With all the shit going on at the moment about writers having a dummy spit over somebody’s review of their work, I thought it was a perfect time to mention the few TV tie-in books this year that I thought weren’t dull, boring or in some cases totally unreadable.
Now, before I go on I should mention that me reading TV tie-in fiction in the first place is a failing of my own and not the authors. I should have grown out of reading TV tie-in stuff ages ago… but I’m still a sucker for it. That said, I only really read Doctor Who books… well, Doctor Who books and Doctor Who spin offs… well, Doctor Who books and their spin offs and the books that spin off from the spin off… and the odd Star Trek / War Hammer / Judge Dredd books as well. So I’m not too badly off.
So, in no particular order here are the best I read in 2008. I have to say that the highest mark for these books was about 7/10. This is above average for me, and for the most part means that they could pass as ‘proper’ novels.
Doctor Who: I am a Dalek by Gareth Roberts: The first of the quick read Doctor Who books and at 100 pages long it’s more a short novella than an actual Doctor Who novel. It’s fun. It has a Dalek, I laughed once or twice. And it took me 15 minutes to read. Oh, and it only cost about $4. Definitely worth a look then.
Doctor Who: Wet World and Doctor Who: Shining Darkness by Mark Michalowski: I know I’ve mis-spelt Mxx’s surname, but he’ll get over it because I’m saying nice things about him. Mxx is one of the few Who authors, writting the TDA (Ten Doctor Adventures) who brings his personality to his writing. Mxx is a funny bloke and so are his novels. They aint deep. They aint philosophical. They aint a mix of Deridda and Foucault. But they are light and frothy fun and perfectly match the best of the TV series their based on. Wet World is probably the better book – mixing laughs with a dark and nasty edge (and a bit of body horror as well). But SD is the funnier and has some great Douglas Adams like moments. Simply put, you really can’t go wrong with one of Mark’s books.
Doctor Who: The Many Hands and Time Hunter: The Albino’s Dancer by Paul Dale Smith: PDS is your thinking mans Doctor Who writer. His book have a very thoughtful and yet easy going style. I like Albino Man, his Time Hunter book, more than the Who novel. Albino’s Dancer does the near impossible by making the two main characters of the Time Hunter series – Emily and Honore – vaguely interesting characters. Also, the story is filled with timey wimey time travel goodness, taking the Time Hunter concept as far as it can possibly stretch. The Many Hands mixes historical Edinburgh with zombies and while it has a sluggish start, the pace picks up about 50 pages in. The book also has a cracking ending, something that allot of Who books struggle to pull off.
Doctor Who: The Doctor Trap by Simon Messingham: For me Messingham can be a hit or miss sort of writer. The first Who book he ever wrote, Strange England, is by far one of the worst of the New Adventures range. He’s also written a couple of other Who books that haven’t grabbed me. But when he’s got a good idea he knows how to run with it. Books like Tomb of Valdemar and the Indestructible Man (a brilliant pastice of Captain Scarlet) are really top notch stuff. The Doctor Trap is right up there with them. We’ve got a memorable villian, a book filled with so many twists you wonder how they were all crammed in and a couple of really cool central ideas. To say more would be to ruin the fun.
Doctor Who: The Pirate Loop by Simon Guerrier: Another romp (I do love that word) which knows that Doctor Who is at its best when crazy things are going on. This book starts running and never lets up. It’s got time travel shennanigans, laser guns and badgers. It’s also pretty funny as well.
Time Hunter: The Clockwork Woman by Claire Bott: This year I read all the Time Hunter books, and for the most part they were decidely average or just plain terrible. Emily and Honore are dull as ditchwater characters whose personalities never seem to develop. For me, only 3 out of the 12 or so books in the series, were worth reading*. I’ve mentioned one of the above, Clockwork Woman was a second one. The thing about CW is that it doesn’t focus much on either Emily or Honore, but rather on the titular character of the novel. The Clockwork Woman is a fascinating creation and it’s a credit to Ms Bott’s skills of bringing her to life that I felt sad when I turned the last page of the novella. If only all the Time Hunter books had such a good eye for character. Does anyone know if Claire Bott has written anything since?
And last but not least: Time Hunter: Peculiar Lives by Philip Purser Hallard: This is a very imaginative book that side-steps the two main protagonists and concentrates more on the ideas. It’s written in the style of Olaf Stapledon, a writer’s who work or prose I’ve never been fond of, but who in the early part of the 20th Century was a major voice in the SF field. PPH does a great job in making that voice come alive, making it very readable, and also keeping true to Stapeldon’s ideas about future humanity. This is a really good piece of writting and a cut above most of the Time Hunter novellas and TV tie in fiction in general. In fact it’s a shame that it’s connected to a series and isn’t a book on its own.
So, out of 38 TV tie-in books I read this year, these were the one’s I thought worked well, both in that they had something to say, were filled with ideas, were well paced and at times were heaps and heaps of fun. So if you’re into a bit of Who, or can find a cheap copy of one of the Time Hunter books, why not try one of these out.
* The one other book I thought was decent, that isn’t mentioned here, is Time Hunter Echoes.