Sunday, September 11, 2016

Doctor Doctor: Justin Richards' THE CLOCKWISE MAN

Happy sigh. As anyone who's been paying attention to my Arbitrary & Mercurial rankings knows, the Ninth Doctor is my favorite Doctor. This is partly because Christopher Eccleston, but also because this Doctor has an angry edge we haven't really seen since the Sixth Doctor (another one that's high in my lists) but is still hilarious with how he handles it (bananas are good), and he's basically the PTSD Doctor, which I can relate.

Indeed his only flaw is his taste in Companions. I wish he'd met Mickey first. Or Jackie. But nothing's perfect, not even the Ninth Doctor.

But I'd love, love, love to read a an adventure of his without Rose Tyler along. I don't know if I'll ever get one unless I write it myself (call me, BBC Books!), but meanwhile, there are a these New Series Adventures that have Nine and Rose, and of these The Clockwise Man was the very first.

The place-time this time is London in 1924 and right away as we meet a domestic servant getting the crap beaten out of him for mysterious reasons and then follow the Doctor and Rose in escorting the servant back to his employer's house, there are definite vibes. Upstairs, Downstairs, tail end of the Forsyte Saga vibes. Oooh lovely!

But those vibes dissipate rather quickly, because in the master's house are... White Russians. No, not as in Lebowski's favorite cocktail. I'm talking exiled Russian aristocrats who, even though the Tsar and his family are long dead, are still plotting to overthrow the Communists and restore the old regime. And they've got a little boy on their hands whom they claim is the heir to the Romanov dynasty. Which little boy immediately decides that Rose is just the greatest, probably because she's the only person he's ever met who doesn't treat him like he's made of glass and actually encourages him to do stuff, like go see the Imperial Exhibition (the ostensible reason for the TARDIS Twosome's visit).

Meanwhile, domestic servants keep getting assaulted, sometimes even killed, and a mysterious masked woman is making the rounds accompanied by a man who speaks rather mechanically and ticks and tocks audibly when he moves about. They Are Sinister. And the TARDIS disappears. Think these all might be connected somehow?

And what's up with all the identical black cats? Is there a glitch in the Matrix?

But so anyway, Late Steampunk. And another "aliens messing about with Earth history" story. I'm longing for a straight-up adventure out there in space. The Daleks menacing some gleepglorks. A human colony has gotten addicted to the secretions of a giant space lizard. Something. But here we go.

Which is to say that I found The Clockwise Man a bit dull for stretches, though things picked up quite nicely at the end, which in a bit on-the-nose fashion takes place behind the scenes in the Tower of Big Ben. The final confrontation in there is a neat bit of intricate plotting, though it would have been even better if the characters enacting it were more developed. There are too many of these, and they've spent most of the novel feeling dully interchangeable until suddenly they aren't! Oh my! But I didn't really care to make the effort of keeping them straight at that point.

I will give the novel bonus points for using the Sonic Screwdriver in ways that actually matter. But otherwise, hmm, yawn. It didn't suck, but it's pretty forgettable, even just ten minutes or so after I finished reading it.

Nonetheless, onto... a Tenth Doctor novel. Oh, I'm not a Tenth Doctor fan, not at all. But maybe, just maybe, without the mugging and the shouting and did I mention the mugging, he won't annoy me quite so much. We'll see.

As for the Aribitrary & Mercurial, nothing much has changed, really. The Ninth Doctor is still my favorite (and he did get some good moments in this novel). I still don't like Rose very much. And Justin Richards gets a meh for now.


Alastair Reynolds
Kate Orman
Mark Gatiss
Terrance Dicks
Gary Bulis
Jonathan Morris
Justin Richards
Gary Russell
Keith Topping




Romana II
Ben and Polly

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