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"We're living in a permanent melodrama. I'm the madman in the box."
on 3 November 2010
First the good news. After a disappointing run of cash-in audio adventures that were light on plot and ideas, The Coming of the Terraphiles is an honest-to-goodness novel - and has been published as such - running just short of 11 hours on nine CDs, complete with fully drawn characters and worlds and an ambitious plot written by a `hard' scifi writer with impeccable credentials. The bad news is that despite Clive Mantle's generally excellent reading, it feels like it's often a little too fully realised to work on audio, with the prologue and opening chapters taken up with so much florid backstory and character detail, often conveyed with plentiful nonsensical wordplay that even Edward Lear might have balked at, that the story seems to take forever to get started and often gets lost in the purple prose when it does. All too often it seems as if even the smallest of actions leads to yet more lengthy description and backgound that would work better on the printed page where you could read (and just as importantly, reread) at your own pace to keep your bearings. Moorcock too often seems more interested in engineering worlds than telling a story: you can't fault the detail even if it is overfamiliar, but you do find yourself wanting him to just get on with it at times.
At times this is more of a Moorcock novel complete with his trademark obsessions and characters - another variation on Jerry Cornelius, more Multiverses, more Arrows of Law - with the Doctor sidelined to a minor player who almost feels shoehorned in, never quite commanding the story and often feeling subordinate to it and the author's already long-established worlds. As such it may well disappoint or alienate some fans of both the series and Moorcock. Certainly it's hard to make a case for this working better as an audiobook than it does on the printed page: this one just doesn't seem quite right as a listening experience and not just because, like other readers before him, Mantle has difficulty with Amy's Scottish accent...