on 15 April 2014
This is a sweeping story that really does set the Who Universe canon on its head. It really does provoke the mind in to seeing the benevolent Time Lords of Old as something driven to near madness by the necessities and rigours of a Total Time War. In this you see how truly a maverick the Doctor is trying to `think` his way out of situations, rather than just pulling out the D-MAT Gun and vanishing away the problems as he sees them (please don`t bug me about the D-MAT Gun being restricted data in the Matrix only accessed by K9, and Rodan under hypnosis, in the Invasion of Time; I know that as well as everyone).
Saying that story is not the easiest to read and at first I thought the writers were trying to compress Milton`s Paradise Lost in to prose form rather than tell a tale of the Fendahl of Sol Five in Mutters Spiral. So a word of advise stick with it, as it is hard going and you have to skip over the continual attempts by the authors to impress you with their cleverness. Yes, it is a very cerebral book where the writers have clearly work shopped the whole concept of Galifrey and it`s peoples, and by extension what happens to a society when it is faced with the twin evils of near unlimited power and an almost as ruthless enemy to fight against. So smaller concerns like others that might inhabit the Universe alongside Galifrey take second, third, fourth and fifth place in a list of priorities, if they are considered at all.
All Who Fans know about the Fendahl - the Gestalt horror, an all consuming destroyer of Worlds, that popped up on Earth and was defeated by the Fourth Doctor. But consider if it was used as a weapon and what sort of war would required that kind of ordinance. This book asks that question and describes the lengths to which it could be achieved, and in the attempt to tell that story is so `other worldly` it is sometimes a strain on the imagination to envisage.
So Marks Out of Ten for cleverness, is a full 10. For writing a barely scraped 7, as the book is a switch back ride back and fore between concurrent story lines in support of the central narrative, but it all turns out alright in the end. For imagination, an easy 10, as it is certainly excellent in terms of sheer inventiveness and use of current Cosmological concepts of reality.
Not a bad story at all but not the best read because of the over complication of the plot drivers and characters.
on 14 March 2014
After the confusing and thoroughly un-entertaining The Blue Angel, the Eighth Doctor range is back on solid ground with The Taking Of Planet 5 by Simon Bucher-Jones and Mark Clapham. The novel gives us more insight into the future Time War between the Time Lords and the unknown Enemy as mentioned in Alien Bodies.
The Taking of Planet 5 is about the future Time Lords going back in time to infiltrate an alien base camp in Antarctica. The only trouble is the alien race shouldn’t have existed outside the mind of HP Lovecraft. To complicate matters, scientists in the present day have found the base camp, with an injured survivor, and called in a dodgy UNIT contractor to help.
Whilst mostly entertaining the novel does sometimes venture into deep science fiction technobabble which is fairly offputting, as you find yourself re-reading bits a couple of times and still not quite getting it. Aside from that there really isn’t too much to dislike.
The Doctor is back on form after a rather bland display in both Interference and The Blue Angel. His boyish enthusiasm of a visit to the Museum is catching and you find yourself excited for what’s to come. His acting the part of a Time Lord general when he absolutely no clue what is going on is brilliant, and his torture and subsequent fight back is 100% Doctor Who, although I do feel he is side-lined for large chunks of the second half.
Fitz is also back to fine form which is essentially like a rabbit in the headlights. Thrust totally out of his depth he still tries to come across as knowledgeable but usually ends of failing miserably. He also gets into compromising position with an alien tentacle which is an absolute joy to read. Compassion gets some much needed depth after the previous two books failed to do much with her. Her relationship with Fitz is explored, as is her seemingly uncaring attitude.
Sadly the other cast do not live up to the regulars. The Mictlan bits are meant to be shadowy and mysterious but the people there just end up coming across as a bit flat. On the flipside the future Time Lords are meant to be interesting, and whilst their concept is, the actually characterization is practically non-existent. They as well have been labelled Time Lord A and Time Lord B. Talking of standard naming protocols the Celestis agents are called One and Two and are actually fairly interesting.
The Taking of Planet 5 is an interesting novel which pushes the Future War story forward. The time travel concepts aside, it is an easy read which after the mammoth Interference and the mess that was The Blue Angel comes as a welcome relief. Due to it’s subject matter you’d need to be up with Alien Bodies before reading this, but it’s well worth a read.
on 26 June 2000
My first encounter with the Eighth Doctor was the TV movie. Hated it. The only redeeming feature was Paul McGann's devoted portrayal. Then "The Eight Doctors". It was writted by my most-loved author, Terrance Dicks. I had hoped that it would jump-start my interest in the only new series of "Doctor Who" in the foreseeable future. Wrong again. Sorry Terrance, but your writing capabilities are better served by the Third or Fourth Doctor.
Three years passed and then I read a copy of the Doctor Who Magazine. I read the article interviewing Lawrence Miles, author of the much talked about "Alien Bodies" and "Interference". He explained that those who criticise the Eighth Doctor for being unlike the series are right, and that this the Doctor for the new millenium, and he has to be different. So I picked up both parts of Interference. I did enjoy it, but found it a bit heavy going.
Then the "Blue Angel". Again, I was confused by the mythos behind Iris. But this was still pretty fun.
And then, finally, "The Taking of Planet 5". This is a story I could enjoy. Even without the Celestis, this is an enjoyable and readable romp through Antarctica, both in the present and twelve million years ago.
Some personality expanding is given to the icy Compassion, as well as to... wait for it... the TARDIS!
Having read this, I say roll on "Frontier Worlds" and all those who follow.
on 9 November 2007
Just finished reading 'The Taking of Planet 5', and what a smile it put on my face! To be fair, I just ripped through 'Kursaal' in a day, which made me want to disembowel myself with a garden claw, but still.
I first read 'Planet 5' when it came out, and was, I think, completely baffled. I thought I'd give it another, much belated, go though - not having anything to lose - but then probably stick it on eBay... So, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself thoroughly enjoying it! I'm a massive fan of Bucher-Jones' previous NA 'The Death of Art' - it's such a wonderfully macabre, atmospheric read, jam-packed (that's right... I said `jam-packed') with the kind of fascinating ideas that Lawrence Miles does so well. Okay, that was a bit gushy.
Speaking of Mad Larry, I think these authors' appropriation of Miles' 'Alien Bodies' toybox was a main reason for my 13-year-old self to be formerly so dismissive of this novel. Now though I find it quite refreshing to see someone else having a stab at these concepts. To be fair, the idea of the War-in-Heaven Time Lords etc doesn't have the advantage of being as shockingly unprecedented and shock-horror original as they somehow still do even when rereading 'Alien Bodies' today - but hey, this still-unfamiliar take on the overused, bloodless 'Five Doctors'-style Gallifrey, is something of a treat...
Not that I'm saying the book's stunningly brilliant (although, few things are). But - it's enjoyably written (I find the "dense prose" infinitely preferable to the generally anaemic `style' of, seemingly, the majority of Doctor Who authors), and surprisingly funny to boot (although, thinking about it, 'The Death of Art' has its moments too. Yeah, still plugging it...). I've never quite warmed to Fitz, or, in fact, had anything beyond the most basic conception of what he's actually like. But, here - I wouldn't say he's actually a character per se, but he's certainly likeable and engaging; it's actually nice to have an unwilling companion (not another over-eager Jo Grant or even Sam Jones - may her shell be blighted!! - `bipedal sheep'). Compassion - yeah, same problem really, but here you feel like the authors actually got a handle on her basically antisocial tendencies, without making her into a totally unlikeable cow.
The Doctor, I guess, is slightly... generic. But, again - likeably so; he's energetic and engaging, and thank God. I know it comes later in the run (damn and blast, etc), but I reread 'The Shadows of Avalon' t'other week - same story as this really; didn't get into it back then, and now - well... Let's just say, didn't feel so charitable there; it's probably coming up on eBay any day now, kids. I'm sorry, but Cornell is so hopelessly overrated (the filmed 'Human Nature' was a huge improvement) - but, I'm sorry, his prose is so... superficial. I never get any sense of, I suppose, immersion! It's like - compare to Cartmel's NA 'War' trilogy (sorry: "blistering 'War' trilogy," which seems to be the official description) - I felt like I was there in every scene... Anyway - I digress. What was I saying? Oh yes - 'Shadows of Avalon' has a, to me, inexplicably good reputation; all of the regulars there were absolute puppets! It's like he gave up on creating any chance of involvement with the TARDIS crew so as to focus on the Brigadier.
...But I'm still digressing.
As for 'Planet 5''s apparently mind-shredding plot, well, personally, I'd much rather a surplus than a deficit; I enjoy that kind of bombardment of ideas and events... This time round (and, to be fair, I'm not 13 any more - thankfully), this fell into place rather nicely I felt. The girl disgorged by the `creature' in the 1999 base being Compassion was kind of obvious, but by no means less effective for that...
In conclusion then, lords and ladies... well, I'm currently rereading all the Doctor Who books I have which I can't remember a thing about - not for me the dizzy heights of Cartmel or Aaronovitch or Orman at the moment, then! - and as such, I've had to face such blistering mediocrities that discovering this book to be, a), not only overlooked back in 1999, but, b), something of a minor gem, was a breath - nay, a gale! - of relief. It's complex, it's funny, it rolls along. The regulars are likeable. The concepts are interesting. Obviously, it's not to everyone's taste, but I'm glad to know that 'The Death of Art' (of which that statement is equally true) wasn't the one-off I've had it in mind for years to be.
So, yeah. It's good, I like it. (But then, I thought 'The Shadows of Avalon' was smug dross, so what do I know?)