John: It says a lot that when I sat down, I had to remind myself that we weren’t doing the chat for ‘The Left-Handed Hummingbird’. Because this really is such a forgettable book--in fact, I’d say it’s the only forgettable book of this whole arc. All the others stand out in my mind as classics (and yes, I do consider ‘No Future’ to be a classic, no matter what know-nothings like Paul Cornell might say) but this one...it’s there. Things happen. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. A monster from Gallifreyan myth shows up, it does bad things, and the Doctor stops it. Oh, and there’s a lot of continuity references. If they ever made a Generic New Adventure, I think this would be it. Or am I being unfair?
Dee: I can’t say yet, we’re not done with the New Adventures. But I’ll say that it’s a quick read, hits all the beats, and still somehow melts away after. It’s not bad, like Warhead, of which I now remember all of three scenes. But I wonder if, in six months, I will remember any at all from this book.
John: I rarely do. I’ve read it at least four times now, maybe five, and all I ever remember is that it’s got the Garvond in it--I don’t remember who the Garvond is or what it wants, which is mainly because the author barely explains who the Garvond is and never gets around to explaining what it wants, but I do remember the name “Garvond”, because it has that perfect “generic Doctor Who monster name” feel to it. It feels like if you were to chop up all the phonemes of all the Doctor Who monsters into a blender and reduce them down to a two-syllable puree, you’d wind up with “Garvond”. So I remember it for that. Oh, and I always remember that whatsisname dies at the end. And the author makes it blatantly clear that I’m supposed to care a lot, but doesn’t clarify the reason. I think that’s about it, although I think if you quiz me in three months’ time I might remember that it’s got an evil Time Lord in it. But not in six months’ time.
Dee: … I’m honestly hung up for what to say here.
John: Well, we could try to puzzle out the villain’s plan together. I get that he wanted the President to assassinate himself, because that wasn’t supposed to happen, because...well, wait, if he was a disguised Time Lord all along, then how was that part of “established history” to be disrupted? Or was the whole “disrupting established history” thing just what the Garvond told the President, and actually it was a closed loop like what happened on the space station and that was how he got his power? And where do the two Cheynors actually fit into any of this, anyway? And also, what the heck was the Garvond going to do when it got all this power? I mean, the Doctor said, “If it does this, it’ll be invincible,” but so what? Is it going to be an invincible model train hobbyist, setting up its tracks in the Basement of History regardless of who tries to stop it?
...or did it make more sense to you?
Dee: I hate to tell you this, but I don’t remember the Cheynors. And I didn’t have a clue as to what the Garvond wanted. It was, for me, very much a “OK, this thing is killing and torturing people for no expressed reason, not that I would have accepted any reason given for the crap it was doing. Therefore, it’s bad. Therefore, it getting any more power is bad. Therefore, stop it.” I’m shallow, I’m afraid.
John: The Cheynors were the college student from Oxford and the second-in-command on the spaceship, who was supposed to be his descendant. They were the Garvond’s Time Focus, which was important because it was capitalized in the middle of a sentence and you don’t do that with ordinary words unless they’re important to the plot. I think that’s how ninety percent of fantasy novels work. Other than that, I got nothing. But I should clarify...it wasn’t that I didn’t understand why the Doctor should stop the Garvond. The whole “killing people” made that pretty clear. (Certainly clearer than why whatsername went crazy and started talking in French midway through the book. Did you pick up on why that happened?) No, I just meant that there was never a clear idea of what was at stake in the story. To pick a not so recent example, since I just realized that it’d be mean to give away the ending to ‘Name of the Doctor’ so soon after it aired, in ‘The Big Bang’ we see very quickly and clearly what the consequences are of not fixing the TARDIS. Every star in the entire universe has gone out. (Although, speaking of things that don’t make sense, what consequences exactly are the Silence trying to prevent by killing the Doctor that could be worse than that? Um...but I digress...) Blythe never really makes the threat of the Garvond concrete and tangible. It’s just something that dicks with people...using TIME! And capitalized words.
Dee: I know something that caught my attention! The TARDIS team isn’t really a team here. They’re in three different places hoping to God they find one another. I don’t care for Who books like that. Small thing, but there you go. I don’t think the writer was clear on multiple fronts, and you’ve hit a few of them. Mostly, I could have wished for another chapter or so telling me why I should care.
John: I’d like to say that was deliberately done, to emphasize their emotional distance from each other, but I just don’t think the writer was thinking that far ahead. Unlike our next book, which is really about to grab the TARDIS crew’s emotional centers and yank on them. See you then!