The Face of Evil
Talons of Weng-Chiang
Horror of Fang Rock
Eye of Heaven
Talons of Weng-Chiang and Horror of Fang Rock
Synopsis: The Doctor and Leela find themselves caught on a
Victorian sailing ship bound for Easter Island... where sinister statues move.
A Review by Robert Smith? 11/4/98
I must confess I've always enjoyed Jim Mortimore's books. They have a scope that seems to be grander than most, a style that seems to somehow rise above its own inadequacies, so you're left with an intangible feeling of brilliance, even if there are obvious problems you can point to.
Fortunately, Eye of Heaven is both pure Jim Mortimore and also contains none of the problems that have plagued earlier works (enjoyable as those works might have been).
The supporting characters in Eye of Heaven are, for the most part, well drawn and believable. It's not at all obvious which will survive the length of the book and I think that's a very good thing, as we grow attached to characters without having "This person is going to die" stapled to their foreheads.
However, by far the most important character in this book is Leela, in her first past Doctor outing and only her second appearance in an original novel. Mortimore has made full use of the character, with many passages narrated from her point of view, including her tribal history, her tribal customs (especially the 'prayers' she recites) but perhaps most importantly her faults. On more than one occasion her judgment proves inadequate or plain wrong, but this only serves to strengthen her as a character, because she's simply behaving as a member of the Sevateem would when faced with a society as alien as nineteenth century England. And best of all, this isn't dwelt upon by Mortimore, just presented to the reader directly, leaving them to make up their own minds about who has the moral superiority.
Having most of the book told in the first person works extremely well, taking what would otherwise be a fairly dull story and livening it up as we see the same events from different perspectives. The only problem I had with this, as a fan, was the two chapters from the Doctor's perspective. I feel that the Doctor, even the fourth, works far better as a character when seen externally. It allows us, as readers, to layer the Doctor with far more subtleties than probably exist. Reading the chapters from the Doctor's perspective only point out just how inadequate even someone with Mortimore's obvious talent is at grasping onto the character. However, that said, even a passage from the Doctor's point of view is rare, so I give lots of bonus points for experimenting with entire chapters like this.
In short, I am very, very impressed by this book. The fact that it easily stands head and shoulders above not only the BBC Past Doctor Books, but indeed the Virgin Missing Adventures is a testament both to itself and also to the general weaknesses that seem inherent in those lines. I think Eye of Heaven shows that those weaknesses don't have to be weaknesses at all. I thoroughly recommend this as an example of just how magnificent Doctor Who can be, if only it tried a bit more and more often.
I Challenge You to Put the Chapters in Order by Daniel Coggins 28/4/98
Eye of Heaven is the only non-TV Leela I've ever read, and the parts presented from her point of view work well. The first-person element adds to the story no end. Without it, the story would be pretty dull. Firstly, a word of warning. Do not try to read this book late at night after a tiring day. You will give yourself an incredibly painful headache. Now-- to the review.
This book can work spectacularly well at times, but fail awfully at others. Particularly useless are the sections from the 'jolly' fourth Doctor's point of view. He seems extremely miserable. Sadly these are critical in the story's structure. And about halfway through the chapters become presented in absolutely random order. Arrrggghhhh!!! A fate worse than death.
The final, and worse bad bit is Leela's adventure. In short, this sub-plot has her triumphing in one-on-one combat with a shark, steering a whale like a strange and fabulous steed, and riding in the belly of the said beast's corpse through a typhoon, kind enough to drop her and her travelling wally Henry (or something) on their destination, Easter Island. And then the plot becomes complex and even more random. Arrrrrrrrrggggghhhhh!!!!!!!!
The good bits: The earlier non-order chaptering is quite good. But, despite this I haven't read this book again. If you absolutely abhor the Fourth doctor/Leela partnership, this book would be best avoided then. Otherwise, consider it well.
A Review by Rueben Herfindahl 6/8/99
Eye of Heaven is setup by the Doctor thinking that Leela needs to know more about her past. So he takes her to Victorian England and quickly finds an expadition he would like to fund. So the Doctor buys a ship (one of the rare examples of the Doctor using his wealth) and hires a crew to take him and Leela to Easter Island.
The most interesting thing (and admittedly the thing which scared me the most at first) is the use of a first person anrrative throughout the book. My experience with first person narrative, for the most part, has been negative. Aside from Robinson Crusoe, it's been tough to find a book that does it right. Suprisingly Eye of Heaven does just that. It pulls off a brilliant switching of narrative between Leela (giving us an excellent outlook into her life, past and amusing religious background), the Doctor (suitable vague) and the supporting charecters. Up until the very end this works well. There is a short chapter or two where this falls completly flat, but for the most part this is executed suprisingly well.
The story itself is quite gripping. There is a genuine mystery about the origins of the Moai (the Easter Island monoliths) and the fate of the islanders. It only falls flat towards the end. The origin itself falls quite flat (why would an alien race use huge rocks to spread a virus) and the sense of wonder about them is obviously pulled directly from Contact (at least the author is honest about his infuences).
One of the most refreshing things about Eye of Heaven is that there are no visits from "guest stars". The BBC line was beginning to feel like the DWM strips in that a return villian had to show up in each story.
Overall a great read which expands the boundaries for Past Doctor Adventures, but also another victim to the rushed resolution syndrome.
A Review by Sean Gaffney 25/10/99
Ah, Jim Mortimore. An author I have DEFINITE mixed feelings about. Sure he was ordered to break Benny and Jason apart, but did he have to ENJOY it so much? Anyway, Eye of Heaven is his latest...and luckily, it has almost none of the problems that Eternity Weeps did.
Well, this book caught me by surprise. Between the author, the stylistic problems, and yet MORE first-person prose, I was pretty sure I wouldn't care for it. For the most part, I was wrong, as Eye manages to leap over its format and paints an excellent story.
PLOT: Complex, even without the flashbacks and flashforwards. There is a small bit where the novel stops so that the Doctor can explain the rest of the plot, but hey, Doctor Who did that a lot. More importantly, the moai, Stockwood's guilt and the pirates all come together, and are rather intriguing. A couple of points are left open (Richards and Royston's involvement, the beginning of the sea voyage), but that's a minor quibble.
THE DOCTOR: Actually, probably the book's main flaw. He's in the background for most of the book, which is fine. He seems very well done when we see him through other people's eyes, which is fine. The two chapters from his POV, however, are utterly disastrous. They tend to make the Doctor seem incredibly egotistical, which Tom's doc could be, but the first person style makes it out of place. It just...it felt incredibly WRONG.
LEELA: And this is the book's big success. Leela was never given a novel of her own by Virgin, so this (not counting Lungbarrow) is her debut. And what a debut it is! Leela is the embodiment of life here, bursting with energy, casually mentioning how she will slay her enemies, killing a giant squid (!) in a scene which might border on 'Oh, come ON now!' if it weren't done with such flair. Furthermore, her philosophy proves to be a great help to Stockwood, who in this book gets to represent death.
STOCKWOOD: Chillingly portrayed, I suspect there's a great deal of Jim in him. His guilt and anguish are written as believable without ever becoming mawkish, and his eventual ability to overcome that guilt brings a smile.
ROYSTON: A character who is mostly seen through Leela's eyes. She doesn't trust him through 90% of the book, and so we find it difficult to as well. I would have liked more scenes between him and Richards, though.
RICHARDS: Like the Doctor, she's a small presence in this book in person, yet makes herself felt throughout. Her hatred, and eventual suicide, are a mirror to Stockwood - as opposed to Leela, his opposite - and we feel for her when she dies.
OTHERS: The pirate captian is nicely chilling. I agree with whoever wrote in their review that it was nice to see a Mortimore book with characters who DIDN'T have 'I am doomed' stamped on their foreheads. You CARE about these people.
STYLE: Forward, back, first the middle, then the beginning, then the end, then the middle. Despite all this, it works and flows together - I don't know if I'd have liked it as much if it were linear. Jim's prose, as usual, is one of his greatest strengths - it saved Eternity Weeps from the dungeon, and makes this book soar. Jim writes gorgeously.
OVERALL: Aside from the 2 chapters from the Doctor's POV, which REALLY grated, and some plot ends that weren't quite tied up, this book is fantastic. And you can quote me on that. ^_^
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 19/8/01
Being the first and long overdue PDA to feature The Fourth Doctor and Leela, it would be fair to expect something of a good standard, and Jim Mortimore doesn't disappoint. The plot presents the reader with enough of a mystery to keep you guessing and the characterisation is high; of Leela that is. Here we get an insight into her thoughts and actions, thanks to the narrative structure of the book. The Doctor isn't as high, but recognisable certainly (maybe we shouldn`t be privy to his thoughts.) The supporting players are strong too and this only adds to the solidity of the tale as a whole. Jim Mortimore`s best DW since Blood Heat.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 10/9/03
When one thinks of Jim Mortimore, one thinks of big concepts, mass slaughter, companion killing and some of the biggest and most audacious ideas ever put between the covers of a Doctor Who Novel.
Eye of Heaven is no exception. How else can you explain the multiple first person narrators, the fractured time lines, the use of the Rapa Nui stone idols as aliens.
Despite the fragmented narrative, Eye of Heaven is easy to follow. The chapters are set up in a way where the events explained fall into an internal order, if not chronological. The story itself is about Horace Stockwood, an anthropologist, returning to Rapa Nui 30 years after stealing a sacred artifact from the native peoples and abandoning his partner. The 4th Doctor and Leela become involved when the Doctor decides to fund the return trip to the island. Also involved is James Royston, Stockwood's only remaining friend, and Jennifer Richards, the sister of the man Stockwood left behind, who wants to kill Stockwood for his abandonment.
I loved the first person narratives that Mortimore uses. Each character stands out and is easily identifiable within the first paragraph. It's an interesting way to perceive the events as they happen. Even the Doctor has two chapters for himself, both well done and showing a mix of his human and alien elements.
The star of the show, is Leela. Almost half of the chapters are from her eyes, and are beautifully done. We learn what makes her tick, how she reacts to the events as they occur and much of her personal history and tribal customs. Awe inspiring stuff.
As usual, Mortimore gives a really odd alien creation with has much unexplained, and uses powers that border on the supernatural as well as science so advanced it might as well be called magic (Clarke's Law rules again). We also have a few nasty moral dilemmas tossed into the mix and the inevitable extinction of a people.
I don't want to say much more about Eye of Heaven, mainly because it is a book that readers should go into as cold as possible. It's a fantastic book, one that the BBC line should be congratulated for putting out. Highly recommended.
A Review by Finn Clark 10/5/04
Absolutely fantastic. A Mortimore book for Mortimore-haters, showcasing his best traits (it's wonderfully written and full of imagination) while avoiding his more offputting ones (its death toll can be reckoned by counting heads instead of solar systems). His Leela is the best piece of characterisation in any Mortimore novel, but in my opinion it's also the most spectacular in any Doctor Who novel to date. Not necessarily the deepest, but certainly the most thorough. The non-linear narrative might confuse some readers, but if you get past that you'll actually find a very straightforward tale.
That narrative structure threw me when I first read this in 1998. Eye of Heaven has non-sequential first-person chapters by various narrators, chopping and changing as the story jumps back and forth in time. I could perceive some kind of pattern, but I couldn't be bothered to backtrack and put it together. Too much like hard work.
In fact the book's structure is simple. The chapters alternate between the A and B stories, one following directly on from the other. Both stories end halfway through, then Part Two works just like Part One. It's symmetrical! Theoretically it should be easy to keep track of things since the A and B stories take place in wildly different settings, but some of the later chapters are too stream-of-consciousness for you to be able to tell. Occasional flashbacks and changes of narrator don't help either. To save your brain cells, here's a spoiler-free story map:
Prologue (October 1842) = thirty years before the main action.
Part One (August-December 1872) = split into two stories, one in London and the other on the open seas. Story A is told in the even-numbered chapters (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14) and tells us what happened before Story B in the odd-numbered chapters (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13).
Part Two (December 1872) = again split into two stories, each in a completely different setting. To describe those settings here would be a spoiler! As before, the story in the even-numbered chapters (16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28) leads up to the story in the odd-numbered chapters (15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27).
Epilogue (December 1902) = thirty years after the main action.
I can see how people might get thrown by this, but it's a clever device. It creates unusual narrative tensions (bad things have happened but we don't know why, when or how) and if you're paying attention the book provides everything you need. The information's all there. You've just got to process it. Developments in the A and B stories echo each other, while even the info-dump flashback scenes have symmetry.
Another benefit of this non-linear structure is that it helps Jim with his biggest bugbear: the ending. Since he writes from the balls instead of planning everything in detail, if one of his books spirals out of control then he tends to ride the wave to hell instead of trying to pull things back for a comprehensible ending. Thus not infrequently a Mortimore novel will crash into an apocalypse of billions of deaths and/or stream-of-consciousness mysticism that probably didn't even make sense to the author. Eye of Heaven doesn't do that. Its alternating chapters spread the weirdness in relatively digestible chunks through the last third of the book, reserving for the climax some straightforward action that strict chronological order would tuck away on page 210.
However I didn't love Eye of Heaven for its story. It's good but nothing extraordinary. I even liked the whale chapter. It's extreme, but what did you expect in a Mortimore novel?
No, what I love about Eye of Heaven is Leela.
This woman is awesome in every imaginable way. I couldn't get enough of her. It's hard to imagine many authors so comprehensively inhabiting the mindset of an alien savage, but then Jim's work often tends to feel less like a novel than a telepathic scream from Planet Mortimore. Dunno where that is, but it's not in our solar system. This is a detailed, powerful recreation that's light-years beyond anything else that's been done with the character, including three novels from Leela's creator... and sometimes it's even funny! Jim's Leela doesn't just kick arse, she flays it alive and offers it as a sacrifice to placate the gods.
She's ignorant in wonderful ways, but not stupid. After learning about glass, she then recognises it in other contexts (despite what some have thought, that's not a continuity error). She's scary, proud, quick to anger and good at what she does. You'll learn all kinds of Sevateem background, e.g. her sister Ennia who died before Leela was born, the death-god Cryuni (but see p155), a timescale of "nine-days" (though she knows what a week is) and an interesting perspective on cannibalism on p96. It's a good thing the Doctor never played dead for too long in Leela's presence.
The non-Leela chapters couldn't possibly compare, but they're still fun. I liked the incidental characters, though the first-person 4th Doctor chapters don't really work. They're convincingly alien, but not convincingly Tom Baker. Points for effort, I guess.
There's a theme of primitives vs. civilisation. Depending on your viewpoint, anyone could be the real savage. The multiple first-person narration is a huge part of this, showing us the world through different mindsets. Leela in Victorian England is the most obvious culture clash, but we also have Easter Islanders, the Doctor, some utter bastards and a vanished alien civilisation. Is our anthropologist really more advanced than the people he studies? Leela is wise because she knows that she's ignorant - and yet of course she's from an era many millennia beyond 1872. There's a line on p250 ("You are a clever savage!") which almost encapsulates the novel, especially since the Doctor is congratulating Leela on something that didn't need cleverness at all.
The more you study this novel, the more it rewards you. On finishing the first half I doubled back and started rereading the odd-numbered chapters that followed on from the story in the even-numbered chapters I'd just finished. (Only Jim Mortimore could make me write that sentence.) However this isn't some sterile brainteaser. Eye of Heaven rewards on all levels - it's intelligent, it's wonderfully written and thanks to Leela it's pants-wettingly cool. It's bewildered many people in its time, myself included, but rereading it was a revelation.
Leela: Warrior Princess by Matthew Harris 25/6/04
Wow, this is a good book. Sod it, it's an actual great book.
On one level, it's probably (I'm writing this at the apex of my four-book pre-Campaign Mortimore-athon effort thingy) the easiest read you'll get from Mortimore, simply because he doesn't kill any old regulars, or attempt to destroy the universe at any time (well, okay, the solar system is under threat toward the end, but it almost seems like an in-joke, it's so casually introduced and dealt with), and only about three or four named characters (that you'll know enough to care about) die. But then, almost to compensate, Jimbo messes with the structure of the book, apparently to make it as difficult to follow as possible. Phew.
It's similar to Eternity Weeps in that different chapters are narrated by different characters. Unlike Eternity Weeps, with the flip-flopping from Benny to Jason, there's about five of them, in different places, at different times, and it's not always immediately obvious who we're listening to at any time (unless, of course, we're listening to Leela... but I'll come back to that) To complicate things further, it swaps timescales as well: it's simple, really, but it doesn't seem like it while you're there. I won't repeat Finn Clark's flowchart-like explanation because it would be dull, but I would advise that you read it first. Knowing the structure in advance helped me settle down faster; I may have ended up going genuinely insane trying to follow it. Mind you, I surprised myself by cracking Adventuress of Henrietta Street, so anything's possible. The structure really isn't a problem once you're in, largely because the plot is so simple. It's very Arthur C Clarke artefact-flavoured, which is a favourite thing of Mortimore's. The bits in the final third exploring the ship were very reminiscent of Rendezvous With Rama. The plot that hangs around is a fairly simple blue-key-for-the-blue-door sort of a thing; the details are outlined by the Doctor in a shameless infodump late in the game.
So anyway, you've got your multiple narrators, your nice 'n' easy plot and your mindboggling structure. You also have Rapa Nui, which I've always kind of liked for no readily apparent reason. Good-good. The island is envoked in frankly brilliant fashion in the fabulous prologue: a sort of Rough Guide to Hell, which Mortimore seems to excel in. And then... the first chapter proper is also the first Leela chapter. This is what they all want!
Leela in this book is completely, completely brilliant, so completely that it's an absolute disgrace that she was never in an MA - or indeed anything until as late as Lungbarrow. In that she was fun, but in this she's terrific. She may be ignorant of the details of these strange alien cultures, but she's not stupid. At times she's scary. At others frankly terrifying. At still others she's moving - the moments dealing with her sister, for example. And always you can tell that she is not for the messing-with. She's a powerful character. It's incredible how casually detailed it is: never for a millisecond did I believe that she had not been brought up in that forest, in that tribe. I could feel the Sevateem in her. That's a very weird thing to type. But it's true. Eye of Heaven should be required reading (with eyes held open with hat-pins) for anyone wanting to write any characters in anything, ever. She pilots a god-damned whale across a sodding-well tidal wave and I'm thinking yeah, she'd do that. Awesome.
The Doctor's not so good - almost no-one could be - but he's acceptable. We don't see much of him. When we see him in the third-person, he's probably about as TomDoc as Jimbo could manage on the printed page. You do have to make concessions with fourth Doctor PDAs. There's two chapters from his perspective and, I have to say, Jimbo does a good job of doing "the Doctor" - he's totally alien and completely off-centre - but it's not Tom. Still, it's a worthy attempt (certainly more than Ghost Ship - "hot and embarrassed" my arse).
Mortimore's own characters are great too. Horace is tortured in a realistic way. We see inside his head and we actually feel his pain. In lesser hands he could have been annoying, or worse: funny. Nope. His "punishment" is one of the most nonchalantly horrible things I've ever read. Royston is a tool, but again in a very real-world way. Jennifer Richards is interesting - she seemed to me to be there partly to provide contrast with Leela. She's as single-minded, but as Mortimore makes fairly clear at the "ending" (that is, the final chapter; I don't remember if it's chronologically the ending or not), she hasn't thought things through quite as well as Leela tends to. She goes by the gut. She's scary in that standing-there-and-staring way that really builds up in the gut.
(Jimbo isn't above putting his mates into his books, by the way. Take a look at that first mate's name in the prologue.)
Basically, this is an incredible book. An awesome lead character in Leela - make no mistake, she's the lead - a great, risky structure, compelling characters, oh, and there's this Doctor person in it as well. Recommended. Me, I'm off to the Bellania system to work on my tan. (How's that? Too laboured?)
Savage potential... by Joe Ford 7/12/04
Despite the fact that this book has Jim Mortimore's least impressive plot, for me it is his most absorbing novel. It is an astonishing exercise in character narration, the entire story told in the first person, mostly from Leela's point of view but with the secondary characters (and the Doctor) getting in on the action too. It is about time somebody realised the potential of writing a book about Leela was and it does not surprise me one bit that it was Jim Mortimore who had this revelation, there isn't any other author I would trust with such a difficult task and he performs admirably. The plot might be fairly average but the writing is very special, Leela proving to be every bit as fascinating as you might imagine.
For capturing a book full of wonder and magic, for planting the reader in the story and allowing them to think, to feel, to experience what the characters are, Eye of Heaven stands out as one of the more remarkable Doctor Who books. What I love is how much of the book is set in in recognisable locations, London, the Pacific, Easter Island (okay I have to admit I don't know this last one quite so well!) but Mortimore manages to make them totally alien and uncomfortable thanks to Leela's unique perspective. It is the strangest of alien worlds for her, a place where hunting is poor, nobody relies on their instincts, traitors are trusted and everybody tries to poison her!
I would have thought this would be a good opportunity to show the Doctor and Leela in the Professor Higgins/Pygmalion light, him teaching her the wonders of the world but they have surprisingly few scenes together and she reaps her wisdom from the secondary cast instead, the Doctor allowing her to find her own way in the book rather than talking down to her. It is her relationship with Stockwood (her best friend) that delights the most; I found it very touching how they continually learnt from each other throughout the book. There was a delightful scene in a park where they discuss all number of subjects, the dead (she fails to understand why we put flowers on graves or even bury them, seeing it as a waste of time. She respects the dead and their honoured position closer to the Gods), heritage (Leela understand that she is alive because her sister died) and hunting (she believes Stockwood is throwing bread to the birds to get them to fight over it and kill each other so they can eat the dead). I found it sweet how he continually stood up for her, even though she is protecting him her manner and social skills are utterly alien to everybody else but Stockwood never hears a bad word against her.
Similarly there is a beautiful scene between Leela and Captain Stuart where he teaches her how to see their sea voyage on a globe. He never patronises her but he manages to get through to her the distances on the globe and how they can be measured in time. It is marvellously clever and quite magical. I loved this scene.
Leela's hunting skills open out a huge number of terrific scenes that would not have been possible with any other companion. She chases Stump through the ship and leaps after him onto an iceberg which cracks and the sea consumes the criminal. Even better are the adventures in the deep sea; the ship intrudes on a quarrel between sharks and a whale, Leela and Royston tossed overboard by a huge wave. Using her hunting instincts she manages to climb aboard the whale and steer him the same way she saw the horses back in London. It sounds so implausible, especially when the whale dies and she is forced to climb his mouth to survive but written on the page from Leela's POV it is never unconvincing and captured with a real sense of magic. That is one of the joy of Doctor Who books, never restrained by realism they can take you on these amazing adventures, full of creative ideas. I told my mum about this book and she dismissed it as unrealistic nonsense but her natural prejudice against the show makes not reading this her loss, not mine.
Whilst I have heard people bemoan the chapters from the Doctor's point of view, not for their ambition but rather their content, I am in two minds about the idea. It does demystify the character somewhat (especially the scatterbrained fourth Doctor) but saying this Mortimore has a damn good stab at this and I could hear Tom Baker's voice as I read. The way he walks from the TARDIS, detects eight different smells immediately and proceeds to piece together an entire string of events going on around him, cleverly showing how his mind works on several levels higher than ours.
The way this book is constructed is deliberately jarring and whilst I understood what was going on I have to question why. There is no reason at all Mortimore couldn't have assembled this book in a linear narrative and the juggled up chapters seemed to be there just to make sure you are really paying attention! You'll have to get out of bed earlier than that to confuse me! I've read (and understood) The Last Resort! The first half works better in this regard, with just two plots running concurrently (the A plot being the voyage over the Pacific and the B plot being the events leading up to their embarkation) and the two wove around each other, complimenting each other (Leela often thinking of events from before the voyage during the A plot which then occur in the B plot). Where this fails in the story's climax where from nowhere the book leaps all over the place, suddenly jumping to the end of the plot, then to the middle of the climax, then back to the start, then middle, then end, then start... piecing together this story was easy but I can see why it would annoy those with a poor attention span and detract from the powerful ending.
For a frightening moment I thought this was going to be another rushed Mortimore ending, Beltempest style. He leaves the twist that the rongo rongo tablet that Stockwood stole from Easter Island is an integral part of an alien transport device right to the last minute and I feared a hurried explanation but this was not the case. An amazing scene from Stockwood's POV, revealing him and Leela skipping from world to world via the moai wormholes and a pooling of facts in an alien library with the Doctor reveals the ingenuity of the aliens' plans very effectively. It is another of those marvellous Doctor Who ideas, aliens who are losing a war on their own planet send out samples of their DNA to other worlds via wormholes to enter hosts on those worlds and keep them hidden until it is safe for them to return home. You can never say Mortimore deals with simple concepts! It is a satisfying explanation to the Stockwood plot, explaining why it was so dangerous for him to steal the rongo rongo.
Filled with glorious observations and some of the best prose to feature in a Doctor Who book I would recommend this book to fans and non-fans alike. It is one of those rare Doctor Who books that deserve a larger readership than just the fans (see also Dead Romance, Camera Obscura, The Glass Prison, The Sleep of Reason) because they are exceptional novels as well as good Doctor Who books.
This book is the equivalent of a huge slice of blackforest gateaux, rich, delicious, almost too good to devour.
A Review by Steve White 1/8/13
Eye of Heaven is the first 4th Doctor novel in the Past Doctor range and as such I felt it should live up to the glory days of the TV series. Does it? Well most people seem to think so, but sadly it falls short for me.
Mortimore has a fairly decent premise going on, but his writing style really lets him down, making what could be an entertaining romp an absolute chore to make sense of. Eye of Heaven is written in a series of diary style entries that are not in chronological order. So one minute everyone is on a boat sailing to Easter Island, the next they are yet to charter the boat, then they are back on the boat again in the next one. It is almost as if Mortimore dropped the chapters then picked them up in the wrong order. It is confusing, adds nothing to the story and would have been better written as a linear tale. There is nothing worse than a chapter ending with someone in peril, only to wait another 3-4 chapters to find out the conclusion. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for messed up chronology in Doctor Who but this isn't the novel for it.
The Doctor in question is the fan favorite: the 4th. Jim Mortimore thankfully gets his characterization right, but he doesn't see much action at all, which is a slight letdown. The bits he is in are well done; there just isn't a lot of him. Leela, on the other hand, is a totally different story. The majority of the book is written from her perspective, which from the outset seems like a good idea, but she was never my favorite character, and her constant savageness grated on me. Mortimore also seemed keen to show her lack of knowledge, yet also has her knowing things she couldn't possibly comprehend. For example, when she meets Stockwood, Leela struggle to understand basic things such as a "glass" and a "newspaper". However, 9 days later she is able to list a pretty wide array of nautical terms, including some I didn't even know. It's easier to have her know it of course, but to me it's very lazy writing and a bit of a letdown given how much Mortimore seems to like mentioning her lack of Earthly knowledge.
The remaining characters are all pretty stereotypical and sadly forgettable. Stockwood is the main character, who stole a tablet from Easter Island 30 years ago and is now going back to prove his theories. At least that's according to the cover blurb but no theories are ever mentioned in the novel. Stockwood really is a stock character, exactly how you'd expect a 19th century explorer to be. Mortimore tries to inject some life into him, but it just doesn't work.
The other crew member of note is Royston, whom Leela hates and wants to kill, yet when she has a chance to do so, and even make it look like an accident, she doesn't and tries to save him instead. Quite what brought around this turnaround isn't explained, and you're questioning her motives, especially after she killed her attacker in cold blood a few chapters previously. Likewise, Richards wants Stockwood dead, yet waits 30 years to try to kill him. It's all very sloppy and adds to my dislike for the book.
The story is the major saving grace of Eye of Heaven. It is genuinely interesting and intriguing, but is let down by Mortimore's fragmented storytelling. If I ignore the fragmentation and the plot holes, then the story is brilliant, really top quality stuff. The ending is rushed, but it makes sense, so I can't really fault it.
In short Eye of Heaven is a mediocre Doctor Who novel that struggles to pique this fan's interest. Whilst the story is entertaining and has the potential to be a truly great novel, it is badly structured and often lazily written, which detracts from the enjoyment the story does offer. Had the novel been written in a linear fashion, then I might be able to forgive the bad characterization and gaping plot holes. However, I really struggled to read this novel, which is never good.