Campaign

Sep. 6th, 2008 08:54 pm
purplecat: (books)
The story behind Campaign is an odd one. It was commissioned from Jim Mortimore by BBC Books based on a synopsis he submitted but, when he turned in the final manuscript it was so different from the synopsis it was rejected. It's the only original Who novel to be officially commissioned, fully written but never published. There's more to the story but I was never sufficiently enamoured of Jim Mortimore's writing that I could be bothered to learn what it was. However now Campaign is available online for free I thought it couldn't hurt to read it. It comes with extensive author's notes at the end in which, it is implied, the full sorry story of its non-publication is explained. I'm still not sufficiently interested to read them.

So, the universe has vanished, there is only the TARDIS (or possibly the Tardis) and its four (possibly five) inhabitants left. Desperately the TARDIS (or Tardis) crew try to recall the events that led them into this predicament, events that concern meeting Alexander the Great on his epic campaign towards and eventually into India (the Ancient Historians among my readers will notice a problem here - took me a bit longer to see it). So far so good but at about that point the plot stalls for 175 pages while the characters iterate through different versions of the past and present told generally as first person narratives most often by Ian (who is sometimes called Cliff). Each of these segments is beautifully written and crammed with ideas but the thought gradually dawns that the book isn't actually going anywhere. It's just show-casing what amounts to a series of mood pieces about shifting time-lines, worlds within worlds within Tardis's and the possible interactions of the principle characters and, a serious failing, all four of them have exactly the same voice, presumably Jim Mortimore's. You could dip into any of these segments at random and then have to spend the first couple of paragraphs trying to work out from the context who the narrator was. There is no real sense of distinct personalities among the crew, let alone among the many shifting versions of each crew member. The extensive chapter-by-chapter notes which I have skimmed briefly seem to suggest that the intention was that there is a progression here but mostly I'd say the book is marking time while Mortimore indulges in stylistic flourishes. There's a lovely little story within a story, though, about a Glammering.

A criticism I have of Mortimore's other books is that they have a habit of descending into incoherence at the end. Campaign wins out here. The ending at least makes sense but ultimately seems a bit trivial, as if a parlour trick has been played on you, and heightens the feeling that the majority of the book is an exercise in stylistic short prose writing. It also has precious little to do with Alexander the Great, at the end of the day, which was a disappointment too. I was quite interested in the hinted at story of the TARDIS crew's involvement in Alexander's life.

At the end of the day Campaign is an interesting oddity. There's plenty of good writing and lots of startling and interesting moments but it feels self-indulgent and the whole is distinctly less than the sum of it's parts.



WHO DAILY HTML: <lj user=louisedennis> reviews the novel <a href=http://louisedennis.livejournal.com/87147.html>Campaign</a>

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