The Adventuress of Henrietta Street
|ISBN||0 563 53842 2|
|Synopsis: In 1783 something raw and primal ate its way through human society. And the elemental champion who stood alongside the adventuress of Henrietta Street was the one they called the Doctor.|
A Review by Mike Morris 4/12/01
He's back - and it's about... no, never mind. Lawrence Miles' U-turn out of retirement left me more than intrigued about what he was going to produce this time out. I've got to say that I'm a bit of a Lawrence Miles fan, I've always found everything he's written immensely enjoyable. I must read Dead Romance, now I come to think of it.
Also, though, I was very intrigued because of the way the books have gone lately. Alien Bodies and Interference were about lots of things, but they both concerned themselves hugely with continuity. Now that all those continuity issues are effectively buried, I found myself wondering what Lawrence was going to hang his hat on this time.
It is, as you might expect, very different to Lawrence Miles' previous books. The Adventuress of Henrietta Street concerns itself hugely with the Doctor's new-found status as a wanderer, a remnant of other times, a fallen god. It looks at elementals, mysticism, fetishism and the world of magic that City of the Dead threw in our faces, but which has been bubbling under the world of Who for some time now - The Ancestor Cell, for all its technobabble, portrayed Gallifrey as a world of black magic and voodoo, and then there's the concept of the Doctor-as-loa which dates from Interference. Adventuress goes even further; the Doctor is seen as an elemental, a demi-god, a mythic creature of a dead race of elementals. It's odd that the most exciting portrayal of the Time Lords has come now, when they no longer exist. As creatures of myth they feel more powerful than ever before, and that includes The War Games. The picture of a few blokes in silly hats who sit around chatting is blown away. And that extends to the Doctor; this is the first time that I've looked at the Doctor and felt, well, awe.
Yeah, well, lofty aims are all very well, I hear you say, but is the bloody thing any good?
Yes is my simple answer. In fact, I think that Lawrence Miles has once again bettered all his previous work (although, as I said, I haven't read Dead Romance). But hey, not many people agree with me that Interference is better than Alien Bodies, so I'll qualify that statement by saying that a lot of people may not like this. The reason that it may be objectionable is different to, say, Interference; there, people objected to what the author did. Here, I think people will object to his methods rather than his aims. This book is a historical, set in the late eighteenth century, just before the Industrial Revolution - the last hurrah of mysticism. But this isn't a historical. It's a history.
Apart from the prologue and epilogue, the entire thing is written from the point of view of the present day, a factual book written by a researcher (unidentified) piecing together the story from diary entries, letters, historical records. This is a startling move. It has some definite advantages; the book has a sprawling, epic quality that could hardly have been produced in any other fashion. It also makes it much easier to tell us about the historical era; it jars much less to have the narrator tell us details about the period than have the Doctor suddenly explain to Anji about the status of the prostitutes of the eighteenth century.
The main negative quality is probably the dry-as-dust voice that the book has to adopt, which meant that after two sittings during which I'd ploughed through no more than fifty pages I very nearly threw the bloody thing against wall. My summary at the time? Worthy. Noble. Possibly brave. Indescribably dull.
If you reach the same stage, then stick with it. It's a style that takes a long time to adapt to in a Doctor Who novel, but as I got used to it Adventuress became intriguing, then engaging, then enthralling. It's rooted in its era and incredibly well-researched, dropping names of all sorts of peripheral characters, going off on tangents and relating all kinds of anecdotes, fleshing out a (relatively slight) plot with concepts and speculations and discussions. This may not be to everyone's taste.
The plot runs thus. The Time Lords, the elemental forces that hold time together, are dead. Time is fraying at the edges. Terrible things that exist behind it are breaking through. Those terrible things are pure savagery; in short, they're apes. They can be inadvertently summoned by, well, pretty much anything. It's a long time since I've read about a Doctor Who monster and then felt nervous when getting up to go to the toilet at four in the morning. These apes pop up anywhere at the drop of a hat, and they feel incredibly dangerous. They gave me the willies.
All that happens with this idea is that more and more of them appear for a bit, and then there's a sort of siege. Not a lot to that, really; a Big Idea, sure, but not a wildly complex one. The energy of this book lies with its subplots, its concepts, and its characters.
The characters are an amazing lot. I should say that this is an amazingly feminine book, as one might expect given that it's set in a bordello. After the sweaty-palmed masculinity of City of the Dead it's great to read a book that refers to menstrual cycles without ever making an issue of it. Being set in a bordello one might also expect it to be full of sex and 'adult' (spot the sarcasm) things like that, and the first chapter - a tale of a prostitute treating a client to some Tantric sex - had me concerned, but beyond that the business of the bordello is scarcely referred to. This is probably a good thing; besides, the women of the bordello are interesting enough.
The most intriguing character is probably Lisa-Beth, a hard-nosed cynic with a surprising interest in mysticism who never quite behaved as I expected her to. The odd thing about the writing style is that characters become ciphers - not only do we never get in their heads, but we never see what anyone else thinks of anyone. We have to make do with the narrator's speculation and their actions, and it gives characters like Lisa-Beth a mysterious edge. It also creates some surprising stars. The character who haunted me most at the book's conclusion was Katya, who is peripheral to say the least... but like Lisa-Beth, her actions constantly surprised me.
The flipside is that other characters don't quite achieve their potential. The biggest disappointment is Rebecca, who fades badly after a fascinating opening. With Juliette it's the reverse - she's rather uninteresting at first in spite of her abilities, but she becomes more and more interesting as the story unfolds. That's only to be expected, though, given that she's the Doctor's fiance.
That's right. His fiance. But the reasons are lateral to say the least, don't worry, the Doctor hasn't gone and got himself a sex life or anything. Even Lawrence isn't that controversial.
Fitz and Anji are a tad marginalised. They don't feature for quite some time, and while Fitz has a definite role as comic relief Lawrence doesn't seem to know what to do with Anji at all. Part of the problem is that when you portray the Doctor as an 'elemental', then companions seem a little superfluous.
Adventuress's Doctor is magnificent. The book becomes more and more about him as I progresses, and its conclusion left me with my mouth hanging open. As I said, he actually inspires awe. The Doctor's portrayal is somehow linked with the language of the entire book, the imagery, which conveys the notion of a universe in hangover after the passing of the Time Lords, the Doctor one of the few survivors of a heroic past. More than once I was reminded of Aragorn from Lord of the Rings - whereas previously the Doctor was surely Gandalf.
Then there's the big two. Scarlette, the Adventuress of Henrietta Street. And Sabbath. And in a way, these are the two disappointments.
Scarlette made me think of that other adventuress, the much-loved (spot the sarcasm again) Iris Wildthyme. We're constantly being told how astonishing she is. Well if wearing loud dresses, being good at things like fencing and hunting, and the ability to drink a lot is astonishing, then fine. But it doesn't interest me very much and Scarlette didn't interest me very much. I found her two-dimensional, an product of the idea that a 'strong' woman character is one who's loud, boisterous, arrogant, a ladette who's good at everything. She isn't particularly irritating, but the book's about her for god's sake, she should be more impressive than she is - am I supposed to be amazed that she says words like 'bastards'?. Scarlette bored me. So she can do a bit of magic. So bloody what? The fact that she's not in large portions of the book is perverse, but in this case it's a definite plus.
Then there's Sabbath. Now Sabbath is set to be a recurring character, and I'm glad. I liked him, I liked the scenes that involved him, he's a fine adversary and this book introduces him well. Much of his knowledge is unexplained, but that's okay. There's a very easy way to describe the thrust of his character, but it would give too much away... suffice it to say that he's morally ambiguous, very dangerous, a good and bad guy in equal measure with complex motivations. He's a good character.
The problem with Sabbath's role in this book is - well - what's he actually doing? Complex motivations are all very well, but Sabbath seems to do things for no reason at all at times. He performs dramatic actions galore, he makes a hell of an impression, but exactly why he acts the way he does is unexplained. It's odd that Sabbath should be established so well and used rather badly in the same book, but it happens. Still, he's a fine creation, and I want to see more of him soon.
There's a lot going on that I can't really discuss because of spoilers - and even so this is maybe the longest EDA review I've written. That gives you a clues as to Adventuress's scale and depth. It is so immersed in its period that it sucked me in utterly, it looks into its mythologies with scrupulous thoroughness, it takes in Tantra and the Secret Service and Polynesian tribes and the underbelly of eighteenth-century British politics. It looks at the Doctor and the Time Lords in a startling way. It is, by a long shot, the most mature novel by Lawrence Miles yet.
Early on I thought I was going to be trashing the thing in a big way, but I can happily say that I adored it. Others may point to various flaws, a not-too-amazing heroine and a long period in which very little happens. I'll concede all these points... but to me, they didn't matter. Adventuress is hard work and I'm sure a lot of people won't like it, although the last seventy pages should compensate a few readers as they had me jumping up and down for joy (I'm not sure about the bit with the sonic screwdriver, though). It's incomparable to any other EDA, really.
I'll recommend Adventuress, but I'll add that you may not love it as much as I did. Still, if you like it even half as much as me it's well worth the investment.
I feel like an obliging door on the Starship Heart of Gold. For I am a simple reader - and thank you, Lawrence Miles, for making me very happy.
A Review by Finn Clark 14/1/02
Oh my God. Um, I like the back cover blurb.
And we thought there were no taboos left to break. I'm sure he'll prove me wrong, but right now I honestly can't see how Lawrence will ever outdo The Adventuress of Henrietta Street in the outrageousness stakes. And to think people got upset about the "taste of semen" line in Transit. Ahem.
But he's writing a book about prostitutes. A book, what's more, that gets indignantly outraged by the whitewashing of history. It would have been weaselly and sanitised not to give us a dozen pages of prostitute porn. (And Tantric prostitute porn at that, the kind of thing Lovecraft might have embraced if he'd ever ventured into the squishier side of human interpersonal relationships.)
Transit merely felt wrong. This busts through "wrong" and goes for "impossible", "this can't be happening" and "I'm not reading this".
To state the obvious, this is written in the style of a history textbook. Apparently it wasn't working as a conventional narrative, and I think I know why. Written in full, it would have been another Interference. Hell, with the text's density it almost is anyway. (Opticians are using it for eye tests even now.) This doesn't feel like a novel, but a super-detailed synopsis of one. You keep coming across scenes with great potential and wishing you'd been able to see them for real.
The style does some things well. It lets Lawrence go way way too far, since the whole thing is at arm's length from actual Who-storical truth and is thus utterly deniable. The style can do spooky, awesome and thought-provoking, but it can't make you laugh. Action scenes fall flat. There's no excitement. It's not emotionless, but you've got to work hard to squeeze feeling from the dryness. Hell, I might as well say it - much of this book is just boring.
Okay, it deserves praise for being new and experimental. There's never been anything like this in Doctor Who fiction, but somehow I don't think this form will be adopted generally. If even Mad Larry can't make this style fly, what chance for the rest of us?
That's the downside. Now for the good stuff.
What Lawrence does, his own peculiar genius, is to invent universes. He's our mad idiot god, dancing at the core of the Whoniverse and spinning off ideas faster than everyone else put together. He did it with Interference and Alien Bodies, and now he's done it all over again from scratch. Justin Richards came up with the idea of unhappened Time Lords, but it took Mad Larry to think his way through the concept and create the Whoniverse that it produced. This is a monstrous fountain of invention, a completely new fictional universe.
(Thought experiment: imagine the results if we had two Mad Larries, bouncing ideas off each other and inspiring each other to ever greater atrocities. I'd give the range eighteen months before it exploded.)
The Adventuress of Henrietta Street is deniable and we're not completely tied to its conclusions, but Lawrence clearly thinks all Time Lords everywhere were erased. Not blown up, but unhappened. No Time Lords any more, ever. Which raises some rather worrying questions about the Doctor's continued existence.
This is where my brain began spinning. Lawrence thinks everything we knew has been thrown overboard. This isn't the Whoniverse any more. I was honestly and truly on the point of giving up the 8DAs at this point, but then I remembered that the rest of the books are set in a basically unchanged Whoniverse. The Players return in Endgame, the Third Doctor was presumably still exiled to London in the seventies, the Great Vampires haven't come back to life, etc. This book made me think through a 2200-word dissertation on the temporal physics of history-changing in Doctor Who, which eventually got posted to rec.arts.drwho. By the end, I felt as if I'd been clubbed over the head.
Huge, scary things happen to the Doctor and his universe. "He can't do that!" is the constant reader refrain, along with "help me" and "blubble". This unGallifreyed Larryverse is exotic and terrifying. It doesn't play by the usual SF rules. If this had been painted in conventional close-up novel prose it would have been utterly overwhelming and I wish I'd seen it. (Basically imagine an Interference-length book in the style of the first twelve pages.)
It continues the Robert Holmes theme that time travel is dangerous. A common theme of Lawrence Miles books is voodoo physics, weird shit that goes off in directions utterly unlike those chosen by the hard SF physics graduate crowd. In Christmas we had gynoids and the Carnival Queen. There's similar stuff here.
The images are great too. Sabbath is like the distillation of all Bond villains crossed with Fu Manchu. The apes and their world are terrifying, even at arm's length. It's full of blood and sex.
The Doctor... well, let's just say that the events herein make Interference look traditional.
In summary, much of this book is frankly dull and heavy-going. It's the uber-Mortimore, taking the long-term historical view at the expense of almost everything else. I don't know if I enjoyed it, but it's a colossus of universe-reshaping imagination that seared itself into my neural pathways. Perhaps it's because I thought so hard about the temporal physics of it all; I thus understood everything that was happening and was thus clobbered full-on by the implications of Lawrence's ideas. I didn't so much walk away from it as crawl, feeling much like someone who'd had an argument with a train.
This is a superlatively important book, but damn it's a slug ploughing through the bloody thing. Unmissable.
Of all my reread Doctor Who novels, this was the one I was most dreading yet was most looking forward to having reread. It took me three days to screw up the courage to begin. Frankly, I was afraid. It's another Interference in breadth and scope, but back in 2001 I found it huge, sprawling and almost indigestible. Would I see its charms anew, or would I go completely insane with masochistic self-inflicted boredom?
Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be the former.
On first reading, this book does everything in its power to numb your faculties. There's the prose style of course, which is dense, confusing and alienating. It doesn't feel like a novel so much as a graduate thesis. You never get inside anyone's head. And then, as if that's not enough, there are the shock tactics. The entire novel is an affront to our inner Sad Fanboy... "he can't do that!" is our constant reaction. I could name half a dozen completely separate things Lawrence does in Henrietta Street that might persuade any one of us to ceremonially burn his entire works and stick nails in his effigy.
With all that going on, hardly anyone had the energy left to follow the story. Which is a shame, since it's actually quite good.
On this second reading, I was ready for the aforementioned distractions and so found myself getting caught up in the story. When I had to stop reading, to my surprise I couldn't wait to get started again. Underneath the big events, there's some surprisingly human emotion. Juliette gets some touching moments and I especially liked the Doctor's big scene in the church. When you already know the story, you don't need to devote so much energy simply to figuring things out and can immerse yourself more fully in its world.
There's some interesting continuity, both large and small. On the one hand there's the Palace in the Kingdom of the Beasts, and also the Man with the Rosette. (He's even better on second reading, by the way, since there's more to him than the conversation on pp230-231. He's practically an old friend of Scarlette's by that point, having shown up as an observer as early as p88 and p130. And as for those people who were whining that his identity isn't made sufficiently explicit... geez, get a life.)
However there are also throwaway continuity references, of the kind that I thought Lawrence had avoided in this post-Ancestor Cell book. Lady Diamond's bookshop in Dead Romance is referenced on p156. We also get multiple mentions of Jared Khan from Birthright, both as John Dee and Count Cagliostro. Admittedly Lawrence never hints at their common hidden identity, instead just using them as the real historical characters that they were, but it's curious that Henrietta Street's only continuity indulgences are to NAs starring a future Doctor (or none at all) instead of the then-current one.
Random thought: the set-up for this book supposes that something bad has happened to time around Earth (and perhaps specifically London) in the 18th century. I think we're meant to read this as a general consequence of Earth's importance in the wake of Gallifrey's unhappening and the ensuing disruption to history, but anyone looking for a more specific cause might look to Faction Paradox. The Eleven-Day Empire (created in 1752) might easily have damaged timelines in the eighteenth century, especially when the Faction subsequently met its doom. The book's description of the Kingdom of the Beasts isn't a million miles away from The Book of the War's description of the Eleven-Day Empire.
I like The Adventuress of Henrietta Street a lot better now. In 2001 I regarded it as an overambitious failure, but this reread has persuaded me that it's much more likeable and engaging than it seemed at first sight. Unfortunately I can't imagine that many people will be prepared to give it that second chance. For that reason the prose style still gets a thumbs down, despite the fact that underneath it has more warmth and humanity than one might expect. And of course it's also a huge, huge epic.
To my surprise... enjoyable!
A Review by Terrence Keenan 18/1/02
Well, Lawrence Miles has returned to Doctor Who fiction. The last time he unleashed a book into the Whoniverse, was Interference, whose shockwaves can still be felt to this day. (That last line is hyperbole, but there's truth in the words ) So, what would Miles come up with this time, what Milesian masterplan would be sent out into the world of DW?
Yes, a history.
I will try to keep this as spoiler free as possible. Truly, honestly.
The Adventuress of Henrietta Street is a "non-fiction" account of the events surrounding a Bordello in London from March of 1782 to February 1783, its madam -- Scarlette, the title character -- her band of courtesans and her Elemental Champion, the Doctor. The book is complete with omniscient narrator and has letters, journal entries, and other notes in order to move the story along. The non-fiction format allows Miles to riff on History, politics of the times, Tantric sex, the Magical underground of the times, and the forthcoming scientific and industrial revolutions. And thatšs just for starters.
The format gives an odd shift to characterization. Because we have events explained to us through the "Historian" the characters motives are never fully explained. As Mike Morris pointed out in his review it makes all the characters a mystery. The secondary characters -- Lisa-Beth, Rebecca, Juliette and Katya -- despite this, all have their moments to shine and show off their distinct personalities.
Anji and Fitz are sidelined, though, Fitz does get some credit for some of the more interesting revelations in the ongoing story.
The three main characters are The Doctor, Scarlette and Sabbath. Even though Scarlette is the title character, she's not all that impressive. Shešs reminiscent of iris Wildthyme, although a far less annoying version. Sabbath is quite impressive. Introduced as a potential villain, Sabbath instead becomes an very dangerous, very pragmatic ally. He attracts your attention whenever he appears on the page. The Doctor is fabulous. A mythic being from another time; a survivor, hero and champion. I was reminded of the Man with no Name from the Dollars trilogy of westerns by Sergio Leone. Brilliant stuff.
Like City of the Dead, magic abounds in The Adventuress of Henrietta Street. Like City, therešs no technobabble explanation for why it might work. Unlike City, it didn't annoy me. The way Miles explains what magic might be and how it could work, or how it couldnšt, sold me. Other authors should take note of this.
The main baddies are apes, which represent the animal side of human nature. They first appear under strict ritual, then by will, then at random. We're not talking King Kong in a rubber suit, either. The apes are frightening, vicious creatures. Easily pictured in the mind and one of the most effective threats seen in any DW novel.
I've only touched the surface of events. Miles is out to recreate the myth of the Doctor in fantastic terms, something that other authors have tried and failed miserably at. Here, it works superbly. There are a few inside jokes that only Miles would have the chutzpah to put in. And the tangents and sidesteps are all woven throughout the book in a way that feels natural.
I'll sum up my feelings for this book by saying that when I closed the back cover, I had a smile on my face you couldn't remove with a jackhammer.
A masterpiece. Justin, please sign Lawrence Miles up for more.
10 out of 10
Adult stuff! by Joe Ford 22/1/02
I have read a lot about Doctor Who on the net recently and fandom seems to splitting into two factions (at least regarding the EDA's), those who love the radical shake up in the shows formula and those who are mortified by it? Gallifrey is gone! The Doctor has lost a lot of his past selves' memories! The Doctor's companion smokes! And now, as if to rub it in a little more the Doctor has now < SPOILER >! HORROR OF HORRORS!!! Well I guess you can figure which category I fall into…
I love it! Jesus all you 'trad' fans out there, Doctor Who has never been more alive, fresh and exciting than it is now! The whole formula of the show is that it has no formula! Go and and watch The Aztecs (an early classic) and then listen to the recently released The One Doctor and compare how similar they are!
This is a book series at the peak of its powers, taking huge risks but paying off handsomely. Actually I have to admit I read the first chapter and was slightly miffed at the style of the prose. How can I get close to these people if I can't hear what they're thinking directly? Where were the Doctor, Anji and Fitz? But it doesn't take long for you to adapt to this most unconventional prose style as the 'its not certain exactly what they thought/said/did' of the book fits the somewhat ambiguous nature of the plot perfectly. By the time I was at chapter three this book was already in the category 'unputdownable'.
It's no light read, don't get me wrong. You can't breeze through it like you could Grimm Reality and Eater of Wasps, it's a book to be savoured, to soak in every word of it's rich vivid text, to take note of the historical accuracy and to revel in the gob smacking actions of its characters.
What a complex beast the plot is. As we're only given a vague description to the reality of the monsters, the babewyns, a lot is left to our imaginations. They are however mercilessley described and the result is a Who monster that actually scared me for the first time in many, many years. Slavering, snarling apes, the base instincts of human society personified, it is a subtle reminder of what we could be and what once were.
But it is the compelling characters that drive the densely written story, that provide the best shocks and twists. What is shocking is how little the companions actually appear, this would usually be a problem with me as they are my identification with the book but although Fitz and Anji are about, they have very little to do. When they do appear they are used wisely (especially Anji's skeptisism which I thought made her a bit unsmypathetic until I realised she was right about Juliette!). However we are given a fresh set of 'companions', Scarlette, Lisa Beth, Juliette and Rebbecca.
Scarlette is a wonderful creation and a character I would love to see return. She was strong willed, the driving force of the Doctor's plan and it was quite touching to see the affection that they had for each other. And yet despite her strength she was still portrayed as a very human creation, shocked at the betrayl of a friend, angered to the point of getting drunk and making a fool of herself. Her relationship with Juliette, Lisa-Beth and of course, the Doctor were vital to the books success. And her eventual fate in the book is VERY in character.
Juliette on the hand was a bit off a mystery. There were several twists for her character and to my surprise I didn’t see any of them coming. Embracing the darkness as she did proved to be essential reading and her suden re-appearances in the last third of the book were great.
Rebbecca was the only one that didn't do much for me. She was pretty much sidelined anyway so I'll move on.
Lisa-Beth was fun. Miles' used her to subvert my expectations, throughout I thought she would be the villaness and to see her and Scarlette suddenly reach an understanding after all their rivalry was a pleasant twist. She reminded me a bit of Anji, unimpressed by much that was going on around her. I loved the casual reference that she slept with Fitz, but more out of borderm than any kind of lust.
And of course our champion…the Doctor. Although Colin Baker will always be my favourite (just listen to his audios!), if it came to sheer development and fascination of a character than the eighth Doctor reigns supreme. People may say that McCoy got better development in The New Adventures but he pretty much ran on the manipulator image…just go and read Father Time, Year of Intelligent Tigers and now The Adventuress of Henrietta Street to see how to make a protagonist truly compelling. They have done some remarkable work with the Doctor recently and this is the pinnacle. Setting up shop in a whore house (let's not by shy about it!), getting married, tying his soul to the Earth to protect it and having his second heart removed! Woah, that's a lot to happen to one guy! What a shock it was to see Sabbath cut him open and remove his heart… and given the mysterious nature of much of the book I adored the explanation as to why it had gone black and had to go. Truly this is Doctor Who rewarding its audience for its patience.
And it is this adult tone that impressed me the most. There are fights, sex, truly horrific deaths and yet it still felt like Doctor Who to me. The show that can be anything.
A beautifully written piece then with a superbly characterised cast and a hugely satisfying ending. Who could possibly ask for more…?
(Well, me obviously, because I got Sabbath too who hands down ranks as
my number one 'please return as soon as possible' baddie!)
An astonishing book, powered by symbolism and striking imagery and wrapped up in bold, experimental narration. Looking back over the eighth Doctor range as a whole there are few books that have this much impact or that break the rules with such verve and distinction. The best eighth Doctor book ever? Quite possibly...
One of the delights of this book is the amount of fascinating historical detail packed in, blurred into the fiction with invisible ease. The story of the Gordon Riots is really nasty and only one of the vivid mentions of eighteenth century horror. The sweeping events of the eighteenth century heavily influence this shocking chapter in the Doctor's life and their bonding stresses a feeling of transition. This is reflected politically (with the madness of the King and his dealings with America), culturally ("In the years to come there'd be blood and fire, war and renewal, the burning of coal and the burning of peace treaties, human workers redefined as machine parts while free thinkers made the most glorious of discoveries") and spiritually (with Scarlette, the last of the Hellfire mistresses). The gears of history are shifting and this story is but a cog in its wheel ("The old order, some might have argued, had ended with the siege of Henrietta Street").
Conjugal strength is a proven commodity in Adventuress and one used by the Doctor to fight his enemies. The Doctor's intention to marry Juliette and thus bond himself to the Earth is hugely representational of the revisionist eighth Doctor adventures (the idea that her virginity could almost be used as a weapon, to give birth to an alien as humanity's protector). The eighth Doctor began his adventures with the shock announcement that he is half-human (on his mother's side) so this symbolic link to the Earth enhances the direction of the books, turning their back on Gallifrey (hurrah). "He wanted to give himself roots in a universe where he no longer truly belonged" screams the narrative, the Doctor attempting to bring security to our troubled world in a universe without the Time Lords.
But he also pulls together a number of "lost knowledge" holders to combat the evil that the apes represent. The hallucinogenic opening sequence of tantric intercourse raising a murderous, bestial ape almost seems to be a shock reminder of our baser, animal instincts. The book takes a far more disturbing route however, revealing that it was the knowledge Lisa-Beth possessed that brought forth the babewyn ("They (the apes) are our own ignorance given flesh. Should we reach the horizon we will find our own ignorance staring back at us in the shape of these bloody, murderous animals"). It is interesting to note how much more interesting the Time Lords are by their absence, their protection of humanity and other knowledge seekers gone ("Humanity's punishment on itself - whenever man or woman explored the darkness, the apes would be waiting there") they are now vulnerable to the possibility of time travel. It is almost as if unlicensed time travel is disturbing some force and they are sending the apes to slaughter whoever would dare to stamp their own mark on history (setting up events in Sometime Never... perfectly). The evil these beasts represent is disturbingly portrayed in graphic metaphors, a scene of the apes fondling the books in an "improper" manner (going as far as to wipe their backsides with it) suggests the rape of knowledge, a truly frightening concept.
This book would not exist in the pre-Ancestor Cell universe, that much has been made explicitly clear and even the Doctor makes his awareness of a lack of a power that keep the timelines in check known in his book, The Ruminations of a Foreign Traveller in his Element. The Mayaki (who have a special relationship with time) and Mother Dutt's teachings of Shaktyanda are a direct result of the Doctor's destruction of his homeworld, proving he has changed the shape of the universe in more ways than we ever knew.
Another strong theme is the use of blood in the book, dealing with time as a living, breathing, evolving thing. Striking reds are splashed about the book, Scarlette's clothes and furnishings, orchids and roses decorating the Doctor's wedding ceremony. The book goes even further with its blood theme; the synchronising women in the seraglios ("the house bleeding"), the bloody historical facts ("the skies of London turned to blood"), Juliette being marked by an ape's beastly blood and wearing red to be primed with the world around her. The narrative uses its theme of blood to maintain its existence, to keep the story alive.
It is worth commenting on Lawrence Miles' skill in narrative construction considering the method he chooses to write his book. Considering the device of recalling events that have already happened, (itself a sticky point with some readers, frustrated at the distance the book takes from its material. I found the writing style fascinating; the imaginative way Miles constructs the book out of written accounts. Would we be so easily able to accept scenes of tantric sex, torture and bestial terror so easily if the book had been written in the third person?), Miles manages to successfully disguise a great number of twists. Lisa Beth's hoax betrayal and Juliette's defection are triumphant moments in the book, especially when you consider the narrator knew about these events before he even started re-accounting the facts. Indeed the book does some very clever things with this omnipotent narration, slipping in information about future events (such as Scarlette's death and the Doctor's retrieval of the TARDIS) and then letting the ideas brew in our heads for a while before dealing with them several scenes later. Talk about whetting your audience's appetites.
Adventuress goes to extreme lengths to make the Doctor an extremely potent character again. To achieve this he gets married to a prostitute and has one of his hearts torn out... sounds a bit much doesn't it? No, these revisions work because they are tied to exactly what we perceive the Doctor to be. He has always been the protector of Earth so it's nice to see him married into the role (and anyone upset by the thought of the asexual Doctor marrying a woman... gasp! Scarlette's speech on page 207 should soothe your worries) and his rejection of Time Lord society and everything it represents is captured in the scene where his body heals thanks to the removal of his second heart (which ties him to Gallifrey) and he walks through the flames (the stunning cover image being one of the most powerful set pieces in the book) to confront the King of the Beasts. These changes in his lifestyle are foretold, a terrific early scene where he examines his beard in a mirror, not quite believing his reflection and emphasising his self-doubt at approaching events. Interesting to hear that the Doctor's sickness has been apparent for one hundred years (and twinges occurring in earlier books). And with his new status as an elemental is it really a coincidence that Scarlette is described as loving the Doctor like a God just pages before his act of saving a man from crucifixion?
Sabbath is given such an impressive build up that his entrance cannot help but be a memorable occasion ("A huge, all pervading shadow - who lurked in dark places, as if hiding in the belly of some monstrous leviathan which moved unseen below the surface of human affairs"). The exploration of his ship, the Jonah, is superbly menacing (with focus on strong words like darkness, canon teeth, corpses, classical, throbbing, idols and Gods to create a vivid, oppressive atmosphere) and leads to an equally wonderful confrontation between hero and villain. Once the pair are face to face, two charlatans ready to play the game, it is clear a new regular has arrived and one who will possibly rival the Doctor's importance.
More is revealed about Sabbath than any of us realised at the time. He is confirmed as the protector of time ("I think we can safely say that history is our profession now"), an agent of whoever is watching over events (who he refers to as the true enemy) and a humorous (defying authority by dressing his apes up in naval uniforms) and very human character (his reaction to the death of Tula Lui is quite poignant, especially after the book has gone to such lengths to portray him as a monster). "Time is too precious an artefact to be pawned off by prostitutes", one of several suggestions that Sabbath is protecting the timeline for a purpose. Put all these together and the answers in Sometime Never... make perfect sense.
On hand, almost Benny-style, is the Master to comment on how different the universe is these days. He poignantly refers to the old days where his rivalry with the Doctor was all-important to the fate of the universe but now it is utterly insignificant and even worse, embarrassingly tame. "He went on to speculate that he might just go back to sleep, and only wake up when the universe was once more in a fit state for somebody of his calibre" ...far more important than his comment that there are only four Time Lords left in existence is his assessment at the state of current Doctor Who, frighteningly adult compared to its televised parent. Some would agree with his words, others (like me) would much rather read Adventuress than watch Terror of the Autons, but nevertheless Miles makes some thoughtful comments about the evolution of the programme.
The title of the book makes the suggestion that Scarlette will be the most important character in the book but I found she only became a powerful character during the last third, stepping from the Doctor's shadow and leading the Accidental Conclave on the great hunt. You can't help but cheer as she summons a babewyn, spears it through the heart and reveals that the apes (ie human ignorance) can be fought. Her drunken self-destructive streak and touching sacrifice (pretending to have died in the final battle to allow the Doctor to leave the Earth) in the latter passages of the book reveal what a great character she was, but during the first half of the book she remains quiet and somewhat faceless. Her mock funeral is the last magic trick of a theatrical manipulator.
Miles barely disguises his disgust for Anji (and listening to the terrible tortures he wanted to inflict on her during this book I think we got off lightly), making her rude, presumptuous and confrontational. These are aspects of her character that have turned up in other books but they are usually softened by her warmth and humanity. One character calls her an angry, exotic elemental.
When Miles wrote Adventuress he was under the impression that the Daleks would be revealed to be the villains at the climax of the arc, however difficulties ensued and things had to be changed. This is why the "black eye sun" that gazes over the Kingdom of the Beasts is never explained. Could it be Octan, as I suggested in my summing up review of the Council of Eight arc, watching over events? Re-reading this it is doubtful when descriptions like "the blazing black ball of the sun swung in his direction, an eye made out of pupils" are used to describe it. However Sometime Never... ends with a menacing black eye watching over events - perhaps they are still waiting to pounce - a PDA possibly, now the Daleks CAN be used by the BBC again? The equally compelling idea that these scenes were actually set on dead Gallifrey (which would tie into the book's themes perfectly), or a representation of what the lack of Gallifrey has done to the universe and the sun is the dead Eye of Harmony watching over the story is one to ponder on too.
The climax to the book is given suitable levity. The Doctor's wedding ceremony, surrounded by monster masks, held by a drunken priest, Scarlette the surrogate bride and the Doctor close to death is one of the most memorable scenes in Doctor Who fiction. The fact that apes storm the church and transport the guests to the Kingdom of Beasts rounds off a classy service.
Setting up the future with style, the book takes a turn for the macabre as Sabbath realises what is causing the Doctor's sickness and rips out his poisoned heart. Camera Obscura here we come as the Doctor discovered just what happened to his diseased organ.
The final set piece of the book, the siege, is appropriately given considerable coverage - all of the main contributors (Lisa-Beth, Scarlette, Rebecca) to the essay are present and the action is assembled in vivid detail. The image of the Doctor decapitating the King of the Beasts is intoxicating; our hero is breaking the chains of human ignorance and ensuring that knowledge has no bounds.
This is a book about detail and will frustrate readers who prefer traditional, adventure stories. Those in the know about the history of Doctor Who will realise that this book pushes the boundaries of the show considerably, taking the series in a mature new direction. People still say that the New Adventures took the most risks but Adventuress leaves their legacy in the nursery. It is bold and brilliant and reveals that there are still many areas the show has yet to explore.
I love it.
Two out of Five by Jamas Enright 25/2/02
He's back and it's about 5 million words over length. This book is the return of Lawrence Miles, the author who can't write a normal story. The typeface is smaller and with more lines per page, I have the feeling that it this was printed in the same font as, say, Grimm Reality, it would have been up around 500 pages.
Except for the prologue and epilogue the narrative style is like an essay by some academic reconstructing events from surviving documents. This really bogs the story down as the sheer amount of text threatens to overwhelm the reader (if written in normal prose the book might have been close to 1000 pages!). The story itself is steeped in symbolism and contains many events that could send startling repercussions throughout the whole line of Eighth Doctor novels. Or not, it's hard to tell with Lawrence Miles just how many other authors pay attention to him.
The story does build up and there is a sense of tension that comes through, however the narrative technique here is the biggest hindrance. It is a slog to work through, but there are some nice moments that almost make it worth while.
It's difficult to talk about the characterisations, as the story tends to tell events broadly and not give too many details. It's hard to see the Doctor making the decisions he does here with the benefit of a closer examination of how he got there and what happened to him on the way (none of which is really revealed). Most the important events happen to him, especially at the end, but without knowing what else will be carried over, I'm not sure what parts to take notice of.
For a while I wasn't even sure if Fitz and Anji were going to be in this book, but they finally turn up in a situation that raises more questions that answers. Their characterisations are fairly consistent in what we get.
With the other main characters, getting a proper feeling of them is tricky. For example, Scarlette (the Adventuress herself) is presented in some ways as if the reader is supposed to already know of her. (Again, the essay nature of the book hinders here, written in a way to support other stories about the events the reader might have read.) She is described as a warrior in a way that suggests we are already supposed to know what kind of warrior she is. Lawrence Miles obviously invested some considerable time in her, but he stops his own efforts from coming out.
The same with Sabbath, who is to become a returning villain. He has a famous half-smile (is it?), and commands great resources (does he?), but in many ways we have still to yet have a proper introduction story for him. He could be an interesting character, but we aren't given more than a slight flavour of him.
Lawrence Miles is not a particularly favourite author of mine, and The Adventuress of Henrietta Street does nothing to endear him to me. The prose is a summary of, yes, admittedly epic events, but the style is extremely dense and will take a lot of work for any interested reader to get into. If you're not a fan, you might be better advised to just get a summary of the plot points.
A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 25/3/02
The Adventuress of Henrietta Street is bloody huge. It's a massive and epic work that is squeezed into the BBC book (less than 300 page) limit by having virtually no margins and a typeface small enough that even ants armed with stupidly powerful magnifying glasses may have trouble with fully deciphering the text. Having recently completed reading this book, I fully expect to be squinting my way through life for the next six months and I can only hope that laser-corrective surgery will not be a necessity. But despite the physical limitations (my eyes, my poor suffering eyes!) I found this to be quite an intriguing story and one worthy of a lot more attention than mere nitpicking over individual continuity points.
The book is written in the style of a pseudo-historical novel. It's a collection of accounts, descriptions and stories of events that the narrator has pieced together from numerous, varying and (occasionally) outright conflicting historical records. There's very little dialogue and a lot of uncertainty. While this may seem to distance the reader from the action, it does allow Lawrence Miles to add several elements of foreshadowing and symbolism that ordinarily would have been very difficult to seamlessly add to the narrative. It took me about thirty or forty pages to really get a feel for this style (and thirty or forty pages of this dense and, at times, difficult material is nothing to sneeze at), but once I got a handle on it, the technique really worked for me. It made the events being discussed feel quite epic and grand. The settings were extremely well evoked, and despite the fantastical nature of the majority of the events, a feeling of realism was brought across to the reader. The historical "age" of the story is made much more concrete by creating the story in this manner. The book is able to play with the concepts of ambiguity and the unreliable narrator, but it doesn't allow itself become overshadowed by them.
After the book has been completed, I really didn't get the feeling that I'd come to know these characters particularly well. They certainly act in an internally consistent manner, but one doesn't quite get close enough to be able to predict their actions or to understand the subtleties of all their motivations. This should not be terribly surprising given the style in which the book is written. But even this shrouding of the people manages to add something to the overall work. We're given bits and pieces of the characters. Not enough to discover fully formed persons, but enough to tantalize the imagination. Despite the obvious barriers between characters and audience, one wishes to learn more about these people. Almost paradoxically, I felt as though there actually were real historical people being discussed, despite the artificial obstruction of time keeping me far away from them. A lot of this is down to Miles' sheer writing skills that make shadowy, partially hidden figures seem somehow vivid. Instead of appearing formless or indistinct, they came across as genuine.
Speaking of good writing, many passages are extremely chilling and frightening. Indeed, this is one of the only Doctor Who books to have actually given me nightmares (okay, one nightmare), based solely on the descriptions and manifestations of the main "villain(s)" of the story. These sections achieve a very spooky feel; the atmosphere is shockingly effective at times. Apart from the physical descriptions, the frequent historical asides and passages excellently provide a feeling of uncertainty. Some of the narrator's observations of the symbolism come across as heavy-handed, but for the most part they are handled well.
The actual content of the book is simply astonishing. It manages to be primal and raw while also encompassing the strange, the unbelievable and the extraordinary. Gritty descriptions of death, blood and sex are side by side with tales of the supernatural. This is a story of Gods, elementals and forces of nature. In the dawn before the Industrial Revolution, the armies of knowledge and intellect must battle with the strange and terrible beasts of ignorance. It's an epic battle, and one that's absolutely spellbinding.
The events that take place in The Adventuress of Henrietta Street may have long lasting effects on the Doctor Who line. Or, possibly, they may not. Whatever the follow-up is to the proceedings of this book, the main thing to know is that this is a smart and clever story that will have you thinking about its symbolism and metaphors long after the last page has been read. It may also have you reaching for the soothing and healing powers of friendly eye-drops so remember to keep some liquid handy.
A Review by Rob Matthews 8/4/02
Lawrence Miles has said that because this was the first Doctor Who book written for the money alone, he felt obliged to make it his best.
Brave try, but I'm afraid his 'historical narrative' gambit doesn't pay off. It's the book's main failing, and a pretty big one, because it impedes the flow of the story and causes all character interaction to be related second-hand, in a way that is deeply frustrating and that feels simply unnecessary. The book is for the most part just boring, something the allegedly over-padded Interference was not. Not that the 'factual account' patina of Adventuress isn't often ingenious (the Cagliostro stuff and so on), but it gets very wearing very quickly and is ultimately unconvincing. In Interference, Miles used transcripts of imaginary investigative television shows and made them believable as such. Here I don't understand what the 'Adventuress' account is pretending to be - some kind of apocryphal text to do with black magic? A biography of an eighteenth-century prostitute? It's certainly not convincing as the latter because Scarlette doesn't really have a great presence in the book and her early life is omitted. If on the other hand this were a book about a historical mystery - the type of thing you'd find on the same shelf as those about the Jack the Ripper, the Turin shroud and so on - it's lack of any central theory would make it a ridiculously vague load of gibberish. It's also unconvincing because Miles inserts jarring pieces of storytelling trickery into the book, such as when Fitz discovers 'something' important that the narrator promises to return to later in his text. That's just not how fact-based texts work. A real historical document is written in strictly linear order and doesn't hold things back in order to create shock twists.
The second clunker, I'm afraid, is Scarlette herself. This has been pointed out already, but she's a very two-dimensional 'colourful' character, right down to her name. She has bright red hair! She fights! She duels! She makes things up! A poor man's Iris Wildthyme, and the problem is sadly compounded by a narrative device which makes it impossible to really get to know her - beyond our assumption that she must be rather wonderful if the Doctor thinks she is.
In strictly Doctor Whoey terms the book is worthwhile because Miles is able to make some sense out of the post-Ancestor Cell Whoniverse - an unGallifreyed continuum that's fraying at the edges and that, if disturbed, will release all kinds of primordial chaos. In a sense it's a more accomplished - though frankly more leaden - remake of the dilemma in Christmas on a Rational Planet. More importantly, though, we get some wonderful clarification as to what the Eighth Doctor actually represents in the Who mythos. After - from what I gather - spending the first couple of years of the EDA run as a congenital arsehole (or something), it seems it's been decided that the novels should now pick up the thematic threads of the Doctor as introduced in the telemovie. Yikes, I hear you say. But that irritating throwaway line about the Doctor being half-human is becoming very important to the book line, and particularly to Lawrence Miles, who has previously suggested that the Eighth Doctor is the first to be subject to sexual urges (Paul Magrs hinted at this too), and who now reduces the Doctor's physiology to - apparently - that of a human's. By the end of this book, the Doctor may well be a mere mortal like any of us. It's not even clear whether he can regenerate anymore, and the implication for me is that he probably can't.
(in fact, given the spin-off nature of the Eighth Doctor range - and barring another telemovie travesty - it's a near-certainty)
Oddly - given that they're apparently Miles' arch-enemies -, the Who authors that Adventuress owes the greatest debt to are Paul Cornell and Kate Orman. It seems to me that Cornell's Human Nature is now being replayed on a grand and perhaps permanent scale in the EDAs. The Doctor is turning into just a bloke. And the scene where the Doctor's second heart is removed reminded me very much of the scene with Ship's flower in Set Piece.
Otherwise, it all leaves me a bit indifferent. Sex summoning monsters? And tantric sex, the type that Sting has?! Bleh. I'm still not nuts on magic in Doctor Who. I firmly believe that Doctor Who is better than that, and shouldn't be grabbing on to the coat-tails of Tolkien or Harry fucking Potter just because they're popular at present. This is a dull book with occasional good and/or important bits. It's much more thoughtfully and finely written, but in it's own way Adventuress is like The Ancestor Cell: necessary despite vast flaws. However, I am looking forward to seeing how the EDAs follow it up.
It's called "Show, don't tell" for a reason by Robert Smith? 18/6/02
I'll be honest, it's taken me months to review this book and I'm still not sure I know what to make of it. There's a lot here that's very clever, some of it quite funny and an attempt at something quite different that I really appreciate... but I still have an ugly aftertaste in my mouth from the book and I'm not entirely sure why.
The history style is the biggest tangible problem for me, although I don't think that entirely explains my feelings. At first I thought this was very clever indeed, but the problem is that it keeps the reader far too removed from the events. It's trying to tell us about big, apocalyptic events, but it doesn't let us feel them. There's no undercurrent of symbolism flowing through the text; instead we're told precisely what everything means up front. Well, maybe not everything, but there's nothing that makes us care about the rest.
The second biggest problem is the characters, which is an offshoot of the first. Basically, the nature of the book means that we don't get close to any of the characters. Part of this is deliberate, I'm sure, but on the other hand Scarlette and Sabbath did absolutely nothing for me, which seems to defeat the purpose of the book. I know Sabbath is supposed to be a new recurring character in the novels, but there's nothing here that warrants a return appearance. That can't be a good sign.
The only original character who had any noticeable effect on me was probably Dr Nie Who and that only because his introduction is hilarious. Credit where it's due, I laughed for about three days straight at that.
And with Fitz and Anji sidelined the way the Doctor usually is in a Miles novel, that only leaves the Doctor himself as a character who can make it through Miles's distancing. Lawrence has usually sidelined the Doctor in his novels, sometimes effectively (Christmas, Dead Romance) and sometimes not so effectively (Interference). I really appreciate having the Doctor as a central character here. Unfortunately, the nature of the text means that he's merely the least removed character in the book, rather than someone I can get a handle on. I'd really like to see Lawrence's detailed take on the Doctor and I'm not sure I've seen it yet.
I like the way the book gradually expands itself as the book progresses, from the house to England, to the colonies and finally the universe at large. The diary excerpts are helpful, but unfortunately there aren't nearly enough of them and those that are there are far too short. This is one of the major failings, in my opinion. We need to hear more about the events from the characters involved. I'll admit that I haven't read too many history books, but those I've glanced at have often had quite lengthy excerpts from other sources, so I don't think this would violate Lawrence's aim. Particularly noticeable is the lack of commentary from Fitz or Anji, which would have gone a long way to helping us get a handle on the book. Fitz in particular has been known to keep a diary in the past, so there are easy ways to get around this.
Even the apes did nothing whatsoever for me. I've seen other people report the effect the apes had on them, but I just couldn't get close enough to the text to let them have any effect, no matter how hard I tried. And I really did. The cleverness of the book really made me want to like it, to try and play along with Lawrence's chosen style, but I just couldn't.
The revelations themselves are serviceable enough, I suppose. I'm sure I'd be raving wildly about them if I'd been shown them instead of just told about them, though. This makes two books in a row where I desperately wish we'd been given the book's basic idea in a more palatable form. It's probably pointless to hammer on about it, but seeing two potentially brilliant books in a row sunk despite their fantastic central ideas is incredibly frustrating. I know Lawrence wants to look at the Doctor Who universe from all sorts of unusual angles, and I usually really like that sort of thing, but I think his biggest problem is that he already did this to perfection in Dead Romance and he's been trying to outguess himself ever since.
Speaking of Lawrence, I'd like to say that I always pictured him as someone tall and skinny. No real reason, just the mental picture I got from the name. Until I read the detailed description of Sabbath in this book, that is. He's described as though the narrator has fallen hopelessly in love with him. It's rather comical, because he's desperately trying to make the physical description sound bold and heroic, but, um, it isn't. Not one of the other characters is described in anything even remotely resembling this manner. Either Lawrence is short and pudgy himself or he's completely smitten by someone who is (or possibly both).
All that said, I did like the way the narration allows the events to appear far more philosophical than they would otherwise. Rationally, there's no reason why removing the Doctor's heart should suddenly tie him to Earth, or allow Sabbath to time travel, but that doesn't matter, because it's the symbol that counts. This is where the style really works and it does make up for a lot of the preceding pages, but the awkward nature of the book means these sorts of revelations can only come at the end.
Oh, and I freely admit I'm not an expert at history texts, but do any of them actually delay their revelations for the sake of dramatic convention? I'm prepared to be corrected here, but I'd think that if you were trying to emulate the style of a history text, you'd want to use the same structure. The way it appears here just seems fundamentally wrong.
I really wanted to like Adventuress, but it simply wouldn't let me. I wanted this to be the breathtaking EDA I've been waiting for, but a part of me increasingly suspects that I'm going to have to settle with The Blue Angel being it. There's a lot that's clever, a lot that's important and it's even funny in places, but it has no soul.
A Review by John Seavey 15/7/02
Part of it is that I think I just resonate with Lawrence Miles. Part of it is that I enjoy reading the non-fiction history books that Adventuress emulates. Part of it is that I'm loving finally seeing the consequences of The Ancestor Cell dealt with in some measure. But for all those reasons and more, I loved this book. Small print, thin margins, and all... I'm definitely looking forward to see what happens next. (And incidentally, I no longer believe anyone who tells me that the BBC has moved on to do continuity free adventures with a Doctor who's a tabula rasa, able to adventure free and clear of his convoluted past. Every single one of the above books, not just Mad Larry, had the Doctor remember bits and pieces of his past in throwaway dialogue, and every one of them "resonated" with Ancestor Cell in some way. It's as if all of the authors were champing at the bit to do continuity references, and were restraining themselves with great effort. With Adventuress, we finally start getting some overt continuity, and I for one welcome it. I just wish we had a reality where Lawrence Miles worked better with his fellow authors, instead of alienating them... bringing them along in his visions...*sigh* Oh well. We'll set that aside with our Harlan Ellison Doctor Who book.)
As for Sabbath, well... I'm curious to see what he'll do next. That's about all I can say -- there wasn't really enough of him that I felt I could like or dislike him. I did feel that he crossed a line when he took the Doctor's heart, and that if the Doctor had been in full possession of his faculties (and when he regains them, whenever that is) he would never have allowed it (and will reverse it). But I also felt like I was meant to feel that way -- that it was meant to seem like a violation of the Doctor, not like a "Yaaay!" sort of moment.
I'll be starting on Mad Dogs and Englishmen soon, and I have up through Trading Futures... beyond that, of course, it's down to the vagaries of the distribution system.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 30/8/02
This year (2002) has been a strange year for me in Doctor Who. Usually I lap up the books with a religious fervour normally associated with the missionary mind, but not this year. I've focused on the audios mostly. On the book front I've actually enjoyed the shortened novels, the Telos Novellas better, and only the Past Doctor BBC Books have come off the shelf. Thus sat on the shelf 5 8th Doctor Books unread, in pristine condition.
There's been some encouraging comments recently on various review sites concerning the 8th Doctor books. It seems I was being left behind with my non-8th Doctor stance (at least this year), but that was okay - plenty of time to catch up. Shortly, with only 1 book a month, I will be able to focus more - and I'm rather looking forward to it. Adventuress was not amongst the 5 8th Dr Books on my shelf. I don't read them all (I end up reading about 75% eventually) and the new Lawrence Miles, tiny-print, radical book was not high on my priorities.
But then I began to look at the whole picture. Adventuress started this new phase of BBC novels that I had been hearing magnificent reports about. It introduced the mysterious Sabbath, who returns in subsequent books. The Doctor goes through some character building, and there's a lot of stuff about the new role he has now the Time Lords are no more. I figured it was best that I gave it a go, but I've never liked a Lawrence Miles novel before, despite having started them all. "You never know, I might even like it", was how I felt when I began reading, hoping, hoping.
Adventuress is a massive book. It took me twice as long to get through than usual, but's that's because it is twice as long and very detailed. It is also a very different book than the standard fair. It's written as a Historical document. The author is reporting NOW on the goings on THEN of Henrietta Street in the 1780s. I have read lots of History Text Books - it was my subject at College, and I am therefore more familiar than most with this type of book. I actually enjoy this type of book quite a lot. The scholarly approach drew me in, and brought a reality to events that made the book seem more important. I knew it was a book of fiction, but the very fact that it was written as fact, raised it somehow. Through letters, recorded conversations, journals Miles presents to us the strange happenings around Scarlette's (the Adventuress of the Title) Brothel on Henrietta Street.
Doctor Who has done Adult material for a very long time now. I find it wonderfully refreshing that DW can produce such a wide range of books. Within a year we had the definite Child's book Nightdreamers (amongst others), and the definite Adult's book Adventuress (Rags & City of the Dead qualify too). I like them all, they all have a place. But for those who don't want this kind of Adult fare, stay clear. This is grown-up, involved, clever material. I didn't find the book offensive, I found it different and fascinating. Whether you want the Doctor in such a setting is a matter of opinion, and many will find it uncomfortable with the notion of the Doctor willingly staying with a bunch of Prostitutes. It will determine whether many people buy the book I expect. What is not in question is the sheer scope of this book and its excellence, and that Lawrence Miles has finally written a book that this reviewer absolutely thoroughly enjoyed.
Maybe I have been coming at Miles wrong, maybe I have missed out on his undoubted talent. More likely Adventuress is just the sort of book that interested ME, and I liked it from Page One. With its Historical writing style, its political comment (King and Parliament appear regularly), emphasis on Magic and Mysticism, the fascinating underbelly of London revealed, the darkness mixing with the colour of late 18th Century - all these elements combine in a book that impressed and amazed time and time again. It's one of those books that combines the magic of the middle ages, with the enlightenment that came from Technological and Scientific Knowledge. Revolution/Change was rife in the world - the late 17th Century was an uncertain time, but one that is massively interesting.
Lawrence Miles populates his book with some brilliant characters. Introduced quickly are the Courtesans of Henrietta Street. Scarlette, Lisa-Beth, Juliette, Emily, Katya and Rebecca are the stars of this book. There's probably never been more more unlikely stars of a Doctor Who story, but nonetheless I felt as though I knew them very well by the end of the book. It was fascinating to spend time with this group of women. Putting the Doctor in such a setting emphasizes the eccentricity of the 8th Doctor brilliantly. The nature of the business is irrelevant (the author doesn't really focus too much to the Sex stuff), this is simply the best place for the Doctor to recover the TARDIS, and to study and overcome the threat of the Babewyn - the beings that make the most of the Time Lord absence to rip through the fabric of Time. They are the violence of the book - and are extremely savage and frightening.
The 8th Doctor is brilliantly characterized throughout. Miles emphasizes our favourite Time Lord as a Mystical Being. He's the great Champion of Good against Evil. The book is about him more than anyone, largely leaving the Companions Anji and Fitz in the sidelines. They're there, and they do the odd errand for the Doctor, but the Doctor reigns supreme. I am totally fascinated about where we go from here with the 8th Doctor. There's also the glorious new character of Sabbath. Rarely has a supporting character been built up so much, and then that anticipation been handsomely paid off for the reader. This multi-faceted character dominates the book almost as much as the Doctor. His motivations are constantly in question. His craft for travelling almost as fascinating as the Doctors trusty TARDIS. His continued involvement is yet another major plus for this excellent series of books.
It's a book that requires greater attention, the devil is in the detail as they say. It's a book that adopts a style of writing not to everyone's taste - but it's a book that demands to be read for the sheer quality of the writing. The effort that you put into the book is rewarded many times over. I hated Interference for its unnecessary messing with DW Continuity. Here there's no such concerns, the DW slate has been reset anyway. It was the perfect time for Lawrence Miles to write a novel. That this novel turned out to be so brilliant surprised me, the old traditionalist. Embrace the new Who - it really is exceptional. 10/10