Cards on table: I am a big Dr Who fan and a Moorcock fan from the 70s / 80s devouring all the Eternal Champion books wherever I found them. When I heard of this novel I was both astounded and apprehensive - would this be a Dr Who novel written by Moorcock or a Moorcock novel with Dr Who in it?
Well the novel is littered with the Moorcock trademarks - arrows of law, law vs. Chaos, cosmic balance, multiverse and a character named Cornelius. We also need to bear in mind Moorcock's novel for the film Great Rock and Roll Swindle for which he (essentially) reproduced a Jerry Cornelius tale (though a good one!).
We then need to think back to the good Doctor - I am just listening to the Big Finish Key2Time series, and it is clear that the Doctor as well uses the language of law/order vs. Chaos, multiverse, the Key to Time itself is a balance, so actually the language is not that far away.
The novel itself is well paced, very readable and very funny. In fact I was most struck by the sense that the fantastic comic prose describing the bizarre archaic psuedo-cricket / darts / jousting games of the 'plot' (ignoring the hat) could as well have been outpourings of the pen of the most credible of Dr Who champions Douglas Adams.
As a Moorcock fan, I thoroughly enjoyed the look back to Earth history from the distant future - pure Dancers at the End of Time for those that know their Moorcock.
Why only four stars? Well I think too much was added to the Who universe to set the backdrop for the story; Amy was left as a cypher until suddenly taking her place as a key character for the final third; the Doctor himself seemed to have all the faults of the Matt Smith character (appearance over content) and didn't quite capture his strengths of timing and expression. I also didn't like the self-referential ending which also reminded me of the Runaway Train post-ending (i.e. setting up the story by going back in time after the story happened).
I leave though this thought - we've had the Coming of the Terraphiles, what price the Return of the Terraphiles?
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...
on 22 July 2013
I came to this as a Moorcock as well as a Dr Who fan, but one that has never read any previous Dr Who novels. Throughout the story, I struggled. I read and could visualise the main character as the Doctor but it had that strange detective story slant and featured other obvious Moorcock characters. A similar sort of weirdness as when I read the Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently novels; To me he was obviously Tom Baker Doctor Who but with a different name and background. Overall, I liked it but as the headline says - weird!
Let me begin by saying I have been a fan of Doctor Who for many years - I followed the classic series and then was overjoyed when it returned to the screen in 2004. I have also read widely of the works of Michael Moorcock and have greatly enjoyed his dark surreal fantasy novels with fascinating characters, anti-heroes such as Elric and Corum. I was therefore, after my initial disbelief, very excited to hear that the BBC had commissioned Moorcock to produce a DW novel.
Unfortunately this failed to satisfy me as EITHER a Doctor Who or Michael Moorcock novel - yet alone both. Doctor Who references were minimal, while characterisation of both the 11th Doctor and Amy was poor. From a Michael Moorcock perspective there were myriad references to "the multiverse" and the battle between "law and chaos", but it was a far cry from the intelligent writing I associate with Moorcock.
The setting was comedic and nonsensical, the characters farcical and the conceptual science bizarrely ridiculous. An awful lot of time was spent playing weird sports events which the rules and terms were never really adequately defined so it was very hard to keep track of who was winning and how they were doing it.
To my mind Moorcock has taken the worst elements of Doctor Who and his own writing rather than the best. From Doctor Who he incorporated the sometimes childish plots and characterisation that is occasionally present in the series but none of the rich history that the series has established, from his own writing he took some of the bizarre conceptual theories but none of the depth of characterisation or sense of epic adventure.
I really regret that this is the case. I was looking forward to this so much.
on 19 July 2013
Being a die hard who fan and a recent Moorcock fan, this book just seemed too good to be true. The Doctor himself, welcomed into the multiverse of Michael Moorcock? Sci-Fi geeks everywhere weeping heavy tears of joy, wiped from the glistening wrap of their mint condition Star Trek top trumps pack with a limited edition wookie wipe.
Obsessive obsessions aside, is this book actually any good? In the immortal words of the tenth doctor "OH YES!" This is not just a gimmicky glueing together of two legends, this is a genuinely brilliant novel!
It's faithful to the Whoniverse and Michael Moorcock manages to beautifully capture the I'm-ever-so-slightly-channeling-Patrick-Troughton eleventh Doctor as played by Matt Smith as well as his companion Amy Pond. Unlike the 45 minute tv format, this book allows for an epic adventure taking in a huge cast of hilarious characters such as Captain Abberly and the Bubbly boys or Frank/Freddie Force and the antimatter men.
The story itself is a typical Russell T Davies style "the whole of reality is in danger" adventure but is still massively enjoyable. Moorcock fills the book with beautiful planets, spaceships and buildings all described in stunning detail. It's fast paced but also incorporates a bit of light relief. The completely jumbled and inaccurate way in which the characters try to recreate Old Earth style is inspired and really very funny.
Every inch of the book smells like Michael Moorcock. From the constant references to the multiverse to the occasional borrowed character (e.g. Captain Cornelius) Moorcock is able to make the story entirely his own whilst staying true to Who. In my own humble opinion, this book perfectly lives up to everything you would expect from this team up. Except, maybe,for the fact that this book is decidedly more family friendly (see less sex and gore) than Michael Moorcocks own work.
Best Doctor Who book I've ever read. And I've read a few. I can only hope that the BBC either request a sequel or find other, equally brilliant authors to continue producing this kind of quality Who.
When I first discovered Michael Moorcock's writing many years ago, I found a new world of exciting opportunities in reading. The History of the Runestaff, the Elric sequence, the Dancers at the End of Time - wow, these books were a revelation to me in my reading. I have read and re-read so many of his books now that it was a real thrill to find that he has written a book in my favourite series of all, the wonderful Doctor Who. The book seems to have gathered rather mixed reviews already on Amazon, so I was really not too sure what to expect.
Unfortunately, I couldn't make peace with this book either as a Michael Moorcock book (which, by the way features not only Jerry Cornelius but other elements of Moorcock's universes) or as a Doctor Who book (while the Eleventh Doctor and Amy are not my favourite Doctor Who team by any means, I have read them characterised much more strongly). So, the book rather fell between two stools for me.
I think if you have not read Moorcock's works previously, much of this book would just pass you by completely. But if, like me, you have read Moorcock's works and were reasonably familiar with both his style of writing, and his previous creations, you would find this ultimately unsatisfying.
A pity - not all Doctor Who stories can appeal to all Doctor Who fans, and there are certainly some clunkers I have not enjoyed in the past (Paradise Towers, Mindwarp spring to mind). There are elements in this story which should fall within the Doctor Who realm, and could well be incorporated into a good Doctor Who story, but while this may well appeal to some, I find myself unable to give it much of a positive review.
on 18 October 2010
There is something brilliant about a novel where a bearded lady version of W G grace isn't the most interesting thing about it. How many times have we been tricked into buying a book merely because its a famous author slumming it and been disappointed, michael moorcock obviously thought so as well as he has produced one of the wittiest, most astonishing Doctor Who novel it is possible to read. Filled with journeys across dimensions, space pirates in Phantom of the opera masks flying the jolly roger, Judoon playing the doctor at the sport of nutcracking, the mysterious disappearance of a hat, romance between the best friend of Robin of Loxley and the daughter of a terraforming businessman, an invisible thief, centaurs,and archery. If you don't at some point read this then hand your box sets and virginity back at the door as you obviously have no interest in Doctor Who or Great SF. Quite frankly you owe it to everybody who laughed at you for liking a kids programme to show them this and go "Ha see it's not just for kids" and then read it again out loud to them.
on 7 February 2016
As an enthusiast for Dr Who (50 years) and Michael Moorcock (40 years) I was nervous of reading this. Shouldn't have worried. The Doctor slots into Moorcocks world of the balance of law and chaos, and his champion eternal rather neatly. The characterisation of Matt Smith's Doctor was done well. Several people have observed that Amy Pond was characterised less well, but I always found the show's script writers never really settled on who she was themselves. Frankly, I wish this had been used on the show.
During the years when Doctor Who was no longer on television, first Virgin and then BBC Books published a series of full-length novels pitched at an adult audience, which both expanded the depth of the series and laid the foundations for many of the authors who would go on to write for the new TV series itself. Unfortunately, when Doctor Who on TV was reborn in 2005, the descision was made to replace these full-length novels with a series of books aimed at a much younger audience, most of which (with one or two honourable exceptions) were fairly shallow and incosequential fare. That 'The Coming of the Terraphiles' is both the first full-length adult Doctor Who novel in five years, and by such a renowned SF author in his own right as Michael Moorcock, had me punching the air with joy. In reality however, the novel is very much a mixed bag.
'The Coming of the Terraphiles' is a light and frothy romp through Moorcock's Multiverse, with a decidedly keen comedic edge. Some reviewers have complained about a lack of the Doctor and Amy, but in truth the pair are featured heavily throughout - the only difference here is that Moorcock has the space to set up his supporting cast in depth, which is all to the good. Early chapters prove encouraging: Moorock's prose is delightful, filled with amusing witticisms and similes, but it has to be said that the plot (such as it is) does tend to drag somewhat as the novel progresses. This isn't helped by Clive Mantle's reading, whcih, whilst enthusiastic, tends to become tiresome at length. Every single character is given an over the top comedy voice with a different foreign accent, which, whilst ensuring the characters remain distintive, makes the humour in the writing seem forced and juvenile. I suspect I would have enjoyed reading the novel slightly more than I enjoyed listening to the unabridged reading.
Ultimatealy the problem isn't that 'The Coming of the Terraphiles' feels more like a Michael Moorcock novel than a Doctor Who novel (Doctor Who should be malleable enough to cover practically any genre or style), the problem is it just isn't a great Moorcock book either. The pleasure to be had here is in the details of Moorcock's character studies - the actual plot is a rather generic 'hunt for the McGuffin object to set the ailing multiverse to rights' storyline that Moorcock has told dozens of times before. Of course, there is a get out here, with the ending of the novel reminding us that the characters' actions are merely echoes of a single story being played out throughout the multiverse - but it would have been nice for the plot to have shown a little more originality.
So - flawed, but still a worthwhile experiment - and for that alone the BBC should be applauded. I hope that this is merely the first in a series of big-name authors tackling Who for adult readers. Time will tell.
A Doctor Who novel. Featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Amy [set at an unspecified point somewhere in his first season]. It's a completely original tale that never appeared in any other medium before book publication.
It runs for three hundred and forty three pages. It's divided into twenty eight chapters. Plus a prologue and an interlude.
In something of a coup for bbc books, this was written by legendary British fantasy and science fiction writer Michael Moorcock.
There are some tie ins to his other work, but you should be able to get into this without having read any of that.
Some mild adult references might not make it entirely suitable for younger readers.
The story sees the universe starting to face chaos, and reality is coming apart. The only thing that can save the day is the arrow of law. A famous artefact. The Terraphiles are a group of beings obsessed with the legends and stories of Earth. They will dress in ancient Earth styles and re-enact Earth ways. Such as cricket matches.
The Doctor and Amy have to join them on a journey where they will compete for the Arrow. All of reality, in the meantime, is hanging in the balance on the outcome of this contest.
Franchise fiction usually has strict rules that those writing it have to abide by, not least that it has to feel like an episode of the programme in question. Doctor Who original fiction of old, from the early 90's to the middle of the last decade, did often try to push the boundaries of that and do stories that were, as they say, too broad for the small screen.
This is another attempt at similar.
You would think that having a writer of Michael Moorcock's pedigree would guarantee a result that would be something special.
The Doctor and Amy scenes are very good. Especially considering that this came out during their first season so nobody had seen too much of them at the time. He does get Amy exactly right. Also the Doctor, who you might think could easily be the fourth with slight rewrites, but is pretty genuinely the Eleventh.
But the rest of the book isn't so great by comparison.
The first third is written in a very pseudo PG Wodehouse style - in some way reminiscent of Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time series crossed with Wodehouse - this is initially charming but the total lack of incident in the first third starts to grate. After a while the style just gets irritating as a result, and the narrative only perks up when the Doctor and/or Amy are in the scene.
The second third does expand the narrative, and take the characters on a very imaginative journey. But this is also rather lacking in event and simply doesn't grab as a result.
Things finally come to a head and develop in the last fifty pages. But all in a somewhat rushed and uninvolving manner. By which point it's rather hard to care about any of the supporting cast.
All in all something of a disappointment. The books in this range that try to stick more closely to the established format may not be great literature, but at least they end up usually being better reads than this.