The War Machines
|ISBN||0 563 53827 9|
|Synopsis: Roll up, roll up, see Earth as it was, completely authentic, or your money back. See the dinosaurs and cavemen living side by side! See the War Machines that delivered the mail in the twentieth century! You'll see it all, and so much more, when you visit the very affordable and stunningly named... EarthWorld.|
Snooker Loopy Nuts Are We, Me and Him, Him And Me by Robert Thomas 28/3/01
OK, now I've got that out of my system on with the review.
In the future sometime if anyone makes a dictionary for Doctor Who fans EarthWorld's cover would be right next to the world romp. It's very hard to not like and you will definitely like it, it's just that you may not get that much out of it.
Bearing in mind this is the first post Earth arc story, I think we were all unsure of what we were going to get. What we do get is a nice little story full of wit and humour. In fact just when you think you are reading a nice little story the plot cranks up and sets the second half of the story up nicely. There is a bit of action throughout the book, however this is not a book with a high action final.
Page 55 is a good essex girl joke.
One problem the book does have however is The Doctor. He just doesn't feel right, at times he felt very 4th Doctor. It's good that he seems more active and mentally stronger than early EDA's, but at some times occasionally he doesn't feel right. But 95% of the time he's fine (I think this maybe because I've become used to gearing McGann on the audio's).
Fitz comes across very well and it's great to see him in full action. I like the position he is put in with regards to The Doctor a lot. He gets lots of good bits and is as excellent as ever. (Just a note that I don't think the authors in particular understand. Fitz's body was put into the remembering machine and then he changed. The TARDIS changed him back and all along physically it was the real Fitz just he was changed. So he is the real Fitz and not a copy. How they have come up with the idea this is a fake Fitz and the real one became Father Kreiner is beyond me. )
Anji comes over well and her grief is dealt with well. She is likable and is going to add a good element to future stories as she does in this. But I hope future writers don't concentrate on the girl from the office in alien environments.
A nice little story with a good little plot with some good twists. The characters are there to fill in the plot but this is ok, as we want to concentrate on the regulars at the moment. Overall a nice little romp.
A Review by Graeme Burk 30/3/01
This book has a lot of expectations placed on it by its positioning in the range: it's the first book to put the Doctor and crew back into time and space after the Earth arc; it's the first real story with Anji; it's the first book after the disastrously bad Escape Velocity... being saddled with just one of these things would be bad enough.
In the end, the book seems ill suited to meet any of the expectations. Earthworld is...well...that's part of the problem.
To use bland, fannish, shorthand, Earthworld is for the most part an 'oddball' story, following in the footsteps of TV stories like The Celestial Toymaker, or Carnival of Monsters, or Paradise Towers. Jac Rayner's creation seems like a bizarre gene splicing of Donald Cotton, Stephen Wyatt and Darin Morgan from The X-Files. It's set in a theme park based on Earth -- only a conception of Earth that you might get from looking at our history and pop culture without truly comprehending it (so add Kurt Vonnegut to the mix now). Run by three homocidal teenaged triplets. With terrorists who are rejects from a Grange Hill casting call.
By the time you get to the deathmatch featuring...no, I shan't give it away...you feel like you've travelled a very far way from Kansas, Toto.
Like so much of Stephen Wyatt, the whole concept is just plain strange and populated by even stranger characters. Like Donald Cotton's work on the series, there's an odd, stilted quality to the dialogue (the opening chapter reads like the first TARDIS-crew scene in a Cotton historical-comedy) and a witty, self-mocking narrative. Like Darin Morgan, there's a lot of taking the piss out of all the conventions of an adventure story. The fact that all this is combined into one novel is actually quite impressive.
Don't get me wrong, there anything wrong with doing an 'oddball' story after a serious phase in the Doctor's adventures -- Carnival of Monsters was the perfect way to end the Doctor's exile. But the end result here feels insubstantial, like eating lots of meringue.It tries to be more -- in some ways it's desperate to be more -- but it never succeeds. It tries to spoof pantomime conventions but in the end it turns out to be panto. And not necessarily in a good way.
The trick with doing oddball stories is to give the threat or the situation sufficient gravitas. The Celestial Toymaker plays for keeps; The Chief Clown and the Gods of Ragnarok are really very sinister; The Darin Morgan X-Files episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" exposes the whole lie of the series -- the truth can't be out there because truth is subjective. This book has no gravitas to anchor it. There's malevolant characters and lots of deaths, to be sure. But they don't stand out from the overall archness and strangeness of the proceedings.
Rayner tries to give gravitas to the situation by going full tilt with the soap opera aspect of the range. There's character angst by the bucketful, the likes we haven't seen since Kate Orman and Paul Cornell last hung up their keyboard. Fitz and Anji go through separate wringers. Anji is interesting and it's nice to see that Jac has put some care into developing her. Fitz's angst is less interesting, partially because the cause of it was a bad idea on the part of the range in the first place. But ultimately, instead of anchoring the weirdness, the book develops a split personality-- oddball panto the one minute, deep and chunky angsty character novel the next.
The only one of the regular characters to not have any angst whatsoever is the Doctor, which is perhaps one of my biggest criticisms about the book. While the Doctor is, thankfully, forefront in the story and contributes to the action, he's back to behaving like the congenital idiot of the '98 and '99 vintage. The character arc they've stuck him with since the Earth arc doesn't help with this, to be sure, but the problem is mostly to do with Rayner's own characterisation. The Doctor is silly and fey and...well, uninteresting. Perhaps the Earth arc has raised the level of expectation for the Doctor's characterisation -- in which case it's time for the authors to get with the program.
This book is frothy and cute, and I'd really like to honour it for being brave enough to do such a completely offbeat take on the Who mythos without the help of chemical additives. But ultimately it's not enough.
A Review by Finn Clark 29/4/01
Was any book so misrepresented by its cover? Despite advance warning I went into this vaguely expecting a rewrite of Jurassic Park, whereas in fact it reads like something written by, er, Stephanie Wyatt. It's not plot-heavy, to put it mildly. Oh, things happen. No complaints in that department. But the nearest Earthworld has to a big baddie seems to have about three lines of dialogue and gets written out so casually that I'm still wondering whether it happened really inconspicuously offscreen or whether it's an internal continuity goof.
This book is about its characters, not about the usual corridor-running and Evil Plan. I'll confess that this unusual emphasis somewhat disconcerted me for much of the book. I wanted... well, danger I could take more seriously. But in the end I really admired a lot of what the author had achieved.
To start by stating what was (to me) the most obvious thing, this is the most screamingly female narrative voice we've ever heard in Who prose fiction. Kate Orman's prose was always too dense and carefully crafted to reveal much of the woman behind the typewriter, whereas this appears to be written by someone a bit giggly on tequila. I'm sure this is itself a carefully crafted effect, but it makes for something rather special in the very male world of Doctor Who. Anji benefits hugely from it, f'rinstance. You could feel the sweat Colin Brake put into portraying the Anji of Escape Velocity, but the result is a pale shadow of Earthworld's achievement. Jac's take on the Anji-Dave relationship redeems a certain aspect of Escape Velocity, for instance. I suspect a Jac Rayner version of Sam Jones might have done a lot of good towards the beginning of the 8DAs.
However the Doctor and Fitz get equally fascinating portrayals. For the first time ever, I loved the Eighth Doctor of the novels. (I admired The Burning's amnesiac portrayal, but in a rather intellectual way.) The tension between his current capabilities and what's expected of him in his outer space adventures (particularly by Fitz) is delightful. We also get to go inside Fitz's head and really feel what's been happening to him post-Interference in a way that should have happened long, loooong ago. Like, a year ago. All three regulars get something special in their characterisations and I felt this was a big plus for the book. The only downside of this is that when someone from Fitz's past gets mentioned I was racking my brains to remember when we'd met 'em before.
What goes on around this characterisation is always fun and amusing without always being dramatically compelling. Its structure reminded me of The Holy Terror, though without the extremes of comedy or horror at each end. The plot eventually proves to revolve around the characters rather than some Evil Scheme To Blow Up The World, which was probably guaranteed to wrong-foot any long-time Doctor Who reader. However it's good. I liked it.
My final verdict: read this. In the Doctor Who fiction line, it's perhaps the ultimate refreshing change.
A Review by Felicity Kusinitz 18/5/01
I read EarthWorld in less than 24 hours. While this points to it being highly readable (and it is), it also points to it being rather light in plot (and it is). It certainly shines in terms of characterization, both of Anji and the post-Ancestor Cell Fitz, but the underlying story seems a bit...well, silly. I challenge you to say "Homicidal Triplet Princesses" with a straight face.
I did enjoy it, and it's loads better than Escape Velocity. It also deals with the issue of the Doctor's memory, which is something I hope continues throughout the EDAs and isn't just forgotten about. I know we got a reboot, but it would be nice to have some continuity with the pre-Ancestor Cell universe, even if it's just an occasional reminder that there was such a thing.
Four out of Five by Jamas Enright 13/6/01
This is, simply, a very light, very fun novel. Jacqueline Rayner tells a story that makes it a joy to turn the page and find out what happens next. A theme-park gone wrong is a simple idea. Certainly there are hints of Jurassic Park here, but it's more than that. There is also the matter of what it means to be a father, even if you're the King.
However, the story is light in more than just tone. I wouldn't say that the book is padded, but Jacqueline Rayner provides an over-abundance of details, telling us more than I think really needs to be covered. Do we really need to know exactly what the Doctor saw when travelling from one place to the next? And then going through the same for everyone else there? This book could easily have benefited from being about 100 pages tighter, especially when the problems, when finally addressed, were so quickly solved.
I also had a problem accepting that Earth culture could be so easily mangled. Currently we have fairly accurate accounts of contemporary living in several different media, but it seems that mostly a corrupted oral version makes it way into the future. Oh, and the terrorist organisation was one of the worst forced co-incidences I've seen for a while.
But what makes this book so good are the characters. Anji, especially, is wonderfully done. We know from Transit that sometimes new characters might not be faithfully represented in the first book following their entrance, but this Anji is wonderful. Yes, I do think there were differences from Colin Brake's version, but I like this Anji better, she seems more believable in, ironically, an alien setting. I also liked the touch of Anji's e-mails. I was reminded of Benny's diary entries, but that is a somewhat inevitable comparison. I hope that other authors will use them. There's also a small chance that the events near the end with the Machine might have further consequences, but I'm not going to be surprised if nothing pans out.
Fitz usually irritates me just from him being himself, which I guess shows how well done he is. I liked him here, he stays himself while coping with the numerously strange situations he is put in. There was some introspection about events of Interference, which I thought should have happened a long time ago, but Jacqueline Rayner indulges in this introspection without dealing with it, in a way I don't want to give away.
The royal family and hangers-on were simplified and a little stereotypical as characters go, but that's not to say that they weren't effective, the triplets being one of my favourite characters, to put it in a way that says a lot about their relationship. Elvis was an interesting cameo, but top of the list has to be Princess Leia.
The Doctor, now released from his incarceration on earth, still remains much as he is. He's still lost about himself as he was before, Fitz's prompting of memories notwithstanding. While now free physically, he's still trapped mentally, and this provides much of his driving force and motivation here.
I enjoyed Earthworld, despite the excessive page count for the story, a fun tale that entertains. A very worthy read.
A Review by Mike Morris 6/7/01
The Stuck on Earth arc is over; the Doctor's gone a-wanderin' again. BBC Books ain't done anything by halves, either; as if to compensate for six books of familiar settings, they've given us a book that's (slightly selfconsciously) bananas.
EarthWorld is a difficult one to review, simply because its tone, its prose, its plot veers so wildly in quality and mood that I'm not sure if it's bloody awful, or quite brilliant, or just plain silly. About all I can say is that I did really enjoy it. I think.
The first sixty pages or so are, I think, honest-to-goodness awful. Awful in a tosh-but-fun way, but they're really very dodgy indeed. Our heroes find themselves in a theme park where dinosaurs run about and Jurassic Park (or possibly Blood Heat) looms on the horizon. Lots of people run about, the scenes change as we jump from era to era and there's plenty of jokes. Kind of fun, really.
So what's the problem? Well, it's the prose. I've heard of point-of-view, but this is ridiculous. We're so far inside character's heads that we're in danger of coming out the other side. Every little thought that Fitz and Anji have is written down, so that most of the action is written passively. The sheer weight of Fitz and Anji's 'terrible internal angst' (you know the sort of thing) fights against the pleasant skippiness of the opening section, and it's all a bit bemusing and unsatisfying, falling heavily between two stools.
Which isn't to say it's not entertaining. The images are so vivid, the jokes just keep coming, and there's so much running about, getting captured and recaptured and all that, replete with some well-cool robots that sound like they've fallen out of THX 1138, that EarthWorld manages to be fun despite its limitations. It's not the silly bits that are the problem, actually, it's the serious angsty stuff. It seems out of place, artificial. Some bits are nice (Anji's mental e-mails to Dave), but it's overcooked and, well, far sillier than all the "silly" stuff, if you know what I mean...
But EarthWorld gets a lot better without ever losing its energy. Some of the jokes are laugh-out-loud stuff (I loved the bit with the Sphinx) and the point-of-view improves. As a result the crazy environment gets more attention and, well, it really is a corker. The historical inaccuracies of the EarthWorld theme park are damn funny, the triplets are somehow amusing and disturbing at once, and the teenage terrorists are stereotypical but believable (who's been watching The Space Museum, then?). The only criticism I can make is that it's just a little too self-aware, too self-consciously zany - Fitz and Anji spend a lot of their time throwing their eyes to heaven and saying how nuts this all is, until at times EarthWorld seems like one of those guys at parties who jumps up and down going "I'm mad, me"... one reviewer has already said that oddball stories (which EarthWorld undoubtedly is) need weight to really work. I wouldn't go that far, but they do have to take themselves seriously; the Kangs work because their rituals are portrayed seriously, and the Chief Clown wouldn't have been so scary if Ace had made a cutting comment or two. EarthWorld doesn't quite pull this trick off, and at times the zaniness is irritating. There are a couple of exceptions; Fitz's duel to the death with an... odd opponent is one of them.
The regulars all do okay. Fitz being a rock star is fun, although all his worrying over the Faction Copy thing is at least a year too late, and as such a bit dukamlcfff... sorry, dozed off for a moment. Anji does okay, she's assured and plausible, and beautifully insensitive at times. I like her, but only just, and that's a nice thing to play with.
The Doctor's in his eejit persona early on, but later on reveals a callous side that's very well handled. The portrayal is slightly at odds with the way he's been written lately, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing. The good thing about the Eighth Doctor is that he's largely a print Doctor at this stage, and so is far more of a chameleonic character than any of the others could ever be. I think he works quite well here, especially later on.
It's in the second half that EarthWorld really takes off. The President's a good character, and the triplets are effective, but what's most impressive is the way all the layers of wackiness are peeled away, revealing a simple human tragedy involving a man, his wife and their family, and that works really well. It's so damn refreshing to read a Who book where the world isn't threatened for a change, and the fact that the finale is so small-scale after such a wild story is just superb. Impressive stuff.
I get the feeling, re-reading what I've just written, that I'm being overly-negative. I think the reason is that EarthWorld, fun though it is, is nowhere near the best that its author can produce. I have a suspicion that she can do everything she's done here much, much better.
That said, this is still well worth a read, and I await Jac Rayner's next offering eagerly. It might just be a cracker.
A Review by Eva Palmerton 12/7/01
This one was incredibly fun! This book is what you get when you cross WestWorld and Jurassic Park, throwing in a hint of Galaxy Quest (minus the attention to detail) and featuring the alternate universe evil incarnations of the three princesses from the novel "Black Trillium"... What a great romp!
I thought the writing was very good. Fitz and Anji were well done. Their moments of introspection brought a necessary bit of levity to the story. Doc 8 had a far better sense of humour than in most books, which I think was perfectly fine but I'm sure many people would think was completely out of character for him. There may have been a few too many homicidal maniacs running about, but that only made the story more hilarious! I was having too much fun to seriously look for plot holes, but there weren't any terribly obvious flaws jumping out at me. Or maybe I noticed some but just thought they were intentional. I absolutely loved the wonderful misinterpretations of Earth history, especially the Arthurian legend. There were some frightfully bad references thrown in here and there, but those were easy enough to overlook. I'll probably re-read this one a couple times...
I would like to see more stories of this sort, but I doubt that will happen in the EDAs. So please let Rayner write a few Doc 3 stories. I think she would do an excellent job with Pertwee!
Does Who have to serious? by Joe Ford 1/8/01
EarthWorld is a refreshing change for a range that has become far too serious. What a joy to see so many places, loony characters and strange twists crammed into 252 pages of Who fiction.
None of the characters are stunningly original but they all contribute nicely to the story. It was very amusing to see what the sadistic triplets would get up to next or how stupidly brave the 'rebels' really were.
The regulars are handled perfectly. The Anji we meet here is clearly the result of a female writer and whether it's worrying about her armpits smelling or being afraid to take off her top in the presence of three adolescent teens she comes across as a very real person in a very bizarre situation. I loved the way she slowly began to trust the Doctor and Fitz and how she suddenly started thinking about further adventures in the TARDIS rather than heading straight home.
Fitz in action is hysterical. A natural wimp, but with a good heart, I warmed to him more here than in almost all of the other novels. His death match with 'Elvis' was brilliant!
This is the eighth Doctor that I want to read about. Smart, hyper, compassionate, jumping into action on a whim. This is the kinda guy I would want to travel around space with.
And the prose? Jac Rayner wrote the fantastic audio The Marian Conspiracy so I was expecting something special. This book just shows her versatility as this was the complete opposite, frothy and entertaining rather than factual and serious. She briskly moved the plot along nicely, little character vignettes scattered about as the characters pushed on through vastly different locations. Lots of funny bits too, War Machines in 60's London? Evil sister Morgan, Leigh and Fay? Great stuff!
Read this book as a reminder that Doctor Who can be good fun. Justin Richards, top editor, needs to commision more books like this!
Earth-shocker! by Jason A. Miller 4/12/01
That's the last time I judge a book by its cover. Or by its back-cover blurb. Or, for that matter, by its first 180 pages. EarthWorld sure pulled the wool over my eyes. I'm only glad that I kept reading through to the final 70 pages so that I could be so pleasantly surprised.
It's true that Jac Rayner is the first female to write (on her own) an entire Doctor Who novel since way, way back in 1996. And like Kate Orman's Return of the Living Dad, EarthWorld is primarily a comedy novel with an ultimately serious underpinning. But Rayner lacked the immediate reputation that Orman brought when Left-Handed Hummingbird burst onto the scene in 1993. In fact, it's been a very roundabout path to authordom for Rayner -- from dedication to namecheck to audio writer (once adapting a Kate Orman novel, no less) to Short Trips co-editor until, finally, the BBC published EarthWorld under the solo Rayner banner.
Based on the standard menacing-dinosaur cover, the out-of-left field blurb, and Rayner's lack of name-brand recognition, I came with low expectations. I also knew that most Doctor Who author's-first-novels tend begin with 150 pages of token plot exposition and character development, and then bypass the build-up to conclude with a hundred pages of runaround and explosions, where major characters die (to lend an "adult" feel), and maybe there's an unconvincing romance.
Rayner neatly flips the rookie formula on its head. Here the silly running around is confined to the beginning. EarthWorld is a wacky historical theme park, built on "New Jupiter" (tee hee) thousands of years in the future. The android park attractions run amok and kill a lot of people offscreen. An Elvis impersonator strips down to (glittery sequined) boxer shorts for an impromptu game of Celebrity Deathmatch. The name of the President of EarthWorld begins "John F. ...". See where this is going?
Happily, Jac puts back all the stops and submits a final 100 pages that are more serious and thoughtful than anyone had a right to expect, based on the beginning and middle. Characters suddenly interact in touching ways. There's a welcome happy ending for (some of) the EarthWorld characters. The TARDIS crew, fractured for so long, are handled with something akin to tenderness: Fitz gains new resolve, the Doctor begins to function even without his memory, and Anji...... Anji, in only her second book as companion, is rewarded with a stunning 7-page finale that sorts through the trauma that befell her in Escape Velocity, her debut.
And I'll restate -- these final seven pages are simply staggering. The raw emotion is, to use a cliche, nothing we've ever seen before in DW novels. Paul Cornell and Peter Anghelides and Nick Walters and David A McIntee have tried for a similar effect, but Rayner (and I'll try not to allude to the fact that maybe only a woman could write this sort of tangible breath-robbing grief, cause I don't believe that) does it nearly without effort.
Especially coming as they after such a laborious opening, these final pages left me quite satisfied with EarthWorld indeed. Certainly I'm encouraged by the effort it must have taken to give Anji a strong presence in her first two stories; traditionally the new companion barely features for months after their first book. That bodes well for both this new author, and for the continuing health of the EDAs in general. Even if broad, miss-the-mark satire isn't your game, you'll still enjoy a deeper-than-usual adventure.
A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 13/12/01
EarthWorld is quite an oddity. Not only does it do strange and unpredictable things, but one can't even anticipate when it will be bizarre and when it will become sober. The goofiness peaks earlier than one might expect, leaving the rest of the story to take a surprisingly serious turn (though it's still not all that serious). EarthWorld is one of those wacky stories that defy categorization. This is sort of a mixture of Douglas Adams, Terrance Dicks, and Isaac Asimov, with a dash of Red Dwarf and a measure of Blackadder. That doesn't really sum it up, of course, but it does give you the basic idea of what's going on.
The story begins in full romp-mode. Some of the early jokes don't work as well as they might, and right away one wonders if this is going to be a long, dull collection of jokes that are supposed to be funny, but just aren't (the only thing worse than a joke that falls completely flat is a book full of jokes that fall completely flat). Fortunately, the book steadies itself quickly enough and becomes much more assured and enjoyable.
All of the regulars shine with Anji in particular given some very good character development in her first story away from Earth. Placing her in the middle of an action romp while she's still grieving over the events from the previous story might seem like a terrible idea, but its one that ends up being played extremely well. I was worried at first, as all that Anji seemed to be doing was to deliberately distract herself from the issues, and I was afraid that the whole book would be spent avoiding the subject. To my surprise and great enjoyment, the matter was not only brought up, but handled extremely well. The smooth way in which this is handled is fairly indicative of the book as a whole; it starts off light and frothy, but when you aren't looking it becomes something much more subtle and strong.
Any way you look at it, EarthWorld was an enjoyable read. It entertains, it amuses and it is very well written for a first novel. There are some companion issues dealt with here that have needed to be addressed for quite some time, and it's nice to see the book not dance around the problems. The opening sections do have an overly light feel to them, and the way that a few jokes fail may give the reader a little pause to wonder if he/she really wants to finish the rest. Fortunately, EarthWorld is one of the few Doctor Who books that starts mediocre and rises to the occasion. The final seven pages are pure, understated wonderfulness.
Reintroduction by David Massingham 22/9/03
Okay, let my preface this review by saying that I am a VERY casual reader of the Doctor Who novels, EDA or otherwise. The last one I read was The Banquo Legacy, an absolute corker of a book, which confused me a bit at the beginning with some malarky about the TARDIS and that cold hearted lass that was travelling with the Doc and Fitz four novels prior. Thankfully, this arc related stuff didn't really intrude on what was a stunning book unto itself, and I devoured the thing. After that, I put Doctor Who aside to read Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, which whilst possibly the finest book ever written, is bloody long, and the knowledege that no other fantasy or even slightly off kilter book could compare to it resulted in my reading of biographies and so on for the next seven odd months. So, about a year after Banquo, I was reminded of the novels by a review of Anji by Joe Ford. Spurred on by his encouraging words, I decided to skip the reported dud book (Escape Velocity) and begin to sample the companion of Anji with EarthWorld.
Boy things have changed since my day.
What the hell has happened? I don't want to spoil things for those who have yet to read the prior adventures, but I must confess I was slightly thrown off and very much bamboozled by the suggestions that something odd had happened to Fitz earlier in the novels' run (I don't even know how long ago -- The Ancestor Cell, maybe? Don't say it's as far back as Interference!). Furthermore, there is some vague referances to Gallifrey that completely freaked me out. I understood all the stuff about the Doctor's memory loss, cause even I knew that the previous six stories formed the stuck on earth arc. But what I am trying to get across here, is that my reaction to EarthWorld was automatically tempered by the fact that my mind was constantly trying to work out what had been going on before it. Hence, I now understand why Doctor Who is called a "cult" show -- you've gotta read all the novels to follow the story, and, well, I hadn't.
Thankfully, beside those vague references to events past, EarthWorld is a largely self-contained adventure. What struck me for the first third of the story is how... I'm tempted to say bland, but that's not right... let's say "unoriginal", it was. And what struck me more is that the reviews here at the guide suggest the basic premise is somehow "oddball".
EarthWorld's concept is not oddball. There are rebels, run by pimply teens; there are androids in a theme park, which of course go homocidal; there is a regime that governs the planet with Absolute Power, etc etc. Most of the incidental characters are quite bland, with a couple of major exceptions (I'll get to them in a minute). Yet despite this, the first third of EarthWorld is quite pleasant. It washes over you like an unobtrusive gush of air, it occasionally makes you chuckle with some clever parody of a 20th century mainstay (Coca Cola for example), but it never really grabs you and pulls you in.
That is, until the triplets turn up.
I suspect this is the oddball element other reviews were referring to. Asia, Antartica, and Africa are some of the most original and intriguing characters to pop up in a EDA, and there is something intrinsically endearing about these homocidal ladies. The page lights up at their appearance, and when Raynor combines these girls with the single best thing about Doctor Who since the show (Fitz), its pretty hard not to smile at the pure fun of EarthWorld's villains. As the book goes on, the focus transfers from the androids and the theme park to the far more interesting character dynamics between the girls and their parents. It is with these characters that EarthWorld truly becomes worthwhile.
I suppose I should also mention Anji, half the reason I picked up this book in the first place. The jury is out, but she certainly seems better than Sam, but not as interesting as Compassion. The diary entries to her lost boyfriend are an effective way of giving vent to her grief, and are a well-used device, as is her final scene with the Doctor. I think she'll make a nice foil for Fitz, in particular, and am looking forward to seeing their relationship deepen.
All up, EarthWorld succeeds despite a slow introduction. I've learnt a big leason from all this, however: read the books in order. That said, I'm a starving actor with no money to spend on childish books about a flying telephone box and its wacky occupants. So it's off to the library for me, where there is massive gaps in their collection, so the next book I could find after this was History 101.
7 out of 10
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 19/12/03
The Stuck on Earth story arc has finished. The Doctor has returned to his intergalactic travels in his trusty TARDIS. Fitz is still aboard, joined by new companion Anji. So where are they going to go? What far reaches of the imagination can they ascend to? Well, how about a planet known solely for a huge Theme Park based on Earth. The first time the Doctor gets to leave planet Earth for ages - and he ends up back there on another world!
EarthWorld starts off as quite an interesting place. Having enjoyed the Westworlds and Futureworlds of the cinema, I was intrigued what "Zones" the author would conjure up. What we get is Dinosaurs, a mish-mash 20th Century and a few other generic environments. The Park is the focal point of the book - yet EarthWorld is dull - a poor attempt to capture the essence of a particular time period and setting. The park is populated by androids - but there is no Yul Brynner here magnetizing the audience. The androids are as lacking in personality as toasters. Rarely has a strong central idea (EarthWorld Theme Park) been so badly utilized. Only the Medieval Zone is interesting.
The story has its moments for sure. There are passages it fairly races past (the Medieval Zone, the beginning). The Doctor's fumblings with the sonic screwdriver raise a smile. The Doctor driving a double decker bus round the place is humorous. Anji is continually interesting. But overall the book is not that good. The constant slight differences with reality the park produces (eg Marlin not Merlin in the Medieval Zone) are designed to be funny - and only come across as irritating.
It haphazardly meanders throughout. Thankfully it is not a very long book, the typesetting being as spaced out as I can remember any book having. The theme park is always the stage, but it is a dull stage. The main protagonists are 3 psycho teenagers. The attempt at black comedy that ensues is nowhere near the heights of a Holy Terror though. The gore is even offensive in places, and very out of place for the book as a whole.
The Doctor and Anji emerge from the story quite well. The Doctor is his "interested in everything" best. This Doctor is becoming one of the best characterized in the whole of DW. McGann takes the most credit for this - but the BBC Books writers have been inspired with their development of his personality. Anji carries on the "promising companion" label of Escape Velocity. Her phone messages are particularly enlightening, as recent events are shown to be profoundly affect her, as they should. Fitz is a big disappointment in this book. He is embarassing and unlikeable, and companions should never be this.
This book is not one of my favourites - far from it. It is futuristic nonsense. Psycho children, genetics gone wild, earth obsessed businessmen. It's a mess of a story. Only the Doctor's and Anji's involvement made this worth reading and finishing. 5/10.
Colourful... by Joe Ford 1/12/04
Thanks to the strong opinions of about three people over at Outpost Gallifrey who seem determined to poison any intelligent, positive discussion of Doctor Who books, I was under the erroneous impression that EarthWorld was an unpopular book. Then I took a look at a number of reviews, both on the Ratings Guide and Outpost Gallifrey and to my surprise I found out of sixteen odd reviews, 14 were extremely positive and two were on the fence. I realise this handful of people are not responsible for the collective opinion on Jac Rayner's debut but on a statistical level, 14 out of 16 is overwhelmingly encouraging.
I too found myself enjoying EarthWorld for the fourth time recently, so much so that I stayed up in to the wee small hours to finish it off. It is possibly the most interesting book to discuss because of what it achieves and the direction it takes the books.
For a start it is a damn relief to get back into outer space after six thematically linked earthbound stories. As much as I admire and enjoyed this one hundred year stint on Earth I am fully aware that the Doctor is as much a citizen of the universe and after collecting himself together he should blast off to alien worlds again, righting wrongs and causing mischief. So what does Jac Rayner decide to do? Set the book on New Jupiter, a planet where the Earth is revered and celebrated, most specifically in the brand spanking new theme park... EarthWorld! Earth! You just cannot get away from it! Indeed Vanishing Point (the book that follows this) is a mock Earth type world too and Eater of Wasps (the book after that) is set on Earth too! It's not until Kate Orman's smashing Year of Intelligent Tigers that we come across anything remotely alien and it was not a moment too soon.
There was something creepy and hilarious about how the creators of EarthWorld completely botch their interpretation of Earth history, this being set far into the future. It begs the immortal question: is our own interpretation of history correct or just how we have chosen to remember them? Whilst we can laugh ourselves silly idea the sight of War Machines trundling through London handing out post and the delicacies of the twentieth century known as fishy chips and cheese on toes and "Which English policeman was well known for his seaside boxing matches" (Winston Churchill apparently when he declared "We shall fight on the beaches!") the idea of having your life remembered in the future, so WRONG is really disturbing. It almost makes the culture we live in today completely redundant, if we are not going to affect anything to come and merely be remembered as quaint nostalgia with all the details wrong then what the hell is the point? Fitz and Anji's growing frustration and horror at just how false this interpretation of history is (the jumbled up Arthurian legends is a good example), is easy to sympathise with.
Of course EarthWorld is also the first book to deal with Anji in any great depth after her suspicious debut in Colin Brake's substandard Escape Velocity. It is nothing short of a miracle what Jacqueline achieves here, managing to take a one-note cipher and flesh her out with considerable skill. She does this by taking the unique perspective of a lady of the year 2001 and planting her in a situation of utter absurdity, far out of her usual area of expertise. It is shocking to realise that this the first time we have dealt with a modern day companion with any real thought in the books. Bernice, Chris and Roz were all from the future, Ace was well integrated before we joined her novel adventures, Sam Jones rarely broke out of her idiot teen mould enough to seem real and Compassion was a TARDIS, this was the first time a real person was travelling with the Doctor, one who worries about her blistered feet, sniffs her armpits for suspicious smells and wishes she had brought a spare pair of underwear. What's even worse for Anji is her complete lack of adventure in her normal life, working her butt off as a futures broker. And the loss of her long time love Dave in the previous story, made worse by the fact that she was on the verge of letting him go before he died. Now she just wants to hold him forever. In short, Anji works, she's just brittle enough to not be maudlin and tough enough to hold her own without becoming a bitch. When she cries her heart out in the last scene, clinging on to the Doctor's chest, I fail to understand how anybody cannot feel for this woman (and unsurprisingly it is those same three people at OG who pegged her the career Nazi, obviously none of them have ever lost anybody in their lives because I found this an honest portrayal of a woman always on the verge of tears when she thinks of her dead companion).
Despite being the first EDA since... well, ever... to bother to have a sense of humour, EarthWorld is more of a tragedy really with the feeling of loss hanging over the book. Anji has lost her lover and is trying to deal with the consequences of that. Fitz has lost his identity and is trying to come terms with that. The Doctor has lost his memories (and home planet although he isn't aware of that) and is trying to piece his life back together. The President has lost his wife and the Trips have lost their mother and their minds. This yawning feeling of something missing lends the book a sense of melancholy but this has the reverse effect of providing an uplifting finish as everybody decides to get on with their lives, despite their handicaps.
I will say one this for the EDAs, they do come through in the end. I'll say something else too, that they always leave it far too late! Just like the Doctor's amnesia was given a highly satisfactory examination in this year's Halflife, three years after he lost his memory (!!!), Fitz's Remote-personality is touched upon in EarthWorld, no doubt confusing anybody who has joined the book range at this good hopping-on juncture. This is seventeen books after Interference and it is the first time Fitz has felt any grief for his other self's fate. The story needed to be told, if nothing else it allows us to see Fitz in a brand new light with loads of his (or rather the other Fitz's) history coming to light and it is clear new editor Justin Richards wants shot of this hanging thread, dealing with it as he does as soon as he possibly can in his tenure.
There are some startling scenes where Fitz opens out to us. I especially liked his trip through the Memory Machine (he's right, how can anything good be called that!) where he is forced to live his life backwards, with all his recent experiences spiralling back into his pre-remote life, right up to his birth! It's superbly written and gets us closer to Fitz than ever before. When Anji meets up with Fitz and he is curled up in a ball claiming he is not Fitz you understand with crystal clarity where he is coming from. This is worthwhile, interesting development (in a way that any development with Ace was lousy) that proves that even reliable, everyday Fitz is capable of surprising his audience.
There are lots and lots of references to the Doctor's sieve-like memory, some more poignant than others. At this point he is truly ignorant of his previous lifestyle, this being for all intents and purposes his first ever trip in the TARDIS. He doesn't know how the sonic screwdriver works, thinks Sam is a man and jumps at the chance to regain his former identity at the story's climax. He's also extremely verbose and cheery, reeling off long, long speeches, loaded with good humour and yet still has a kick of nastiness he gained when losing his memory. It's not the eighth Doctor at his all-time best because the story doesn't take the same time with him as it does with Fitz and Anji but he is still damn likable and fun and a little scary in places.
All this solid character work might lead you to believe this is a perfect Doctor Who novel. I would never claim that and indeed the book meanders all over the joint for the first one hundred pages. There is so much running about but not actually achieving anything I can understand why people would get frustrated, much of the juicy stuff comes in the second half, which manages to subvert the comical tone of the first by producing a startlingly emotional climax. Boosting the aimless beginning is a strong number of bloody good jokes (usually at Anji or Fitz's expense) and I have to admit I did roar at quite a few (I love Anji's cold dismissal of Fitz's comment that he used travel around in a stroppy redhead).
Where the book becomes unputdownable is when we suddenly become aware of the dynamics of the secondary characters, at first the President, Hanstrum and the Triplets look like they are there to pad out the plot but it soon becomes clear they are vital to the story's success, Rayner managing to inject a lot of pathos to the situation. I loved the scene where the Doctor reveals to the President that the trips did not kill his wife and that their imprisonment was unnecessary, you suddenly realise that all the horrors occurring on EarthWorld are down to a brutal mistake. It is clearly too late to say sorry, the kids are homicidal as hell and the situation has spiralled well out of control. When Asia dies and Antarctica and Africa scream and scream for their dead sister you see a situation that could have been prevented which makes it all the more affecting.
I have a few issues with the prose style, at times Jac seems to be talking directly to the reader. That might seem like daft statement since that is what every writer is supposed to do but here it feels more like she is telling her story after knocking down a few tequilas down the pub, somewhat detail-less and full of dialogue and witty as hell. Imagine your best friend in the world visiting EarthWorld and then breathlessly telling you about her time there down the phone, that's how this book reads at times. Things settle down in the second half but the first half is full of breathless prattle. It's certainly a unique take on the series, strikingly female and very readable but from a stuffy I'm-an-English-student point of view it's not very professional.
EarthWorld is an odd book, whizzing from lowbrow comedy to high drama in its short page length. I found it a breeze to get through and adored the work with the regulars. I don't think it's Jac Rayner's best book but I feel her debut is certainly the most unique and experimental of the lot.