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Doctor Who: Book of the Still Paperback – 6 May 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books (6 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563538511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563538516
  • Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 11.2 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 936,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Roy on 19 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
The Book of the Still is a debut Dr. Who novel by Paul Ebbs. It's a cracking good debut, too. Marred only by a questionable ending, it's a fun ride until you get there. Even then, the ending is more "convenient" and confusing then outright bad.
The Book of the Still is something that should not exist. It's a book that acts as a lifeline for time travelers. If you're trapped, just find the book (it exists in all time zones), write your name in it, and you can be instantly rescued as other time travelers find your name and location. Whether its existence is due to the strange time effects taking place since The Adventuress of Henrietta Street is unclear. Whatever it is, the Doctor has been suffering some weird physical effects from his proximity to it since landing on Lebenswelt. He's been fainting, experiencing different psychological problems, etc. So he tries to steal it in a high-tech burglary that unfortunately goes awry.
Anji despises Lebenswelt and wants to get away as soon as possible, and she's greatly worried about the Doctor and his 20 year prison sentence. Fitz finds himself fitting in to the party lifestyle that exists on the planet, falling back into his "'60s groovy" persona until he falls into the wrong crowd. He falls in love with Carmodi, a woman who also has designs on the book. When Fitz disappears, Anji is beside herself wondering what she is going to do to rescue the Doctor, find Fitz, and get off the planet before things go from bad to worse.
So, of course, things fall apart before she can do any of that. Who are the Unnoticed? And why are they willing to destroy whole worlds to prevent the book from falling into anybody's hands? The Doctor tries desperately to keep as many people alive as possible while still making sure the flow of time is not damaged.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By edzshed on 9 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
I totally enjoyed reading this debut novel, as I was reading it there were a few things that cropped up that didn't sit right with me but they do get explained at the end, so all's good there. The chacterisation is good, the pace is spot on and it's a very easy read.

It's good to read an EDA novel that not only fits nicely in with the series but also is a great stand alone novel, but as always I highly recommend reading the series in order.

That's all folks, give it a go.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The book of time travel 18 Dec. 2003
By David Roy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Book of the Still (not The Book of Stills, like the database says) is a debut Dr. Who novel by Paul Ebbs. It's a cracking good debut, too. Marred only by a questionable ending, it's a fun ride until you get there. Even then, the ending is more "convenient" and confusing then outright bad.
The Book of the Still is something that should not exist. It's a book that acts as a lifeline for time travelers. If you're trapped, just find the book (it exists in all time zones), write your name in it, and you can be instantly rescued as other time travelers find your name and location. Whether its existence is due to the strange time effects taking place since The Adventuress of Henrietta Street is unclear. Whatever it is, the Doctor has been suffering some weird physical effects from his proximity to it since landing on Lebenswelt. He's been fainting, experiencing different psychological problems, etc. So he tries to steal it in a high-tech burglary that unfortunately goes awry.
Anji despises Lebenswelt and wants to get away as soon as possible, and she's greatly worried about the Doctor and his 20 year prison sentence. Fitz finds himself fitting in to the party lifestyle that exists on the planet, falling back into his "'60s groovy" persona until he falls into the wrong crowd. He falls in love with Carmodi, a woman who also has designs on the book. When Fitz disappears, Anji is beside herself wondering what she is going to do to rescue the Doctor, find Fitz, and get off the planet before things go from bad to worse.
So, of course, things fall apart before she can do any of that. Who are the Unnoticed? And why are they willing to destroy whole worlds to prevent the book from falling into anybody's hands? The Doctor tries desperately to keep as many people alive as possible while still making sure the flow of time is not damaged. But can he do both?
Paul Ebbs has been involved with Who fandom for quite some time, but this is his first professional publication in the genre. At times, you can tell, as a bit of prose falls flat or a character seems a little off (or, even worse, pointless). However, you can also tell he's been a fan for a while now, as he glories in our favourite characters and tells a funny yet interesting tale using deep time-travel theories (especially paradoxes). The prose is not beautiful in an aesthetic sense, but it is a joy to read. He has a way of describing things in pop-culture concepts, especially when he's telling things from Anji's point of view. While this doesn't help if you don't understand the reference, it makes a for a hilariously funny read when you do. Especially good is Anji's comparisons of Rhian to Daphne/Velma from Scooby Doo.
That's what Ebbs adds to the mix of the Eighth Doctor adventures. Humour. Sure, Trading Futures was a James Bond romp, but before that the book range has been deadly serious with an almost complete lack of the funny stuff. The Book of the Still does more than enough to compensate. The narration is very light, and the sections are very short and punchy, making for a quick read. I did get a bit annoyed at Anji's constant running-together of words ("ignorantstupidknuckledraggingsexuallyunconsciosthrowback" for example), but it was manageable, and perfectly showed her constant frustration at the whole situation.
In fact, Anji isn't the only one that Ebbs gets right. Fitz finally has a real romance (well, real to him, anyway) without the Doctor's involvement. While the romance itself may not be real, his reactions to it are. Unfettered by his long experience with the Doctor, we get to see Fitz as he would be if he wasn't being a cosmic hobo. Meanwhile, the Doctor himself is pretty good as well. He scrambles around manically trying to fix everything, being mysterious at times as well as unsure of himself (continuing the amnesia storyline that's been going through the Eighth Doctor books for awhile now). Watching these three characters interact with the others (they're not together much in this book) is a real treat.
Ebbs doesn't do quite as good a job with the other minor characters (some of them so minor that they don't even get names, just "mayor"). While Rhian is fine, I didn't really like Carmodi, which is a shame considering that she's the driving force for one of the plots in the novel. She's irritating, perhaps even more so because she writes the epilogue at the beginning of the book (yes, the beginning...don't ask) and practically begs the reader to not judge her too harshly. I'm sure part of my feelings about her were intentional on Ebbs's part, but we're not supposed to be so irritated by a character that we don't want to read more about her. Unfortunately, that was true of Carmodi.
Finally, we get to the ending. I won't spoil it here, but it basically makes the previous 250 pages meaningless. People speak of the reset button on Star Trek television shows. While The Book of the Still wasn't quite that bad (our characters are still affected by it), it positively reeked of this. This fact is all that saves it. On top of that, though, the ending is a bit confusing. I can't go into detail without spoiling it, but I'm still not sure I understand it.
All in all, The Book of the Still is a fun read that is well worth checking out by the discerning Dr. Who fan. Don't let the ending get to you, and maybe you'll understand it better than I did. If so, then you'll enjoy it even more. If not, then at least you'll have had a fun trip on the way there.
David Roy
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Ahh, Finally 29 May 2003
By B. Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Finally something creative! The Book of the Still gives those who are prone to boredom for lack of stimulating good ideas something to delight them with.
"Memory" acids and a glimpse at how science can transform the traditional "sex" business into a real "feeling emotion experience" business in a distant future; the concept of a race that created themselves by accident; the socio-economic state of a culture where nobody has to work for a living; and the thinking that the most valuable, guarded, and sought-after object conceivable in a culture of excess is a lifeline for stranded time-travellers which cannot even exist according to the laws of time.
For these and the impressive scenes (like a planet-buster type time bomb that's warming and lighting up on top of a mile-high tower while an unlikable, incompetent governor tries to diffuse it by shouting orders to his entourage, while below the teeming partygoers dissolve into riots and chaos since there's a power-out and nothing works), well bravo Paul Ebbs. It's good to see that someone's actually thinking about the Doctor Who books they're writing nowadays and are putting their creative talents to work making something that's actually new.
All right, the ending was a little bit of a disappointment because I didn't understand all of it, but anyway, I didn't feel I had to. Who cares, this is just how the Doctor's companions feel too:
"I'll explain later" and we don't understand because the Doctor's busy right now, but not we're not insulted because we don't have a doctorate in temporal engineering.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Still crazy after all these years 16 Dec. 2002
By Jason A. Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Oh, my head hurts.
"The Book of the Still" is a classic example of what "Doctor Who" book devotees call the "first-novel syndrome". Paul Ebbs' debut is bursting with three, seven, oh... eleven different plots. It's so busy being fresh, raw, inventive, and in-your-face, that it's not quite up to the task of remaining coherent, or particularly enjoyable. The ending makes very little sense upon first reading, which isn't a fatal defect in and of itself, but if you're going to go that route, you need to make the book appealing enough so the reader wants to take a second stab at it.
At heart, this is a book about the actual Book of the Still -- a lifeline for stranded time-travelers. That's a great concept! At heart, "Still" is also about a "Total Recall"-esque escort agency on the debauched planet Lebenswelt. It's about the waltzing cotillion planet of Antimasque. And about a race of brutal, naive time-travelers called the Unnoticed (ha!). Also about a woman's touching search for her lost-in-time father -- and about another woman's addiction to the energies stored in frequent time-travelers. With all this going on, it's a wonder why the back-cover blurb sees fit to spoil the story all the way up to about page 162 -- other blurbs in this series only give away the first 40 pages, and "Still" could have benefited doubly well from such parsimony.
The writing style is very inventive and visual. The prologue and epilogue are switched around. The opening chapter is titled "Obligatory Spectacular Opening" (so fey, it hurts!). There's an extended fantasy sequence of "Highlander"-type swashbuckling. Two delirious chapters are done as an Indian movie musical -- an idea so funny, you can't believe it hasn't been done before.
All this is the book equivalent of "Being John Malkovich" (or better, "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie: The Novel" by Norman Mailer). The book never goes where you expect, and relies on a lot of smoke and mirrors to conclude. The problem is, visual as "Book of the Still" is, it's not a movie -- or a TV show -- it's a novel, and thus requires a little more patience. Not on the reader's part, but on the author's.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
THE REVIEW of THE BOOK of THE STILL 18 Sept. 2002
By Andrew McCaffrey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I adored the beginning and middle sections of The Book of the Still. So enthralled was I by the writing in these parts, that I rushed through and finished the book in much less time that it usually takes me to get through the 249-288 pages of the modern EDA. Unfortunately, I didn't feel the ending was up to the high standards of the rest of the novel, which is more frustrating in a book that is great up until the end rather than a book that is lousy all the way through. But despite the problems with the ending, I still quite enjoyed the entire experience. There's a lot of good writing on display, and the story was told with a lot of panache.
There are a lot of fairly high level science fiction concepts present in the book, and they are all handled with so much care and ease that I had to do a little bit of thinking before I fully realized what was going on. It has a quick feel to it, with many of the set-pieces serving well as standalone little mini-adventures. But don't get the impression that this is a throw-away or a shallow book. It's deceptively slick, but there's a lot of very interesting stuff going on beneath the surface. The prose is written with confidence and manages to convey a surprising amount using fairly little. The setting is described very well, and the scenes set there were so interesting that I wish we had stayed on the initial planet for longer. The "Unnoticed" aliens mentioned on the back cover are an interesting idea that, thankfully, are fleshed out quite well. I was a bit worried that they would come across as a generic threat, but Paul Ebbs managed to make them interesting enough to motivate the plot without coming across as mere ciphers.
It took me a quite a bit of thinking to get to grips with the ending. After much consideration, I concluded that while it did make logical sense and every character had a motivation for acting, it just wasn't quite satisfying. For a story that had been ambling on in an enjoyable, laid-back sort of way to suddenly switch gears so drastically was something that I found very distracting. It was quite a mental shift needed on my part to adjust. Even after I had worked everything through, I still felt vaguely unsatisfied. The final pages do adequately conclude the plot, but I don't feel that it properly gave us a conclusion to the story. It left me with a solid feeling of, "Is that it?" and not in a good way.
The style of The Book of the Still is very entertaining. Each page pulled me in deeper, leaving me eager to see what was coming next. The ending doesn't quite work on all levels, and it feels rushed, but the whole of the book shouldn't be ignored because of those weaknesses. It's quite a fun book to read despite some of the deeper issues that it deals with, and the characters are an entertaining bunch. Just be prepared to have to do a bit of thinking to understand the end.
Welcome to the Museum of Every Idea Ever, now with new musical interludes 7 Sept. 2012
By Michael Battaglia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If this is the kind of work we get from the first time writers then as far as I'm concerned we can give all the upcoming stories to the new guys, because at this point I'd rather someone trying too hard as opposed to people just phoning it in. Which is basically what this is, completely overstuffed and unable to explore any of the nine thousand things it brings up in depth but there's so many interesting things going on that it manages to be okay. This time.

The central idea of the novel rests around a rather brilliant concept in a universe with time travel and nobody around to regulate it . . . the Book of the Still. Basically, it exists in every time and thus if you're a stranded time traveller you write your name in it and eventually another time traveller who isn't stuck will see it and come find you. The Doctor, for reasons that require the plot to get going, winds up trying to steal the book and getting thrown in prison for the next twenty years. Meanwhile, Fitz falls in love with someone who really likes time travellers (and manages to steal the book on her own) while Anji plays damage control and tries to come up with something resembling a plan. Oh, and this is before the murderous aliens show up, and not counting the other villains who keep inserting memories into people.

Like I said, there's a lot going on. On some level each of these things could have probably taken up their own plot of the novel and if you're the kind of reader who wants something close to a focus you're going to be very frustrated. The Book of the Still on its own is worth it but then you have the concept of people addicted to tine travellers, or the concept of aliens who shouldn't exist and trying to keep it that way, or the concept of using amino acids to insert memories into people . . . and chances are I'm probably missing something. It does at some moments give the book the feel of being somewhat shallow because all of this is worth exploring but to do it in depth would render the book incoherent. Or six hundred pages long. Or both.

But Ebbs manages to keep all the balls in the air moving, considering how many moving parts this story has, and doesn't seem to drop any, which is impressive. To me, the reason that any of this happens to work is because he has deft touches with characterization. While Anji spends a good portion of the novel understandably confused (and she seems to bear the brunt of his tendency to runallthewordstogether), he gives everyone else a lot of touching human moments. Fitz and Carmodi's "relationship" may be manufactured on some level but there's enough actual caring involved that you feel for Fitz and this is the first time in a while that he's been portrayed as emotionally wounded instead of amusingly cowardly or lackadaisical. Even the supporting cast have their moments, the villains are effective with just the right touch of bumbling (including the rather funny running joke where one wants to beat the crap out of the other behind his back) to keep them comical. Imprisoned academic scholar Rhian finds that nice balance between being exasperated and in awe of the Doctor, and all of the characters have a nice touch of humor that keeps the book feeling somewhat zany when some fairly horrible things are going on.

His portrayal of the Doctor nails it though . . . most of the writers are good at writing "the Doctor" but Ebbs is pretty decent at writing "The Eighth Doctor", with his mix of innocence and compassion and hyperactivity, like an action packed five year old Dalai Lama. He gets most of the best moments in the story, the scene where he and Rhian attempt to dance, his wordless angry sorrow after he fails to save a planet, and the small touches, like how he helps someone else before he even worries about himself. Few writers are able to convey how intensely good this incarnation is, his utter sincerity in ensuring that everyone is safe and his unswerving devotion to righting wrongs, but it comes across loud and clear here.

There's so much going on here that its not surprising that Ebbs basically wrote himself into a corner and has to hit a reset button to get out of it. It doesn't feel as much of a cheat as it should, I think because the whole story has occupied itself with a kind of magical SF strangeness that seems unique to "Doctor Who", whether its because of the sheer Britishness of the proceedings or simply the author's style, but when the tone is consistent I'm not expecting exact science. I'm okay with the Doctor not totally understanding what's happening because I like the idea he lives in a weird universe. Still, the author can only get away with that trick once, the next time will seem like a lack of ideas.

Still, hopefully he has another book in him and just didn't decide to throw every single idea he's ever had into one novel because he figures he'll never write one again. His prose is engaging and eager to please in that way of first authors, impressing with its nimble darting playfulness and even the digressions that don't have much to do with the plot (Fitz and Anji's memory implants . . . the Bollywood one being utterly, utterly brilliant) are fun. There are times when you want super-serious and game changing, and there are times when you want full to the brim and fun. This is the latter and while I hope he can bring a bit of depth to his nifty ideas next time out, I'll take this for now.
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