Short Trips: The Seven Deadly Sins
A Collection of Short Stories
|Synopsis: If there were no sin in the universe, there would be nothing for the Doctor to fight against. Wrongdoing, in one form or another, is what the Doctor sets out to stop. But the seven deadly sins are more than simply crimes or misconduct - they are pure, selfish emotions, unstoppable forces of desire. And humanity is nothing if not a slave to its desire.|
A Review by John Seavey 24/2/06
Definitely a case here of "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts", I think. The individual stories are fairly generic, really no different from the stuff we've seen in the eleven previous 'Short Trips' volumes; the linking material, though, when combined with editor David Bailey's contribution, gives the book a sense of momentum that propels it through the weaker entries into the ending with a good push.
The linking material concerns seven individuals, each one guilty of a particular deadly sin, and each one brought to a mysterious planet by a mysterious "showman" (who's so obviously the Doctor that the mystery is why he's posing as someone else, not who he is.) They've all come for the chance to vicariously experience the misery of others, and the showman is giving them a chance -- he's hooking them up to devices that let them relive his adventures. Why, and what he hopes to achive, are the mysteries that propelled me through the book despite itself.
The book kicks off with The Duke's Folly, by Gareth Wigmore, representing Sloth. This one... well, "Sloth" isn't exactly the kind of story that lends itself to doing lots of things, by definition, and so we really just get a portrait of the Doctor trying to give a metaphorical kick in the bum to a lazy nobleman. There's some interesting stuff with Ian, Susan and Barbara, which turn over some new earth in terms of character insights there, but the plot just can't really get up to much.
Then comes That Which Went Away, by Mark Wright, representing Wrath. You'd think there'd be more meat for a story with Wrath, but really, the wrathful, magically transformed Vikings in this story aren't all that wrathful. They go kick butt on a village of evil Vikings, sure, but it's not exactly the sort of stuff that makes you think, "Wow, that's anger gone horribly wrong." Not bad, per se, but a bit too soft a touch for the deadliest of deadly sins.
After that, we get Angel, by Tara Samms (Stephen Cole), representing Envy. It's pretty much trad Samms by this point; all internal monologues, vaguely creepy and surreal, lots of damaged psyches, no real ending. If you liked the previous Samms material... well, you may or may not be getting bored of the approach by now. Represents envy because the main character is envious, see. (But the linking material for this one is particularly good, as the Doctor chats with an old classmate from Gallifrey who wasn't a renegade, or a High Councillor, or much of anything really.)
Then, we get a sequel to Mad Dogs and Englishmen (bet you never thought you'd hear that phrase) in Suitors, Inc., by Paul Magrs. I have to admit, this one made me chuckle quite a few times, as the evil Pussyworld is kidnapping little old ladies to dote on them by having them shanghaied by teleporters hidden inside the sex-droids made by Iris Wildthyme... sex-droids made to resemble the Fourth Doctor! No proper ending, but let's face it -- hearing that premise, you can imagine your own. Obviously, this is good old-fashioned lust, and disturbingly funny lust at that.
The 57th, by John Binns, represents Pride and is a frustratingly inconclusive tale -- but at the same time, I kind of felt like that was the point. The Fifth Doctor's trying to solve a mystery of a mysterious clone from nowhere on an alien world... but we learn, like the Doctor, that not every mystery gets solved. I'm still not sure whether Pride refers to the Doctor, or his antagonist, or how I feel about a mystery that we never see the answer to... but a story that gets its hooks into your head is better than one that slides right off, so I can't fault it too much.
Telling Tales, by David Bailey, is really the "exposition" story, where all the linking material, the mysterious planet, the devices that allow strangers to relive the Doctor's adventures, and his difficult situation, are all finally revealed. It's a reasonable enough story, but its real strength lies in the fact that by this point in the book, the reader just wants to know What the Heck Is Going On, so it only needs to not trip over its own feet to please. Which it doesn't. (Although this one has the weakest linking material -- Rayner didn't seem to put much effort at all into the avaricious sinner, making her so one-dimensional that she almost seems congenitally thick. You almost expect a twist somewhere that explains her bizarre behavior, but none is forthcoming.)
The final story, Too Rich for My Blood, by Rebecca Levene, is another NAstalgia story, reuniting the Doctor, Chris, and Benny for a trip to a casino in Vegas run by aliens, where an eating competition goes horribly wrong. Not bad, despite the massive coincidence required to jump-start the plot, and I've always got time for more of Chris and Benny, but it's not going to stick in my brain for a long time yet. (And if Levene had done her homework, she'd find that most professional competitors in competitive eating tend not to be fat, but instead thin people with naturally high metabolisms. Bastards.)
We get one final piece of material from Rayner that ties up all the loose ends fairly satisfactorily, although I still quibble with the idea that misery can be broken down like an equation, and there are points where her Eighth Doctor sounds more like the Ninth. I finished the book feeling pretty happy with it, but I'll acknowledge that this is one anthology where the stories are the weakest part.