Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The Quantum Archangel by Craig Hinton

Plot: The Master is wrecking havoc on the universe again in his desperate bid to save his life. His schemes lead to the creation of the Quantum Archangel, a being of devastating power with the power to rewrite history and turn things to her design…

[The Quantum Archangel is widely regarded as the ultimate expression in fanwank. Craig coined the term and feels perfectly at home applying it to his book (in fact editor Justin Richards was keen to push the idea to its very limits). Oddly enough it isn’t an issue in this book because unlike a standard Gary Russell book which name checks continuity for the hell of it the scale of The Quantum Archangel is ENORMOUS, it encompasses the entire universe (and beyond) and discusses massive universal dramas the way you and I would talk about going for the shopping! This book is trying to include absolutely everything; no exceptions and its concepts and playing field are so all encompassing a few quadrillion continuity references feel right at home. Lets have a look at the damage…
Eternals, Chronovores, Daleks, Gallifreyans, Guardians, Great Intelligence, Nestene Consciousness, Animus, Cybermen, Vervoids, Traken, Numismaten Gas, Sarn, Kronos, Dynatrope, Time Lords, Matrix, Sontarans, Rutans, DARDISes, osmic projectors, Cloister Bell, Quarks, Tremas, Blinovitch Limitation Effect, Peri, Titan 3, Hroth, Zero Room, CIA, Hyperion III, Sleepers from Andromeda, Skaro, Uxerius, Daemons, Spiridon, the Martian GodEngine, Stuart Hyde, Ruth Ingram, Professor Thascales, UNIT, TOMTIT, Anne Travers, Vvords, Jo Grant, page 44 (the entire Time Monster plot), the Deca, Minyos, C19, SeneNet, Ravalox, Magister, Keller, Estram, Ashley Chapel, micro-monolithic circuit, TARDIS ‘sniffer outer’, Type 40, Bocca Scale, the Rani, Mortimus, Drax, Bandrils, Power Room, Eye of Harmony, Castrovalva, Xeraphin, Ice Warriors, Osirans, Drornid, Planet 5, Jagaroth, Valeyard, Panopticon, Cheetah People, Marinus, God of the People, Xoanon, Emperor Dalek, Logopolis, WAR TARDIS, Metebelies, Eldrad, Kastria, Exxilon, Minister of Grace, Faction Paradox, Nimon, Omega, Key to Time, Project Inferno, Yeti, Andred, Pythia, Morbius, President Derring, Telos, Vampires.]

Theatrical Traveller: If I am totally honest Craig’s sixth Doctor is as close to the TV version as we are likely to get in print. Here he is big, bold, proud, loud and full of boisterous charm. Despite some seriously overdone dialogue in places, he actually captures much of what I have always admired in the sixth, controversially my favourite of all of the Doctor’s because he is just so unconventional…

However human he looked, however human he acted, the Doctor was anything but. He makes mistakes, miscalculating the strength of the rebel force on Maradnias and wiping billions of people out. Mel thinks the Doctor wants the universe filled with evil, to justify his moral crusade. He surrenders to his emotions at one point and screams. Is the Doctor just an overgrown schoolboy with mood swings, a violent temper and an overgrown ego? After Mel leaves him all he wants is silence, to be on his own. Since his last regeneration he has a nagging call of solitude, begging him to understand how a lone Time Lord can make a difference. Since the nearly teetotal 5th Doctor, the Doctor now relishes the taste and effect of alcohol. It was highly enjoyable getting drunk and getting away from it all. He is a man of good with seeds of such unimaginable evil lurking within him. There is such doubt and fear in him, especially for a man who has saved the universe countless times over. He has always felt guilt and superiority about how he views the universe compared to his friends. He plays by the rules that he learnt many years ago but they often backfired on him. The TARDIS could be many things, wilful, temperamental, flirtatious…but after the attempted Time Ram she wilfully attacks the Doctor out of sheer terror!

Screaming Violet: Mel leaves the Doctor after the devastating events on Maradnias, terrified that she will go mad, consumed with the darkness of their adventures. She had a large circle of friends at university and she wants to find out what she might have become had she not hooked up with the Doctor (there are hints that she could have become Prime Minister).

Hehehe: The Master is central to this story and he gets a huge gulp of the action so he deserves a section to himself! He was recently double-crossed by the Krotons and seeks revenge when he is visited by the Chronovores and told they will hunt him down until he is dead. He is now an emaciated creature, any remnants of Tremas long rotted. He sneaks back to Gallifrey to steal the dark secrets of the Matrix. He seeks to achieve Godhood! Power and immortality so he can wipe the Chronovores out of the universe. Craig’s description of his TARDIS is excellent, all whispering corridors; oily and filthy power room and satanic library. Despite everything he has done it is clear that the Doctor still cares for him. When he achieves his goals the Deca will have to acknowledge him as their Master. He admires humanity for its ingenuity and inventiveness.

Foreboding: The Master thinks of visiting the Planet of the Cheetah People to help with his failing health.

Twists: The opening is arresting; in the dark spaces of the Time Vortex, Elektra and Prometheus, an Eternal and a Chronovore are punished for their relationship. His timeline is picked apart and her child is stolen. TITAN being activated is tantamount to sticking a pin into the balloon of reality to see what is inside. In the aftermath of Event Zero eleven dimensions fought for existence, five succeeded and six curled in on themselves to become the six-fold-universe, a place where the Transcendental Beings thrive. TITAN is a microscope into Calabi-Yau Space – where the Chronovores eat and feed and it will light a beacon that Chronovores will pounces upon. The Master wants to free the Chronovores into four-dimensional space, planning to cut them off from the Lux Aeterna, their food source and commit the greatest act of genocide the universe has seen. There is an amusing trap laid by the Master, a jigsaw of temporal boundaries. The Midnight Cathedral was built on the dark side of the moon 150,000,000 years ago by the Constructors who have now been wiped out and the Cathedral is their only work to survive. The Doctor nearly loses the TARDIS as the Master tricks it into Time Ram…with itself nanoseconds in the future! The Master pours the energy of the Lux Aeterna into Anjeliqua and redesigns her as a God = the Quantum Archangel. She wants to re-write creation and make things ‘better’ – exploring parallel universes that will give her friends what they want most in the world. Once she starts creation alternative realities for each of them we suddenly realise that the Chronovores are the gardeners of such parallel worlds and the Earth is host to thousands of them…and thanks to the Master they have access to them and start to feed. (The Constructors of Destiny reigned billions of years ago, seeding worlds with life. War broke out in heaven when they decided to make a calculating machine that could understand the universe. The operating system was engraved into the very fabric of the space-time continuum. Its memory could contain every possible event – the Mind of the Bophemeral would understand everything. It was utterly, utterly mad. Over a 1000 races united to build the greatest War Fleet for the Millennium War. Countless races were annihilated and galaxies were laid to waste but eventually the Mad Mind was defeated. The Guardian’s created the Key to Time and issued one command to the younger races that had triumphed – FORGET – and as a price for victory the Millennium War was forgotten). With a single command the Quantum Archangel shatters the chains that imprison the Mad Mind, they make love and become the most powerful being the universe has known, capable of understand AND changing everything. Pages 218-226 are incredible scene setters – a parallel world in which Gallifrey is at War with a mysterious Enemy, the Master having betrayed the secrets of Time Travel to them and the Doctor the President desperate to save the universe from total destruction. It is far more coherent and dramatic than the earlier Gallifreyan War in the 8th Doctor range and could easily be the genuine Time War which sparks off the New Series. In another parallel reality there is the terrifying image of the Doctor walking out of the TARDIS, half Cybertised – Locutus style. It is fascinating how Craig makes his parallel worlds darken and the situations get more desperate as the Chronovores feed on them. The Armageddon Sapphire is a device capable of tearing the universe apart, it will reform billions of years later but unrecognisable to what it is today. Paul rescues everybody from these timelines and reveals himself as Kronos – the bastard child from the opening chapter. It was Kronos who put the fear of God in the Master, so he would kill the Chronovores for him, a revenge plan executed because they wished him dead from birth. The Doctor has to become a God in order to fight a God and absorbs the power of the Lux Aeterna in order to square of with the Archangel, moons being thrown, supernovas flaring and black holes exploding in their struggle. Kronos attempts to repair the damage he has caused, dragging the Mad Mind into the far future and destroying both of them as the Great Attractor explodes. As a result for his courage the Doctor is afforded a second chance and Maradnias survives.

Embarrassing Bits: Right…what is it with all these exclamation marks in the prose!!!!!!!!!!! We get it! It’s dramatic!
Pages 101-104 are deeply silly, the time flow analogue scene was written into The Time Monster because the episode was under running. Why re-create such a stupid scene here? Was the book under running too?
The blatant thieving of dialogue from that show is horrid too (“Simmer down Stu!” “We’ve done it! We’ve done it! We’ve done it!”)
The Doctor and Master have a technobabble bitch fight which is as awful as it sounds!

Result: I really, really, really enjoyed that. Is there something wrong with me? This book has two sides. There is the silly rip offs of The Time Monster, the overblown dialogue and the deluge of continuity that dribbles from every page. But then there is the other side, the amazing concepts, the mind-expanding canvas the story is told on and the fact that this is actually a fantastically plotted story. Frankly it is the best and the worst thing Craig has ever written, deeply embarrassing in one scene and astonishingly cool in another. The prose and characterisation are so melodramatic it is perfect for the sixth Doctor and Mel and frankly the universal implications of the plot demand that that characters reactions are suitably dramatic. I can understand why some fans think it is the nadir of Doctor Who fiction because it is damn near impenetrable in places but if you take your time (it took me two weeks to polish this one off) with it there is a wealth of clever ideas and the astonishing achievement of the universe genuinely, believably at the brink of total devastation: 8/10

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