Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Invasion of the Cat-People by: Gary Russell: Just Distract Them With A Giant Ball of Yarn

Gary Russell knows how to create an interesting sounding premise and has it down to a tee when it comes to getting you interested.  This is apparent in the only two novels of his that I have read the second of which I am able to discuss today in Invasion of the Cat-People a Second Doctor novel that sees the Doctor and oddly Ben and Polly land in 1995 to fight the invading cat people.  While the story does everything that it says on the tin, what it promises should be something extremely interesting to read and allow for some very sixties style settings, characters and ideas which it does, but Russell’s writing style lets the novel down in several ways as the novel’s style comes across as extremely boring almost always throughout.  The plot has two alien races trying to invade the Earth as they have been since the time of the Australian Aborigines and some of the members have been integrating with human culture.  This is a fascinating idea as it seems like something that actually would happen.  Sadly when crafting the characters Russell falls into the trap of making the characters have unpronounceable names.  This stops the characters from being very relatable as you can’t pronounce their names with a couple of exceptions.


The queen of the Cat-People is a generally humorous character whom appears a few times in scenes that had me chuckling which is the only real thing I can say about her.  Atimkos is a character on the opposing side and sort of acts as Polly’s mentor as she is part of this prophecy about the invasion of the cat-people and there are bits of telepathy.  Tim is extremely manipulative of Polly which I find fascinating as she wasn’t very developed on television and seeing her here doing some great stuff actually gets me interested.  That segues nicely into the characterization of Ben and Polly who are both done really well by Russell.  Ben suffers from not really having much to do as this is Polly’s story, but they both get twenty pages or so to realize that the two of them have been taken out of time.  They both find the world they find themselves in is terrifying and rightly so but there are interesting parables, especially concerning fast food, of how it really isn’t very different from what they are used to in their own time period.  The Doctor also gets to have his own characterization being done very well, at least better than the one seen in The Menagerie.  It is Gary Russell who has a respect for Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor which comes through extremely well in this novel and is a highlight.  He feels very much like a transition of the character seen in The Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders.


Another large problem in the novel is that Gary Russell puts in a lot of continuity, especially in references to the Cheetah People from the final story of the classic series, Survival.  This causes the novel to suffer greatly as you keep being reminded of other stories.  Continuity references aren’t bad in their own right, but doing them correctly can become very difficult when you put too many put inside the novel.  The Cat-People also come across as very generic villains even if Russell’s fan casting in the back of the novel is jam packed full of actors and actresses who have been in Doctor Who before.  The same can be said about the other alien faction which just doesn’t come across very well in the grand scheme of things.


To summarize, Invasion of the Cat-People is a perfectly average story that really comes from a genuinely interesting plot that in the hands of say Jim Mortimore or Andy Lane could have been done a lot better.  Sadly as it has been given to Gary Russell who at this point is inexperienced in writing which causes the novel to go rather slowly.  The characterization of the regulars is mostly spot on but the supporting cast is really where everything falls apart as Russell falls into the trap of making them have names that are unpronounceable making them less relatable as a result.  50/100

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