Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Doctor Who: The Glamour Chronicles

BBC Books

These fairly regular trios of 'New Series Adventures' hardbacks have become a real favourite of mine over the last few years.  I really like the design and the hand feel of them - hardbacks with printed covers - but equally they're a chance for a slightly longer and more outrageous Doctor story than the TV can provide yet they are less involved and embedded in the mythos than the old Virgin and BBC Books series were.  They do however tend to be a bit of a mixed bag but usually they're at worst readable and there's often at least one - the last set had two - that's just downright fun.

Royal Blood
Una McCormack

“The Grail is a story, a myth! It didn’t exist on your world! It can’t exist here!”
The city-state of Varuz is failing. Duke Aurelian is the last of his line, his capital is crumbling, and the armies of his enemy, Duke Conrad, are poised beyond the mountains to invade. Aurelian is preparing to gamble everything on one last battle. So when a holy man, the Doctor, comes to Varuz from beyond the mountains, Aurelian asks for his blessing in the war.
But all is not what it seems in Varuz. The city-guard have lasers for swords, and the halls are lit by electric candlelight. Aurelian’s beloved wife, Guena, and his most trusted knight, Bernhardt, seem to be plotting to overthrow their Duke, and Clara finds herself drawn into their intrigue...
Will the Doctor stop Aurelian from going to war? Will Clara’s involvement in the plot against the Duke be discovered? Why is Conrad’s ambassador so nervous? And who are the ancient and weary knights who arrive in Varuz claiming to be on a quest for the Holy Grail…?

I've read several of Ms McCormack' books before and they're usually a diverting enough read with a nice core concept.  This one though was decidedly weak throughout.

Knights and medieval castles are never going to particularly enamour me to a book and when you tie in King Arthur and the quest for the Grail I'm pretty much gone.  

What really let this one down though was some sloppy writing, plotting and editing.  The time frames are all over the place with, for instance, the questing knights travelling for three weeks over a distance that Clara and Emfil manage to subsequently travel in the turn of a page even though they're on the other side of the country.

This really should have been a lot better and a title like that could have sent the story to any number of interesting destinations but instead what we got was several strands of a story that failed to gel in any meaningful way.

Big Bang Generation
Gary Russell

“I'm an archaeologist, but probably not the one you were expecting.”
Christmas 2015, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Imagine everyone's surprise when a time portal opens up in Sydney Cove. Imagine their shock as a massive pyramid now sits beside the Harbour Bridge, inconveniently blocking Port Jackson and glowing with energy. Imagine their fear as Cyrrus "the mobster" Globb, Professor Horace Jaanson and an alien assassin called Kik arrive to claim the glowing pyramid. Finally imagine everyone's dismay when they are followed by a bunch of con artists out to spring their greatest grift yet.
This gang consists of Legs (the sexy comedian), Dog Boy (providing protection and firepower), Shortie (handling logistics), Da Trowel (in charge of excavation and history) and their leader, Doc (busy making sure the universe isn't destroyed in an explosion that makes the Big Bang look like a damp squib).
And when someone accidentally reawakens The Ancients of the Universe - which, Doc reckons, wasn't the wisest or best-judged of actions – things get a whole lot more complicated…

Gary Russell is a long term DW writer and aficionado with a plethora of novels and audio plays under his belt.  I've read and listened to a few and find them to be a bit of a hodgepodge in terms of quality.

As a writer he has a light, fluid and personable style, he's hugely knowledgeable on his subject and an easter egg spotters dream author (and for me the last two are a large part of the problem).  The plot of 'Big Bang Generations' is all of the above and makes for a heads down, see you at the finish ride as we watch the Doctor , an archaeologist friend and some others attempt to avoid the imminent destruction of Sydney followed closely by the universe.

There's a problem here though and it's a doozy.  Russell's version of the 12th is quite simply wrong;  it's just not him.  He's personable, likable, huggy, jocular, patient and wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.  His version of 12 says things like, "Cold pizza. My favourite. Not." which I just can't imagine 12 ever saying.  I spent much of the book picturing the Doctor here as a 10th / 11th hybrid.  A big kid running around with his mates saving the universe. This may sound like a small thing, they're all the same person after all but getting the specific doctor right is fundamental and he didn't.

The book itself is a romp. It's entertaining enough and an ok place to visit but fortunately you don't have to stay too long.

Deep Time
Trevor Baxendale

"I do hope you’re all ready to be terrified!" 
The Phaeron disappeared from the universe over a million years ago. They travelled among the stars using roads made from time and space, but left only relics behind. But what actually happened to the Phaeron? Some believe they were they eradicated by a superior force… Others claim they destroyed themselves.
Or were they in fact the victims of an even more hideous fate?
In the far future, humans discover the location of the last Phaeron road – and the Doctor and Clara join the mission to see where the road leads.
Each member of the research team knows exactly what they’re looking for – but only the Doctor knows exactly what they’ll find.
Because only the Doctor knows the true secret of the Phaeron: a monstrous secret so terrible and powerful that it must be buried in the deepest grave imaginable…

There, I told you there'd be one.  'Deep Time' is fun one this time out.  It brings to a close the poorly conceived 'Glamour' storyline in a satisfying way.  

Unlike 'Royal Blood' it's tightly plotted and unlike 'Big Bang Generation' the Doctor (and Clara) is absolutely spot on.  The words feel like they are being spoken by Capaldi and his actions and reactions are true to the character.

The story is fairly straightforward as the Doctor and Clara join an expedition to investigate a deep space wormhole linked to the lost Phaeron race.  Joining them on board are a team of scientists, a rich adventurer and the four person crew of pilot, navigator and mechanics.  When everything inevitably goes wrong the crew find themselves stranded on a mysterious planet being periodically thrown further and further backwards in time as their numbers dwindle alarmingly and the Doctor frantically searches for the TARDIS whilst someone else in the crew searches for something else.

It was a delight to read. A big , fast, witty, Doctor Who romp that felt at home in the new series and also felt correct to the DW mythology without seeming to be slavishly mired in the history.  

I could happily read more like this and hope the next batch of three provides more of this and less of the others.

No comments:

Post a Comment