|ISBN||0 563 40572 4|
|Synopsis: Investigating a palaeontological study of the distant past, Jo Grant vanishes into the past. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Sam visit the future - only to discover the human race never existed at all...|
HomoSapiencide by Sarah G. Hadley 23/6/98
I don't usually like Paul Leonard's books... I find them generally to be chaotic, gruesome and unsatisfying reads. Therefore, I was quite surprised when Genocide turned out to be a very good adventure, full of action, alien culture and prehistoric detail.
A Doctor Who story set in primitive times is no new thing... it's entirely likely that the first ever television adventure, An Unearthly Child, took place in Earth's distant past (although no dialogue within the story ever acknowledges that theory). Genocide, however, proves that cavemen stories can be good.
This is the only BBC Eighth Doctor book I've read, so far, in which Sam seems to be mostly her own character, and not some other companion. Much like Vampire Science, this isn't a clear-cut story of good and bad, and for once, Sam seems to be somewhat undecided too... although she is unwilling to let the Tractites destroy the human race, neither is she very thrilled about killing the peaceful, oxen-like aliens; she exhibits some very confused, human emotions in this story, and they serve as interesting character traits.
The Eighth Doctor, too, is rather different than in other BBC books... he is forced to face the consequences of his past life's decisions and reputation, and deal with the resulting prejudices of the Tractites. Again, his vulnerability surfaces: even after experiencing the brutality of the alien race, the Doctor cannot make a snap decision...and afterwards, one might feel the Seventh Doctor's approach would have been cleaner and quicker for all involved. This reinforces the characterization of the Eighth Doctor as the antithesis of the Seventh, and makes a very clear statement about who the new Doctor is.
The Tractites are interesting characters as well... one can tell that Paul Leonard must've thought about their culture a great deal before putting pen to paper. The secondary human characters, though, are not as good; Jo Grant seems somewhat inconsequential to the plot, and certainly not anything like the Jo we used to know. The archaeologists and human 'baddie' aren't very interesting either, especially Roweena.
Ah yes. This brings me to Roweena, the archaeologist who uses a wheelchair. In what state of unoriginality did the author think her up? I have so far seen three characters in Doctor Who books who use wheelchairs... and this one is decidedly insulting to my intelligence. All Roweena thinks about is the fateful day when she was shot... and while I agree that someone who experienced trauma of that sort would always have disturbing memories, it makes Roweena extremely two-dimensional. If she's still an active archaeologist, surely she's a smart, intelligent individual... so why does she seem so inept and focused on her injury? This doesn't make sense.
However, all said and done, it's only a few character issues that hold the book back, while the story itself excels. I hope Paul Leonard's next book is just as good, if not better...
Flawed But Interesting by Robert Smith? 14/9/98
In many ways, Genocide contains all the elements that have thus far made the eighth Doctor books such a disappointment: old continuity, a mischaracterised eighth Doctor, a too-straightforward plot, bad editing, typesetting and proofreading and, of course, Sam. However, for the first time I'm actually leaving one of these books with a feeling of hope for the future of the line!
Genocide has its problems, to be sure. However, an advantage is that a number of these are actually recognised within the confines of the story, even if they aren't really addressed. The margins are almost ludicrous in their size, as though the book was desperately struggling to make a decent page count and on top of this there's a fair amount of padding! However, none of this really matters, because Genocide is, quite simply, lots of fun to read.
That isn't to say it's necessarily a light book. It isn't, or at least it's trying not to be. But once the plot decides where it's going, things pick up and the book moves along very well, keeping the reader interested and alert.
Sam is her usual self, unfortunately, but Leonard succeeds, as with Dancing the Code, in making Jo much more than she was on TV and yet still consistent with the character seen in the seventies. This is accomplished by the very sensible move of showing, not telling us about her intelligence and resourcefulness, something other authors would do well to adopt for Sam.
The Doctor isn't Tom Baker, fortunately, but he's rarely Paul McGann either. The BBC Doctor seems to be more of a generic Doctor, but with no particular defining characteristics. This is unfortunate, as there were defining characteristics in the telemovie to draw upon, but they weren't as obvious as with other Doctors. Thus far, only Vampire Science has captured the eighth Doctor with any degree of accuracy and sadly I don't expect to see the eighth Doctor too often in this line.
The Tractites are an interesting race, with enough characteristics to give them personality and culture and yet 'visibly' recognisable, being painted in broad strokes, allowing the reader to fill in the details. The developing conflict that arose between Kitig and Mauvril was well realised, showing how a fully rounded alien race can be brought to the page without sounding trite.
The supporting characters vary. Kitig and Mauvril come across well and Rowenna has something of a personality, but Julie has "This woman is going to die" tattooed on her forehead. Jacob is less well presented than he needs to be, changing motivation part way through and finally degenerating into a stock insane bloodthirsty villian in his final few pages.
The moral dilemma the book poses would be a lot more interesting were the choice not essentially made simple by the Doctor's relaisation of the instability of the alternate universe. Had this element not been present, Genocide would have been far stronger and Sam's (and Mauvril's) position probably more sympathetic. I was expecting Jo's party to have caused the initial problem and it's something of a relief to discover that cliche was neatly sidestepped.
Aside from Jo, continuity references are thankfully kept to a minimum, although it's interesting to note that both the Chelonians and Xarax get a mention. The Zygons do get mentioned rather more often than is necessary, but I think this is intended as a way of trying to tie the eighth Doctor chronology together. The Daleks and Davros also get a couple of neat foreshadowing references, which are far more subtle and hence far more effective than the Zygon back references.
There are a number of loose threads left hanging from Genocide, a number intentionally, I'm sure. For instance, the skull discovered by Rowenna and Julie is never explained, but a careful analysis of the events is enough to suggest just where it originates. Unfortunately, some of the other dangling threads are less well presented. Jo's psychic pregognition of the Doctor is barely dealt with and the Doctor knowing who Rowenna is went completely unexplained as far as I could tell. The fact that the author brought this mystery up several times suggests that there was some significance but this is simply abandoned several pages later, as though surviving from an earlier draft.
The explanation for the origins of the time tree is dismissed as though unimportant, which is a bit of a shame considering how pivotal it is to the events. There's an entire sequence lifted directly from Set Piece, with only minimal attempt to file the serial numbers off (and a bit less subtlety). On the other hand, this is actually used to good effect in Genocide, since the fact that a significant proportion of the readership has read Set Piece is used to hint at the truth of the situation. Or maybe not, but I'll be charitable and assume that's what was happening. Oh, and Mawdryn Undead has been retconned again (not that I'm complaining! :-) ).
The style is typical Leonard in many ways. This makes the events move quite quickly for the reader, but there are far too many instances of characters swallowing (to demonstrate fear) and the run-on sentence gimmick is greatly overused towards the end. This is a trick that works when done sparingly but becomes laughable when used to excess as it is here, almost as though the author were incapable of actually describing the events and instead went on and on oh god it never stops it just keeps going and going and --
Fortunately the problems Genocide has, while fairly numerous, are ultimately trivial. The pace keeps the reader interested, the pages turn thick and fast and the major plot points are tied up by the end. It's above average Leonard, which makes it (relatively) excellent BBC fare. The first eighth Doctor book I'd heartily recommend.
A Review by Rueben Herfindahl 8/8/99
As far as i recall, I don't think I've read any of Paul Leonard's other works. I didn't realize what I was missing. As a result I went into Genocide bias free.
The first page of Genocide starts out as a shocker. An emaciated, dying Doctor is being subjected to a soul searching from his captor. From there it just keeps going. The Doctor (on yet another quest to get a current issue of a newspaper or magazine) lands the TARDIS in 2109. Shockingly there are no humans on Earth. There are only a horse-like people known as the Tractites. In an alternate time stream, Jo Grant is contacted in the middle of the night by an old friend in distress.
Mr. Leonard does an excellent job of weaving several story threads into one. The Doctor and Sam landing on the altered Earth, Jo Grant tracking down the mysterious phone call, and the narration of the Doctor's captor all masterfully slowly intertwine themselves to tell a gripping exciting tale.
Continuity references abound, but they are tastefully done. there are references to Vampire Science, several references to The Bodysnatchers, lots of references to creatures Jo encountered during her tenure at UNIT, Sargent Benton and, of course, Jo Grant in a starring role.
The Tractites are well thought out aliens. They are described as Oxlike, or horse like, but with 4 eyes (the second set being where the nostrills would normally be). Their culture and patterns of thought are also well thought out. They have no charecter based written language, they read by sense of taste (I know it sounds odd, but it works quite well).
All in all, I'm very impressed. It's the first Who book in a long time that I finished in less than a day (and that being a work day as well). The story was very gripping, but well thought out as well. The balance between action and thought provoking reading is balanced. It's not often that a book pulls this off. It also manages to really develop the charecter of the 8th Doctor, essential for an early book in the range. Great Stuff.
A Review by Tom Wilton 13/1/00
Paul Leonard was one of Virgin's most reliable authors. Venusian Lullaby, Dancing the Code and Speed of Flight were all extremely effective Missing Adventures which I thoroughly enjoyed, and it was only his New Adventure Toy Soldiers that I was not hugely keen on. From this, I concluded that his strengths as an author were in working with established characters, rather than forging forward in a new direction. In Genocide the two styles seem to meet awkwardly as we are presented with a EDA which I feel may have been more suitable as a PDA. With Leonard's inclusion of an older Jo Grant, one can't help but feel he should maybe have written this as a PDA for the Third Doctor.
Generally, I'm a fan of alternate universe stories, and when I heard this story had been compared to Blood Heat I began to relish the prospect of reading it. I was severely disappointed.
The author seems to go to so much effort in making the Tractite world seem so perfect that I found it annoying. This is a Who novel after all and everyone reading would know how the story would end. The Tractite world never had a chance of surviving, and so making it into some doomed utopia felt rather pious. And he does go to great means to make sure that his audience realise that sacrifice at the heart of the novel. Kitig is reinforced as a moral and reasonable character at every opportunity. Perhaps it was because I was aware of how much Leonard was trying to make me like the Tractites and their world, that I resisted so much.
Apart from Kitig, Leonard doesn't seem to bother giving any of his characters and sort of character beyond the minimal essentials. This is a fatal mistake in a novel which has a much smaller cast than most others. Jo Grant seems to have been included for no other reason than the author is obviously fond of her (having used her in both of his Third Doctor MAs), which made it all the more annoying that she could have been anyone. There wasn't even much of a connection between her and the Doctor when the two of them met again. This is the companion who, according to the novelisation of The Green Death, the Doctor was so fond of that he cried when she decided to leave him, yet there was no sign of this affection in Genocide.
One plus side of this novel was a slight development in the character of Sam. Faced with the decision of destroying the utopian Tractite world, I couldn't help but sympathise with the girl. After all, Leonard had laid her dilemma on as thickly as he possibly could, making it incredibly difficult for her to see any resolution.
This is my biggest complaint about this novel. The reader knew from the beginning that there was no chance of a happy ending. Not since Titanic have I been able to know what was going to happen from the very start (the boat sinks, by the way) and it is very difficult for an author to rescue such a situation. And Paul Leonard does not manage to do it.
A Review by Dominick Cericola 3/4/00
You know, it's funny, but I always hear the fans comment how of all the authors, Jim Mortimore is by far the grimmest of the stable of Who fiction writers. Now, I will agree that is he rather heavy-handed in the angst department, and he does offer up his fair share of corpses in a novel's run. BUT, he is certainly not the only one to do this. No, no, no.. That's where Paul Leonard figures in.
There's some real carnage here -- both alien as well as our ancestors. But, what really stands out in my mind from the whole books is the overall feel of tension and ethical doubt that oozes from the entire book. Still, it works! Without it, this novel would probably be easily forgettable, for without the feeling, it would be a very flat read, almost like a Terrence Dicks novel!
One thing I've heard many fans rave about is Leonard's portrayal of The Doctor. Yes, I thought he was interesting, but I felt that the real star of this book is Sam.
A definite downfall of several of the early EDAs is their characterization of Sam Jones. More often than not, she comes off as a whiner, while that other odd percentage plays her off as a second-rate Ace. Here, however, she begins to show the signs as to what she will develop into. We are privvy to her doubts as to whether The Doctor should save her Earth or that of the alternate Future, where the Tractites rule.. How she wants so badly to do right -- obviously based on some childhood trauma (which we get some glimpses of her early life in Lawrence Miles' Interference) -- without hurting anyone in the process.. And, we begin to see the beginnings of the long-term psychological effects travelling in the TARDIS has on a Companion... All of this adds to the big picture, which Interference concludes (until further notice).
As for the first post-Pertwee appearance of Jo Grant.. Oh, that's it, then? No, seriously, I thought her appearance was okay, just not what I was expecting (unlike Peri in Matthew Jones' Bad Therapy, which I really need to get around to reviewing). She'd grown up a bit since we last saw her, when she left with Professor Jones at the end of The Green Death. But, what kinda ruined it for me, is nothing is really done with her character, other than to be used as story fodder. No background is given on what has gone down in the last 20 or so years, what happened between her and Cliff -- And, what about the end? We don't even get a proper sort of goodbye between her and The Doctor! Perhaps this is nitpicky, but my nitpicks are far more milder than some I have seen on the net.
So, after all that, did I like it or not? Sure, I liked it a lot. I'd rank it as one of the essential early EDAs, right up there with Kate Orman and Jon Blum's Vampire Science and Lawrence Miles' Alien Bodies (which I have already read, but am unsure of how to review it..). It adds to the foundation of the relationship between Sam Jones and The Doctor as well as add pieces to the larger puzzle that will unfold over the next year or so. Now, if I can only figure out why I disliked Paul's follow-up EDA, Dreamstone Moon...
A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 29/4/01
Paul Leonard's Genocide is an extremely frustrating read. The first half of the book is excellent; we have an interesting plot, engaging prose and the discussion of some of the more interesting ethical aspects of time travel. At about the two-thirds point the book starts to waver. The plot starts to drag and repeat, characters begin to act irrationally and the tone becomes less coherent. By the end of the book, we're left with several fractured pieces of what could have been a really great story, if only the author had continued all the way through.
Genocide features the return of Jo Grant and (not having read any of the Past Doctor books featuring her) I was curious as to how this character would work A) in book-form and B) being about twenty years older than last seen. I think the attempt to bring her back was ultimately a failure, as the role that she played in the story was not quite the character that we had come to know during the Pertwee years. I understand that Jo had done a lot of growing up since leaving the Doctor (we get a quick summary when her character is introduced: she's now divorced and raising a child on her own) but most of the character development just didn't seem to work. I suspect that this is what comes of trying to add depth to a character that has always been portrayed as a one-dimensional flake. With other companions these developments could have made for quite a fascinating character study, but for Jo they just seem wildly out of place. One suspects that perhaps this would have worked better with a Sarah or Tegan type of character, for whom character development wasn't a totally alien concept.
On the other hand, the plot is engaging for the most part and the book is a very entertaining read. In the story, a parallel universe has sprung into being and is affecting the well-being of the original. Only one time-stream can survive, though we know from the very beginning which one is going to continue. I quite enjoyed the dynamics between the characters from different universes, particularly the interaction between Sam and Kitig and between Sam and Jo. Sam's inability to choose which time-stream is the one worthy of existence comes across quite well as someone who is genuinely trying to consider all things when faced with such a huge decision. This is perhaps where the ending of the book is hurt. The confusion that Sam faces is dealt with far too dismissively at the end and the reader is left unsure what the full consequences are of the final actions. Leonard was quite clever in having each time-stream represented by a single character (Jo for the original and Kitig for the alternative) and having them each arguing for their respective universes; Jo wants to get back to her child, while Kitig represents an entire race of peace-loving intellectuals. Sam really does face a dilemma and having her bounced back and forth between the two representatives really helps to drive home the seriousness and the difficulty of her decision.
Despite the book's flaws, I recommend this for anyone looking for a good, quick read near the beginning of the BBC Books line. The imperfections are more apparent here than in others because this book should have been a lot better. All the right ingredients are there, and during the beginning and middle they really work well together. But when the ending falls apart as this one did, it's hard not to have a slightly bad taste in one's mouth afterwards.
A Review by Finn Clark 28/4/03
I always felt that the first few BBC Books were underrated. So much politics was flying around that the books seemed to stagger under the weight of hostile expectation. Atrocities like The Eight Doctors and War of the Daleks deserve every inch of their reputations, but Vampire Science is up there with the best of the 8DAs. Oh, and so is Genocide.
This book feels better suited to the Sabbath-era 8DAs than the post-Virgin kerfuffle during which it was actually published. It may be the best alt-universe book Justin Richards never edited. It has history-changing and big dangerous things happening to the human race. It has really bizarre time travel ("time trees"). Of course mankind won't be erased from the timeline and the status quo will be restored, but back in 1997 such threats didn't carry as much weight as they do now. You could publish Genocide today, word for word, and we'd all be raving about it and saying how well it fitted into the story arc. For a start, the alt-universe stuff is treated as merely a catalyst for the real drama instead of being regarded as enough to power a novel by itself.
Paul Leonard even does interesting stuff with the 8th Doctor! No one noticed back in 1997 'cos we were all looking for distillation of McGann, but Genocide has a strong theme of dishonesty... and it mainly concerns the 8th Doctor, who's a lying bastard. He lies in every shape, manner and form known to man, including exaggeration, deception, vanity, face-saving and desperate attempts to save the universe. Our other heroes (and Sam) are also required to sacrifice their principles and tell fat whoppers. At one point it becomes distasteful, when the Doctor tells off Kitig for being honest, but I still liked it and thought it was a powerful theme.
On the downside the Doctor too often says "Sam Sam Sam Sam Sam" or "Jo Jo Jo Jo Jo". He also does something on p257 that I'm still trying to wrap my brain around. Is that an effect of the local temporal conditions, or did Paul Leonard write himself into a corner? Whatever, it's weird.
Sam does something extremely unfortunate, but I sympathised with her decisions given the available information. She probably works better than Fitz or Anji would have done, simply because she takes everything so seriously with no humour or self-aware irony to confuse things. In a deeply earnest Paul Leonard book of ethics and moral dilemmas, what better companion than Sam Jones? (I've also heard rumours that Paul Leonard may have been aiming for what Kate & Jon did in Vampire Science, setting up a disagreement between the 8th Doctor and Sam in which we're not sure the Doctor's right. Sam certainly gets plenty to chew on, but the problem is that we'll always believe the Doctor when it comes to high-level temporal physics. I never once thought he might be mistaken... but given the book's theme it occurred to me that he might be lying.)
Random observation: the links between the 3rd and 8th Doctors in the books are getting downright spooky. Interference is at the heart of it, making The Eight Doctors and Alien Bodies eerie to reread with hindsight, but it doesn't end there. 1. Both Doctors were deprived of the TARDIS and exiled to Earth with blocks on their memory. 2. When Iris Wildthyme took a holiday from the 8DAs for Verdigris, she visited Pertwee. 3. When the 8th Doctor met the Master in Legacy of the Daleks, 'twas an out-of-sequence Delgado. 4. And in Genocide we see the same phenomenon... the 8th Doctor meets Jo Grant and in her first scene she has a dream about Pertwee. A chap could start reading stuff into this.
Genocide is a Paul Leonard book, so of course it has great aliens. The Tractites aren't quite as endearing as the Venusians from Venusian Lullaby or the Krakenites from Dreamstone Moon, but they're still pretty good and Kitig is a hero. I can't think of many characters this noble anywhere in Who. What eventually happens to him nearly made me cry. You couldn't call all of these characters nice, but none of them are evil either. They're all trying to do the right thing. Yes, even Jacob Hynes.
I really enjoyed this book. It has trademark Leonard bits and it's told simply (nearly to the point of Target novelisation prose; Jo's portrayal borders on the simplistic), but the story's strong enough not to need stylistic frills. I liked the little things too, e.g. Leonard's examples of early man, which felt like an overdue return to the kind of prehistory we hadn't seen since An Unearthly Child. Genocide may not have the "wow!" factor of a Venusian Lullaby or a Turing Test, but I thought it was both powerful and charming. Underrated.
A Review by Brian May 14/7/05
A thought provoking adventure indeed. Genocide's core plot device has been done before in Doctor Who: a group of beings travel into the past in order to alter the timelines and prevent their species being subjugated. It was back in 1972 with Day of the Daleks; 25 years later the idea is nicely subverted. In the televised serial it was a bunch of humans attempting to prevent the Daleks invading Earth; now it's a group of aliens, known as Tractites, who try and prevent a human invasion.
This backdrop owes a lot to Andy Lane's excellent Original Sin, which details the Earth Empire at the height of its power (the Empress makes an appearance at the end of this novel, reinforcing the continuity). As with Lane's book, humanity is now the marauding invader, and the accounts of their attack on the Tractites are quite awful. Of course, they're told through the biased recollection of Mauvril, but must have been pretty horrific to turn her into such a fanatic. But this is fitting for such an unremittingly grim, raw story. There's little humour; instead we have some very visceral images - first and foremost, the above recollections. There's also the slow degradation of the Doctor's body as he is held prisoner by Mauvril; told in apocryphal flash-forwards that eventually blend into the present narrative smoothly and effectively. And then you have the scenes when Sam, Jo, Julie and Rowenna are left to survive on their own in the desert, with the aid of little or no technology, a scenario that reminded me, quite appropriately, of Survival (the escape sequences in An Unearthly Child and the entire final episode of The Caves of Androzani share a similar grittiness). Hynes's attacks on them are tense and gripping. But most shocking of all is the chapter in which Julie and Rowenna die - the latter being attacked by the dogs is gruesome. However in all truth, it's not really that graphic, being told more through implication and suggestion.
In short, Genocide is very unpleasant, but not bloodthirstily violent. The grimness of the setting reflects the no-win situation the Doctor faces. It's a perfect moral dilemma; the alternative universe world of Paratractis is indeed a harmonious one, and Kitig is one of the nicest nice guys we've ever met in Doctor Who. When the Doctor is suspected to be the Uncreator, it's Kitig who allows him the benefit of the doubt, so as to save him from lynch mob hysteria. But if the Doctor is to put the universe to rights, it means Kitig and his world would never have existed, and humanity's place in the universe is restored. But, as we've been reading, perhaps the human race isn't worth saving anymore? That's certainly what Sam begins to think.
You know, Sam actually becomes a real character in this novel. At the beginning she's as annoying as she's ever been, and not that bright either - all the tactless and thoughtless comments she makes to the Doctor on Paratractis, in the presence of their hosts, have you almost screaming for her to hold her stupid tongue. But soon the author manages to get inside her head. He tries to explain why Sam is like she is, but more importantly he makes constructive use of the bland "trendy teen lefty" character template. Her altruistic idealism seems a lot more genuine, less forced, in Leonard's hands. When she lets Kitig into the TARDIS, you're no longer thinking "stupid girl"; at the very least you're empathising with her (it also helps that Kitig's so likable). At the end of the day, we finally have Sam Jones, companion.
Leonard does well with most of the other characters. Rowenna comes across convincingly, although Julie is a bit bland. Hynes is a disturbingly creepy and genuinely psychotic individual; thus his ideas about genocide don't come across as mere loony waffle. I liked the return of Jo Grant. The author has a soft spot for this character; he's written for her twice before and he actually seems a bit upset at the flak she often receives from fans. So he's written an older, wiser Jo - not as ditzy as the younger version. But anyway she's great, and you can imagine Katy Manning in 1997 (or even today) re-assuming the role wonderfully. Her appearance goes beyond the simple current Doctor/old companion routine we've been yawning at in previous novels (however Benton is wasted and superfluous as an ageing UNIT pen-pusher). The eighth Doctor is an okay rendition - nothing spectacular, but nothing dreadful. And as I've mentioned already, Kitig is wonderful - in my opinion the best character of the book, while Mauvril is his excellently realised equal and opposite.
Leonard's writing is impressive. In books such as Toy Soldiers and Speed of Flight he displayed a terrific skill for creating alien environments and concepts, which continues here with the Tractites. But in these earlier novels he often wrote ponderous, treacly sentences that went nowhere. Action scenes were bogged down in excruciating and unnecessary detail, at times incomprehensible. But here Leonard has improved in leaps and bounds. The prologue is slightly overlong (one thing he hasn't learned since Speed of Flight), but the way he translates the thoughts of a primitive man and his reactions to his tribe being massacred by Tractites is excellent, as are the way his modern-day characters think. The prose is very fluid, very stream-of-consciousness, with short sentences, pauses and repetition that add to the suspense. Rowenna's recollections of the attack that paralysed her, Hynes's psychotic inner thoughts, and all the cat and mouse games being played on the African plains are replete with this catchy prose. And, as mentioned already, the Doctor/Mauvril moments are another example of the fine writing.
In Genocide, the moral dilemma is a difficult one. The questions of right and wrong are blurred into a greyness that ensures there's no easy answer. And it's sad, but dramatically appropriate, that the final sacrifice, which restores the universal "order", is carried out by Kitig. There's a happy ending of sorts with the Empress granting independence to the Tractites, hopefully averting the human invasion, but it doesn't dampen the impact of a gripping, intelligent, emotionally draining - and yes, very depressing - story. 8/10
The Adventures of the Doctor and his genocidal maniac... by Joe Ford 22/9/05
Poor old Sam Jones, she really is given something of a bad time, isn't she? For such an inoffensive character (at least the idea of her character) she managed to wind a lot of people up the wrong way. Including me, of course. But lets look at her crimes: turning the eighth Doctor range into some tacky soap by snogging the Doc and running off because she can't face her feelings, totally upstaged by a miserable druggie version of herself, bringing the dead back to life against their wishes, turning against the Doctor at the drop of a "good cause", patronising the far superior Fitz... oh no there's no doubt about it. She is guilty as charged.
Oh and with Genocide you can add the crime of almost wiping out the entire human race too. And yet get this, given how abominable this act sounds this book is written sensitively enough to make her near-genocidal actions make sense. This book is the first in a long line of "Sam gets on her high horse and does something inexplicably stupid to oppose the Doctor" books but it manages to be one of the better ones because hardly anything is known about the character at this point. She's just a faceless companion who travels at the Doctor's side that happens to feel that the peace-loving Tractites are better at running the Earth than humans (and let's face it, we're hardly doing a stellar job at the moment!). The Tractites are presented brilliantly to support Sam's beliefs and although I was tutting when she offers Kitig a lift into the TARDIS when his world is being destroyed when I thought about it I probably would have done the same thing. Plus it's not like Sam decides to blatantly disregard the Doctor's wishes for the hell of it (go and read Beltempest for that level of idiocy), her loyalty is broken down by his devious behaviour and her beautiful experiences on the Tractite homeworld. Extra points to Paul Leonard, Sam is rarely annoying in this book (a character who has proven difficult to handle by expert authors, Kate Orman and Lawrence Miles included) and actually made me laugh once, trying to stop a caveman from groping her!
But what about the Doctor? The foppish, youthful eighth Doctor who was set up so well in the past two books as a flawed hero has suddenly transformed into his predecessor, ready to pull down a colony of peaceful aliens to restore his precious humans to their rightful place. Okay so there are universal consequences to consider which puts the Doctor on the "right" side but it is extremely questionable how he explores Tractite culture with a grin on his face when he is secretly plotting the downfall of their race. It is wonderfully uncomfortable to read, suggesting a much greater depth to this new incarnation than was accepted at the time. The Uncreator? That would fit McCoy's NA personality perfectly!
Paul Leonard certainly has a knack for creating alien species and writing them in a believable fashion. You are introduced to the Tractites with a detailed description of their features and are then expected to catch up with their way of life - smelly books, four eyes, ice bridges and all. I adored these sections because Leonard is clearly enjoying himself and letting his imagination run wild; he has certainly perfected the technique since his awkward Venusian Lullaby which was far too obsessed with details than plot. Genocide puts its plot first but still affords a luxurious peek at alien life. The simple prose helps a lot, Leonard concentrating on sights, sounds and smells but not alienating (hah!) the reader by going into obsessive detail.
Kitig is our main Tractite character and the absolute star of the book. He manages to be totally alien throughout but he's also a really nice guy without ever being bland. Considering the consequences for his people, he has a lot to think about and he is afforded a luxurious amount of page space to make his decision. At first he is reluctant about the Doctor's visit, his wife believing him to be the Uncreator but he is willing to wait and see if this is so rather than jump in and kill him needlessly. When Sam spares him from the hunger of the vortex he suddenly has the weight of the world on his shoulders and his visit to an earlier, more aggressive Tractite colony is a real eye-opener for how his people have evolved. At yet he still cannot betray the Doctor, he pleads for him to be treated leniently and when events come to a climax he cannot risk the safety of the multiverse to save his own people. What a guy. His final, heroic decision at the end is very touching and some small part of me was hoping Sam might be caught in the Jo Grant's massacre and he could sneak aboard the TARDIS and be the next companion!
What's this... Jo Grant? The multiverse in disarray? I am starting to notice a trend with bringing back old characters and monsters, the BBC proving that they have a bigger playground to play in than Virgin but to be honest we didn't really need half of it. I know I sound like a right old misery-guts but I firmly believe that Doctor should constantly be embracing new ideas and character rather than continually rehashing previously-used ones, this is what made the show so damn invigorating in its early years and constantly pandering to the fans' wishes to bring back the Daleks/Cybermen/theBrigadier/UNIT/theMaster is what made it feel so very stale later in its life. Genocide does not need Jo Grant in any way, shape or form and despite the tiny pang of nostalgia I felt when she was introduced I felt she was a huge waste of page space that could be spent furthering the plot. Indeed the revelation at the end where she massacres the Tractites feels very false because she was always above this sort of violent solution and we haven't seen enough of her son to understand her connection with him and her desire to see him brought back to life. It feels like an easy ending to a book that, to that point, never took the easy route.
Are the BBC short of ideas lately or something? Not content with the alternative history cycle over on Virgin they give us another alternative realities tale here. They later follow that up with a five-book arc later on in the eighth Doctor range. And then hit us with Spiral Scratch, a mind boggling sixth Doctor alternative universe story! No more please! Genocide is one of the better attempts at this sort of thing because it deals with its universe-altering madness with a great deal of sensitivity, telling the grand concepts through its (well-written) characters. Paul Leonard had another stab at alternative realities in The Last Resort, probably his least-liked book, which I have to say I prefer to this because it is far braver (it ends with millions of realities converging and the universe dying) and it requires much more work to make it work. Genocide does keep the reader on their toes but it doesn't fuck with your mind quite as much. It's a good moral dilemma story, demanding that its characters make tough choices... and we all love those, don't we?
I have noticed a trend on the Outpost Gallifrey forum that Black Sheep's covers are not held in such high regard (stand up Craig Hinton). But have you guys honestly seen some of the crap Virgin produced over the years? Black Sheep's covers usually have some degree of professionalism (and please don't think I'm saying they are all perfect, far from it, in the past three years there have been some real stinkers), they're bright, striking and eye-catching. Genocide has a great cover; a skull leering at you out of a clock and my boyfriend was intrigued enough by it to have a flick through when he saw it on the side. Out of the four EDAs that were released come Genocide only one was disappointing (The Bodysnatchers).
Not perfect then but a damn good try at getting us thinking about issues that are usually skipped over. Remove Jo Grant from the book and I would say it is one of the best early EDAs, comparable to Vampire Science and Alien Bodies.
A Review by Steve White 1/4/13
I'll be honest and say I wasn't looking forward to this stage in my read through of the Eighth Doctor novels. The sole reason for this is that I read a library copy of Genocide back in 1998/1999 and hated it. So was it the book, or my age (16/17) that caused my dislike? And do I still feel the same now? The short answers are "my age" and "no" but that doesn't make for a very interesting review does it?
Premise-wise, Genocide makes you feel a little bit underwhelmed. The TARDIS crew go to the future, and find out that the entire human race has never existed and the planet is owned by the friendly Tractites, a horse/ox-like alien race. Maybe it is just me, but this idea just doesn't do it for me from the get go and, coupled with the fact that it becomes clear early on that the entire book is essentially a novel full of the "have I got the right" speech from Genesis Of The Daleks, makes it very hard to want to read on.
Paul Leonard really makes it difficult to get into as well. There is an prologue, some weird bit in italics presumably from the future, a bit about some "friends of the Earth" people, a bit with the Doctor and Sam, and finally a bit about archaeologists / UNIT in the present day. Whilst most of it is well-written and interesting, there are just too many threads to keep up with in your head. Luckily, it does settle down some what at around the 1/3rd mark, but the start does feel a bit mish-mashed and is fairly offputting.
Once over the initial third of the book, it does get better though. Enough things happen to keep your interest and it's all fairly interesting, but it still doesn't grip you like I feel a good book should. The end also felt like a bit of a letdown with a certain character doing things they really shouldn't and others not getting a chance to really shine (more on that below).
However, overall the story is well thought out, and written exceedingly well. The Tractite Earth is very well described, and a lot of attention to detail has gone into it. Once everyone is all together in the past, you really believe that they are in the past. The book manages to deal with the complexities of time travel and alternative futures really well, something not all authors seem to understand.
Character-wise, I found Paul Leonard to have missed the mark somewhat. The Doctor of Vampire Science and The Bodysnatchers was full of energy, keen to get involved and sort the problem out. Here he is happy to trudge along with the Tractites for a while, showing little enthusiasm at all, then, when you think he is about to save the day, he gets captured and spends the rest of the book locked up and doing very little to resolve the situation, just talking to Kitig and trying to make him see reason. Sam fares a little better; her annoying teenage quirks are still there, as is her passion for saving the animals, Tractites in this case. Sam serves as the voice of the moral dilemma; however, I struggle to believe that any human would want to save the Tractites, given that they have effectively wiped out the entire human race and stolen their planet, however nice they could be.
What could have been a nice touch was the return of Jo Grant who served with the 3rd Doctor. The years have changed her into a single mum who lives a very ordinary life, but she soon gets thrown into the Tractite problem and does so with great gusto. However, her role is so generic it could have been done by one of the other archaeologists and you can't help but think she is just included to sell more copies of the novel. At the end of the story, she wipes out the remaining Tractites with a big gun. Jo Grant would never ever do this, however world-worn she got. Any Doctor Who fan would know this, so quite how this got through to the final novel is beyond me. Also, her time with the Doctor is minimal and she doesn't even get to say goodbye. All in all, she was a pointless addition to the story.
The other cast are all pretty generic which is a shame. There are a couple of scientists, one of whom is disabled and bangs on about her "accident" far too much for her brief role. Also, there are a handful of Tractites, but only Kitig and Maurvil really get much back story or action. Finally, there is the big baddie Jacob Hynes. Jacob Hynes is quite clearly insane and thinks it is a good idea to cause the end of the world whilst giggling like a schoolgirl. Seriously. Parts of him are well written, but others not so. I fail to see his motive for wanting to end the world other than being insane.
In summary, Genocide wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered it to be but it still isn't great. The first part is fragmented and pretty hard to follow, so when I was 16/17 I wouldn't have had a hope in hell, and that probably set me off on the wrong foot. Story-wise, it isn't my cup of tea either, but that doesn't necessarily make it a bad book. The themes are very grown up, and the author obviously wants you to think about genocide and the moral implications raised within the novel. All in all it delivers on the right level eventually so I can't really fault it, but for some reason I don't really like the book.