Doctor Who: Autumn Mist Mass Market Paperback – 5 Jul 1999
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Set in the Second World War, this first 8th Doctor novel from David McIntee effectively captures the relentlessly grim nature of the War as well as containing numerous scenes of bloody carnage.
It can be a bit too gruesome: in one scene Sam is sprayed by blood, brain and bits of skull from a hapless driver when their transport is ambushed. An awful lot of people in this novel die in horrible ways: mutilated by German and Allied forces (depending on which side you're on), shot in the head, chest and back and generally not given a nice ride at all.
Amid this real-life horror is a more science-fiction element whereby the dead start vanishing in a strange mist, and some of those in charge seem to know more about what's going on than others. And then there's a mysterious prisoner captured by the Germans and kept in an electrified cage...
While McIntee's tying together of a brutal war with the Philadelphia Experiment (involving a vanishing ship) is admirable the end result just doesn't work. The juxtaposition of brutal death with alien faerie folk clashes and the splitting up of Sam, Fitz and the Doctor serves no useful purpose apart from following one of the tropes from the series.
As a novel which brings home the horrific pointlessness of war Autumn Mist works really well. However, as a Doctor Who adventure it just doesn't feel right. Once again Sam gets all the interesting stuff, Fitz stands around doing not hing and the Doctor tries to get away with a minimum of blood on his hands. Disappointing. --David J Howe
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Top Customer Reviews
Autumn Mist finds the TARDIS forcing it's crew to land in war torn Germany in 1944 and they quickly get separated. The Doctor joins one American troop and Sam another whilst Fitz has no choice but to join the SS As usual strange things are afoot, with bodies from various sides disappearing with no explanation, a mist which seems to cause time anomalies and both sides working with technology they couldn't possibly have had.
Almost from the word go Autumn Mist is a very bleak novel. World War 2 was very violent and bloody and McIntee wastes no time in bringing this fact home, with graphic descriptions of people being shot, killed, and blown up. Rather than feeling decadent, it fits the mood nicely.
The Doctor is well done given it's McIntee's first foray into the Eighth's era. To begin with he seems to be relying on the green velvet jacket and long curly hair but he soon finds his feet, delivering a good likeness of Paul McGann's Doctor. Fitz really gets into trouble when he is forced to join the SS and his characterization is exceptional. Sam has a rough time of it, but she didn't annoy me as much as she usually does.
The other human characters are all spot on. Obviously you have the Americans and the Germans fighting the war, so we see into the minds of both sides and there hopes and fears for the future and thoughts of loved ones back home. The "third side" however are all a bit flat, even the "bad guy", who never really seems a threat.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The story itself isn't all that bad. There is nothing really the matter with it, but there is also nothing much positive to say about it either. Some books with a weak storyline can turn this perceived limitation into a strength by adding character conflict, angst or introspection (with varying degrees of success). Here the lack of plot is made up for with long war scenes that pay more attention to the tanks and equipment than it does to the people that are operating them. This contributes to the uncaring feel that the book has, as though nothing that one is reading matters in any tangible way. By the time one reaches the end, one does not really notice that the conclusion has been rushed through. Although this sort of sloppy writing at the finale is a problem that plagues many an EDA, it seems strangely appropriate here.
The prose and the sentence structure are really where this novel collapses. Strange sentence fragments joined together by random punctuation marks become distracting at times and very detrimental to the reading experience. This is a book that would have been enormously helped by an extra stage of proofreading and/or editing. It's a shame that this did not occur.
The characterization of the regulars was, for much of the time, fairly acceptable. However, there were a few points where the Eighth Doctor seemed more like the Seventh Doctor than we've ever seen him before. Fitz seemed to waver a lot between two extremes: one of total cowardice and the other of tremendous heroics. This seemed almost like a caricature at times, though it did work well in some places. Sam is much less annoying than she usually is (which is a pleasant surprise) though her decision at the very end seems to come from absolutely nowhere.
In the end, reading this failed to generate any excitement in me whatsoever. Events happened and some people were killed, but I couldn't make myself care about any of this. The "third side" referred to on the back cover tries to dance between magical and hard, scientific technobabble, and ultimately fails at being either. Not recommended.
Unfortunately even when read out of sequence the novel still feels slightly "eh", although it's not all terrible. The team, kind of reeling from the events of the last story (there's a few references to Sam and Fritz sleeping together when she was "Dark Sam" and Sam comments on the postcards she left for herself as well as one reference to "biodata" for old time's sake) winds up stuck on Earth during WWII. As is typical of these things, the crew gets split up, with the Doctor and Sam winding up hanging out with the GIs and Fritz paling around with the German army. That said, there's one scene where the Doctor blatantly tells Sam to check out a village by herself, which when you think about how often bad things happen when they get separated would perhaps give SOMEbody pause.
But as much as we're all looking for a straight historical featuring WWII soldiers we don't exactly get the Who version of "Band of Brothers" as it becomes clear early on that mysterious things are happening with the soldiers. Dead soldiers are vanishing, straight sights are sighted, memories are being clouded and it seems that both sides are conducting odd experiments. Ooh! Alas, the explanation for all the problems that are going on may not exactly thrill you, depending on how much hard science you enjoy in your science-fiction.
See, it turns out that the issue is fairies. Literally, fairies. Or at least the trans-dimensional parallel universe equivalent of them. The human war is starting to impact their environment and so they find themselves getting involved, while the figurehead of Chaos on their side is doing all kinds of weird crap simply because he can, which is a great job to have.
Done properly this could give us a weird contrast between gritty war action and pseudo-fantastic fairy drama, with the two worlds colliding in strange and unusual ways that only a drama like "Who" could give us. However, while McIntee is very good at gritty war action, he's not so convincing with fairy drama. His war scenes do feel real, at least to someone who has never been inside a war though and even if he checks off everything on the list that you normally see in any old war movie (every soldier has a sad backstory that will make his death more poignant when he finally bites it, Because That's What Happens In War . . . as soon as one soldier comments that he's never seen his child you know his pages are numbered) and his knowledge of military vehicles and details is actually kind of impressive. It's not Tom Clancy but it'll do.
If only the same amount of detail was paid to the characters. For the fairy scenes to work it's got to be WEIRD, not psycedelic pseudo-Grant Morrison nonsense but just off enough from our normal frame of reference to make us thing we've entered a situation where matters are seriously off-kilter, and yet it has to be something that the Doctor can move around with some familiarity. Orman/Blum from the last novel and Lawrence Miles are good at this kind of thing, tossing out strange concepts, acknowledging their strangeness and imbuing in them a sense of fractured wonder as well. In McIntee's hands there's no hazy dreamlike quality and while I'm not expecting John Crowley (or even Neil Gaiman) I don't expect it to be like the war scenes, but with less shooting.
Coupled with a surfeit of plots and soldiers with similiar names (not for nothing but with the German guy being Leitz and the GI being Lewis, I thought the twist was going to be that they were the same person, like when the Master disguised him as the Magister) along with references to the Philadelphia Experiment and more fairies and maybe even a nod to the ongoing subplot, there's just too much going on to properly care about it. When they rush to the ending, you barely even notice. It's easy reading (I literally started and finished this while waiting to be called for jury duty) and entertaining in its way but not exactly substantial. The tonal differences don't add up to anything special (or barely exist) so instead of getting a melding of grim war with otherworldly strangeness you get a sort of flattened combination of the two. And that's not really satisfying.