The Tomorrow Windows
|ISBN||0 563 48616 3|
|Synopsis: There's a new exhibition at the Tate Modern - The Tomorrow Windows. The concept is simple: look through a Tomorrow Window and you'll see into the future. According to the press pack, The Tomorrow Windows exhibition will bring about an end to war and suffering. Which is why someone decides to blow it up. Investigating this act of wanton vandalism, The Doctor, Fitz and Trix visit an Astral Flower, the show-world of Utopia, and Gadrahadradon - the most haunted planet in the galaxy. They face the sinister Cecces, the gratuitously violent Vorshagg, the miniscule Micron and the enigmatic Poozle. And they encounter the doomsday monks of Shardybarn, the warmongers of Valuensis, the politicians of Minuea and the killer cars of Estebol. They also spend about half an hour in Lewisham.|
"I am your God!" by Joe Ford 8/7/04
This week I have been severely ill and stuck at home moaning and whimpering like a pathetic puppy. Nothing could make the symptoms of food poisoning lighten, not even The Chase which failed to gather a single laugh this time round. All hope appeared to be lost until dear; precious Simon returned home with a copy of The Tomorrow Windows, week earlier than it should have been released. Bless him. I read the first few chapters, weak, shivery, really trying to concentrate and ended up laughing myself silly.
The Tomorrow Windows is a killingly funny book. Take a look back on the last ten EDAs. Camera Obscura, Time Zero, The Infinity Race, The Domino Effect, Reckless Engineering, The Last Resort, Timeless, Emotional Chemistry, Sometime Never... and Halflife... only one of them made me laugh a whole bunch (alright another one had sporadic moments of hilarity... cheers Steve Cole!) and one of the greatest criticisms of the recent books is how serious they have become. With the universe under constant threat of collapsing the Doctor became deadly serious, Anji was always a bit serious even when she was being funny (although she was much more at home in the TARDIS than Rob suggested in his near-perfect Timeless review) and even Fitz, the human goofball himself lost his sense of humour as he watched world after world die. The arc was compelling, dramatic, but it wasn't very funny. And Jonathon Morris seems to have taken it on his shoulders to redress the balance by providing us with the one of the silliest, funniest, wittiest books in the range. This is up there with Mad Dogs and Trading Futures for jokes but manages to go one step further than either of them introducing a whole host of hilarious names, places, situations and resolutions. The whole book is one big joke but it's possibly the funniest joke I've ever heard.
So where on Earth does Morris look to find inspiration for his book? Douglas Adams of course! The real Adams steals here comes from the bizarre and rude sounding names and shake your head with disbelief mischief the main characters find themselves in. Where the book comes into its own is the lashings of darkness Morris paints his worlds in. There are moments of psychological impotence in this book that scared the hell out of me, at one point the Doctor realises he can do nothing to help and that scared me far more than some roving alien menace. But there are other layers of darkness Morris utilises to affect the reader, taking familiar images from our society, body implants, spiders, cars and such like and transplanting them into alien worlds with shocking menace. Of course commenting on the human races' failings, be it global, social, psychological, etc was another of Adams' trademarks and trust me Morris makes enough digs at our superficial media-related culture to make you hang your head in shame for weeks.
Earth. EDA readers are sick of it. The eighth Doctor seems more connected to Earth than any other panet simply because of his extended vacation during the twentieth century and since then returning has felt like coming home. Having lost Gallifrey in reality and in his mind it is nice to know he still has somewhere to go. But looking back it is clear that about half of the Eighth Doctor's adventures have taken place on Earth and given the show's mission to tell fresh and exciting stories it is surprising he hasn't jettisoned off to other planets more frequently. Again Morris appears to want to change things and cleverly set a few early scenes there but soon sets off to visit a whole host of colourful worlds. Readers should be delighted, the books stretches the imagination to bursting point as it hops from one utterly surreal place to another, to one set of weirdo aliens to another, Morris keeps his momentum going giving the readers little slack to catch up with current events on those worlds and expecting you to pay attention when he does tell you. I loved it, the suicidal monks, the lava lamp-ish Poozle, the superior Micron. It might give you some idea of how warped Morris is to learn that one of his monsters is a pair of hairy bollocks.
This isn't a complicatedly plotted tale like Festival of Death or an exercise in minimalism like Anachrophobia (as bloody brilliant as both of those were) but a chance for Morris to stretch his wings (and imagination) and blabber on about anything he likes. The truth he is a very funny man and when he is doing a Hercule Poitrot scenes with bizarre shaped aliens or explaining how a bunch of Pirates become politicians you will read hungrily because he injects the work with a real sense of fun. I would love to mention all the funny bits but that would deprive your read of its kick. Needless to say there were moments on pages 27, 150, 227 and 262 that made me roar but there and handfuls and handfuls of other examples.
Such a shame we are going to say goodbye to this TARDIS team in a few books' time because they have such potential and after the last five books we have seen them grow into a fresh and complicated group.
Everyone loves the Doctor and it appears his memory issues in Halflife have left him more game for a laugh than ever! He is truly at the top of his game in this book, hilarious ("What sort of person leaves a nuclear bomb unguarded? I mean, it's just shoddy, what is the universe coming to?"), humane ("Because without free will there can be no achievements, no surprises, no responsibility. Just things turning out nice all the time.") and brilliantly angry ("You stupid, STUPID fools!"). At first I feared Morris would just put McGann in a Tom Baker suit but nothing could be further from the truth, this is Doctor number eight through and through, resourceful, energetic, wonderfully impulsive and dangerously close to blowing his top at people (argh, that does sound like Doc 4! But go read pages 264 with Trix and see something Doc 4 would never do). There are no mentions of amnesia now, just a guy who loves saving the universe and that's just how it should after Halflife.
Trixie Trix is having a hard time of late, trying to figure out where she belongs in the Doctor's life. She is quickly developing into one of the most fascinating companions he has travelled with simply because she has so many layers. One early scene again addresses her need to dress up in a persona where she sees something horrific and desperately tries to "become" somebody who can cope with it. Frightening. She doesn't seem entirely comfortable getting close to Fitz and the Doctor but it is happening anyway. What is drawn attention to again is her disturbing past except a few facts are offered this time, just how many guises has this woman forced over her real self to hold back these memories. With a psychological drama coming next courtesy of Martin Day I fear the truth about her self-doubt and history will soon see the light...
Rounding off this fine ensemble piece sees Fitz once again at his best, playing the Benny role in the actions (having all the emotional reactions to the story be it laughter at stupid looking aliens, horror at not saving the day or fear at being in mortal danger) but without all that oestrogen getting in the way. His Hercule Poirot scene is the best we've seen of Fitz since Time Zero, damn witty and brilliantly deductive and I was cheering all the way. As usual Fitz gets all the bumps and bruises and sees the worst of the planets visited but when it is planets as horrific as Valuensis and Estobel his humane reactions to their horrors are disturbing to read.
Woah! This is set in the post-amnesia era? With references to Daleks, the Kandyman, Zagreus, Vicki, etc? After denying the past for these past few years it was a real shock to once again have so many reminders in one book. To think every other book in the Steve Cole era was like this one, it was tiresome then, it is refreshing now and it just shows how far we have come. Plus the running gag about a certain destroyed planet is priceless, especially the last line. Indeed there are a thousand and one pop culture references in this story like it's some kind of Buffy episode. All the celebrities mentioned gives a real sense of "now" in the Earth scenes but did Jonny have to bring that twat Will Young into things? Still any book that points out how over-hyped and pointless Big Brother is gets my vote!
The prose is masterful, Morris himself says his prose is nothing special but he brilliantly sets the scene with each of his new worlds. I especially loved the Astral Flower, a phenomenal idea, superbly brought to life on the page. The fact that the book briskly visits one place after another and yet they manage to remain as memorable as other books set in ONE place is testament to the writer's skill at bring them alive. While the book is making you laugh your head off there are moments of breathless danger jotted about, Morris walks that fine line between horror and comedy that so many other writers drop off.
I hate to sound like a broken record but this is another superb book from 2004 (What am I saying? No I don't know! If they were crap then I'd be worried!). It's now six for six from BBC books, an unbroken run of truly fabulous books. That man Hinton is with us next month but even the blurb for Synthespians[tm] sounds promising. I hope the EDAs can keep this momentum up until their demise and people will really mourn their passing.
The Tomorrow Windows rocks! Enough said.
Things to lurve about The Tomorrow Windows...
Things to hate about The Tomorrow Windows...
Oh bugger off! I have heard some comments, it's too disjointed, it's too serious in places, it's undisciplined... but what I really think these people are trying to say is it is an EDA and they cannot find it in themselves to praise one to the high heavens. Well I am extremely fond of the range and will shout from the rooftops, this is a hilarious, triumphant read and one that is already topping polls.
A Review by Rob Matthews 8/04
Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love you Tomorrow? Well yeah, pretty much.
It's often the case with Doctor Who narratives that there's a sharp distinction to made between surface patina and story core.
(pfff. Punchy opening, eh?)
Sometimes production values can obscure flimsy stories. Sometimes direction can elevate flimsy stories. Sometimes good writing can triumph over poor production and direction. Sometimes good performances can triumphs over bad writing.
Take, for example, The Horns of Nimon, which is -
depending on your point of view -
a) a perfectly paced and structured story which effortlessly shrugs off atrocious production values and bouts of overacting.
b) a probably quite good script buried under terrible production and unforgiveable hamming
Or The Happiness Patrol, which is
a) an overtly campy-looking production masking a dark, resonant depiction of state control over citizenry
b) 'a shell so hollow fans have to read nonexistent political comment into it as a futile attempt at justification' (blanket dismissal of other people's opinions courtesy of Justin Richards)
Or Mad Dogs & Englishmen:
a) A thoroughly enjoyable prose style disguising an almost total absence of story
b) A thoroughly enjoyable prose style disguising an almost total absence of story
(whether that's a good or bad thing depends entirely on the individual)
And how about Pyramids of Mars:
a) a series of scary set pieces and creepy directorial flourishes successfully disguising a few piffling flaws in plotting
b) a tissue of hokey nonsense livened up here and there by Baker, Sladen and some mummies
The Tomorrow Window is, primarily, a lot of fun, and boy has it come at the right time. Having reigned in his sense of humour - and sadly his sense of storytelling too - for the grim'n'gritty Anachrophobia, it's a big relief just to be able to identify this writer as the Jonathan Morris who wrote the wonderful and witty Festival of Death. And, us readers having been in the grip of onerous story arcs since Gallifrey got flushed (though I guess Lance Parkin will shortly be donning his marigolds and reaching deep into the u-bend to retrieve it), it's a breath of fresh air to see a creative, spiky story that stands on its own two feet, is determined to have a good time, and doesn't reveal bloody old Sabbath as being behind everything.
It's cool also, to see a Doctor Who writer revelling in the sheer exuberant fun of creating the sort of daft alien species you'd have come up with when scrawling monster pictures as a kid - the Ceccecs as a deliberately unpronouncably-named race of phantoms that actually look like jerky pixillated special effects (bet Paul Magrs wishes he'd thought of that one), Question Intonation a mini-gestalt of floating hairy balls, the Fabulous Micron being carted around by baby-oiled gladiator types, Poozle resembling a hovering lava lamp... sod reinvented Krotons and the Shift, interstellar delegations haven't been as daffy as this since Alpha Centauri last camped it up in the court of Peladon. In addition to which, Morris rather brilliantly structures the story as a whistlestop tour of a bunch of endangered planets - a book, in (more or less) his own words where you keep finding yourself in a different book every twenty pages or so. This is a rather Magrs-like approach too, continually chucking out idea after idea that could be each be used as the basis of novels in their own right.
All cobbled together, no doubt, out of rejected submissions and ideas he never got around to developing properly, but it works really well; this is a very sprightly page-flipping read with something fresh always on the horizon and not enough time to get bored of any one section.
I think that sense of unbridled, charging creativity is what helps Morris get away with the innumerable allusions to bits and pieces of Who lore - I'm loathe to term them 'continuity references' in this case, because each of them would work just as well if you weren't aware of the novels/TV stories/NAs/PDAs/Big Finish audios/comic strips/cereal packets to which they refer. But what I think it amounts to is a celebration of Who in all its multifaceted glory and all its media - sad to say, I actually spotted a review somewhere which gleefully interpreted a reference to Prubert Gastridge 'voicing Zagreus for that interactive cartoon thing' as a 'sarcastic critique of the audios'. A sarcastic critique of the audios? Er, how exactly? By obliquely alluding to them? 'A neutral reference thrown in as a bit of fun' is about as devastating as it gets, matey. For, surprising as this may be to many fans, this is a book that likes Doctor Who. It's also, I think, the first of the EDAs to have a definite awareness that the EDAs are now on their way out - even including a brief premonitory glimpse of the Eccleston Doctor. Hence the sense of self-congratulation is apt rather than ingratiating, the 'We've come a long way baby' vibe similiar to that of Lance Parkin's The Dying Days, looking fondly backwards while determinedly enjoying oneself in the present and focusing very much on the future.
Though, to be frank, one needs a bit of determination to really enjoy what constitutes 'the present' in Who right now - I'm surprised to find myself in partial agreement with Finn Clark on this subject (surprised also to find myself referencing a review that hasn't been posted on the DWRG itself at the time of writing - so this is what it's like to be a Time Lord!), because up 'til now I've thought he was being a bit harsh on the current EDAs. Well, I still do think that actually, but there are certain points I'm beginning to agree with. I do think the regulars are becoming very stale, and just aren't that interesting anymore (those of them who even were in the first place); the Doctor's inability to properly remember his past is now much more of a bore than any amount of fanwanky references back to that past could possibly have been, and I agree with Terrence Keenan that Fitz - likeable though he remains in the abstract - has plainly been aboard the TARDIS for far, far too long now. Trix, on the other hand, was never that interesting in the first place, rarely rising above 'tolerable' and only coming close to working when set off against Anji. And now she sticks out like a great big sore thumb with the words 'FAILED EXPERIMENT' bandaged across it - I'm afraid I just don't care about her prosaic identity crisis; she's too patently false a character for me to be interested. And all the moreso because she has a character brief that actually precludes strong or consistent characterisation! A hell of a burden to place on current EDA writers, I'd say, since even the strongest of authors would have trouble getting a character-concept like hers to fly. Generally speaking, representing complex psychological depth has never been the greatest strength of Who writers anyway - in the main they have enough trouble just rendering the companion characters as normal human beings, never mind attempting foxy schizophrenics, and this is probably the sort of thing best left to proper books.
(and to RTD of course - a very good omen about the upcoming TV series is Russell T's skill as a character writer; Antony Tomlinson suggested just recently in a Weng-Chiang review that RTD should take note of the importance of strong characterisation - but from everything I know of Davies' work, I really don't think we need worry on that score)
Nevertheless, full marks to Morris for his efforts with this bunch - Fitz gets one of his best scenes with the Hercule Poirot bit, and there's a concerted attempt to make Trix's irritating personality disorder in some way important to the plot. I still don't think she's any good, but full marks for effort. It's a shame, though, that the the best any EDA writer can do right now is try to play down the mix of moribund-'n'crap that makes up the incumbent companion team - let's boot Trix and Fitz off the ship and let the Eighth Doc go solo before the range ends; that way the Eighth Doctor PDAs won't have to persevere yet further with this thoroughly uncromulent crew.
Still, Morris does have characters of his own to play with. Crazy creatures aside, the support cast is fleshed out by a bunch of characters who have a definite Williams/Adams/Gareth Roberts feel to them - rather glibly deconstructing it, I think this is all down to a combination of comical pomposity and daft names: Gareth Roberts once commented that the Williams Whoniverse is wholly peopled by middle-class English people, and that's the feeling one gets here with 'Prubert Gastridge', 'Charlton Mackerel' et al; by a weird paradox they're exotic in that they're exaggeratedly banal. And the villains are Williams era-ey too, creepy little weasels motivated by down-to-earth selfishness, the proverbial people who've lost the ability to laugh at themselves cited by Roberts.
Morris' version of Who has evidently not lost the ability to laugh at itself. However, the laughter here is of a somewhat shallower, less full-blooded sort than the humour of Festival of Death. Reminds you of Dorothy Parker's 'Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is merely callisthenics with words' remark - as a reader you're left constantly smiling, but only occasionally clutching your gut with laughter.
Actually, not constantly smiling. There's a serious side to the book too ('you stupid, stupid fools'), and sadly it's also somewhat lacking in philosophical truth.
This is something I want to address; fun as the book is, it's also deadly serious in what it has to say about our inability to look clearsightedly towards the future. Trouble is it just doesn't say it as well as perhaps it ought to - Dave Stone's sense of humour, for example works precisely because his writing has genuinely dark and thoughtful undertones and a truly cohesive philosphy. The laughs are genuine because the pain feels real and the pessimist beliefs feel strong and honest.
By contrast, Morris' beliefs (that is, those of his book) work, like the humour, more in passing than on close examination.
I want to discuss what's revealed as the purpose of Prubert Gastridge's tour of listed planets. But I'll approach this obliquely to avoid spoilers. Those who haven't read the book will just be baffled. Those who have will... well, most likely be baffled as well, but hopefully some will see the analogy.
Around the time I was reading The Tomorrow Windows I picked up a DVD of one of my favourite movies...
Don't worry, this isn't gonna be another neverending ramble about virtually every fictional product except Doctor Who, like that Chimes of Midnight doorstop I posted. I've switched to decaff, honest.
No, I do think this is apposite: the movie was Rouben Mamoulian's 1932 version of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde starring Fredric March (a neglected masterpiece, do watch it). On the flipside of the disc was the vastly inferior 1941 Victor Fleming/Spencer Tracy version, a mangled, glossy Hayes Code-era remake that's just similiar enough to the earlier version for you to realise precisely how awful it is, making use of a lot of the same scenes and set pieces but jettisoning most of the cause-and-effect plotting logic that held them together.
The more fundamental excision, though, the one that really castrates the movie, is the removal of a definite sense of what Hyde is. In the Mamoulian version, Hyde is given a deliberately simian appearance, and described as the side of man which 'seeks an expression of impulses that binds him to some dim animal relation with the earth. This we may call the evil self'. The Hyde side of Jekyll is painted more or less explicitly as a throwback to an earlier evolutionary stage, and that qualifier 'we may call the evil self' is important - the movie does not make Hyde evil in an abstract, quasi-religious sense, not something that gratuitously transgresses against some natural order of goodness. While Hyde certainly is, in our terms (and those terms are damn important), evil, the evil he represents is not some cosy Hayes Code vision of evil as something that happens when you deviate from the unshakeable 'norm' of Christianity, accepted social procedures and an engagement to Lana Turner. No, in the terms of the '32 movie, what we call - what is - evil is degeneration; not the wilful divergence from a 'natural' order of civilisation, but the impulsive reversion to a truly natural chaos of instinct and savagery. The 1941 version is a smothered confection, far more conservative than what was made a decade earlier (much the same as 2004 feels a lot more conservative than 1994), probably not allowed to acknowledge a theory of evolution anyway, and what its Code-blinkered vision is forbidden to see is that the world in which it exists is not a natural, eternal order; that civilisation and human society has been hard-won and forged over an unimaginable number of centuries from an animal earth. This, dammit, is an achievment not to be simply taken for granted. The earlier version of the film is alive because it inhabits a feels-real world of flesh, blood and bone, and because there's a reason for Hyde. The later version inhabit a fluffy bubble of hashed-together melodrama and Hyde is just Spencer Tracy being a bit boorish.
What the fucking hell, you may be asking, does this have to do with Jonathan Morris' book?? Well, something actually, and if Finn Clark can come up with a spiffy review of Combat Rock by talking about the Carry On films, and Mike Morris can make points about Enlightenment by slagging off Justin Timberlake (guess he's more of an Usher fan :-), then surely, gentle reader, I can discuss The Tomorrow Windows in terms derived from my own antipathy to a 63 year-old horror flick. As a big pink brain once said, 'I suggest a lateral approach...'
What I want to point out with this is that, right at the heart of his story, Jonathan Morris makes a similiar mistake to the '41 Jekyll & Hyde movie, or those who treat September 11th 2001 - or indeed something as mundane as the death of Princess Diana - as the occasion of some kind of Miltonian Fall. That is, he posits a distorted and idealised notion of a 'correct' and untroubled natural order that has somehow been disrupted but to which we can return if we just carry out x, y and z - the belief that, contrary to what Jon Pertwee said in a story I haven't seen, 'there really was a golden age'. A simplified view that takes no account of the real complexities of the world, and - to my mind - allows for no sense of the truly awesome.
Put simply, I just don't buy what's at the core of this story - and despite the comic trappings, this is, I think, a story constructed to make important points about our inability to look ahead. It's a comic novel, but the comedy's basically there to sugar the pill and avoid looking too preachy. One need only read the excellent prologue to realise this isn't a merely fluffy work. It may be the most page-turningly enjoyable, gleefully camp and chuckles-packed EDA since the aforementioned Mad Dogs & Englishmen, it may be more honest-to-goodness fun than anything we've seen in this line for what seems a very long time, but it nevertheless wants to say something in deadly earnest about what a bunch of idiots we humans really are - our lack of foresight, our chronic inability to actually face the Tomorrow that we're creating today. It's not too far off the narrative preocuppations of The Last Resort actually, though far more blunt and direct about.
However, the book makes these admirably angry points in a rather naive and cockeyed way. There's a suggestion in this book that selfishness can seep into a perfect society like some sort of corruptive virus. This idea, in retrospect, is actually a fundamental part of the narrative. And it is, as far as I'm concerned, completely and totally wrong.
This robs the book of a lot of its potential power, its ability to say something about the real world. As I've mentioned before, I think it's best to base discussion of a book on the terms the book itself suggests. And this one has things to say about the process by which civilisation degenerates. Now, my own belief about civilisation - thumbnail sketch here, obviously (I'm painfully aware that I'm the sort of reviewer who'll half-arsedly deconstruct Freud in order to establish whether The Power of Kroll is good or not, or debate the existence of a God while giving my opinion on Mark of the Rani) - is that it is something painstakingly, bloodily forged out of what can in fact be termed selfishness - the primal instinct of survival innate to every animal. It is, at least in its very basest sense, a collection of animals banding together and collaborating to ensure their survival as individuals by ensuring the survival of the group. Once that civilisation becomes firmly established and secure, contemplation can arise, and compassion can be discovered.
Sigh... maybe I should just comment that 'Poozle' is a funny name and leave it at that.
No, for what it's worth I think that much like the 1941 Jekyll and Hyde movie The Tomorrow Windows posits - perhaps unwittingly - a simplified, ordered civilised world as a default state; and selfishness, and hence the damage caused by it, becomes an intrusive abberation. That doesn't ring true for me and so the philosophical core of the book doesn't ring true for me. This doesn't mean I don't admire the spirit of the book, or appreciate what it's trying to do. And I emphasise that it doesn't stop it being really, really fun.
But it does mean that The Tomorrow Windows is either:
a) A well above average refreshingly comic Who book with a few meaningful remarks to make about mankind's inability to face the consequences of its actions
b) An attempt to ingeniously smuggle a 'serious' meaning into what looks like a fluffily freewheeling Who story.
As the former it works. As the latter it doesn't. On those former terms though, I do heartily recommend it. It's not quite top-flight stuff, but it's not very far off.
A Review by Donald McCarthy 2/9/04
Johnny Morris' last piece of work, Anachrophobia, was OK but not great so I naturally had reservations about this story.
I shouldn't have worried! Johnny gives us funny moments, sad moments and moments where you just scream out, "That's my Doctor!".
Speaking of the Doctor, his characterization is superb. Magnificent. Exceptional. As you can see I was quite happy with the way that Johnny treated the Doctor yet the Doctor wasn't the only one well characterized. Fitz, one of my favorite companions, was also given some great moments especially when he had to solve the murder (I was proud to say that I figured out who the murderer was). As a matter of fact the murder mystery was my favorite part of the book because I liked all of the characters involved in it. The other companion, Trix, really became interesting in this story and I believe we'll see great things from her in the future.
The plot is rather Douglas Adams like and believe me when I say that thats a very good thing. It's not ground breaking but it's pretty close.
Kudos to Johnny Morris for an excellent novel. 9/10
"Do you like Grunt?" by Terrence Keenan 7/9/04
Jonathan Morris has managed to build up quite a reputation for engaging, weird, well-written stories.
The Tomorrow Windows is no exception. It's in a much lighter tone than his previous EDA Anachrophobia, and is pretty much a blatant tribute to Douglas Adams and his style of storytelling.
What is TTW about? It's about reading the future, selling planets, selfish meme, a rehashing of classic Who moments from TV & the novels (and the audios and comics, too), and what Douglas Adams was trying to achieve and having the Absurd and the Horrifying come together and complement each other.
Obviously, TTW falls under the category of "the oddball story," something that has been a regular staple of the Who books since Conundrum. Where TTW differs is in its ability to take itself seriously enough to make the story work as a whole, yet not so seriously that it becomes some cheap parody (see the vile EarthWorld as an example of a really awful oddball tale).
Characterization is strong all around, something of a trademark for Jonathan Morris. The regulars are well done, especially the Doctor, who could have easily come off as a 4th Doc clone, but instead shows his own personality. Fitz is Fitz, well done and Trix is all right, although too much of a cypher for her own good.
There are some aspect of TTW that reminded me of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, which I read just before diving into TTW. Invisible Cities is a dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan regarding cities both real and imaginary that Polo has seen and reported on in Khan's empire. So in the course of this novel, you hop around from one bizarre location to another, seeing both the good and bad sides of each city. Which, when you read TTW, you'll find a similar set up by Morris, albeit in a far different manner.
The Tomorrow Windows is ideal for a rainy Saturday afternoon, sitting on your porch with good coffee (or tea for my across the pond comrades) and having Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians on in the background. "Buy the Ticket; take the ride."
A Review by Finn Clark 9/10/04
I've said harsh things about the post-cutback 8DAs, but I think I should apologise. I've been too kind. After reading lots of real Doctor Who, it hurt to return to a book about the 8th Doctor, Fitz and Trix. I felt pain. Just to make myself clear, I think I regard the 8DAs as dead - and not because of the blessed countdown to PDA status with Lance Parkin's The Gallifrey Chronicles. They've been bleeding from the gut for three years, but 2003 was the mortal blow. Continuing the line isn't for me a continuation of the story, but just kicking the corpse down another flight of stairs.
Which is a shame, since there's much of interest to be found in The Tomorrow Windows. It's undisciplined as all hell, but I'm pretty sure that's deliberate. Jonathan Morris dedicates the book to Douglas Adams, but to me it felt a lot like Jonny's Alien Bodies... an overstuffed grab-bag into which a million ideas have been crammed. It's even similar structurally, with an auction and wacky alien bidders. Many authors would have fuelled a trilogy with these concepts.
Mind you, in one way it feels more like The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy than Doctor Who. Its scope is broader, hopping from planet to planet like galactic tourists and usually not being able to help the natives before we're off to the next world. There's also a broad scope of history, with a more comedic slant than we're used to. Doctor Who isn't po-faced, far from it, but we're not used to the bleak existentialism of Douglas Adams. Hitch-Hikers and Dirk Gently reduced everything important to a joke (e.g. life, the universe and everything) and only found significance in triviality. If Adams's vision wasn't funny it would be wrist-openingly bleak - and I don't think it quite fits into the most humanist Whoniverse.
The Tomorrow Windows is neither a Hitch-Hikers novel nor trying to be one, but it's informed by that sensibility. Worlds are doomed by methods that... well, in a straight book I wouldn't have been convinced. However played ironically, as here, it works. Similarly the villains and their motivations are being played for laughs, so their silly banality is the whole point.
I liked the buyers at the auction, my favourite being the endearingly pyschotic Vorshagg. I admire the inventiveness of all Jonny's aliens, loons, goofballs and eccentrics... but I also found it a little much. At times I had trouble keeping track of who's who. This book is full of pompous idiots with fancy names and an unrevealed connection to the big secret behind everything, not all of whom are easy to distinguish from each other. I got it straight eventually, but I don't think this book has the firmest grip on its (deliberately) sprawling story.
There's plenty of continuity, though you'd need eagle eyes to spot the likes of the more obscure comics references. I wish I could say that it was refreshing to have a change in the books after the continuity-lite attitude of recent years, but unfortunately to me the continuity-based gags feel smug. We get lines that might be hints that Trix and/or Fitz may leave soon, which should please more tolerant readers than myself who feel they're following the 8DAs rather than enduring them. There's an attempt to use Trix's chameleon nature for something more than yet another "hey it's me!" scene, which in fairness I thought was quite good. Thumbs up for that one.
Mind you, I didn't see the point of switching to first-person narration for Trix halfway through Chapter Two. Looking back I think I see the reason for it, given the exact point in the narrative where it happens, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I was bemused at the time.
Oh, and the no-longer-very-amnesiac Doctor drops lots of references to his pre-Ancestor Cell life. It's possible that I was supposed to get excited about this.
There are lots of real-world references, which will probably date swiftly but for the next few years will feel slightly startling. The Doctor knows Ken Livingstone. Nothing unusual so far. However we actually get a guest appearance from Red Ken himself, with permission from David Hayward at the Mayor of London's office. Interesting. It's something new, anyway. Besides, I was never a fan of deliberately separating the Whoniverse and the real world, e.g. Topping's alt-universe Beatles.
Overall, I guess I'd recommend The Tomorrow Windows. It's bouncing with energy, like a puppy who's heard you say "walkies", and about as hard to dislike. I can imagine many Doctor Who fans being left slightly puzzled by it, but not very much since those Doctor Who fans are almost certain to have read Douglas Adams too. If nothing else, Jonathan Morris deserves praise for trying something completely different in all of his books to date. If we overlook Empire of Death, so far the 2004 books are proving far better than those in 2003. Despite its handicap, I enjoyed this one.
A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 27/1/05
While the book's closing acknowledgements proclaim a dedication to the late Douglas Adams, it also mentions that this is not meant to be a pastiche of his work. Indeed The Tomorrow Windows does not feel like a rehash or a rip-off of Adams, but it certainly feels informed (or at least influenced) by his fiction. There's a worldview present in Adams' writings that Jonathan Morris captures quite well. I wasn't sure I was going to like the book, but somewhere near the middle it won me over.
It actually took me a while to get a handle on this book, because it kept confounding my expectations. There are a lot of different locations/settings that focus is placed upon and then quickly removed. So I initially didn't pay much attention to the introduction of the main group of secondary characters because at the relatively late stage in which they appeared, I was expecting them to be introduced and then leave within twenty pages. I'm not mentioning this as a criticism, I merely wish to describe how loose and fast the book plays with its locations and casts of characters. It's actually a nice effect. It gives the book a quick pace and makes it feel very different from the EDAs that came before it.
As for the jokes, well, humor is very hard to do and extremely difficult to maintain over the course of nearly three hundred pages. I thought a lot of the witticisms near the beginning didn't quite hit their mark (although the stuff with "God" addressing various cultures was hilarious). Yet somewhere near the middle, the book had finally made enough of an impression into my slow brain that I was able to appreciate the jokes. Maybe it just takes a little while to get into this book's style. I suspect that if I read it a second time, my appreciation would begin earlier in the page count.
Like the Douglas Adams books that, perhaps, inspired parts of this story, one gets the impression that there's actually more here than meets the eye. Take the whole "there's someone else inside my mind!" subplot. This has been told a million billion times before, but Morris manages to tell it in a slightly new way, giving it exactly the sort of creepy, unsettling feeling that sort of story element should invoke. The political satires are done well do. They're certainly broad and obvious (not necessarily a bad thing), but work because they're so blasted funny.
What I really ended up liking about the book was how rich it was. There are lots of mad ideas all over the place that you can't quite imagine the author getting away with in an overly serious tome. But they're very welcome here.
I initially thought through the opening passages that I'd be coming down hard on this one. I figured I'd be slamming it as an unfunny mess, relying on in-jokes to other series for its attempts at humor. But it kept working and working until it finally wore me down and won me over. I'm glad it did and I think I'll be revisiting it at some point.
Three out of Five by Jamas Enright 1/3/05
This is not your typical Jonathan Morris, in that here he is almost, but not quite, entirely like Douglas Adams. In his acknowledgment, he comments that this is intended as a tribute to Adams' works, but there are just so many places where his writing is so close to being that of Adams that it just makes those places more annoying to read than less. That's the problem with writing something with heavy influences, it can either please the audience or irritate them (guess which camp I'm in). But then again, maybe it's just me.
The author outlines his motives pretty early on (page 68 for instance), and sets about achieving them by introducing us to a series of planets where religion has been introduced and civilisation has suffered accordingly. Yet, despite this rather obvious blow against theology, that isn't the point so much as is the concept of ideas taken to extreme, such as the automotive drive, or the democratic process. This is where the author shows up what life could be like if such-and-such was the only way to exist...
And also there's a murder mystery. Jonathan Morris tries for a light tone everywhere, but this is sometimes subsumed by the overwhelming needs of the plot, which only goes to show how a light tone doesn't really suit him. Also, there are many references to past Doctor Who stories and other cultural influences. Many, many references. One might easily say 'too many' but it's such a fine line between one reference and one too many (a line, I might add, Jonathon Morris crosses on page 8).
On the other hand, this is a story featuring the Doctor, Fitz and Trix. Again. Sigh, can we please get some new companions? Trix is handled interestingly (and yes, I was wondering about if it would get paid off), and Fitz gets to play Poirot, but the Doctor... actually, I'm trying to remember what the Doctor did. I've only just finished reading the book, and all I have is the impression that he did some vaguely Doctorish things, explained the day, but was otherwise just there. Not one of his more substantive roles.
Of the other characters, much is made of the auction attendees, although they are hyped up more than they really deserved. (One problem with Douglas Adams-style weirdness is the random collection of letters people have for names, which meant I lost track on more than one occasion on just who was what.) On the whole I would agree with Fitz that Vorshagg was the most interesting of them.
The best thing about Charlton Mackerel is that he has a fishy last name. I'm serious, that is the best part of that character. Certainly the rest of him is fairly generic 'good guy', and exists only to get the main characters around without the use of the TARDIS. (The plot device of 'tele-door' would be more forgivable if it wasn't a) so convenient and b) had been used before.) For the remaining characters, let me just ask one question: how exactly does one pronounce 'Ceccecs'? I'm almost sure there's a joke or other reference there, but I'm just not getting it.
So, The Tomorrow Windows, a light hearted homage, or irritating Douglas Adams wannabe? Certainly a change of pace for Jonathan Morris, and one nearly wants him to return to his standard formula. (Nearly... after all, better a one-and-a-bit trick pony than a one trick one.)