|Authors||Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman|
1-903889-20-0 (standard hardback)
1-903889-21-9 (deluxe hardback)
|Featuring||The Eighth Doctor|
|Synopsis: In ancient Akrotiri, a young girl is learning the mysteries of magic from a tutor, who, quite literally, fell from the skies.|
A Review by Finn Clark 27/9/03
Well, that wasn't what I expected. Like the last Telos novella (Daniel O'Mahony's Cabinet of Light), Fallen Gods is so far from being a normal adventure as to defy its reviewers. To describe or experience Fallen Gods is to remove yourself from ordinary Doctor Who and place yourself somewhere rather closer to literature. It's a little less accessible than Cabinet of Light, but still obviously a fine piece of work.
For a start, it's almost unrecognisable as an OrmanBlum book. Vampire Science, Seeing I and Unnatural History were all densely written, with rich, detailed prose and a profusion of ideas. Fallen Gods ain't that. Instead it's mythological and mythic, with a setting and style that evokes Greek legend. (That title is more literally true than you'd think.) The prose is still carefully crafted, with some admirable turns of phrase, but it doesn't enfold you in its world as did the OrmanBlum's BBC books. It's balder. That doesn't make it bad, just different.
However at the same time it's less literal, more allusive. You can't just skim the pages, but must concentrate to keep a grip on what's happening. Frankly, sometimes it's hard work. As with Cabinet of Light, this book will be more rewarding on subsequent readings, when you already have an idea what's going on and can relax more into things.
As a story... well, I'm not sure. What I read was impressive, but in a fairly detached fashion. I can't help feeling that there's a more gripping version of Fallen Gods just a heart's beat (or perhaps a reread?) away. The characters are good, but there's no sparkle. Everyone's terribly earnest, without a leavening of humour. Okay, there's the Doctor being Doctorish (usually), but everyone else seems to think they're in a Greek tragedy. Of course they are. There's nothing remotely funny about what's going on in this Minoan empire, especially since we know it's doomed to be destroyed. They're living on the slopes of a volcano in more ways than one. We have death, murder, tragedy and everyone taking it very seriously, as I suppose they should. Which makes Fallen Gods at times powerful, but rarely fun.
But having said that, there's at least one killer plot twist. The big one I didn't see coming at all and it's downright chilling. Also the book's central relationship (Alcestis and the Doctor) is a powerful and dynamic one, full of twists and surprises. As Storm Constantine says in her foreword, it "smoulders throughout the story, erotic without being sexual"... though having said that I can't remember reading a more explicit 'sex scene that wasn't' than the end of Section One. You could draw all kinds of parallels from other sources to that relationship, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the myth of Prometheus, which I suppose is a tribute to its richness and complexity. That's good stuff.
The Doctor himself is interesting, not quite the hero of the story but still a pivotal character around which everything revolves. For a while one could almost believe it's any incarnation, but eventually one realises that it's definitely the Justin Richards 8th Doctor. (And inspired by Lloyd Rose's 8DAs, according to the authors' acknowledgements.) He's good too (and he gets a great entrance).
At the end of the day, this doesn't feel very Whoish. It takes itself very seriously, not allowing itself the luxury of banter or light character moments. There's certainly no comedy within its pages. However it tells a well-crafted story that's full of character growth, tragedy and the fate of civilisations. At times it's shocking. It will certainly repay return visits. There's enough meat on its story that it could have survived being expanded to novel length and I suspect I might have enjoyed that version more, but this novella has its own virtues and is certainly well worth reading.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 7/3/04
I have to confess to finding this novella both enlightening and difficult going. There were parts of it I found wonderful and other parts boring. Yes, it's one of those reviews that I have deliberated on, and been confused about - is it a great book, or not so good book? For the last few days I have deliberated about it. Surely we know whether we like a book or not - it's one or the other after all, usually. After much deliberation it's really a combination of good and bad.
Fallen Gods is about the 8th Doctor. It's also about the Greek island of Minos, and its inhabitants. It's all about the ruling class of this island, and their dealings with their Gods. The Doctor is there to train these people up, so they can better deal with these Gods, and to prevent disaster from occuring too soon.
It's mostly about one young lady - Alcestis, and the Doctor's mentorship of her. The Doctor does not restrict his guidance to her though, and the young princes (or their equivalent) gain much from the Doctor's teachings. By far the most interesting scenes of the book are those concerning the Doctor and Alcestis. There's an undercurrent of respect, but also one of longing. As the Doctor looks after Alcestis, there is definitely some sexual tension.
The scenes where the Doctor tells her she looks like an angel. The scenes where Alcestis approaches the Doctor at night. Beautifully written, and full of longing and unattainable love. There's also more emotion in this novella - a love of nature and magic. As Alcestis soars the Time Winds, becoming a mortal God (kind of), there is certainly wonder present. I marvelled at the experiences of the Doctor's young apprentice as she soared the heavens.
Plenty of beauty then, but there were times when the whole thing dragged. The prose stumbled, and I got lost sometimes as to who was speaking to whom. The dialogue is written peculiarly. Instead of "this" we had --this, and I didn't really like --that. The residents of Minos (particularly the male rulers and rulers-to-be) merged together in a nondescript whole.
Really it was only the Doctor and Alcestis that excelled - and for that reason there is plenty to like about Fallen Gods. Overwhelming though throughout, I got the impression that this trying to be some profound Greek epic. I have always struggled with that type of story - and that would explain why I struggled at times here. The book just didn't flow, and for a novella it felt awfully long.
I've heard some good reviews for Fallen Gods, but I'm afraid I can't really join them wholeheartedly. Not bad, just not that good either. 6/10