purplecat: (books)
One the whole I would rate The Eyeless as an above average NuWho novel, but it makes quite a strange read, particularly since I recall the author discussing it on Doctor Who book mailing lists as he was writing. If I remember correctly, Parkin deliberately set out to show that the NuWho tie-in novels could tackle the same kind of material that the Virgin New Adventures and BBC Eighth Doctor novels had tackled. The result is a wierd hybrid - something that takes the themes of NuWho rather more seriously than most of the tie-in novels but, at the same time, includes material that genuinely does feel out of place in a novel at least partially aimed at children.

More under the Cut )

All in all, this is a strange hybrid between the Doctor Who novels of the 1990s and the NuWho novels. I'm glad I read it, and its certainly interesting, but in the end I think it is a failed experiment that demonstrates that, in fact, the NuWho novels can't do the same kinds of things that the New Adventures and Eighth Doctor Adventures did.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I've read very little Morcock, Elric of Melnibone when I was a teenager (about which I remember virtually nothing) and his Dancers at the End of Time sequence more recently which I thought was interesting but flawed, particularly when it was trying to evoke early 20th century comedies of manners. However he is, by some margin, the most famous novelist to turn his hand to a full-length Doctor Who novel (though I have no doubt that Neil Gaiman will get around to it eventually). So it was with interest and anticipation that I picked up The Coming of the Terraphiles.

Oh Dear )

A massive disappointment.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I imagine most of you are starting to wonder why I continue to read Dr. Who spinoff novels since I generally find them disappointing and I'm not sure either, to be honest. However, I keep picking up ones I hear recommended to see how I feel about them.

I actually wasn't that disappointed by this one )

All the above sounds a bit negative about this book. But I actually did enjoy it more than many of the recent Who books I've read. I think I liked the fact that it wasn't trying to be anything other than what it was, and I appreciated that in taking on the mantle of a children's book it was unashamedly happy to do a bit of historical educating while telling its story.
purplecat: (books)
Another Who novel and my feelings about these remain unchanged. This pretty much maintains the standard set by The Way Through the Woods. So it has a nice central idea, a little less Who-ish this time since it relies on they kind of World-building that modern Who is less keen on - a low tech, but highly peaceful society and an apparent dragon that creates gold - and then works strongly with the themes provided (in this case, the nature of desire via the character's various reactions to the Enamour metal) and provides a set of characters which refuse to be reduced to simple black and whites. There's also a cleverly humorous reveal towards the end in terms of the nature of the Regulator's people.

So why, I have to ask myself, do I continue to be dissatisfied with these books. They are not the Virgin New Adventures, I suppose, which for all their flaws had a sense of excitement and wild invention about them as the fans relentlessly took control of story. But in the case of The King's Dragon I think my issues were that characters could switch very quickly from being friend or foe, mostly underscored fairly heavily with the point "well people are not that simple". With more space I wonder if the shades of character would have been more delicately drawn. Similarly, some aspects of the story are very cursorily explained, such as Hilthe's initial resistance to the allure of Enamour and ultimately I was left with the feeling there was a better book trying to break out of the constraints imposed by the range.
purplecat: (books)
Some of you may recall Chicks Dig Time Lords which I found a lot less compelling than everyone else, it seems, since it went on to win a Hugo. It's not terribly surprising that there have been several follow-ups including Queers Dig Time Lords.

My main criticism of Chicks Dig Time Lords was that it didn't feel to me to be much about being a woman who likes Doctor Who so much as being about being a woman who goes to the Chicago Tardis convention. With one or two exceptions I found the contributions to be, ultimately, a bit repetitive.

Thankfully Queers Dig Time Lords doesn't suffer from this nearly so much. It has contributions from a much wider spread of fans, both geographically and in terms of when and how they became engaged by the series. There is also a much wider set of takes on the subject matter. Chicks Dig Time Lords was mostly in the form of memoirs - "this is how I got into Doctor Who and this is the fannish thing I do now". While Queers Dig Time Lords has several of these, it also has several essays which focus much more upon the show itself, whether it be simply celebrating some aspect of it that the writer felt particular did (or did not) resonate with their own queerness, essays that seek to understand what it is that particular attracts QUILTBAG people to the show, and a couple that challenge the assumptions that there are a lot of gay men in Doctor Who, or indeed that the show (in either of its incarnations) has been particularly queer-friendly.

There are a lot of essays in the book and so, inevitably a certain amount of repetition and some misses, but it is well worth a look. I wish Chicks Dig Time Lords had been as diverse and interesting as this.
purplecat: (books)
Long time readers of this blog may recall that I have been somewhat underwhelmed by BBC Books Dr Who New Series novelisations and may have realised that I eventually broke my completist habit and stopped buying them. The problem I have, having decided that I no longer need to own all of something is that I quite rapidly decide I don't need any of them at all and I hadn't really bought a Dr Who book since. However I kept hearing vague rumblings that some of the newer books were good and the ones by Una McCormack were mentioned, so I put them on the Amazon wish list and some duly turned up for Christmas.

I'm not going to write about it at length because I feel about it much as I've felt about the other New Series novelisations. It's OK. It's a solid enough tale, treats the companions (Amy and Rory here) well, is dealing with themes of being a non-combatant left out of a war (either by choice or necessity), and has a nice spooky Who-ish central premise. And yet, and yet, and yet, I can't help feeling it would have been a better book if it hadn't been aimed at the younger end of young adult. I feel I've said that, to a greater or lesser extent, about every New Series book I've read.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
Summary: An oddly unsatisfactory book examining the women involved with Doctor Who, both professionally, via fandom and in the murky spaces in between.

More under the cut )

As an analytical book of essays on women and Doctor Who Chicks Dig Time Lords fails. It simply doesn't have the breadth of articles necessary. Moreover, some of the interesting questions about women and Doctor Who fandom can't easily be answered by this kind of work. For instance, why have there always been so many more women, proportionally speaking, in American fandom than in British or Australian fandom? This probably requires the attention of an expert in sociology and that sort of academic has a mixed, at best, reputation within fandom circles. As a book of personal experiences, the sort of thing that might someday provide valuable data to such an academic, its focus is too narrow. This is the story of the women who attend ChicagoTARDIS. To this outsider it felt overlong. It would be great if there were more books like this focusing on other corners of fandom as well, or a book like this that took a wider view of women and genre shows and fandom but, as it stands, it is clearly a fan project of interest mainly to the fans who produced it and their circle.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/46427.html.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
Summary: An oddly unsatisfactory book examining the women involved with Doctor Who, both professionally, via fandom and in the murky spaces in between.

More under the cut )

As an analytical book of essays on women and Doctor Who Chicks Dig Time Lords fails. It simply doesn't have the breadth of articles necessary. Moreover, some of the interesting questions about women and Doctor Who fandom can't easily be answered by this kind of work. For instance, why have there always been so many more women, proportionally speaking, in American fandom than in British or Australian fandom? This probably requires the attention of an expert in sociology and that sort of academic has a mixed, at best, reputation within fandom circles. As a book of personal experiences, the sort of thing that might someday provide valuable data to such an academic, its focus is too narrow. This is the story of the women who attend ChicagoTARDIS. To this outsider it felt overlong. It would be great if there were more books like this focusing on other corners of fandom as well, or a book like this that took a wider view of women and genre shows and fandom but, as it stands, it is clearly a fan project of interest mainly to the fans who produced it and their circle.
purplecat: (books)
I bought Shining Darkness by Mark Michalowski over a year ago since I thought his previous offering for the new series Dr Who books was easily the best of the bunch. It has been languishing in the `to read' pile ever since.

Review under the cut )

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/20936.html.
purplecat: (books)
I bought Shining Darkness by Mark Michalowski over a year ago since I thought his previous offering for the new series Dr Who books was easily the best of the bunch. It has been languishing in the `to read' pile ever since.

Review under the cut )
purplecat: (books)
I'm guessing Who Goes There by Nick Griffiths was supplied by a relative. I don't think it is the kind of book I would purchase myself any more. I spent a lot of the book trying to puzzle out what exactly it was trying to do. Ostensibly its the tale of Griffiths' visits to various Doctor Who locations.

Possibilities considered )

I was actually surprised how alienating I found this book. Obviously Who fandom isn't a monolith by any stretch of the imagination, but I this was the first time I've read something by a Doctor Who fan with whom, it would seem, I have virtually nothing in common.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/15481.html.
purplecat: (books)
I'm guessing Who Goes There by Nick Griffiths was supplied by a relative. I don't think it is the kind of book I would purchase myself any more. I spent a lot of the book trying to puzzle out what exactly it was trying to do. Ostensibly its the tale of Griffiths' visits to various Doctor Who locations.

Possibilities considered )

I was actually surprised how alienating I found this book. Obviously Who fandom isn't a monolith by any stretch of the imagination, but I this was the first time I've read something by a Doctor Who fan with whom, it would seem, I have virtually nothing in common.

Shelf Life

Mar. 4th, 2010 06:28 pm
purplecat: (books)
Craig Hinton was one of the stable of Doctor Who authors nurtured by the Virgin Adventures and who then went on to write for the BBC books. His work was characterised by a love of continuity and an abundance, in some cases over-abundance, of links and connections to the wider Doctor Who universe. He died late in 2006 of a heart attack. Shelf Life (edited by Adrian Middleton, Jay Eales and David McIntee) is a memorial anthology of fan fiction published in aid of the British Heart Foundation.

Review under the cut )
purplecat: (books)
I first met* Richard Salter when he tried to organise an Internet coordinated Dr Who short story collection for the emerging Decalog series published by Virgin. There's been a lot of water under the bridge since then and the idea of using Internet coordination to put together a short story collection no longer seems remotely radical. Richard has been writing and editing Doctor Who short fiction ever since and has had several stories published in other Short Trips collections. This is the first time he's got to edit professionally though. Fortunately, it's a good'un, probably the most successful of the Short Trips collections that I own.

I mentioned in my review of Short Trips: The Quality of Leadership the way I felt the theme there had unfortunately managed to ambush the collection. In this case it's possibly the choice of a nicely abstract theme, "Transmissions", loosely tied to the idea of modes of communication, that has encouraged the writers to rise above the normal Short Trips level of trying to write a mini episode of the parent show. In fact I'd go so far as to say every single piece in this collection is a genuine short story rather than a long story told short.

spoiler free story by story break down under the cut )

*in the Internet sense of "exchanged emails with". I've never actually met Richard. He was called the Happy Halibut back then, a moniker he seems to have subsequently abandoned in preference to his own name. Thus flying in face of all Internet trends.
purplecat: (books)
On the face of it "the Quality of Leadership" seems like a good idea for a Doctor Who short story collection. After all "Rebels vs. Dictators" is a fairly standard Dr Who theme so there should be plenty of scope. However two fundamental shortcomings rapidly become obvious in Short Trips: The Quality of Leadership edited by Keith R. A. Candido and both basically boil down to the fact that you shouldn't really attempt to write "The Doctor meets a great leader" as a short story (or possibly at all). The lives of great leaders tend firstly to be epic (not easy to convey in a short story) and secondly said great leader tends to be the key protagonist (leaving the Doctor kicking his heals on the sidelines). The first four stories in the collection all suffer badly from these problems and some well respected Star Trek tie-in authors* fall foul of them. One Fateful Knight by Peter David is "The Doctor meets King Arthur", The Slave War by Una McCormack is "the Doctor('s companions) meet Spartacus", Goths and Robbers by Diane Duane is "the Doctor meets Theodoric" and Good Queen, Bad Queen, I Queen, You Queen by Terri Osborne is "the Doctor meets Boudicca". Of these Diane Duane's is probably the best since she choses to focus on two points in Theodoric's life, one of them formative and, although the Doctor is largely reactive at least he appears to have a central role in the story. Osborne's is easily the worst and left me wondering if (s)he'd watched Doctor Who since she grew up or was just working from hazy memory. As well as displaying the (rather bizarre) belief that the average Iceni wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Boudicca and Romana in a wig (they're the same height, don't you know!) I just found it very hard to believe that any Doctor, let alone the fourth, would consider the only option out of any situation was encouraging his companion to start an ultimately futile war and lead hundreds of people to their death, especially when there was no evidence that anyone was interfering to pervert the natural course of history in the first place.

After this inauspicious start the collection picks up somewhat. In The Price of Conviction ("the Doctor meets Luther") Richard C. White at least manages to hinge the drama around Luther's ideals and have the Doctor and Susan involved in averting a plot to bring about Luther's early assassination. God Send Me Well to Keep by Linnea Dodson (AKA [livejournal.com profile] neadods) is the first to really break the mold. It's still a "Doctor meets..." formula ("the Doctor meets Henry VIII") but Dodson's under no illusions about Henry's exemplary character and focuses the drama around a small piece of court politics. The Doctor and Nyssa are still, sadly, largely reactive, but at least she isn't trying to cram an epic drama into 20 pages and the didactism which has, so far, been rather heavily on display is here focused on conveying a sense of period detail and politics rather than a 1066 and All That Good King/Bad King simplicity.

We then (finally) get off Earth for two stories Peaceable Kingdom by Steven Savile and Rock Star by Robert T. Jeschonek. The first of which is really rather good and really focuses on the issue of Leadership for the first time as well as the way in which cultures can trap leaders into particular thought processes. On a Pedestal ("the Doctor meets William Wallace") by Kathleen O. David briefly dips back to the format of the earlier stories though, as with all the better ones, David focuses on a single formative incident rather than trying to encompass the sweep of Wallace's life. Clean-up on Aisle Two by James Swallow is probably the most ambitious story in the collection, tackling the issue of leadership from the point-of-view of a supermarket manager but it is marred by a rather pat ending. The collection closes with The Spindle of Necessity by Allyn Gibson ("the Doctor meets Plato") which gains marks for an inventive format and big SF-nal ideas but ultimately failed to really grab me.

There's a throwaway framing story by De Candido and John S. Drew but it doesn't really mesh well with the stories in between and seems, ultimately, a little pointless since too few of them actually focus on the qualities of leadership as opposed to meeting great leaders.

Ultimately this collection seems like a wasted opportunity with a potentially interesting theme too often sacrificed to didactism and an attempt to teach you all about X in twenty pages. There are some nice stories in there but none that got me really excited.

* I say "well-respected" on the grounds that I've heard of them even though I've never read a Trek tie-in novel.

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>
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (doctor who)
So, errr, about sixth months ago the JadePagoda decided all to read and review The Many Hands by Paul Dale Smith. I am more than a little late, both in reading it and then in writing this review.

Anyway, consensus of opinion on JP (if I remember back that far accurately) was that it was quite a dull run-around up until page 100 and picked up thereafter. At the risk of sounding shallow, I actually rather enjoyed all the running around and certainly didn't feel that I noticed any sudden shift in quality or tone at the 100 page mark. I'm not sure the running around is entirely pointless either, in particular a fair amount of character work is going on, building up the antagonistic English Captain McAllister and developing his relationship with the Doctor. Certainly it's around page 100 that the more horrific aspects begin to turn up - but this is horror for intelligent eight-year olds so it's not exactly a dramatic shift in tone.

This is a tale of 18th Century Edinburgh, complete with Enlightenment scientists, surgeons, buried streets and body-snatching. There are also zombies which aren't, it has to be said, a particularly Edinburgh thing but this is Doctor Who and obviously, if you're going to have body-snatching, you might as well have zombies too.

Of all the new series Doctor Who books I've read, this is the one I've enjoyed most. I'm not quite sure why. Possibly its because I'm so fond of Edinburgh, and the book is very Edinburgh. Possibly it's because it is the first new series adventure I've actively chosen to read, rather than reading it because I read all Doctor Who novels, and it benefits from being approached on its own terms. Possibly it was the lack of any kidults. I don't think it particularly rises above (what I presume was) its brief as a historical action-adventure runaround but it does what it does very well.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (doctor who)
The last segment of Time and Relative Dissertations in Space was the part that contained the most essays that read like articles out of DWM. This kind of journalistic article is very well but, as I've got older, I've become more aware of the way these things really are just opinion with no real theoretical framework to back them up and so they felt out of place to me in this volume which was otherwise working quite hard to present its material academically.

The Talons of Robert Holmes )

Why is 'City of Death' the best Doctor Who story? )

Canonicity matters: defining the Doctor Who canon )

Broader and deeper: the lineage of and impact of the Timewyrm series )

Televisuality without television? The Big Finish audios and discourses of 'tele-centric' Doctor Who )

So, all in all, I found lots to interest me in Time and Relative Dissertations in Space. But, as I said when I started these reviews, I think it suffers from an uneven tone - veering wildly from very jargon heavy academic discourse to much fluffier, more journalistic pieces and the lasts quarter, in particular, didn't appear to me to have a great deal to offer beyond the articles you can (or at least used to, pre-2005) find regularly in Doctor Who Magazine.

WHO DAILY HTML: <lj user=louisedennis> <a href="http://louisedennis.livejournal.com/81978.html">reviews part four of time and relative disserations in space</a>

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