Thursday, 10 January 2013

The other Dr Who books I read last year, Part 2!

Here’s the rest of those Doctor Who book thoughts I promised last post.  Geeky fans, enjoy disagreeing with me!  

Oh and remember – major spoilers of most of these books!!!

  1. Dr Who: Four to Doomsday, by Terrance Dicks (Target original)
    (Not bad at all.  All the 5th Doctors seem to read a lot better than they watch.  It’s a slow not much happening story, about whether it’s better to be in your body or not, to be an android.  Whether feelings are good, or whether it’s better to have an android body and be adaptable and free from aggression, greed, ruthlessness, arrogance etc.  The lead proponent of the latter, the froggy Monarch, ends up being a Flesh Time person, in the body still.  Adric is not half so annoying to read as he is to watch.  I enjoyed this one
  2.  Dr Who: Psi-ence Fiction, by Chris Boucher (BBC Past Doctors Series)
    (Very interesting.  Chris Boucher invented Leela, so reading her thought processes – so different, were a joy.  Reading the Tom Baker Doctor was odd – it was as if Douglas Adams was there, but not quite.  Chris Boucher liked all his characters to banter intensely and comedically, all the time; with only Leela as foil.  The 2 police men, Bartok and Simpson were an act, winding up the Supervisor too.  The students Josh, Tommy, Ralph, Meg, Chloe and Joan were also constantly joking and needling and witticising each other.  Sometimes it felt natural, sometimes it didn’t.  The Doctor wasn’t at his best here; he was always several steps behind and confused.  And very much without and uncaring about Leela, which was a bit odd.  He was utterly distracted.  I can’t decide if this was expressed well, by use of the time anomalies etc, or badly.  The psi/paranormal elements of the whole book were very cleverly done, though I got lost with the cod science talk when it embellished further.  There were several ‘reverse the polarity’ type moments that confused me.  The reading minds and echoing, with the folding back and forth of perceptions was quite brilliantly and spookily done for Chloe in particular; and the scene with the isolation tank, the blood and everyone slipping over was quite memorable.  Again, I don’t think I will re-read this, but it’s a memorable story.  It was only harmed really, by the lack of a strong sense of the Doctor.  He sleepwalked through the whole story.  This wasn’t necessary.  It meant Leela was really the only wide awake character – in that sense this book showcased her.)
  3. Dr Who: The Bodysnatchers, by Mark Morris (BBC 8th Doctor Series)
    (Disappointing.  After the magnificence that was Deep Blue by the same author, I got all overexcited as to how good this book would be.  I could tell quite early I wasn’t going to really like it.  I don’t know if this is because I didn’t like the setting, or the Zygons, or the story line, or the very fleshy details just didn’t do it for me the way his last book did – or whether I simply had too high expectations…either way, I was rather bored and skimmed portions of it.  Happy to move on to the next, as the 8th Doctor only lives in fiction, and deserves a better chance to develop – but so far, I can see that this may be a slightly disappointing series all round; not a patch on the Missing Adventures or the Past Doctor Adventures…bit like my experience so far with the New Adventures: everyone so keen to be innovative and break the mold, they end up making it not feel like its part of the Who universe properly…which is an integral thing.  This isn’t to say that the depiction of the 8th Doctor or Sam was flawed at all, they seemed fine.  Except Sam is irritating me…)
  4.  Dr Who: Grave Matter, by Justin Richards (BBC Past Doctors Series)
    (This was extremely good fun.  Excellent portrayals of Peri and Colin Baker – spot on.  And got Peri to do more than just moan.  She was extraordinarily active, actually.  The idea of an alien life form that parasites into its host and heals the body but doesn’t control the brain till 3rd generation infection made for some interesting implications.  There were some good character portrayals also, and some sad moments – Liz Trefoil and Dave Madsen.  And the end, with the pale eyed seagulls going off to infect – or not? – the mainland – that was nicely done: gave me a ripple down my spine.  Overall, very good.  Not a keeper though, like the now fabled Deep Blue – but really only because I seemed to flag during the last third of the book, and couldn’t tell if it was me losing interest for some reason or being tired, or whether the book did suddenly start to drag.)
  5. Dr Who: Genocide, by Paul Leonard (BBC 8th Dr Series)
    (This was the most thought provoking Doctor novel I’ve read so far; and was thought provoking for ANY novel.  Would you want to save the human race if you found there was a timeline where we ended up not in charge, and the creatures that were here instead of us…were better, kinder, nicer – more deserving, less destructive??  It just gets more complicated from there.  Neanderthals, an insane UNIT person called Jacob, who is a bit of a sociopath and a misanthropist.  Jo Grant, but older and wiser, subsidiary characters (Rowenna, Julia, Axeman, Mauvril) killed off like there’s no tomorrow; and tomorrow was exactly what they were ALL fighting for.  And Kitig, the Tractite: one of the most memorable figures I think I have ever read in a book: left at the end to carve messages in rock for the rest of his life, because it was the only right thing he could still think to do.  A character who found his life, his entire peaceful civilisation was built on a terrible lie, but found a way to live the rest of days with lonely integrity.  This was a very serious book indeed.  And a very sad one.  I won’t be keeping it, as though I loved Kitig especially, gentle Kitig – I would never read this emotional and moral mind wrencher again.  It ended as it began, characters having committed acts in moments of terror and war, asking an unconscious Doctor: ‘I need to know.  I need to know if it was possible to have acted in a different way.’  So sad.  This is also the book that ends on the strange note of hope that a wish from a horse causes a tree to create the multiverse…)
  6.  Doctor Who: Kinda, by Terrance Dicks (Target original)
    (Again, read better than it watched.  Though still rather disjointed.  As if the idea hadn’t quite been fleshed out enough.  Or pieces of it had, but others not.  The Mara boy was a scary thing.  Hindle and Sanders are quite memorable. ‘You can’t mend PEOPLE!’)
  7.  Doctor Who: The Well-Mannered War, by Gareth Roberts (Virgin Missing Adventures)
    (This started off extremely well, with strong imagery and a very strong sense of the Douglas Adams era, in terms of witty banter.  It sustained until about 2/3 of the way through, then started to flag – or I did.  Not sure.  I ended up pleased to finish.  I didn’t realise it was the last in the series of the Missing Adventures, and sends them off to be fictional characters – its clever, neat and a good end.  Though sad.  This was very good indeed.  Just a bit tiring here and there.)
  8.  Dr Who: War of the Daleks, by John Peel (BBC Eighth Doctor Series)
    (Very convoluted.  Chayn was a good character, and it was far better than the other John Peel book I read.  I wasn’t convinced by Davros though.)
  9.  Dr Who, The Scripts: The Power of the Daleks, by David Whitaker, ed. by John McElroy
    (This will seem like an extremely stupid comment bearing in mind I just read a *script*: but it was very talky.  I had trouble differentiating between the characters, because I haven’t seen this serial – this was the actual reason I started collecting ALL the Who books: because I hadn’t seen Troughton as a Doctor and felt I was missing out.  It has lead to this whole, huge addiction.  The daleks were as annoying as usual, but more intelligent, which I appreciated.)
  10. Dr Who: Heart of Tardis, by Dave Stone (BBC Past Doctors Series)
    (Ambitious.  Very oddly written.  A very exuberant style it took a while to get into.  Some sentences were a clause by a comma too long; difficult to explain.  And I’m a great fan of long sentences.  Aleister Crowley was in it, K9 had a cameo at the beginning; but there is nothing to really stick in the mind, other than the love and enthusiasm of the writer, and one image: the soldiers, with various Tarot cards, baseball cards and magickal symbols on their uniforms to protect them.  That was oddly vivid.  Well; most of it was very vivid, but like the snobbery of the first Romana, it got a little tiresome after a while.  The focalisation of Victoria was an interesting choice.)
  11. Dr Who: The Highlanders, by Gerry Davis (Target Original)
    (Sort of fun.  Like a lot of the Dr Who’s, I was enjoying it a lot to begin with, but then it seemed to sag a little near the end, so I got a bit bored and was happy to finish.  I wonder why so many of the Who’s are like that – the new ones and the old ones?  Stanley would say it’s because of the lengthy episodic format – that the stories had too much pointless running around built in to them.  He may be quite right; I’m not sure.)
  12. Doctor Who and the Visitation, by Eric Saward (Target original)
    (Richard Mace ran away with this story, both in the TV version and the book.  It’s an interesting story, if bitty – but a lot of Dr Who’s fall foul of that, because of the episodic structure, and that way they had of separating the companions from the Doctor in order to have more than one storyline going at a time.)
  13.  Doctor Who: The Mind of Evil, by Terrance Dicks (Target original)
    (Enjoyable and strange.  The Master is his grumpy unfathomable usual self; the Doctor is thoughtful and petulant, and Barnham dies tragically.  You forget how many deaths there are in Doctor Who, you know.  Many.)
  14. Doctor Who: Timewyrm Apocalypse, by Nigel Robinson (Virgin New Adventures)
    (Hmm.  It started off having strong echoes of The Krotons; then was interesting for a while, then just longwinded and confused.  Overall, I would describe this as patchy and muddled.  A lot of the Dr Who new books have this problem: they seethe with ideas, but there is too much in one place, and either plot coherence suffers, or characterisation; or both.)

You’d think, from that fizzly out bit there at the end, that I would stop reading now, and go and do something else, since I am either really enthusiastic about these books (Genocide), or just irritated (that last one), and that the variability of the quality would be putting me off.  But it isn’t.  I’m quite happy to keep on exploring this character and his companions through the minds of a hundred others.  Rarely does a character reach so far, and touch so many.  And prompt so many strong feelings and desires for him to carry on and on forever.  Stanley finds this one of the most annoying things about fandom of Dr Who – that they just won’t let him go, they always want more.  But then, Stanley’s mind functions in stand alone mode, a lot.  I am a person who loves a good series of anything – that’s why I get through far more TV series of things than I do films, though I love film too.  I just cannot resist knowing characters I love will be back again and again, being tested and developing in different ways.  I love feeling they are friends.  And I see more of recurring characters than I ever get to of my actual friends!  By the way – I Do Not Care if that sounds sad!!  So I will carry on reading.  I’m reading a Peter Davison Target at the moment, Black Orchid, that I liked as a strange and quirky historical when I first saw it last year; the fact it was only 2 episodes means the book is more fleshed out than most Target space allows; though most of that extra space so far has been devoted to cricket!!  (Stanley made a face when I said I was reading that one – I think he thinks I should read Pertwee, Tom Baker and Troughton and that’s that!) 

More reviews later in the year then.  See you soon!

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