Well after loving Paul Cornell’s previous work Timewyrm: Revelation, I was looking forward to reading his next novel Love and War. Love and War is probably most well remembered for introducing us to the Seventh Doctor’s next companion, Professor Bernice Surprise Summerfield, archeologist extraordinaire. Already, Bernice is an extremely well fleshed out character. She is extremely intelligent, clever and knows how to have a good time. She gets way too drunk for a professor of archeology and names a door after the colleague who found it, before blowing it up to get into an inner chamber. I’m extremely impressed with her first outing and am looking forward to more of her in the future.
Love and War is a very apt title for this novel as half of the story is taken up by the love story of Ace and the Traveler Jan and the other half is taken up with the War on Heaven against the Hoothi. The main story is prodded after the funeral of Ace’s friend Julian when the Doctor remembers he has to find a specific book on the planet of Heaven. Of course he is secretly planning to take on the Hoothi, a fungoid species which are pretty much the alien from The Thing. The Hoothi infect people with their spores and are hidden in their minds until they are needed when the host dies and explodes into a fungal mass. They are creatures from the Dawn of Time which the Doctor must face. The war breaks out quickly as people on the planet are converted into Hoothi. Pretty much every character dies in the end of this with the exception of the Doctor, Ace and Bernice and a few others surviving to see another day.
Ace gets to have a love interest in Jan who is one of the members of the Travelers, a group of galactic Hobos who have out of body experiences in an area of virtual space called Puterspace. It’s an old idea but Cornell uses Puterspace to great effect here. Jan is also a great character as he had been experimented on by a government organization in the army during the Dalek War of the 26th Century. They have some great chemistry and Jan’s eventual fate is extremely devastating, even if he was the one who saved the day. Their love also leads nicely into the War on heaven as the Hoothi invade Puterspace.
The other Travelers are also very interesting characters with their own distinct personality and backstory, each being physically or psychologically broken in some way. As I mentioned Jan has been experimented so he is pyro-kinetic and has had an inflated ego as he tries to prove his own bravery. His closest friend is Christopher who was also experimented upon even more than Jan and has been rendered genderless. With the loss of gender Christopher is forced to rely on logic and an increased intelligence as the Travelers’ priest. The priestess of the Travelers is Maire who ends up betrothing Ace with Jan. Her damage is that she has been traumatized by the Daleks and keeps Dalek guns and eyestalks as she was a Dalek killer. The final Traveler of note is Roisa whose damage is that she was Jan’s previous lover before she was ditched for Ace. She is the first to be infected and it is really all her fault that everything happened. Bernice even has her own bit of psychological damage as her mother was killed by a Dalek when going to get Bernice’s doll and her father has disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
The Church of the Vacuum is also extremely interesting as their human head Phaedrus has his own issues with his mother and has an interesting parallel with Ace. Yes on top of the development of Ace’s love life we get development on the relationship with her mother Audrey in Puterspace. Audrey is really sympathetic as she really did want the best for Ace but couldn’t really figure out how to do it. We also find out that while dying of radiation poisoning at the end of Planet of the Spiders, the Doctor took more than just “the long way round” and spent a decade wandering in the vortex before finally dying. There is also confirmation that the Doctor is Time’s Champion while he saves planets which makes Ace leave him.
Yes at the end of the novel Ace leaves the Doctor to travel on her own as she is distraught about Jan’s death. Her final dialogues with the Doctor and Bernice is highly emotional harkening back to other companion departures of old mainly the departure of Tegan Jovanka and Victoria Waterfield. All in all I have to give Love and War 100/100 as it is a great novel with a riveting plot and great characters. This is definitely the best novel since Timewyrm: Exodus and is definitely one I will be rereading.