Stranger Things Book, Diane, Division 2 and More!

Vintage old books on wooden deck table background.

Welcome to What’s the Buzz, where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. This week’s entries come from: Brien Allen, Carol Seeds, Martin Hearn, and John Bernardy.

Brien: So we’re all excited for season 3 of Stranger Things, right? We know the titles, the date, the cast, and a bit about the setting. These things all prepare us for the future of the popular Netflix series, but a new tie-in novel released last month sets out to fill in the details of the past.

The novel is called Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond, and it fills in the backstory of Eleven’s mother, Terry Ives. Terry is an idealistic young college student in Indiana when she enrolls in a government psychology experiment run by Dr. Martin Brenner (aka “Papa”) at nearby Hawkins National Laboratory. She becomes friends with her fellow test subjects, and together they unearth the secrets of Project Indigo and a little girl named Eight. The story is set in the backdrop of the turbulent events of 1969 and 1970, including the moon landing, Woodstock, the shootings at Kent State, and the first national draft lottery for the war in Vietnam.

As a tie-in novel, this book does an excellent job of filling in a relevant backstory. It’s a little hard to build suspense in a story when the reader already knows how it ends, but this does a pretty good job. It ties into what we already know of the backstory to Stranger Things so well that you’re left wondering how much of this was handed to the author in the form of show notes and pre-established character history. Like the series though, the novel really shines through in the humanity of the characters and their relationships, which I’m willing to chalk up to Bond’s writing skills.

Suspicious Minds is the first official tie-in novel, but it not the last. Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town (May 28) will fill in the backstory of Chief Jim Hopper circa 1977, and a graphic novel Stranger Things: The Other Side (May 7) promises to fill in what happened to Will Byers in the Upside Down during season 1. The hardcover of Suspicious Minds clocks in at 320 pages and the audiobook is just under 9 hours. Well worth the time investment.  Look for my more complete review here in a week or two.

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond was released in February 2019

Carol: 2018 was such an awesome year for rock. I patiently waited for so many highly anticipated albums to release, and I had this particular one pre-ordered long before its arrival on my doorstep. On June 29, 2018 UK metal darlings, Bullet for my Valentine, released their sixth studio album Gravity. I was curious to see what changes awaited me, since I had been following Bullet ever since their 2005 freshmen album The Poison; plus, with new their new drummer replacing founding member, Michael “Moose” Thomas, I knew things would be taking some sort of turn.

Gravity received plenty of reviews upon its release and no one was really willing to cut the boys any slack, regardless of them being one of the top British bands for the past decade. One critic from MetalSucks called the album a “bastard hybrid,” accusing BFMV of stealing sound ideas and techniques from Linkin Park. Another from Exclaim! said because of the new electronic synthesizers being used throughout, the album could easily leave “metal purists feeling frustrated.”  So here is my take.

The opener “Leap of Faith” is not what one would expect from a Bullet album. Their typical openers begin like the calm before a storm. Track 1 of Gravity takes a more modernized approach, with electronic beats being the first thing you hear. The metal guitar is there after a few measures, but the synthesizers remain throughout. The lyrical content is very Bullet for my Valentine with vocalist Matt Tuck’s refreshingly boosting words. So while there is nothing at all wrong with the beginning of the album, it most definitely is not pure Bullet.

“Over It” was the first single released and Tuck’s lyrics showed that love had let him down and he was simply “over it.” This track is ridiculously catchy and it is what BFMV has always brought to the table: great writing and ripping fret work from Michael Padget (aka Padge), lead guitar extraordinaire, as only he can pull off. Tuck reminds us that he’s still got it by giving us the screams that we have always loved. The video is beautifully made with an extraterrestrial succubus theme. My only complaint here is the purple and pink cinematography theme is a blatant act of thievery of Motionless in White’s “Eternally Yours”; however, I digress. I truly adore this track.

The album continues to provide a mix of old and new Bullet sounds. While there is a considerable use of more synthesized music and vocals, it doesn’t take away from the full quality of the album. BFMW has still managed to remain true to their cause, while evolving into more of a contemporary style. But don’t discount them just yet. Metal still appears to be the heart of their machine. Many later tracks in the album bring a certain déjà vu from past records, which bring me back to the early days of The Poison (2005) and Scream, Aim, Fire (2008). “Coma” brings out more of the Padge beauty with a crystallized bridge solo that is pure and clean. It’s what he does best.

This could easily be seen as a mixed review, which is all that Bullet for my Valentine has really received for Gravity. But I have been a BFMV die-hard since the early 2000s and the fact that my band is evolving does not mean that I’m giving up on them. If they didn’t grow forward, then they would easily grow stale, and metal doesn’t have time for that.

Martin: When The Division released almost three years ago I knew very little about it. It didn’t sound like my kind of game, but as I stood staring at the new releases section I decided to take a chance and see what it was like. I’m so glad I did, as it became one of my favorite games and encouraged me to try similar games in that genre.

I think it was the open world aspect in a real life setting that made me fall in love with The Division, as I got to explore New York City in the aftermath of a smallpox pandemic. It was great finding collectibles to piece together the story and listen to people’s final words as they tried to escape.

Now, on the 15th March, I’ll be able to play the long awaited sequel to it. It sounds like Ubisoft have really taken onboard people’s complaints from the first game and used them to improve and build upon what did work. Set in an open world Washington DC and taking place seven months after the first game The Division 2 will see a civil war break out. As a Division Agent you must venture forth into the city to bring peace.

We’ve had a couple of trailers so far and it looks absolutely beautiful. The world seems so much bigger than that of the first game, which I’m looking forward to as I love having a lot to explore. If you don’t hear from me for a while, don’t worry, I’m just lost rebuilding a virtual Washington DC.

The Division 2 has a release date of March 15, 2019

John: The Diane Podcast, in case you unsubscribed from their feed because you thought they were done (shame on you!), is back in production. Their newest podcast came out this week and focused on the state of dreams in film and also in David Lynch’s works and Twin Peaks.

Rosie re-read Secret History of Twin Peaks for their endeavor—which perked up my ears immediately—and Mark says in one sentence the phenomenon which I spent who knows how many words trying to explain in evidence-backed detail: “I think what Frost tries to do rather cleverly with his writing is create literal scenarios with which Lynch can go wild with as a surrealist.”

The hosts go into Freud, Jung, surreal cinema, early days of cinema being described as a dream, what dreams may actually be, relations to myths, Lynch’s films, the whole shebang.

This is a good one for anyone who’s fascinated by the way Lynch uses dreams in his work, and tangentially for anyone who wants to explore how Mark Frost’s side of the Twin Peaks equation works with Lynch’s overall ethos. It doesn’t provide answers, but it does a good job populating the road to them.

What have you been getting into lately? Anything you’ve discovered you want to let the world know about? Let us know! You never know, we might check it out and write something!

Written by TV Obsessive

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