October 15th, 2008

tardis

October Books 10) All-Consuming Fire

10) All-Consuming Fire, by Andy Lane

I enjoyed this tremendously. The Doctor, Ace, and Bernice Summerfield, in nineteenth-century London, get mixed up with Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson; and all five of them are then confronted with an invasion of Earth by the forces of Azathoth from the planet Ry'leh (sic). Mixing the mythoses (mythoi?) of Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft is risky, but Lane has done it very well - lots of borderline steampunk in his Victorian settings, most of the narrative told in the first person by Watson (who inevitably develops a liking for Benny), cameo appearances from Pope Leo XIII, the San Francisco fire of 1906, and the smart missiles from Iain M. Banks' Culture novels.

Apart from the wonderful romp of the setting, Lane is also pretty smart about reinforcing our willing suspension of disbelief. Is Sherlock Holmes real or fictional in the Whoniverse? We get a rather neat answer here. On top of that, the entire narrative is nicely presented as a flashback, Benny and Ace perusing Watson's account, and then critiquing him as an unreliable narrator.

Strongly recommended, especially for fans of Holmes or Cthulhu who may for some reason not have encountered Doctor Who.
shocked and surprised

October Books 11) Doctor Who and the City of Death

11) Doctor Who and the City of Death, by David Lawrence

When I was reading through the Doctor Who novelisations over the spring and summer, I bemoaned the fact that all were available, in print or electronically, apart from the unofficial New Zealand fan write-up of City of Death. I spoke too soon; because back in August, thanks I believe to the efforts of Paul Scoones, it was published on the NZDWFC website. I only discovered this at the weekend, and managed to download the book and read it over today's commute.

I think it is by some way the best of the New Zealand books. It helps that the original story is one of the best Who stories ever - the Doctor and Romana flirting in Paris, presumably about the time that the actors portraying them were falling in love; Douglas Adams at his best, concentrating on witty and sparkling dialogue rather than trying to write sf; a comic time-travelling plot about the Mona Lisa, the origin of life on Earth and the potential destruction of humanity. But Lawrence has managed a) to write it all down without sucking the life out of it and b) throw in a few extra original details which reinforce the story. So, for instance, we get an insight into that peculiar phenomenon, the marital life of the Scarlionis; he makes the Doctor/Romana relationship more Timelordish; and he has a wonderful run of opening scenes, including a moment with K'anpo on Gallifrey and a party at Leonardo da Vinci's where the guests include Mozart, William Blake, Shakespeare, Napoleon, Dickens and Homer. Strongly recommended for all Who fans. And I'm glad to finish my reading of the Who novelisations with such a fine example of the sub-genre.