John: So, should we put on our Black Flag albums to discuss this book? I think I might be able to lay my hands on some Che Guevara T-shirts, if we need them...
Dee: I never owned one. I’m thinking we don’t have enough six-sided dice between us for the Doctor’s stats... and we’re both longtime gamers with more D6es than sense. What I find amusing is that we hadn’t read one another’s blog entries and yet we wrote about almost the exact same things... but I was vaguely disappointed where you were frankly annoyed.
John: I think I’m annoyed because I genuinely believe that Cartmel is a good writer, with the ability to create memorable set pieces...and he’s being completely self-indulgent and delivering a novel that feels like he first wrote it when he was sixteen and then just did a polish job on it. I think he could be so much better than this, and it’s frustrating to me.
Dee: These characters did not need to be Ace and the Doctor. They could have been anyone. The TARDIS doesn’t even figure into it except as a magical transport device... you could substitute “personal teleporter” in there with no problem. Honestly, if this novel didn’t slightly predate Shadowrun I’d think it was a campaign novel like the Dragonlance series.
John: Well, strictly speaking it could be a campaign novel for FASA’s “Doctor Who” RPG, with Cartmel finding out the hard way that he couldn’t use his own Time Lord and companion and had to stick with the Doctor and Ace...but actually, that doesn’t bother me the most. Well, except for the Ace and Justine sequence, which remains to me the single most annoying piece of authorial fiat in the entire printed history of Doctor Who novels. And I’m including the “Sam discusses Creationism” scene in ‘Placebo Effect’. But other than that, it feels more to me like Ace is trying to play the role the Doctor offered her instead of actually being the person she pretends to be. And the Doctor and the TARDIS...well, if you want to actually take this as the middle installment of a trilogy, which is otherwise very difficult, you can assume that they’re both still recuperating from the events of ‘Time’s Crucible’ and the Doctor’s still acting wonky as a result.
If, you know, you wanted to be charitable.
Dee: I just don’t see the character progression for Ace. Since I’ve written the blog entry, I’m trying to figure out the whole thing, and it doesn’t wash at all. Especially the Ace that Cornell set up only two books ago... who saw the Doctor’s compassion in a unique way and found her own. But I ranted about that already. I hadn’t considered the Doctor still being wonky, and that almost makes his behavior make sense, but no. I really didn’t care for him being so obvious about using people as weapons and proud of it. And I didn’t care for his lack of compassion for the dying women. Nope.
John: Yeah, I think that’s far more teenage Cartmel speaking. “Dude, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem!” Which wouldn’t be such an obnoxious, smug, self-righteous adventure into dickishness if he hadn’t done such a good job writing those characters. It’s less than a chapter, but we know everything we need to know about the life of a woman who would pass almost unremarked in any other novel. But because she didn’t single-handedly take on the bunch of organ-harvesting madmen who were above the law, the Doctor can’t even spare a moment to cheer her dying day. Compared to that, wiping out the Silence is practically sweetness and light.
Dee: I’ll admit that, having had a job cleaning hotel rooms, I feel for her a lot. I think she’s the character I most related to in the entire thing, far more than the environmental pagan-type. Justine annoyed the life out of me.
John: Not to put words into your mouth, but I think she was annoying to you because she was the worst kind of well-meaning pagan stereotype--she’s a teenage eco-terrorist filled with rage against the despoilers of the earth and she wears leather and takes casual drugs and has casual sex...and, um, she’s always right about everything, because Cartmel wants to pretend deep down that he’s an ANARCHIST instead of a middle-class writer who marched for Greenpeace once. Cartmel pumps up the adoration for her to the point where you want to see her get torn apart by wild dogs out of sheer spite.
Oh, and speaking of wild dogs, she’s such a compassionate animal-lover that she abandons her pet in the middle of nowhere without food. And we’re supposed to be proud of her for it?
Dee: And throws rocks at him. I feel for poor Vincent being stuck with her. And I really don’t have a lot else to say about this book, to be honest. It feels so out of place in the series to me, I just can’t get attached.
John: I agree. I think anything more at this point would be piling on. As for feeling for poor Vincent...well, let’s just say that their story’s not done yet and leave it at that for another 28 novels or so. And let’s move on to a novel that’s a lot less well-remembered, a lot less good, but also a lot less frustrating.