Monday, 27 July 2009

Interference by Lawrence Miles

Interference Book One: Shock Tactic by Lawrence Miles

Plot: Well its got the 8th and 3rd Doctor’s in it, Fitz and Sam, Sarah and K9, an idiot called Llewis, some whacko aliens called the Remote, the Faction Paradox, an Ogron and a travelling show of freaks but 300 plus pages into the book and there is no real sign of a plot yet. The Doctor’s been locked up, there is a new alien weapon on the market and Sam has been scripted a few times but that’s about it…

Top Doc: The 8th Doctor barely appears but when he does he is turned into the icon Miles thinks he should be. He is scared to let Sam go, not only because he doesn’t want to be alone but because she was never meant to exist away from him. After some revealing conversations with a fellow captive he decides he changes things because he can. He does what he thinks he can get away with, and makes a personal choice not to interfere in the events of Earth, no matter how many times he mentions the laws of time. He is described as ‘the young Edwardian one’. In what has to be one of his most iconic sequences yet the Doctor outfoxes his ‘unpredictable’ captives by scrawling equations on the floor with his own blood, computations that allow him to leave real time and confer with himself via the TARDIS. I hope he is around more in the second book; this is quality stuff for the eighth Doctor.

The third Doctor feels terribly, terribly old but has a gentlemanly sense of nobility about what he has achieved in this regeneration.

Friend or Foe: Sam is given a complete overhaul, and we are treated to some profound insights into how she thinks. For example she spots some protestors and thinks they look ridiculous and that people who carry placards are weak, showing how far she has come since she joined up with the Doctor. There is the great moment when Sarah realises that Sam is much younger in 1996 to the Sam she has already met, allowing us to see her as a child tripping out on drugs. Her visit to Sam’s home is revealing, it turns out to be as drab as I had always envisaged. The scenes between Sam and Compassion crackle with tension, there is a real feeling of Emma Peel/Tara King crossover as one prepares to depart as the other is about to arrive.

Scruffy Git: Oh. My. GOD! Poor, poor Fitz is treated to some shocking developments. He is kidnapped and trapped in the Cold for over 600 years. The Doctor fails to rescue him and bored and useless, he decides to join up with Faction Paradox! He misses the messiness of the Doctor’s travels at first but after being contacted by the Grandfather Paradox (brrr…) is fully converted. By the end of the book he is bitter and twisted and wants to see the Doctor’s head on his wall of mounted Time Lord heads. What can I say, that Miles character doesn’t mess about does he? I can’t wait to see where this is heading…

Foreboding: Miles fills part one with hints as to later developments. The Doctor is still missing his shadow, Sam recognises Kode’s body language, Sarah’s memory of Dust is a blur and there are thirteen members of I M Foreman’s travelling show. All will be revealed later…

Twists: The universe in a bottle is a great idea and Miles actually seems to be attempting to canonise his idea that the New Adventures took place in there. Fitz being kidnapped and revived 600 years later is a real shocker. K9’s sudden appearance made me start clapping. The Remote, a group of aimless ‘transmitter’ people are a marvellous idea. Sam’s vertiginous view of Anathema is astounding. Sam and Compassion are dive bombed by a ship at Anathema. Only Lawrence Miles would dare to start a brand new story two thirds into his narrative, completely disregarding everything he had built up in his original story until then. The Doctor realises that the Faction are attempting to form links between himself and an earlier self for some sinister purpose. The third Doctor is welcomed into the eighth Doctor’s world as the TARDIS bleeds around him. He wants to know what happened to his noble universe and why he is having thoughts of impending death. The Eleventh Day Empire is possibly the most chilling and imaginative idea Lawrence Miles has ever thought up.

Funny bits: Considering this books length I M Foreman’s admission that she only has a 300 page attention span is hilarious. In the middle of an awkward moment between the Doctor and Sam the Doctor slips on a Venus de Milo and lands on his arse. Badar asks if he has two hearts does that mean he can love two women? Sarah threatens to load K9 with windows 98 if he doesn’t shut up. Compassion’s reaction to the hypocrisy of Sam’s morality made me cheer. Lost Boy the Ogron is a charming character.

Result: A book that feels really important, that is adult, intelligent and covers a lot of ground. Lawrence Miles is an ideas genius but once again he forgets to write plot around his massive concepts. It’s all set up and no pay off, 300 pages of character/ideas introductions with little happening but finding out more about them. It does get a little dry in places but the prose is mostly excellent with some excellent narrative devices there to make the journey easier (you’ve got lip reading binoculars, scripting, Sarah’s notes, an omnipresent narrator, one scene told from six POVs). Sam is dealt with very maturely, Sarah is amazingly written and it is worth reading just to find out what happens to poor Fitz. It’s a book that cleverly demands that you read the second half and really feels as if it is entering dangerous territory. It isn’t perfect but after a small lull in the EDAs it feels like a massive step in the right direction: 8/10

Interference Book Two: The Hour of the Geek by Lawrence Miles

Plot: Still searching for a plot, this 313 page epic conclusion to book one once again fails to have many events, more an exploration of clever ideas as though those ideas are enough to support the story without ever having a running narrative to hang them on. Fortunately, considering this is Lawrence Miles the ideas are fantastic so he gets away with this shocking omission with trademark cheek and style. What a guy. Needless to say there are loads of characters and they all reach some kind of conclusion but aside from Fitz nobody really does ANYTHING.

Top Doc: Oh yeah, this is what I’m talking about. When the Doctor sleeps you can see all the details that make him human. When the Doctor gets incarcerated by the Saudi’s they are unpredictable and brutal, for once it’s the wrong sort of trouble for him to escape from. In a very revealing moment he wonders how many times he has saved the lives of his torturers. For once, he genuinely believes he is going to die. At the adventures conclusion he is frightened about what happened to Fitz, promising to bring him back for Sam to say goodbye to him. He and Sam deliberately do not kiss as they say goodbye but he tells her he knows what she means when she tells him she loves him, clearly there is a great deal of respect and intimacy between them. Much like the seventh Doctor's manipulations into his companions lives, he contacts Sam and has a direct (persuasive) impression on her development as a child, ensuring she becomes Blonde Sam. Since he regenerated he has craved a sense of romance, the ability to exchange ideas with people on an intimate level.

Friend or Foe: Sam gets a pretty decent exit all told, considering her troubled life to this point all her baggage is tied up nicely. She cleverly sends out some signals of her own to the Remote media net, realising that our lives are as controlled by signals as the Remote. She gets her best ever scene where she takes command of the situation and saves the Earth, convincing Guest via a series of images showing him the future of the galaxy if he detonates the Time Lord weapon. Despite the fact that Sam is written with some respect here, it was high time to say goodbye and it feels like the EDAs are really moving with the times now. It is a nice thought thinking of Sam and Sarah being best friends on Earth.

Scruffy Git: However good her exit is Sam, as usual, is totally upstaged by Fitz who is given developments more frightening than any other companion before or since. Forget Roz Forrester or Adric, this is a real tragedy. He actually experiences the history of the Faction that Sam was told about in book one, realising he has lost four years of his life to their cause and even if he does get back to the Doctor he will never be the same Fitz again. The reason Kode seemed so familiar in the first book is because he is Fitz, or at least a Remote lump of biomass remembered as Fitz. He is Fitz’s ancestor, a million times removed, remembered again and again until what was Fitz has been diluted down. Our Fitz (the one we have been travelling with four the last seven books) is forgotten about by the Doctor, he almost commits suicide when he realises nobody is coming to rescue him but chickens out and becomes a full time member of the Faction instead. He becomes Father Kreiner after a time, a bitter, twisted Faction member, one who barely qualifies as human any more. He is so angry when he finally meets up with the Doctor again (even if it is only the third Doctor) he punches him full in the face. He is last known to be injured, trapped in the bottle universe, status unknown. This is shocking, frightening development for the poor guy, that Lawrence Miles turning to pure sadism to punish Fitz for his choice to travel with the Doctor.

Somewhat selfishly the Doctor gives Kode, the remembered Fitz a chance to become who he was again. Thanks to the Doctor and the TARDIS he is fully remembered as Fitz again, but with the knowledge that he isn’t who he was, just a copy. Worth following up, that.

Stroppy Redhead: Compassion joins the TARDIS crew after her home planet is whisked off elsewhere and she has nowhere else to go. She is introduced to Sam’s idea of self sacrifice via a series of scenarios that dizzily prove to her that having ideals is a much more fascinating experience than she was open to originally. It is still too early to see how Compassion will turn out, too ill defined at this point, although it is funny to realise that the original Fitz was familiar with the original Compassion (or Laura Tobin as she was known) and as he has been remembered so has she, and they are now travelling together again in the TARDIS. That makes them the companions who have known each other the longest. Some mileage in that too.

Foreboding: The Doctor is now saying a man is the sum of his memories (he said the opposite in Unnatural History), almost as if he is egging on developments in The Ancestor Cell. The final wrenching twist in this books reveals the Doctor has been infected with the Faction virus since his third regeneration, growing in strength with each successive regeneration and causing the loss of his shadow in recent books. Where is this leading…?

Twists: Oh my, where to begin. The way the Remote remember the dead is waay cool and used very effectively to reveal the fate of Fitz and Tobin. It is quite shocking to see how dirty the Time Lords are getting in the midst of their Great War, sending a warship to Earth to cause the destruction of the Enemy. Gunplay in the TARDIS is pretty shocking as two members of the Special Internal Taskforce let rip a shower of bullets at Sarah and Lost Boy. The hypothetical scenario with Sam killing the baby is thrilling just for Compassions sickened reaction. The zombie ships are another brilliant concept, crashed ships salvaged by the Remote and coated with the Cold. It is worth trudging through book one just to reach Sarah’s hard-hitting documentary on illegal weapons deals in Britain, with a cameo by Iris Wildthyme! The appearance of Father Kreiner is shocking and memorable for anybody who gives a toss about Fitz. In succession you have three great twists, the Doctor being shot and regenerating on Dust (retroactively changing his past), IM Foreman becoming Dust and Magdalena becoming part of IM Foreman. Anyone who thought the Dust segments would be an anti-climax was totally wrong, as IM Foreman and his travelling show are revealed to be thirteen incarnations of the same Time Lord. Llewis becomes a member of the Faction and finally finds something he is good at. The twist that the Doctor isn’t the pioneer that what thought he was and that somebody preceded all of his travels is a real blow to the gut.

Embarrassing bits: Okay, it takes the (eighth) Doctor 420 pages to get involved in the plot in any way, surely a world record! Turns out the Remote never wanted to sell weapons to Earth, they just wanted to attract a Time Lord through the temporal interference and capture their TARDIS to reach the Cold. 75% of book one then is pretty much pointless or could be covered in much less page space considering its importance (erm, none).

Funny bits: The UN is described as a council of old women. Any conversation between Sarah and Lost Boy is hilarious, there is a sitcom spin off in the making! Turns out the Time Lords aren't descedents of anything embarrassing, which explains why they are so arrogant. Number thirteen wonders what a paradox will taste like when considering eating his earlier selves. Turns out that Faction Paradox destroyed the Blue Peter garden…we should have realised!

Result: A very satisfying wrapping up of the zillion clever ideas already set up in book one. The developments for the characters and the EDAs are astonishing, going beyond anything Virgin ever gave us in the ‘Oh my God I cannot believe that just happened to…’ stakes. Fitz’s story is horrible but brilliantly compelling and all the other characters get sparkling moments. The way the third and eighth Doctor’s life melts together is jaw dropping and the amount of surprises is unbeaten by any Doctor Who book to this point. I still have some reservations about the books length (it could have been a 400 page book with some of its flabbiness cut away) but for the sheer breadth of ideas (Miles is confirmed as the ultimate risk taker) this is one of the best Doctor Who novels ever written. A twisted, dangerous masterwork, which was severely underrated at the time and makes for impulsive reading in the twilight of the EDAs: 9/10

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