The Web of Fear
The Millennial Rites/Head Games pair
|ISBN#||0 426 20455 7|
|Continuity||Between The Ultimate Foe
Terror of the Vervoids
|Synopsis: The Doctor and Mel arrive in 1999 to celebrate the new millenium. While there, the Doctor is reunited with Anne Travers and uncovers a deadly plot to revive the Great Intelligence.|
A Review by Sean Gaffney 23/8/99
OK, now. This was a tricky little book. I started out disliking it, then I got bored, but then it picked up and the last hundred pages flew by. Odd duck, then. Serious bastard. There isn't even a light epilogue, just heavy heavy hangs all the way through.
The Doctor - Excellent. The sixth doctor is very well portrayed as the "turning over a new leaf" type that we expected after the trial. The discussions between the Doctor and the Valeyard is excellent, a bit of Whovian philosophy in the midst of chaos. And the last page is a great set-up for Head Games, which I'm reading now. Colin would have loved to do this!
Mel - Well, I had trouble with all the computer genius that wafted over Mel, IQ 163 and all. But I understand that Craig had to do it for our sakes if nothing else. And the basic obnoxious perkiness is still there. I find it difficult to work up an opinion of her. Comes from the original being such a cypher, I suppose...
Others - Barry and Louise were excellent, and I liked the book's ending, for the same reason that I disliked Infinite Requiem's. I like happy things. Anne Travers, well, I haven't seen Wartime, but geez...bitter incarnate. The villains were well-drawn, and none of them could be drawn in shades of black and white, that was reserved for the Doctor.
Plot - Conniving. It got much better when Earth was transformed, as Craig spent a lot of time widdling around for the first half. Good climax, though.
Mood - Great.
Continuity - I see Craig is trying to unseat David McIntee from the title of fan-wank God. With the Web of Fear, The Invasion, All-Consuming Fire, System Shock, Wartime, and The Trial of a Time Lord all playing a big part in the narrative, though, one can't accuse Craig of it being pointless.
Overall - Better towards the end, but still a good book. I look forward to the NA he's writing.
A Review by Graeme Burk 13/6/00
This is probably as close as one is liable to get of what Colin Baker might have been like with Andrew Cartmel as script editor. It picks up on the better aspects of his character (without becoming Stranger-esque like Lyons' Time Of Your Life) and does the bombast, arrogance and generally in-over-his-headedness of the Sixth Doctor's character in an appealing, charming way. I really like it. Unlike Mel in season 24, Dear Ms. Bush actually has some form of characterization -- Hinton captures the annoying cheerfulness, the somewhat black-and-white moral view, the bright sunny disposition and the genius (which Mel was alleged to have had) really well. You can imagine Bonnie Langford playing the role, and imagine what Mel could have been like if the TV writers had taken the time to read and take to heart her character brief. At the same time, you can also picture Bonnie playing the Technomancer, the alter-ego which she develops in the second half of the book, and not being annoying while doing it.
I also liked, Soap-operaic though they were, the supporting characters of Barry and Louise. They seemed believable and they had some great moments. In many ways I prefered their story to a lot of the other stuff going on.
The adventure set up is a giggle really, nothing more, nothing less. It's ripped off quite liberally from the X-Men but this doesn't bother me terribly much. The Doctor and Mel get involved with a computer svengali who is creating a computer program to change reality by calling in a near-divine entity from a future universe. Well Anne Travers (major fanwank aspect #1) gets involved and brings in the Great Intelligence (major fanwank aspect #2) and buggers up the new reality into a hi-tech sword and sorcery thing which really does resemble a Chris Claremont script on a bad day, with a dash of H.P. Lovecraft to give some cosmology to the whole thing. All the characters have different idenities, including the Doctor who gradually changes into the Valeyard (major fanwank aspect [to the power of 100]#3). Actually, it's Colin as the Valeyard, and it's pulled off better than you'd expect.
I had fun with this novel. I'd even say it was one of the better MAs of 1995. Craig Hinton writes in a clean, breezy style. My main complaints are (as you can tell above) the fanwanks. The Valeyard's presence is nifty and I can see that it was time to bring him into the MA/NA universe and it's done well (and it establishes some links between the Sixth and Seventh Doctors which I suppose had to happen eventually). But neither Anne Travers nor the Great Intelligence are terribly necessary to the plot (nor is Ashley Chapel's connection to Tobias Vaughn). I also find there are patches of Craig's prose that are juvenile and too in-jokey (I hated the poaching he did with Andy Lanes's brilliant line from Original Sin "You're playing with a fire so hot it will scorch eternity" -- it seemed really bitchy). All in all, it was the Doctor, Mel, Barry and Louise that kept my attention and they're done in such an entertaining way I'm willing to forgive an awful lot. Not perhaps the best Missing Adventure but highly enjoyable. 8/10.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 9/2/01
Definitely one to read, Millennial Rites is certainly enjoyable and gives a new slant on the Melanie Question (even if it was answered more succinctly by Gary Russell in Business Unusual). Anyway enough waffle, on with the usual suspects.
PLOT: New Year's Eve 1999, the Doctor visits Anne Travers, Ashley Chapel Logistics are up to no good and London is about to undergo a bizzare transformation. It plays on the fears on what might`ve been; circa December 31st 1999 (to a degree) and Craig Hinton has a great take on London life. More interesting is of course the after effects of the transformation.
THE DOCTOR: A fascinating character study and a great read, especially as he fights against becoming the Valeyard.
MELANIE: We get some background, not too much but enough to whet the appetite. Portrayed strongly throughout.
OTHERS: Barry and Louise and their backstory were excellent and enough to suffice throughout the book. Ashley Chapel served his purpose as did Anne Travers but this book belongs to the regulars.
OVERALL: Thankfully reading Head Games isn`t entirely necessary prior to reading this, however Millenial Rites is still a great read and gets a deserved 9/10.
A Review by Rob Matthews 12/7/01
Coming to this book not too long after reading The Quantum Archangel, I was struck by the similarities. The use of the Sixth Soctor and Mel team, for one. Also the opening half set on a somewhat futuristic present-day Earth, and the remainder taking place in a quantum-reaaranged version of same. I can only assume Craig Hinton so liked the story that he wrote it twice; once for the Virgin line, and then again for the BBC.
To a slightly lesser - but no less irritating extent - Millennial Rites is a lesson in how hyperbole can crush the life out of a book. It was bad enough hearing about 'the Gods' in TQA, where I thought it was a one-off big-scale story, but judging from this - and from the fact that another of his Who books is called 'Godengine' -, it would seem that it's a permanent flaw in Hinton's style.
'He had faced the demonic monsters of the time winds, ridden to the one hundred billion and seventeen corners of all known cosmoses on the backs of the Eagles of the Gods, had supped with the Archangels of the Universe Before Time and reaped the tomatoes of a quintillion quantum winterfalls. And yet here, napping on his couch and waiting for the sunrise, he was chilled to the bone with fear'
No, that's not a genuine quote from the book, but it's not far off. Hinton tries to hard to be dramatic and just ends up reading like someone trying too hard to be dramatic.
Which might just be forgivable if he was any better at handling characterisation, but he's awful at that too. His only success is Mel, whom he wisely renders even more irritating than we remember, rather than attempting any revisionism.
I was looking forward to reading a story that involved the post-Trial Sixth Doctor struggling against his inner Valeyard, and seeing some hint of the genesis of the Seventh Doctor, but I'm afraid the struggle was completely cardboard. In a scene which is meant to show the Doctor anguishing over the consequences of his inaction, he tells Louise that he will 'regret Barry's death for the rest of my life - which, believe me, is a very long time'. Hinton uses this unbelievably insensitive line to show a humbled Doctor riddled with terrible guilt and pain! Not even in Vengeance on Varos was he this callous! 'Well, he may be dead, but I'll live for positively ages and have plenty of time to think about it, perhaps even smelling roses and having some chocolates and cakes while doing so.'
And once more we have the Sixth Doctor portrayed as a big fat glutton, admittedly not as bad as the voracious dullard of Terrance Dicks' The Eight Doctors, but not true to his TV characterisation either. The Sixth Doctor was fat from the moment he stopped being Peter Davison, so how could it have been anything to do with his eating habits?
Anne Travers, meanwhile is a bitter, spinsterish old maid of a type not seen since we stopped using phrases like 'spinster and old maid' in the mid-fifties. All of us except Hinton, that is. And Lou and Barry are an unlikeable pair who I was never once interested in.
But the clumsiness doesn't stop there. The Cybrids, which sound like they should be terrifying, never once seem like a threat, because the characters can't be bothered to be frightened of them. We're told that Mel climbs over a wall with a gang of them snapping at her heels - but then when she lands on the other side, she stops to make a telephone call!
And... oh, I can't be bothered to continue. For a good story involving the Great Old Ones and the delightfully-conceived Library of Saint John the Beheaded, read All-Consuming Fire. And for a good story where the Sixth Doctor struggles with his own tendency towards violence, read Time of Your Life. For the Valeyard, read the mightily underrated Matrix. This is the only Who novel I've read thus far that was a canonical chore rather than a pleasure.
(Okay, there was Time's Crucible too, but at least that had the Gallifrey bits).
A Review by Finn Clark 24/3/03
When I first read this in 1995, I was underwhelmed. The weirdness in the second half bored me and I never really found anything of particular interest to be happening. After this reread, I think that was harsh. Millennial Rites could do with losing a good fifty pages, but it's probably Craig Hinton's most solid Doctor Who novel to date.
The best thing about the book is its TARDIS crew. This was the first 6th Doctor and Mel novel and it meets the challenge head-on. Craig has a taste for tackling the less-esteemed corners of the canon (his second, third and fourth novels were based in Season 23, Transit and The Time Monster respectively) and let's not forget that Millennial Rites pre-dated the big Mel rehabilitation. Back then, received wisdom held that Mel was a failure. Craig took the bull by the horns and it's in large part thanks to him that a companion has been rescued from the wastes and re-evaluated .
 - though let's not forget Steve Lyons, the author of Head Games (the Mel NA which came out alongside Millennial Rites) and Fires of Vulcan (Bonnie Langford's revelatory Big Finish debut).
After a string of 8th Doctor novels, the 6th Doctor and Mel seemed so alive. Whatever you might think of their TV stories, in print they're fabulous... and I say that with no irony whatsoever. Their foibles and eccentricities give far more for a novelist to work with than more popular characters like Sarah or Jamie, whose appeal was largely down to the performer's personal charisma. Unlike the 6th Doctor and Peri, they also like each other! Here Colin's Doctor is compared with the Valeyard (as is shown on the cover), with throwaway lines like the Doctor comparing his patchwork coat with the Valeyard's all-black outfit. Let's not forget that Colin Baker initially wanted his Doctor dressed in black...
TARDIS crew aside, this novel has huge concepts. Reference is made to three completely incompatible laws of physics, reality-bending "quantum mnemonics" and what lies beyond our universe's birth and destruction. What's more, the fantastical nature of much of the book means we're spared Craig Hinton's trademark technobabble! It may be genuine high-level physics, but much of Crystal Bucephalus, GodEngine and The Quantum Archangel is still meaningless to 99.9% of the population.
The characters are okay. Barry's soap-opera backstory made me tremble in fear, but to my surprise his subplot turned out quite well. He and Louise get one good scene, at least. Ashley Chapel is pretty thick (check out his bizarre notion of how to shut up Louise and Barry) but let's face it: he's a loony who wants to transform the world. He may have a high IQ, but how much common sense can he have?
Random observations: I liked Craig's nods to other books; as I'd been rereading everything set around this time, it helped give a sense of a coherent world. There's even a sly Original Sin reference (p4). Craig's Millennium Hall foreshadows the real-life Millennium Dome (see p46), which probably did more damage to Tony Blair's image than any other single misjudgement. However the Lovecraft pantheon namechecks on p26 met with a rousing Finn chorus of "OH, FUCK OFF!!!"
Continuity notes: the Leader of the Opposition is female. Alas, there's also a goof... Demeter Glauss won't be born for another 26 years (p86) but her book is copyright 2023 (p106).
There's a lot of good stuff here, but somehow it felt slightly less than the sum of its parts. It feels runaroundy; having reread all of Craig's Virgin Who novels during the past year or so, I'm starting to think they don't reread well. (Though having said that, my opinion of this one slightly improved.) Its TARDIS crew hold it together, especially in the second half when it was mainly the Doctor's identity stuff that kept me going. I probably like it less than do most people, but you can't fault its enthusiasm.