Friday, 4 February 2011

The Suns of Caresh by Paul Saint

Plot: Time fractures, a decaying TARDIS, a man living his life backwards, kids turning into stone, an alien trapped on Earth, the TARDIS destroying a car park, ravenous vortex creatures on the rampage, planets being nudged by neutron stars…just what madness have the Doctor and Jo stumbled across?

Good Grief: Another superb adventure for the third Doctor that sees him at his finest. There is a small amount of mickey taking here but its with the Doctor rather than at him and he gets the opportunity to do lots of cool things like fight with himself, play pool with planets and leap from trains in death defying action! Pertwee is a sorely neglected Doctor and it is books like The Suns of Caresh that remind you of how blasted entertaining he could be and how, with a little effort going into the writing, he can be the ultimate Doctor.

You’ve got to love the fact that after all their hair raising adventures on Earth, as soon as the Doctor gets the ability to travel through time again he takes Jo on several trips to the most beautiful and serene planets the universe has to offer. His single mindedness is legendary. Ordinarily he has no qualms about deploying physical force when circumstanced demanded it but he felt uneasy about initiating it. He is no expert as far as regeneration is concerned and only has vague memories of his own. He cannot help but draw attention to himself and has always wanted to drive a train.

Dippy Agent: Jo had never quite got used to the TARDIS or decided how she regarded it. She didn’t think of it as a vehicle but a futuristic castle with a magical gateway that opened onto different lands. Jo wonders if in the future she will be Jo Yates! She has picked up a degree of sensitivity to time disturbances in her travels. Jo remembers her first visit to another world and how her mind had fought to translate things in familiar terms. She has unconditional faith in the Doctor.

Twists (I should call this section the realm of fabulous ideas): The prologue is intriguing, a planet in peril, vortex dwellers threatening to kill Lord Roche who wants to save it. Troy Game waking up on Earth leads to many magical scenes as an alien tries to make sense of our planet – emphasising the difference between her world and ours makes the Earth feel cold and barbaric. Simon Haldane is a brilliant character, na├»ve and nerdy and his initial scenes with Troy Game burst with warmth and humour. Troy’s sense of loss when the sea rejects and the moon (the pale, dead sun) is heartbreaking. The scenes with Troy Game’s perception of television are excellent. Time Lord Solenti asks the Doctor to investigate a time anomaly on Earth – starting in 1972 and ending in 1999 – Lord Roche lost in it. The romance angle is very sweet but you know when Simon comes home drunk and tries it on with Troy Game it will all end in pain, literally. There is the best TARDIS landing EVER as it is dragged through a field, a forest, several back gardens and a car park – leaving a fifteen mile path of devastation in its path! They realise the temporal fracture is running backwards, from 1999 to 1972. There is a hypnotic, dizzying sequence where Jo fights time and finds the last half an hour rewinding and playing out again but this time with subtle differences. The Doctor discovers Roche’s TARDIS on a riverbank, the river draining away through the doors. Wading around in lake water in a dark, dank petrified TARDIS, hunted by Furies (vortex dwellers that turn their prey into stone), Ezekiel Child becomes the time anomaly. Thanks to vortex energies he starts living his life backwards from 1999 to 1972. When Roche first fled to Earth his TARDIS took on the presence of an en suite shower in a hotel and (and this is the clever bit) his chameleon circuit created an entire room around the bathroom as camouflage. Roche lures the Furies into the TARDIS and traps them inside, sending them back in time 1300 years, thus the decayed TARDIS in 1999 and the homicidal creatures inside. There is a description of the TARDIS in flight on pages 198-199 that will take your breath away. In a blistering scene Solenti is shown the beauty of the Realm, mapped between Beacon and Ember (the two suns of the Caresh system).
Roche is planning a planetary manoeuvre that to save Caresh that will destroy the realm and that is why they sent the Furies after him. Leshe are giant locusts that attack the Doctor and party on Caresh. After an official visit to Caresh, Lord Roche became obsessed with the planet. He was planning on using a stellar manipulator and the powerful force of a neutron star to nudge Caresh into orbit of its warmer sun, so the hot climate will prevail. He wanted to save the planet that was due for 74 cold, deadly years. Unfortunately before he could finish his work he was attacked by the Furies and fled to Earth and the neutron star will now pass dangerously close to Caresh – close enough to strip off the atmosphere and rupture the planets crust! The Doctor saves the day (of course!) by realising it doesn’t matter which of the suns is used, as long as the planet is draw nearer to one of them. Nudging Caresh in orbit of Ember will save the planet and be no threat to the Realm.

Embarrassing bits: Killing Simon is a huge mistake. He is easily the best character of the book and such a dismissive ending feels insulting to the reader.

Funny bits: Jo’s reaction to the future, sensible cars and men holding hands in the street, is hilarious.
There is an entry for Blue Box in the A-Z of alien encounters.
The Doctor on Lord Roche taking on his identity: “I don’t know what you’re playing at, but whatever it is it’s not going to fool anyone. The voice is a complete travesty. And as for the nose, you haven’t got it right at all!” Jo later comments: “He’s even got the nose exactly right!
The Doctor is outraged at having to shave his hair off to meet Caresh standards but Troy Game concedes: “You can keep your earlobes.”

Result: Joyously inventive and imaginative, this book fizzles with great ideas and set pieces. The plotting is like a jigsaw; the narrative scattered about but satisfyingly assembled by the conclusion. The Suns of Caresh is Troy Game’s story and she forms some terrific double acts throughout, first with Simon Haldane, then Jo and finally the Doctor. Her scenes on Earth are a joy to read. The last 80 pages aren’t quite as gripping as the preceding 200 but the whole book is written with such energy and humour it is a genuine pleasure to read. It is a shame that the creative Paul Saint did not get to write for the range again: 8.5/10

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