8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 1999
Taking its cue from an enigmatic reference in Mark Morris' Eighth Doctor novel, The Bodysnatchers, Matrix pits the Doctor against a long-anticipated enemy: Jack the Ripper.
Hunted by an unseen foe, the Seventh Doctor decides to leave Ace in the safe hands of his first incarnation. But London 1963 is not the London he remembers: it is a beleaguered police state under siege from an arcane vampiric force. The infamous Whitechapel murders have sent twentieth century Earth down a parallel timeline, leaving the Doctor and Ace no choice but to travel to the East End, circa 1888, to catch the Ripper . . .
Like The Bodysnatchers, Matrix is full of gaslight and gore inspired, no doubt, by repeat viewings of The Talons of Weng-Chiang. But where Morris took the Philip Hinchcliffe/Robert Holmes approach to the series - exploitative B-movie-derived plots elevated by wit and good characterisation - Perry and Tucker are far more enamoured of the John Nathan-Turner/Eric Saward aesthetic, with storylines contrived to support clever-clever scientific ideas and tie-up with the show's rich and convoluted history. Matrix is no light read; it demands an in-depth knowledge of Who-lore and repays the reader with revelations about the Doctor, Ace and Gallifrey that he or she may not wish to know. You have been warned.
On the plus side, the narrative is strong and atmospheric, if unconventional, and the period detail of an unusually high standard. Perry and Tucker have drawn on a number of sources, including, it seems, Orwell, Borges and the 1930's horror classic Freaks, though their main inspiration is the novels of Peter Ackroyd: the East End setting, Ripper connection and Quabalistic overtones recall Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, while the use of London churches, black magic, possession and parallel time streams has its precedent in Hawksmoor. Fans of Ackroyd will spot the connection early on and, if they don't, Perry and Tucker actually name a character after him to hammer it home.
Ackroyd's obsession with secret histories, ghosts and metempsychosis, and the theory that different time periods run concurrently rather than consecutively, lends itself well to Doctor Who. Unfortunately, Perry and Tucker take this too far. Touches like the re-writing of the Kennedy Assasination, the flash-forwards to the TV movie, and the presence of Ian, Barbara and the Wandering Jew (yes, the Wandering Jew who mocked Christ as he bore the cross to Calvary) as supporting characters, are both ingenious and pointless (the latter appears to be a stranded Time Lord who will reappear in a future Eighth Doctor story). The novel also throws in some of truly disturbing imagery - this is not a book for children - and raises some uncomfortable questions about the nature of evil (is evil excusable if it is in one's nature? can the most horrific of crimes can be excused if one acts under duress?) which, while they might have worked in a first Doctor story like The Aztecs or The Massacre, are rendered facile by the character limitations of the Seventh Doctor and Ace, and the unmasking of the novel's mystery villain.
This is a novel about confronting the nature of the beast - advice Perry and Tucker should have taken on board as they wrote it. That's not to say that Matrix isn't a cracking read - and its ambition is admirable -, but it is one that arguably pushes the envelope of what is essentially a tea-time adventure show for children a little too far.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2009
A truly chilling read, capturing the darkest aspects of human nature and forcing the Doctor to come face-to-face with his own inner monsters.
As the novel begins with the Doctor reflecting on his own eventual isolation and loneliness, a theme of solitude is swiftly established, this idea only becoming further elaborated as the Doctor and Ace's attempts to find their mysterious new foe leaving them cut off from each other and even themselves, the Doctor left with no memory of his true identity and Ace trapped in a world she can barely understand as an evil transformation plagues her.
While the presence of the 'Wandering Jew' seems somewhat superfluous- the mystery of his immortality is never even given the HINT of an explanation, and in the end his role could have been easily filled by a benevolent bystander-, the dark world that Perry and Tucker create- both in the alternate 1963 and the true 1888- are truly chilling to read about, and the final dramatic confrontation between the Doctor and his foe perfectly reflects everything about this enemy that makes him one of my personal favourite villains, forcing the Doctor to face his own evil even as he denies it.
Raising complex questions about the nature of evil and presenting us with a chilling look at how even the noblest soul has its own darkness, "Matrix" is a highly commendable novel that is a must-read for ANY true Who fan!
on 2 October 2013
Matrix is a 7th Doctor, Past Doctor adventure and the second in Mike Tucker and Robert Perry's self-styled series 27.
The story of Matrix is fairly complex, it fits in with the story type of series 26, in that there is a story there deep down, but it's confusing as anything and doesn't make a whole lot of sense at first glance. As this was meant to be set in the fictional series 27 it's a little disappointing as the first story, Illegal Alien, was just a joyous romp with a fairly straightforward plotline. The novel starts with the villain doing a ritual to make a golem and then attacking the Doctor with it when he is at his weakest before the TARDIS is hi-jacked. Meanwhile Ace seems to be falling under the influence of the Cheetah planet (from Survival) and the villain is shown to be committing a murder in Victorian times. The pieces are not obviously linked, and linking them seems a little bit convoluted and screams that the authors had so many ideas they just tried to shoe-horn as many into one novel as possible.
The novel then shifts to the Victorian era of the Ripper murders, with the TARDIS crew attempting to stop the 6th murder which should never have happened. I'm a sucker for a good old Victorian setting and Tucker/Perry have done themselves proud in capturing the era on the page. The bulk of the novel is set here and the people and the era really do come alive on the page. The trouble is all this good work is then undone by the final pages of the book which becomes all out Gallifreyan fanwink. I don't mind semi-historical novels and I don't mind novels delving into the fictional Time Lord history, but here they clash badly.
There is no denying that Tucker and Perry can write for the 7th Doctor, they do it very well indeed as Illegal Alien proved. Matrix however features a sombre 7th Doctor who spends the best part of the novel depressed, scared and/or not himself. Whilst it adds depth to the character, it's not really the sort of Doctor I like to read about and I felt the absence of a "Doctor" character was missed. Ace is done fairly well though, and is thrust into not very nice situations which are interesting and suit her well.
Matrix is a pretty gloomy and grim novel which makes the smoggy London of Victorian times the perfect setting. It has strong ideas and really pushes forward the backstory of the Matrix and also the idea of a dark Doctor but never quite reaches what it sets out to do by simply throwing far too many ideas at you all at once. It makes for a dark and atmospheric novel, thanks in part to the wonderful Victorian setting, but it's plot takes a lot to follow and asks you to believe some pretty outrageous and contrived plot devices which seriously detracts from what otherwise could have been a great novel.
on 15 April 2011
Challenged by a mysterious enemy the Doctor decides to Journey back to 1963 to leave Ace with his first incarnation. Instead they arrive in a London that bears little resemblance to what it should be and the Doctor seems never to have existed. The sense of doom and wrongness is reinforced by an encounter with Ian and Barbara who apparently never taught a Susan Foreman nor met the First Doctor as they should have.
The dark tone of the book is unrelenting as Ace ends up abandoned on the unforgiving streets of London in 1888. Much of the focus of the book centres on Ace as she tries to come to terms with being homeless and destitute in Victorian England with little hope of seeing the Tardis again. Ace's infection by the Cheetah People has been touched on before in the Virgin New Adventures but never explored to such a degree as it is here.
All the characterizations are well constructed and the plot is never predictable, without the reams of incomprehensible psycho/techno-babble that other writers seem to resort to.
Another excellent addition to the series by a writing partnership who know what they do best: Ace and the Seventh Doctor.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2007
I love this book - I don't own it but I've borrowed it from my libary half a million times. I really need to get my own copy...
Very dark, creepy and well written. The characters are captured perfectly, you can really feel Ace's fear and the Doctor's confusion.
Had me gripped from the first word to the last. READ IT.