Cat's Cradle Series
Cat's Cradle Part Three
|ISBN#||0 426 20368 2|
|Synopsis: As the TARDIS faces its inevitable death, the Doctor and Ace discover mysterious sightings of centaurs and unicorns in Llanfer Ceiriog, Wales. They find themselves transported to Tir na n-Og, a dying world populated by humans, elves, centaurs, trolls and unicorns. But could something as unlikely as Tir na n-Og have evolved merely by chance?|
Burn This Instead Of The Witches by Tammy Potash 21/6/00
In Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible, the TARDIS was very damaged by the Process. It released a construct containing some programming and other things in the form of a silver cat. Nothing really happened in Warhead to fix the TARDIS, if anything, its condition is worse in Witchmark. The Doctor heads for Wales for a holiday, in the hopes it can fix itself a little bit. Like any other time the Doctor goes for a holiday, disaster ensues.
Unfortunately, Wales has become connected to another world, which is dying. Some of the inhabitants are fleeing to Earth and causing chaos. Not that you'll care. The Doctor and Ace accidentally go thru the gateway to Tir na n-Og. This world and its population turn out to be an out of control experiment by an uninteresting alien who couldn't care less about the place. The Doctor persuades him to get things under control and start a new series of observations about his experimental world. The Doctor is also able to repair the TARDIS using some of the alien's technology, but he screws up a little... Ace makes friends with a unicorn whom the Doctor will invite to Benny's wedding in Happy Endings.
I've told you all this to spare you having to read the book. It is THAT bad. You know it's generally a bad sign when the author never wrote for Who again. With the exception of Gareth Roberts (we miss you!), every NA or MA author with real talent has come over to the BBC line.
Like Neil Penswick (The Pit of Sh*t), Andrew Hunt only had one horrible book in him. The first chapter is a cure for insomnia. It only gets worse from there. There isn't a single character you can care about. This includes the Doctor and Ace, as Hunt hasn't a clue how to write for them. Instead of the kind of true repartee they shared in Remembrance of the Daleks, Hunt forces them to enact part of the Monty Python Spam sketch. Not only does he render it unfunny, but the 7th Doctor is a vegetarian, so this is an even dumber move. Thankfully the dreadful Cat's Cradle series is over with this book and we can get on to more interesting stories like Love and War. If you enjoyed The Longest Day, Divided Loyalties, The Janus Conjunction, or other truly horrible BBC titles (because you are obviously a masochist), then by all means run out and pick the Cat's Cradle series up. Start with this one, as it makes no difference continuity-wise anyway.
Burn the Witches, then the piss-annoying lisping druid and use this book as firewood by Ed Swatland 3/6/01
This novel is the author's first, and it shows. What a shame the masterful Warhead had to be followed by this. It’s not a really bad book, but certainly not as good as its two (or three) predecessors. It falls to Witch Mark to explain the entire trilogy, and it fails... miserably. The novel idea of basing the trilogy on the fact that the TARDIS’s link with the Eye of Harmony is failing, falls flat, as it is explained away in ONE sentence.
I also disliked the characters, who were neither as memorable or as interesting as, say, Justine and Vincent from Warhead. Witch Mark starts promisingly, I won’t bore you with details, just read the blurb, the burning of the wounded Centaur was harrowing but interesting, what were the Policeman’s motives the reader wonders? The two American back-packers were bland, all the inhabitants of Tir-na n-Og were cardboard and the population of the Welsh village were uninspiring and dull. The characters were adequate, and played their part, but they weren’t interesting in the slightest. Poor, fey Bathsheba who was likeable enough was a pseudo-companion, and she disappeared towards the end! Then there’s Ace and the Doctor, who could have slid straight from the polystyrene flats of Dragonfire. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; the Seventh Doctor is an extremely versatile character, but after following two grim and serious books, it’s obvious and clashing. But Ace's behaviour is harder to explain away without contradicting her more recent character development. The Ace of this novel differs from the one shown in each of the previous three.
The story features some pretty decent ideas. SF/Fantasy crossovers have been used many times before, and the Fantasy part of the novel was the worst. And that was the main part of the book. Everything set in Wales I found myself enjoying more. Because of the poor characters we don’t care what happens. There was an extremely predictable ‘twist’ too, and so many unanswered questions. Where did the duplicates of Ace and the Doctor come from and why? Why did they kill Janet and Hugh? Where did they go after that? And there was more.
A very unsatisfying novel, all in all, but much of the problems can be blamed on the writer being inexperienced. If you must try and find this, do so to complete the Cat’s Cradle trilogy or your collection as a whole. But be warned, there’s a dreadful lisping druid and some appalling set-pieces. I don’t mind as I only paid ?2.50 for it at a second-hand bookshop. It may have a clever plot, but the author writes in a style that doesn’t really convince us to give a shit. Hugely inadequate as an ending to a trilogy and extremely stale.
Only a Pennsylvanian would do that by Andrew McCaffrey 20/2/02
Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark takes place both in the mythical land of Tir na n-Og, and in a simple Welsh village. We know that the land is mythical because we see a lot of unicorns and centaurs. We know that the small village is in Wales, because characters actually refer to each other as "Boyo". The story starts off intriguingly enough. A bus crashes, and during the police investigation, it is discovered that none of the dead bodies can be identified. It's an interesting twist on the standard missing persons story, but unfortunately, the narrative isn't able to sustain its interesting beginnings.
The plot turns out to be slightly poorer than it really should be. To make a long story short, this is the tale of a quest across a strange and magical land, filled with centaurs, unicorns, trolls and other unworldly creatures. Unfortunately, that's all the story is. The Doctor and Ace begin their trek fairly early in the book, but by the three-quarters mark, they are still pretty much in the same state that they were in the beginning, the plot not having budged an inch. Don't get me wrong now, I don't mind a story that's padded, as long as the padding consists of interesting material, sparking prose and enough entertaining substance to maintain the reader's attention. This is not what we got here. And on top of that, after one has struggled through pages and pages that don't amount to anything, the resolution is shockingly quick and far too simple. I do not have a problem with the Doctor talking his way through a solution; in fact, I think some of the best stories have been enhanced by featuring a clever and witty Doctor who is able to mentally run rings around his opponent. Unfortunately, the level of argument has to be of a higher quality than what we ended up with here. Having the Doctor more or less saying, "Don't do this evil thing" and giving the villain no greater of a response than, "Gee, okay" does not make for an exciting resolution.
Even more appalling than the lackluster outcome to the villain's evil scheme is the fact that there are numerous plot threads that are just left dangling. Character motivations that one expected to be explained by the end of the book simply aren't addressed. There are many sequences that only work if you don't think about them too much and forget them before you reach the ending. If one happens to go back and start picking things apart, one will find a host of actions and scenes that were simply left unresolved. It really leaves a bad taste in one's mouth.
Witch Mark features two of the worst portrayed Americans that the series has ever seen. In their introduction, the author is so intent on making sure they're recognizably American, that he moves them way beyond Cliche American and Stereotypical American and blasts them somewhere into the realm of Ludicrously American and Overwhelmingly Fake American. Make no mistake, if this was a televised story, then they'd both end up sounding exactly like the oh-so-American guy in Tomb of the Cybermen who went around spouting off macho nonsensical dialog such as, "Hey, some character's gone an' bahlled up tha loh-t!", "C'mon, let's get back to tha rah-ket!", and "Hey, Vic!" Not exactly the soft, realistic character study that one should be aiming for.
The other characters aren't much better. The Doctor and Ace aren't acting like their usual selves. The Seventh Doctor seems at times to be behaving like any incarnation other than the current one. Ace is back to being a silly teenager who appears to have completely bypassed the events of Revelation and Warhead. Secondary characters are similarly poor, with special mention going to the idiot, lisping priest. Future authors should take note: speech impediments aren't really all that funny, and there's nothing more annoying than reading dialog that incorporates a heavy lisp. I was begging for the character to give a quick wink to the audience, shout "Thufferin' thuccotath!", and then take a flying leap towards the nearest window.
The book does have a few things working for it. The mixture of science fiction and fantasy is actually quite interesting. There was the potential here for everything to be rationalized away in an extremely boring "here's the way magic and science really work" speech, yet it rose above these would-be pitfalls. The relationship between Tir na n-Og and "real" Earth somehow managed to come across without feeling cheap. The story was straightforward enough and could be fairly enjoyable in a leave-your-brain-at-the-door type of way. It just isn't at all satisfying.
In the end, sloppy writing and elemental mistakes really hurt this book. What should have been a mind-blowing ending to the Cat's Cradle series turns out to be a fairly standard run-around in fantasy-land. The story itself is hurt by a lack of coherence and a dearth of uninteresting characters. Definitely not one of the better written NAs.
A Review by Clive Walker 2/7/02
Doctor Who meets the "Swords and Sorcery" genre in the final instalment of the Cat's Cradle pseudo-trilogy. The TARDIS is out of commission and the Doctor and Ace are taking an enforced break in Wales. Strange goings-on are soon linked to a mysterious stone circle, which is actually a gateway to another world that medieval style humans share with unicorns, centaurs and trolls.
There is no nice way of saying this. Witch Mark is a very bad book indeed. It fails on just about every count. It is unquestionably in my all-time "worst 10" list of Who novels.
The story itself is just dull. This needn't have been the case. Indeed, the initial mysteries surrounding the identities of the bodies in the coach crash, the baby unicorn, and the stone circle promise an interesting tale. Once the action shifts to Tir na n-Og, however, things go downhill fast. Events simply meander along. The Doctor's quest to find the powerful and mysterious Goibhnie lacks any drama. When the two eventually meet it transpires that Goibhnie is (yawn!) just a misguided alien scientist and the Doctor simply talks him out of allowing Tir na n-Og to die.
The characterisation is uniformly poor. To call the original characters two-dimensional would be to insult cartoon-folk. Ace is an unlikeable childish brat again showing none of the character development she had gone through in the previous few novels and the Doctor is utterly generic and not recognisable as the Sylvester McCoy version.
Without exception every potentially interesting character or concept is squandered.
Much time is spent introducing us to Bats, the young girl with the withered arm whose whole family was killed in a demon attack. Surely then she must have a major role in the story? But no, she simply tags along with the Doctor for a while and then fades out of the action when the author gets bored with her.
David and Jack appear to be just a dull pair of stereotypical American students, but then we find that David has been a host to dormant protoplasmic material since a childhood visit to Llanfer Ceiriog. Here, perhaps, is the novel's dramatic lynchpin? No, I'm afraid its just another gimmick, because David's return to the Welsh village appears to have been pure chance, the protoplasm is soon exorcised, David is back to his normal stereotypical self and the plot has not been progressed one iota.
Perhaps the most interesting concept of all is Herne, an inhabitant of Tir na n-Og who is travelling backwards through time. But Andrew Hunt clearly has no idea what to do with this concept and he throws it all away in a garbled revelation that Herne was, in fact, aged Welshman, Old Davy, all along. I am at a complete loss to understand the point of this and, sadly, I suspect that the author understood it no better because the whole book is just an undisciplined melange of supposedly clever ideas tossed together in the hope that an interesting novel would emerge.
Several of the New Adventures writers, at this early stage in the series, fell into the trap of believing that it is possible to render a novel "adult" by throwing in some explicit sex or violence. Andrew Hunt produces a classic of its kind here with an entirely gratuitous scene involving pregnant women having their bellies slit open and their unborn babies strangled with their own umbilical cords. In the hands of a good writer this horrifying image could have been a powerful crisis point for the whole novel. In this writer's hands, however, it is simply a gross, tacky little scene designed to shock but having all the impact of a teenager swearing in front of granny.
I could go on. I could talk about the clunky dialogue, the embarrassing attempts at humour (people with "lithpth" just aren't funny any more!) and the gaping holes in the plot but this would just be twisting a knife in an open wound. I seem to recall that when first released this book was actually quite well received. Normally, I pride myself on at least being able to understand why other people like a novel even when I disagree with them, but here I have a total block. I can see no merit whatever in this novel and it gets only 1/10 from me.
A Review by Finn Clark 5/11/04
You know, I rather enjoyed that! Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark is one of those books that dribble from the memory, but on rereading I discovered that's entirely the fault of its random, meandering story. Its plot is bollocks. However the page-by-page execution is good, with lively characters and witty banter. If I was feeling charitable, I might go so far as to say that this book sparkles.
The first few pages are hard to concentrate on, but things improve thereafter. Jack and David are an entertaining double act, Inspector Stevens is a laugh and the Welsh locals are great. Admittedly I've never been to Wales, have no Welsh blood and may be the least qualified man in the world to speak on this issue... but this book's Welshness feels authentic. These characters feel like real people, with wit and fun. If nothing else, it's worth reading this book for its comparison of megalomaniacs and traffic wardens.
Unfortunately the plot is nonsense. I mean, really. The book splits fairly early into "the real world" and "the fantasy bollocks", with the Doctor and Ace stuck firmly in the latter having pointless encounters that resolve themselves with dei ex machina. They're captured by Sidhe, then rescued. They're attacked by werewolf things, then rescued. What the hell? This isn't a story, just a bunch of things happening. At one point Ace does something violent and stupid, which one feels sure won't end well. It doesn't.
The book's closing chapters make fitful attempts at a vestigial plot, much as the children of certain European royal families once tended to grow vestigial tails. I should give points for effort, but this 'plot' is comically undermined when the villain gets defeated by telling him he's been very silly and asking him not to do it again. This would be the dramatic lowpoint of any other book, but alas Andrew Hunt was lumbered with Important Story Arc Stuff and so the book ends in a whimper of TARDIS technobabble that sets up the Future History Cycle and leaves the reader slack-jawed and snoring. What is it with the Doctor Who books and story arcs, eh? We're not talking rocket science here. You'd think that a decade of awesome creative talent could muster a batting average somewhere above "dismal" when stringing together ongoing stories.
As an exploration of Celtic folklore, it's slightly half-hearted. It trots out the Sidhe and such creatures, but being a Virgin NA rather than a BBC Book it's set on an alien planet and has an SF explanation for everything. However I feel that BBC Books have lately gone into fantasy overload, so I kinda liked that. We also meet an alien race called the Troifrans, who looked like significant geezers to me and should perhaps have been mentioned in a later book or two. I dare say they probably won't even be remembered. Ah well.
There are resonances with later novels. Inspector Stevens investigates weird stuff much like his namesake James Stevens did in Who Killed Kennedy. The (real) Sidhe would of course return in Autumn Mist. And most surprisingly, p55 foreshadows Interference. "Nasty things, some spiders," the Doctor said. "I seem to recall one almost killed me. The memories are vague. Redback was it?"
Judging from its plot, this book should have been drivel... but I enjoyed it. I was charmed by the unicorns. I liked Bathsheba. I liked the witty prose and light touch of character and situation. To my surprise, after finishing this book I found myself regretting the fact that Andrew never wrote again for Who.
A Review by Brian May 25/4/05
"Behind them walked Jack and David, still bemused by the turn of events. It was still something of a shock that the source of the centaur that they had found was a mysterious world of fantasy. It was something akin to finding out where babies came from" (p.215)
Er, come again?... What the hell was that?
Answer: just one of the atrociously written, embarrassing combinations of words that pass for prose in this book. Unhappily, Witch Mark is full of such clangers. The writing overall is of a poor standard, the whole thing feeling like a Target novel, in particular a latter day Terrance Dicks effort, full of condescending, patronising explanations of the bleeding obvious. There's bad grammar aplenty, bizarre sentence structures and, to top it all off, a boring story.
I'm sure Andrew Hunt is a lovely guy, and if he happens to read this, I hope he doesn't take it personally. It's just that he can't write Doctor Who. It's no surprise he never wrote a second book. Perhaps he's taken to writing cookbooks? After all, page 103 features a lengthy paragraph devoted to making a pastry. I fully appreciate how important it is for the dough to be kneaded to a proper consistency, but I don't expect such detail from a science fiction or fantasy tale. Or maybe he's become a romance novelist? He describes a shining light as having "a soft quality, like moonlight in a lover's eyes" (p.117) and, when Stevens meets Ace:
"Her hair tumbled around her shoulders in chestnut streams and when she smiled it was as though the sun had emerged from behind a cloud." (p.200)
Ah, how sweet. You expect Stevens to grab her, rip her bodice and make long, passionate love to her.
On the subject of Ace, she's unrecognisable. The televised Ace was an interesting if flawed character; the best depictions of her in original fiction have made use of both her positive and negative aspects and fleshed them out. In Witch Mark all we have is a carboard cut-out who spouts superlatives like "Wicked!", "Ace!" and "Brilliant!" sporadically. The Ace cliches are there, but nothing else. And I cannot imagine her sudden capitulation to Chulainn when he asks her to stop following the Doctor (p.144), especially her feeble "You're right, I suppose". The Ace we know would have continued, either through determination and loyalty (one of her strengths) or stubbornness (one of her weaknesses). Either would have been better than what we're stuck with here.
The Doctor fares no better. He's just as one-dimensional, lacking any of Sylvester McCoy's nuances or idiosyncrasies. I understand Hunt is writing a purely traditional story, with a non-manipulative seventh Doctor to match, but he still has to give him some basic characterisation! And I can't believe, not for one nanosecond, that he'd be a connoisseur of spam fritters! And there's an annoying feel throughout that the two of them are perfect, flawless heroes. None of their faults or foibles are highlighted - they're bland goodies. I don't think I've read a more boring Doctor/companion combination!
Nobody in the story can be called a proper character. Bathsheba and Stevens come close, but the author doesn't go far enough to give them any personality. Stevens just becomes an excuse for some overweight jokes, while Caeryon's lisp is also subject to some unfunny jibes. The two American idiots make those backpackers from Arc of Infinity look like a Robert Holmes double act, while I suspect Hugh and Janet are meant to be a domestic counterpoint to the Doctor and Ace, but they spend their time making pointless inanities and thus come across as so dull you wonder why the Doctor is friends with them in the first place. The rest of the villagers are cliche ridden embarrassments, with many a "boyo" and several sheep gags thrown in; The Green Death did enough damage when it came to Welsh stereotypes, but at least it had a good story. None of the inhabitants of Tir na n-Og, human or beast, are remotely interesting. The plot twists, regarding Nuada and Old Davy respectively, are dull to the core.
The Doctor and Ace's transportation to Tir na n-Og takes place way too early for my liking. Given that it's one of the most unoriginal and unimaginitive Doctor Who locales ever does not help. It's a hackneyed rip-off of virtually every fantasy realm. The journey they make is a poor person's Lord of the Rings quest, with boring meeting after meeting. The final battle is banal, while the resolution to the Cat's Cradle trilogy, the repair of the TARDIS, is just awful. The inclusion of the story arc's umbrella plot is awkward to say the least, and it's obvious the writer included them solely through obligation - and without much care.
And there are some painfully obvious plotholes. The 2 million pounds found in the crashed coach. Where did it come from? Was it counterfeit? If so, who printed it? If it was real, who supplied it? The involvement of the policeman Hughes suggests a conspiracy, but nothing more is made of this, wasting another potentially good idea, and there's no further mention of the money after it loses its plot expediency. The same goes for the replicas of the Doctor and Ace - there's no explanation as to where they came from or where they went. Ditto for Janet and Hugh - it's implied they're killed by the aforementioned replicas, but then they're spotted by Old Davy at the end. Or are these similar fake versions?
Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark is a very poor effort. It's boring, badly written and sloppily plotted. Is there anything positive to say? ...well, the cover's excellent. It encapsulates all the themes - the fantasy element, the TARDIS and the silver cat. It's one of the best pieces of NA artwork. But that's it. Don't judge this book by its cover! 1/10
Spell-blinding! by Joe Ford 17/8/06
This continues the New Adventures hopeless opening gambit. I re-read these books in the hope that perhaps I had been wrong all these years, that my love for the EDAs had poisoned my senses to the fact that the NAs had come first and had in fact contributed the greater good to Doctor Who. Nope, I think I had it right the first time. I'm sure the series will get much better as it continues (I know this for a fact: The Also People, Just War, Bad Therapy) but the opening two series of novels are so diabolically awful it is no wonder that when DWM ran a poll and asked what everybody's favourite NA is 80 odd percent said they had given up on them (okay, it wasn't 80% but it always hovered around the 40% mark). Genesys, Apocalypse, Revelation, Time's Crucible, Warhead... I just wouldn't wish these books on my worst enemies let alone somebody who I actually like.
My biggest complaint about the books so far is that whilst they are opening up Doctor Who into a more adult world of sex, swearing and nastiness, they are forgetting all of the things that make the show so good. Doctor Who is fun, it's a joyful exploration of imagination and storytelling but the NAs (thus far) are convinced that crazy, illegible narration and pain and suffering are in some way appealing. Wait until I reach Transit.
Well I can't accuse Witchmark of these things because finally an author has remembered that spark of enjoyment that Doctor Who gives them and has written a book, which sees the Doctor and Ace having a laugh, exploring mystical realms and having adventures with unusual creatures. Oh Christ, can we go back to the pain and misery please...
I understand what Andrew Hunt is trying to do with this book and it is a very worthy goal but unfortunately he just does not have the imagination or the writing ability to create a convincing fantasy epic. The concepts are a bit bland, the characters are worse than useless, the dialogue lacks bounce, even the setting is obvious and a bit boring. If you want to read a richly-written fantasy stick with Paul Margs' The Scarlet Empress. With a good kick up the arse I am certain Mr Hunt could have produced something a bit more tighter but given the standard of writing the range has produced to this point I am beginning to wonder if there was even an editor about.
Now when I was writing my EDA marathon there were certain people (and they know who they are) who champion the NAs and commented that the characterisation of the regulars from one EDA to another was shamefully inconsistent. I hope they are reading this now because I have never seen such a difference in characterisation between one book and another. In Warhead the Doctor was broody, manipulative, selfish, a terrifying figure. Somehow in the very next story he has transformed into a jolly, verbose man of passions, one who wants to be involved in everything and most damning of all is extremely loud about his own abilities! None of which really ties up with the seventh Doctor I know but by golly gosh even though he is severely out of character he is much more fun to read about this way. What is most hilarious about the shift between this and Warhead is that in Cartmel's book he was willing to let Ace rub shoulders with terrorists who beat and want to abuse her and yet here he is worried for her safety at the merest hint of a demon and carries on his travels without her! He makes several attempts to be witty ("Nothing would give me greater pleasure, but as you're offering, I'll have to put off nothing!" oh stop my sides are splitting!) and really, I wish he wouldn't bother!
Oh Ace, where have you been! Here she is bounding with energy and enthusiasm, desperate to involved, jolly and hearty and loving every second of her life. And it's just as annoying as her fucked-up persona, you know the one from the last book. Ace gets lots of giddy teenager dialogue like:
"Wicked smell Professor, what's cookin' Doc?"Oh you must laugh at the naivete of it all. Ace likes Tir na N-Og because it is like living hand-in-hand with nature. She enjoys "hunting" the Doctor, a feeling left over from her time on the Cheetah Planet (huh?). The reason she loves Nitro so much is because it causes serious damage in a way that looks and sounds aesthetically pleasing (look I'm NOT making this up, all right!). There is an attempt to give her some little development when she gets connected mentally with a unicorn and feels its pain as it is slaughtered but it is brushed over with a paragraph and never thought of again.
"Are you lot friends of dogbreath?"
I love the cover and was looking out for the luxurious descriptions of this wondrous land but instead we are confined to a forest, a lake, a castle... we meet up with Fox People, dragons, warewolves... the book is desperately searching for a little more creativity and little less cliche.
There were some laughs here and there but (rather cruelly) they are due to the ineptness of the writing rather than actual humour present in the book, although I did find the following exchange worth a chuckle:
G'night Professor."However compared to the number of brilliant moments of embarrassment the jokes are dry as a bone. The lisping priest is beyond funny in a little sub-section of embarrassing all of his own ("I am the landeth firtht conthort!"). The thought of Paranormal Investigations Member Stevens convincing his boss to be exorcised is so funny; I would love to see that rather than this book! It was David's idea to have a quick wander around Wales before spending the rest of their vacation in America... that sentence has to be loaded with irony! When David, one of the yankie hikers is strung upside down and suspended over a fire he shouts out: "Surely you can't hate Americans that much?" That is so brilliant, it hurts.
"Shh, Ace, go to sleep."
Of course it is an NA so it has to have at least one gut-churningly vile moment and Witchmark' comes when the pregnant women have their bellies cut open and the babies strangled with their own umbilical cords. It is so out of synch with the rest of the book you have to wonder why it was included!
This is more enjoyable than the last three but only because it is the weakest-written New Adventure to date. Bizarrely there is no sense of danger anywhere in the book; it just seems to be a nice stroll through the park for the Doctor and Ace. The characterisation is mental, from the two stereotypical Americans who contribute nothing, to the inconsequential investigator Stevens, to the characterless creatures on the Welsh fairyland. Sentence construction seems a little off throughout (what the hell was page 13 all about?) and whilst the cover design (for once) is gorgeous, nothing inside the book provokes that sort of delight and wonder. And let's face it; this Cat's Cradle series is just a big con. The last few pages feel tacked on and unnecessary.
It's a wee bit rubbish really, not really worth your time unless you are stuck on a desert island and have nothing to read but this and The Space Age. Use Steve Lyons' book as toilet paper and this as wallpaper.
This book burned me... and I'm not a witch by Henry Lampman 9/6/08
There seems to be a growing trend among reviewers to hate this book and throw up a laundry list of complaints. I'd take the challenge to say something nice, but it turns out that they're dead on. It felt like Hunt threw up the story and then slapped it together haphazardly. I'm wondering what, if anything, ended up on the cutting room floor. Perhaps a conclusion to all of those loose ends that we never saw tied up? Maybe the mortar that could have held this story together?
Despite the lack of a much-needed epilogue, it started off with a rich prologue featuring a character that played almost no significant role in the story. At least this nutrient-deficient flavor additive of a character was better developed than most of the other ones as a consequence. Of course, this character's religion hinted at the fact that her family may have come from somewhere else and I guess that helped to develop a sense of mystery. More explicitly, it was a device to set the stage for the ridiculous insertion of a pointless religious ritual near the end of the book that was either a failed attempt at humor, a lame piece of action that failed to build into what might have been the intended climax of the story, or just the result of Hunt needing to heave up a last bit of undigested fancy into the bucket.
This would lead us to the first chapter, where we saw the plight of some poor non-human on the run. It did a little to flesh out the landscape, but in memory feels a tad inconsequential. This would later tie in, in one of the book's better plot structures, to the subplot of the next characters we would meet. These would be some broadly drawn Americans that, as an American, I wouldn't have recognized as such unless it was made explicit. Their only real contribution seems to be the creation of about a hundred pages of so-so padding. Near the end, one of them makes what should have been a critical contribution that could have successfully tied them into the story at large. All it really did was to generate a few more loose ends.
Most stories have a villain. This one comes up short. What would have been the big bad villain turns out to just be some super nerd running a game not terribly unlike the one we saw in Timewyrm: Apocalypse. The big showdown, after a bunch of useless running around, is a simple conversation where the villain agrees to do whatever the Doctor says without much argument. After that, this villain-turned-friend's personality shifts all over the place in ways that move him from cardboard to something lining a birdcage. I guess that we get a new villain to replace him near the end, though the productive plot twist is far from wrenching. Again, it just adds more loose ends regarding what I thought the book was about: witches! Who are they? What are they doing? What do they want? We know how they came to be (sort of) but everything else is more or less an unsolved mystery.
Speaking of antagonists, we do have a host of "demons" running around. Throughout the story, they are basically savage beasts that devour people at every chance. In one of the grimmest moments of the story, which other reviewers have been right to criticize, they go from mindlessly ferocious to dramatically calculating. In an act of terror, they disembowel pregnant women and strangle the unborn with their cords. This was sadistic, but not the actions of crazed animals, especially not hungry ones that should more realistically have eaten them. Later, when out the blue it is revealed that these demons are psychic and can merge with each other in a fashion remarkably similar to that in Go Nagai's Devil Man (the anime OVA for which was released just a few years earlier than this book), we have to ask why they didn't try to absorb them. Wait. Can they absorb or bond with humans? I'm unclear on this. If this was their nature though, as was critical to the climax, it should have figured more prominently into the story proper. Instead, this feature was introduced just pages before it was needed without regard for the bulk of the book that came before it.
Most alarmingly, as has been pointed out by others, was what happened to various subplots regarding the folks in Wales. Let's just take a sample. The Doctor's good friends were killed in one of the book's better attempts at being creepy, but without apparent consequence or the Doctor even knowing about it! Furthermore, both they and the Doctor were somehow duplicated (or something) somehow. These duplicates then continued to exist unchecked and up to who knows what! Then we have Herne, one of the most interesting characters, whose whole origin sadly baffles the imagination, violates the laws of science and undermines the character of his creator. He ends up having some special relationship with some old guy for no other apparent reason other than justifying the sporadic inclusion of that old guy over most of the story. There may have been other reasons, but again, they just aren't fleshed out. Maybe Hunt was a fan of the Watcher from Logopolis and wanted to be similarly suave... but that's my best charitable stretch.
So, how well did it end the arc? Well, we got a lightweight discussion of what was wrong with the TARDIS early on (presumably caused by the Process from Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible) and that was supposedly the driving force for this adventure. At the end, we see it resolved too conveniently and without much explanation, hooked in miserably to some of the holes exposed above. That mysterious cat is given a rather hollow explanation as well. In general, I've got to agree with the other reviewers. The connection is more or less stapled on and, on face value, worth less than the staple holding it there!
I could go on with my own laundry list, but I'm not sure anyone is still reading this. Suffice it to say, this book is terrible. There were times where slogging along was more entertaining than watching paint dry, or soberly watching stories like Paradise Towers or The Twin Dilemma, but is that really a compliment?
Through the Looking Glass by Jacob Licklider 24/4/16
The first two installments of the Cat's Cradle trilogy, while being good stories, don't have any real overarching storyline except a mysterious silver cat that appears and the TARDIS malfunctioning. It is standard mystery-box storytelling that happens in the New Series and fails when reveals don't live up to the hype. It didn't work with the three Clara Oswald's identities in Series 7B or the reveal of Missy in Series 8. Moffat loves these kinds of stories, but they rarely ever work and this trilogy is no exception. The cat's true identity being revealed is saved for the very end of the novel and has no real impact on the story being told. The cat is a way for the TARDIS to heal itself from the damage it sustained from Time's Crucible and that's about it. Now I believe that the ending of a story is the most important part of the story, but when an ending has nothing to do with the story itself, it can be forgiven if there is a good primary story attached to it.
Well Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark doesn't have that good of a story. It feels much like the Series 8 episode In the Forest of the Night, which used classic literary allusions as a framework for the story. Witch Mark does pretty much the same thing, but singles out the literary work of two best friends from the 1950s. These are The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, with many classic mythological creatures showing up for good measure. What Andrew Hunt tries to do is to weave these creatures together with a portal to a different world in Wales of all places. The story tries to have the childlike whimsy of Narnia combined with an epic quest like Lord of the Rings. The plot becomes a rambling mess with a lot of references to some of the oddest stories. Hunt references Ace becoming a Cheetah Person in Survival and that beekeeper in Delta and the Bannermen. None of them really make any sort of sense, and the story doesn't flow. This is especially apparent when you read the first four chapters and prologue, which are extremely dull and extremely long.
Again, a lackluster story can be made up for if there are interesting characters to become attached to, but none of the supporting characters are particularly memorable in any real way. You would think with a cast comprised of centaurs, unicorns, humans, an investigative reporter, a werewolf-like creature and some comedy Welshmen thrown in for good measure would have something to latch on to. The only bit of intrigue is the climax when one of the human characters shapeshifts and saves the day. The Doctor and Ace also get very little to do in the story except letting events play out before them. Hunt also doesn't really understand the character of Ace. She doesn't really feel like Ace at all, just a random character. Her dialogue is atrocious, with weird 80s colloquialisms that I don't think people actually said during that decade. The Doctor is also hurt as he resembles his clownish persona of Season 24 and not the master manipulator of Seasons 25 and 26. So, all in all, I can give this story 40/100, as it doesn't really know how to be a Doctor Who story and feels out of place in the series of novels.