Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Domino Effect by David Bishop

Plot: Within hours of landing in Edinburgh one of the Doctor’s friends is caught in a deadly explosion and another is on the television confessing to the murder of twelve people. The Doctor himself is suffering crippling heart pains and his TARDIS has been stolen. Can anything ever be the same again for our heroic trio…?

Top Doc: Probably the blandest rendition of the Doctor since Stephen Cole was editing the books. There are plenty of descriptions of the Doctor from the POV of other people but he rarely does anything in this book except collapse and get into melodramatic confrontations. He has the ability to turn up at the right place and time. He admits he will miss Anji when she goes, although quite viciously (and out of character) reminds her of her betrayal of him on Hope. He admits he and Alan Turing were more than friends and is upset because changing history will condemn him to his ‘real’ history, committing suicide, an unhappy man. He warns Anji to never tell him what to do and that he has done things that she couldn’t even imagine. He tries to do good but sometimes its just the lesser of two evils. He has considered returning into his own past to discover the cause of his amnesia. He has become cold, paralysed and distant…he sometimes wishes he didn’t care, as it would make things a whole lot easier. An anachronism, a leftover from a previous reality. Is the Doctor’s past trauma coming back to haunt him like a cancer? Very tactile but not romantically inclined.

Scruffy Git: Fitz gets the best characterisation here, suffering so much indignity at the hands of the Service but still managing to hold his head up high. He can crumple an clothing just by looking at it. Described by the Doctor as loyal, friendly, trustworthy and quite courageous but not in the way he thinks. Thinks of himself as a ladies man. His TV broadcast admitting he is a terrorist is heartbreaking; admitting to terrible crimes because he thinks Anji is in danger. Growing up during World War II with a German name taught Fitz to hide his origins. He only remembers his mum in nightmares now. I adored the bit where he realises that the Doctor and Anji are coming to rescue him and he laughs in the face of his torturer, nothing he can do or say makes a difference because his friends are coming for him and nothing can stop them. His faith in them is wonderful.

Career Nazi: Anji suffers from claustrophobia, leading back to a visit to a sensory deprivation tank with Dave. She refuses to stop remembering her former lover as that would feel like denying their time together. To Anji, not asking for help when you need it is a sign of stupidity. Sexism is more of a problem for her than racism but she wont apologise for the colour of her skin and the blatant racism of this universe is like a slap in the face for her, for once she is unique amongst many. She and the Doctor are a formidable pair (apparently). What makes me cross about Anji’s treatment here is that she is far too stroppy and shouty without a good reason, she has been in much worse situations than this and yet she wonders around the book screaming at everyone and making everything ten times worse. Like the book itself, her characterisation has no subtlety at all. An argument springs up in the last third which made me so angry, because rather than springing from natural characterisation Anji simply decides the Doctor can no longer be trusted and that he doesn’t give a toss about her or Fitz. She hasn’t been this harsh without reason since her first few books.

Identity Tricks: Trix turns up here briefly, a striking woman with amazing red hair. She tells Fitz to **ck off and then robs a jewellers. As this is never explained (or even explained that it is Trix) it is a bizarre addition to the book. Guess it’s just to let those avid fans of us that she has sneaked aboard the TARDIS!

Twists: Anji is buried alive by the explosions in the tearooms. Fitz in custody explaining what happened leading up to the terrorist attack is an excellent narrative device. Anji’s adventures in the train station are shockingly unsubtle but the racism she encounters is still remarkably disturbing. Society is being suppressed; history has been altered to hold back scientific advancement. There are some lovely interludes breaking up the main action, trips back into history as important knowledge holders are wiped out to stop their scientific ideas making an impact on the timeline. Alan Turing is revealed to have been arrested for sexual deviancy and his universal machine idea was suppressed, as a result there were no computers/planes/internet, etc and the Earth of 2003 is trapped in the past. Fitz’s numerous beatings are horribly voyeuristic. It is obvious that Dee and the Pentarch are supposed to be alternate versions of Ace and the Brigadier, which helps to visualise them well. The police shooting down the demonstrators is really horrible. The Doctor and Anji have to watch as a man is shot outside the café like a rabid dog on the loose. The TARDIS is tortured and it has a profound effect on the Doctor. Sabbath crops up again, but this time he belongs to this parallel universe and has never left the Earth. Hannah is revealed to be a traitor, probably the books best kept surprise. The Oracle is revealed to be one of the creatures that have invaded the Vortex. He has tricked Sabbath into thinking that manufacturing a focal point on Earth, Alan Turing, and collapsing it would protect the Earth from the Vortex creatures. Instead it destroys this reality completely, past and present and causes the death of several realities surrounding it…possibly causing the death of the Vortex itself! Alternative histories are vying for dominance; they are back where they started except reality is closer to the brink of collapse…

Embarrassing bits: Oh sheesh where do I start? Anji, fully aware that reality has been pulled out of joint recently, wanders around for 50 odd pages wondering why everyone thinks she is a smelly foreigner and why there is no technology. Okay so she does realise that she should have realised sooner but for a (supposedly) clever woman she does come across as a right dozy cow. Characters have the weakest of motivations (Hannah, Frank and Dee all tell us a pathetic story of why they joined the resistance…and this is only characterisation we see out of any of them!). The Doctor and Anji are public enemies numbers one and two and (sigh) decide to go to the pub for a pint because they are bored of hiding out! Pages 214-218 contain the stupidest character to appear in ANY Doctor Who story, a policeman who genuinely believes that hundreds of protestors turned their weapons on themselves and wiped themselves out…oh and that the Doctor is an actor from the telly and not a terrorist! The argument between the Doctor and Anji rings so false. Pages 230-231 are also pant wettingly bad, when the Doctor tries to give himself up and says his name, the guard recognises it and tells his pal of course he knows what the terrorist looks like and then looks at a photo in his pocket, realises it’s the Doctor and goes “I’ve got the terrorist!”…what are we, three-year-old readers or something? The technobabble fused ending makes no sense whatsoever and, frustratingly, takes us back to exactly where we were at the end of Time Zero! The biggest embarrassment for me was my initial review of this book that claims it is some kind of masterpiece (or fricking amazing I think I said)…what the hell was I on back then? Mind altering drugs?

Funny bits: Pretty much all of the embarrassing bits section actually.

Result: Illogical, unsubtle and so stupid in places it defies logic; this has to be one of the sloppiest Doctor Who books ever written. A fascist state, altered reality, history re-written; clichés all and yet the setting is the strongest thing about the book and its unflinching brutality is quite engrossing in places. The characterisation is weaker than my boyfriend’s tea (yuck) and the prose hardly deserves the term, it is practically the transcript of an untransmitted script! Marvel at the banal dialogue, gasp at the inexplicable climax (how the hell does killing one man destroy an entire reality?) and remind yourself that Doctor Who books are just for really stupid kids after all. Almost so bad its good in places, this continues the shocking decline started in The Infinity Race and proves that this whole altered universe idea was really misconceived: 3/10

1 comment:

  1. The Domino Effect really sucks the sweat from a dead man's scrotum, doesn't it?