-life voyage of Norway’s Thor Heyerdahl, a pioneer made of the same mettle as Shackleton and Hillary.  Heyerdahl was a student in Oslo who spent a year in Polynesia, where he developed the idea that peoples like the ancient Incas could have traveled across the Pacific Ocean and settled the area easier than saling from the west.  After a decade trying to prove his hypothesis, Heyerdahl assembled a team of six men, five Norwegians and a Swede, and built a balsa raft consistent with parts and construction the Polynesians would have had available centuries before, which he named Kon-Tiki after an Incan sun god.  His challenge?  To complete the voyage from South America to Polynesia without assistance from modern technology.

Heyerdahl’s 1948 account of the voyage, Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft, became one of the best-selling books of all time (selling more than 56 million copies), his 1950 documentary of the voyage, Kon-Tiki, earned an Oscar, and an impressive 2012 theatrical adaptation, also named Kon-Tiki, was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film.  Both of these films are now streaming on Amazon Prime.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

So often big budget dramas dressed in sci-fi dress rise up the box office rankings, you might miss the best films, the ones that don’t need the big budgets or major stars, the refreshing sleepers that surprise you.  One of those great surprises was Midnight Special, which I reviewed here at borg back in 2016.  The next spectacular science fiction work is even better–The Vast of Night–the brainchild of writer-director-producer-editor Andrew Patterson (who is billed under multiple names), now streaming on Amazon Prime.  Could this freshman filmmaker be the next J.J. Abrams, John Carpenter, or Steven Spielberg?  Think Super 8, The Fog, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in a setting like American Graffiti and The Outsiders, with stunning cinematography, superb dialogue in a tightly written script, and a fresh and eerie use of sound.  If you missed this Amazon Studios arrival earlier this summer, you’re in for a treat of 1950s teenage sleuths, a radio station, and strange goings about town: An ambitious film that comes pretty close to perfect science fiction in the classic tradition of The Twilight Zone, The War of the Worlds, and the short stories of Philip K. Dick.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Get out your I Want to Believe posters and get ready to cue up “Materia Primoris,” that haunting theme to The X-Files.  This month, 24 years after we first met Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, you can stand in the shoes of these FBI agents as Director Walter Skinner hands you a dossier of the 50 most revealing, memorable, scary, creepy, and thoroughly awesome X-Files.  In March 2020, a man named Paul Terry (aka author Paul Terry) signed out full-color copies of notes, interviews, photographs, and other highly confidential documents from the Bureau, and you can find them all reprinted in The X-Files: The Official Archives, available for pre-order here at Amazon, arriving in bookstores tomorrow.  The in-universe perspective and thoroughly detailed design will reel in and satisfy everyone from the passing fan to the most diehard X-Phile.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Only mere seconds into Farmageddonthe next big production from frequent Oscar-winner and stop-motion pioneer Aardman Animations–and viewers will feel the pangs of their favorite classic Steven Spielberg movies, complete with a magical score that has all the beats of a John Williams-esque adventure, thanks to composer Tom Howe.  This is a return to the lovable Aardman underdog Shaun the Sheep, star of several series and films who we last saw on the big screen in 2015’s Shaun the Sheep movie.  But this time our lovable wooly hero encounters an alien visitor and the resulting effort by directors Will Becher and Richard Phelan with writers Jon Brown, Mark Burton, and Nick Park may be Aardman’s most effective, most lovable, and most far-reaching crowd-pleaser to date.  A direct-to-Netflix presentation, it also stands a chance at being a contender for best full-length animated film at next year’s Oscars.

Shaun the Sheep steps in for Spielberg’s Elliott in this modern close encounter with a lovable extra-terrestrial named Lu-la, so adorable that she may even make Baby Yoda go “awww.”  The impeccable stop-motion animation viewers expect from Aardman is here, as well as the cast of endearing anthropomorphic farm animals, but the heartfelt story, unthinkably successful chemistry between clay characters, exquisite visual effects, lighting, and cinematography, and an emotional score make for a triumph of sci-fi and family storytelling, proving a common language is not necessary to understand relationships between someone that might be a bit different.  Here that’s a sheep and an alien, but the story is effective enough that kids (and attentive adults) will apply the message to everyone.  In fact, Aardman proves language isn’t necessary at all–the story is told entirely without spoken English dialogue, relying on expressive visuals, animal voices, and sound effects, making it truly internationally (or intergalactically) enjoyable.

This fun new sci-fi/fantasy adventure begins with a dog guarding his sheep–a motley but crafty band who live at the farm including Shaun–followed by a great homage to Looney Toons classic barnyard antics as the show establishes the farmyard bond between sheep and dog and dog and man.  The man and dog– The Farmer and Bitzer–show Aardman going back to its roots, what first made the filmmaker internationally known through its award-winning shorts.  Wallace and Gromit could be cousins to this man and dog duo, and anchoring the film with the ensemble here again (as with past Shaun stories) instead of going off in a different direction was a wise choice.  It takes a special combination to merge classic animation with expert laugh-out-loud comedy situations, and the creators at Aardman are the closest thing I’ve ever seen to the spirit and creativity of Jim Henson.  The story is sweet and can appeal to a variety of audiences.  The older crowd can try to spot all the influences, and the young at heart can marvel at Farmageddon′s sheer joyous presentation.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After the 2019 Academy Awards recognized genre films Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and gave top awards to Green Book and Roma, ABC aired the pilot for a new series.  Whiskey Cavalier begins with a solid pilot episode, and you can find it in its weekly timeslot beginning Wednesday evening on ABC.  It borrows from two familiar sources for network TV: the spy genre, like Mission: Impossible, iSpy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Avengers, and Chuck, and the “will they or won’t they” investigation shows like Moonlighting, The X-Files, Bones, Castle, and Private Eyes.  Whiskey Cavalier–the military/NATO spy call sign for FBI agent Will Chase (yes, that’s his name), stars Scott Foley opposite CIA Agent Francesca “Frankie” Trowbridge, played by Lauren Cohan.  It’s more action and fun than drama–a good thing that works for this offbeat new series.

The first episode finds Agent Chase as a sad sack agent, recently dumped by his French girlfriend, crying as he listens to songs from his break-up mix tape, assembled from recommendations from other FBI agents.  Those familiar with Michael Dorman’s lead character in Amazon Studio’s series Patriot will see much in common between the leads.  Chase doesn’t have his heart in his job until he’s in action, and then he becomes full-on Jack Ryan (actor Scott Foley has a vibe crossing Jack Ryan series star John Krasinski and White Collar co-star Tim DeKay, and the pilot includes a humorous reference to his Chris Evans’ Captain America appearance).

As Chase tries to intercept an alleged hacker/thief/traitor, CIA Agent Trowbridge steps in, and that’s when the chemistry begins.  You can almost hear the 1970s movie trailer voice-over: “What can happen when we combine this sensitive FBI agent and this tough-as-nails CIA spy?  Can they work together to save the world without killing each other?”  And yet, the pilot was edited into a fast-paced drama, not at all bogged down in origin story, and it supplies a supporting cast of characters that seem to gel from the start, played by Ana Ortiz, Vir Das, and Tyler James Williams.  In brief, it’s fun and it works.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Previewed with an elaborate display at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Project Blue Book at last has made it to television as the latest supernatural TV drama.  It got off to a slow start with its premiere episode this week, but it has potential, beginning with the performance of the series lead, Irish actor Aiden Gillen.  Gillen, known for roles in The Wire, The Dark Knight Rises, Game of Thrones, and Bohemian Rhapsody, plays real-life Dr. Allen Hynek, a college professor brought into the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book program to help debunk the existence of UFOs beginning in the 1950s (he would later be a technical advisor on Close Encounters of the Third Kind–he actually coined the term “close encounter”).  Gillen plays the role like the lead in a John La Carré novel, and he’s a ringer for a younger Gary Oldman (think Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy).  He is partnered with British actor Michael Malarkey as Captain Michael Quinn (an amalgam of several figures from the history books), the skeptic charged with quashing any idea that UFOs exist under the orders of General James Harding, played by Neal McDonough (Captain America: The First Avenger, Walking Tall, Star Trek: First Contact, Arrow, Quantum Leap).  

A twist for the series is its effort to show a non-fiction side to The X-Files motif.  It’s one of History Channel‘s rare efforts (along with Vikings) to get back to its educational roots.  This includes a smartly added In Search Of -inspired coda citing specific data points used as background for the episode.  And it has a big name attached to it–Robert Zemeckis–as executive producer.  The two women leads may pull in even more viewers–Laura Mennell (The Man in the High Castle, Haven, Watchmen) as Hynek’s wife, and Ksenia Solo (Lost Girl, Orphan Black, Black Swan) as a newcomer to Hynek’s neighborhood.

The production looks good, a typical Vancouver production with a moderate budget, but what’s there is quality–something in the vibe of Wayward Pines.  So look for plenty of good vintage nostalgia–some pretty 1950s cars, a solid wardrobe from costumer Carla Hetland (In the Name of the King, Butterfly Effect, Garage Sale Mystery) and a believable era from the past put onto the screen from production designer Ross Dempster (Wayward Pines, Lost in Space).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Your next exploration of a supernatural school and visit to a town full of secrets is here.

Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy is an in-universe book by video game tie-in author Matt Forbeck.  Based on the Life is Strange adventure game franchise from Dontnod Entertainment and Square Enix, it’s a hardcover flip book, taking the form of a student guide to Blackwell Academy from one direction and a welcome guide to the town of Arcadia Bay when viewed from the other side.  The book is presented as Max’s personal used copy, and it’s overlaid with handwritten notes, doodles, and sketches from both Max Caulfield and Chloe Price, the focal characters of Life is Strange and Life is Strange 2.  (The original Life is Strange game is available here at Amazon, a prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm is available here, and the first episode of Life is Strange 2 was just released and is available now here).

Blackwell Academy is a private senior high school located in Arcadia Bay, Oregon. The school, which has the feel of the Miss Quill’s classroom in BBC’s short-lived series Class, specializes in the Sciences and Arts, but there’s more to the school than meets the eye.  An X-File type of occurrence happened there back in 2013, changing the course of the town forever.  Based in a town that could be Bodega Bay in Hitchcock’s The Birds or Antonio Bay in Carpenter’s The Fog, Arcadia Bay could be this dimension’s parallel timeline version (think The Butterfly Effect and Donnie Darko) of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks or a sister city to Stephen King’s seaside Haven.

   

Coming next Wednesday is the first issue of a Life is Strange four-part comic book series.  Creators Emma Vieceli, Claudia Leonardi, and Andrea Izzo provide an up-close and personal look at the relationship between Max and Chloe, and their friends in Seattle, a year after an event in Arcadia Bay allowed Max to save Chloe.  Both Max and Chloe realize something is wrong.  Can one or both of them be unstuck in time again?  Take a look at our preview of Issue #1 below, courtesy of Titan Comics.

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