Friday, December 28, 2012

Chat: Lucifer Rising

John: So I guess the first thing that comes to mind is, "Wasn't it nice to read a proper, grown-up book again?" I mean, this one had actual characters, a proper plot, all that good stuff. Nice change after the last couple books, wasn't it?

Dee: Definitely. I mean, the book had its definite flaws, but I thought it was miles, light-years, above the previous few.

John: Well, the previous two. I think that 'The Highest Science' beats this one out. But that might be a little unfair, because my primary complaint about 'Lucifer Rising' is that none of the big plot points ever went anywhere in the later books. The big epic ending is Ace realizing she never loved Jan, Benny realizing that she doesn't need to hold onto her survivor's guilt over her mother's death, and the Doctor realizing that he's become too manipulative and needs to start killing people face to face, where he can watch them suffer. (Or something.) And they all became telepathically linked and best buddies, and the Doctor had a premonition of his impending regeneration. And NONE of that ever came to anything. Unless, if you want to be generous, you count the TV movie as the culmination of that last one.

Dee: Yes. But that said, the Doctor is back! The spraypainting the spybot is so very very Seven. I could see Sylvester McCoy doing that without even stretching a neuron, and it brought a real smile to my face. For the first time, I felt like we got to know Benny, too. Climbing into the food dispenser was a metric ton of awesome in a very small container. I found myself more relaxed reading this book, more confident that nothing that was completerly and utterly out of left field was coming. Even the bit characters meant something. I liked the relationship between Sam and his wife, for instance, short as the scene with them together was.

John: I agree on that score...although I think the juggling was probably just a titch too far. (Still funny, though.) This was definitely one of the major early triumphs as far as Benny went (although again, I think that 'Highest Science' did a good job of developing her.) It's funny that you mention "nothing that was completely and utterly out of left field was coming", though, because I felt like it did, at least twice. First with the IMC mercenaries...not only was their arrival not foreshadowed, but the entire piece of conceptual worldbuilding that explained why they were allowed to do what they did came after they arrived. And then at the end, the explanation of what the mushroom farm did felt like it was just sort of, "Oh, we need it to do something big and potentially universe-endingly scary."

Dee: It could have been playing the spoons! (That would have been too far in my book. Juggling, eh. No weirder than Four doing the hypnosis in The Ribos Operation.)

What I meant by coming out of left field was more in characterization than plot, and I think what you're talking about is more plot-related. Yes, holy cow, what on earth we have space mercenaries? is a valid reaction. I wasn't as put off by the mushroom thing because I was already on board for "this place does astonishing stuff and that's just asking for it to go terribly wrong" with the unexplained moon orbits.

What I really want to note here is the way I saw shades of The Impossible Planet in this one. Or, more accurately, how I think this was concept-checked in The Impossible Planet. Is it just me, or do you see that too?

John: Oh, totally. We've both been operating for a while now on the working theory that the NAs were a big crucible that they used to distill out the key elements of the new Doctor Who before it went to series, and this one is a clear influence. (We'll actually see the writer of 'The Impossible Planet' show up before we leave the Virgin books, in fact.) There are other books that influenced it as well, but yes, this is a clear ancestor.

Dee: Alas, there was no way they could pull this book off in a season. It would take the total season budget, period. But I can feel the aspects of it peeking through. Although I think I liked the characters better as people in The Impossible Planet, I have to say... but that's me. I did like that the Doctor could have left at any time, unlike the TV episode... but didn't. He was going to see it through.

John: Yes. Although I didn't like the whole, "The Doctor secretly uses mysterious telepathic powers to make people accept his presence without asking awkward questions" bit. Primarily because if he really could do that, he wouldn't get locked up as quickly or as frequently as he usually does.

Dee: Maybe it's something he's just learning to use? Spitballing, as I agree with you it's very deus ex machina-y.

Other things I like: the idea of a multi-moon ecosystem-and-power plant-and-temple. That was awesome. It felt both natural and appropriately alien. I liked the multicultural nature of the crew. I liked the idea that they were in a money crunch... too often that kind of economy gets ignored in books, but it felt real. There was a sense of a greater universe of which this was one part, and that's hard to do convincingly.

John: Yes, that's the upside of Andy Lane's continuity fetish; he's engaging in some serious worldbuilding here, taking the background details of continuity that we saw in TV stories like 'Colony in Space' and doing some serious thought about what the world would be like given the glimpses we've seen of it...and what history would be like given the moments the Doctor's stepped into. It gives the book a sense of texture, of having a universe that's really lived in. (The downside, of course, would be the unsubtle winks to the past like the mention of the Hydrax. Those always seem to me like when bands shout out, "Hello, Minneapolis!" at concerts, just because they know they'll always get a cheer when they mention something you already know and love.)

Dee: Hee. Well, yes. In this case it works out well, though. It's not much different than things we've seen in the TV show, like the Macra in Gridlock. They didn't really add much to the plot, but hey, fans, we looooove you! And that texture is really important. It even adds to the idea of the Doctor having a lot of work to do to erase himself from things hundreds of years later, so I can solidly get behind it.

John: I can generally get behind it, but occasionally Andy Lane takes it a bit far. But we'll discuss that more when we get to 'Original Sin' and the scene where the Doctor reminisces about the footgear he wore on previous adventures. Likewise, I think we'll save Jim Mortimore's peculiar tendency towards whacking his supporting cast...unless you want to comment on it?

Dee: Nah. He seems to enjoy it a bit much, but then, that didn't happen as much as it should have even on the series, so. I do want to touch on Ace, though. I have reached the conclusion at this point that Ace is going to be like that kid I knew in high school who I had a crush on but then she went in the military and we just can't relate any more. And I'll have to be OK with that, but damn, you know? That's kind of where I am with her at this point.

John: Yeah...there's a lot more sturm undt drang to get through before we finally get a reasonable interpretation of the character. Although thankfully not a ton in our next book...which has ZOMBIES! Woo! See you there!

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