The Talons of Weng-Chiang
The Shadow of Weng-Chiang
|Author||David A. McIntee|
|ISBN#||0 426 20479 4|
|Continuity||Between The Stones of Blood
The Androids of Tara
|Synopsis: The search for the fourth segment of the Key to Time leads the Doctor and Romana to 1930's Shang-Hai where they discover an old enemy is at work.|
A Review by Robert Smith? 26/3/98
Well, it's a McIntee book, so I'd been putting it off ever since I saw the adjective-dripping opening chapter. But I decided to stick with it and give it a go. Was it worth it?
It's not so much a bad book (parts of it are fairly decent) and McIntee's style doesn't interfere with it the way it ruined Lords of the Yawn or Sanctuary (indeed, the setting makes the, erm, "rich" style almost bearable). But the Doctor is written awfully (it rarely sounds like him at all and only when it does the jokes are very clearly stolen from elsewhere-- I think I counted a grand total of one joke I couldn't immediately place!). Romana isn't too bad, although she doesn't leap off the page.
The supporting characters were mostly well done. The "villianess" was fairly good, although she did tend to go on a bit much. And having the Doctor simply tell us outright what her plot was (instead of, say, revealing it to us dramatically or something) was a major mistake IMO (I have no problem with the Doctor knowing the plot in advance, but I do have a problem with him revealing it to us in an offhand comment).
The POV of K9 and Sin were reasonably well done, although I thought the book took an awful long time to describe the mysterious "child", when anyone who'd glanced at the cover would instantly know what was going on (that may not be McIntee's fault, but if he wanted to keep Sin a surprise, he might have mentioned that to the cover artist or something).
However, right at the end, we discover one of the "friends" was really a villian -- or do we? This bit was so badly done that I'm still not sure what was supposed to be going on here (and I'm not exactly encouraged to go back and check).
Hsien-Ko's plot seemed reasonable, but what irritated me was a lack of potential. I thought the plot spent too much time describing lots of violence and not enough time actually being a plot. One idea might have been for the zygma beam Hsien-Ko is using to interfere with Greel's original beam-- and it be this that caused the original malfunction (thus Hsien-Ko plays her part in the tableau of history). Instead we got a boring "Blow up the base to stop the villian" ending. Ho hum.
A Review by Jill Sherwin 19/8/99
I think one of the things that I like best about McIntee's writing is that though he takes the task of writing a good novel seriously, he never takes himself or the Doctor too seriously. How can you dislike a book where, during a chase scene, Romana (the first) gets away unscathed but the Doctor twists HIS ankle? Or a scene where the Doctor is taken to a specifically geologically important location? His response? "A quarry! How very interesting!" It is this kind of fond affection for the series and the characters that is evinced again and again in The Shadow of Weng-Chiang.
The story takes place between The Stones of Blood and The Androids of Tara during the Key To Time arc. It never ceases to amaze me when Missing Adventure authors can sandwich in a story without sacrificing continuity and McIntee has accomplished this by constantly referring to their mission and their most recent adventure.
McIntee's second in the Missing Adventures series (following three terrific New Adventures) centers on a disruption in the chronon fields on Earth interfering with the Doctor and Romana's White Guardian-led quest for the segments of the Key to Time. These disruptions keep returning the Tardis to Earth rather than leading on to the next segment, so the Doctor decides to solve the mystery of the chronon fields and winds up in 1937 Saigon.
China's edgy political situation with neighboring Japan provides the political backdrop for the story and as in all of McIntee's New Adventures, we are overloaded with historical information. One downside of this is that at times the author seems more interested in the setting than the Doctor, which can lead to a historical fiction-feel rather than a Doctor Who story. Despite all the action and intrigue to be found in the book, it is not a light read.
In the author's foreword he warns that this sequel to The Talons of Weng-Chiang is definitely not the further adventures of Jago and Lightfoot in Victorian London. Rather, the only recurring character is Mr. Sin, the Peking Homunculus, who gets to run rampant through China. The atmosphere of the book is closest to the recent 1930's-period films such as "The Shadow" and "The Phantom". There's even an undercover millionaire good guy with a dark past.
The feisty villainess, Hsien-Ko, proves to be the key to the chronon interference. Her plot to provide enough energy to interfere with the time-stream that originally brought Weng-Chiang to the nineteenth century and the machinations involved therein keep the Doctor and his companions occupied trying to stop her from creating a paradox in the time continuum.
As in all of McIntee's books, the 'guest' characters are fully fleshed out and three dimensional. We learn about their misguided motivations and the circumstances that brought them into our story. These are constant reminders, however, that McIntee is a strong writer who should not be limited to Doctor Who novels, despite a dinstinct knack for writing great historical Who adventures.
If you enjoyed White Darkness and Sanctuary for their period settings, you'll enjoy this book. If you enjoyed First Frontier for McIntee's take on the Master, wait for his next MA, The Dark Path, the Master's origin story. For those of you who enjoyed all of McIntee's fannish in-references (especially in First Frontier) he will not let you down. One Trek reference in The Shadow of Weng-Chiang is as follows: the Doctor messes up K-9's translations circuit (yes, K-9 is in here, too, with the inevitable stair-master challenge to surmount -- how else can you stop him?) so he starts speaking is binary code, "11001001". Look familiar?
That's just one of the jokes. As in all of McIntee's books, there are James Bond references and references to Hong Kong action films galore. An example: one character goes by the name "Mr. Woo". John, anyone?
This is not the sequel one might have expected for Weng-Chiang, perhaps not even the one I might have wanted, with a different Doctor and companion, for example. Or the return of the giant rats. And of course I missed Jago and Lightfoot. But McIntee has provided instead an interesting historical portrait of 1937 Shanghai, while managing at the same time to be true to the Tom Baker whimsy of that era of Doctor Who stories. The Doctor trips lots of people with his scarf, Romana is appropriately superior and extremely naive, K-9 is K-9.
If there was any quibble I have at all, it was that there was too much happening with 'guest' characters and not enought time spent with the Doctor. There were definitely too many of Mr. Sin's violent rampages and it took the Doctor far too long to catch up with the rest of the characters in the last third of the book.
My final vote? A good book, but not the best Doctor Who MA. Definitely not fluffy reading.
Still if this setting or Hong Kong Triad films are your bag, or you just need a fix of Tom Baker or Mary Tamm, go for this and you will enjoy.
A Review by Sean Gaffney 9/9/99
I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. Understand, I don't have the problem with McIntee that others do. I enjoyed White Darkness and Sanctuary. But First Frontier was too dull. And Lords of the Storm was definitely sub-par. Plus, he loves the use of superfluous verbiage to enunciate the semiotic thickness of his text. Or something.
But this is a definite step back in the right direction.
Plot: Can you say 40s serial? This seems to combine The Phantom Creeps with Commando Cody, scary as that sounds. There's lots of running around, beating people up, moving on, etc. The science went beyond me, but still...pretty good.
The Doctor: When he was in character (most of the time), he was fine. Occasionally, there were lines that jangled so badly, though. Particularly when the Doctor quoted others. The quotes were majorly OOC. Didn't work there.
Romana: Well, we weren't gonna see a Dodo or Liz Shaw type revelation in this book, but she's pretty good. I like this Romana better, so I was in a good mood to start with. And she doesn't have any OOC moments. Very good.
K9: Well written. Bless my soul.
Villains: Intriguing. The two "lead villains" are very sympathetic, while one of our "good guys" is revealed to be an absolute creep. A shame about Hsien-Ko's demise. (Hsien-Ko. You're welcome.)
Style: My main problem. David's trimmed his speech a bit, but it's still too adjectival. Where were the editors? And this book is more brutal than any other MA or NA so far. In particular, Sin's killings are gruesomely detailed, and they don't need to be. Sensationalism, in the wrong place.
Overall: A lot better. He still needs work, though. And now he has to write Pat Troughton, which no-one has been able to do so far.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 21/4/01
Sequel time again and David McIntee`s The Shadow Of Weng-Chiang manages to be enjoyable .The plot which actually involves the hunt for The Key To Time, at least to some extent is somewhat simplistic and is layered with subplots. It basically follows the same pattern as other sequels, someone is out for revenge. In the writing, David McIntee shows his love for the series; eg during a chase Romana escapes unscathed whilst The Doctor suffers with a twisted ankle, or where K-9 attempts a spot of mountaineering.
As sequels go, there is only one recurring character in Mr Sin, who runs amok in Shanghai. Characterisation is strong we have a feisty villainess in Hsien-Ko, The Doctor typically trips people up with his scarf and a witty aside, whilst Romana is both naive and superior. This is a good read with the feel of a James Bond novel, and as such there is much to enjoy. 7/10.
A Review by Finn Clark 15/4/04
I was impressed by many aspects of this book. Its TARDIS crew are superbly evoked, as is its chosen world of Shanghai in 1937. For the first time after more than one half-cocked attempt, McIntee recreated the feel of a James Bond film in a novel. It's full of action, wit and exotic foreign locations.
Unfortunately Bond-ness is the book's downfall. I love James Bond films, but at times they're cheerfully empty-headed. Apeing their story structure in a novel is pretty daft. The Shadow of Weng-Chiang is lots of fun for a while, but eventually its running around, getting captured and escaping gets dull. The villain doesn't even want to kill the Doctor! The story gets stale around the halfway mark and only drifts downwards from then on. This novel desperately needs to lose about a hundred pages - and McIntee's next book, The Dark Path, actually was cut by a third by Virgin's editors.
However anyone who stopped reading around page 200 would find a lot to like. For example, I was gobsmacked by McIntee's rendition of the Season 16 regulars. Many authors have come a cropper trying to evoke the mighty Tom, but this book makes it look effortless. Really and truly, this is a fantastic TARDIS crew and the best in any McIntee novel by a gazillion miles. Check out the in-joke on p133; normally 'twould be groanworthy, but here it's genuinely funny.
The evocation of Shanghai is great too. Most of McIntee's books are historicals and most of those are impressively research-heavy, but for me this was up there with the 13th century of Sanctuary. I don't know how authentic it is, but it feels right. I never doubted for a moment that I was in China in 1937 - and it's not just a question of dressing the sets and checking the names. We get an oriental perspective on the white man and some kind of idea of what it must have been like to live in that time. You'll learn about the difference between China and Japan in the thirties. [There's even a glossary at the end for easy reference.]
There are even thirties pop culture references. Superman and Orson Welles get namechecked, while the characters include name-changed equivalents of the Saint and the Shadow. [Lucas Seyton, the Fallen Angel, annoyed me, but for that I should really blame Andy Lane and his story Fallen Angel in the first Decalog collection.]
The book's placement is unfortunate, though. Shoehorning extra stories into the Key to Time season is a rather silly and distracting thing to do, especially since there's no reason why it couldn't go between The Armageddon Factor and Destiny of the Daleks instead. In 1996 I thought the Doctor and Romana paid too little attention to their mission for the White Guardian... but in fact they pay too much. Instead of just getting on with the adventure at hand, they're always being sidelined by worrying about the Key to Time. It undermines the novel, making it seem like a side-note instead of the main attraction. [Though having said that, the Doctor, Romana and K9 are so strongly written that even their filler scenes are entertaining.]
Mr Sin is a suitably nasty piece of work, though any possible shock factor is blown by the cover illustration. One offbeat problem for me was the Chinese names, which all looked similar and made it hard to keep track of the characters. "Yan Cheh? That name rings a bell... oh, it's him!" Fortunately the cast is small, but even so I had to pay close attention to remember who's who. Many people have enjoyed The Shadow of Weng-Chiang, but despite its good points I eventually got a bit bored by it. It includes McIntee's liveliest writing, but unfortunately tacked on to one of his most trivial plots.