The following is a fair and honest review in exchange for a free ebook copy of this novella from the publishers, Random House UK & Ebury Publishin...moreThe following is a fair and honest review in exchange for a free ebook copy of this novella from the publishers, Random House UK & Ebury Publishing, requested and received via NetGalley.
This novella is very short, but some of its content makes me feel I'd like to see what else this author can do. I did get thrown out of the tale quite early on by a sentence that was...to put it kindly, poorly phrased, and took me a couple of readings to fathom the writer's intention. Her subsequent description of the Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker), however, thoroughly redeemed the piece in my eyes, and was a delight in itself. To that end, I quote:
"He grinned with rather more teeth than one person should have. He appeared to have been dressed by a committee, possibly a drunk committee: wing collar and something that might once have been a cravat, baggy checked trousers, brown checked waistcoat, long purple velvet frock coat with bulging pockets, raddled shoes... an immense and disreputable scarf with a life of its own..."
Now, doesn't that bring this particular regeneration of the Doctor to mind beautifully? Kennedy continues to draw him with care and accuracy throughout, which is what gets this novella its fourth star when I might otherwise have given it just three.
The adventure itself is fairly usual for the Doctor, though not to say typical. As always, he winds up in a completely different place than he'd intended, while protesting that Arbroath (in Scotland, for those of you unaware) in midsummer isn't really *that* far from Chicago in midwinter. That said, the story loses the fifth star because I felt that it rushed over things it should have explained more clearly, and repeated things it didn't need to; I had the thought "show, don't tell!" more than once during the reading of it. There was also one particular scene I think would have been considered much too gory for the show itself, though obviously it's less so in writing.
Bryony is a well-drawn young character, and Putta is reasonably done, but the twins and their grandmother are inexplicably shallowly sketched for their implied importance to the story, and certain things happen that are either never fully explained or seem to be related but are never referred to again. I think this story would have benefited from being expanded into a full novel rather than rushed through in a novella, but it's entertaining nonetheless. 4 stars.(less)
"Summer Falls and Other Stories" is how my copy is titled, the "other stories" being "The Angel's Kiss", purportedly by 'Melody Malone and Justin Rich...more"Summer Falls and Other Stories" is how my copy is titled, the "other stories" being "The Angel's Kiss", purportedly by 'Melody Malone and Justin Richards' (the former of whom isn't, in fact, a real person, just as 'Amelia Williams' is used here as a pen-name for James Goss, who has written Doctor Who books in the past), and "Devil in the Smoke" by Justin Richards.
As anyone who has seen the series 7 episodes "The Angels Take Manhattan" and "The Bells of Saint John" will be aware, Melody Malone is an alias of the regularly recurring character River Song, and Amelia Williams is Amy Pond by her formal married name, "Summer Falls" being Clara Oswald's favourite book from childhood. Now, the tricky part here is that "The Angel's Kiss" - inside, anyway - the ebook cover looks the same - is NOT the book we see the Doctor reading during "The Angels Take Manhattan". I knew that, having read the ebook before this edition came out, but I wasn't exactly pleased to find it was the case to begin with. That's part of why I rated this as I did. It's not a bad story, but it isn't the same story - more of a prequel to the episode from River.
With that cleared up, I'll move on.
"Summer Falls and Other Stories" has an introductory chapter from Amy, that turns into something slightly unexpected. I advise that you watch "The Bells of Saint John" before you read the intro, in case you haven't by then, as Amy deliberately attempts to bore everyone else away with fake thank-you credits before writing a message to the Doctor, when she assumes he will be the only person left reading. James Goss catches her voice here beautifully, especially as she tells the Doctor he'll be "smiling that smile that says Fond while your eyes are doing Three Moves Ahead". Perfect, isn't it? The book also closes with the inclusion of a fictional interview from "Brooklyn Fayre", featuring Amy and Rory in New York some time after Amy's adopted writing as her profession, which is a third-person view of the couple that's again done really well, I think.
"Summer Falls" is the tale of Kate Webster, who moves to a new town with her very absent-minded mother, tries making friends and quickly ends up doing something that museum curator 'Barnabas', who lives in his shed that no-one ever sees, has told her she really shouldn't do when a cat who has been sleeping in his mysterious shed exhibits more curiosity than sense. She falls asleep, and wakes to find her world enveloped in winter -- in September. No adults can be found, and Kate is left to work out what's gone wrong and how to fix it before the world is destroyed completely by the Lord of Winter...
To those familiar with the Doctor, it's pretty clear all along this third-person-subjective novella fits in a Doctor Who anthology more than it might seem to at first, once you start reading it - but I think it could stand alone just as well. It isn't flawless - I feel it goes off-course a time or two - but it is very good.
"The Angel's Kiss", the second (or arguably third) piece in this book, is much more for adults and older teenagers, with the usual level of innuendo and flirty sass that River Song brings to the table, this time under the alias of Melody Malone, as seen in "The Angels Take Manhattan". This novella is in first person, from River's point of view, and captures quite well Alex Kingston's tone, joking and hints of sarcasm in-character. I could really hear some of the lines, though from time to time it seemed also to slip a bit - River's constant references to pointing things in the right direction come off as out of place, and the inside of her head rather belies her established canonical bisexuality with the way the (male) author writes the way she thinks about the people she meets. It isn't balanced, that way, which irritated me just a bit as it didn't fit with River in canon (her comments about Cleopatra, etc.).
As for the story itself...it's interesting, and decently done, but a bit...strange. It doesn't fit with existing show canon on the way Weeping Angels work, though the way it deviates is a thought that I suppose might come from what they have been known to do... The only really strongly-drawn character in the whole thing is River herself, in my personal opinion, and as I've already said, even that doesn't always come off as it's apparently intended to do. The story is simplistic - it throws a couple of mysteries at River, then has her either brush them off or solve them with no apparent thought or clues, which doesn't agree at all well with her intelligence in the show canon, part-Time Lord and rarely more than a couple of seconds behind the Doctor once she's learned how he thinks. She's an older version of herself in her own timeline here, so this makes no sense for her. I came away from this story frustrated and rather puzzled as to why the author chose to write her in such a way.
The third story, "Devil in the Smoke", is much better and more in character for its canonical characters, being a story set in Victorian London that begins in the midst of an investigation by the Paternoster Row Gang - Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. At first it's almost reminiscent of "The Snowmen", as two young workhouse boys are shocked when the bleeding body of a murdered woman falls out of the snowman they're building, but that deliberate impression is quickly dispelled as the story moves forward.
Strax, Jenny and Vastra are (mostly) well in character here, though I got the very strong impression that the author was deliberately trying to avoid acknowledging the true relationship between the women - at one point Jenny is referred to as Vastra's "housemaid and friend", and given that the narrative doesn't use any other Victorian-style euphemisms or language, I find it off-putting and genuinely annoying that Mr. Richards chose to do so in this case. Even in canon Jenny has been referred to as Vastra's wife, so this move makes no sense at all, especially when anyone likely to be reading the story is just as likely to have seen all the episodes of 2013 and already be aware of the nature of their relationship. Also missing from the tale were the characteristic little touches of affection they display casually on-screen, and they were missed.
Of course, this story was by the same author who wrote "The Angel's Kiss", so that I find similar annoyances in both isn't as unexpected as it might otherwise be. His apparent attitude towards female bisexuality and lesbianism in "family" fiction really gets up my nose. Particularly because it is purposeful erasure when done in such a fashion, and even the show itself tries never to do *that*. This is 2013!
Apart from this - which lost this book at least one star of the two and perhaps half the second - the story is well-written and works toward a clear, cheerful conclusion quite typical of Doctor Who at present.
As a whole, it's not a bad little collection, and of course it fits into Amelia Williams/Amy Pond's future and past very cleanly, with our little glimpse of New Yorkers Amy & Rory quite welcome in at the end there. (No author label on this one. Though now I think about it, "The Angel's Kiss" would arguably have been much better had Moffat written it. River is his character, after all...)(less)
Not bad! Rose has always been my least favourite modern companion, but this is a well-written story and plotted with as many time-looping ploys as the...moreNot bad! Rose has always been my least favourite modern companion, but this is a well-written story and plotted with as many time-looping ploys as the Doctor could employ without ever getting really silly.(less)