BBC Books

Author Mark Clapham Cover image
ISBN 0 563 53846 5
Published 2002

Synopsis: The air is thick with fog. The sea burns. Law and order are a thing of the past. Headless corpses are being found at the edge of the city, and the militia can't find the killer. Members of a deranged cult mutilate themselves while plotting the deaths of their enemies. Even the Doctor can't see any possibility of redemption for this cursed place. All he wants to do is leave, but to do so he needs the TARDIS - and the TARDIS is lost in the depths of a toxic sea.


Anji Kapoor rules! by Joe Ford 4/2/02

When was I lasted disapointed by an EDA? I can't remember (actually it was Grimm Reality but even that was fun in spots). Ever since The Burning the novels have consistently wowed me, always readable, often striking (The Year of Intelligent Tigers, Father Time) and regularly satisfying (Eater of Wasps, The Adventuress of Henrietta Street). I have become eager for each new book to come out (which my bookshop stupidly put out a week before it's due date each month, much to my glee!) primarily to see how the fascinating team of The Doctor, Anji and Fitz would fare.

And this month I was rewarded in spades. This is the most Anji-heavy book since Earthworld. She is treated well considering it is a male writer. She is hardly crucial for the first part of the book but as the Doctor and Fitz get embroiled in the latest string of murders on an alien world she strikes up a dangerous bargain that threatens to destroy her link to the Doctor forever. I can't ruin the surprise but her wish is made fully understandable, even though she knows she is betraying the Doctor, even though she knows there will be consequences, Mark Clapham gives the woman some very believable motivations. And when it all falls down around her she has no choice but to face the Doctor. It is a stunning sequence. Further proof that this is the perfect TARDIS team. She never backs down, not for a moment and the respect that they have for each other because of it strengthens their relationship in a way no other book has managed so far. So the Anji side of the book (with the wonderful coda) is a triumph of top quality suspense and character drama.

As for the rest…? Of course it was fab! Hope is the name of the planet they visit and by god it's not a place I would want to visit! Toxic ocean, polluted air, scrap metal cities, death and destruction down every alley. Mark carefully introduces us to the characters living on Hope, surviving out of pure desperation and depicts the city similarly well. It was simple prose, but quite visual, and infinately readable. It was the perfect setting for this uplifting story. It starts out as a rather graphic murder mystery and works well in this genre. There are a number of gruesome scenes that lay on chills and atmosphere, suggesting effectively that this was not a place to visit.

The TARDIS crew arrive during a tense action sequence and I found to my delight that they were seperated from the TARDIS indefinately. It had sunk to the bottom of the toxic ocean. This is how create real danger, with no means of escape it's a case of survive or die. The Doctor's disgust for the planet is very effective, it's been a while since we last saw him so repulsed.

It is not long before we're introduced to Silver. And what a character. I can see why Anji was drawn to him. He has a superb entrance and much of what follows doesn't disapoint. This is a bad guy out of a kid's fantasy, huge metal fist, red eye, super powers…but he is convincingly portrayed with enough human qualities to make him quite belivable. This seems to be a good time to be a Who villian (Sabbath, Tyran) and Silver joins the ranks as another well thought out and quite menacing nasty.

The action never stops and the plot unfolds quite nicely, adding new layers as it goes. The secret to the killings is quite ingeniuous (and surprising) and the racial issues brought up are relevant and intruiging. I guess nothing changes…even in the future. And I have to mention the exceptional cover…another book that I intentionally leave lying around the house (that I share with three other guys) to which they pick up with baited intetrest.

Were there any problems….? Well it's not exactly a challenging read but after Henrietta Street that's no bad thing and there are a few characters that I came to enjoy that were forgottern about towards the furiously paced finale but on the whole this was a perfectly good novel. Another winner.

The Doctor, Fitz and Anji seem more vibrant a combination than ever…well done guys for not letting them get stale (ie, Ace, Sam). I can see them in buisness for a good while yet (I Hope).

And what with the wonderful Jonny Morris (Festival of Death!) and Lance Parkin (Father Time!) contributing over the next few months I think we are in for more treats like this.

Supplement, 3/11/04:

I made the foolish, foolish error of reading Hope after Camera Obscura. You see I was taking a trip into the EDA archives after The Algebra of Ice to see the author at her absolute best and reached the somewhat annoying conclusion that most authors would seem desperately shallow in comparison, especially poor old Mark Clapham. The biggest insult is that Hope actually has a better story than Camera Obscura, "the tale of Anji betraying the Doctor for the sakes of a Dave clone" is actually far more interesting than "the Doctor chases a time machine around England" but what makes Lloyd Rose's work so much more satisfying than Clapham's is the writing itself, how she captures a scene, portrays her characters and paces her book.

I feel I am being too harsh on Hope but the first one hundred pages really are a struggle to enjoy and I say that after thoroughly enjoying it the first time round. The truth of the matter is I have grown a lot since 2002, my reading tastes have adapted thanks to the huge amount of Doctor Who fiction (and non Doctor Who fiction, especially James Herbert, Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, David Pirie, Douglas Adams and Patricia Cornwell) I have read.

What I found particularly annoying is how Clapham takes the liberty of introducing us to the TARDIS, the Doctor, Fitz and Anji for the very first time as though we had never heard of them before. Admittedly this makes the book far more "non fan" friendly than those books that simply get on with their story and introduce the regulars as the story demands them but I feel this is Clapham not trusting in his skill and it feels forced and childish. I felt as though I were opening a Target novel with it's "This is the Doctor and he is a traveller in time and space!" and there is nothing I hate more as a reader than being spoken down to. Had their story begun with the three of them emerging through the icy mist on Hope only to be confronted with the serial killer I may have been drawn into the story with far more ease.

What's worse is some of the horrible molly codling of the regulars; the desperate need to prove they are all friends and that there is little tension between them. There is one scene of pure awfulness that see the Doctor and Anji talking about Fitz and saying he wouldn't have the same "Fitz-ness" if he didn't chat up women everywhere they visited and get the brush off. Fitz-ness? Anji and Fitz discussing making toast in the TARDIS, her calling him "tiger" and him suggesting his toast making skills are legendary? Come on folks, this is shallow stuff, Camera Obscura has similar domestic scenes between the regulars but they feel much less like a cheap American sitcom than these.

Admittedly the writing of the early scenes is fairly bad anyway, a standard horror situation (horrid thingamajig going round cutting heads off people) is given nothing to allow it to stand out from similar plots, the characterisation is stock (the tired detective, the drunken gambler, the charismatic cyborg, his doleful but cold assistant) and the plot proceeds along very predictable lines (the Doctor slips in and agrees to sort the situation out... and he does!). Not helping these fairly average features is the writing that drags it down, some potentially exciting scenes are numbed by a decidedly bland prose style, one that describes events but fails to go into detail, that tells you about the characters' reactions but fails to have consequences, that refuses to focus on one character and instead flies about giving everybody's assessment on everything. The attack on the Silver Palace should have felt really important, it's a fairly dramatic event in itself but it feels over with in a second, nobody condemns Silver's murderous actions and it never really feels as though there is any danger. No danger, no interest. What finishes is off is the revelation that it is stupidly placed at the beginning of the book where it is briskly forgotten in favour of upcoming plots and is revealed as pointless page wasting.

And then bizarrely things start to improve out of nowhere. It was at about page 125 where I stopped turning the page with a stifled yawn and actually wanted to know what would happen next. Suddenly Clapham kicks into gear and the plots starts to become unpredictable and his characters take on a far more interesting role. Unfortunately half the book is over at this point which leads to a very rushed climax.

I have always been a huge fan of Anji and am not afraid to admit it. She feels like one of the most realistic of companions because her reactions to her adventures are from a very twenty-first century view point and that is something I can appreciate. What's more she is portrayed as a very intelligent, very strong willed woman, one who thinks through her actions and doesn't always trust that the Doctor is doing the right thing. She is a challenging friend for our hero and it is relief to see, she compliments his breathless heroism with an eye for consequences that he so often forgets about.

Hope is the first book to give Anji a chance in the limelight and to be fair after the initial condescending introduction to her she shines as the best character in the book. For a range that is continually criticized for ignoring important plot and character points (Whinge #1: "Why can't the Doctor remember his past?" Whinge #2: "When is Gallifrey coming back?" Whinge #3 "Why doesn't Fitz remember anything before The Ancestor Cell?") it should be noted that this book wraps up Anji's character arc that began in Escape Velocity with surprising clarity. It is very sweet how she cannot let go of her feelings for her ex-boyfriend Dave who died when she met the Doctor despite the fact she knew their relationship would not have lasted much longer. When she is given the opportunity to create a new Dave on Hope, it for entirely selfless reasons, she doesn't want her boyfriend back, she just wants to give him a chance to live the life he should have lived. It is very Anji to think this way and her strength of conviction never feels forced or unrealistic. When she betrays the Doctor in the worst possible way (giving away the secrets of the TARDIS) it never feels wrong, just misguided. The way Clapham handles her uncertainty is excellent and how she firmly justifies her actions when she is forced to admit the truth provides the book with its most vivid scene, the two regulars having a frank, honest conversation, saying some things that should have been said a while ago. When he gives her the TARDIS key to prove that he still trusts her I was fascinated by their relationship.

The penultimate scene sweetly and tidily puts the whole issue of Dave to rest and leaves Anji a woman free from the responsibility of love. If anything, this is the reason to buy Hope, Anji's very personal story is far more interesting than the standard SF cliches whizzing around her.

Recently I have discovered I have far more interest in Earthbound Doctor Who stories than outer space ones, not that they are automatically lesser in quality but I can usually relate to material set on Earth whereas grand SF plots usually have a touch of the comic about them. Mike Morris is right when he says Sometime Never... is full is silly ideas but it is also stunningly constructed and uses its ideas to tell a fascinating story, almost a perfect example of an intelligent SF tale. Hope on the other hand deals with robotic cyborg with a huge metal arm, little clones of Silver, acid seas, silly SF cults, a city built out of garbage... it's all very cartoonish and to be honest it never pretends to be anything else. It is hard to put much faith in a story where the main villain kills a bunch of people in his first scene but the heroes don't realise he is the villain until the climax. The trippy cover is very nice but hardly matches the descriptions of Hope within, the scale is all wrong and when are there three clones standing about paddling in the acid sea? Once the story reveals Silver's true plan to make copies of himself and conquer the universe (How original! Why can't a mega-baddie ever have a plan to grow turnips and halt famine in the universe? At least that would make a change!) it descends into the predictable again with the Doctor expertly managing to twist a knob and send Silver and his meanies to a deserted planet and suggest a rematch. Oh goody, can't wait for that. For a perfect example of how basic and silly this book can get go read chapter seven which reveals how Silver was turned from a man into a cyborg, it reads like an especially shallow Marvel comic.

It's a shame I bothered to re-read Hope because I much preferred my original reaction to the book, which was utter joy. However, I was a naive youth in those days, fresh to the world of Doctor Who fiction and appreciative of any new output. Maybe one day I will re-evaluate every book I have praised and sour my initial impressions but I doubt it, I have read Camera Obscura five times now and have only found more to enjoy each time.

To steal a phrase from one of my favourite reviewers Hope is silly, silly, silly...

A Review by Steve Traylen 25/2/02

The Doctor and TARDIS crew land near the end of time where the last vestiges of humanity are eking out an existance. The Doctor has to solve a series of grisly murders. At this point it sounds like rather like Frontios. However it really isn't like that; it is however a very simplistic book, a lot of the main plot is over by page 160.

In terms of plot there's not really enough here to keep a short story going. But, and it's a big but, this is a book about Anji, and her feelings. In many ways it provides closure for her, the prologue and epilogue I thought were the best things about the book, and were very emotional.

So although it's not a terribly good book, it's quite an important one, and should be read for that. It's just unfortunate that the rest is all very middle of the road. Yet again though this isn't a book that could happen in the pre Ancestor Cell universe, and as a plus sign too we also get to tick off another one of the Father Time foreshadowings. I reckon based on how few of these we've seen these must have been added to FT pretty soon before publication last year.


A Review by Mike Morris 18/3/02

Upon reading Finn Clark's review of Mad Dogs and Englishmen lately, I found a rather wonderfully appropriate analogy; that some books are like meat and two veg, whereas others are more of a meringue.

For what it's worth I like my meringue too, but I found Mad Dogs and Englishmen to be closer to Angel Delight; prepackaged, formulaic stuff that can be whipped up in ten minutes by anyone who puts a mind to it. But it's an interesting comparison with Hope, then next novel in the EDA series. This is meat and two veg to be sure, or rather it's two meat and six veg. Hope is solid fare that smacks of effort, care and thought, and left me very satisfied. As a book it has its faults, and is at times lacking in style, but by golly there's substance here. If I was to be reminded of any EDA it would be Vanishing Point, as these two share their virtues and faults; the concepts are intriguing, the setting is thoroughly created, highly believable and saturates the novel, and the hard work manages to overcome the occasionally clunky prose and an apparent need to revert to an all-action runaround at the end, which is diverting and exciting but could have been so much more.

I'm a stickler for good writing, I must admit, and sometimes I feel bad - these writers are better at this than me, after all. But after a nice prologue I wasn't filled with optimism. The first few chapter creates an image of strange beauty, a city of rubbish rising out of a hostile chemical sea. But it's weighed down by long run-on sentences and character's thoughts being relegated to info-dump. It happens as early as the second paragraph, when a character suddenly starts thinking about the city's derelicts... which is really no more than a device to let us know these derelicts exist. It's not wildly offensive, and it gets the image across, but there are better ways of painting these pictures.

Hope, though, gets better quickly. Endpoint is beautifully futile, a cold violent place in a dying universe. And then there's the city of Hope, which is a powerful setting of the first order. I'm an architect, and this description of structure, struts and materials pushes my buttons in a big way.

What's Hope about? It's about survival, about adaptation, about imperfection and adversity, and that staple Who theme of racial purity filtered through a hefty SF setting. It also creates a memorable character in Silver, an amoral cyborg controlling Hope, who constantly leaves one guessing as to his true intentions. This character is initially a personification of the book's main themes, that of adaptation to the worst of circumstances. He is bulky, cumbersome and ugly, and yet sleek and superior. He's at once less and more than human, as indeed are the Endpointers themselves. As the plot develops and some further agents make themselves known, this theme becomes ever more explicit.

Side by side is an Anji subplot that works very well. In previous books the question of her past with Dave was often referred to without being truly addressed, which actually became more annoying than meaningful. Hope does this properly - it's actively about Anji's bereavement, and her sense of loss drives the plot. This at once makes for the best investigation of Anji yet, and also effectively ends an ongoing thread that had never really been that successful. It's all excellent stuff, and the final scene of this subplot is stilted in a rather wonderful way.

Fitz, meanwhile does the little he has to do with the usual comedy value. He doesn't seem to need discussing these days, so established is he, which leads me to have sneaking misgivings about his presence. I love the character... and yet at the same time I feel he's got nothing new to say. This isn't overly offensive yet, but needs addressing.

The Eighth Doctor, though, seems to have found his feet these days. There's a chameleonic nature to his character, but somehow it no longer seems to matter that his characterisation varies. He's well written in this book, and his characterisation is helped by the fallout from the events of Henrietta Street, which leaves him somewhat diminished and yet more heroic because of that - which is tied in with the book's ideas very cleverly towards the end. And one line is worthy of a special mention, on Page 130 - "He only realised he couldn't do that anymore when he fell over, dead to the world." It's odd how accustomed one gets to the Doctor's relatively mild superpowers, and the concept that he can get tired is strangely shocking.

Things go swimmingly until the last few chapters. Then things fragment somewhat. Silver's real motivations become apparent - and they're a disappointment. The runaround is staple Who fare and then we're introduced to a favourite race of Doctor Who monsters - however, they're supposed to be an original creation. For a while I was even expecting a continuity link. This is bizarre, a let-down after a lot of well thought out drama, and although it's not uninteresting, previous chapters lead me to expect more.

The original characters could be said to be lacking in their characterisation. There are only two worthy of mention and both are familiar clichés, a weary police-chief and the standard hard-nosed good-looking woman that has been a staple ever since Neuromancer hit bookshelves. Is this a problem? Yes, but not a terrible one. The city of Hope is a character in itself, and in Silver the book has one of the best original creations for quite some time. The story revolves around how these two dominate all of their surroundings and how others are condemned to live in their shadow, so the fact that they also do this in the writing is understandable. Besides, Silver is so damn good. "Your future. And it's here to meet you." Now that's a line and a half.

Overall Hope is an epic. Many events and subplots (such as the Brotherhood) are largely irrelevant, which is occasionally annoying, but does work to create a huge landscape that left me feeling like I'd really got my money's worth. It also has two endings, the final act following on from the kind of huge developments that usually signal end-of-book. This is refreshing, even if the second finale is a disappointment. Hence my 2 meat and 6 veg comment; there's a lot crammed in here, and sometimes a reader just wants a good feed.

Oh, and the bits about apples are great.

I would rather read the work of a good, earnest writer than a very good writer on autopilot. After the ennui induced by Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Hope is a back-to-basics affair that I enjoyed despite its limitations. I should also add that those limitations are little, niggling things that Mark Clapham should be able to remedy in his next effort. Certainly the writing visibly improves throughout the book, perhaps because the author was initially trying too hard. There's a hell of a lot in here that's good, easily enough to make me look forward to the next book by this author, and also to recommend this novel thoroughly. Impressive.

A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 24/4/02

For the most part, Hope is a fairly generic book that doesn't do much in the way of pushing the boundaries. The plot is familiar, and feels uninspired. Only a handful of things try to pull the story out of the standard conventions. And while those hopeful moments are very good for what they are, they aren't quite enough to pull the entirety of the book out of the wastelands of mediocrity.

The setting for Hope is a result of some fantastic pieces of writing, and one wishes that the plot that took place in this location could have matched it. Hope, a city in the far distant future on the planet Endpoint, is a gigantic metal structure, constructed on the top of massive metal legs that keep its inhabitants relatively safe from the poisonous, acidic seas of the planet below. It's a city of twisted girders, metallic walkways and ominous shadows. The people who live there believe they are among the last vestiges of humanoid life in the universe. With only a few exceptions, they are poor, they are hungry, they steal what they can get, and protect what they steal with their lives. Hope is a gritty and strange place. It, of course, looks absolutely nothing like the New York Sitting On A Layer Of Toothpicks image that for some reason made it onto the front cover.

A major flaw in Hope is that the break between the two primary parts of the story stretches on for slightly too long. While reading, it seems that everything has been solved by page 170, and even the TARDIS regulars start remarking on the fact that they should have moved on by now. It takes far too much time for the next part of the story to begin and this error could have been so easily avoided. The story doesn't bounce back quickly enough, and as a result, the book suffers for it. And, unfortunately, when the book does come sputtering back to life, it's far less interesting than it was before. The main secondary character goes from being an interesting person and concept in his own right to being a cliched and tired villain that we've seen many times before.

The plot is really too lightweight to support that kind of breaking up of the action. The book begins as a relatively engaging whodunit that starts off with a lot of potential. Doctor Who usually does this sort of thing well, and the atmosphere that's created here does a lot to inspire confidence about the eventual progress of the book. Unfortunately, while the mystery is appealing, it's not overly complicated, and is therefore not able to be sustained for the entirety of the book. The Doctor solves the mystery at about the halfway point, and the plot quickly degenerates from there.

On the other hand, Clapham executed a handful of small moments so expertly, that one wishes that the entire book had been made up of these little gems. There's a two-page section near the end told from the point of view of a lowly evil lackey. Near the beginning, a casually discarded apple core in the Doctor's pocket helps revive a long dead species of fruit. Anji faces a difficult decision, and her reaction to is handled amazingly well and with quite a lot of maturity. She manages to become a realistic human being, and one who isn't overwhelmed by sentimentality. The choice that she makes reflects careful calculation, albeit one that's obviously being tempered by some serious emotions. It would have been extremely easy for this sort of thing to turn out horribly (indeed, when I saw what was coming, I began to brace myself) but it's managed with extreme confidence and care.

It's a shame that these moments that I mentioned are only moments and not the tone of the whole story. Had the entire book been written at this level, then we would have been looking at one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time. Unfortunately, these are only brief looks at a greater work that we see through the cracks in Hope. The flimsiness of the plot means that the story feels as though it were stretched far past the author's ability to adequately pad. Hope probably would have made for an excellent Telos novella, but as a full-length novel, it just doesn't quite work as well as it should.

A Review by Rob Matthews 8/5/02

You know, about two-thirds of the way through this book I was all ready to title my review 'Hopeless'. But in the final third it picked up a bit and got my attention so that would be unfair.

Doctor Who's at its best when it makes the Doc and his companions matter, and inasmuch as this is a book about Anji, it's very sound and satisfying. Plus it deals very well with the post-Adventuress Doctor's altered physiology and sense of self, something Paul Magrs didn't bother himself about in Mad Dogs.

But this character development takes place within a very disjointed and convoluted story with a too-unoriginal villain. It probably didn't help that I recently read The Also People for the first time, a book that's broadly similiar but oh so much better. (Similiar why? Well, the focus on a companion's emotional life, the murder mystery aspect, the sf trappings... I know it's not really fair to compare so I'll stop there)

The book starts pretty well, very much in the vein of a season 1 episode like The Dead Planet; the Doctor can't properly control the TARDIS, he's excited about exploring a mysterious city, and he stays there not because he believes he can help out but because it's physically impossible to leave.

But the city of Hope feels familiar and comic-bookish. I've referred before to another Doctor Who story, Ghost Light, as resembling a comic book story, but whereas then I meant it in an inventive Alan Moore-ish sort of way, here it's more that the story and its atmosphere feel generic and two-dimensional. That said, I've had an interest in fictional cities for positively yonks so it's possible I'm just Gothammed out, I don't know. It just seems more the type of place where a meek accountant would be bitten by a radioactive serpent and transformed into a superhuman righter of wrongs than anywhere to do with Doctor Who.

Then a superhuman righter of wrongs turns up. Or, as it turns out, a wronger of rights. And he's a big shiny cyborg. Ugh, it's just all so... eighties, so Terminator. He even has a pat 'origin story' that could probably be dealt with in about eight panels in a comic book. His name, 'Silver', is a variant of his real name, as is the case with every cartoonish supervillain. This is just a deeply unoriginal setup - the kind of thing I feared we might be in for if the telemovie had spawned a series -, and even the murder mystery aspect seems to be there only because Clapham feels obliged - and probably is obliged by those BBC guidelines - to put some kind of narrative-propeller in there. But it propels the narrative only in an perfunctory and unconvincing way. Given the callous, casually murderous nature of the population of Hope as outlined in the early chapters, it doesn't seem credible to me that Silver could convincingly claim to be bothered about the decapitations.

On top of that, there are plot contrivances that beggar belief. Fitz's infiltration of the Brotherhood is a badly misjudged scene that the author skims over far too quickly. If it were that easy to dissuade crazy religious types from their beliefs through sensible argument our world would be a much happier place. But it isn't that easy, and Fitz doing it in about two paragraphs with no accompanying dialogue is very silly. There's a later comic scene where Fitz and Anji discuss what they did that day, and when Fitz tells her it's supposed to sound outrageous and therefore funny. But the joke doesn't work - we didn't believe the scene when it happened, so aren't surprised by how silly it sounds in retrospect. It sounded silly in the first place! Added to which, the presence of the Brotherhood is completely pointless anyway - it demonstrates Silver's control of the city, yeah, but not much more.

And then there's the way the evil undersea humans are in posession of a few useful devices capable of almost instantly restoring the planet's atmosphere to robust health. Puh-lease.

Still, there are good points. Clapham does dialogue better than he does plot, and he gives the Doctor some funny lines - his holding on to his Sainsburys reward card, his disbelief at the name 'Silverati' - and a sound dramatic confrontation with Anji. And I have to say the closing scenes had me hooked, Silver finally revealing himself as a real boo-hiss bastard, Anji coming clean to the Doctor, and then coming to his rescue, the revelation of Silver's 'Silverati' army, who are a kind of updated version of the Cybermen (as well, perhaps, as an opportunistic raid on Attack of the Clones)... in fact, to use one of my sporadic Star Wars analogies, Hope ultimately works in a Phantom Menace way; not brilliant in itself, but better when viewed as part of a series. Presumably it's intended as the introduction of a new recurring villain, and certainly it appears to tie in with the upcoming 'future war' (no, not that one!) hinted at in Father Time, so it's whetted my appetite for future - or rather, current (but I'm behind) - EDAs.

So this book's worthwhile despite being cliched and under-developed. And it's too short a book for its deficiencies to be all that frustrating. But I think perhaps the BBC books need to rely less on spectacle, or rather the idea of spectacle. I don't want to read novelisations of movies that don't exist, I want strong stories and interesting character development. Hope's weighted about seventy-thirty.

Two out of Five by Jamas Enright 28/5/02

First, I just want to say: that cover is so Star Trek! (Not that the book covers of Star Trek look like that, mores the pity.) Not that it's a bad cover, indeed it's rather snazzy. However, there's more to a book that just its cover.

Like, for example, story. The only problem is, the story is over halfway through the book, so we get another story at the end of it. This is only part of a bigger problem that I'll come to in a minute, but first I want to say one thing: padding. A dramatic fight in the beginning is completely undercut by pages of padding. That is not the place to have it. Besides completely ruining the tension, it throws off the most important concept of all, that of pacing.

Mark Clapham seems to have incredible difficulty in getting the pacing right in this novel. It's destroyed in the beginning by excessive padding, flounders in the middle when we change from one story to another, before finally becoming adequate for the last section. The final showdown is one of Hope's saving graces, but it shows how the rest of the book doesn't work in comparison.

One of the other saving graces is the Dave sub-plot. Much like the Fitz-memory sub-plot in Earthworld, this is something that needs to happen, although it does throw Anji's feelings here into sharp contrast with the Anji in City of the Dead who was ready to have another relationship. While I wasn't entirely sure where the thread was going, I'm glad it turned out the way it did.

Speaking of Anji, she is well handled here, given a strong role that really has her playing a major role in the character developments. Fitz, on the other hand, is sidelined and is kept out of the way with a few side-plots that don't amount to anything. The Doctor is also really well done, finally (although admittedly there's only been one other book in between) we have some flow-on effect from the events in The Adventuress of Henrietta Street in terms of how the Doctor copes with his new self. Whilst the Doctor is much the man of action, getting involved in what ever is going on, he's paying for that price by having to cope with the effects being the man of action have on him, all of which add an interesting dimension to his current self.

Silver is the man of the book, always in control, his presence felt in everything he does, and even doesn't do. Just being there, he tends to dominate the scene. There's also a nice ambiguity to him, in that we the audience think that he is untrustworthy, yet remains a good guy nevertheless. The benevolent power-hungry dictator, as it were. The only problem there is that he's too powerful, and it's because of him the story changes halfway through. He accomplished his tasks too easily, once again destroying possible tension. Miraso is a nice second-in-command, knows herself to be what she is, and in many ways is a better character than Silver is. Minor characters like Powlin and Pazon add flavour to the city. As for the humans and the Brotherhood, well, as I said, padding.

Despite several good elements, the lack of proper pacing is the real killer in this book. After this solo effort, perhaps Mark Clapham will go back to writing with other authors. To end on a really bad pun: we can but Hope.

A Review by Terrence Keenan 2/6/02

This is a strange book. Strange in that it mixes some great literary passages with simple pulp writing. Strange in that the main plot really ends about two thirds of the way through and then has another ending tacked on without much thought.

After reading Hope, the first thing I understood is that Mark Clapham wrote the very cool interludes from The Taking of Planet Five.

The second thing I realized is that there's a reason he's partnered up with other writers. Um, he's not a very good plotter. He comes up with great imagery, and his characterization is strong, but as far as all the little connecting bits that make any story seamless, Clapham fails. None of the diverse elements really come together as they should.

And I think the fault comes in the last third. The final part of the novel is a twist that comes from nowhere, and doesn't work. An interesting character with a backhistory and great motivation, turns into a bog-standard DW villain without any hints that this is what he was all along. I'm not saying it needed to be signposted, but without even subtle hints, it comes across as convoluted as a plot twist in a Terry Nation Script. Characterization was strong. Although one of the main plot lines (spoiler protected) is resolved in a very bad fashion. The Doctor was done well, shown as someone adjusting to the changes from Henrietta. Fitz is thrown into the low rent Doctor role he sometimes takes on in DW fiction. And Anji? Well, I hope this finally resolves the whole Dave thread that's been going through several of the latest 8DAs. My fear is that we're heading down the slippery slope of NA soap opera, which would be a huge mistake. The guests in the books work well, with Silver and Miraso getting the most development.

I don't know. Maybe what bugs me about this book is that it should have gone in the more literay, plotless direction, like Beltempest, instead of trying to do what the OrmanBlum did in Seeing I (trying to have it all ways). There's prose that sparkles on the page, and some wonderful present tense description, but, in the end Hope disappoints.

I really enjoyed that! by Finn Clark 17/6/02

Hope does a lot of things right. It does the regulars very well, including some good character stuff for Anji. It has a vividly evoked setting and a great incidental character in Silver. His first appearance is terrific. Overall this is a book I'd recommend.

My only niggle is with the plot. Many books start weakly, then get better and better as the story progresses. Hope does the exact opposite. The first sixty pages are smashing, then we get into a search-and-rescue operation that's basically a detective story rather than thrilling excitement. Then, after that's done and dusted, a secondary story limps into view for the final third of the book. That came close to boring me, I'm afraid. It gets exciting again for the last twenty pages (and it's worth reading the book for Anji's character stuff alone) but overall I wasn't gripped. So the baddie wants to do X. Good luck to him. I'm sure he'll do quite a good job of it.

There's a revelation with the Brotherhood that's obvious fifty pages in advance, but thankfully it's tossed off as an afterthought rather than made into a big deal. Early on there's also a bit where the Doctor and Fitz are explaining Hope's background to Anji and I had to stop and backtrack to work out where they'd learned all this information.

But basically I liked this book a lot. All the bases are covered - strong TARDIS crew, interesting world+characters, lots of stuff going on. If this had been published in 1998 or 1999 we'd have been hailing Mark Clapham as the next Robert Holmes. The fact that it feels like business as usual for the 8DAs in 2002 is a mark of how much things have improved since then.

A shining beacon of Hope by Robert Smith? 11/9/02

Hope has three excellent features and one awkward one. The first redeeming feature is the setting, which is fabulous. It's brought to life very nicely indeed. There's a constant sense of menace lurking whenever anyone's in Hope itself, which is nicely evocative and well worth the title. It's a bit of a shame Pazon isn't better integrated into the plot, but that's completely in line with the way the setting works as well (see below).

The second feature is Silver, although that's no surprise given the amount of work that's obviously gone into him. The author has obviously put a lot of thought into the character, which pretty much pays off as intended. He's occasionally a little too comic bookish, especially in the flashes of his backstory, but otherwise he's a great foil and almost certainly worth a return visit (which the book sets up, presumably deliberately).

The third feature is Anji. This surprised me a bit, because I thought all the stuff dealing with the consequences of the Doctor's health were quite good and very necessary, but they're easily overshadowed by Anji's dilemma. And it's an excellent piece of character work. The way everything leads in from the apple core (itself a great scene) through to her betrayal and the consequences never once rang false, which is quite a feat. In the hands of a lesser author this could have been a hokey disaster, but here it's managed superbly.

The only awkward feature of the book is the way it's structured, which is just weird. Frankly, if I'm noticing the way the structure bends itself to accommodate the novel's set pieces, then it's already a bad sign. The action moving to the undersea base suddenly feels really forced, as though the author had simply decided it was time to go there. I'd have preferred a more natural buildup and integration of the elements.

The early scene where the Brotherhood attack Silver's palace is a case in point. It's a fantastic scene, probably my favourite non-characterisation scene in the book. It's so good it really doesn't belong where it is, it should be the climax, simply by virtue of the fact that nothing in the ending we do get is anywhere near as good or climactic-feeling as this. And yet... the whole scene is pretty pointless really. It establishes Silver's dominance, yes, but the whole Brotherhood thing is pretty dopey. Or at least it is placed as is. If it were the climax to the book I think the revelation might actually work better. Which is odd, because I appreciate the book setting up multiple peaks like this, I just think they're in the wrong order and completely dissociated from one another

The moral dilemma surrounding Stephens' work doesn't quite come together. It's clear that he can't function very well as the second villain without Silver overshadowing him, but he just seems to rant a bit and then get thrown in prison before he can actually do anything, which is a bit underwhelming. It's also downright odd the way the first part of the story is tied up so completely that the TARDIS crew is all set to leave. The Doctor only stays because he has a warning in his bones or something. Presumably he nipped out of the narrative for a moment to find out there was a completely different plot about to begin and decided he'd better hang around, just in case. It's the sort of thing you always wonder why no one's done, until it actually happens and you realise exactly why this is.

Some awkwardness aside though, I really enjoyed Hope. It's got some great stuff for the Doctor and Anji, a nicely developed villain and a great setting. Even the obligatory murder mystery investigation of the week is lent an air of futility by virtue of taking place in this setting, which really helps. The first half of the book is easily the stronger of the two, but the second half isn't a disaster. Overall, it's a very entertaining little Doctor Who book and that's something we don't get nearly as often as we should.

A Review by Brett Walther 22/10/03

Hope. A title that summed up my feelings for the Doctor Who range when I took this one off the shelf. As in...

Ultimately, Hope is... Good. It hasn't exactly re-ignited my enthusiasm for the Doctor Who range, but it is the best EDA I've read in quite some time.

The first half is not just good, though -- it's excellent. It's bizarre to think that I could be affected by it, but isn't it wonderful to have the TARDIS interior all white and roundelled again! It's like the novels have finally shed the last vestige of that horrible TV movie by rejecting that melodramatic and overly-cluttered version of the console room.

The setting is another major bonus: a world that is hostile in just about every conceivable way. Memorable alien worlds are few and far between in print Doctor Who -- Janus Prime is the only other one that really springs to mind -- and this one is gruesomely brought to life by Mark Clapham. A world bathed in a choking yellow fog, cities on metal stilts, and people who fear rainfall because it burns through their roofs... It's a scary place, and it's nice to see that the Doctor is initially very scared to be trapped here. It lends a real sense of urgency, especially since the TARDIS is made more inaccessible than Terry Nation ever could have imagined, sitting at the bottom of a frozen, poisonous sea.

As many reviewers have already noted, the structure of the book is hugely flawed. Everything wraps up by page 170, so to pad things out, the character of Silver -- who up to this point has been highly sympathetic -- suddenly develops an unconvincing streak of megalomania and launches a plot of galactic domination. A book which has been concerned only with the affairs of one planet, Endpoint, suddenly tries to leap to a larger scale, which sadly threatens to mar the reader's appreciation of the admittedly well-written first half.

The contrived "twist ending" involves Silver's conversion of human beings into cyborg mercenaries: the rather lamely named Silverati. For a moment, I actually thought things might get interesting, as both Silver and his Silverati share more than a few similarities with the Cybermen, but alas, David Banks didn't make a surprise appearance to justify the bizarre second ending.

Up until page 170, Silver is a brilliant creation. There isn't a doubt in my mind that Clapham has based him largely on pro-wrestler Bill Goldberg -- he even utters the wrestler's trademark catchphrase, "Who's Next?" at one point -- and is all the better for it. He's a strangely charismatic character, and the chemistry between he and Anji is positively electric. I kept on getting frustrated that Anji couldn't get Dave off of her mind, 'cos there are some strangely sexual moments early on and I was sure they were going to hit it off. Oh well...

At least there's a reason for the re-hashing of Anji's feelings for Dave: she's confronted with a highly involving ethical dilemma in Hope, in which she is offered the chance to give Dave -- albeit a cloned Dave -- a new chance at life. The rather sweet Prologue and Epilogue frame the Anji-Dave storyline nicely, and I hope this signals a turning point so that Anji can move on with her life.

She's not the only one who wants to put Escape Velocity behind her.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 11/12/03

I skipped this book on its release. Being a buyer who picks and chooses DW releases, this one didn't really stand out from the crowd. But a good mate said it was excellent, and I was amongst its pages pretty quickly.

The opening is as good as any DW book I can think of. The Doctor, Fitz and Anji arrive on the planet, then discover they are on a sea of acid ice. Combined with the Doctor's struggling with his new "more human" body it provides great drama. The city on the metal struts is a sci-fi staple - but it is a brilliant one. My imagination went into overdrive, and Endpoint really came alive in my mind.

The book is an impressive one for Anji. As she is faced with decisions that will ultimately affect her time with the Doctor, but ones that are based around her previous life, we feel for her. She becomes more like one of us, who we can relate to - and therefore a better companion.

The population of Hope is really well put together. The characters are well written, and there's a real memorable foe in Silver. This half cyber creation really has very strong motives for what he is doing, and provides a worthy foe for the 8th Doctor.

How the futuristic setting is presented, combined with the excellent characters, is what makes this book better than most. I am not a great fan of grand space operas - stories set so far removed from our time, as to be completely alien. I always like to have some kind of reference to now. This book very much falls into the category of futuristic story - but I quite liked it too. My parameters of DW have again been enhanced.

A good book for everyone, Mark Clapham seems to know what makes pretty good Who. 7/10