Saturday, 1 January 2011

Trading Futures by Lance Parkin

Plot: There is a time machine on the market and Baskerville, a time traveller from the future is willing to sell it to both the Eurozone and America, the two forces on the brink of war. Enter the Doctor, Fitz and Anji, one of whom must prevent several ‘natural’ disasters, one who must prevent the annihilation of the entire human and one who has to get to the bottom of this evil scheme…

Top Doc: Gosh, he’s such fun these days isn’t he? His chemistry with Anji in this book is priceless, especially when she takes on a Zoe-type superiority of intelligence and he bluffs his way through understanding everything she is saying. He is described as a rogue element and a time criminal! He is very much the man of action here, brilliant at escape plans, sabotage and surviving being hurtle out of a 23rd storey window! His control of the TARDIS is described as being a series of educated guesses. To save lives he stages a bank robbery and gets everyone bundled up in a safe! Brilliantly, he manages to shoot Cosgrove’s bullets out of the air. He is quite pleased to note at the stories climax that the entire worlds finances is flowing through his bank account. Note his offence when he realise the Onhirs have mistaken Fitz for him throughout the entire story! Written with real wit and panache, I was grinning my way through much of the Doctor’s contribution.

Scruffy Git: Lance Parkin has never made any secret that he doesn’t like Fitz’s character all that much so how hilarious that this is one of the all time best Fitz books ever. He tells the TARDIS, “You’re a police box but there aren’t any policemen left. There’s no law, no order, it’s just us now.” Described as being a little confused, generally. His attempts at being the Doctor are very funny, especially when he trips up, calling the Onhirs ‘mate’, describing their scheme as “destroying this entire tangent of the galaxy!” Bless him, he says the words, “At least things can’t get any worse…” so guess what happens? Again there is a real sense of wit and humour that makes Fitz such a joy to read about.

Career Nazi: But the real piece de resistance is Parkin’s treatment of Anji who comes across the most competent, intelligent and resourceful of the three, clearly well adjusted to this whole time travel lark and (gosh wow) enjoying herself. Bizarrely, for Anji being ‘normal’ feels strange for her. Described as professional,
focussed and organised. She admits she enjoys travelling with the Doctor and that she always intended to go backpacking for a year. She is worried about not contacting her folks or Dave’s folks and wonders if perhaps the police thought she killed Dave and did a runner! She admits she and Dave were drifting apart before he died but his death represented everything she left behind on Earth. She thinks they should have proper training to be companions of the Doctor and be supplied with a torch, first kit, etc. She has a point. When she hides from Baskerville she considers many men would pay good money to find a half naked Asian woman under their bed! She discovers about Miranda. The way she twists the Doctor around her finger is hilarious, especially when she tricks him into contacting the police whilst she investigates Baskerville. She considers time travelling coffee bizarre but then thinks back to rampaging dinosaurs, talking Tigers and Poodles with hands and it doesn’t seem quite as weird.

Foreboding: Fitz heads towards the TARDIS back wall and hears an ominous scratching sound behind it. Brilliant set up for one of the best twists in The Gallifrey Chronicles. The Doctor catches Anji stealing a page of the Financial Times and putting it in her purse…watch this space. Control (last seen in Escape Velocity) is back and will return in a few books time…

Twists: The cover is wonderfully Bond-esque. The Doctor parachutes onto a cruise ship, overpowers the crew with a bouncy ball and a glass of water, steals a briefcase and uses the ejector seat to escape before it explodes! The setting is brilliantly realised with lots of little facts making it seem all the more real (Nicopills, Ecstasy on the desert menu, Real War robots, Eurozone and America at War, ‘every syllable uttered is stored and logged’). Baskerville’s confidence trick is excellent, using a drug in coffee to cause people to hallucinate that they are travelling back in time (with Baskerville prodding their minds in the right direction) and thus creating a demand for his ‘time machine’, which doesn’t exist. Anji’s time travel to Brussels is expertly staged to fool her and the reader. Anji gets the Doctor ejected from the building, head first through a 23rd storey window! The third prophecy, the tidal wave over Athens, is powerfully destructive. The sudden appearance of space Rhinos and Time Agents (employed by Sabbath) are unexpected. Baskerville’s motivation for provoking a war between the EZ and America is excellent, to create a bloodthirsty demand fro RealWar, interactive slaughter from the comfort of your own home. The reunion between the Doctor, Fitz and Anji is joyous, one gut burstingly funny line after another. The Doctor tosses the time machine over a cliff and Cosgrove jumps after it, getting splattered over the rocks.

Funny bits: The Doctor leaves the TARDIS in a long-term airport car park. The Doctor scoffs Cosgrove’s first name and Malady points out his first name is ‘The’! (“The human race have nuclear weapons!” “We will not allow them to destroy themselves!”) Roja screams “I exist” as he shot in the back of the head, I shouldn’t laugh…
Poor Baskerville, he has the President of America and the head of the British Secret Service eating out of his hands during negotiations for the time machine and bunch of space fairing Rhinos gate crash the party and start killing people! When the bomb in Toronto stubbornly refuses to have a digital countdown the Doctor counts down from ten himself just to add a bit fo tension, and even congratulates himself for halting the thing with one minute to spare!

Embarrassing bits: Anji’s personal timeline is all over the place, she apparently a year younger here than she was in her first story! Whilst Parkin explores her feelings sensitively, I thought the whole Dave thing was wrapped up in Hope. Sabbath’s time travelling recruits are a bit rubbish.

Result: About as deep as a very tiny puddle, this is the perfect holiday Who novel. There is a fast paced, easily digestible plot, marvellous switches of location, witty lines and some damn good world building. I skipped through it in less than a day, at a loss at how wonderful the team of the Doctor, Fitz and Anji are these days. One thing niggled me, I’m not the greatest Bond fan (which this book is heavily based on) but that is a matter of personal preference rather than a comment on the books quality. Lots of action for those who enjoy it, some cool hardware on display and a great world encompassing war being brewed…its pleasing to note this is one Bond story with a bit of brains, with Anji dissecting the conflict and the players motivations. Enjoyable and funny, although the space Rhino’s were perhaps one joke too many: 7/10

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