Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Strange Matter #15: Creature Features

I've always wanted to have the drive-in movie experience. There's just something that seems really cool about pulling your car up to a GARGANTUAN (a reference you'll understand later--trust me) screen, chowing down on popcorn in the front seat, and using one of those nifty in-car speakers to hear the movie's soundtrack. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you'd like to look at it) I grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, so I always saw films indoors. INDOORS, ladies and gentlemen. Where's the fun in that? Luckily, Marty M. Engle took his precious time to write a little book called CREATURE FEATURES, which just so happens to feature a drive-in...albeit a haunted drive-in.

The story goes something like this: One fateful night, four friends by the names of Nate, Jon, Albert and Simon, decide to go hang out in the dilapidated, abandoned, and altogether-creepy (of course) Starlight Drive-In. They're searching around the old projector booth, because that's what tweens do--mess around with things they have no business messing with--when the supposedly defunct projector boots up, begins flashing outdated movie previews on the now miraculously-repaired silver screen, and the entire drive-in pops and crackles to life. The old neon sign lights up, probably for the first time in decades, and the speakers all start to sputter with crackly audio. And before they can really comprehend what is happening, there is a brilliant flash that sucks Albert, Jon, and Nate into the projector, leaving poor Simon behind to watch them on the screen and figure out how to get them back.

The bulk of CREATURE FEATURES centers around the old movies that the three friends have to fight their way out of: A classic flying saucer flick, a water-monster movie that takes place in the Amazon, a film about a mad scientist who shrinks people with a ray gun, and finally a good ol' fashioned Godzilla-type movie, complete with a giant lizard named Gargantuan (I told you you'd eventually get that reference!). The story bounces back and forth between this main thread and the side-story of a panicked Simon devising all kinds of ways to smash the haunted projector; each smash sends the trio to a another old movie.

Boom. Bang. Pow. That's how I'd describe CREATURE FEATURES. From the moment it starts, the story is an exciting action blockbuster. The scenery is always changing, thanks to the cool idea of sending the kids to different films, and the occasional shifts in perspective that take us back to Simon in the projector booth break up any small instance of monotony. Just when the reader is getting comfortable with a particular scene, the author puts us on an express lane to a whole new world (*resists overwhelming urge to make a corny Aladdin reference*).

And this brings us to the book's only real drawback: Since there are so many characters and the cast is always changing, we don't get a chance to really know anyone in the book. I often got the boys confused with each other, since none of them have any palpably discernible or memorable characteristics. And all of the extras, while suitably fitting for their specific movies and scenes, don't pop out as being all that unique. I would have especially loved to know more about the boys, to have had something to make me care about them. I should NOT want monsters to eat the main characters!

Oh, and the cover kicks ass. I dig that it has an orange theme, and I also dig the giant skull on the drive-in movie screen and the speakers lining the lot. And all of it is underneath a sickly-yellow full moon. Perfect enticement for the potential reader! Also, the CG files at the back of the book are really cool--there are some great shots of Gargantuan coming out of the screen and a sweet rendering of the haunted film projector.

In the end, the trip to the Starlight Drive-In is well worth the change for an over-priced hotdog. And an over-priced bag of popcorn. And a...$8.99 for an Icee!? You must be out of your mind! You...ahem...sorry...

I give CREATURE FEATURES a 4 out of 5.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Guest Review #1: A PLACE TO HIDE by Sean O' Dell

A PLACE TO HIDE is a surprisingly robust Gremlins homage that shows the beginning of some of Strange Matter's strengths. The book revolves around Trey Porter and his dealings with a centuries-old secret that's been hiding in the Fairfield woods. The name of the book is well-chosen, as the story is continually moved forward by characters hiding from or hiding ....things... away from others.

What I enjoy most about this book is it's one of the first books I can remember where the plot evolves and changes well over the course of the story. There's a dynamic to it that Engle and Barnes hit well. As Trey learns more information, his plans and decisions change a great deal, more than in most books I remember from that time. The subplot revolving around the bully Waylon Burst is also fun to read because it shows how well the characters are fleshed out. People change sides and objectives in logical ways.

In a lot of ways though, this book works best when read in conjunction with the 'sequel', DOORWAY TO DOOM. Even though we never see the bridging event at the end of A PLACE TO HIDE, the effects are well-portrayed in the next installment. It's also interesting how the story comes full circle. The person you most expect to be able to deal with the ending events of the book doesn't quite make the cut. As I mentioned earlier, the monsters here pay homage to Gremlins, especially in some of the descriptions of their appearance and in their reaction to their weakness. But their origins and motivations keep it from being anything enjoyable.

One thing I feel the author could have touched on more is the perspectives of both Trey's friends and the Terrible Trio as they were being chased by the creatures. This is something that the authors prove having as a great strength in DOORWAY TO DOOM--the switching of narratives and perspective to diversify the story. But considering how early this book is in the series, it's understandable. If you're interested in finding out more about The Terrible Trio or the fate of Waylon Burst's, I recommend DOORWAY TO DOOM.

I give A PLACE TO HIDE a 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Introducing Sean, the first guest blogger for "Revisting Strange Matter!"

After what I assuredly deem to be a sickening amount of away time, Revisiting Strange Matter is officially BACK! I know; you can all breathe now. Feel that collective sigh of relief? Good. I've been getting a few messages from fellow Strange Matter fans and it's so awesome to hear from you guys! Keep the messages coming, don't be afraid to post comments, subscribe and start "following" the blog, and if you're stopping by the site for the first time, drop me an email and we'll talk!

New reviews will be coming soon, and today, with much pleasure, I am happy to introduce the first of what I hope to be many guest bloggers on Revisiting Strange Matter. His name is Sean and he's a fellow Engle and Barnes fan. He's here to tell you a little about how he got started with the series, and his first guest review is currently in the editing process and will be up for your reading pleasure soon. Enjoy, and keep things strange!

- The Strangest Blogger, Mitch


Hello folks! Guest Reviewer Sean "SmokedToast" O'Dell reporting in. :) Like Mitch, I got pulled into the strangely vast web that was the Fairfield universe as a child. A lot of my favorite memories regarding book stores were related to coming in and looking for the familiar format of the Strange Matter book covers, ready to find out which monstrosity would pop up next. Even then, my first major 'web browsing' was related to the series. I'd been visiting my dad in upper Wisconsin and ran into a local internet cafe that had opened. It's taken me a few days to find a copy of the site still online so I could revisit the appearance of Frank Dunk, amongst the other Strange Matter regulars.

What I think that Engle and Barnes "got" that a lot of other series missed out on was that there were more then two ways to produce a shared universe. Most childrens' horror books at that time seemed to have two trains of thought on the subject. They'd either minimize the amount of relation between books by saying it was the same location and that 'weird stuff happens here' but not really touch on the particular phenomena, except for the rare book... or they would focus on one group of kids throughout the whole series with the occasional guest star. Strange Matter broke that mold by having good character development, even across multiple books.

Many of the kids became experts, or at least as much as a young adult could become in the initial paranormal situations they premiered in. There were as many cameos as one would expect from events happening in a single town. There were even indirect sequels to previous books--not a case of Monster Blood 1 through 4, per se--but more along the lines of that we would visit upon other characters and learn how the previous books had altered their lives. It really made it feel like the authors were passionate about their work and wanted to make this a lasting universe to play in.

My first book for review is a clear example of what I mean by the cohesiveness, at least when read before the book Doorway to Doom. It is a Place to Hide, starring Trey Porter.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Strange Matter #14: Plant People

PLANT PEOPLE is your typical weird-neighbors-move-in-next-door type of story, only imagine that the neighbors are strange botanical creatures that are disguised as regular people and secretly trying to overtake the entire human race. Oh, and it's up to 8th grader Rachel Pearson to stop the whole plant circus from spinning into motion, because her parents don't believe her crazy stories. No pressure, right?

I wanted this story to be way cooler than it turned out to be, simply because I grow carnivorous plants, and with that experience comes an expectation of particularly wicked greenery. The cover alone, which is fitted with a grinning, Audrey II look-alike, seems to promise plenty of botanical misadventures. And it does deliver on some levels, just not all.

Rachel meets the two bizarre neighbor kids early on in the story. One of them likes to eat bugs and the other enjoys pocketing handfuls of dirt because it's of "good quality". They both talk a little bit too properly, as does the whole new neighboring Smith family, which, in addition to the strange behavior, initially alerts Rachel to something being "off". This is all after Rachel collects a strange seed from the forest behind her house, and as things progress, it eventually hatches out of her backpack in the school locker room, and then proceeds to grow to monstrous proportions and try to do away with her. This was actually one of the cooler scenes in the book, complete with dozens of hungry vines/tendrils that carry Rachel about the locker room like a rag doll.

One of the funnier moments, and a definite 90s throwback/reference, is when Rachel's dad comes home from playing golf and wants to watch "Pierwatch". I'll let you figure out what beach-running sitcom the author was alluding to there! There was a good sense of suspense in this Strange Matter entry, just because the reader is left wondering throughout the whole book what the Smith family is ultimately going to do to Rachel and her parents, and when it all comes out, the action gets really good. I can really see kids enjoying this one. Who hasn't had a weird family move into their neighborhood? This would clear up so much for kids--obviously every weird, new family is secretly made of plants. Obviously.

Could have been better, could have been much worse, PLANT PEOPLE is a solid Strange Matter entry. Although I'm still waiting for a really good carnivorous plant story to come along and do them justice. Maybe it's my job to write it...we'll see!

I give PLANT PEOPLE a 3.5 out of 5.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Strange Matter #12: Dead On Its Tracks

Three words: Haunted, runaway train. DEAD ON ITS TRACKS stars Elizabeth and Jacob, two good friends who love scary movies. They're trying to see the latest one at the local cinema, a real screamer called Terror Train, but it's sold out. So what do they do instead? They go exploring at the old haunted train depot, of course! To their horror, the Fairfield Express starts to move once they're on it, and suddenly they're at the mercy of Odd John Cape, the insane engineer that supposedly (and purposely) crashed the train years and years ago.

This is, for whatever reason, another of those Strange Matters that I have very little recollection of, but I was pleasantly surprised at its quality. The entire plot basically revolves around the kids trying to stop the train before it replays its horrific crash while they're on-board. The author did a great job populating this tale with plenty of good characters that added a lot to the story (I particularly liked George, a tar-covered corpse who initially helps the protagonists, and Charlie, a behemoth waiter that protects a ghostly little girl and charges about, smashing things). The characters were better drawn than previous Strange Matters, and I thought that along with the nicely imagined backstory, they really contributed to rounding out the entire package.

There were also some nice twists towards the end of this book that make it stand out among other entries. I just felt that the story was well-developed and executed just the right way. This is like a Strange Matter sleeper hit! Nothing overly spectacular, but just really well-done.

I give DEAD ON ITS TRACKS a 4 out of 5.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Strange Matter #11: Something Rotten

If my memory serves me correctly (and many times it does not), SOMETHING ROTTEN was my very first Strange Matter book. I got it on one of my many childhood trips to Wal-Mart with my mom, probably sometime in 1996. On our visits there, we'd always pass by the magazine/book section on the way to the toy section, which was a little alcove of an isle near the in-store McDonald's. I'd usually beg to have five minutes to check out the latest scary titles, and when I saw the cover of this particular one -- a red, glowing, dripping blob of ooze sitting on a bedroom desk -- I knew I had to have it.

The rest is history folks, and from then on I went about collecting the rest of the series like the rabid horror-reading tween that I was. An interesting fact before we begin the review: I do believe Wal-Mart was the first and only place to carry Strange Matter, for a good amount of time, at least, and then Albertson's picked up the series to display near their checkstands. Target was all about Goosebumps, so I had to synchronize my Wal-Mart/Albertson's visits with the release of the newest Strange Matter book -- "Mom, can I go with you to buy milk and ice? Yes, I'm only coming along to keep you company!" Conniving, I know, but it got me new books!

Okay, so on to business...SOMETHING ROTTEN tells the story of Skinny Joe Alister (he's so skinny that two strong students at school bet on how many times they can bench press his frail frame) and his little brother Gary, who both happen to love rock collecting. On a trip to the local and famed Fairfield Caverns, Joe wanders into the "forbidden" area of the caves, an old abandoned excavation site that is filled with strange, sparkling crystals. He takes some of the artifacts home to find that there are amoeba-like blob creatures called Deros living inside them, and after the entities break out, Joe, Gary and all their friends have to go around zapping them with light (the Deros' only weakness) in order to save the town from a gooey overtaking, one not unlike the long-missing Fairfield Caverns owner fell victim to years and years prior.

Even though this book marked the beginning of a wonderful few years of reading my favorite middle-grade series, I had no recollection of the story when I started re-reading it. Zero. None. Zilch. It's weird how memories can fade like that. But this lapse didn't stop me from enjoying things. I really like this Strange Matter entry. It starts off with a bang, as you get to follow the brothers through cool descriptions of the Fairfield Caverns, and I'm all about cool descriptions. There are different landmarks, like Fat Man's Squeeze and Headache Rock, a low outcropping that many explorers bump their head on. There's also an underground pool filled with blind lizards and fish. I love details like this! Moving on to the meat of the story, which is when the Deros start to break out of their earthy entombment, there's plenty of great action to keep readers interested. The blob descriptions are well-done, and there's a scene towards the end where the kids see a skeleton inside one of the gelatinous baddies that's really chilling. I just enjoyed the whole setting of this story, all of it taking place in, deep, moodily-lit caves. Something about it just makes things fun.

I think Mr. Engle did a great job with SOMETHING ROTTEN. The plot was tight, the pacing was perfect, and this entry really zones in on what the series is really all about: Non-stop paranormal adventure. Nothing to bog down the energy, no over-complicated threads to bore and confuse the reader. And no typos, at least not any that I could see, which is always a plus!

I give SOMETHING ROTTEN a 4.5 out of 5.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Strange Matter #10: Knightmare

This is an odd one for me. I just finished KNIGHTMARE and I'm left feeling, well...nothing, really. I don't remember reading this one back in the day and I barely remember reading it a few minutes ago, so this should be an interesting review.

Basically, Mitchell (the main character shares my name!) Garrison steals a seal from a coat of armor at a museum and it causes him to have a bad "knightmare" in which he battles four creatures of evil: An ogre, a giant wild boar, a griffin, and the Count Deschaul, who takes the form of an emerald suit of armor. Then the nightmare begins to manifest itself in Mitchell's real life, threatening to obliterate him unless he returns the seal to its rightful place back on the armor in the museum.

This Strange Matter was definitely forgettable, and I'm not really sure why. The story was interesting enough, and it was nicely intricate for a middle-grade book. Maybe it's my mood, or maybe it was that the writing was a little confusing at times - I don't know. I just found myself loosing interest at random points in the story, through no real fault of the author, at least as far as I could tell.

There were some redeemable qualities, like how you get to hear about a few characters from other Strange Matter books - the bully Kyle Banner (who was in the last book as well) and Morgan Taylor (who happens to live next door to Mitchell). So that's always cool. This is one of the things I always loved about the series, how characters from other books would just randomly pop up at times. Also, there was a neat little puzzle that the griffin gives to Mitchell to solve, and the author actually put the picture of it in-between the text, which I liked. Which reminds me: In the last book, DEADLY DELIVERY, something similar was done, where a hand-drawn cartoon was pasted in amongst the text, and it broke things up and added a lot to the story's appeal.

I also liked the monsters that Mitchell had to fight. The description of the ogre near the beginning was really good, with all the talk about a goo that oozed out of his belly button. And the whole puzzle sequence with the griffin was also well-done. Plus, the book centers around dreams, a subject I've always been interested in.

Overall, a solid, but strangely forgettable entry in the Strange Matter series.

I give KNIGHTMARE a 3 out of 5.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Strange Matter #9: Deadly Delivery

There's nothing like a good old-fashioned ghost story, and I'm a complete sucker for anything to do with objects that move on their own, chilling apparitions, or disembodied voices. So back in the day (when I was nothing more than a book-wormy wee one), I freaked when saw the cover of DEADLY DELIVERY - a cackling, misty-blue, effervescent entity floating up out of an unlatched trunk. I was immediately drawn in, and who could blame me, a 5th grader utterly obsessed with all things that go bump in the night? Even today, when I look at this book, I still think it sports one of Strange Matter's cooler covers.

The ghostly image that I describe pretty much sums up the story (for the most part, anyways). Two siblings, Simon and Sarah White, are home alone during a freak Fairfield storm (this sounds awfully familiar...FROZEN DINNERS anyone?). There's a knock at the door and a ghastly-looking man leaves a mysterious package on the doorstep, which, upon opening, turns out to be a musty old green trunk. The kids open the trunk, and to their horror, a blue ghost escapes and begins to terrorize the house.

The story starts out strong, with a lot of cool poltergeist-style activities: all the kitchen chairs turned upside-down, smashed plates, and a lot of general disarray. Simon White likes to draw cartoons in his free time, ones in which he's getting the upper hand on his next-door-neighbor/bully, Kyle Banner. The ghost enters his drawings and brings them to life, proceeding to torture the cartoon Kyle Banner. When the baby-sitter shows up, the ghost swallows her whole and spits her out, turning her hair snow-white. This was the fun part of the story. And if the entire book had continued down this road, things would have been grand. But alas, it isn't so.

Halfway into the book, the ghost decides to turn the White's residence into a haunted castle. Now, this sounds pretty damn awesome (in theory at least) and one would think that the story would ramp up at such a point. Sadly, it doesn't. The story bogs down and the excitement is lost, and the reader is left to watching the main characters hang out in a library, trying to find out the history of their new castle home (okay, okay, this is just one particular scene, but come on!). There are some decent parts in the second half of the story, like when the kids get trapped in the torture room, in which a family was left to rot hundreds and hundreds of years ago - this is something they learn from a book they find (maybe the library scene WAS necessary, after all...). And there are hanging skeletons at one point, and the kids find that the castle Baron's deformed brother was kept chained and locked away from the world in a dark room with nothing more than a desk and a straw bed.

The storyline in DEADLY DELIVERY was much more involved than in other Strange Matter entries and could have definitely used another fifty or so pages to flesh things out. Unfortunately, a little too much time is spent on history lessons, but then again, it was necessary to tie all the loose ends together, so who knows. I think it all worked, but for some reason I felt that this Strange Matter didn't move fast enough, especially for middle-grade readers. I do however, respect how Marty Engle pulled everything together, and it shows that he knows how to craft a pretty cool story.

In the end, a middle-of-the-road entry for the series.

I give DEADLY DELIVERY a 3.5 out of 5.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Strange Matter #8: Frozen Dinners

Who can resist a story about being trapped in a mountain cabin during a freak snow storm while abominable snowmen try to force their way in? I certainly can't! FROZEN DINNERS was one of my favorite Strange Matter books as a kid, and I think it still holds up pretty well today.

Like I mentioned above, the jist of the story is relatively simple: Three siblings, Max, Mark, and Teresa, are stuck inside their Uncle Shoe's cabin on Crier Mountain while a horrible snow storm rages outside. They're alone because Uncle Shoe left to get groceries right before the storm began, and they're left wondering what happened to him. It isn't long before the kids start to experience some odd things: a form walking back and forth out in the blinding whiteness, a huge footprint in the snow, and odd, un-locatable scratching noises. And then - the best part, as always - CHAOS!

I like this Strange Matter book because it's almost pure action from beginning to end, just as any good middle-grade fiction book should be (at least I think so,). The premise is interesting and pretty foolproof, allowing for lots of scares and suspense. The story isn't so scary to me now, but I remember really getting a kick out of it when I was in 5th/6th grade, really imagining how a yeti would burst through a barricaded window.

It's interesting to me how the writing is getting better as I continue on through the Strange Matter series. It seems Engle and Barnes were getting the hang of things as the entries approached double digits. There was only ONE typo in this book, and it was on the LAST PAGE! Oh no! Haha! The intended word was "whole" and it came out as "who" instead. Bummer!

In the end, I still love this book and it was nice to re-read it.

I give FROZEN DINNERS a 4.5 out of 5.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Strange Matter #7: Fly the Unfriendly Skies

Let me preface this review by saying that I have a signed copy of Fly the Unfriendly Skies. Pretty wild, huh? I vaguely remember sending in one of those order forms that were in the back of Strange Matter books; apparently the authors were signing mail-order merchandise back in the day. Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I flipped to the title page and found Engle and Barnes’ signatures!

On to business: Fly the Unfriendly Skies is the seventh entry in the Strange Matter series, and I believe it’s the first Strange Matter book to feature the “From the Files of” section in the back of the book. The authors started including CG depictions of scenes from the story, and these images add a nice little extra dimension to the whole Strange Matter package/universe. Fly the Unfriendly Skies introduces Morgan Taylor, a sci-fi nut who loves anything UFO-related, and his bossy, popular sister Kelly, who never passes up a chance to one-up her brother. Their plane gets hijacked by aliens and the siblings get dragged onto the mother ship, kicking and screaming. So begins their fight to survive among warring races of extraterrestrials and their harrowing battle to return home.

I had mixed feelings about big number seven. On one hand, the concept was cool and the story was almost pure action. Lots of aliens, lots of lasers, lots of explosions. And the plot wasn’t bad. It was good to see some flashbacks – they definitely added to the complexity of the plot. The rivalry between the grey aliens and the Cepheid was an interesting idea, even if it wasn’t explored thoroughly enough. But despite everything that this book had going for it, Fly the Unfriendly Skies felt a bit…disjointed. It was too much of “this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened”. The prose was just too blunt in many areas and I yearned for more delicate and potent passages of text. The opportunity for rich description is temptingly ripe when dealing with otherworldly creatures, and I feel that the author played it much too safe in this area.

In a wonderful change of editorial quality, Fly the Unfriendly Skies is the first Strange Matter book that I’ve read that didn’t have typos in it (at least any that I could find )! This book also referenced several characters from other Strange Matter books, which was neat. Also, in the final UFO chase/battle scene, the aliens and the kids fly over the lake from an earlier Strange Matter book, The Last One In (I’m only assuming this – I gave that book away so I can’t be sure). They see the hump of the lake creature disappear under the water as they zoom by.

Charming blast from the past: At one point in the story, Morgan is waiting for a file to download from the Internet on his dial-up modem, and it takes forever. Remember dial-up modems? Those dinosaurs? Fudge they were slow! But it made the prize at the end of the download totally sweet because you had to wait like four days for it finish.


Could have been more, could have been less, this Strange Matter entry ended up just being “okay”.

I give Fly the Unfriendly Skies a 3.5 out of 5.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Strange Matter #6: Bad Circuits

It's looking like I may have given away the fourth and fifth Strange Matter books, so we're jumping to the sixth entry in the series. If I remember correctly, this was one of the first Strange Matter stories that I acquired, so it was a real treat to read through this again, even if I recalled almost none of it. The mind is a mystery wrapped in an enigma! Or maybe I just have a horrible long term memory. I'm thinking it's the latter.

Anyways...Bad Circuits is a classic tale of technology-gone-wrong. Stephanie Meeker is our narrator, and she tells the reader about her cousin Daniel, who she happens to live with because her parents died in a boating accident years ago (at least that's what she tells us...). Daniel is a really smart guy, and he always enters the annual Fairfield Junior Science Competition. This year he's created a computer that can learn and think for itself, and Daniel is confident that he's going to win this year against his arch nemesis, Frank Dunk, who has taken first place for five years running. While the computer, which is given the name Brian later on in the story, starts out benign enough, it soon begins to crave more and more information and will stop at nothing to acquire it.

Out of the first batch of Strange Matter books, this one is definitely a strong contender, if not the best in show. The plot allows for lots of twists and turns, and the author does a great job making Brian out to be a scary piece of circuitry. One of the ways in which an ominous tone is acquired is through the use of all capitals when the super-computer speaks, and it makes the entity seem cold and malicious. Brian gets smarter and smarter throughout the story and it's cool to see him advance from a simple science project to a town-terrorizing Ken model (he steals the form of a manequin that Stephanie's Aunt uses to make clothes for Daniel - kind of explains the book cover art). The rivalry between Frank Dunk and Daniel Meeker drives the plot forward and gives the reader something to look forward to as tensions rise and the date for the competition creeps closer. There were a few little gems in the text - One of the tiny details that made me chuckle was how Brian acquired a British accent by consuming old tapes of Masterpiece Theater. It was stuff like this that made this Strange Matter shine a little brighter than earlier books.

As always, this Strange Matter book has its share of typos, but it isn't nearly as bad as some of the initial entries. Mostly just missing words here and there, so nothing too serious. I think the story could have used another twenty or thirty pages to flesh out the general buildup and the action in the last major scene, which is a showdown with Brian in a junk yard, but it seems that Strange Matter books have around a 120 page cap, probably for publishing reasons. It's unfortunate though, because a story like this could have really been expanded upon. On a final note, I really liked the twist at the end of this book. I didn't expect it at all, and I won't talk about it in this review. You'll have to read it for yourself to find out!

I'd venture to say that this is my favorite Strange Matter book so far. We'll see if this changes as I continue on through the series.

I give Bad Circuits a 4 out of 5.