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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The book of time travel, 19 Jan 2004
By 
David Roy (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Who: Book of the Still (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. 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
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It won't take all day to read this review!!, 9 Feb 2009
This review is from: Doctor Who: Book of the Still (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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Doctor Who: Book of the Still
Doctor Who: Book of the Still by Paul Ebbs (Paperback - 6 May 2002)
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