Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Iceberg by: David Banks: Tin Man, You Do Have A Heart

Now I don’t think I’m the only fan who thinks that on television the Cybermen have been dreadfully underused.  From their emotions in Revenge of the Cybermen to their shoehorning into Silver Nemesis, the metal monsters from Mondas really don’t get the respect they deserve.  The shame in this is because of how ingenious they are as an idea as humanity stripped of all emotions and left as cold creatures reliant on logic to survive.  Once I figured out that Iceberg would be a Cybermen story I got really excited considering the author is Cyberleader actor David Banks who had written reference books on the Cybermen which were acclaimed by critics.  I remained optimistic and even with the optimism I was genuinely impressed with how good the story turned out to be.


Iceberg involves the Doctor finding Cyber tombs on Earth near the base where The Tenth Planet took place.  Not only that, but the Cybermen have been waiting for twenty years to invade after the failed invasion attempt in The Invasion because without a successful invasion they are going to die out.  This novel basically takes all the problems of Revenge of the Cybermen and turns them into strengths and truly showing what a force to be reckoned with the Cybermen can be when written properly.  This becomes especially apparent when Banks describes the conversion process in all its gory glory.  He knows just how much to leave to the imagination by allowing the dismembered corpses to force our protagonist Ruby, who has shown herself to be strong willed and stomached, to vomit not once, not twice, but thrice in the face of the devastation around her.  Banks also does a good job when it comes to the exposition to place this story within the Cybermen’s timeline.  For them they’ve only seen the Doctor in The Tenth Planet, The Wheel in Space and The Invasion, three stories where he never really confronts them so they only know the Doctor as the frail old man from The Tenth Planet.  This fills in the gaps by creating the Cybercontroller, establishing the search for a place to create a tomb, and even showing how they know who each regeneration of the Doctor is and how they get their weakness to gold.  They’re done extremely well as they jump off the page and make the novel a really exhilarating read.  The Cybermen actually come across as humans who have had their emotions stripped away for once and act accordingly.


Banks also tackles the Seventh Doctor with aplomb as here he goes to the SS Elysium, the ship where some of the story takes place, as a way to take a vacation from the previous novels.  He has become almost a tired old man and needs to rethink his life and if he is justified in what he does.  He escapes the TARDIS in the Jade Pagoda which is a sort of escape pod, which explains his absence from the story Birthright.  This of course leads to Ace and Benny being absent from the novel and instead we get the character of investigative journalist Ruby Duvall.  Ruby is like a mix between Sarah Jane Smith and Liz Shaw two of the show’s greatest companions going however far she can for a story and using logic to get through the crazy situations the novel puts her in.  She also has an extremely fleshed out backstory and the story has her work through her issues against her disabled father.  It’s really interesting seeing that type of arc happen without having Ruby’s father present for the events.  Banks also uses the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz to be an archetype for the way she deals with things allowing a lot of parallels between the two stories.


Now that the companion is out of the way on to the supporting cast of the novel with is extremely large.  There are two main parties, the military stationed at the FLIPback machine, which is set to save the world following in the footsteps of the Snowcap base in The Tenth Planet, and the rich vacationers on the SS Elysium.  Going through the SS Elysium is the easiest as they have the least amount of development.  There are three characters of note in that cast.  First we have Mike Brack who is a famous sculptor who caused the injury of Ruby’s father.  The only thing of note for him is that he is a jerk and is used as a red herring throughout the novel which anyone can tell is just a red herring.  Agatha Christe David Banks is not.  The other two characters are Diana and Leslie who are two actors on the ship in a production of The Wizard of Oz and become friends of Ruby.  They make a great double act and get some humor to go along with.  On the base, firstly we have General Pam Cutler, daughter of the General Cutler from The Tenth Planet, who is just as no nonsense as her father but doesn’t fall into the same emotional traps.  Her personnel are also varied from the sex-crazed couple to her no nonsense second in command they all have something to contribute to the story.


Now with all of this praise you would think there was nothing wrong with this novel, which is entirely wrong.  The novel is approximately two hundred fifty-three pages which is a reasonable amount for this type of story.  Now once the Doctor appears on the SS Elysium in the story the novel becomes a really quick read, but the Doctor doesn’t appear on the ship until one hundred ten pages into the novel excluding the front page and table of contents.  The same things happen with the Cybermen other than some monologues from the Cyber Planner.  The first pages do introduce the characters and it works well with Ruby and those on the ship but not for those on the base.  It is the single element which causes the story to not be perfection and because of that I’m forced to drop the story from 100/100 down to 85/100.

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