purplecat: (books)
Given that half the point of Iris Wildthyme appears to be to pastiche genres of various descriptions, I can see the attraction behind the idea for The Panda Book of Horror. After all the horror genre, almost more than any other, is awash with styles and tropes which are practically designed for pastiche. On the other hand, it is quite hard to pastiche something and still produce a bona fide Horror story. The stories in The Panda Book of Horror mostly lurch rather uneasily between attempting to provide genuine chills and laughs.

It doesn't help that Iris, as a character, is peculiarly unsuited to Horror. We are never really given to suppose that her love of partying hard and her down-to-earth bull-in-a-china-shop approach to problem solving conceals any inner turmoil or suppressed fears and so, by and large, the horror just washes past her. This means that I felt by far and away the most successful story in the collection was Simon Guerrier's The Party in Room Four where the point-of-view is that of a traumatised and bereaved man for whom Iris' very brusqueness and jollity, which he percieves only from afar, is an affront and, ultimately, a component of the horror itself. Dale Smith in The Fag Hag from Hell also attempts to take this tack, of making Iris the Horror, not the victim, but less successfully since Iris doesn't, frankly, make a convincing villain. The story is, ultimately, quite clever and complex but a lot of the build-up hinges on the possibility that Iris could be some kind of monster and that never quite convinces.

Other stories I liked were Paul Magrs' The Delightful Bag although I wished that had been a novella rather than a short story. Much of it seemed very rushed and given it was evoking the atmosphere of children's fantasy books, with a small beleaguered town on Christmas Eve beset by magical happenings, I would have loved it to have had more space to breath as a story. Honourable mention also goes to The Niceness by Jacqueline Rayner and Orna Petit for its clever and well-executed central idea.

All that said, and despite my doubts about the theme, I think it did provide a unifying element that gave the collection a distinct identity when I often think that themes work against the stories in these anthologies. I've sometimes felt authors weren't entirely clear what Iris Wildthyme, as a character, is about and the Horror theme seemed to reduce that uncertainty and she emerged more as her own person and less as a commentary on the Doctor. Even so, I suspect, this remains a collection of interest primarily to Doctor Who fans.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/36523.html.
purplecat: (books)
Given that half the point of Iris Wildthyme appears to be to pastiche genres of various descriptions, I can see the attraction behind the idea for The Panda Book of Horror. After all the horror genre, almost more than any other, is awash with styles and tropes which are practically designed for pastiche. On the other hand, it is quite hard to pastiche something and still produce a bona fide Horror story. The stories in The Panda Book of Horror mostly lurch rather uneasily between attempting to provide genuine chills and laughs.

It doesn't help that Iris, as a character, is peculiarly unsuited to Horror. We are never really given to suppose that her love of partying hard and her down-to-earth bull-in-a-china-shop approach to problem solving conceals any inner turmoil or suppressed fears and so, by and large, the horror just washes past her. This means that I felt by far and away the most successful story in the collection was Simon Guerrier's The Party in Room Four where the point-of-view is that of a traumatised and bereaved man for whom Iris' very brusqueness and jollity, which he percieves only from afar, is an affront and, ultimately, a component of the horror itself. Dale Smith in The Fag Hag from Hell also attempts to take this tack, of making Iris the Horror, not the victim, but less successfully since Iris doesn't, frankly, make a convincing villain. The story is, ultimately, quite clever and complex but a lot of the build-up hinges on the possibility that Iris could be some kind of monster and that never quite convinces.

Other stories I liked were Paul Magrs' The Delightful Bag although I wished that had been a novella rather than a short story. Much of it seemed very rushed and given it was evoking the atmosphere of children's fantasy books, with a small beleaguered town on Christmas Eve beset by magical happenings, I would have loved it to have had more space to breath as a story. Honourable mention also goes to The Niceness by Jacqueline Rayner and Orna Petit for its clever and well-executed central idea.

All that said, and despite my doubts about the theme, I think it did provide a unifying element that gave the collection a distinct identity when I often think that themes work against the stories in these anthologies. I've sometimes felt authors weren't entirely clear what Iris Wildthyme, as a character, is about and the Horror theme seemed to reduce that uncertainty and she emerged more as her own person and less as a commentary on the Doctor. Even so, I suspect, this remains a collection of interest primarily to Doctor Who fans.
purplecat: (books)
I just went back and re-read my review of Wildthyme on Top before setting out to write this. I remembered that short story collection fondly but, on re-reading the review, I discover that I picked out two really good stories and thought the rest were fine but all a bit samey, especially since most of them were literary pastiches of one kind or another.

This collection of short stories, from new publisher Obverse Books, is a less coherent and distinctive collection and (and I fear I may lose friends here) a slightly inferior one though I think, on the whole, it is broadly comparable.

More )

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/5988.html.
purplecat: (books)
I just went back and re-read my review of Wildthyme on Top before setting out to write this. I remembered that short story collection fondly but, on re-reading the review, I discover that I picked out two really good stories and thought the rest were fine but all a bit samey, especially since most of them were literary pastiches of one kind or another.

This collection of short stories, from new publisher Obverse Books, is a less coherent and distinctive collection and (and I fear I may lose friends here) a slightly inferior one though I think, on the whole, it is broadly comparable.

More )
purplecat: (books)
Another day another Doctor Who spin-off. Not Bernice Summerfield this time but Iris Wildthyme. Iris, well Iris is both easy and difficult to describe. She's a disreputable woman of uncertain age with a penchant for gold lamé who drinks like a fish and smokes like a chimney. She travels through space and time in a double-decker bus which is smaller on the inside than on the outside and takes irresponsibility to a level that makes the Doctor look like a straight-laced puritan. More importantly she began her literary career entirely separate from Doctor Who in Paul Magrs' magic realist novel, Marked for Life (which I've not read so I'm taking this on trust), but was later integrated into his Who novels and was used to comment upon the Doctor as a kind of non-evil but entirely irresponsible anti-Doctor. These Who novels were nearly always commentaries upon or pastiches of story-telling forms of one sort or another.

The background is important because, in conceiving a series of Iris Wildthyme short stories, someone obviously had to decide what an Iris story was when there was no Doctor present for her to react against. Somewhere along the line it seems to have been decided that, where the Doctor has adventures in time and space, Iris Wildthyme has adventures in story-telling so the collection predominantly serves us up a selection of pastiches and "Iris meets an author" stories. While many of these are very good they all began to get a little samey after a bit which made Craig Hinton's Came to Believe one of the stand-out stories in the collection. It's one of the "Iris meets an author" stories but Hinton appears to have been drawing more heavily on the magic realist tradition than on the literary pastiche idea. Its an, in many ways mundane, tale of an alcoholic journalist in his first couple of days at a rehab clinic. This stay enlivened by the magical presence of this eccentric woman called Iris. It made me think that a collection of magic realist stories about Iris would have been better and more interesting that the set of story-telling stories that we get, however good some of them may have been. I was all ready to write this review about how Hinton's story was the highlight of the book when Jonathan Blum's The Evil Little Mother and the Tragic Old Bat snuck in right at the end and stole all the honours with an intelligent, gripping and heart-wrenching take on Medea which nevertheless managed to include all the compulsory Iris meddles irresponsibly and gets completely legless parts.

Honourable mention also goes to Philip Purser-Hallard's Minions of the Moon which is best described as Science Fiction as Shakespeare would have written it had he been writing short prose-form stories instead of long verse-form plays. Sadly Purser-Hallard sets up his story and then seems to lose interest in it, stopping it all rather abruptly.

Frankly these three stories alone make the collection worth the cover price. None of the other stories are bad, though some are a little heavy handed in their humour (Lance Parkin's The Mancunian Candidate Narnia pastiche (or more accurately critique) and Jacqueline Rayner's Iris and Irregularity) and others are simply rather slight (Justin Richard's Most Horrid Most Haunted pastiche, Jake Elliot's The Sleuth Slayers which appears to be a cross between an Agatha Christie/Sherlock Holmes pastiche and an Avengers Tribute and Kate Orman's Rough Magic - the only story in the collection whose link to story-telling of one sort or another wasn't clear to me. Either I've not read the works that inspired it or Orman is attempting something entirely different from the rest of the authors in the collection. Whichever, I didn't find much to sink my teeth into in this tale of magical goings on in a holiday resort in the space-time vortex).

Altogether though, this is a superior effort on the Big Finish Short Story Anthology front.

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