The Psi Powers Series
Psi Powers Part Four
|ISBN#||0 426 20473 5|
|Synopsis: The Doctor and Roz find themselves on Mars, trying to solve the riddle of the GodEngine. Chris finds himself in the grip of death as the Earth invaders take on the rest of the solar system.|
A Review by Shaun Lyon 21/8/99
I've always liked the Ice Warriors. Even though they are historically flawed (we know Mars has no life; Who has contradicted their existence; there are certain unexplanable facts that make it impossible for them to live; etc.), they've always been an interesting Who race... first as villains during the Troughton era, then as allies in the first Peladon series, then back to their problematic treachery later. They were aliens that were supposed to reappear several times (the aborted Mission to Magnus during the "missing" 23rd Season and Dragonfire to name a few), but never did. The Ice Warriors made a grand return in the New Adventures in Gary Russell's return to Peladon story, Legacy, where resident Martian expert Benny Summerfield got the chance to shine with her knowledge of these creatures and their fascinating history while Ace spent her time elsewhere, learning other secrets.
Those days are over; Ace and Benny have both moved on, and the Doctor now keeps the company of his two latest companions, Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester. Up until now, I've never been fans of these two; they seemed to be more of the cardboard variety (Steven, Liz, Mel) than the deep, strong companion types (Sarah, Tegan, and of course Ace and Benny). GodEngine brings them all to Mars and features the big return of the Ice Warriors, albeit in strange ways -- the TARDIS has been obliterated, and it's the eve of the Dalek Invasion of Earth. (Yes, they actually return, but of course because of copyright, they're not seen; nevertheless this is a fascinating way to get around that copyright problem!) While the Doctor and Roz have crashed in the Martian desert and hooked up with a traveling party including an archaeologist, a famous singer and a xenophobic Martian hater, poor Chris is stranded on a distant moon which he knows is doomed to be demolished today, and stuck between two arguing scientists who both happen to be female. Did I say, "poor Chris"? He is well known to New Adventures readers as the "companion who cannot survive a novel without at least one sexual liaison." Poor guy. Right.
The scientists manage to escape in an homage to the earlier, much-maligned New Adventure, Transit (obviously, Hinton is a Ben Aaronovitch fan), and end up on Mars. Coincidence... or not? Of course not... everything happens for a reason. While Roz and the Doctor and their party meet up with a group of traveling Ice Warriors on a religious crusade and investigate a murder that couldn't possibly have taken place, poor Chris (there I go again) and his soiree are apprehended by a famous Ice Warrior general who was thought to have gone missing. And then there's the mystery of the ancient alien device called the GodEngine that the Doctor has discovered is causing all of the problem... the reason why the TARDIS was destroyed, why Chris and his compatriots ended up on Mars instead of outside the Solar System, and it all has to do with the murder.
I must confess... this is the single best time I have had reading a New Adventure in a very long while! After the last one I read, the hideously boring Death and Diplomacy, I half expected to call this one "GodAwful". No way. The characterizations are dead on; for once, the Doctor doesn't know what game he's playing, a welcome change. Roz proves she can handle the role of "female assistant" to the Doctor superbly... and Chris, he's well on his way to becoming another favorite of mine. He reminds me of a combination of Harry Sullivan's bumbling, Adric's knack for learned insight, and the genetic makeup of Tegan Jovanka and Sarah Jane Smith in male form. If you don't know what I mean... he's a grown-up version of Indy Jones' Asian sidekick in the second film (can't remember the name)... adventure and excitement are his middle name.
The history of the Ice Warriors is never described in great detail... Craig Hinton treats every revelation like it's something we already know, then goes back and explains later. I happen to like that... we get to find things out in layers, rather than a) beating us over the head with three pages of lackluster exposition, or b) the "Captain Sheridan, Please Come Here, I Have Something Important To Tell You" Syndrome that my favorite show Babylon 5 seems to suffer from (i.e. every moment we find out something important, it's Delenn standing there in Sheridan's quarters telling him about the problem at hand, and Kosh looking ominous but saying nothing.) Hinton has masterfully explained the problem with the Ice Warriors' general existence in our Solar System, explaining that they lived underground, that they chose to hide at first, that they fought a major war with the Terrans, and at the end when they lost, they left the planet for another world to begin anew... right before the Daleks showed up. (Of course, the Daleks chose that moment to invade... coincidence, or not? Ah, but you're way ahead of me.)
All in all, GodEngine is a novel that I heard wasn't going to be all that great through the rumor mills, and I am pleasantly surprised to say that I really enjoyed it. Definitely my favorite New Adventure of the 1996 batch... I haven't read Happy Endings, but this one sure is a winner.
A Review by Sean Gaffney 29/8/99
Ah, me. This book had a lot of things that I liked: the plot, the atmosphere, Chris. And it had a lot of things I hated: the Martian "Neighbours" ripoffs, the techno garbage, the ending.
PLOT: Working in the Dalek Invasion of Earth continuity, Craig has managed to carve out quite a juicy little plot. The Ice Warrior factions revenging themselves by allying with the Daleks...sounds really cool. Then there's the execution...
THE DOCTOR: Didn't really sound like SlyDoc. As with Gareth's NA's, I got the feeling that Craig is uncomfortable with Sylv: Colin would have done this much better. The lines especially did not ring true.
ROZ: Meh. Competently written, but we don't really get a lot. She's closed to begin with, so it's hard to get into her head.
CHRIS: At last, Chris comes into his own for a book. He acts like an Adjudicator, is smarter than he's been in ages, and still gets to be the overgrown child that we know. One of the books' pluses.
OTHERS: As I've said, I really thought that the Ice Warriors were...not that good. Aklaar was OK, but all of them were cliched. The scientists were a little better. At least Chris didn't shag them.
WRITING STYLE: Did Rebecca and Andy take a holiday while this book was being written? If I hear one more time about McGuire's sodding wife and child, I'll blow up the subway myself. We also get the fascinating ways that you can repeat, over and over, "Benny should have been here." OK, we miss her. Deal.
ENDING: Remember back to my review of Infinite Requiem? Apparently Craig loved that. I know that getting the "don't interfere with the Web of Time" moral was needed, but I hate unhappy endings. At least in Infinite Requiem, I liked the characters. Not the case here.
OVERALL: Good points, but in the end, the bad points outweighed it. A shame, really, as I loved Millenial Rites. Stick with Colin, Craig. I'll mail you an extra copy of Varos. ;-) I didn't hate the book as much as Dave Owen did, but...
A Review by Finn Clark 5/12/01
Bwahahaha! Apparently Craig Hinton has been heard to say that GodEngine is a sequel to Transit since it shares a Martian setting and has a prologue which follows on from Transit's epilogue. So to follow up Ben Aaronovitch's ultra-controversial novel, we have... a camp classic.
First time around, I hated what this did to the Ice Warriors. However I've since read Gary Russell's Radio Times comic strips and learned the true depths to which green guys can sink, so this doesn't seem quite so bad. If you read with a cheerful willingness to hoot and throw rotten vegetables then... well, at least it's never dull. It's sometimes annoying or ridiculous, but it also approaches the melodrama of a pantomime villain ("Bring me the head of Christopher Cwej!") in the setting of a Martian soap opera.
That quote's from page 191, by the way. There's an even funnier comedy classic on page 192 if you keep reading. Read aloud for big laughs!
A few snippets of Ice Warrior dialogue:
"You have no honour!"Okay, maybe not. But almost.
"No, you have no honour!"
"The Sword of Tuburr! Gassssp!"
"Baby, lick my love blobs!"
"You're nasty and horrid and I'm going to tell my mummy!"
The characterisation is similarly amusing, generally perpetrated by soap-opera flashback. Lying makes Chris Cwej want to throw up (page 53). Er, yeah. Sure. There's lots of Hartnell continuity (everlasting matches, atmospheric density jackets) and Transit hat-tips, but that's probably because this book has continuity references to everything. And I do mean everything. Grrrr.
"It's such a shame Benny isn't with us!" Yes, we got the point after the first 1000000000 repetitions.
It's rich in Craig Hinton's trademark high-level physics technobabble - subspace infarctions, stunnels, etc. Unfortunately it's probably his weakest Virgin novel, lacking the never-ending ideas and scope of Crystal Bucephalus and the excellent regulars of Millennial Rites.
Continuity notes... GodEngine confirms that Seeds of Death immediately precedes the Thousand-Day War, which is a bit unfortunate for Lance Parkin's History of the Universe (which covered all the books up to and including Happy Endings). Ah well. One weird thing is that I misremembered this book as establishing that Ice Warriors are born instead of hatched. Apparently they come from eggs in the usual reptile fashion.
This is a very silly book, but at least it's not boring.
Uninspiring by Tim Roll-Pickering 28/1/03
GodEngine has a reputation for being 'GodAwful' but it isn't as dire as that. However it suffers from having a plot that is relatively straightforward but tortured through a number of variants such as temporal paradoxes that merely confuse things. The ending especially suffers and it is still hard to deduce just precisely what happens to sort out the 'Web of Time'. The book also handles the absence of Benny weakly. Although there are many references to her now that she has married and left the TARDIS in Happy Endings, too often these feel less like 'We miss Benny now that she's gone' and much more like 'Benny's gone just when we need her most'. One suspects that the book was originally devised with Benny in mind and so consequently her departure leaves a big hole in the structure of the story that isn't adequately filled.
GodEngine tries to do a lot by exploring aspects of the Martian way of life and their code of honour, confronting the Adjudicators with one of their forebearers, showing the Doctor seemingly broken by the destruction of the TARDIS and trying to tie in with the events of The Dalek Invasion of Earth whilst using the Daleks as much as Virgin's lack of the rights will allow. The result is that at times the novel heaves under the strain of all this despite featuring a relatively small number of characters.
Throughout the novel there are some wonderful scenes and developments, such as McGuire's gradual coming to terms with his hatred of the Martians and realising that he cannot blame the pilgrims he is with, or the love triangle between Cleece, Esstar and Sstaal which provides for much tension along the way. However some aspects such as the mystery of who murders Esteban and Madrigal are poorly handled, being blatantly telegraphed, as are the fates of these two characters. However the Martian pilgrims are handled well with all the expectations that they are bogus proving false.
The novel is relatively short and once it gets going it does move quite quickly towards the climax. Until the very end it is always clear just what is going on without needing to reread any parts of the narrative which is a good sign, but at times it isn't the most engaging. The characterisation of Chris is poor, and he is teamed up with the survivors of the Charon colony, none of whom are at all inspiring with the result that this entire strand of the novel is a complete let down. Although showing some originality and flare, GodEngine just fails to inspire at times and given the climax it is tempting to ask 'What was the point of it all?' 4/10
A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 25/12/03
I feel cheated by the fact that I have only just got around to reading GodEngine. Now all my "GodAwful" jokes are going to be seven years out of date.
GodEngine has an abysmal beginning. It gradually improved through the middle and the end, albeit not by much. This was something of a relief though; if the book hadn't improved at all, then I'm not sure I'd be sitting here in possession of enough faculties to write this humble review.
Where to begin, where to begin? Well, let's start by mentioning the staggering overload of continuity references. If you can believe it, this book is a follow up to at least three stories (Transit, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and The Seeds of Death) and contains pointless mentions of dozens of others. Set on Mars, every Doctor Who villain who ever even thought of vacationing on the red planet is given at least a name-check, and the Ice Warriors themselves feature prominently. Two people are even blood relatives of characters from previous tales. What is the point of this kind of thing? Continuity references can add an interesting layer to an individual story, or give it a flavor unique to that series. But these constant and random mentions of much better stories make this book look like a quiche designed by someone who's never even heard of food before.
GodEngine wants to be a TV story so badly it hurts. Character motivations are betrayed by facial expressions. A double agent's identity is revealed because he/she accidentally drops the act while thinking he/she is alone. Important plot points are passed on to the audience by having people making speeches at each other about things that they should already know. There's even an "our story so far" recap at the beginning of the book's Part II. (Why? Why do I need to be reminded of stuff that only just happened a little while ago? Granted, I was falling asleep during most of it, but it's not like we were dealing with difficult to grasp concepts here.)
The development of the Ice Warriors' back-story that takes place while those monsters are off-screen is relatively effective. We see their architecture, their culture, and a little bit about what makes them tick. But when they're actually on the page, they descend into the worst cliches imaginable. They're like the very worst of the TNG-era Klingons, endlessly spouting on about honor and duty. ("You have no honor!" "No, you have no honor!" "No, you have no honor!" "By belittling my honor you have shown yourself to be totally without honor! You have dishonored your family's honor!" "Argh, poo-fart!")
When it became clear that this wasn't going to be a story too broad or too deep for the small screen, I attempted to enjoy the book purely on a pulpy action-adventure level. But even the shallowest dime novel has to have something good to latch onto: a fast-moving plot, or some interesting characters, or a witty style. None are to be seen here. This plot is awkwardly paced with long, long gaps of filler. Too much of it relies on the most unbelievable of coincidences. Characters are stupid one minute, and geniuses the next. One of the funniest contrivances is that apparently the ID card of the Adjudicators goes virtually unchanged for over eight centuries. Eight centuries of the same design! In my four and something years as an undergrad, my school changed ID card formats three times, but the Adjudicators of the thirtieth century will still be using logos designed in the twenty-second. I've got to admire that consistency, but you have to imagine that their PR budget is around zero.
The characters are, unfortunately, molecule-thin. So thin, in fact, that I believe that Wile E. Coyote himself personally ran over each and every one of them with a steamroller before their inclusion in this book. I could ramble on for a few hundred more words about how silly these people were, but I'll limit myself to just saying one additional thing. To any prospective Doctor Who author: please, don't ever, ever, ever include an Ice Warrior love triangle. Oh, the pain, the pain, the pain.
Ultimately, I was glad to see the end of GodEngine. One of the most derivative novels that the New Adventures produced, I'm not sure I can point to a single original idea on any of the book's pages. I have no doubts that if I were to go back with a magnifying glass, I'd be able to conjure up at least one inventive turn of phrase or line of dialog. But I think you'd have to pay me to reexamine my copy of GodEngine.
(To be fair, I should point out that in my travels through the Google Groups archives, I discovered that apparently this book was written in quite a bit of a hurry. I'm guessing that if the author and the editor had more time available to them, this book would have turned out very different. It's a pity that the extra months weren't there, because this book really could have used them.)