February 10th, 2013

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January Books 13-14) Step Back in Time, by Richard Dungworth and Jacqueline Rayner

The last (so far) of the six two-in-one books featuring the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory, and aimed at younger readers.

Extra Time, by Richard Dungworth

Syd watched the group of youngsters move off along the street. He shook his head and tutted.
‘Look at ’em, officer,’ he muttered. ‘Right bunch of peacocks, these young ’uns, ain’t they? My missis don’t approve of them new “miniskirts”. Says they’re not decent.’
The Doctor and friends arrive in 1966 at the World Cup Final, to find emotion-sucking aliens threatening invasion. the Doctor and Amy deal with them while Rory substitutes for linesman Tofik Bahranov, who is indisposed. This is really a bit lightweight, struggling to fill its 200 pages, and not very original, and the scene-setting bits are a bit gor-blimey. I guess the kids will love it as long as they take the 1966 World Cup Final seriously. (Fails Bechdel at the first hurdle as Amy is the only named female character.)

The Water Thief, by Jacqueline Rayner

[Amy said] "I suppose it's different if you're a thousand years old. all these human lives must seem like mayflies to you."
For a moment the Doctor didn't answer. He was staring into the distance. Without looking at her he said, "Is that how you see me? Is that how I appear to you?"
This is a different matter. Rayner consistently has good ideas for her Who stories, and on a good day she delivers them too - I think her Winner Takes All, about computer games, is the best of the (sadly few) Ninth Doctor novels. Here she has the Doctor and friends landing in Egypt as the Oxyrhynchus papyri are being unearthed, with Amy and the Doctor then needing to visit ancient Egypt to sort out the inevitable alien invasion (though the water-slurping alien is a very nice touch). Contains gruesome details of the mummification process, but also a murder mystery and lots of nice character moments for our protagonists. Great stuff. (Bechdel pass: Amy befriends an ancient Egyptian woman and they talk about many things.)

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January Books 15) A Big Hand for the Doctor, by Eoin Colfer

As soon as the last gloopy globs of the anti-grav beam had faded, the Soul Pirates cranked up their hoses and turned them on their latest victims, blasting Susan, the Doctor and the four others into a heaped hotchpotch of limbs and torsos in the corner of the pit.
Oh dear. This is the first of the planned 11 short Penguin ebooks to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who, one Doctor per month, the books to be released for £1.99 on the 23rd of every month up to November. It is by Eoin Colfer, best known for the Artemis Fowl books, but also author of an authorised sequel to the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy which I may not get around to reading, and it is about the First Doctor in London in 1900 trying to get a cybernetic replacement hand and defeat the Soul Pirates. There are meant to be lots of references to Peter Pan, which mostly passed me by. The central character bears little resemblance to any other interpretation of the First Doctor on screen, audio or page. The author's Guardian interview about the book is much shorter and much more interesting.

Fails Bechdel at the first hurdle: Susan is the only named female character. (The Doctor's mother appears separately in a flashback passage.)
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January Books 16) Chicks Unravel Time, edited by Deborah Stanish and L.M. Myles

We look at the Doctor, awkward and impossible in a given place and time, old-fashioned, beset by lace cuffs and red-lined capes and jingoism, and we reverse him. We reverse his polarity until he works the way he's supposed to, over and over and over, and makes us better so that we, in turn, can make him better - bravely, courageously, with conviction. (Amal El-Mohtar on Season 8, ending the book.)

A sister book to Chicks Dig Time Lords, this is a set of essays by women on each season/series of Doctor Who, old and new. One or two are sheer squee, but most are serious examinations of the show, usually (but not always) positive, often looking at gender issues, and one or two commentaries on race (also one chapter on "The Doctor's Balls" and another on "David Tennant's Bum".). From my own LJ friends list I spotted doyle_sb4, altariel, jemck, cassiphone, rarelylynne, lizbee, and shinyjenni among the contributors, and there may well be others whose names I did not recognise. I particularly enjoyed the chapters which were constructively critical - thinking of Caroline Symcox and Aliette de Bodard in particular - but almost all of them are good and thought-provoking. (But I discover that I have a finite tolerance for sheer squee.)

Recommended for thoughtful Who fans.