Planet of the Spiders Interference: Book 1
Interference (two book set)
The Compassion/TARDIS arc
Interference: Book 2
The Hour of the Geek
|ISBN||0 563 55582 3|
|Continuity||Between The Monster of Peladon
|Synopsis: The third Doctor, the eighth Doctor, Sam Jones, Fitz Kreiner and Sarah Jane Smith. Very soon, one of them will be dead, one will be working for the enemy and one will become something less than human.|
A Review by Elsa Frohman 11/1/00
First, let me say that among the few things I'm certain of in this life, there is this: At some time in his education, a teacher wrote on Lawrence Miles' report card, "Does not play well with others."
He shouldn't be writing for a series. He ought to be playing in his own universe, where he doesn't have to stomp on other people's ideas to put forth his own.
I'm not sure at all that I would read a "stand-alone" book by him. His worldview is a bit ... depressing. Not that there isn't a place in the literary universe for that, but I just don't need it. He writes well, but he isn't producing anything, at the moment, that I want to read.
Based on this book, if I had never had any other exposure to Doctor Who, I would think the Doctor is an ineffectual idiot who goes around making things worse and leaving a trail of broken, twisted former companions.
Geez, why would anyone build a series around such a character?
But stepping back for a moment from all the questionable things Miles does with the Doctor Who universe: Is this a good book?
Miles produces, mostly, readable prose. But he lacks the discipline that makes a good book. To say that Interference 1 and 2 were self- indulgent is an understatement of epic proportion. The lack of discipline drains a lot of the reading enjoyment. Each time I got interested in a plot line, he would switch away to something uninteresting. If he presented a well-drawn image, he repeated it over and over until it got boring.
In short, the book was a hard slog for reading.
I'm hard pressed to come up with a rating here. I can't think of any aspect of this book, other than the portrayal of Sarah Jane outside the Dust segment, that I thought was satisfying and enjoyable. At the same time, the quality of the prose is above average.
I think I'm going to give this book a 2
A Review by Joe Ford 18/2/04
I want to start by talking about the section of this book set on the planet Dust. As it transpires this is the best part of Interference, especially after my initial reluctance in book one I was amazed at how well this particular plot strand was pulled together. The writing was taut and gripping and the ideas were astonishing, out of this world.
Although the book (and especially the Dust segment) could be seen as a series of explanations it is how the story is told that matters, how mind bending the ideas actually are and how well plotted they are. In particular the idea of I M Foreman and his twelve other incarnations travelling the universe and spreading the word of pushing the boundaries, when I first heard the story of Mr Foreman stumbling across his predecessors I thought it was vague and lazy but Lawrence Miles brilliantly ties it all up. And the very idea that the Doctor is not the pioneer we all thought him to be, that he was just following in the footsteps of somebody far braver left me speechless, for all the format breaking and continuity re-writing the books undergo this was probably the most shocking in a good while.
But what really got me was how well the 3rd Doctor worked in the 8th Doctor's world, Lawrence kept pointing out how wrong it was to have him there, how out of his depth he was but pulls off a marvellous feat of having him walk out amongst all the chaos with his hands in his pockets demanding they stop. I love the 3rd Doctor and his slack jawed horror at the state of the universe in five regenerations time was marvellously apt, almost a parody of all those TV fans that condemn the books attempts to push the show in a new direction. Despite his protestations that 'This is wrong' he is still the hero of the piece, the reckless dandy who stands shoulder to shoulder with Foreman to face the Remote.
The explanations for Foreman's world were also highly satisfying, proving just how well thought through the overall story was. It is clear Miles has put a lot of homework into the plotting of this story and it pays off in spades, when answers finally turn up they are expertly woven into the narrative for maximum dramatic effect.
And the all time example of this is the reason behind the third Doctor's appearance in this book. The final wrenching twist in a succession of twists, to turn the Doctor into a Faction agent. This is an example of arc foreshadowing at its best, the last few pages on Dust leave the reader salivating to find out just when the 8th Doctor will succumb to the Faction implanted into him during the 3rd Doctor's paradoxical death. It is simply an ultra cool idea and followed up in equal style in The Ancestor Cell, but for a reader at the time, knowing the 8th Doctor was a timebomb that had been primed it must have been unnerving knowing it could explode at any time...
Frankly this is what the book needed, a real punch in the gut ending because the 'What happened on Earth' section ends in such a miserable, anti-climatic way I was astonished Lawrence would take such an easy way out. Don't get me wrong, many of the answers to the questions posed in the first book (Who is Kode? What happened to Fitz? Where is Anathema? Where the hell is the Doctor?) are given exciting, thoughtful answers. Indeed some of the concepts thrown in are appetite whetting in the extreme. Anathema is built on the side of a Time Lord vessel heading to Earth to punch a huge hole in the universe for Christ's sake! So the Time Lords can defeat the mysterious 'Enemy' they are at War with. Kode was Fitz all along! He was remembered over many, many years into what Kode is today! Brilliant, incredible twists without a shadow of a doubt. Shame Miles doesn't think to do anything interesting with them.
I love Fitz. Go read my butt licking review about him. But to discover Kode is a 'remembered' version of him is an almost perfect way to bring fresh blood into the TARDIS. Why have the TARDIS 'remember' him back to the way he was? What a lazy ending that was! Just so we can safely move onto The Blue Angel with relatively few changes... what is this Star Trek: Voyager and its dreaded reset button? By turning Fitz into the blood thirsty Father Kreiner and have him leave in the TARDIS at the end of the story strikes me as Miles wanting to have his cake and eat it. For a book that claims to be brave it would have been far more interesting to see Kode travel on the ship. Although Fitz is cool, I just need to point that out again, it's still a cop out.
I get that Guest wanted to lure a TARDIS to Earth so he could procure it and contact the Cold (for reasons he cannot remember... lazy answer there). I get that Sam has introduced principles to the Remote and thrown their society into disarray. I get that the Cold was a part of the weapon the Time Lords were to use to defeat the Enemy, housed inside of the ship Anathema is resting on. But to throw all these ideas in the air and then end the story on such a dull conceit, the Doctor manages to convince Guest that he was wrong all these years, is mind numbingly stupid. No dramatic showdown, no real struggle, just Sam planting a few pictures in Guest's head and them FOOM goodbye Anathema. It's just not worth 500 odd pages of build up is it? Collecting together such a large cast of characters and going all around the houses just for THIS seems a pointless exercise and a huge waste of my time. I can think of a million more interesting things that could have been done with the Cold. The warship just vanishes. And who cares where it has gone? Probably off to more exciting adventures somewhere else.
Which is such a shame because The Hour of the Geek manages to take hold of the underwhelming Earth plotline from Shock Tactic and pull it into shape. The book opens with Sam exploring the main transmitter, another glimpse into the orgasmic imagination of Lawrence Miles and a good indicator of the far more pacy, punchy and interesting second part of the plot.
With all the characters finally converging together Miles manages to pull together all the disparate plot threads and look like he's doing his shoes up with them. I love how Sarah's investigations lead her to the Doctor in Saudi Arabia (with an excellent explosive intrusion from Kode on the way). I love how Sam starts to infect Kode and Compassion, her principles of self-sacrifice causing some top comedy moments. I love how that annoying twerp Llewis is dragged to Anathema and is aghast with the possibilities with the technological wonders he sees there. Sarah's documentary pulls together all the political Earth stuff in brutal but honest fashion. I love how the twists about the Warship and the Enemy just spring up from nowhere despite being hinted at already. Oh yes there is no doubt about it this is a much superior half to Shock Tactic but this being the conclusion to the story with all the explanations to win you over that is hardly a fair statement.
Characterisation wise its quite a bit stronger actually. Now I can see the real Fitz emerging, desperate for the Doctor to come and save him from Anathema (even to the point of contemplating suicide). His descent into Father Kreiner is much more believable than I thought and his scenes on Dust when he comes face to face with the man who failed to rescue him (albeit in an earlier regeneration) crackle with tension and drama.
Sam is given a far better send off than she really deserved but we see a lot more of her quality characteristics here than I thought possible. By showing us her 'principles' through a number of melodramatic TV sketches we get to see some her internal motivations better than any other book, especially Compassion's disgusted reactions to her decisions. Her delight in seeing the Doctor again is genuinely heart warming and her stubborn decision to leave him necessary and sweet. The EDA's and fans demanded she goes, Miles at least bothered to hint that she was a worthwhile companion even if I never bought it for a second.
As for Sarah... what a babe! I could read about Miles' Sarah Jane all day. He gets her word for word perfect and I could genuinely see Lis Sladen slipping back into the role. She deserves her own book range with Lost Boy the Ogron, Sam and K9! It was her scenes in the TARDIS that impressed the most, how Miles manages to comment on the changes (for good or for bad) that have been made to the series. Plus I love the idea of driving a car through the ship! Why hasn't that been done before? Sarah proves resourceful, intelligent, professional and funny, she should have stayed on (again)... but wait, she is only so wonderfully readable because of her perfect role as Investigator on Earth, it is through her job that we see her at her best and taking her away from that might turn her into a right screamer (again).
It's Zagreus again! The 8th Doctor is sidelined for much of the action only to pop and save the day at the very end! Why? Miles seems to have a pretty cynical opinion about the Doctor's place in the series, determined to put him through hell in every book he writes. In Adventuress he gets it just about perfect because the Doctor has been evolved into a fascinating character at that point (and one who you could believe would form a united front in brothel!) but he is killed here, discovers his body being auctioned in Alien Bodies and is tortured beyond coping in this! Poor guy, all he wants is a bit of fun. Maybe Miles just cannot get to grips with this bland pre-amnesiac Doctor so he feels by showing him cracking under terrible strain constitutes a character? It doesn't but thanks for trying. All he needs to do is get involved a bit more, to stop taking everything so seriously and recapture some of that TV Movie exuberance.
I can see why the New Adventures fans loved this. Interference feels as though it is trying to make a point just like the Virgin books did, to say that it is bigger and better and bolder than the TV series was. Perhaps it is but that doesn't mean it's any good.
I feel it is the weakest of Miles' Who output simply because there is so much of the story that fails to engage. The first half was dreadfully slow, admittedly it does set some stuff up for decent surprises in part two but that doesn't mean the setup has to be boring. The climax to the main plot lacks any kind of panache, finishing on a real 'who cares?' note. And much of the characterisation is all over the joint, who cares about Sam anyway? Why is the Doctor so useless? Give us some more information about Mother Mathara, Peter bloody Morgan and Compassion. And much of the book is an annoying tease, after reading about the Eleven Day Empire, the Enemy and the War it is frustrating to hardly acknowledge them, setting up books to come.
And yet the book is written in a snappy, handy to read in a hurry prose style that is in turns hysterical and dramatic (which helps when the plot is so dull). The story is crazily experimental, trying new things all the time (switching viewpoints, funny chapter names, scripted scenes) and has a genuinely epic feel to it, stretching across time and space. The Dust segments are gritty and fascinating, climaxing on the best cliffhanger that either book range has ever known.
It is a stirring mixture of the really good and the really bad that exposes how much the books are improving and getting lost up their own arses. Frankly by the time I had read its last page I felt the BBC books NEEDED a re-launch, the Doctor needed to become the centre of attention again, the continuity had to go and Gallifrey had to stop being used as an fall back for drama. They needed to keep the intelligence, the wild ideas and the atmosphere that this book has in spades though...
Reading Interference I felt compelled to reach the end, its importance in the range stresses its status and if nothing else Miles' imagination is at an all time high. There are a mountain of problems with this book but it mostly overcomes them leaving it a exceptional experiment that just fails to make the grade.