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Customer reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars

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on 24 June 2000
I was annoyed at all the continuity referrences to the previous range of Dr Who novels from a previous publisher. Now out of print, if someone hasnt read them, they wont understand this book. Paul Cornell has went too far with continuity. What happened to avoiding previous NA novel continuity in the BBC books? I liked that, it stopped awful contradictions within the same range, like we have now, and baffling plot to newcomers. The BBC books only part of the plot is great though, and I have to say, at least the book gives a great ending. I was dubious at first, but the new direction the novels will be taking are excellent. I just *love* what they have done with Compassion, and the new Gallifrey subplot. The main novel 2 stars. The ending 5 stars.
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on 7 February 2000
At first, I thought I wasn't going to like this book. Its initial premise seemed too much like the 1989 television adventure, Battlefield. It certainly has similar elements: the Arthurian legend (although Avalon is pre-Arthur), a missing nuclear missile, the Brigadier, and Doris. A homage to Battlefield is not an image which conjures much hope for this as a piece of fiction, since Ben Aaronovitch's story was a disappointment after his excellent Rememberance of the Daleks. However, I've discovered that this novel doesn't leave you after you've finished reading.
The Brigadier here is quite different from the character of the same name in Mark Gatiss' Last of the Gaderene. This is not to say that either of these authors have got him wrong. In Gatiss' book, the Brigadier is the character that we knew and loved from thirty years ago. The Shadows of Avalon presents the Brigadier as he is now (well, now as in the future - it's a temporal thing). For one thing, Lethbridge-Stewart has been promoted to General. However, everyone still calls him 'Brigadier'. For a moment, you can imagine that Paul Cornell has been delving into the files of Police Squad, ready to reveal that Lethbridge-Stewart was christened 'Brigadier' (like Frank Drebin's (sic) first name was always 'Lieutenant'), but he resists this. Due to events in past novels ('Happy Endings'), the Brigadier has also been rejuvenated, and there are some interesting scenes with him and an aged Munro. But although the Brigadier is youthful, he is far from happy, for his wife has died. This is on the back cover blurb, so it's not a spoiler.
So, the Brigadier finds himself in the mythical land of Avalon, along with the Doctor. Avalon's home to the Catuvelauni, a Celtic tribe who fled there from the Romans. Also living there are the Faeries - don't groan - who are the original inhabitants. These Fair Folk bear little resemblance to popular images of fairies, and are more familiar in a malignant sort of way. With their presence, it would certainly seem that Avalon is a good bolt-holt for people running away from things, and it's as good an explanation of dragons as you're likely to find in the Doctor Who universe. It's not long before the Brigadier is caught in the midst of a civil war between these two peoples. Shadows of Avalon retains the contemporary political feel of recent EDAs, since this does resemble Kosovo at times.
There was a great deal of fuss prior to the publication of the Shadows of Avalon due to Cornell's decision to portray a black Time Lord. In this aspect, it also resounds with Battlefield, since that story had a black woman as Brigadier. Initially, I thought Paul Cornell had failed in his good intentions, since the only explicit reference to Gandar's skin tone is one character describing him as a 'darkie'. However, this comes from a character whose perceptions have been affected by his living in our society. No one refers to Gandar as 'black' on Gallifrey, because his skin tone isn't an issue there. Most of the time he and his fellow agent, Cavis, dress up in disguises to perform their duties as agents, whether that means wearing monsters suits or the full Celtic look. Like every other character in this book however, Gandar isn't static - like the Brigadier, he develops and evolves with a great deal of compassion. Paul Cornell deals with racial conflict within these pages with a high degree of sophistication.
So, like a lot of Doctor Who books nowadays, Shadows of Avalon opens at a relatively gentle, some might even say dull, pace. As usual, we're introduced to a lot of new characters who require some time to empathize with. But if you leave your copy of Shadows on the 08:47 from London Bridge to Hastings after scanning just a few opening pages, then you'd be missing the point. Doctor Who has graduated from the regular twenty five minute cliffhanger. Now the books tend to build up to a barnstorming end - and this is where Shadows of Avalon excels. The ending is a bungee jump into oblivion, with adrenaline even approaching excess.
There are a few things which jar - one of the greatest elements of Doctor Who disappears with a whimper rather than a bang, and maybe the two Gallifreyan agents are a little too groovy to be taken seriously, like something out of Buffy. But then again, one of the agents is preordained Cavis, which I think must derive from Latin (what was that mosaic in Pompeii? 'Cave Canem'?). When you think about the Latin elements of the story, it soon becomes clear that there couldn't be a more appropriate setting for this story. There are ironies within ironies, until they alchemise into gold. Judging by the reaction of one of the characters, the Enemy has to be feared. This is a most stimulating novel, one which will stay with me for a long time. It's part of the ongoing story, stopping off here and there, like The Armageddon Factor of twenty year ago, and resounds with such quality as Edge of Darkness. These two aren't name-checked by Cornel, but I think I can see them. The Great Escape is certainly referred to, but given the nature of this novel, it's hardly gratuitous. Shadows of Avalon seems to resemble a classical work: there's a justification for every idea here. And combined with elements from Lawrence Miles' story arc? Sweeter than eye of newt.
Of course, one can only imagine the Doctor's reaction to seeing Ian Chesterton in a German POW camp, but that's another story. Maybe it's the beginning. Whatever. I think that we can certainly let Paul Cornell get away with this one.
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on 28 February 2000
THE MAN WHO BOUGHT US SOME TRULY CLASSIC MOMENTS IN THE VIRGIN NOVEL SERIES (INCLUDING THE HUMANISING OF THE DOCTOR , ACE LEAVING, BERNICE ARIVING, SOME CAMP SILURIANS AND LOTS OF DICK JOKES ) RETURNS WITH A BOOK THAT IS ... UM ... ER... PRETTY GOOD. I mean, its very good, with its Death Wish style Brigader (He walks out under fire to rescue a wounded soldier , i was crying!),its Dragon vs Harrier dog fights and theres a master wannabe, and the revelation at the end (which im not allowed to tell you), but we want more from Mr Cornell and you come away feeling sort of cheated , like its not BIG enough, but you know that its excelent , but it could be better, but its great, but its missing somthing , but what's there is great, but.. and .. erm ... oh hell , just buy it if you like his other stuff,and don't mind feeling sort of confused. Its a lot less depressing than some of the other books in the series.
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on 21 December 1999
The Brigadier's wife is dead. A terrible accident. Grieving, he searches for death, and finds his way to Avalon, the other-dimensional kingdom of the Catuvelauni.
The Doctor is also in Avalon, marooned. He's lost his companions, his TARDIS... and his hopes for the future. Now it seems they'll have to make a new life for themselves with the Celts who live in the Dreamlands. Perhaps even help in the Celt's negotiations with the Unseelie, the original inhabitants of Avalon, who live far to the North.
But then a gateway opens between Earth and Avalon. The British Army arrives in force. And the Brigadier negotiates a treaty that will lead to war in the Land of Dreams.
With fearsome dragons duelling jet fighters, vicious Gallifreyan agents causing havos, and Compassion fighting against her ultimate fate, can the Doctor save the world, his best friend, and himself?
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on 1 March 2000
I must confess, I did find some of the events in this book distressing, and I'll mourn. I can't really say anything about who I'll mourn without spoiling the surprise. A fantastic book, a really culmination of events from the story arc that's been developing over the past few months. Those who feel that the Doctor stories should stay unchanged, with the Doc arriving in the TARDIS, beating up monsters and leaving, may not like the innovations in this novel. I guess I'm not too pleased myself, but you either change or stagnate. Well done, Paul!
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on 14 February 2000
When the man who invented Bernice Summerfield, and gave us the wonderful book "Human Nature", sits down to write a new Doctor Who novel, you simply have to read it or miss out. Especially if the cover shows a dragon grappling with an RAF Tornado.
You can tell Cornell is a brilliant author - my other half recognises the name, and decides she's going to have a night out while I read it.
It was a good thing she did - I picked it up and have no idea how long it took to read as I simply could not put it down. The Brigadier comes across as a man of action, torn by his emotions in a way that only Cornell could manage. The Doctor loses the TARDIS, and has to consider life without it. Compassion comes across as a real person for the first time in the range, which is ironic considering the ending. I won't give it away, but let's just say I had to gasp aloud and explain the plot in length to my ever suffering other half. Fitz is, well, Fitz. The other characters all come across as real people, and you actually care how things are going to turn out.
It all makes sense - which is Cornell's greatest strength.
The book says this is the end of one chapter in the Doctor's life, and the start of another. Trust me, you don't want to miss this ending - it also makes one hell of a beginning.
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on 4 April 2001
But I do hve a question, Like the Doctor I want to know what is it about the Presidents that they loose their senses once they become prsident? Borusa and now Romana. I think the only president that kept it together was Flavia and that's because she wasn't in the hot seat long. Man they talk about the Master he's nice as pie compared to the whole race. Anyway Love this book answered a few question I had when I read Space race before this one. Being in the US we only ge bits and peices of this seris so I've been playin catch up and so far I'm enjoying it greatly. Would love to see someone write a book of the Doctor's life before he was on the run and what happened to Susan's parents? Maybe even tell the story behind what happened between the Doctor and the Master to make them go from being friends to being sworn enemies. Just a tought.
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on 30 January 2000
The first new Doctor Who book from Paul Cornell since 1996 is not so much a triumphant return, but is nevertheless a quality novel. So much occurs in it that it is hard to summarise the plot ... the Doctor faces a new life different from his previous ones. Cornell's writing is as sharp as ever ... Interesting, weird, and fun.
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on 13 June 2015
Not a particularly strong story at best but it could have been improved if the writer had spent time reworking the action scenes. All these scenes are described in a painfully stilted fashion, very akward and lack lustre.
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on 8 March 2000
There was a young author called Paul / Whose books were acclaimed best of all / *I* thought his fans saddos / Until I read 'Shadows' / To rads it'll appeall, trads appall.
Gallifrey makes sure time won't unravel on / Foreseeing what happens on Avalon / His TARDIS destroyed / The Doctor's annoyed / But he finds something else he can travel on.
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