April 2nd, 2008

doctor who

April Books 1) Doctor Who - The Romans

1) Doctor Who - The Romans, by Donald Cotton

I had been looking forward to this one, famed as one of the best Doctor Who novelisations, and I was not disappointed. Cotton has recast the narrative of Dennis Spooner's TV script into epistolary/diary form: letters from Ian Chesterton to his headmaster, the Doctor's own diary, letters from Ascalis the assassin and Locusta the poisoner, and contributions also from Barbara, the Emperor Nero, and Nero's wife Poppæa (but not Vicki); the whole thing framed in a covering note by Tacitus (obviously written several decades later). Eye of Heaven, the best of the spinoff novels featuring Leela, also featured multiple first-person viewpoints, and I've read first-person narratives in other First Doctor stories (here, here, and partly here), but this is the only case of the whole thing being ostensibly done from written records (the Doctor having compiled everything and then left it behind in the villa for the archivists to discover).

Admittedly, as an actual story it's no great shakes, and purists will be disappointed that we lose a lot of the funny lines from the TV version and one of its major comic elements (the two pairs of time travellers not actually meeting each other in their wanderings). But the whole thing is done for language and laughs; it's meant to be fun, and it is fun, and that's all you can really ask.
earthsea

April Books 2) Brasyl

2) Brasyl, by Ian McDonald

My reading of this year's Hugo nominees continues with another good 'un, Ian McDonald's latest. The setting of Brazil fits his lush, dense writing style so well that it is remarkable that he's never set a novel in real South America before (his two books set on Mars portray a rather Patagonian version of the planet, but it's not quite the same). We have three interleaving narratives, from the mid-18th century, the present day, and the near future (2030); we have peculiar variations of reality; and we have the jungle, both urban and literal, with its various hostile inhabitants. In some ways it's deliberately less ambitious than River of Gods, which juggled ten different viewpoint characters against the background of India forty years hence, but the intermeshing of the different characters from their different time periods in the end comes across rather pleasingly. On to Michael Chabon next, but I'm going to find it difficult to rank this relative to Halting State