Monday, January 25, 2016

No Future by: Paul Cornell: Just Bending the Laws of Time

Ah, Paul Cornell, the writer of two of the best early Virgin New Adventures and now he’s back to wrap up the Alternate History Cycle in his third novel, No Future.  Comparing No Future to Cornell’s other work it is definitely the weakest of the three, but saying that it is still a really good novel that continues the streak of good novels that the Alternate History Cycle brought to us, bar The Dimension Riders which sticks out like a sore thumb.  But I’m not here to talk about the Alternate History Cycle, but No Future.  No Future sees the Doctor, Ace and Benny land in 1976 where the Brigadier doesn’t seem to remember who the Doctor was and even has hired a new scientific advisor while there is an alien invasion on amidst punk rock, Benny being in a band and Ace betraying the Doctor and working for an enemy from the distant past who has meddled too much.


No Future is a novel that continues from the tense ending of Conundrum only to ramp up the tension as anyone can actually die and the Laws of Time don’t matter as one of the three enemies of this story is Artemis, one of the Chronovores, who lives outside of time so Cornell could do whatever he wants.  Ok so he doesn’t do any of that and I will go into some of the problems that brings about later on, but just knowing that it could happen is enough to keep tension going.  The Doctor has to confront what he does over the course of his novel and ask himself if his meddling is any better than the meddling of our primary villain, Mortimus also known as The Meddling Monk.  They do the same thing, changing future into the way they see it should be and often cause some of the same damages, so the conflict between the two of them is some of the best that I’ve seen from the Virgin New Adventures and is up there with his confrontations with the Master throughout the Pertwee era and The Deadly Assassin.  The way Cornell decides to resolve the conflict is also great as Mortimus does what he does with the fatal flaw of hubris whilst the Doctor is doing it because there is injustice in the universe that he needs to fight.  This is apparent during the climax of the novel where Mortimu has become powerless and his meddling has spiraled out of his control.


Moving on we have the character of Benny.  In this novel, Cornell doesn’t know what to do with Benny and he knows full well, even commenting on how she hasn’t had much to do with this story.  So he lets her serve the purpose of comic relief which is honestly for the best considering a lot of this novel parodies Doctor Who as a whole and the Virgin New Adventures in particular with a cameo from Professor X and his TASID.  Benny’s characterization is honestly the best it’s been throughout the novels and even within the background she has some great dialogue and witty responses to situations.


Now with Benny taking a backseat in this novel, Ace is able to take center stage where we get the novel’s glaring problems.  No Future shows signs of being a novel where Ace is to sacrifice herself, content that the Doctor has been there to help her and not harm her.  This novel wraps up her character arc and makes her more content with the Doctor’s meddling in her affairs and it would be great if she left.  Instead she cops out and resolves the plot with some clever wordplay keeping the Chronovore trapped.  She betrays the Doctor to help the Monk who is just as bad as the Doctor in the manipulation department, praying on her love of Jan from Love and War, and treating her like his own personal pet.  Her development into appreciating the Doctor is so perfect she should have left it here and Benny should have become the sole companion.  That said I still love Ace to bits as a character and I hope they find some other way to develop her in forthcoming novels.


The supporting characters of this novel are of course the UNIT Family reunited with the Brigadier, Benton and Mike Yates all together again for one last adventure.  For them this takes place after Terror of the Zygons and you can really tell how their glory days are over as new people are going up in the ranks.  They are definitely at their best in the first third of the novel where they act like they don’t know who the Doctor is as you see exactly how harsh UNIT can be.  It is also a great way to introduce the tertiary villains of the piece, the Vardans, those tin foil aliens from The Invasion of Time.  Unlike their appearance in The Invasion of Time they are an actual threat here, even if Cornell continues to point out how asinine the Vardans were for being fooled by the Sontarans.  The only other character who actually gets some good development is Danny Pain who is the person the Doctor was sent looking for at the end of Conundrum.  He’s best when he’s with Benny.  Their best scene is when they wake up naked in the same bed which is just one hilarious gag after another.


To summarize No Future is a story that gets to see the evolution of characters from way back in the Third Doctor era and some great development for Ace.  There is a great story and the villains are some of the most complex since those in Blood Heat.  The Doctor and Benny have some of their best development even when Benny is shoved in the background.  The only problem is that it misses a lot of the opportunities with Ace’s development, yet is still able to wrap up the Alternate History Cycle in a near perfect way.  80/100.

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