|Synopsis: Time and space are dead. Only the universe within the Tardis remains. The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan are the only people who exist, the only constants remaining. Or are they?|
Jim Mortimore with no holds barred by Robert Smith? 14/5/01
I'd better come clean right away. I love Jim Mortimore's books. Every single one of them is a minor masterpiece, in my opinion (with the possible exception of The Sword of Forever, which is only because that's the one I just couldn't figure out). Mortimore writes like no one else. He writes big - far, far bigger than anyone else even dreams of. No one else would be able to get away with what he does, yet he carries it off with style and panache. Amazingly, it's actually not a problem that his books don't always hold up as a whole, since he can write a scene like no one else. I've said before that I've thought he was too good for the Doctor Who line, which tends to like safe, traditional runarounds, even when the authors think they're being radical. Jimbo doesn't even try to play it safe and I love that about his books. That opinion is obviously going to have a very strong influence over this review.
Of course, every previous Mortimore book has had an editor to reign him in. We might have thought that the deaths of countless billions in Beltempest was extreme, or that Leela piloting a dead whale through miles of ocean and a hurricane was outrageous, or the deaths of Bernice or Liz Shaw were going too far. We hadn't seen anything yet.
I loved this book.
Words cannot adequately express the Campaign experience. This is Jim Mortimore editorless and it's everything we could possibly have imagined and more. This is a book that quotes the author himself on the very first page and doesn't let up from there. It's got huge shaky writing for the voice of god. It's got weird typesetting all over the place. It's got internal illustrations and photographs. The word "help" appears no less than 204 times on page 170. There are boardgames, DNA illustrations and a comic strip featuring John and Gillian. It relies on intricate knowledge of the original character outlines for the Doctor, Ian and Barbara. It has first person chapters from the POV of the TARDIS.
This is an astonishing book.
I assumed we were in for an historical adventure with Alexander the Great, albeit one through the warped brain of Jim Mortimore, but what we have is far, far superior. The ever-changing histories of Ian, Barbara, the Doctor and Susan inside Tardis - or Cliff, Lola, Gramps and Biddy inside the T.A.R.D.I.S. - are quite amazing. This is a book that doesn't even try to pause to let you catch your breath. By the time the Doctor regenerates multiple times in one scene, you're just sitting back and letting it all wash over you.
There are references to more unmade stories than I could keep track of. The Masters of Luxor is an obvious one, but there are references to the Zarbi Supremo, the meeting on Barnes Common from the novelisation of The Daleks, the original storyline that shrunk the crew in Cliff's laboratory and the planet Ix with giant jellyfish, a huge waterspout and sea cucumbers. I thought Jim had actually forgotten about The Hidden Planet, but it pops up towards the end as well. This is fantastic stuff.
Oh, and it features the destruction of the entire universe and everyone and everything in it. Did I mention that?
In many ways I'm glad this book came to us via the route it did. Freed from editorial control, we've got a Jim Mortimore novel in its purest form. There's absolutely no restraint whatsoever, which might be a bad thing, but here it seems to be a positive asset. By removing itself from any explicit ties to the series, it allows a greater freedom to go where it wants to go. Campaign could never work unless it was set free to go anywhere it wanted, anywhere at all. A mere book line like the PDAs is far too inadequate to cage such a beast.
And yet... it actually works. It all comes together in the end in a way that should be a complete copout, but isn't. It's foreshadowed right throughout the novel and the final twist makes sure things aren't too cosy. I thought I'd hate the ending when I closed the book, but in retrospect it's the only way it could really end anyway and somehow it doesn't feel like a cheat. Perversely, this near-enough answers my question about who came up with the resolution to The Sword of Forever and despite my beliefs at the time, it looks like it must have been Jimbo. That said, Campaign's ending works far, far better than Sword's did. The two are stylistically similar, but a world apart when it comes down to it.
Campaign is a work of art. It's the unrestrained blatherings of a madman loosed upon the world. It's an exquisite journey through the realm of the possible and the impossible. It's so fundamentally wrong on so many levels that it forces the reader into new levels of understanding. It's a fantastic, painful, wonderful, terrible, sideways book. It's probably not for everyone, but I adored it.
Four out of Five by Jamas Enright 29/5/01
This is not a normal book. It's about Alexander of Macadonia and his Campaign. But it isn't. It's about the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara. But it isn't. It's about the Doctor, Sue, Cliff and Lola McGovern. But it isn't. It's about parallel universes, about life, death, and renewal. But it isn't.
As you might be able to tell, this isn't a normal review. I definitely don't want to give too much away, although I've already given some away, but on the other hand anything I do say isn't true. Or false. For varying definitions of true and false.
To get some of the subtleties of this book, it does help to know a lot of Doctor Who trivia. Having read Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks, and knowing about The Masters of Luxor adds a lot to the appreciation of what Jim Mortimore does.
But what does Jim Mortimore do? For one thing, defy expectations. I wasn't prepared for where the story took me, but I had fun on the ride. This is a great book. I don't think much of his Sword of Forever, especially near the end where it went all weird and I had trouble telling what was going on, but here Jim Mortimore gets it right. It is, in a word, surreal. Reality just can't compete. I'm not sure what state of mind Jim Mortimore was in, but I'm sure that sanity and insanity look the same from so far away.
In much the same way that it's tricky to talk about the story, it's difficult to discuss the characters. They rarely stay the same from one section to the next. The changes did make it hard some times to track exactly what was going on, and with whom, but there is a consistency of character type that makes it believable for the characters to act in this way.
I am glad that BBC Books didn't publish this. I wouldn't want this book associated with a range that produces books like Imperial Moon or Interference. I also doubt that BBC Books would have been entirely comfortable to have this strange work in its ranks. However, I think Campaign would have benefited from going through an editorial process, possibly to shave off some of the weirder sequences of text, but certainly to fix up the few typos scattered throughout. That sort of thing always puts interrupts the flow of reading.
The worst part? The ending, the last page. At first, I thought 'what a cop out!' but in retrospection it does fit. The most disconcerting part of it is its sheer cheesiness. After the rollercoaster ride the reader has just been on, this twist of style really jars, ruining the mood. As I said, it was only after thinking about it that I could fit it in, but that isn't the sort of work that should be asked of the reader at that point, the author should justify the change right at the end, not the reader.
Although it does cost a fair bit, it is well worth it. A better read you won't find for a long while.
The Ongoing Adventures Of Ian by Robert Thomas 26/6/01
Well, what can I say?
Jim Mortimore and Blood Heat got me into post Survival Who, and on hearing that Jim's latest work I was drawn to this like a moth to the flame.
The best thing is about Jim's work is that he's either excellent or terrible. Where I was amazed by Blood Heat and Eye of Heaven the fact remains that Parasite is the worst story in Who history.
For about the first half of this book I thought I was going to hate it. Nothing made sense, the characters were all wrong and the twist was being shoved down our faces. This is a story about the original TARDIS crew (in more ways than one) and the TARDIS. It's also about a historical adventure with Alexander the Great - but it isn't. All the bits with Alexander are very atmospheric the first scene is pure class and as we go along Ian and Susan's stories are very gripping. For a while it feels as if nothing is happening and nothing is going to happen.
The second half however clicks in and gives the reader one of the great reads of their life. The action picks up and this book becomes a true great. The diary section is one of the best passages I've read and the twist took me by surprise. I came away feeling drained and emotionally this book got more out of me than any Who book has as well as most others. The book is paced that you feel as though you have just run a marathon and are amazed and the few pages contained in the book. The ending is very pacey although as you go through it you don't notice.
So overall a great book saved by a great second half. As I read it I didn't like what happened to Ian in the first half but on finishing can see why it happened - it felt as if what happened to him happened too easily. All the things that didn't make sense in the first half seemed so obvious and fit perfectly - surprisingly well plotted and edited. The end isnt a cop out, BUT IT SHOULD BE. It comes up early on and for a while I thought I had it pegged - but we get so many red hearings it gets swiped away. A great book, but more of an Ian book than Doctor Who.
A Review by Sean Gaffney 5/3/02
I haven't reviewed much in a while, even though I've started reading the 8DAs again after another prolonged absence. But I just HAD to review this one. I mean, my GOD.
I didn't get this for the longest time. When it came out, I was in a financial crunch and couldn't afford it, then for a while after I just wasn't in a Who mood. Plus, y'know... it was Jim. Gorgeous prose, some of my favorite in Who, but Eternity Weeps just broke my heart. I think part of me is still pouting over that.
Still, I read all the reviews at the Ratings Guide, and Smith? made it sound like a huge rollercoaster ride of fun. Plus I saw there was a reset button! Reset buttons mean no huge amount of hideous character death of people I care about! So I picked up a copy and delved right in.
This is not, strictly speaking, a book I can review in my usual way, so I'm not even going to bother to try. Listing the characters and how I felt about each would be missing the point a bit. In a sense, Campaign is a plot about character, really.
Alexander the Great is in here somewhere. Indeed, after reading the prologue I wondered if the book would start off as a normal historical, and only end up becoming the strangeness I'd read about in the second half. But no, Alexander ends up being a focal point more than a character, as the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan each have their varied memories all agree that it was while travelling with him that something happened.
This really is Ian's novel. Ian/Cliff and all his variations, that is. He's the first to be killed, and also the last to die - at least, to die of his own choice. Ian's thoughts and actions carry the book forward, and it was fascinating seeing the different Ians and Cliffs bounce back and forth from scientific curiousity to madness to acceptance.
The others all get their chance to shine, with the Doctor oddly getting the least of the four. It does help to show his alien viewpoint as a counterpoint to the others - or rather, not to show it. Susan is perhaps the most variable (her character changes constantly depending on which early production notes we're using), but is fascinating. I found it rather intriguing that her child always seemed to remain an infant, even though years are theoretically passing.
This isn't a novel full of random ideas thrown sloppily together, by the way. Everything makes sense as you follow along, provided you keep an open mind as to letting the novel take you where it wants to go. If you let it lead you, rather than try to figure out what is happening, you get to see the broad picture.
The prose is utterly gorgeous. The one thing I loved about Eternity Weeps was the way Jim can turn a phrase, especially with the scenes with the Astronomer Royal. This book is even MORE like that, and at times reads more like extended poetry than a Doctor Who novel. Plus there's the crossed-out handwriting, and the board game, and the comic, and the textual pictures...
Oh, and while this is a serious book, there are a few stabs of humor thrown in. The French Bulldog was a stitch. And The Ian/Cliff and Alan/Ida relationships made me bug out my eyes a bit.
Overall, I'm incredibly glad I got this book. It really stretches out your brain and makes it feed on ideas, creating universes, multiple personalities, shifting personas mid-scenes. It's work. But it's also richly rewarding. Get a copy today.
A Review by Finn Clark 17/4/02
Oh my God.
Jim Mortimore is clearly quite, quite mad. (As, in their own ways, are probably Dave Stone and Lawrence Miles, which I think is something we Who readers can be quite proud of.)
I'd actually meant to begin this review by saying that Jim Mortimore is a damn good bloke. I ordered my copy of Campaign some time ago, but the Post Office ate it. Upon learning of this, Jim kindly sent me a replacement, free of charge... but that never arrived either. So Jim sent me a third copy, again not asking for a penny. This one arrived, thank the Lord. (I'd been dreading having to tell him that a third copy hadn't come - dreading it, I tell you.)
So Jim's a damn dinkum fella, but insane. As are the best of us.
Er, I guess I'd better start reviewing Campaign.
If I had to boil my thoughts down to three words, they would be "what the fuck??" I remember wondering that repeatedly during my reading experience, a torrent of astonished obscenity (er, from Finn not Jim) that only accelerated as we neared the end. This book starts out with deliberate, carefully presented impossibility and only gets weirder.
At the beginning I thought it might be metaphorical or mythological. That interested me.
Then we started getting really weird non-facts.
Then Ian started talking about Barnes Common. You know, from David Whitaker's Doctor Who and an Exciting Adventure With The Daleks.
I'm still astounded. I should have hated this. Normally I can't stand rubber-reality stories in which anything might happen, since it's impossible to build up tension. "So X just did impossible thing Y, did he? Gee." If someone had fed me a synopsis of Campaign before I'd read it, I'd have wondered if Jim Mortimore wrote it just to piss me off. Everything here is impossible, self-contradictory and/or playing with obscure bits of didn't-happen early days continuity. I should have hated this book more than I've ever hated anything in my entire life.
However I didn't.
Part of this, I think, is that it isn't a BBC Book. This really helped it, IMO. "How does this fit into continuity?" stops being a relevant question, and keeps one from continually trying to look for the man behind the curtain.
Much of it, a huge part, is the TARDIS crew. That Season One team is just so damn good. I still haven't seen most of their TV episodes, but even from the Target novelisations (which I know off by heart) they fairly roar from the page. The first Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan have more depth than Doctor Who would ever, ever, ever have again - and Jim Mortimore really uses this. (Pet peeve: I think a big part of this chemistry was the sixties Doctors' unsteerable TARDIS, so PDAs+MAs which have Hartnell and Troughton piloting accurately for plot convenience are really pissing in the pool as far as I'm concerned.)
Really, I'm easily pleased. All I ask from a novel is to be convinced; I wanna believe. Give me a world I can taste and characters I can empathise with, and I'll be a happy bunny. With this TARDIS crew, Jim Mortimore succeeds in spades. It's hardly as radical as Leela's reinvention in Eye of Heaven, but the odd moment still makes you consider these characters in ways you hadn't thought of before.
The final key to this book's success is its inability to push any idea less than 1500% further than any rational being could have predicted. Just when you think you've pegged it as an "anything can happen" novel, thus incapable of surprising you... ahahaha, wham, big surprise-o. This book is shocking. In places, it's surprisingly moving. The characters shared my reactions to rubber reality, so I warmed to them and could get on-side with their predicaments.
And then there's the ending, which against all odds manages not to be a complete cheat. Admittedly it's foreshadowed so heavily that by the time it arrives it feels almost inevitable.
You won't believe what you see when you turn some of the later pages. Jim Mortimore unchained. I'm so glad I read this. No author, not Mad Larry, not anyone, will ever go further or madder than Campaign. I treasure my copy like a child.
A Review by John Seavey 7/2/03
So, now we know what it takes to get blackballed from the BBC entirely.
Actually, that's not fair to Mortimore -- Campaign did not get shot down because of a judgement of its quality, it got shot down because it was not the book he told them he was going to write. I do feel that had he submitted the idea for Campaign as he wrote it, it could very well have been accepted -- it's a fascinating story that, somewhat in the manner of The Edge of Destruction, dissects the characters of the first TARDIS crew in great detail, even while pretty much ignoring the plot. There's a lot of fascinating, poetic writing in here, and a lot of amusing nods to such non-canonical stories as The Masters of Luxor and the novelization of The Daleks... but ultimately, I think, you'll get a lot more out of Campaign if you already know the twist at the end.
Spoilers for said twist...
In the end, we learn that the entire novel we've been reading -- the death of all the Tardis regulars, the destruction of the universe, their journeys with Alexander -- all of it was just one big trippy virtual reality game called 'The Game of Me'. This would have infuriated me had I not known it was coming -- there's just enough of a hint of a plot to Campaign that it does seem like Mortimore is leading somewhere with his references to Aristotle "fixing" the T.A.R.D.I.S., and the idea of "breaks in history" and discrepancies among the memories of the Tardis crew. It seems like something you can puzzle out -- is the TARDIS really pregnant? Did the Doctor and his companions destroy the universe by interfering with history in Alexander's timeline? Can all this be fixed? To learn that the answer is, "It's all just a big video game!" is a huge let-down.
Luckily, I already knew from the beginning that it was all just a big video game, and could focus on the writing involved. Which is... wow, it's nice. Mortimore has always focused on beautiful prose at the expense of the plot, so in some ways this is the culmination of that trend; the plot is utterly irrelevant, so he's free to write some amazing, hallucinogenic prose as he puts Ian, Barbara, Susan, Mandy, Lola, and Cliff through the wringer. For everyone who thinks of Mortimore as a companion-torturer, this won't change your opinions... every companion dies violent death after violent death. (The scene where Ian kills the Doctor a dozen or so times sticks out in the mind.)
Campaign fails on a number of levels, to be honest; the plot's pants, the whole thing turns incoherent towards the end, and I honestly can't say I'm surprised that the BBC rejected it. But if you're willing to accept those flaws and read it as, say, an extended prose poem, it's well worth taking a look at.