|ISBN||1-903889-10-3 (standard hardback)
1-903889-11-1 (deluxe hardback)
|Featuring||The Eighth Doctor|
|Synopsis: Strange things are afoot in a sleepy Cornish village after a mysterious object is retrieved from the sea.|
A Review by Liam Copsey 10/3/03
I must admit that I had high expectations of this novella due to its experienced author, or so we’re told as I should confess to have never heard of one Louise Cooper, but that is neither here nor there as all, well nearly all, my hopes and expectations were fulfilled in abundance.
This story is a rarity in Doctor Who fiction as it has a big, big heart at its squishy centre and doesn’t include a real villain, only a slight threat. Yes that’s right, no villain. At all. The author obviously focuses more on characterisation and motives than usual, probably due to the lack of a villain and the fact she is a woman writer, if that sounds a tad sexist then I suppose it is.
The story is interesting, if predictable, but drives along at the right pace, with excellent description, especially near the book’s conclusion. The setting is very vivid and uses the sea setting to much greater effect than the feeble Ghost Ship ever did, making the ocean seem both powerful and mysterious and could almost class as one of the main characters in the story. And speaking of main characters, I was surprised at the Doctor’s pretty minimum involvement, although compared to the first two novellas I should be grateful, as I prefer the Doctor right in the thick of it, I mean after all what is the series called? Saying that, his characterisation was absolutely marvellous, much better than the BBC’s initial novels, showing great promise of the eighth Doctor’s future in the Telos range.
The narrative is genuinely moving, and the characters actions and motivations feel right and are very human, extremely delightful to read. In fact this entire book is a light and thought-provoking (in an emotional way, not in a Dave Stone way) read, with real situations placed within a warp reality, which is how Cooper wanted it to be like, according to DWM’s preview interview with the author.
Oh, and I love the title and the frontispiece is simply magnificent.
A wonderfully written story, with just the right amount of ambiguity to keep the reader engaged, but not bored. A compassionate book, extremely recommended for those who fancy something sensitive and beautiful in equal amounts.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 13/4/03
It's a real shame that Telos can only produce these books up to the middle of 2004. They are quickly becoming the most reliable source of great stories, and that nostalgic glow that I so crave whenever DW is emblazoned on the product.
Rip Tide sounded wonderful. Cornwall is a place full of beauty and magic. The scene of many a holiday during my youth (and adult life for that matter), I just adore the place. Louise Cooper loves the place too, and I was convinced that Cornish aura would be there in the book. It was also to feature the 8th Doctor - the 1st Telos Novella to do so, and I was looking forward to that too.
Rip Tide comes in at around 150 pages - thus making it the longest novella produced thus far. I am on record as saying that the novella format is the ideal length in which to tell a DW story - and 150 pages is just about the top limit for this range.
Above all Rip Tide is a book about characters. It's about Nina, a teenager who serves as the Doctor's Companion in this story. It's about Steve, Nina's brother, who runs the lifeboat. It's about Ruth, the mystery woman who is source of the aforementioned sibling rivalry. It's also, wonderfully, about the 8th Doctor - and his compassion. Character drives the story along - and in the 4 above we have more than enough personality to last us through.
The Cornish setting is portrayed well. The author is famous for her young adult novels - and this often feels like one of those types of books. It reminded me, in a positive way, of the Adventure Books I read in my teens (between TARGET books of course). Complete with seaside caves, holiday homes, homely restaurants - I could relate with it all. This added much to a book that was already a cracking read in its own right.
My personal nostalgia then, mixed with characters you really care about, resulted in one of the finest DW books I have ever had the fortune to read. The simplicity of the storyline makes a wonderful change for the complexities of longer books (even though there's a time and place for those too). It was just a sheer joy to pick up the book, and be immersed in this familiar, yet fantastic, world.
I reckon this is one of the better depictions of the 8th Doctor too. For someone who went off to explore the Universe on his own at the end of his only TV appearance, he has spent a lot of time with others. It was refreshing to see him alone, like he was in the Caught on Earth series for BBC Books. This often felt like it was set during that time - but the TARDIS is alive and well, so it must be later or earlier.
The nostalgia glow is something I expect a lot of DW fans crave for in their merchandise. It's nice to know there's a lot of about. Rip Tide is the best example of it for ages. This really is a delightful book. 10/10
A Review by John Seavey 8/5/03
In short, Rip Tide is another Telos novella that takes advantage of the novella format to present a story that's heavy on atmosphere, light on plot, and that moves along at a brisk clip and doesn't wear out its welcome. Louise Cooper writes a novella of what's nicely termed as "all ages", albeit with a few hints of adult content, and turns in a reasonable Who story.
Although I do have to wonder, why did this take so long to get approval from BBC Worldwide? It must have been its use of the Eighth Doctor, as opposed to previous selves; there's no continuity references at all anywhere in the story. (Which is something of a refreshing change, for Doctor Who in print form; I had to laugh when the Doctor said, "This reminds me of the time I was -- but I'm getting side-tracked." So quickly do the conventions of a medium get punctured.)
Really, it's hard to talk much about Rip Tide for very long. It's heavy on atmosphere; Cooper lives in the area the story is set in, and has an interest in life-guarding, so there's plenty of nice, realistic details about that which nonetheless avoid bogging the novel down in technical matters. The characters are reasonably good, if a bit cliched -- Nina could be interchanged for Sam, Izzy, or any one of the thirty or so other female teenaged companions to trot down the pike in the Eighth Doctor era, but she's engaging enough for all that and her relationship with her brother is well-handled. The Doctor's also well-handled, coming across as solicitous, heroic, and eccentric -- a sort of super-lifeguard, in a story with no villains except time and the sea.
The plot isn't much, and it's not something that's going to shock Who fans, but it comes across well and doesn't drag. I suppose you could make noise about this being too light for the expensive hardback, but let's all face it, if you're buying Telos novellas, you've long ago reconciled to the fact that you're paying a lot of money for the covers and the nice, creamy paper, and gotten over it. (Personally, I like it -- there's a nice feel to cracking open a slim, hardbacked volume on expensive paper and reading.) It's not a tremendous book, but it's definitely readable.
A Review by Finn Clark 26/5/03
Rip Tide isn't trying to be a literary masterpiece, but it's a solidly enjoyable eight out of ten. Instead of trying to take you away on wings of fancy, it keeps both feet squarely on the ground with a simple tale of an unglamourised Cornwall and characters who are just plain, ordinary people. Nowt wrong with that. This book's strengths are prosaic, but real. More than anything it reminded me of a Famous Five adventure, albeit grown up a little with added lifeboats. Teenage investigations! Mystery by the seaside! Thrilling japes on the clifftop! There's more to it than that, but it won't surprise anyone to learn that Louise Cooper has written children's fiction. However that's not a criticism, I hasten to add.
The main characters are Steve and his sister Nina. Steve's a good, honest chap and a part-time lifeboatman, but Nina's a moody seventeen-year-old who has blazing rows with her parents and tries to manipulate those around her (not usually with success). It's not hard to empathise with these people. Nina will probably turn out to be one of the best characters in a 2003 Who book, though her eventual relationship with the Doctor was a little "been there, done that" for long-time Who readers. Nevertheless, their first real scenes together are lots of fun and one of the two highlights of the book.
The 8th Doctor is good too, by the way. I've heard it said that he's the TVM version rather than any of the variants from audios, books or comic strips, but to be honest I thought he'd have fitted in fine with any of them. He gets some good scenes and is convincingly alien when viewed through Nina's all-too-human eyes. Admittedly he's a walk-on part until nearly halfway through, but for several reasons this works well. Firstly, holding back on the weirdness helps the book's everyday atmosphere. Secondly, we've too often seen an ineffective 8th Doctor faffing around in the BBC Books, whereas this is a more Virgin-like Doctor who only comes onstage when he actually has something to do. Thirdly, half a novella isn't long to wait. I liked it. (Oh, and this 8th Doctor wears hats.)
I've mentioned one highlight already, the other of course being the lifeboats. I don't think there's anyone in Britain who's not aware of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, but Rip Tide brings their work alive superbly. The sea touches everything in this book, often to devastating effect, and our glimpses of the lifeboat volunteers are thoroughly plausible and impressive. To be honest, that's the main thing Rip Tide has to offer which Doctor Who readers won't have seen before... we've all seen entertaining scenes of the Doctor winning over disbelieving humans or dealing with out-of-place things, but to see these lifeboats in action is an education.
Oh, and Stephen Gallagher has written a fantastic introduction. This probably won't be anyone's favourite book of the year, but it should be in quite a few top fives. It's a good book. Not brilliant, but certainly not awful either.
A fun little self-contained novella by Robert Smith? 22/10/03
There have been books with no continuity references before, but somehow none of them have used that opportunity to simply get on with telling a cracking story, as Rip Tide does. The novella reaps both the rewards and the punishments from this: while the story feels refreshingly unencumbered, it also feels as though it's occasionally retreading ground where other books have gone before. But that's a relatively small price to pay for what we get.
Objectively speaking, the story is somewhat slight. The aliens aren't well drawn, the Doctor takes a long time to appear and there's a lot of focus on the day to day life of the town. But the characterisation really makes this work, as does seeing the events almost solely through Nina's eyes. It's a bit risky to use a teenager as the reader-identification character these days, when the vast majority of the book's audience are likely to be long past that age. But luckily memories of Sam Jones don't surface, despite the occasional terrifying moment (Nina's crush on the Doctor).
The novella really excels in its setting, with the various sea motifs very nicely done. There's a very solid sense of the town and the ocean lurking nearby. This is vitally important given that it sustains a significant portion of the book. Even when the Doctor appears, it's some time before he's a central character. In fact, the only part of the book that doesn't work is the (unfortunately crucial) scene on page 17 where Ruth's brother crashes his flier. By not referring to names, this passage seems as though it's about Nina and Steve instead of Ruth and her brother. The worst part is that there's nothing actually in the scene that tells us it's Ruth's brother on a flier rather than Steve in his boat, which is really awkward.
But that really is the only bit that doesn't work. Once the Doctor shows up, things proceed quite nicely. Our view of him through Nina's eyes is appropriately childlike. It feels like reinventing the wheel on a couple of occasions - and the Doctor proving what he says by showing someone the inside of the TARDIS always feels like a cop out to me - but that's okay. The Doctor is very Paul McGann and Nina's crush is mostly kept offstage, which helps a lot. The scene where the Doctor starts being reminded of another adventure and then catches himself is utterly hilarious.
The ending does feel a little off-kilter, due to the Doctor sorting it all out offstage and on a completely different planet that we don't get to witness, but it still works, given that Nina's by far the central character here. Her impersonating a lifeboat crewman to rescue the Doctor works really well. The only downside is that I made the mistake of reading the author's note at the end before starting the book, which gives away just a shade too much. But that's my fault, not the book's.
Rip Tide is a very refreshing tale that exists just to be an adventure, with no pretensions of being anything else. It's got a nice view of the way the Doctor interacts with our world, coming up trumps in its depiction of both. And the childlike nature of the novel, complete with themes of responsibility and facing up to one's parents, could only have been made to work by someone with a great deal of experience writing Young Adult fiction, which really helps justify Telos's use of professional authors, beyond just the promotional factor. Nicely done.
A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 18/5/05
I'd never heard of Louise Cooper before, but according to Stephen Gallagher's introduction, she's a writer of Young Adult stories. And indeed Rip Tide feels very much like something aimed at that market. The main character is a good-hearted teenage girl, Nina. She has problems relating to her family. Most of the scenes are not told from any one character's point of view. Jokes are explained to the reader. An omnipotent third person narrator tells us when people are lying. Characters are described using a small, static set of words (before the Doctor is explicitly named, he is almost always revealed by the author's reuse of the same words and phrases).
These are not criticisms. I thoroughly enjoyed the style. In fact, it kept the pace of the book moving very quickly. I can easily imagine this book written in a more adult, more subversive and less obvious manner, and that version would easily be twice as long. There isn't all that much plot to the story -- just about enough for a book this length. So the style in which it is told is very important to the overall effect.
One of the more unusual aspects of this story was how much real time it takes up. Days and weeks pass between scenes. The pace is very slow and deliberate. This is certainly a huge difference from many other Doctor Who stories, where the Doctor and his companions arrive during daylight hours, get involved in a massive, universe-changing adventure, and leave before sunset on the same day.
In addition to the leisurely pace and the small scale of the adventure, one realizes that there really isn't much plot in this. It's very much a find-the-problem-and-fix-it story with only a handful of obstacles put in the way of the protagonists. But it's the way that everything unfolds that appealed to me. There aren't very many big surprises, yet it's still very absorbing. I can only echo Stephen Gallagher's introduction and state that the "what-happens-next sense of story" works very well.
I had two songs stuck in my head while reading -- The Velvet Underground's "The Ocean" and Bruce Lash's "High Water". This wasn't a coincidence. This is a story set in an English village by the sea, and the ocean plays a big part. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's almost a secondary character in its own right, but it certain adds heavily to the book's atmosphere. The village and its inhabitants are also fleshed out extremely well. I don't know if they were based on reality at all, but they certainly felt like real people. There were loads of little details that went a long way towards painting a satisfying picture.
I also enjoyed seeing Cooper's take on the Eighth Doctor. The text of the story never unambiguously names him, but the characterization and the publicity material can't lie. He definitely possesses the more fluffy aspects of his personality as seen in the TV movie, but there's a sterner core, a heart of stone at the center of his absent-minded professor persona. It's a great balance, and one not always seen in the print adventures of the Eighth Doctor.
Rip Tide is, as I said before, very much in the Young Adult style. There is a clear moral at the end. There is a definite and obvious connection between the life of Nina, and the lives of the book's central aliens. Doctor Who, of course, began as a family show and so, even after all the changes the series has gone through since, this style still suits it. And it's not written in a way that annoyed this adult, so I can certainly report that I enjoyed it.