Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Neutron Knights by: Steve Parkhouse with art by: Dave Gibbons


The Neutron Knight is written by Steve Parkhouse with art by Dave Gibbons.  It was released in Doctor Who Monthly issue 60 (December 1981) and is reprinted in its original form in Doctor Who: Dragon’s Claw by Panini Books.


Having Logopolis air between February and March 1981 meant that Doctor Who would be off the air for nine months before Peter Davison could debut as the Doctor properly, so Doctor Who Monthly instead of attempting to do comics with the Fifth Doctor without any sort of idea of what his Doctor would be like.  This means that the rest of the comics for 1981 are telling Fourth Doctor’s essentially last stories, but by the time the December issue rolled around, the magazine was given enough information that the Fifth Doctor was coming and what his character would be like, so to coincide with Season 19 airing in January 1982, issue #60 would be the last to feature the Fourth Doctor.  Author Steve Parkhouse would stay with the magazine through the beginning of the Sixth Doctor’s run in 1985 and with that there is concerted effort to bring back the style of Mills and Wagner’s longer stories.  The Fifth Doctor would debut in a story that lasted for seven issues, his shortest being two two-issue stories.  While the comic would eventually go back to single issue stories, many of those stories would be interconnected and part of longer arcs as this is where arcs in the magazine really begin.


As Parkhouse had one issue to fill before the Fifth Doctor started on television he devised The Neutron Knights. This story, like Junk-Yard Demon before it, has an incredibly simple plot with a castle under siege by a group of futuristic knights.  The castle is ruled by King Arthur and the Wise Merlin calls upon a Lord of Time for help, dragging the Doctor in to help set a dragon upon the enemies of Arthur, mainly the evil Catavolcus who isn’t actually defeated.  Yes the castle explodes while the Doctor is just along for the ride, but the final panels reveal that this story really is just an intent on setting up what is coming next.  The final message is the Doctor looking ahead to his own future which will be what happens in The Tides of Time.  The inactivity of the Doctor is what really makes this story be held back from what really could have been a great prologue into a brave new era for the comics, but really it’s just a great intriguing prologue without knowing what exactly the point was.  It was definitely great, especially with Dave Gibbons’ art style fitting the whole mix of history and future technology here, making the nuclear bomb look like a dragon in a lot of ways and the castle itself having such an interesting little details in the background.  It kind of makes the TARDIS look a bit out of place and ends the story end on an odd note, but it creates something different.


Overall, The Neutron Knights makes a great attempt at ending a Doctor’s comic strip era on an important note, looking ahead to what the next Doctor will be doing, something that happens again with the Fifth and Seventh Doctors at the very least creating a trend.  It is brought down by being simple but the art and intrigue are enough to make it an ending on a high note. 8/10.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Deadfall by: Gary Russell


Switching over to Bernice Summerfield as the protagonist for the Virgin New Adventures is perhaps not the most accurate description of just what the books become.  The first five books, certainly, Benny is the driving force and main character, but with the sixth book, Deadfall by Gary Russell, the protagonist moves away from Benny and onto Jason Kane, who nicks a data crystal right from Benny’s nose to what may be the mythical planet of Ardethe.  On the way to the planet is an amnesiac Christopher Rodonte Cwej while stowing away with Jason is Emile Mars-Smith, determined to get Jason and Benny back together.  Irving Braxiatel also has a small part to play, mainly as Benny’s confidant in her little interludes.  The cover of this book is perhaps one of the most B-movie covers any of the Virgin New Adventures have had with Chris Cwej surrounded by two beautiful women, convicts of a prison, and a cat, who isn’t Wolsey, Wolsey stays on Dellah.  This is also another adaptation of one of the Audio Visuals Doctor Who audios which were made by him and Nicholas Briggs in the 1980s, and this book actually lends itself really well for not being a Doctor Who story.  Any Doctor Who references directly have to have the serial numbers filed off and it makes for some interesting speculation as the implication clearly is that the myth of Ardethe is actually the planet of Gallifrey (there is a clear degradation of the Shobogans, the setting is the constellation of Kastoborous, and it is protected by the Knights of Jeneve).


Switching things to Jason Kane as the main character for this one book also isn’t the most accurate, even if it is brilliant.  Emile is the character who gets much more of the spotlight here in his naïve quest to get Benny and Jason back together.  He has come to terms with his sexuality and has an impending visit from Scott while Tameka has had Scott’s child, Scott being perfectly fine with polyamory while Emile kind of has that tension.  Unlike Beyond the Sun, Deadfall sees Emile immediately recognizing his feelings are actually his own and not him projecting his insecurities onto others.  He is still having issues with his father, but has realized just how toxic that relationship was and how Tameka was genuinely just trying to help with him.  Jock, Tameka and Scott’s child, is almost a source of pride for Emile, he finishes the book seeing the child and loving the child like a father.  It makes for a nice little arc for Emile which is great.  Chris on the other hand has to figure out just who he is and what his purpose is in this post-Lungbarrow world.  He doesn’t even remember who Roz was and is integral in the resolution of the book, which draws on ideas present in the Psi-Powers arc of the Virgin New Adventures, as this wouldn’t be a Gary Russell book without references to other stories.  Jason rounds out our trio of protagonists, and there is still this lovesick nature to him as while he distracts himself with other women and even gets a fiancé at the end (ending the book at a reference to Death and Diplomacy and Happy Endings), he clearly is still in love with Benny.


Benny and Braxiatel have their own little subplot on Dellah as things are going awry at St. Oscar’s with the discovery of the coordinates.  Brax being Benny’s person to complain to about Jason here is excellent as he is right there with a drink and ready to hear whatever insanity Jason is about to have.  He’s clearly planning something in the background as Russell drops hints here which are a lot of fun, and Benny’s outbursts against Jason are also way too fun.  Overall, Deadfall is perhaps the best Gary Russell Doctor Who book and it’s not even a Doctor Who book.  It gives some brilliant insight into where Jason is post Eternity Weeps and post-Beyond the Sun which makes for a great protagonist and rounds out essentially what is the first big grouping of the Bernice Summerfield VNAs.  It is a roller coaster with brilliant implications for the series as a whole and what has happened to Gallifrey and how this series connects with the Eighth Doctor Adventures.  10/10.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Dreams of Fire by: Nathaniel Wayne


One of the goals which I have been attempting in 2021 is to read more self-published works, having done one in 2020 and this year I’m shooting for five.  Dreams of Fire is the third self-published book (fourth if you count Theft of Swords) I have read this year and the second from a YouTuber.  This one is from Nathaniel Wayne aka Council of Geeks, most well known for their Doctor Who content.  This is also a fantasy novel that while not explicitly part of a series, once read it clearly ends on a point where there is going to be a sequel, however, Wayne doesn’t adequately fill the book with enough plot to keep things going.  Dreams of Fire is essentially an extended prologue for whatever Wayne’s follow up will be, and when viewed through that lens it mostly works.  The plot as a single installment does have some arcs based on the emotions of its characters, mainly the protagonist Farris and a character I can only describe as the main antagonist, Professor Raines.  Farris is on the run while Professor Raines is chaing an escaped subject from her laboratory.  They are our two major point of view characters for the novel which actually does work really well, though Wayne includes some other characters to flesh out the world, especially the Fey.  It is these other points of view which doesn’t actually integrate well in the book, only really serving as worldbuilding for the rest of the book and setting up sequel material.


Wayne’s worldbuilding, however, is something that they excel at, taking several pieces of fantasy tropes and lore and putting them into a blender to develop a world that plays like a mix of classic and modern.  Other reviews refer to the setting as electropunk, which is apparently a subgenre similar to steampunk, characterized by blending modern technology such as electricity and magic.  As it is a subgenre that I am unfamiliar with, Dreams of Fire could easily be taking wholesale from other examples of the subgenre, but as far as I can tell it is at least putting its own spin by still having that classic, high fantasy setting with several guilds and obviously the fey.  The Fey creatures which appear here are taken from other classic tales, with your traditional sprites and fairies, as well as the Morrigan, a figure taken from Irish mythology associated with war and crows.  The magic system, or possibly two magic systems (it isn’t clear that the Fae magic is separate from the elemental magic), introduced here is presented as soft, though there are clearly rules that restrict it from being the softest of systems.  There’s also some nice little cultural details like insights into the many constables throughout cities and some of the games that people play in the society as a reflection of the relationship between humans and the Fey.


Farris is an elemental, someone whose body builds up and expels the elements, with his being fire, and much of this story is about him trying to hide his abilities and survive.  The survival aspect is fun though Farris is not a character who gets a whole lot of development, acting as a naïve person as a way to allow the audience a view into the world.  He does learn and tries to make his own, with one confrontation with Professor Raines at the end of the book which is a good emotional climax.  Professor Raines, on the other hand, is your classic determined academic, not entirely trusted due to the entirety of the book and going above her superiors to find a rogue elemental which escaped from her lab.  Raines is a character who doesn’t seem to be entirely complex right until the end where Wayne pulls a great little twist that may be a little predictable, but does recontextualize many of her actions throughout the book while changing her in the eyes of the audience.  There are other minor villains, including a mercenary determined to find Farris who is a lot of fun, if a little one note, and a matron who is the one person to show Farris genuine kindness and reappears at the end which is a lot of fun.


Overall, Dreams of Fire is an excellent first novel from a first time author with an interesting setting, some very fun characters, and the pace of a high speed chase from start to finish which is a lot of fun.  The biggest issue with Wayne is not writing style, they have that developed quite well, or even the characters, but the fact that the novel is prologue for something bigger and includes some points of view that are only there to set up things in future books which doesn’t quite work.  Though this is a series and author to watch and recommended. 8/10.

Junk-Yard Demon by: Steve Parkhouse with art by: Mike McMahon and Adolfo Buylia


Junk-Yard Demon is written by Steve Parkhouse with art by Mike McMahon and Adolfo Buylia.  It was released in Doctor Who Monthly issues 58-59 (October-November 1981) and is reprinted in its original form in Doctor Who: Dragon’s Claw by Panini Books.


Coming right off the trainwreck that was Doctor Who and the Free-Fall Warriors comes another story with a hyphenated title and the second comic strip not to be drawn by comics legend Dave Gibbons.  Junk-Yard Demon is the last of the two issue stories and the penultimate story for the Fourth Doctor before the switch to the Fifth Doctor after the airing of Castrovalva.  The previous story struck with just how out of place its tone felt in Parkhouse’s darker vision for the Doctor Who Monthly comic strip with a comedic and upbeat tone, while Junk-Yard Demon succeeds at being just the opposite.  This story is one that brings the Cybermen into their first appearance in the script, a lone Cyberman from Mondas on the ship of some scalpers, being repaired slowly and biding its time.  The implication is there when you see it for the first time that it really has been waiting, drawing on ideas that the Cybermen are a race of conquerors effective for their ability to lie in wait and just not dying.  The Cyberman here one of the scrappers has been working on to make a robot butler which adds this little flair of comedy in an otherwise dark story.  Parkhouse’s comedy here isn’t all and out in the Season 17 style but is one that gets everything down into one or two jokes adding for moments of levity.  The Doctor in particular is particularly quippy throughout which is a lot of fun, but there is enough to sell the danger of the situation here.


The art of Junk-Yard Demon is also interesting as it is not by Dave Gibbons, but by Mike McMahon (who did a backup script in issue 56) and Adolfo Buylia (who did nothing else for Doctor Who Magazine).  McMahon and Buylia together have a very different style to Gibbons, making things a bit more over the top than the rest of the strip as well as implicating some body horror with the Cybermen appearing here.  The Cybermen design are basically mash ups of the designs from The Tenth Planet, The Moonbase, and The Tomb of the Cybermen which makes for an interesting design.  There are a few moments where the Cybermen, specifically the Cyber Leader here, gets to be a little more of an emotional character which is telling as the last Cyberman story was Revenge of the Cybermen.  The conclusion of this story is also done on a very high quip giving things levity and the Doctor’s last lines are also some of the funniest as he just slips away hoping that the scrappers, Flotsam and Jetsam, don’t ever find any Daleks because they do succeed in making a Cyberman butler.  This may make the Cybermen here feel more like robots over the cyborg portrayal, but it is at least an interesting little idea.


Overall, Junk-Yard Demon sets the strip back on the right path after a weird little comedy interlude, combining the humor with the darker storytelling.  It brings another TV villain to the strip for one appearance and gives an interesting look at the Cybermen, which at the time would have given readers flashbacks to the long missing The Tomb of the Cybermen which also makes things feel very nice.  9/10.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Terror of the Autons by: Robert Holmes and directed by: Barry Letts


Terror of the Autons stars Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, Katy Manning as Jo Grant, Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and Roger Delgado as the Master with Richard Franklin as Captain Yates and John Levene as Sergeant Benton.  It was written by: Robert Holmes and directed by: Barry Letts with Terrance Dicks as Script Editor and Barry Letts as Producer.  It was originally broadcast on Saturdays from 2 to 23 January 1971 on BBC1.


While people know about the great Doctor Who hiatus of 1985 and the Wilderness Years from 1989 to 2005, there is often a neglect of the first and second times the show nearly faced cancellation in 1966 and 1969.  Patrick Troughton, having taken over from William Hartnell, had two years under his belt and ratings that actually increased and saved the show from cancellation in 1966/1967, but near the end of his run a similar drop off in viewership, if not a worse one.  The War Games, while now regarded as a classic, had some of the lowest viewership ratings of the entire series run, only beaten by portions of Sylvester McCoy’s run as the Doctor.  Of course, viewership is no indicator of quality and the seventh season was cut in half to allow more production time and Derrick Sherwin as producer, having taken over with The War Games.  Sherwin would leave after producing Spearhead from Space and ushering in Jon Pertwee’s era and Doctor Who in color, with Barry Letts replacing him mid-season.  Letts then had little control in story selection, but Sherwin’s choices proved popular giving the show an eighth season, saving it from what could have been an ending.  A budgetary increase was also negotiated by Letts.


The budgetary increase as well as the determination from Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks to make their mark on the show brought in a series of changes for Season Eight.  First Caroline John was not asked to return, due to the slight issue of the companion role of being the audience surrogate not quite working as well as Liz Shaw, in Letts and Dicks’ minds, was unable to ask the right questions that the children in the audience would be asking.  Instead they devised the character of Josephine “Jo” Grant as a reflection of the culture at the time, a character who was clearly trained to be working with UNIT, but not in a science background.  The role would be taken by Katy Manning who showed up to the audition late, got lost, forgot her glasses, and impressed the production team and Jon Pertwee.  There was also another UNIT character, Captain Mike Yates, introduced at the start of the season, but most importantly a recurring villain in the form of a Moriarty for the Doctor’s Sherlock Holmes.  The Master, despite much fan speculation, was not envisioned as a replacement for the War Chief as a villain, but an original character meant to be the Doctor’s opposite.  To originate the role Roger Caesar Marius Bernard de Delgado Torres Castillo Roberto (or Roger Delgado if you will) was cast and immediately shined with the rest of the cast, and was given a contract to appear in each of the five serials making up Season Eight.  The season opens with serial EEE which was contracted out to Robert Holmes with The Spray of Death, intended to be a sequel to Spearhead from Space bringing the Autons who would team up with the Master.  As the actual spray of death wouldn’t happen until the last episode, it was retitled Terror of the Autons.


Terror of the Autons is one of those stories that engages in a shift and builds upon Holmes’ initial idea of shop window dummies coming to life.  Instead of simply being out on the streets, this story has people bringing Autons into their homes as plastic daffodils and an ugly troll doll coming to life and killing someone.  There is also the image of a policeman’s face being ripped off to reveal an Auton and a telephone wire wrapping itself around the Doctor both as cliffhangers.  Holmes excels at giving this sort of imagery that would help with the reputation of sending children behind the sofa.  Having even the Doctor being in genuine danger helps sell things between them, but interestingly the script follows Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem where Holmes and Moriarty don’t actually meet until the final confrontation, bar one phone call.  This means that Delgado actually excels with his own villainous presence, shrinking people, hypnotizing Jo into attempting to blow up UNIT, suffocating people with a chair, and betraying the Nestenes at the last moment.


The other important aspect of Terror of the Autons is selling the relationship between the Doctor, Jo Grant, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.  Jo’s introductory scene already oozes with charm, as Jo ruins one of the Doctor’s experiments while the Doctor can’t bring himself to tell her to fire, her charm really getting into the Doctor and the audience.  She proves useful in investigating plastics factories and asking several of the questions that the audience would be thinking.  While she isn’t a scientist like Liz or Zoe, she is a character who oozes charm and capability.   She’s not hyper intelligent but she means well and understands when she has to do things.  She also saves the Doctor at several points and integrates herself right into the UNIT team while the Brigadier is also a delight and really makes UNIT part of a story.  The Brigadier is also given quite a nice background part, even if he doesn’t have a whole lot to do story wise after Season Seven gave him so much.  This is also one of those stories where the ending does sadly let down a lot of the plot, the Master quickly changes his allegiance and the face-off built up throughout the episode is a let down because of that.  Interestingly, Barry Letts directed this story really well, even getting a lot of CSO integration, although there are some points where actual sets would have serviced better.


Overall, Terror of the Autons is actually a stone cold classic opener to Jon Pertwee’s second season.  It introduces a new villain for the Doctor, a new companion, and brings back a recurring alien and continues to prove Robert Holmes’ writing ability (prior to this his only good story was Spearhead from Space), even if the final act has a few issues and some of the CSO effects haven’t aged well (though the Blu-ray replacement CGI effects are a must).  9/10.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Down by: Lawrence Miles


Lawrence Miles is a Doctor Who author with a reputation: he is the one author who BBC Books allowed to go above the 290 page limit that the Eighth Doctor Adventures and Past Doctor Adventures stopped at.  Lawrence Miles writes long books.  Interference is a 600 page book split into two volumes.  So it is no surprise when his first of two Bernice Summerfield novels, Down, is a book which pushes the page-count to the longest Bernice Summerfield book yet, coming in at 311 pages, and one of the general longer ones (if not the longest).  The forward by Miles actually sends readers to his website where there are things that he had to cut from the book and placed just on his website.  This interesting little tidbit is perhaps some of the best description of what Down is, a book which is in desperate need of an editor who will cut things out.  This review isn’t covering the cuts that Miles includes on his website, but just the text that is included in the paperback release.  This is a book that does a lot of things, and with a book that does a lot of things you’d expect it to be a longer book, but the first third of the book is devoted down to setup of the setting and some of the characters without actually giving the reader much of the actual plot.  This is partially due to Lawrence Miles’ tendency to write plots that are obfuscated in mystery and comedy.  The setting here is Tyler’s Folly, which is initially set up as a Dyson sphere (an artificial planet that is hollow), but is revealed to be an actual planet full of people believing in some sort of hollow planet conspiracy theory.  There are also space Nazis who capture Bernice and the reintroduction of the People from The Also People.


From that last descriptor of the book, you wouldn’t be wrong in feeling that Lawrence Miles wrote a comedy, because that’s kind of what it is, with Bernice commenting on the artificial supporting cast and being flummoxed by the reappearance of the People which is sort of a twist for her, but not for the reader.  Miles takes cues from Ben Aaronovitch’s previous work and makes it something that Dave Stone would right, published immediately after a great Dave Stone book.  It feels like Down wants to capture that feeling of The Also People, but that book worked so well because it was Ben Aaronovitch firmly in his own style and coming right off Head Games as a reflection of what the VNAs were doing at the time.  With Down, there isn’t that much to actually reflect on as there had only been four books published and not enough of a story arc actually developing.  Miles seems to try and develop a story arc with God returning and the villain being one of the People, !X, and the whole idea of Tyler’s Folly being the pseudo-Satanic version of the Worldsphere, with a program called MEPHISTO who is really behind things.  The pastiche of action movies and few nods to Doctor Who also feel really out of place coming right off Ship of Fools and its murder mystery pastiche, but Miles makes it interesting by not making it an outright comedic parody, but trying to get Benny annoyed.  The whole hollow Earth/Tyler’s Folly is secretly the Garden of Eden/there is a cult that worships Lillith is by design to be annoying, yet somehow a fun type of annoying.  Miles is just making out how conspiracies are something that collapse immediately under any investigation and the interludes where Benny is essentially telling the tale which are a great use of metanarrative.


Overall, Down is definitely not the absolute best Benny book, as the previous two had been going on such a high streak, but it is still a very fun time.  It has the big problem of being a grab bag of ideas wrapped up all in one very long package and that is to the book’s detriment, but it does end up reintroducing the People to the narrative and kind of gives us something to look forward to as they are going to play a part in the future, but it’s got a lot of problems that stop it from being one of Miles’ best. 7/10.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Doctor Who and the Free-Fall Warriors by: Steve Parkhouse with art by: Dave Gibbons


Doctor Who and the Free-Fall Warriors is written by Steve Parkhouse with art by Dave Gibbons.  It was released in Doctor Who Monthly issues 56-57 (September-October 1981) and is reprinted in its original form in Doctor Who: Dragon’s Claw by Panini Books.


When I last took a look at Doctor Who Magazine comics I mentioned that Steve Parkhouse was writing in a space after Logopolis airing but still with the Fourth Doctor.  For The End of the Line and The Deal Steve Parkhouse gave us stories that reflect the nature of Season 18 and the older version of the Fourth Doctor.  Doctor Who and the Free-Fall Warriors goes back to that Season 17 style with an over the top, comedy focused style where the Doctor is at a space arcade and gets dragged into the pod race from The Phantom Menace, eighteen years too early.  It’s a story which doesn’t actually have a plot, and the few events that do happen just kind of go to a conclusion where the race is over and the Doctor ends up leaving the space arcade.  There is an alien named after Isaac Asimov who the Doctor seems to have some sort of a previous relationship with, the implication being that he tells this alien stories.  There is this idea that the Doctor is a hero for defeating villains at the end of the race, but this conflict is really just an action set piece to fill the second issue of this story which just doesn’t work.  The title of The Free-Fall Warriors also doesn’t actually do or mean a whole lot of anything.  It kind of refers to the fact that this is a race in space, a space race if you will, but this really has nothing to do.  They aren’t the villain, there really isn’t a villain in this story.  The documentary series Stripped for Action which covers the comic eras mentions that certain stories were drawn before a script being written and I can’t help but wonder if this was one of those.


Overall, Doctor Who and the Free-Fall Warriors is just bland.  It doesn’t have any sort of cohesive plot and sticks out like a sore thumb in a strip which is going towards something darker and moving towards the next Doctor, being stuck in the past. 3/10

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Eye of the World by: Robert Jordan: Early Installment Weirdness AKA What The Eye of the World Means (Chapters 50 to 53)


“In Agelmar’s private garden, under a thick bower dotted with white blossoms, Moiraine shifted on her bedchair.  The fragments of the seal lay on her lap, and the small gem she sometimes wore in her hair spun and glittered on its gold chain from the ends of her fingers. The faint blue glow faded from the stone, and a smile touched her lips. It had no power in itself, the stone, but the first use she had ever learned of the One Power, as a girl, in the Royal Palace in Cairhien, was using the stone to listen to people when they thought they were too far off to be overheard.  “The Prophecies will be fulfilled,” the Aes Sedai whispered. “The Dragon is Reborn.”” – The Eye of the World, p. 782.


In deciding to tackle the ending of The Eye of the World, my thought process went through several possible titles.  While I eventually went with the one that you see, “Early Installment Weirdness AKA What The Eye of the World Means”, the other big contenders were “It Was The Ending” and “Setting Up a Sequel”.  This is important because the climax of The Eye of the World is an outlier.  One phrase which recurs in The Wheel of Time is that there are neither beginnings nor endings to the Wheel of Time, often followed by it was a beginning.  The Eye of the World is a book which ends with what could easily be, the ending.  The two last minute villains are defeated, an off-screen battle is won, Rand nearly dies saving the world, and a piece of myth is found (the Dragon Banner flown by Lews Therin in the Age of Legends and the Horn of Valere).  The story could easily be over, but it isn’t.  Robert Jordan started writing this book in 1984, before getting a publishing deal with Tor Books and publishing in 1990, getting the second book out within the same year, but initially he couldn’t know that he would have a multi-book deal.  He was attempting to get one book published, and needed a point where if he couldn’t continue the series past the first book it would be the ending.  This means that this entire book ends with a hastily written final chapter which sets up the second book.  The quote headlining this essay is the closing of the book, with this image of Moiraine revealing what the reader has probably guessed by this point, Rand al’Thor is the Dragon Reborn, destined to break the world again in one last battle against the Dark One.


But this is all epilogue, the ending is not actually Chapter 53, it’s Chapter 52.  Chapter 52, “Their is Neither Beginning Nor End”, is our bookend with the prologue.  The first piece of dialogue in the Prologue is this: “Ilyena! My love, where are you?...Where are you, my wife? Where is everybody hiding?” – The Eye of the World, p. ix.  Chapter 52 opens with Rand in searing pain, equally as confused coming to an idea of self, followed by one of Egwene: “That name meant something important…Egwene.  He broke into a shambling run.  Leaves and flower petals showered around him as he blundered through the underbrush.  Have to find her.  Who is she?” – The Eye of the World, p. 763.  As the ending gives the concrete that Rand is Lews Therin reincarnated, coming to that and the aftermath of what is Rand actively channeling for the first time.  Rand is stumbling just after channeling something from the Age of Legends: The Eye of the World itself was made to be the representation of saidin, taint and all.  The Eye itself is destroyed along with the Green Man in the battle against the two members of the Foresaken.  Everyone, except Moiraine and Egwene, are immediately repulsed, isolating Rand for the ticking time bomb that he is.  He is going to go mad due to the power.  He suggests not channeling ever again and living his life, or even submitting to be gentled in that immediate repulsion as to what he is (yet he doesn’t know he’s the Dragon Reborn yet).  He even suggests Moiraine could possibly help him control it, which she rebukes, saying “Can a cat teach a dog to climb trees, Rand? Can a fish teach a bird to swim?  I know saidar, but I can teach you nothing of saidin.  Those who could are three thousand years dead.  Perhaps you are stubborn enough, though.  Perhaps your will is strong enough.” – The Eye of the World, p. 768.  Rand’s own turmoil is now beginning.  He demands that Tam al’Thor is his father, in both a biological and familial sense, turmoil which has been in the background throughout the novel, now brought to the forefront at this climax.


The actual climax and battle between Rand and the two Foresaken, Aginor and Balthalamel, and later Ba’alzamon in a dreamscape where he is tormented with visions of his mother and rebukes the Dark One, is one that on second read does not fit with the rest of the series.  The rest of the series have climactic climaxes, often using the One Power and with a Battle, but here there really isn’t much of an explanation.  Instead, this climax is almost entirely allusion to other works.  Both Foresaken and Ba’alzamon are both clearly taken inspiration from descriptions of demons (or at least men corrupted by evil, aging over one thousand years, one being permanently disfigured while the other is essentially a hag like trickster), and Rand rebuking Ba’alzamaon in particular is a sequence which calls upon the Chapter 4 of the Gospel According to Matthew in the Christian Bible, where Jesus Christ is tempted by Satan in a desert three times.  It is a climax which calls upon ideas of an oasis as refuge, and ties the book into themes of rebirth and the coming of spring.  The Green Man, the guardian of the Eye of the World, is named directly for a mythological trope which directly ties into spring coming, paired with the festival in the Two Rivers at the beginning of the book being Beltine, which at a glance brings to mind Beltane, a pagan festival celebrating the dawn of spring on the first of May every year.  This version of the Green Man also calls to mind Arthurian Legend, specifically Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where the Green Knight is a creature of the fey who tests Sir Gawain’s honor.  It’s death also implies that this turning of the wheel may be the final turning, this may be the ending, even if the narration says there are no endings on the Wheel of Time.  It is the pain of losing Moiraine which triggers Rand’s channeling abilities (although the sickness on the road was an effect of using the One Power as well as why Bela was not tired on their flight from the Two Rivers).  The Eye of the World is a book which symbolizes death and rebirth, opening with the death of the Dragon and the Breaking of the World while it ends with a symbolic rebirth and awakening of Rand al’Thor being revealed as the Dragon Reborn.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Eye of the World by: Robert Jordan: Pre-Climax Exposition (Chapters 46 to 49)


“He will not speak of it, yet the story is well known along the Border.  He is a king, or should have been, al’Lan Mandragoran, Lord of the Seven Towers, Lord of the Lakes, crownless king of the Malkieri.” – The Eye of the World, p. 708.


As The Eye of the World moves towards its climax, Robert Jordan includes one final sequence of a calm before the storm in the Borderland city of Fal Dara, part of the kingdom of Sheinar, where Moiraine and Lan are welcomed as heroes.  Lan is asked at several points if he is going to raise the Golden Crane, and the sequence of exposition which the opening quote this time around is from the backstory revealing Lan’s royal lineage.  His own backstory outlines an entire chapter here, as well as the reveal that peddler Padan Fain is a Darkfriend and has been pursuing them.  Lan is not actively looking away from his royal heritage in some The Lord of the Rings-esque Aragorn uncertainty in royalty, but a shame for what has happened to his land.  Lan believes that he is not fit to rule nor wishing to lead men to their deaths which would happen if the Golden Crane is raised, it is a call to war against the Dark One.  This is something which is going to be looming over Lan for the foreseeable future, something he is going to have to do before the series ends, clearly getting things towards what will be an ending.  Lan as a Warder is something which actually makes the story inspire Rand and Egwene both.  Egwene is the first to vocalize it, but Rand finds being a Warder as a possibility to continue the life outside of being a farmboy, making this the first point where the folk from the Two Rivers show that they are changing mentally as well as physically out of their humble beginnings.  There is still the idea of going back, but not necessarily permanently as Rand, while being told by Min that he is not for Egwene, doesn’t find the idea of being her Warder a bad thing.


Padan Fain, on the other hand, spends this section captured and has a chance to speak to Moiraine, giving an explanation that he had been in the service of the Dark One for nearly forty years as well as being sent for three years to find Rand, Mat, and Perrin.  The first of the three there is a mention that he was tortured, implying that he resisted the Dark One’s Power.  The implication of course, is that Fain is an unreliable narrator.  Moiraine does not believe him or his story, and intends to follow up and even heal him when they get back from their search for the Green Man and the Eye of the World.  Fain brings out something darker in Moiraine: she essentially is willing to use the tactic of imprisonment and implied torture to get information from Fain, something that doesn’t help with Rand who already is not entirely trusting Moiraine and Lan, even if there are plans here.  He is physically corrupted which is something reflected in the world around him.  The Blight is traversed here as the chapters lead to the finding of the Eye of the World (or perhaps being allowed access and an audience with the Green Man as the place is not somewhere people find).  The Blight is an entire area which has been destroyed and corrupted by the Dark One.  It was once verdant, as it is where the Green Man (who represents nature and good) resides, but since the Breaking of the World it has fallen into disrepair.  Traversing it is like traversing a desert while always being unprepared, though with the grey landscape of certain descriptions of Kansas.  It is a setting which is meant to instill despair and on the map of the world looks as if it is encroaching on everyone else’s lives.  This is also an area at least partially inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune as there are Shadowspawn in the sands which can appear out of nowhere, and the party only is rescued at the last minute as a matter of the pattern.  With this the climax of The Eye of the World can in fact occur as the end of the book is nigh.

Monday, July 5, 2021

The Eye of the World by: Robert Jordan: Horror in the Wheel of Time (Chapters 41 to 45)


““Pretty Nynaeve,” Mat spat. “A Wisdom isn’t supposed to think of herself as a woman, is she?  Not a pretty woman.  But you do, don’t you? Now. You can’t make yourself forget that you’re a pretty woman now and it frightens you.  Everybody changes.”…Mat gave a sly laugh and, his fevereish eyes slid to Egwene “Pretty Egwene…Pretty as Nynaeve.  And you share other things now, don’t you?  Other dreams.  What do you dream about now?”…”We are safe from the Dark One’s eyes for the time being.” Moiraine announced as she walked into the room with Lan at her heels.  Her eyes fell on Mat as she stepped through the doorway and she hissed as if she had touched a hot stove, “Get away from him!”” – The Eye of the World, p. 629-630.


The Eye of the World may be marketed as an epic high fantasy novel, but as genre is limited to essentially marketing, there is a case to be made that it follows the tropes of a horror novel.  The opening chapter, “An Empty Road”, follows the trope of two people being pursued by a figure representing death (though that death in this case is evil chasing good and not some karmic justice).  The flight from the Two Rivers follows the tropes of a horror film as the characters are going into the unknown and being pursued by some evil, not being able to rest, relying also on thriller tropes.  The Shadar Logoth sequence becomes almost a matter of cosmic horror, with Mordeth and Mashadar being an entity inhabiting a place.  This stretch of the book continues with the cosmic horror theme by having the corruption of Mat coming to a head here in Caemlyn, just as the party reunites.  The above quote is what Egwene and Nynaeve find Mat to have become something unrecognizable.  The ruby hilted dagger which he took from the treasure room has been the cause here and Moiraine, laying her own eyes on him, is repulsed.  Yet this repulsion is not something which stops her from helping him, she’s the one who at least buys him enough time so they can eventually get to Tar Valon to heal him completely from the dagger’s influence.  Jordan’s writing, exemplified above, is something which crawls under the skin from Mat, hitting Nynaeve and Egwene in their own insecurities.  Earlier I mentioned Egwene having the point of flipping her interests immediately and that insecurity is something that clearly bothers her, it’s what Mat uses against her, here.  The change is also seen in Perrin, whose eyes have become a golden hue, and he is noted at points to look more wolf-life, playing on an existential horror of the world around Rand being changed.


The horror here causes a shift in the story, steering the characters towards a place called Fal Dara and the Eye of the World, something that the nightmares of Rand, Mat, and Perrin have all beein trying to point them to.  The cosmic horror continues here, as the party has Loial lead them through an area called the Ways, which are essentially fast travel.  It feels like something out of a video game, but Jordan sets it ups as something truly horrific: “About a hundred years ago, during what you humans call the War of the Hundred Years, the Ways began to change.  So slowly in the beginning that none really noticed, they grew dark and dim.  Then darkness fell along the bridges.  Some who went in were never seen again.  Travelers spoke of being watched from the dark.  The numbers who vanished grew, and some who came out had gone mad, raving about Machin Shin, the Black Wind.” – The Eye of the World, p. 648.  It is this harrowing place, a place that Moiraine gives the boys a choice to enter, or be sent on to Tar Valon, as there is something at the Eye of the World involving the Green Man.  This is moving towards the climax of the book and to get there, the party journeys essentially into the underworld of horror, after a few hours in the Ways finding the Black Wind, and that nearly kills them.  They get out by the skin of their teeth.  Jordan is moving things into the endgame here and he’s doing that by using horror.  The Eye of the World is a horror novel.  It may not be the scariest horror novel, but it is one that wraps itself in the fear of the unknown outside world, taking five people away from their home under threat of destruction with two guides who know more than what they are letting on.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Eye of the World by: Robert Jordan: Royalty and Reunions (Chapters 36 to 40)


“With all of that, it was the man in the cage who caught and held Rand’s eyes.  He was not close enough to see Logain’s face, as he wanted to, but suddenly he thought he was as clos as he cared for.  The false Dragon was a tall man, with long, dark hair curling around his broad shoulders.  He held himself upright against the sway of the wagon with one hand on the bars over his head.  His clothes seemed ordinary, a cloak and coat and breeches that would not have caused comment in any farming village.  But the way he wore them.  He way he held himself.  Logain was a king in every inch of him.  The cage might as well not have been there…And wherever his gaze swept, there the people fell silent, staring back in awe.” – The Eye of the World, p. 592.


Characters giving off an air of royalty is something that The Wheel of Time will eventually develop into much further than this, however Caemlyn as a city represents opulence and royalty throughout.  Logain gets no dialogue here: he is stoic in a cage surrounded by people jeering and those who can kill him.  Rand notes this about Logain, “He was defeated, wasn’t he?  Light, he wouldn’t be in a bloody cage if he wasn’t defeated.” – The Eye of the World, p. 593.  Logain may be defeated, but he isn’t broken in that defeat.  He still commands a presence of authority that drags people together to just see what he’s doing.  Rand sees Logain among the crowd and to see him he climbs a wall.  The idea is presented as needing to get a better view, but an earlier thread implies the Pattern sometimes weaves itself around others.  It becomes even more apparent when Rand falls off the wall and into the garden of the royal palace, right where the heir to the throne Elayne and her brother Gawyn are also watching the procession from over the wall.  This also leads to the first appearance of an Aes Sedai who is not Moiraine and the Queen of Andor, Morgase.


The trio of what is essentially the next generation of royals, Elayne, Gawyn, and their half-brother Galad as introduced here are another example of how royalty is seen.  Elayne as introduced here is described by Gawyn as essentially the archetypal Disney princess from the Disney Renaissance, nursing injured birds back to health and having an incredible stubborn streak.  There is also a slight sense of rebellion, suggesting that her mother should get married to a Gareth Bryne, one of her guard and trusted advisors, who would marry her if ordered to.  The reader gets to see the stubborn streak in action here: she’s the one who forces Rand to stay when he just wants to climb back up the wall and onto the street, not causing any trouble in a world that really isn’t his. Gawyn is also essentially the older brother archetype, and hesitantly incurring the possibility of earning ire of the fanbase, his introduction is actually a really good look into what he will become as a character and what makes Gawyn work as a character.  He is the one who gets wrapped around other’s plans, especially Elayne’s, yet still has that sibling attitude of superiority.  He is the one to mention multiple times that Rand could be the spitting image of an Aielman, he’s the one who is ready to protect Elayne and believe Rand to having fallen as an attempt to get at the family.  However, of the royals, it is Morgase who remains the most level headed.  She is the one to tell Elaida off and let Rand go with his freedom simply because his story is too ridiculous to actually be a lie, while acknowledging there are people who would love nothing more than access to kill her.


Elaida is perhaps the character who comes across as the least level headed.  “In one week…you will be wanting to come home to your mother.  In a month you will be wanting to run away to the Traveling People” – The Eye of the World, p. 610   Elaida essentially uses her power as an advisor to the Queen and as an Aes Sedai, and while it is not ever outright stated, she does not believe Rand’s truthful story about where he came from and what he is doing in Caemlyn.  Though when he actually does lie about which inn he’s staying at, she is oddly silent.  This establishment of making very specific mistakes on things that may seem insignificant, but will have far reaching consequences.  Elaida’s snap judgments is in contrast to the other character introduced in this section.  Loial is an Ogier, a species that looks similarly to Trollocs, but are intelligent, master builders, and as old as the world itself.  They were the ones who built Caemlyn.  He is also as perceptive of Gawyn, saying Rand looks like and Aiel and hadn’t heard of what became the Two Rivers.  He represents the first friend Rand really has made since leaving the Two Rivers.  Loial makes Mat jealous, Mat who even with the safety of Caemlyn finds himself becoming more morose with fear.


This is also the point where a reunion can actually occur.  The middle of this section is the rescue of Perrin and Egwene from the Whitecloaks by Moiraine and Lan.  Now the rescue itself is mostly seen from Perrin’s perspective.  The aftermath also is shocking as Perrin has to confront the fact that he killed two Whitecloaks for the death of Hopper.  He doesn’t actually tell Moiraine, something that is becoming a recurrence with all of the characters, and is something which does not bode well for the future.  Yet, there is at least some relief in the fact that they too are on the road to Caemlyn.  Rand and Mat have found their own safety, Rand royalty, and the others are on the way to regroup.  Hope is something that inches ever closer while the actual Eye of the World is looming to be revealed in the several dreams which have littered the book.