John: Cyborg hermaphrodite turtles. I’ve been trying to think of where to start this off, and I think it has to be with the Chelonians. They are to the New Adventures what the Weeping Angels are to the Moffat era, or the Ood to the RTD era. It feels like they’re inextricably linked to the period all out of proportion to the number of appearances they made. And they’re awesome, too.
With PMS. You can’t forget with PMS. I love that joke, and it’s not one
your mind would automatically necessarily see. I can forgive the
obvious “Luka, I am your mother” bit completely as a result. It’s even
funnier given this was the era of TMNT movies. I think this is a lot
better than those ever could have been. It also plays a bit with the
idea that herbivores are peaceful, which is nice.
I see this as being good, but even better when it was released. It was
the last big era of the music festival: Lollapalooza, Lilith Fair, and
so on. There haven’t really been as many of those since the advent of
music downloads. He’s playing with the big festival idea too in a way
that wouldn’t work as well today.
There’s definitely an element of that...oh, I hate to say
“counterculture” but I can’t think of another word that fits. The New
Adventures were written by a lot of people whose lifestyles were outside
the mainstream, whether they were gay or kinky or poly or recreational
drug users or possibly all of the above in the case of Dave Stone, and
you see it come out in a really authentic use of alternative culture.
The three music fans are obvious parodies of that Deadhead type of
follower, but they’re parodies that are inhabited by a lot of real
understanding and knowledge of the people who spend their lives
traveling from festival to festival. They feel believable, which helps
make the humor work.
I’ll admit, which makes their eventual fates seem harsher. I know you
think I disliked this book, and while that’s not entirely accurate, I
did dislike the way that it seemed to punish you for finding it fun.
It goes back to the idea you told me a long time ago and I see firm
evidence for in the series, books, and audios: It’s not so bad to be the
primary villain, necessarily. But if you’re in cahoots with him, you’re
doomed. And the fact is that a lot of people in those cultures did fall
in with the wrong people and suffer for it. I didn’t see that as
punishment for finding it fun. I saw it as the inevitable side effect of
choosing your “friends” based on the wrong reasons. (I do think those
fates were some of the poorest writing in the book, but that’s not to
criticize the lesson; Kurt Cobain may have still been alive as of the
time of publication but a year later he was gone.)
I think more what’s happening is that Roberts hadn’t yet learned some of the deftness of touch he later shows. The Unicorn And The Wasp
is hilarious, but there’s a point to the kitchen scene with the poison
that gets softpedaled by the humor: If it had been a human and not the
Doctor in that circumstance, that human would have been dead. It’s
something Roberts got the hang of as he went along. So there’s some
first-book-itis going on here.
Yeah, I think that’s what I was trying to get at with my review
(whether I succeeded or not is another question.) He’s a good writer
from square one, but he gets a lot better at making that subtle shift
between, “Oh, that’s so awesome!” to “Oh, my GOD...” There are places
where you see that in this book, with the creepy Guardians turn out to
be remarkably inept when they encounter something outside their limited
worldview, but it does feel like a patchwork creature at times. The
joins between the gruesome horror novel and the light-hearted comedy are
very visible at times. Especially the ending, which feels very sour and
unfair to the very sweet eight-twelves. I think I could have taken a
lot more of the stuff in the beginning and middle if the Doctor had
unambiguously defeated the Chelonians at the end.
Right with you there. But Transit felt similarly “We’re done now? Oh!”
to me, as did Cat’s Cradle: Witch Mark. It felt like they got to editing
stage, and the editors said “WAIT! We can use these critters. Let’s not
have them all wiped out.” And Roberts wasn’t yet skilled enough to make
it more than a deus ex machine literal moment.
I’d say ‘Transit’ worked better because it wasn’t so much of a
downer--Kadiatu going out, inventing her own time machine, and exploring
the universe felt like something you could imagine lots of fun
possibilities for even if you didn’t know when you’d see them. But yes,
I’d agree that the evil Doctor and Ace in ‘Witch Mark’ were another
example of a pointless, irritating loose end.
in this case, it felt more like either Roberts or the editor wanted to
kill off the eight-twelves completely and make this a total downer
ending that showed how trusting that the Doctor knew what he was doing
could sometimes backfire horribly, and there was a long bitter argument
behind the scenes and this is the compromise that nobody was happy with.
Which is something else to remember...Peter Darvill-Evans was still
trying to find the range’s voice, just like each author was trying to
find their own. I think that might explain some of the reasons why this
felt like it lurched around so much--Gareth Roberts might not have had
as much choice as he would in later books.
Dee: Point. Editing can make all the difference in the world.
thing I thought was perfectly in time range for the book, by the way,
was the Cell. Holy cow. Dolly the Sheep was a couple of years in the
future, but the “horrors of cloning” was a big trope at the time. The
Cell fit perfectly into this. And Benny as euthanizer was a bit of a
drug thing was interesting. I wanted to see more of that. I liked that
the Chelonians were also vulnerable, but wondered what on earth made a
Chelonian sample an unknown foodstuff.
Maybe they’re part turtle, part goat? Or maybe turtles just do that.
I’ll admit, I don’t know much about the eating habits of small-c
chelonians, let alone big-C Chelonians. Certainly the idea behind the
bubbleshake was very much of its time...which isn’t to say it’s not
still relevant, but the 90s were the era when people first started to
really consider the potential consequences of genetic engineering and
designer drugs being in the hands of corporations that had grown so
large that any given person’s ethical objections were subsumed into a
sort of bland, gray sociopathy.
is why the ultimate answer to Sakkrat worked so well, I think
(switching topics from the books problems to its successes.) The fact
that ultimately, the whole thing boiled down to a big corporation
attempting to recover its stolen property with absolutely no concern for
the consequences wasn’t just a logical answer to everything that was
going on, it also fit in thematically with the Cell and the bubbleshake
that had been such large elements leading in. Sheldukher is supposed to
be the universe’s most terrifying psychopath, but he only steals the
Cell. He’s a puppy dog next to the people who made it.
Another of the book’s successes: Mocking the Lovecraftian writing
style. That was hilarious. He did such a fantastic job with it. The
smile I had from that kept me going a ways into the book.
Oh, I’ll totally grant that one. If the whole book had been written in
that Gustav Urnst hyperbolic uberdramatic style, I would have probably
still been hoping for more. Again, I don’t think there’s any question
that this book has a lot to recommend it. It’s just that, equally
unquestionably, much better is on the horizon for Gareth Roberts.
But... before that... we have a book I have heard rumored in shaking
whispers wherever DW novel fans meet. It’s spoken of with averted eyes
in dark corners by fans who assert their longing for a shower afterward,
and not in a good way. It is said to have emerged from the birth pangs
of the line and to lurk trying to pounce upon the unsuspecting who think
the premise is promising. I refer, of course, to The Pit..........
**sad, slow nod** We’ve had such a great run. ‘Nightshade’ to ‘Love and
War’ to ‘Transit’ to ‘The Highest Science’. You had to know it couldn’t
last. Join us next time for what may be the worst book we’ll read for
the rest of the blog!