December Books 15) I, Who 2: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who Novels and Audios, by Lars Pearson
December Books 16) I, Who 3: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who Novels and Audios, by Lars Pearson
I managed to pick these three up cheap off eBay a bit over a year ago, and though a little dated they were well worth adding to my Who reference library. Dating respectively from 1999, 2001 and 2003, they attempt to bring the reader up to date with the state of Who spinoff literature in the year of publication. I did my best to read only the pages dealing with books I have already read and audios I have already heard, which means a bit under half of the total page count. The first volume covers the complete Virgin range of New Adventures and Missing Adventures, and the early run of BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures and Past Doctor Adventures; the second continues the EDA's and PDA's and also includes the first couple of years of Big Finish audios, but also dips back to give summaries of the first few years of Bernice Summerfield novels and Target companion stories and brings in a few more apocrypha (Death Comes To Time, The Curse of Fatal Death, The Masters of Luxor, Campaign); and the third continues the run of EDA's and PDA's, including now also Bernice Summerfield audios and books and Big Finish's first Dalek Empire sequence of audios.
I hadn't really thought about it, but Who spinoff fiction is actually rather poorly served in the reference literature, compared with the televised stories for which you can find many books listing every broadcast episode in order of
About 80% of the time I find myself largely in agreement with Pearson in his occasionally brutal assessments of the various stories under discussion, and where we disagree it is usually because I didn't like a story that he approves of (or else that I simply can't remember much about it). He is rather more positive about, say, Keith Topping than I would be; he's also very strong on Paul Cornell, and looking at, say, Timewyrm: Revelation or Goth Opera or Love and War in their historical context I can see why.
I have a couple of quibbles about the presentation. Pearson has ordered his reviews in (presumed) order of internal continuity rather than chronological publication; I have some sympathy with this approach (and will use it myself in my books of 2010 poll later this week) but it does badly disjoint some of the story arcs within both the Virgin and BBC ranges (particularly the Lawrence Miles sequence of Virgin novels), and also I query his decision to lump multi-Doctor stories with the latest rather than the earliest Doctor involved. It also seems odd that he omits the Tom Baker and Pertwee audios, other than by reference to their novelisations, and likewise the various BBV etc productions that were floating around at the time. And the audio reviews could have used a more systematic presentation of cast and crew in each case.
More troubling for me, I wonder if I have been taking the right approach in reading the novels myself. I switched at the start of this year from browsing the most popular of the NAs and EDAs to reading through them in order, skipping the ones I've already read; but I'm realising now that the narrative arc of both series is such that I will have to reread the previously perused books in sequence to get the full effect. I'm thinking also that I may tackle those of the Missing Adventures and Past Doctor Adventures which I have not read in publication order as well. (And that will also apply to New Who novels.)
The I, Who series of books was produced at a time when it seemed that the audio and spinoff novel sequences where the only future of Who, and it's not hugely surprising that Pearson stopped producing them once New Who became a real prospect. He then went on to edit the About Time sequence of reference books to the TC stories (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and apparently a new series of reference guides called Fluid Links is planned, of which the first two will tackle the Eighth Doctor Adventures. I'm not even a quarter of the way through that series, but I'll get Pearson's next book on Who as soon as it comes out, whatever the subject.