Saturday, September 18, 2021

Casualties of War by: Steve Emmerson

 

Steve Emmerson is a Doctor Who author who doesn’t quite have much information anywhere that I can find.  He has a website, but that hasn’t been updated since 2007, and outside of Casualties of War, the book I’m looking at today, there is only one other book he wrote (another Eighth Doctor Adventure), and he published nothing outside of these two Doctor Who books.  It’s odd, especially as Big Finish Productions was already publishing audio dramas at this point.  This makes it an even more odd that Emmerson’s debut, Casualties of War, is an excellent examination of shell shock and World War I, all wrapped in a zombie style B-movie.  The Doctor finds himself in a small Yorkshire village which has a hospital for shellshocked soldiers.  He sets himself up as a man from the ministry, here to inspect things in the vaguest way possible, in actuality investigating strange, almost paranormal events.  Emmerson’s setting of this village is incredibly evocative, with this deep dive into the mud and grime of the trenches without actually going to the trenches, but looking right at the aftermath and the effects of war.  There isn’t a an idea of being bogged down with the actual fighting, but sending the soldiers home and the idea of soldiers wanting to go back.

 

Emmerson evokes German expressionism with sleepwalking soldiers overseen by a mysterious doctor who doesn’t cooperate with the Doctor.  Charles Banham initially comes across as a kindly doctor genuinely trying to help these poor patients, letting them wander around at night with the idea being that it’s good therapy.  It’s eventually revealed that there is something nefarious, but for much of the book it is importantly seen as ridiculous that these sleepwalking soldiers could be doing something bad.  It makes the eventual reveal of the zombie like creatures, drawing from the Jewish Golem, rising from the mud to do its master’s bidding.  There are some red herrings as to who is actually controlling the Golems, but the villain is almost sympathetic.  There’s this definite idea of the horrors of war, there is this idea that Banham does want to have something good with stopping the people from their shellshock.  The villain is a doctor, after all.  It’s a story that evokes films like The Wicker Man with connections to ancient paganism and the Yorkshire setting tying in quite a lot with a woman, Mary Minnett, having connections to paganism.  There is this red herring that she could be a villain, but she and Constable Briggs are essentially pseudo-companions for the Eighth Doctor.  Mary has this relationship with the Doctor, not quite being romantic as the Eighth Doctor is asexual here (except one implication of a relationship with William Shakespeare), she is essentially the trope of a voodoo witch while the Doctor here is attempting to be as rational.  There is this lovely conversation near the end about the meeting with Fitz in 2001 and the hope that the Doctor has to keep going on.  The Doctor is still a wanderer, he doesn’t really fit in with the time, is questioned as to why he isn’t serving his time.  The audience knows that the Doctor is ancient, but he looks like he should have been.

 

Overall, Casualties of War is a standout book from a first time author which only falls flat with some of the pacing having points where it is unable to keep going.  The characters are utterly brilliant and the Eighth Doctor has just this new characterization which is a direct reaction to The Ancestor Cell and The Burning, as he has been waiting giving the reader something new and a new brilliant streak of books. 8/10.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Great Hunt by: Robert Jordan: Seanchan and Aiel (Chapters 28 to 29)

 

““She is Aes Sedai?” he said disbelievingly.  He never saw the casual backhand blow coming.  He staggered as her steel-backed gauntlet split hi slip.  “That name is never spoken,” Egeanin said with a dangerous softness.  “There are only the damane, the Leashed Ones, and now they serve in truth as well as name.”  Her eyes made ice seem warm.” – The Great Hunt, p. 423.

 

As the previous section was devoted to providing the beginnings of Rand’s acceptance, this section and an introduction to the people of Cairhien, this section brings the audience our first glimpse of two different cultures, the Seanchan and the Aiel.  The Aiel are introduced first, but as that is an important chapter for Perrin and Mat, it will be discussed later.  The Seanchan are a culture from across the Aryth Ocean, the point of view of this chapter looking from Captain Bayle Domon, who until this point had not encountered the Seanchan.  He is surprised to find they own slaves, and even more surprised when the damane, the slaves, are all women who can channel.  This is already setup as an interesting look at what other cultures do with channelers, the Two Rivers being suspicious but Seanchan using channelers as slaves as an almost to the extreme version of the suspicion in the Two Rivers.  Domon is threatened several times when he asks about the damane on board, as he is a foreigner and the Seanchan already have plans to expand their empire.

 

Egeanin is the captain and is in charge of the single damane, whom she treats like a pet in a scene where Jordan truly gets under the reader’s skin.  The reader already is familiar with Domon as a character.  While Domon shares some traits with stock pirates, he isn’t a bad person.  He is entirely on thin ice with the Seanchan, attempting to pass himself off as a simple trader, which works, but only barely.  He’s in stark contrast to Egianin and the High Lord Turok who both act with superiority complexes and obviously own slaves.  They add a human villainy and it isn’t a coincidence that half of this chapter is from the perspective of the Whitecloaks, quietly making a parallel between their over the top zealotry making anyone who associates with channeling or Aes Sedai as Darkfriends, while the Seanchan have slaves of channelers, literally called the Leashed Ones.

 

The Aiel introduced before this, however, already has a different story “So the Wise Ones say…yet even a clan chief must have a strong belly to avoid doing as they want…I search for….someone.  A man…He Who Comes With the Dawn.  It is said there will be great signs and portents of his coming…It is said we will know them when we hear of them, as we will know him when we see him.  He shall be marked.  He will come from the west, beyond the Spine of the World, but be of our blood.  He will go to Rhuideian, and lead us out of the Three-fold Land.” – The Great Hunt, p. 411-412.  This Aiel, Urien, calls Verin both a Wise One and there is a cultural thing about not hurting women who are not wedded to the spear.  There is a lot of idea that the Aiel leaving the waste means that there are new threads in the Pattern.  The sequence is from Perrin’s point of view and upon seeing the Aiel this is what is immediately remarked by Mat ““He looks like Rand.”  Perrin looked around to see that Mat had joined them to.  “Maybe Ingtar’s right,” Mat added quietly, “Maybe Rand is an Aiel.” Perrin nodded, “But it doesn’t change anything.”” – The Great Hunt, p. 409.  Clearly, Jordan is attempting to connect the idea about Rand being the Dragon Reborn and a predicted Aiel figure in He Who Comes With the Dawn.  While Mat responds that he agrees Rand possibly being an Aiel wouldn’t change their friendship it is Perrin who makes the point that it doesn’t change anything.  Perrin is once again the one communicating with the wolves and being changed like Rand, while Mat is only deteriorating, with Verin having to heal him multiple times ad day at this point.  Verin leaves once the Aiel says nothing more, knowing that there are things changing with the Pattern,  The party also makes it to Cairhien implying that a reunion is going to be happening quite soon.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Great Hunt by: Robert Jordan: Cairhien (Chapters 25 to 27)

 

“Twice and twice shall he be marked, twice to live and twice to die.  Once the heron to set his path.  Twice the heron, to name him true.  Once the Dragon, for remembrance lost.  Twice the Dragon, for the price he must pay.” – The Great Hunt, p. 387.

 

This section of The Great Hunt is the first time where this particular prophecy is uttered, and could be seen as the real moment where Rand al’Thor has to begin to accept the idea that he is the Dragon Reborn.  It is not the point where he takes up the mantle, but it is the sowing of the seeds to build to the point where he must accept his destiny.  This is a sequence where he doesn’t have to channel, he doesn’t have as much of the fear of encroaching madness, but there is still that undercurrent of being told he is the dragon.  The heron from his sword embedded its mark into his hand, and as the prophecy says this is the start of the path, the second will only confirm what the audience, Rand, and Moiraine already know.  “For the first time since Selene’s salve had done it’s work, he could feel it.  Not hurting, but he knew it was there.” – The Great Hunt, p. 387.  That single train of thought from Rand is something which is doing all the work to make the audience realize just what his destiny is.  This is important because the actual hunt of the title is essentially over, Rand has the Horn of Valere and he’s arrived in Cairhien, essentially is waiting for the rest of the party to catch up.  This three chapter section is essentially a lull in the action which allows for a reintroduction of one Thom Merrilin, a character who everyone but Moiraine and an innkeeper believed was in fact dead.

 

This sequence introduces an interesting bit of worldbuilding, that there are no female gleemen which is a very odd thing.  The Wheel of Time’s world has already shown itself to be mostly matriarchal with the White Tower and the Queen of Andor as the only real seats of power in this world, at least as of this point.  There are certainly places in the world where there are kings, but the idea that a woman couldn’t be a performer like that is an interesting little piece of old fashioned worldbuilding.  The character introduced here, Dena is one who is working underneath Thom as his apprentice and lover.  She’s a spunky character who is setup as if she is going to be some importance to the plot, but in these chapters she doesn’t end up doing anything.  She mainly remains in the background while there is quite a bit of worldbuilding of Cairhien, again implying the political games with Rand being thought of as a Lord and building up the idea that he is going to be treated as a Lord.  This section is essentially all foreshadowing to things that are yet to come, in this and subsequent books.

 

Thom’s reintroduction is important as there is the confirmation that he was helping the boys due to the guilt about letting his nephew Owyn, and apparently suspecting that one of the three boys could channel.  There’s also a message from Selene and Trollocs which attack to keep the characters on their toes, but this is one section where there simply isn’t a whole lot of things going on.  It’s interesting to note that it’s just Rand who has the reunion with Thom, as Mat and Perrin have remained mainly off-page as The Great Hunt, while expanding beyond just being Rand’s story.  We have had points of view from Nynaeve, Egwene, and Perrin, but this is something that isn’t actually expanding the world as much, as Perrin and Moiraine have each had one chapter, while Egwene and Nynaeve are only there to give us an idea of what’s going on in The White Tower.  This is still Rand’s story, but it’s on the cusp of becoming more than just Rand’s story.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Stars Fell on Stockbridge by: Steve Parkhouse with art by: Dave Gibbons

 

Stars Fell on Stockbridge is written by Steve Parkhouse with art by Dave Gibbons.  It was released in Doctor Who Monthly issues 68-69 (September-October 1982) and is reprinted in its original form in Doctor Who: The Tides of Time by Panini Books.

 

So here we have it.  After sixteen stories, three writing teams, and one regeneration, I reach the end of Dave Gibbons’ run on the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip with Stars Fell on Stockbridge.  This two issue story is different in that it serves essentially as an epilogue to The Tides of Time, moving the strip towards the next story which also features Stockbridge, and introduces the character of Maxwell Edison, introduced here as a one-off companion for the Fifth Doctor, but one who will reappear in the strip at several points much later down the line.  Max is a character who is just a lot of fun, he’s a bit of a nutcase who means well, investigating aliens and UFOs, but the night that stars fell on Stockbridge he meets the Doctor.  There is so much in the opening panels with Max picking up a reading on a machine that’s just some loose wires, showing immediately how the townsfolk look down on him.  The Doctor takes him to the signal which is an automated spaceship which enters the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrates.  That is the plot of the two issues, but really Parkhouse excels in telling a little two hander between the Doctor and Max, the Doctor being his nice self (by this point all of Season 19 had aired so Parkhouse knew better how to write for Davison) and helping Max through ensuring the spaceship breaks up safely.  The story ends with this beautiful panel of Max riding his bike as the debris causes a meteor storm over Stockbridge, giving Max a little bit of respect.

 

Dave Gibbons’ art is really the highlight here, showing his skills at Earth landscapes with the town of Stockbridge being absolutely beautiful.  There’s real emotion on the faces, especially Max who has a design which could easily have fallen apart, but really works in making someone look like an ordinary guy, something that Davison’s television companions didn’t have outside of Tegan.  It suits Gibbons that something so focused on character work as he would move after this onto DC Comics working on Green Lantern and The Flash in 1983.  He would work for DC Comics throughout the 1980s, including providing the art for Alan Moore’s Watchmen which is one of the best selling graphic novels of all time.  Luckily he would not forget his roots with British comics and Doctor Who, coming back as one of the artists on the celebratory issue 500 story for Doctor Who Magazine in 2016, an extra long 20 page comic strip.  His work set the tone for the comic strip and is a landmark.

 

Overall, Stars Fell on Stockbridge is a very nice little two part story that really only falls flat in not clearly leading right to the next one as it implies that The Tides of Time was not the end of the Fifth Doctor’s troubles with Stockbridge and the forces of time.  Although it’s the second Fifth Doctor strip, it is truly the end of an era with Dave Gibbons retiring.  8/10.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Imperial Moon by: Christopher Bulis

 

Christopher Bulis has one major flaw in his writing style.  He often sets up a story that on paper sounds amazing, take the premise of Imperial Moon, Victorian space age hidden from history due to the Doctor’s interference as well as a time travel plot involving Turlough changing the future, and then doing absolutely nothing with said premise of consequence.  This is no more apparent than in the failings of Imperial Moon, a book which is bookended by some great scenes and interesting dilemmas, but the middle is some of Bulis’ weakest prose.  Bulis teases the idea that Turlough is going to change history and cause a cataclysm of events, but this is something that never happens.  The book opens well enough with the Doctor and Turlough finding a diary in the TARDIS, sent back in time by the Doctor’s future self, creating a paradox in the process (they don’t actually find the diary here as is implied), while the Doctor tells Turlough not to read ahead once they appear in the events of the diary.  This of course is setting up Turlough to read the diary about one third into the novel and by the end he ends up saving the day, which Bulis then lampshades at the end congratulating Turlough for making a choice that somehow didn’t create ripples.  This becomes even odder when the premise is that not only are there a group of Victorian spaceships going to the moon, but also the moon is habitable while having its own civilization of alien refugees who are under attack.

 

The civilization on the moon is a great plot on paper with the idea calling on the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the descriptions of the spaceships come straight out of Jules Verne, all building up to a conclusion that ends with the moon being destroyed, something that can be seen right when the plot moves to the moon.  The alien invaders eventually are defeated, but then you realize there’s still about 50 pages left in the book so there is going to be a third act twist, which makes for some nice scenes involving Kamelion (who is in this book, more on that in a moment), but it’s something which just goes on for far too long without giving the reader anything.  The crew of the spaceships all come from stock Victorian characters: there’s the fearless chauvinist captain, the brilliant but doddering old professor, and the headstrong proto-feminist who ends up with the captain in the end (after not really sharing much in common, it’s a very weird thing that Bulis also lampshades), and our mutinous second in command who eventually goes insane.  These stock characters are fun initially when seen through the eyes of the captain, whose diary is what is read for several chapters and blithely commented on by the Doctor and Turlough, and the aliens are equally stock until the twist is eventually revealed in the end.

 

Somehow, Bulis manages to implement Kamelion into the book excellently.  As Kamelion is not a character who has really any television premise, here Bulis uses him sparingly at the beginning, in the middle, and right at the very end where he actually contributes to the plot.  Bulis understands both the shape shifting abilities of Kamelion (which is how history is put back on the right path without changing this timeline at all) as well as the uncanny valley nature of the prop.  There is this scene at the beginning where Turlough is reflecting on what his travels have been and why he keeps travelling with the Doctor, reacting to Tegan’s recent exit in Resurrection of the Daleks and attempting to setup Turlough’s exit in Planet of Fire (although there already has been a Fifth Doctor/Turlough audio from Big Finish and more were known to be on the way).  Kamelion is written as a robot, with no emotions nor a real understanding of the experience of emotions, though understanding what they mean to people.  Instead of being a clone of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Kamelion is there to offer emotional support without having the emotions itself, it gives Turlough the opportunity to vent and show some of his own character.

 

Overall, Imperial Moon is a book which could have been great, it has a brilliant premise, and stock characters which could have been fun if Bulis did any deconstruction of those sorts of stories.  As it stands there are some good things to enjoy, but they are few and far between as Bulis’ incredibly dry prose doesn’t make the book an easy or enjoyable read.  5/10.

Doctor Who and the Giant Robot by: Terrance Dicks

 

Doctor Who and the Giant Robot was written by Terrance Dicks, based on his story Robot.  It was the 13th story to be novelized by Target Books.

 

The Target novelizations for Doctor Who really only became a continuous series in 1974 after the 1973 test reprints of Doctor Who and the Daleks, Doctor Who and the Zarbi, and Doctor Who and the Crusaders with two stories from Jon Pertwee’s first season as the Doctor, followed up by two stories from Season 8 and two from Season 9, the year ending with one novel from Patrick Troughton’s run as the Doctor.  In December 1974, Tom Baker debuted as the Fourth Doctor with a story penned by Terrance Dicks who had already contributed three to the new novelization range, the story ending mid-January 1975.  Terrance Dicks would have less than two months until the publishing of Doctor Who and the Giant Robot, his adaptation of his own scripts.  These two months follow what Dicks would accomplish later in adapting Doctor Who and the Time Warrior, mainly adapting the story into something which doesn’t actually change much of the television script.

 


The biggest change is the description of the robot itself is described differently (partially due to not being restricted by the rather odd costume making the arms flop), Sarah Jane finds herself fainting more often here, and the opening sequence is from the perspective of the robot.  By the perspective of the robot, Dicks describes it in a very clinical in its process as it kills the sentry and takes the plans for the disintegrator gun, something only done with a point of view shot.  There’s also some more graphic descriptions which help make this book feel more than just something quick for children (indeed it would be adapted into another novelization aimed at even younger children).  The Doctor’s regeneration is also recapped by the Brigadier, getting some perspective from him, though he is portrayed as the more bumbling version of the character like he was in the later television stories which is true enough to the original script.  It’s telling as this was released nine months before Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders.  There’s also an excellent additional scene at the end of Harry entering the TARDIS for the first time, getting something that never occurred on television (indeed Harry never had any scenes in the TARDIS console room).


Overall, Doctor Who and the Giant Robot may not do much to expand upon the original story, it follows the television script almost to the letter, including some of Tom Baker’s ad libs, but it does manage to make the story more gripping and through the addition of a couple of scenes feel like a real step up from what was essentially an average televised story.  7/10.

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Rage of Dragons by: Evan Winter

 

The Rage of Dragons is revenge fantasy, pure and simple.  Evan Winter’s debut novel is one that takes several standard tropes and puts them under the microscope of war and how war can warp a person.  It follows Tau, a young man who offends a nobleman who retaliates by killing his father in his stead, on a world which is perpetually at war with a greater colonial power.  Many other reviews set up The Rage of Dragons as a standout debut novel, and those sentiments are something which I must echo.  Winter’s prose is excellent and really gives this impression that Tau is clearly not meant to be in the right, the reader following his rise to power giving himself over to an army.  The story and series seems to be projecting itself to be a war centered story, but that doesn’t actually appear much until the climax, setting itself up for a sequel.  A lot of the book is dedicated to Tau’s personal journey towards committing an act of revenge and the many pitfalls he faces.  Tau is not a character who the reader is supposed to completely agree with, he’s incredibly impulsive and young enough that he is going to have to prove himself, the entire novel dealing with him proving himself and securing a place in the army.

 

Tau is a character who can be defined by his insistence on being impulsive, his entire life being basically destroyed with the death of his father.  His childhood sweetheart is taken away to join an order of magic users, the Gifted, as Winter sets up a gender based magic system taking its roots from both European and African pieces of myth.  The mixing of myths helps set Winter apart from other fantasy novelists, writing a book that he wished he had in a childhood, as stated in the rather touching dedication to his son.  The magic system is perhaps where much of The Rage of Dragons has its issues, mainly in that the explanations don’t ever come satisfactorily and the title feels a bit more metaphorical than literally involving dragons (which don’t appear right until the end of the book).  It’s a metaphor that doesn’t quite work as the rage of dragons isn’t really an idea that’s explored, the sequel’s title The Fires of Vengeance almost feeling more fitting for this first book, though that doesn’t sound as much of a fantasy book as the actual title.  Winter’s format of the book is odd.  There are chapter breaks, but each chapter has essentially subsections which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make each chapter feel a lot longer than it is and causes some of the pace to drag.  That is especially bad with the prologue feeling a lot like a completely different story, though it does eventually come back around at the end in the setup for the sequel.  It’s these little ticks that makes The Rage of Dragons feel a lot more complicated then it actually is.

 

Overall, The Rage of Dragons is a great debut fantasy novel which deserves much of the praise that it’s gotten.  Winter’s tale should be a trailblazer in opening the fantasy genre up to settings that aren’t simple analogues for medieval/Renaissance Europe, blending cultures into a completely new setting from his own experiences.  The book is a great revenge tale building up towards what is going to clearly be a war story for the rest of the series.  An engaging read all around with some minor problems that keep it away from being the perfect story some of the hype would imply.  8/10.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Great Hunt by: Robert Jordan: The One Power and Testing (Chapters 22 to 24)

 

““Do you remember the first time we met, Lan?”  She was watching for some sign, or she would not have seen the quick twitch of his eyebrow.  It was not often she caught him by surprise.  This was a subject neither of them ever mentioned; nearly twenty years ago she had told him – with all the stiff pride oof one still young enough to be called young, she recalled – that she would never speak of it again and expected the same silence of him.  “I remember,” was all he said.  “And still no apology, I suppose?  You threw me into a pond…Every stitch I had was soaked, and in what you bordermen call new spring.  I nearly froze”” – The Great Hunt, p. 321.

 

While Twitter of Time is rightly losing its mind on the release of the Amazon Prime adaptation’s teaser trailer this week, the section of The Great Hunt on the docket is three chapters, all from different perspectives, finally opening up the worldbuilding and seeing the White Tower, testing to move up in the Aes Sedai ranks, and characters whose point of view had been lacking in The Eye of the World.  “Watchers” is an exploration of Lan and Moiraine’s relationship.  Lan as a character didn’t actually get much depth outside of certain parallels to The Lord of The Rings and his budding relationship with Nynaeve.  This particular chapter gives the reader an actual explanation as to what the bond between Aes Sedai and Warder entails, though not without some obfuscation.  It is a bond with the One Power, one that can be moved if necessary from Aes Sedai to Aes Sedai.  This is the first time where Moiraine gives some of her plans for Lan’s bond moving to somebody else, preparing for the possibility that she will not somehow not make it out alive.  “Myrelle…yes, she would have to be a Green or else some slip of a girl just raised to full sisterhood…Not a pet but a parcel.  Myrelle is to be a – a caretaker! Moiraine, not even the Greens treat their Warders.  No Aes Sedai has passed their Warder’s bond to another in four hundred years, but you intend to do it to me not once, but twice!” – The Great Hunt, p. 323.  Lan’s emotional state her is incredibly important, giving the reader a real sense of how deep the Warder bond goes, moving it would cause pain but is something that Moiraine clearly has a plan for.  She’s already seen just how Lan is around Nynaeve, and Myrelle has promised to pass the bond to one who suits Lan better.  Lan’s outrage here is completely justified, and could easily be explained if Moiraine made her plans known, she sends him away and the rest of the chapter discusses the possibility of the Forsaken having made it out of their entrapment.  The Eye of the World already establishes this as something which is happening, as well as discussing the numerous false Dragons, obviously Logain being captured but another by the name of Mazrim Taim.  There is also the whisperings of the Black Ajah, an evil group of Aes Sedai who have not been confirmed to exist, yet.

 

“Nynaeve shivered. “And you want me to walk into this one?” The light inside the arches flickered less, now, but she could see what lay in it no better.  “We know what this one does.  It will bring you face to face with your greatest fears.” Sheriam smiled pleasantly. “No one will ask you what you have faced; you need not say, no more than you wish.  Every woman’s fears are her own property…”“I just walk through one and out another? Three time’s through, and it’s done?”” – The Great Hunt, p. 336.

The second chapter is “The Testing,” all about Nynaeve being tested to become an Accepted, the middle rung of the Aes Sedai while Egwene has already had her name placed in the Novice book.  While there is an opening description of the White Tower, the main event here is the testing and what it reveals about Nynaeve.  She must enter a ter’angreal, a power wrought artifact, three times, as there are three archways.  Each archway makes Nynaeve face her fears of the past, present, and future.  The Aes Sedai, lead by Sheriam, Mistress of Novices, know exactly what emotionally they will be putting her through, Sheriam even offering her one last out, but Nynaeve insists on going through the testing.

 

Each vision she is shown tests a different part of her.  The past looks at her recent past and some unspoken trauma she experienced at the climax of The Eye of the World, with Aginor appearing and threatening her life.  Nynaeve is a woman who doesn’t wish to be helpless when she or those she loves are in danger, and with a Forsaken, while she can attempt to fight Aginor, she gets through only when she realizes that she needs to run away to fight another day.  The second fear is of those who she left behind at home, with the woman who she left in place when she chased after the boys has left and been replaced essentially by an evil Wisdom, representing her fears of the Aes Sedai.  Mavra Mallen, a name that immediately calls the idea of malice and evil, is essentially the stereotype that was in Nynaeve’s head about Aes Sedai from the very beginning.  Remember that this is the woman who refused to believe she could channel and believed Moiraine wanted to spirit away Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene for her own evil purposes, and letting go of those prejudices is something that she will have to overcome, when she finishes the test she screams that she hates all Aes Sedai.  The final test is what brings her to this, but this second one is what’s putting her near the edge, the final test seeing herself and Lan happily married and with children.  She has to confront that she could have any real feelings for Lan, and this final test leaves her scarred with thorns in her hands.  Jordan has included several instances of religious imagery, and invoking the stigmata here is an interesting choice connecting Nynaeve to Jesus, already planting the seeds that she is going to be a healer and protector, something which runs through each of the visions of the testing.  She doesn’t see her connected to the Aes Sedai, but the chapter ends with this line, “You are sealed to us, now.” ­– The Great Hunt, p. 354.  Nynaeve has made her fate and while she may not yet accept it, she’s taken the first steps towards that acceptance.

 

““My name is Elayne,” she said.  She tilted her head, studying Egwene.  “And you are Egwene.  From Emond’s Field, in the Two Rivers.”  She said it as if it had some significance, but went right on anyway.  “Someone who has been here a little while is always assigned to a new novice for a few days, to help her find her way.  Sit, please.”” – The Great Hunt, p. 356.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back Elayne Trakand, daughter air of Andor.  Elayne is assigned to Egwene, showing her the ropes of the tower, and both of them have been put to work doing several chores.  This isn’t really a big let’s move the plot forward chapter, but Jordan uses it to really make the reader know that he isn’t going to be doing a love triangle between Rand, Elayne, and Egwene.  It’s the lightest of the three chapters, and does also reintroduce Min, who reveals in a small point of view section at the end reveals that Elaida, the Aes Sedai advisor to Queen Morgase who has a way of getting some information about who Min is (she was called to the Tower by Moiraine) and the three girls here are all essentially outsiders.  Elayne shows her royal sensibilities here, though is good natured, while Min is just adamant that she shouldn’t be here under so many Aes Sedai.  It’s essentially people becoming friends while Min has another vision vaguely foreshadowing things that we don’t learn until much later.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders by: Terrance Dicks

 

Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders was written by Terrance Dicks, based on Planet of the Spiders by Robert Sloman.  It was the 16th story to be novelized by Target Books.

 

Publishing the adaptation of the Third Doctor’s final story is interesting as it happened after Doctor Who and the Giant Robot which was published only a few months after the Fourth Doctor made his debut.  This meant that Terrance Dicks, who adapted both stories, knew exactly where he was going when adapting Planet of the Spiders which is of course the six episode finale for the Jon Pertwee era.  The adaptation does an excellent job of compressing the long story down into a smaller page count.  It helps that Part Two was an extended chase sequence which is easily cut down into a high tense chapter, a chase which is great on television, and in prose form Dicks adapts it incredibly well.  Tightly paced is essentially how Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders ends up coming out, but Dicks also knows when to add things, like a different fate for the human villain, Lupton, who on television just kind of disappears while here his flesh is eaten by the spiders.  The Great One is also given a lot more depth here, with some cameos earlier on and a real presence before things can actually be met.  It makes the Doctor’s fate and slow death become one which Dicks actually adds some of the ideas of the Doctor really suffering from radiation in the TARDIS.  There is the weight of Sarah Jane and the Brigadier waiting for the Doctor to arrive and he doesn’t come for a while, something only really implied on television.  Sarah Jane is actually also characterized really well with the idea that she is emotionally attached and has a wider breadth of emotions throughout the book, while on television there isn’t as much of an explanation as to what’s going on with her.  There’s also a weird deviation where Harry Sullivan is renamed Sweetman (though he doesn’t appear) but that was already rectified in Doctor Who and the Giant Robot.

 


Overall, Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders is an adaptation that actually tightens things up, though doesn’t quite work in changing some of the rather problematic elements of the television stories.  Another shoutout to the audiobook where Elisabeth Sladen really brings the prose to life in an emotional performance.  9/10.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Great Hunt by: Robert Jordan: The White Tower, Manipulation, and a Disappearance (Chapters 18 to 21)

 

““If I must learn all this,” Nynaeve broke in stiffly, “ Would as soon learn something useful.  All this – this . . . . ‘Make the air stir, Nynaeve.  Light the candle, Nynaeve.  Now put it out.  Light it again.’ Pah.”  Egwene closed her eyes for a moment.  Please, Nynaeve.  Please keep a check on your temper…The Amyrlin was silent for a moment. “Useful…Sometehign useful.  You wanted a sword.  Suppose a man came at me with a sword.  What would I do? Something useful, you can be sure.  This I think.”  For an instant, Egwene thought she saw a glow around the woman at the other end of her bed.  Then the air seemed to thicken; nothing changed that Egwene could see, but she could surely feel it.  She tried to lifetr arm, it did not budge any more than if she were buried to her neck in jelly.  Nothing could move except her head.” – The Great Hunt, p. 276.

 

Looking throughout The Eye of the World, I fear I have perhaps not done justice to Nynaeve al’Meara and Egwene al’Vere.  Yes, I have discussed Nynaeve, her coming to terms with the idea that she could channel and some of the real world allegory that implies, and begun to discuss some of her blocks with channeling, but that actually begins to really form here.  “To the White Tower” is Chapter 18 of The Great Hunt and essentially chronicles the journey of Egwene and Nynaeve, learning more about the White Tower, saidar, and the structure between Novices, Accepted, and full Aes Sedai.  The quote above is from one of their lessons where Siuan Sanche is overseeing them, and ends with her essentially showing them the lesson.  There’s this quip from the Mistress of Novices that the hard work of Novices isn’t so bad, at least when compared to the Accepted, and Nynaeve as a character is the one to be the most like an Aes Sedai, yet is denying it.  She’s not taking anything for granted, but is still at the point where she has a lot to learn in terms of controlling her temper and essentially letting others in on.

 

The above quote is Siuan giving the girls both a lesson and getting Nynaeve to get angry enough to channel, and she rises to the bait, continuously screaming to be let go until this happens: “Nynaeve squawked furiously as she slowly rose, still in the sitting position, until her head almost touched the ceiling…Suddenly the Amyrlin flew backwards her head rebounded from the wall, and there she stayed” – The Great Hunt, p. 276-277.  She is the one giving pushback, but immediately backs off after this point, Nynaeve realizes that she has gone too far and needs to back off.  Once the lessons are over Nynaeve’s pride essentially browbeats Egwene into staying silent about Nynaeve’s essential breaking down.  She’s a character of pride and that pride and stubbornness is what’s causing this block on her character.  There is a struggle to use honorifics towards the Aes Sedai which is consistent as she still doesn’t see herself as one of them, the One Power may be a part of her, but The White Tower and the Aes Sedai will never be (in her mind).  This entire chapter is also from an outsider perspective, all coming from Egwene, who is essentially along for the ride.  Egwene is also put against a wall by Siuan and she is terrified and quiet.  The essay opened with that description and it is Egwene whom Siuan apologizes to, an apology for forgetting about her in her sparing with Nynaeve.  The perspective of Egwene only confirms her uncertainty from The Eye of the World, she is still looking to Nynaeve and all of the Aes Sedai as figures of authority and they are essentially both being manipulated into the choice that the Amyrlin wants.  The Tower is in a position where there aren’t many Novices and the Aes Sedai need all the sisters they can get especially since Siuan knows that the Dragon has been reborn and the Last Battle is coming.

 

This manipulation is also what happens throughout the subsequent three chapters with the character of Selene.  Rand has been constantly losing a lot of himself in Selene since she appeared.  She has been the one coaxing him towards using Saidin and this is the point where they get the Horn of Valere and the ruby dagger back, sneaking into a camp.  This is Selene’s reaction to finding the Horn: ““Tia mi aven Moridin isainde vadin,” Selene said.  “’The grave is no bar to my call.’  You will be greater than Artur Hawkwing ever was.”” – The Great Hunt, p. 296.  Rand has no trouble in denying her, but it is continual.  At the opening of the next chapter, she attempts to get the Horn down using Loial and his timidity to do so.  The case is where they’ve stored the dagger, Rand completely understanding it’s danger and the fact that nobody should touch it.  This chapter also sees a giant statue which Selene attempts to get Rand away from, but that also tempts Rand into nearly using saidin again.  It is described as singing to him, something sweet even though previously there was the descriptor.

 

Rand also begins to push Selene away by questioning if she could be Aes Sedai, to which she reacts as such: “Aes Sedai!  Always you hurl that at me!...I am what and who I am.  And that is no Aes Sedai!” – The Great Hunt, p. 301.  He acquiesces and agrees to take her to Cairhien, but it is Selene’s final actions which are telling.  Once at an inn in Cairhien (which is a country and a city) there is some expository worldbuilding about the Great Game of Houses which is something which will be discussed in later essays once it actually is introduced outside of the brief mention of it being a political game here, but Selene runs off the next morning, leaving a note. “The wax had been impressed with a crescent moon and stars.  I must leave you for a time.  There are too many people here, and I do not like Caladevwin.  I will meet you in Cairhien.  Never think that I am too far from you.  You will b in my thoughts always as I will be in yours.” – The Great Hunt, p. 318.  She’s essentially run at the first sign of trouble, but the wax seal on the letter is important.

 

Rand is left confused, but the reader already has been given some hints about moon imagery way back in “Blood Calls Blood” where Verin’s reading of the Dark Prophecy announces the walking again of the Daughter of the Night, implying a connection to the moon.  The moon imagery goes further, Selene being a name taken out of Greek mythology, a moon goddess outside of Artemis also connected with connotations of love and infatuation.  Infatuation with Rand is what has been guiding the manipulation and his infatuation back has been the temptation.  The goddess Selene fell in love with Endymion whom Zeus would put into an eternal sleep so she could love him forever, as analyzed by Overly Sarcastic Productions as an example of aesthetic attraction and not love, hence Selene in The Great Hunt, being infatuated with Rand and not really in love.  There is also clearly an identity underneath here, something I will not spoil, but the name is important for where this character will be going.  Rand doesn’t fall here to temptation, but that is something that he easily could not have been overcoming.  Next time we will also be discussing tests, but also getting more into the women of The Wheel of Time as it’s the first section entirely from the point of view of the female characters.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion by: Malcolm Hulke

 

Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion was written by Malcolm Hulke, based on his own story Invasion of the Dinosaurs.  It was the 19th story to be novelized by Target Books.

 

Malcolm Hulke proved with his adaptation of Doctor Who and the Silurians into Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters that he could take his often long stories and put them into a very short page count with excellence, while still finding places to expand and compress what needs to be compressed.  Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion is the adaptation of the last story Hulke would contribute to Doctor Who, having a slight falling out with the show after the marketing for this very story ended his relationship with the show.  Yet, he continued to write the novelizations, novelizing all of his television stories bar one (The Faceless Ones was novelized in 1987 after Hulke had passed away, so duties went to Terrance Dicks).  This novelization is another example of Hulke’s perfection in making the story work beyond the simple special effects of the televised dinosaurs and changes just enough to make things work.  The book opens with what is essentially a prologue where a random guy finds himself killed in the dinosaur invasion after going to London and missing the evacuation.  Hulke with one scene gives more weight to the idea that this is a genuine crisis as on television all the viewer saw is the aftermath and deserted streets, this is something which is understandable for a visual medium.  Seeing someone whom Hulke gives the reader enough depth and likability that the death becomes all the more terrifying.

 


Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion is also a book which is quite a bit darker than the televised story with quite a bit of blood and more visceral deaths than the standard Doctor Who fare.  This is an excellent choice as it genuinely sells the terror of a dinosaur invasion while still having that sympathy for the creatures, they are being taken out of their own time after all.  The Operation Golden Age plot which is the main human threat of Invasion of the Dinosaurs also seems all the more real, with Whitaker and Butler both being more antagonistic to one another, giving this plot a more human relationship.  The people they’ve brainwashed also come across as more brainwashed, with a more cultlike behavior of being sold this story of going to a new Earth and blinding themselves to the common sense of the rest of the world.  Their fate at the end also is referenced through a Bible verse, an interesting refolding of some possible myth, though still implying the serial’s issue of giving these people exactly what they want and not implying their immediate death by dinosaur.  Yates is also given some point of view so Hulke can actually get more of why he would go away from UNIT and towards something like Operation Golden Age.

 


Overall, Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion is unhampered by the fact that the television story is infamous for lackluster special effects.  It’s a read which tightens things up and adds enough of a human element to make it a book in its own right while still staying true to the serial.  It’s an excellent read and another of Hulke’s triumphs.  10/10.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Burning by: Justin Richards

 

The Burning is an integral book to the Eighth Doctor Adventures.  It sets up the amnesiac Eighth Doctor, stuck on Earth with no memory of the previous books and a piece of paper in his pocket from Fitz telling him to meet him in St. Louis in 2001.  The only problem is that he has no TARDIS, a small black box, and is in England in 1890.  Justin Richards’ novel can be highly summarized as a fresh start for the range as the reader is presented with a story where they are as much of an outsider as the Doctor.  The Doctor doesn’t appear until approximately 50 pages into the book, with other characters being hinted at possibly being the Doctor, though none of those characters are ever seriously entertained as possibly the Doctor, bar one who reveals himself to be antithetical to the Doctor once he opens his mouth.  The book is primarily concerned with the industrial revolution and a fire creature taking over industrialists who end up reopening a mine and foundry essentially building to an explosive climax.  The plot is deceptively simple, but Richards is one who does an excellent job of putting this idea of flames slowly rising into the readers head as this group of characters all have baggage under them.  The Doctor is trying to solve this mystery of these artefacts and who he is, indeed who this Fitz could be, but has no real way of finding him without waiting.  The entire creature is an Invasion of the Body-Snatchers fire elemental which is trying to create itself a body, a creature of flame and warmth, taking the warmth away from those around this manor house, while the story eventually ends with a great flood.

 

Richards manages to analyze who the Doctor has been without actually mentioning who the Doctor is.  Without his memory, the Eighth Doctor is still the incredibly charming, showing up at a dinner party and getting the guests to believe he came with someone else, and essentially charming the villain to give him  all of the information he wishes to know.  There is never any idea of him being out of character without his memory, he still attempts to fight the injustice and cannot let things go, but there is almost this edge.  The Doctor is almost callous when it comes to the young daughter being taken over by the burning, and although he saves her, Richards implies that he is definitely able to leave her behind.  The book ends in a great flood and the Doctor essentially leaves without a real word of anything which is almost brilliant.  The Russell T. Davies era of the show often made the Doctor out to be a force of nature, but it’s this book where it’s felt without being connected to themes of the Virgin New Adventures and the idea of Time’s Champion.  There is some visceral imagery of the Doctor being at some of his most violent here, defeating the villain by pushing some of its servants into a river which turns them to stone which then crumbles to dust.

 

Nepath is the human villain of the book who is excellent, being the closest that Richards comes to tricking to reader into thinking that the Doctor has arrived to save the day.  There is this dastardly mix of gentlemanly kindness and pure unadulterated evil.  He manipulates Lord Urton into falling into the thrall of the burning and slowly expanding the power by promises of money and prosperity.  Some of the fear comes from the fact that these aren’t actually empty promises, building mines and industrializing is something that would make the rich even richer, often with deadly side effects for the communities that industrialize and Richards knows this, being done obviously through metaphor and allegory.  The perspective is from the upper class, the Doctor not really interacting with the lower classes which is something the book falls flat on.  The book is one with quite a slow pace which is a double-edged sword, some of it being absolutely brilliant of setting the atmosphere and scene to an appropriate level of creepiness for things to build to.

 

Overall, The Burning is quite a good book at setting up a clean slate for the Eighth Doctor, but there are some definite issues with pace and some of the scope of the book not quite being enough to fully do the Industrial Revolution plot Richards provides.  The characters and ideas are there, just not quite enough to make this up there with the perfect Doctor Who books.  8/10.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Doctor Who and the Time Warrior by: Terrance Dicks

 

Doctor Who and the Time Warrior was written by Terrance Dicks, based on The Time Warrior by: Robert Holmes.  It was the 42nd story to be novelized by Target Books.

 

It’s sometimes a shame when a Terrance Dicks book doesn’t add much new to the original story and that’s essentially what happens with Doctor Who and the Time Warrior, adapting The Time Warrior.  While the book, and indeed the audiobook narrated by Jeremy Bulloch, does have all the charm of a Terrance Dicks book, this one seems almost like it was rushed.  With Dicks’ other works you can get a sense that care is taken to see what can be done to translate from screen to page and enrich some of the text with that usual charm.  For instance, Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion and Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons both introduce new companions from their television stories and give them their own internal monologues and lives, as well as giving the villains of those stories some more depth.

 

Here, this is just a one to one translation of the television story onto the page except for the prologue.  The prologue is the only thing that deviates, showing Linx crashing into the Milky Way and eventually the Earth which does give the reader something about the Sontarans and Rutans which is great, but this was actually from the mind of Robert Holmes.  Holmes originally wished to write this book himself, but apparently only submitted three pages before Dicks was brought in to actually write the book.  There isn’t any indication that he was rushed, but outside of some very minor character notes, with the Doctor and the Brigadier having more interactions at the beginning, it feels like Dicks may have been rushed.

 

Overall, Doctor Who and the Time Warrior is simply inferior to its television counterpart, with the major issues coming from the fact that it doesn’t change enough to actually feel like a novelization.  All of the dialogue feels reproduced from the television story, which is very possible as it was released only four years from the initial broadcast so the tapes were there to watch.  It’s still decent, The Time Warrior is a great story even if this isn’t a great adaptation.  7/10.

The Great Hunt by: Robert Jordan: Portal Stones and Active Magic (Chapters 13 to 17)

 

“He closed his eyes and formed the flame.  The void came slowly, hesitantly.  He knew his own fear was holding it back, fear of what he was trying.  As fast as he fed fear into the flame, more came.  I can’t do it.  Channel the Power.  I don’t want to.  Light, there has to be another way…He could feel sweat beading on his face.  Determinedly he kept on…And the void was there.  The core of him floated in emptiness.  He could see the light – saidin – even with his eyes closed, feel the warmth of it surrounding him, surrounding everything, suffusing everything It wavered like a candle flame seen through oiled water.  Rancid oil.  Stinking oil.” – The Great Hunt, p. 219.

 

It is at this point in The Great Hunt where something very important happens to Rand al’Thor, he reaches out and grabs saidin on his own for the first time.  He finds himself with Loial and Hurin transported into a parallel telling of the Wheel of Time through what is known as a Portal Stone, only accessible via channeling the One Power, at a time when there were male Aes Sedai.  Rand channeled in his sleep, playing on the idea that he wished to get away from his troubles.  This idea of Rand running away is something shared by Mat and Perrin, both unable to run because of the dagger constricting Mat’s health.  There has been a lot of discussion on Rand being put into a leadership role, it being revealed he’s secretly the second in command of the hunt for the Horn of Valere, but it is at this point where Rand actually has to confront this fact.  He’s the one who can channel and he’s the one who is going to be able to get Loial and Hurin out of this.  There is this display of complete fear from Hurin, which adds realism to the piece.  Hurin to this point had been stoic and fitting into a stock strong armyman trope, but he’s got a family waiting for him: ““My Lord Rand?”  Now on his feet, Hurin seemed calmer, but he clutched his coat at the waist with both hands, his face urgent.  “My Lord Rand, you’ll get us back, won’t you?  Back where we belong?  I’ve a wife, my Lord, and children.  Melia’d take it bad enough, me dying, but if she doesn’t even have my body to give to the mother’s embrace, she’ll grieve to the end of her days.  You understand, my Lord.  I can’t leave her not knowing.  You’ll get us back.  And if I die, if you can’t take her my body, you’ll let her know, so she has that, at least.”  He was no longer questioning at the end.  A note of confidence had crept into his voice.” – The Great Hunt, p. 217-218.

 

Rand has to be the one to lead them through this other world, he’s the one in charge of the group, and having Hurin outwardly be relying on him in that tone makes that come together.  There is an encounter with Ba’alzamon in this other world which is where we get the first real confirmation of Rand as the Dragon Reborn.  He is referred to directly as Lews Therin, and while he is still rejecting the title of Dragon, this is yet another confirmation that Rand is the Dragon Reborn: “Oh, I know the name you use now, Lews Therin.  I know every name you have used through Age after Age, long before you were even the Kinslayer…I know you, know your blood and your line back to the first spark of life that ever was, back to the First Moment.  You can never hide from me.  Never!  We are tied together as surely as two sides of the same coin” – The Great Hunt, p. 242.  This tying together is something which has already been foreshadowed with the idea of the Dark Prophecy already coming to past, though this is something which Rand hasn’t heard, explaining that the Great Lord of the Dark is coming and the Time of Change has come.  There is another prophetic moment here, Rand defying Ba’alzamon’s offer to teach him to channel, something that Rand is still actively avoiding despite having to actually grab saidin in this section of the book.  “The dark eyes became fire again, and that mouth, flame that blossomed and grew until it seemed brighter than a summer sun.  Grew, and suddenly Rand’s sword glowed as if just drawn from the forge.  He cried out as the hilt burned his hands, screamed and dropped the sword…There across the palm was branded a heron.” – The Great Hunt, p. 245.  While he has the strength to resist Ba’alzamon, he does not resist Selene, a woman whom Rand saves and takes along with them.  There are hints that she has been following the party since before the Portal Stone things, as she matches a description of a woman seen, but Rand immediately trusts her.  She gets Rand to discuss legends and promise to take her home, they are chased by Shadowspawn, but aren’t actually there.  Now there is something which gets them back, Selene gives Rand just enough information for him to grab saidin and they get back, but it’s all there subtly.  She is manipulating Rand, beginning Rand’s actual issues with women. This will be discussed with much more depth later on, but Rand is a character easily led when it comes to certain women, like the woman who reminds Rand of Egwene.

 

Finally, while Rand, Hurin, and Loial are traversing this alternate path, Perrin has a minor point of development.  Chapter 14 is entitled “Wolfbrother”, sharing its title with Chapter 23 of The Eye of the World.  This is not the first time Jordan reuses a chapter title, nor will it be the last, but it is important as Perrin essentially parallels Rand’s development here.  This is the chapter where Perrin first actively seeks out speaking with the wolves, and not just allowing them in the background.  They give him a name, Young Bull, and he muses over the fact that he killed men in the last book, something which has been on his mind in The Eye of the World, but because he always looks contemplative it’s something which isn’t changing.  He also has to have the trust to tell Ingtar he is able to essentially keep them moving, because they’re stuck without Hurin.  This leap of trust is important as it’s something that the last time he mentioned he was actively captured by the Children of the Light, something that doesn’t happen here.  There is some obfuscating, telling the party that he has the same gift as Hurin (he doesn’t), but he is the one to notice Verin arriving and asking after Rand (and only Rand).  Perrin is the contemplative one and in parallel actively accepts this part of himself and uses it once he’s accepted.  He can trust Ingtar while Rand is still hung up on being captured and going insane, real concerns, but the refusal to accept is something that starts to break.  This is the point where magic of The Wheel of Time changes from being something for other characters to being actively used by our point of view characters.