December 5th, 2006

earthsea

December Books 3) Thunderbird Falls

3) Thunderbird Falls, by C.E. Murphy

I regret that I haven't been able to get hold of the first book in this series. Urban Shaman sold out, apparently, even on the side of the Atlantic where it was available, which is not this one. I did at least get hold of the short story that comes between the first and second books.

The heroine of Thunderbird Falls is a Seattle policewoman who turns out to have psychic powers, in an environment drawing substantially from Native American traditions, with a certain helping of Celtic lore and the author's own imagination. It is very difficult to convey such a setting without falling into the trap of being either too twee or too earnestly evangelical, and it is very much to the author's credit that she manages it; the dangers, both physical and psychic, to the narrator make it clear that this is very far from the fotherington-tomas "Hullo clouds hullo sky hullo sun etc" view of nature.

The plot, unfortunately, depends a bit on the heroine not asking certain important questions that occur to the reader (at least to this reader) fairly early on. OK, we are given good reasons why she doesn't think her situation through, but it's a nagging concern. Also, I was kind of hoping (this is the romantic in me) for a more definite resolution of the various sexual tensions surrounding our narrator's life. Having said that, I really do hope there is another book to follow, and that I somehow get hold of the earlier one.

I was slightly thrown yesterday by someone on my friends-list referring to a car called Petite, owned by a character called Jo, and thought, "Gosh, that's someone who's reading the same book I'm reading..." ...and then realised in fact it was the person who wrote the book that I was reading. It is a small world.
doctor who

The Keys of Marinus

Rather an interesting quest story from early Doctor Who - the show's first real sf narrative apart from the original Daleks story, and like the original Daleks story written by Terry Nation. With a certain foreshadowing of the Key to Time season, thirteen years and three Doctors later, our heroes are sent across five different environments on the planet Marinus (which, unlike so many sf planets, actually has different climates depending on where you happen to be) to retrieve the five keys which will operate the Magical Machine.

The first four episodes (out of six) are standard sfnal fare - indeed, perhaps Doctor Who's closest early approach to the monster-of-the-week concept (bottled brains, mutant plants, giant wolves) - but I think it lifts itself into something rather superior in the last two episodes, a courtroom drama where the Doctor is defending Ian against a charge of murder, with only circumstantial evidence against him, but collusion between key officials and the real culprits. (A helpful official asks Ian, "Who is he?" "Who?" replies Ian, rhetorically agreeing.) Though the trial judges do bear a disturbing resemblance to the High Priests in the 1973 film of Jesus Christ Superstar.

The climax really does take us back to the future, as the First Doctor, having assembled all of the Keys of Marinus, makes the same decision as the Fourth Doctor at the end of The Armageddon Factor; though with more explosive consequences. One of the heavily costumed bad guys nearly trips over his own shoes as he tries to bring our heroes to their doom, but recovers from it quickly; and that's part of the charm, really.

Is this final snippet of information for real?
Amongst later changes made to Nation's scripts was the removal of a TARDIS sequence from episode one, The Sea Of Death. Here it was revealed that the reason the Doctor and Susan had been on Earth in 1963 was because the Doctor had visited the British Broadcasting Corporation to get help repairing the colour scanner in the TARDIS, which was showing only monochrome images. He had been in such a bad mood upon his return to the TARDIS because the BBC had been “infernally secretive”!
I have my doubts.