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Doctor Who: Hope Mass Market Paperback – 1 Feb 2002
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The Doctor's rather manic attempts to refamiliarise himself with the workings of the TARDIS result in the crew finding themselves stranded on an extremely inhospitable planet, as the TARDIS sinks through the cracking ice it landed on. This is Endpoint, the last planet in a crumbled galaxy, where hairless post-humans scrape out an existence on the noxious, barely habitable surface. In their efforts to persuade someone to resurrect the TARDIS, they encounter the real power on Endpoint, a cyborg named Silver, whose enhanced capabilities and mastery of technology mean he dictates what really happens, not only in the capital city, Hope, but on the entire planet. But he is worried: there is something going on that is beyond even his control. In increasing numbers, people are being killed on the streets of Hope. As the Doctor investigates, he discovers a hidden community below the surface of Endpoint, who are desperate enough to kill...
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I also really liked seeing the Doctor stick around after the puzzle is unravelled. I'd say this book is one of my favorite's to date, definately worth reading but it helps if you've read 'Escape Velocity' first as a story line does continue on from it.
A refreshing must for EDA fans.
Be warned - he doesn't succeed on this level. Silver himself is a character who could have been more intriguing were he not given such huge exposure at the beginning of the novel. Masterminds shouldn't, as a rule, get their hands dirty. But Silver's in the thick of it all the time.
It's a shame that Clapham has a chronic inability to retain and build atmosphere without lapsing into utter trivia. Witness his well-written, evocative description of Silver Towers...confounded by the Doctor's deflating and uncharacteristic exclamation "perhaps they have a miniature golf course". Blade Runner? More like the Famous Five!
Characterisation is woefully flawed at the beginning of the novel. Silver has already been mentioned, but there are other characters like Powlin (the resident brooding detective) who could have been given a makeover to make him seem moody and cynical rather than flat and long-suffering. Should he really have been presented as an incompetent uber-companion who asks too many questions?
These are all concerns that make the first part of the novel seem trashy. However, it has to be said that Clapham does much to improve his plot and characters as the story progresses. Hope is most rewarding if the reader perseveres beyond the brain-numbing dialogue and childish description early in the novel. Things shift up a gear later on, and this reader is forgiving enough to disregard Clapham's earlier transgressions and write them off as mere 'teething trouble'.
Hope is not a worthy follow-up to Adventuress, but one has to question how anyone would be able to provide a satisfactory sequel to this astoundign work. Mark Clapham made a brave effort, and hopefully his next novel will see less redundant flab and self-indulgence.
What Hope does so well is straddle the old "rad/trad" line. I can easily see this as a big-budget made-for-TV movie version of Dr Who for 2002...it has bad guys, action sequences, humor, monsters, and all the things that made TV Doctor Who so popular. At the same time, it has excellent, poignant characterization of the sort that we've seen in the original novels and it successfully carries over some of the themes established in recent EDA's. Thus, Hope, I think rises to the challenging task of satisfying all tastes in the hugely diversified ranks of taste in Doctor Who fandom.
Another in a long line of successful books by the BBC.
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Mark Clapham's first solo novel is a slightly intriguing, though extremely flawed effort. He shows that he has a wonderful handle on the main characters of the series (the Doctor and his companions), but he doesn't bring us anybody interesting to have them deal with, with the exception of Silver. It says something when there are very few characters in a book, and yet you still can't really tell them apart except by remembering their names and their job descriptions.
The Doctor and crew arrive on the planet Endpoint after having taxed the TARDIS to its limits. The city of Hope is a twisted mass of steel situated on a vast, acidic sea. Upon landing, the TARDIS quickly falls into this sea and sinks to the bottom, leaving our heroes trapped. Silver, the most powerful man in Hope, offers to retrieve it for the Doctor, for a price. Thus, begins a whodunnit, and the Doctor must solve a series of murders in order to restore his freedom. While he does that, one of his companions is doing something else that could make this mystery academic.
The plot of this book is divided into two parts, with a fairly boring joining of the two. The book starts out very well, with an interesting concept and a good introduction to Silver. You really find yourself wondering what is happening, who is committing these murders. The idea of Hope is good, and Clapham sets the scene wonderfully. You can feel the desolation of Hope, a city with a toxic atmosphere resting in a toxic sea on a poisonous planet.
However, the book quickly devolves. Silver, while being a well-rounded character, is described in almost comic book terms, even given an origin story. I could see the panels of the comic as his past was being described. A whole chapter is devoted to this (and even given the name "Secret Origins!") and it brings the book to a grinding halt that it never recovers from. While he does have an interesting origin, the way this origin is told is simply tedious. It's a shame, too, because Silver is ultimately the most interesting character in the book.
The rest of the characters aren't nearly as good. Clapham only creates three or four other characters, and they're still not memorable. One of them doesn't seem to have any purpose. He's only in two brief scenes, and while his first scene hints that he'll be more important to the plot, he ultimately just disappears. One could say that he's there to represent the typical citizen of Hope, but if so, it's not done very effectively. Miraso is a bit more interesting, but she's still very one-note. Powlin is a cliched tired cop. There are a couple of characters introduced later who are also pretty basic.
The Doctor and his companions, however, are extremely well done, and they save the book from being a boring morass. Anji finally gets a meaty role, as she has to make some decisions that could very well affect the bond that has formed between her and her friends. Watching her agonize with her decision is very interesting, and Clapham writes her well. A follower of the Doctor Who series could wonder why it's taken her so long to deal with some of these issues, but that's not a problem in the book itself. The Doctor is also very good, with his curiosity and drive to help people very prominent. The only one who suffers a bit is Fitz, as he's not given a lot of any consequence to do, but what is there is good. He goes off on a brief diversion that ultimately doesn't have much to do with anything but keep him busy.
I haven't spoken much about the plot, and there's a reason for that. There isn't really much of one. The book is very short for a Who book (249 pages) and yet it still feels padded. There are 10 pages of Silver's origin, there's Fitz's side plot, and then the rather lengthy link between the two parts of the story. Silver's origin isn't the only thing that feels like a comic book, as he is introduced in a hail of bullets, with everybody looking on him in awe as he presents himself. It just didn't work for me. The initial story is kind of interesting, but the second part of the book sinks into cliché and becomes very boring. Anji is the only thing that keeps the reader's interest at all.
Ultimately, it's a good thing that the book is fairly short. Even as short as it is, it still took me awhile to get through it. Once I got past the really intriguing set up, I was fairly bored. Thankfully, every time I got near the breaking point, Clapham would do something really neat with one of the regulars, or have some little character scene that was all too rare, and the book would pick up again momentarily. It was enough to keep me going, and enough to earn it three stars (probably 2.5 if half-stars could be given). There are signs that Clapham has a good book in him, but unfortunately this isn't it.
The setting for HOPE is a result of some fantastic pieces of writing, and one wishes that the plot that took place in this location could have matched it. Hope, a city in the far distant future on the planet Endpoint, is a gigantic metal structure, constructed on the top of massive metal legs that keep its inhabitants relatively safe from the poisonous, acidic seas of the planet below. It's a city of twisted girders, metallic walkways and ominous shadows. The people who live there believe they are among the last vestiges of humanoid life in the universe. With only a few exceptions, they are poor, they are hungry, they steal what they can get, and protect what they steal with their lives. Hope is a gritty and strange place. It, of course, looks absolutely nothing like the New York Sitting On A Layer Of Toothpicks image that for some reason made it onto the front cover.
A major flaw in HOPE is that the break between the two primary parts of the story stretches on for slightly too long. While reading, it seems that everything has been solved by page 170, and even the TARDIS regulars start remarking on the fact that they should have moved on by now. It takes far too much time for the next part of the story to begin and this error could have been so easily avoided. The story doesn't bounce back quickly enough, and as a result, the book suffers for it. And, unfortunately, when the book does come sputtering back to life, it's far less interesting than it was before. The main secondary character goes from being an interesting person and concept in his own right to being a clichéd and tired villain that we've seen many times before.
The plot is really too lightweight to support that kind of breaking up of the action. The book begins as a relatively engaging whodunit that starts off with a lot of potential. Doctor Who usually does this sort of thing well, and the atmosphere that's created here does a lot to inspire confidence about the eventual progress of the book. Unfortunately, while the mystery is appealing, it's not overly complicated, and is therefore not able to be sustained for the entirety of the book. The Doctor solves the mystery at about the halfway point, and the plot quickly degenerates from there.
On the other hand, Clapham executed a handful of small moments so expertly, that one wishes that the entire book had been made up of these little gems. There's a two-page section near the end told from the point of view of a lowly evil lackey. Near the beginning, a casually discarded apple core in the Doctor's pocket helps revive a long dead species of fruit. Anji faces a difficult decision, and her reaction to is handled amazingly well and with quite a lot of maturity. She manages to become a realistic human being, and one who isn't overwhelmed by sentimentality. The choice that she makes reflects careful calculation, albeit one that's obviously being tempered by some serious emotions. It would have been extremely easy for this sort of thing to turn out horribly (indeed, when I saw what was coming, I began to brace myself) but it's managed with extreme confidence and care.
It's a shame that these moments that I mentioned are only moments and not the tone of the whole story. Had the entire book been written at this level, then we would have been looking at one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time. Unfortunately, these are only brief looks at a greater work that we see through the cracks in HOPE. The flimsiness of the plot means that the story feels as though it were stretched far past the author's ability to adequately pad. HOPE probably would have made for an excellent Telos novella, but as a full-length novel, it just doesn't quite work as well as it should.