THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Planet of the Spiders
The Brain of Morbius
The Future History Cycle
Head Games
Virgin Books
Love and War
The Future History Cycle Part One

Author Paul Cornell Cover taken from the excellent Broadsword home page
ISBN# 0 426 20385 2
Published 1992
Cover Lee Sullivan

Synopsis: On the cemetery planet Heaven in the 25th century, the Doctor meets archaeologist Bernice (Benny) Summerfield and Ace falls in love with a Traveller named Jan. However, the dead may not be as dead as they seem thanks to the advancing Hoothi who have overtaken a number of locals, including the Doctor. By doing the terrible things that must be done to fight back, the Doctor loses one of his closest friends but gains a new one.


Reviews

Paul Cornell Must Really Hate Mushrooms by Tammy Potash 5/7/00

This is a heavy book. It's not mind-boggling like Interference, but it will make emotional demands of you. How far can you push someone before they break? The Doctor is going to find out. He's done terrible things to Ace, sometimes for her own good (Ghost Light), sometimes because he needed to win (Curse of Fenric), and sometimes because... er, he felt like it (Nightshade). But everyone has their limits, even Ace.

Cornell can do a nifty plot twist like Justin Richards, but his true gift lies in characterization. By the end of the book, you'll feel Ace's rage at the Doctor, yet you'll understand the Doctor's side of it too. It is essential that the Doctor not be alone (why? that's in here too) and so Professor Bernice Surprise Summerfield is chosen to join him. In another author's hands, she could have been loving crafted from the finest cardboard (cough, cough, Samantha Jones). But she's not. I like her smart-aleck sarcasm that hides the deeper pain of her past, and she and Fitz could have a chat or two on the delights of boozing it up. I've always liked useful companions, too, as opposed to, scream, trip, what's that Doctor types. Benny is a galactic archaeologist, and can fight too when a disarming wit just won't do.

There's lots of body horror here, a lot of sorrow, and some sly wit. "I was born to deconstruct," said Paul Magrs. "Who do you really work for?" said the Doctor. "IMC? The Spinward Corporation? The BBC?"

There's a recurring theme of people being unable to face up to things. For those of you who've only been reading the BBC EDAs and were thrilled by The Shadows of Avalon, keep an eye out for this. See how the Doctor became Time's Champion. You won't be disappointed.


A Review by Dominick Cericola 2/5/01

(Based On A 2nd Re-Reading And Just Plain Ol' Fashioned Memories!)

Love and War was my first exposure to the NAs. At the time, I chose to not jump aboard with Timewyrm: Genesys (a move that, having read it recently, I know not why I did it). Then, I moved, finding myself in an area where Who fandom was virtually non-existent. BUT, on a Saturday afternoon outing, I found a copy of Love and War in the bookshelf, out on the new release shelf (I believe this was at a Waldenbooks in Easton, MD -- memories are funny creatures, you know..). The cover was the first thing to draw my attention: the TARDIS off in the background, small and nondescript, yet significant enough for me to recognize the old girl. Then there was the rather intriguing woman in the foreground -- a woman I would come to know as Benny, a Companion who was as good as (if not better than) any of the actual ones shown on the televised episodes -- fighting off some tentacled critter. All of that, plus the familiar styled logo immediately prompted me to grab it up.

The book turned out to be a far greater experience than I could have imagined! Here was everything I had envisioned Who to be, if given the proper balance of visual EFX and character development. Never mind this being my first real taste of the Angst (YES, for all those who have written me already -- the capitalisation is intentional. Consider it my signature if you will.. And if you won't, well so be it..), I was just glad to see that the 7th Doctor and Ace were still together, and in a medium that was supportive of them..

One of the first things that really caught my attention was the way The Doctor was fleshed out. Over the years, through his Regenerations and Incarnations, we have been shown the different aspects of the Doctor. However, one of the things we have never been privvy to was the inner workings of his Mind, the Inner Turmoils within. Then along come the NAs, especially under the care and control of Paul Cornell, showing us the Doctor's struggle to maintain his control of the Universe around him, as he tries to balance the lives of those around him as well as his own Life! Add in his new role of Time's Champion (was this TRULY that much of a surprise, or was this something we more or less assumed, just never spoke of?)! Talk about your own Cross to bear.. Almost makes you sympathise with his decision to assume the role of Manipulator..

Ace was another selling factor for me.. She was given a lot of room to run free in the NAs, becoming more than just a Companion. We are allowed to see her relationship with the Doctor expanded further, adding even more depth to that which television wasn't granted the right. Her past begins to come to light, allowing us to really relate to Ace, feeling her hurt and confusion, as it became a part of her Soul as much as the buttons became a part of her token leather bomber jacket.

And, most importantly, this was the first book to introduce us to Professor Bernice Surprise Summerfield, known to friends and her adoring fans (Yup, I'm on that list!) simply as Benny. A character, handled best by her "father", Paul Cornell, who became not just a Companion to the Doctor, but something of a Friend as well -- largely, I believe, because she knew how he "played" the game, as she "played" the same way: if the Rules work against you, write Your Own!

As for the book itself, the full title should have been Love And War: An Excursion in Angst. Chock full of heart-wrenching, brain-crunching scenes that will leave you reaching for your Prozac bottle -- even if you aren't currently taking it! But, it is important to the story, not just added for the sake of exploitation of our favorite characters.

So, all in all, I'd recommend seeking out Love and War. It sets the stage for a lot that is come through the entire run of the Virgin NAs, as well as opening the door for Ace's "emergence". I'd try eBay, or even look at second-hand shops, as I have seen it in both. Cheers..!


A Review by Rob Matthews 8/8/01

Look at the reviews of each of the Doctors on this site. You'll notice there are a good deal more for Colin Baker than for any of the others. That's 'cos it's easier to write these reviews when there's some flaw to pick on, or some silver lining to point out. For me, about ninety per cent of TV Doctor Who stories have at least one nugget of gold and at least one catastrophic flaw. That's less the case with the novels, which, though dependent on the lore of the original TV stories, are for the most part far superior.

And Love and War's a difficult one to review because it's not such a mixed bag. It's a near-perfect Doctor Who story, and a definitive Seventh Doctor one.

It's quite simply packed with everything you could want from the Doctor Who format - mood, drama, characterisation, a memorable monster, a couple of startling twists and a few tears. It even has Daleks in it in a roundabout kind of way. It's the story that introduces the whole Time's Champion pulava, showing the Seventh Doctor effectively murdering the Sixth (not an idea I actually like, I have to say, because I tend towards the idea that the Doctors are all essentially the same man, but as long as it's written convincingly and every other writer in the Whoniverse doesn't get hung up on it, I think each author should have his own vision).

The story sees Ace depart and Bernice arrive, and gives us bucketloads of characterisation for the pair of them, showing more of Ace's past and her relationship with her mother and friends in Perivale. Her concerns over how her relationship with Jan will affect her friendship with the Doctor are given a final, horrible irony which ultimately makes the book. And Julian's just-when you thought-it-was-all-over rescue of Ace is an embarrassment of riches. Love and War is a massive adventure about the invasion of a planet by a gestalt monster of dead flesh, but because it never loses sight of the characters it consistently feels like an intimate drama about friendship and family.

Flaws are very minor. Cornell can occasionally be clumsy, but not nearly as often as he is graceful. Characters use the word 'God' as an exclamation too much (not that I find it blasphemous or anything, it's just a bit irritating, like DH Lawrence and the word 'hate' in Sons & Lovers).

But that's it. Superb. Human Nature's a great counterpart to the book, but I think this one has the edge, if only for being more crammed. Brilliant.


A Review by Finn Clark 5/3/02

I'll give a few spoilers I'm afraid, though the nature of the book means that's less of a sin than it might be in other cases. Love and War is a tragedy, so more about inevitability than whodunnits; in fact, knowing what's going to happen might even add to the drama.

This is a terrific book. It's driven by two things, one well executed and the other very very well executed. The first is the Hoothi, an unstoppable fungus monster that can animate the dead. It's like something from a horror movie, which means we've since seen plenty of such beasties, but that doesn't mean it's not good. Big nasty monsters that want to kill us all. Things like that belong in Doctor Who books, dammit!

That bit's well written, but not special. What is special is the triangle of Ace, Jan and the Doctor. Like Human Nature, this is a tragedy. Jan dies and Ace leaves the Doctor. Written out like that, it doesn't seem like much - and indeed, the bare plot of Love and War feels almost familiar by now. What makes it special is the execution.

Ace and the Doctor have a strong relationship, based on love and trust. Similarly the early scenes between Ace and Jan are cracklingly sexual without either losing emotional weight or becoming an adolescent male fantasy. Their relationship becomes less electric once they've taken the plunge with each other, but it's still powerful. This is the engine of the book, and at its heart is simply good writing. In the hands of an author even slightly less accomplished, this book would have lost its punch.

The book's set on Heaven, a planet which humans share with: (a) Draconians and (b) Travellers. The former are faceless, which I thought was a shame. We never see the book's events affect them, merely hearing second-hand after the fact. However the latter are cool - they're hippies, yes, but in a good way. I also liked the fact that on page 84 the Doctor undercuts the utopian hippy shit with a suggestion that things might not be that simple. We're on the Travellers' side, yes, but 'twould have been nauseating had the text pushed them single-mindedly as perfect warriors against the evils of capitalism, man.

Much has been said about how Deceit and Lucifer Rising undercut the drama of Love and War, specifically with their revelations that the Doctor needed Ace to leave the TARDIS in order to get rid of its infection from the Cat's Cradle cycle. However in my opinion if you go into the book knowing this backstory, it works. From the beginning the Doctor obviously knows more than he's saying. On page 80 he's making deals with Death. By page 123, the Doctor already knows that Jan will die.

However I didn't like a few things. The most obvious is the unnecessary retcon of Planet of the Spiders. There are also typos (I'm not sure what they're doing at the top of page 127 but it sounds disgusting). However the main one is a slight flaw in the tragedy. We sympathise with all the characters and realise why they did what they did... but we're on the Doctor's side really. He's the hero! He saved everyone! Ace's anger and pain are understandable, but she's being a bit stupid, isn't she?

Bernice Summerfield surprised me. After a brain-twisting moment early on where she wakes up and one must make a conscious effort to remember that she's not aboard the TARDIS, she settles into the background so firmly that one almost forgets she's there. I was expecting Benny's introduction to be more of a Benny book. In fact she's a fairly minor character, already established with her characteristic Benniness and pretty much as she's always been. Transit felt more like her debut book than Love and War.

Love and War is a fairly straightforward book. Without the ending it would feel like a rather slow-paced, predictable adventure with scary bad guys. However what happens between the Doctor, Jan and Ace makes this book special.


A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 19/3/02

Wow. Reading Love and War is a startling reminder of exactly how good Doctor Who can be. It does so many things so well, that it becomes difficult to break down and show off the individual parts. However, there are a number of fundamental things that Paul Cornell did particularly well, and they deserve to be given a closer look.

While I first read Love and war quite a number of years ago, my recent rereading (done about seven or eight years after my initial perusal) contained a fair amount of surprise for me, solely by the amount of sequences that were very familiar despite the passage of time. There are quite a lot of memorable scenes that had stuck in my brain, and the crystal clear familiarity with several passages meant I couldn't fully believe how long it had been since I had last read it. Contrast this with my experiences with another early NA like Timewyrm: Apocalypse, that contained a similar time between initial and second reads, but for which the amount of material that I remembered from the first time was practically nil.

This is a story that can change drastically upon rereading. If you've previously read it, then on the second reading you can see all the little touches and foreshadowing that Cornell slipped in. For me, the first time I read it, Love and War was the story of the Doctor's betrayal. Yet, aided by the benefit of hindsight, it's possible to view this as an epic tragedy, with the Doctor attempting to, but eventually being unable to hold back the inevitable conclusion. There's a lot of subtlety at work here and one almost certainly will not catch everything on the first reading.

The emotional content of the book is quite heavy. There are huge doses of angst, particularly during the end, and yet the book never lets itself be overly weighted down by it. The emotion is realistic and hard-hitting, but never gratuitous. It could have so easily bounced straight into the realm of overbearing melodrama, but fortunately, Cornell choose not to do so. He gave enough so that the audience could establish an emotional connection to the characters, but not so much as to cause us to be sick of them. The balance is perfect.

While the plot of Love and War is excellent, it's primarily the story of the characters that makes this such a memorable tale. The character motivations are meticulously worked out. It's a rare story where you can rationalize every single person's actions and still completely understand why the final conflict between the main protagonists has to occur the way that it does. The plot drives the characters, but the characters drive the plot. It's very neat.

In addition to what I've already mentioned, there are loads of slight details that make this a wonderful read. The way the plot perfectly ties in with the characters. The wonderfully realistic interactions between Ace and Jan, and Ace and the Doctor. The great and understated introduction of Professor Bernice Summerfield. The prose is on par with some seriously good books out there. If you haven't read Love and War, then beg, borrow or steal a copy immediately. Sell your kids to the BBC. Eat a whole pound of butter. Do whatever it takes to get your hands on a copy of this book.


A Review by Terrence Keenan 7/8/02

Despite that this book is to blame for starting all the Time's Champion crapola and the boring deals with Eternals, Love and War is a great book, and Paul Cornell's best.

Why you may ask....

Simple, for once, Paul Cornell lets the story end in the natural direction it starts -- a tragedy. From early on, Paul sets in motion a triangle that will end in disaster. The two most import men in Ace's life will be irrevocably changed by the events in Love and War. It's a car crash in slow motion.

The second reason is that Cornell balances out characterization, for once. No one is singled out for special angst treatment. Most of the cast get developed to the point where we care about it. Plus points must be given for making Bernice Summerfield likable in her debut story -- not a screeching PC shrew.

The Hoothi were a great monster/villainous force. Gross and creepy all at once.

Because of all the plus factors of Love and War, I was able to ignore all the stupid Time's Champion stuff, which normally causes me Tourette's style vulgar shouting. I wasn't even put off by the worst aspect -- that the 7th Doc sacrificed the 6th. It was only a paragraph long and I calmed myself with a quick reread of a few favorite pages from Dead Romance.

So, Love and War is a good 'un, despite the faults. Read it and enjoy.


A Review by Brian May 10/11/04

"That's what I do. I let little children sleep safely at night, because I've searched through all the shadows and chased the baddies away. I'm what monsters have nightmares about! [...] But everybody's a monster sometimes... We all do things we regret. And sometimes we have to lose things very precious to us." (pp.137-138)

Love and War is a stunning book.

Paul Cornell masterfully weaves a traditional Doctor Who tale of alien invasion with an intense, complex and emotionally demanding character study, thus being true both to the television series and the direction the New Adventures were taking at the time of publication. It's the second of two pivotal stories in this new fictional series - building on from Timewyrm: Revelation, also by Cornell.

The writing is exceptional. Cornell's prose, the dialogue he gives his characters (the above quote I can perfectly imagine Sylvester McCoy delivering in his quiet, sinister, faraway tone), his descriptiveness and exposition are all first rate. The world of Heaven is beautifully realised, from its forests and fields, the archaeological dig, the various locations in Joycetown and the smaller settlements visited by Ace and the Travellers. The flashback to Ace and Julian's road trip is gentle and atmospheric, while the ventures into Puterspace are also well depicted; the surrealism captured with an appropriately dreamy sensation emanating from the words. It gets overly psychedelic at times, but Cornell's attention to small details, such as describing how light or dark the dreamscapes are, all make a major contribution, while Ace's dream of the Doctor is one of the most evocative passages I've read in Who fiction.

Cornell takes the opportunity to expand on the future history of Doctor Who beyond the televised adventures, with an emphasis on continuity but not an obsession with it. Human/Draconian relations beyond the events of Frontier in Space are elucidated, including the incorporation of the Dalek wars. The Jon Pertwee story glossed over these things, never explaining what happened afterwards, while Cornell fits together a feasible account of events. Another element from television is the Hoothi, mentioned only in passing in The Brain of Morbius, in what is no more than a throwaway line. Cornell adapts them into a nastily disgusting entity, the descriptions of sprouting fungoid tentacles reminded me of the Axons (The Claws of Axos) and the Krynoid (The Seeds of Doom) while their assimilation into a gestalt is very much like the Borg from Star Trek. They provide some horrific images, especially inside the sphere, depicting a grim, living death state of existence for its captives. Their rampage at the end tips it hat to countless zombie films and the traditional Doctor Who climactic onslaught of the marauding aliens, in which the Doctor naturally saves the day in the nick of time.

However, this is where the author mixes in the souring, more grown up elements that constitute the New Adventures. The intense focus on characterisation continues here. The Doctor displays echoes of the shady puppeteer of seasons 25, 26 and novels like Warhead, but there's an increasing vulnerability; we discover some of the skeletons in his closest, as we also did in Revelation and Nightshade. We learn of his loneliness, his fear of abandonment. We find out one of the Doctor's worst experiences - the slow death of his third incarnation by radiation, in the TARDIS, alone. A casual mention in Planet of the Spiders of being lost in the time vortex is turned into a slow, agonizing ordeal that lasted ten years of real time (another credible extension of television continuity). The Doctor's status as Time's Champion is introduced here, in Ace's aforementioned dream. We learn of the sacrifice of the sixth Doctor and the responsibility the seventh holds - and the price he pays for such a mantle.

This is played out via the Doctor's relationship with Ace. Already a troubled soul, Ace underwent a lot of emotional and psychological manipulation at his hands, for various reasons (Ghost Light, The Curse of Fenric, Nightshade). It wouldn't be long before she snaps - and the Doctor, in his role as Time's Champion, brings this to fulfilment by engineering the death of the man she loves. His attempted explanation:

"I saved the lives of millions of people. Isn't one person - ?" (p.230)
is unacceptable to her, and she leaves him. The Doctor, as tradition dictates, saves the day, but now there's a cost involved.

The characterisation of Ace is, believe it or not, nothing new or exceptional - but really, there doesn't need to be anything new. Cornell portrays her faithfully, in keeping with the evolution of the character from the television series through the first eight NAs. As I mentioned above, this book brings to a head all the tension between the Doctor and Ace; her character remains the same, as do her personal demons, in the shape of her relationship with her mother, which is also brought to the fore here - her breakdown and falling into Audrey's arms in puterspace is heart wrenching. Combined with Jan's fate, it's no wonder she reacts the way she does at the end. Cornell focuses on Ace's most interesting facets but doesn't back down from depicting her as immature, naive and stroppy - all traits true to her nature as well.

The guest characters in this book are also quite carefully brought to life. Of the Travellers, Roisa, Maire and Christopher are the best. The last of these is a haunting figure - quite literally so when he becomes nothing more than a walking corpse - but every moment that he's present is fascinating; those with the Doctor doubly so. Jan - I'm not sure what to make of him. The story does hinge on him, but nonetheless he's a selfish, womanising, arrogant man. We could ask why does Ace like him so, but then again, love is blind. Phaedrus has more than the usual dimensions for a villain; his relationship to his mother is equal but opposite to Ace's. In the end the reader gets his sympathy, as does the Doctor, who lets him go. In a televised adventure James Miller would be a bland, personality deficient one-story supporting character, but as a written character he's a likable, helpful and dependable man. Trench, the librarian, is the token victim, but given an affability and warmth that ensures his death is all the more tragic and pointless.

But when it comes to new characters, it's Professor Bernice Summerfield who steals the show! It's the first appearance of what would become a long running companion, who would end up with her own spin-off series of books and audio adventures, and Benny hits the ground running. In my opinion, she's fundamentally a terrific character - smart, quick witted, sarcastic and pragmatic, while at the same time hiding the pain and loss of her missing father. Some writers would have an awkward time with Bernice, but Cornell, her creator, doesn't have this worry, and especially not for her debut.

There are other small touches that affect the story - the "something terrible" Ace witnesses - it's obvious what she sees, but leaving it to the imagination, not describing it at all, makes it all the more chilling. Paul Cornell loves owls - and the two in this story, witnessing the events as they unfold, almost eavesdropping, contribute to the wistful, evocative atmosphere, and the way they are used at the end is wonderful - a life-affirming reinforcement of the Doctor's philosophy. The allusions to Puff the Magic Dragon are also fitting, although it's Jackie Paper, not Piper. Although there's one thing that stumped me. How did Julian come to be part of the Hoothi? It implies they had a presence on Earth. I might be missing something (and dear readers, please let me know if this is so), but it seems to be the only "goof" I could detect.

But Love and War is a spectacular read. It's a gentle story of a love affair that's inevitably doomed; it's a visceral, character-focused examination of the Doctor, his role in the universe and his increasing vulnerability; it introduces a delightful new companion; all wrapped inside a good old alien invasion tale - penned with care by an author who clearly loves Doctor Who and knows how to write it. 9.5/10


Doctor Who and the Emotional Denouement by Neil Clarke 17/6/08

Love and War's a weird one. For me, anyway. I adore the New Adventures, but I've never really understood how much people gush about Paul Cornell.

Reading it for the second time, I can see why people like his books - they're neatly constructed little tales and Human Nature especially benefits from having a really strong Doctor Who premise - but, personally, I just don't think Cornell's prose is that strong. Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, for example, blow Cornell out of the water in terms of the quality of their writing, but because their stories maybe don't conform to what people think Doctor Who "should" be like, they don't get the same sort of recognition.

Love and War has a very conventional plot and, aside from some neat twists and the presence of the manipulative Seventh Doctor, there isn't anything particularly original going on. People say there's some amazing characterisation here, but, although it's nice to get a bit of insight into the Doctor and Ace's relationship, pretty much everyone else is quite colourless (barely even differentiated by description). There's a bit more to Bernice (and, in retrospect, it's surprising how many of what will become the staples of her character are established here), but I still wouldn't say she's three-dimensional. Everything's a bit flat, really.

To my mind, this novel is a traditional Doctor Who plot with some added emotional manipulation. I'm not dissing it, but whilst reading it this time I was very aware of the buttons that were being pushed (although I'm fairly sure it wasn't written this cynically). I did enjoy it and, while I understand that when it was published the level of emotional involvement would have felt very fresh, now, with so many other excellent Doctor Who novels published subsequently, Love and War feels a bit contrived; the emotional additions to its slim plot almost feel too much like a conscious choice now, like, "I'm doing Doctor Who with emotion! Imagine!". Though well-drawn at times, Ace's doomed love affair mostly gives rise to quite a mawkish sensibility, where I imagine Cornell was attempting something more penetrating and honest.

I guess this novel is good Doctor Who - it ticks the right boxes, has some nice ideas (the Hoothi are genuinely repellent, but fascinating) - but the concept of "good Doctor Who" usually comes down to an idealised version of the 70s series, I think, and Love and War has that feel. Personally, the books I'd rate highest are the ones that really push the limits of Doctor Who: Transit, the War trilogy, Adventuress, The Man in the Velvet Mask etc. I think it's the difference between genuinely good authors tackling Doctor Who and okay authors creating by-numbers "good Doctor Who". (If you get me.)

Where Love and War is a total success, however, is in its Doctor. Ever since I discovered the NAs as a kid, the NA Seventh Doctor has been the ultimate Doctor for me (and continues to be, even in light of the new series). Here, he's recognisably McCoy's Doctor, but maybe slightly expanded upon, with more rage and sadness, I think; he's spine-chillingly effective. There are some slightly hyperbolic lines in regards to him (of the "I'm what monsters have nightmares about" and "Who will save us now?"/"I will!" variety) but, somehow, they work. He really does seem like a force to be reckoned with and it's glorious. You're fully behind this funny little man, wanting him to decimate his opponents, but at the same time you're kind of scared of what he'll do next...

As I say, a weird one: it's snappily effective, but there's something quite inorganic about it, for want of a better word; it has a kind of committee-written feel, like there were twelve Cornells in a boardroom adding touches of poetic justice or irony every now and then to strategically tug the heartstrings... Perhaps for a tragic love story it feels a bit too meticulously pieced together?

Anyway, I reread this because I had the unprecedentedly good fortune to stumble upon a veritable trove of Doctor Who stuff in my local Oxfam (30 MA and NAs for #40! This is what my life has been building towards!) and Love and War was the earliest one I got, so it make sense to start there. Now I'm very much looking forward to spending more time with the Seventh Doctor!