Friday, January 29, 2016

Tragedy Day by: Gareth Roberts: Peace for One Day and One Day Only

Gareth Roberts has always been a bit of a mixed bag for me.  I love the two audio plays he did for Big Finish coauthored by Clayton Hickman, but I thought his TV work was always lacking in the creativity department.  Usually it isn’t below average, but that doesn’t make it anything special.  Tragedy Day is his second novel and is a vastly different style of novel to the previous The Highest Science.  While The Highest Science is flat out Douglas Adams style comedy, Tragedy Day tries to be Mel Brooks style satire, making fun of story tropes while still cracking jokes.  On this front the novel really fails as the subjects that Tragedy Day is trying to satirize isn’t very clear.  I guess it’s mainly poking fun at the people who act like they care for the poor, but in reality aren’t along with sitcom tropes and compliance to the government.  But by the final two chapters all that gets lost in a plot about a piece of red glass, assassins and an order of evil space priests which only really connects to the short prologue of the story.


The plot sees the Doctor, Ace and Benny arrive on the planet Olleril which is ruled by the Supreme One and everyone is obsessed with television sitcoms and the annual Tragedy Day where everyone takes care of the poor people of the planet.  The empire also sends several people off to an area where they get massacred by genetically engineered Slaags which will eat anything.  Now during the beginning of the novel, Roberts really handles the Doctor, Ace and Benny well.  They really feel like a continuation of the end of their experiences in No Future but that doesn’t last very long as Ace is sent off to a colony island where colonists want to rebel and have chosen the son of an alien assassin as their god.  From here to the end of the novel Ace’s characterization takes a nosedive as she becomes just as insufferable as many fans found her during the run of the Virgin New Adventures.  She is incredibly standoffish and a nuisance throughout the novel.  Roberts nearly makes up for this poor characterization with an excellent characterization of Benny, but in the plot of the novel there is really no reason for her to be there except to let the Doctor have someone to talk to.


The supporting characters are also really bland mainly because there are about fifty different characters named and it is really difficult to keep up with who exactly is who over the course of the novel.  It’s a shame that a novel that includes a giant spider human hybrid assassin is extremely dull as he has no character.  Roberts also is trying to satirize tropes by falling into those tropes which you really cannot do if you are doing a satire.  Some of the jokes Roberts has in the story do work well enough even with these problems and for the most part the pacing is enough to keep the timing going.  Some of the funny moments is the main villain and his plan as it is just to insane not to think of as hilarious, I won’t give it away but it involves television and mind control.  Then Chapter 16 happens when the plot is basically solved and the Doctor has to go to the evil space priests to defeat them and it drags on and on for three more chapters.  That plot thread finishes by using a plot device that would kill anything so it causes a lot of problems and it took me way too long to finish up the novel.


To summarize, Tragedy Day is a story that drips with good ideas with some of them leading to comedic moments.  Sadly a lot of the story happens to fall flat with bad pacing and basically pulling a Timelash by creating a secondary villain after the first was defeated.  The characters are boring or unlikable and any enjoyment is simply from the craziness of the actual story.  35/100

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