BBC Books
Trading Futures

Author Lance Parkin Cover image
ISBN 0 563 53848 1
Published 2002

Synopsis: Doctor Who meets James Bond (but not literally, or in any sort of legally binding manner).


A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 23/5/02

I should start off this review by admitting that I am not a huge fan of the James Bond movies. I have nothing against them, and, indeed, if pressed, I can spend a pleasant Sunday afternoon watching one (provided that there's nothing more interesting on television). They're fluffy, but it's a fluff that I can find vaguely enjoyable, even if I wouldn.t go out of my way to obtain that aforementioned fluff. I just find them to be a bit lacking, in the seen-one-seen-them-all sense. The relevance to Trading Futuresis that this book is heavily influenced by that series of movies, and while it definitely has positive features that mostly outweigh its flaws, it will probably appeal more to Bond fans than it did to me.

I found the action sequences here to be much more interesting and entertaining than similar scenes found in other, more explosion-driven EDAs. Usually during such sequences I find myself peeking forward, secure in the knowledge that all I need to get out of such a scene is who emerged victorious, and who died a hideous and violent death. But in Trading Futures the pacing is balanced just perfectly so the battle sequences never seem to go on for too long. The sometime-in-the-not-too-distant-future setting allowed Parkin to invent some very interesting and clever scenarios involving futuristic war technology, which was most helpful in keeping my interest.

The future setting was constructed very carefully and provided many of the best jokes. Lance Parkin obviously had a lot of fun stretching the business, technological, and political practices of today into absurd (and often hilarious) caricatures. It's written in a quick and amusing style that gives the impression of something not to be taken completely seriously. And in that way it ends up being fairly enjoyable. Even some of the portions that could be read as being padding end up adding a lot to the lightweight and entertaining atmosphere. While Fitz does get sidetracked for at least a portion of the story, his subplot had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. I have nothing against padding, as long as it's entertaining, and in the hands of a good writer like Parkin, Fitz can be wildly entertaining.

Surprisingly for a Lance Parkin book, none of the secondary characters jump off of the page. I suppose this is the nature of the genre, but I couldn't help but feel disappointed at the lack of any emotional connection with the people in this story. They do not fall into the trap of being indistinct, but even their uniqueness doesn't feel particularly inspired. Everyone has their purpose in the story and executes their role adequately; I just couldn't imagine any of these people existing outside of the confines of this particular tale. They were caught somewhere between being realistic characters and mere plot ciphers. This is a shame, especially when one notices how well defined the Eight Doctor himself is in this story. A pity that not everyone ended up being quite so adequately explored.

The story was fast-moving, and well constructed with all the pieces fitting together satisfactory. And yet, it didn't seem entirely engaging or consequential. It felt a bit slight and at no point did I really think that anything was going to go seriously wrong for the Doctor and his companions. I wasn't worried about whether he was going to win, nor was I finding myself totally interested in how he would escape from temporary dangers. Again, I realize that many of these faults are due to this being a James Bond pastiche and James Bond simply doesn't lose. As I think about this, I am beginning to conclude that, at least in book form, perhaps these two particular styles don't mesh together as well as one might imagine. There was a lack of tension, and events didn't seem as substantial as they should have.

The James Bond movies that I have enjoyed have been largely those that have enough style to rise above anything that they lack in substance. Ultimately, Trading Futures does barely manage to do that. It's a fun book with a lot of good jokes, but it lacks the emotional impact of Just War or Father Time, and neither does it contain the sheer epic scale of The Infinity Doctors. Paradoxically, the lightweight feel is both the story's strongpoint as well as its greatest weakness. The book doesn't aim terribly high, but it does manage to hit that target. As a light and breezy read that will help one pass a few hours quickly, Trading Futures is effective. But it probably won't be a book that you'll be mulling over for very long.

A Review by Finn Clark 31/5/02

Wow, that was dull.

Around page 50, I thought Trading Futures was great. Around page 100, I started to flag. And by the time I reached page 200, I'd lost all interest and was counting the pages until it would be over. This book didn't work for me at all. Admittedly I didn't see the point of The Dying Days either, but at least with that we had the Brigadier, Benny and some Ice Warriors. This has... well, some politics. That's about it, really.

The characters are largely an excuse for annoying in-jokes. There's an alien menace with a name straight out of Pip & Jane Bakers' novelisation of Time and the Rani. Only these guys' status as dumb-ass comic relief stopped me from being seriously pissed off. There's a Certain Secret Agent. You can't take him seriously either. And there's a baddie who's so low-key that it was a shock for me to realise that he was supposed to be the main antagonist. Trading Futures is trying to be a Bond movie, but doesn't seem to have realised that a key to any good Bond movie is a larger-than-life, flamboyant villain. This guy isn't even interesting.

Oh, did I mention the in-jokes? You know, I'd hoped the books had grown out of all that nonsense. Sadly not. There's also a bit where the Doctor does something impossible, as in Father Time, though here it more nearly approaches bearability.

There is the politics, which is pretty much the one thing I liked about this book (apart from a couple of good jokes). Trading Futures is set in a near-future world in which capitalism, nation-states, technology and everything else have turned the established social order upside-down. Some of that was quite nifty. The world in which this takes place is intriguing, though I still haven't decided whether the contradictions concerning its dating are deliberate (as with Father Time) or goofs.

This book has too many factions running around, trying to shoot each other and doing little more. Some vanish from the plot with no warning half-way through. The result is that none of these people are threatening, intriguing, menacing or interesting. If this is a Bond movie, it's a really muddled one starring Timothy Dalton that falls apart in the first forty minutes and doesn't know what the hell it's doing after that. It doesn't even have any sexy women, since Anji in a swimsuit lacks the oomph that Mary Tamm or Lalla Ward would have if you search-and-replaced Trading Futures into a Tom Baker PDA. You know the reason why. And I say that as someone with a thing for... uh, let's not go there.

This is a sadly substandard book from Terrance Dicks, lacking the focus of Endgame or the fun factor of Players. What's that you say? It's by Lance Parkin? Naaaah.

Doctor Bond! by Joe Ford 27/6/02

Ahh the new EDA, the one piece of merchandise I actually get excited about each month. And lets be honest, as of late they have been sterling (give or take the odd Grimm Reality) and well worth forking out that extra quid for. Mine have a shelf of their own and are all in order. But enough of this fandom sadness (c’mon you all have a similar trait, I know it!) what of Trading Fututres?

I won't hold back… Lance Parkin is my favourite Doctor Who writer (with Justin Richards in close second). He has the seemingly elusive talent of making the outrageous utterly plausible through evocative, well judged prose alone. Just War was a masterpiece and Benny’s story reduced me to tears. The Dying Days I have only recently gotten a hold of and was actually halfway through when I bought this but the half I have read was fast paced and exciting. Father Time is one of my favourite books. Period. And The Infinity Doctors is the read that reminds why we love the Doctor. To say I was eager to read Trading Futures is an understatement.

And to my horror I couldn’t get into the book. I actually read the first chapter three times to see if I was doing something wrong. Everything was there… a no excuses snappy introduction, witty dialogue, the ever excellent Doctor, Fitz and Anji on fine form and a great end of chapter moment. Why wasn’t I wowed like the beginning of Anachrophobia? I love light, fluffy reads as much as intense ones! It soon came to me why… James Bond… bloody James Bond. I hate the James Bond movies and so any Doctor Who story imitating them was never going to envelop me.

Let me explain, I believe the Bond films are a complete excuse for a lack of imagination. It’s just a heterosexual guy's wet dream. Fast cars, snazzy weaponry, good looks, beautiful ladies lusting after you… saving the world and getting a whole load of sex. Zzzzzzz… how very dull. James Bond uses hi-tec weaponary and gadgets given to him by someone cleverer than himself to save the day! Doctor Who for all it’s production faults never betrayed it’s narrative in such a blatant way! He was a hero yes and he saved the day but he didn’t need the reward of sex or flashy suits, he was content with a thankyou. He used his brain to get out of tricky situations, not brawn (even the more violent Colin Baker). And this first chapter with its typical James Bond pre title sequence pastiche REALLY rubbed me up the wrong way. No matter how talented Lance Parkin is he can’t turn such a lazy narrative structure on its head.

So for the first time in months I was prepared for a disppointing book. No way buster! The James Bond steals are watered down somewhat (thank god) despite all the familiar elements, action set pieces, the Bond ‘girl’ in the shape of CIA agent Malady, two power blocks on the brink of war, hi-tec weaponary, a cunning and OTT bad guy… Parkin thoughtfully puts a real Doctor Who twist on them all and twists the tale into something far more memorable than another boring action adventure.

The pace never, ever lets up and all the characters are used wisely. The Doctor works well in this sort of manic, zany story and proceeds through the book with as much McGann charm and intelligence he can muster! Anji actually steals the book on the TARDIS crew side as she’s used to all her strengths, given the bizarre and dangerous situations she is put in she keeps a cool head, thinks through all her moves and cleverly manipulates the truth out of our central baddie. It was these scenes of Bond pastiche that I liked the most… the big plan for the world is revealed and for once it is truly shocking and yet completely believable (when you read about computer games and soldiers you’ll know what I mean). Anji makes some astute comments on the lack of patriotism in the world of today that we should all take note of. Fitz pops up from time to time and is his ever hysterical self. His impersonation of the Doctor is quality humour and his re-introduction at the end proves just why he’s worth having around. I love these guys together. However, a small complaint, Fitz is being used a little sparingly these days, as much as I love to see Anji in the spotlight I miss having Fitz in the thick of things blundering his way from one crisis to another. More, please.

All the stuff in Athens is top notch and high energy reading (erm, I mean gets your pulse’a’racing!) especially one superb moment as Anji thinks of an ingenious way to have the Doctor out of a building where he can be of more use!

There is a great red herring thrown in and a continuation of an old plot…needless to say I was intruiged by both. Fans of Eater of Wasps and Henrietta Street take note.

The conclusion is probably the most satisfying I’ve read for ages as it managed to subvert my expectations in every way (coffee, coffee, coffee…) and provide a suitable thrilling exit for several characters. For such a fun, frothy book it is really quite intelligent and the plot threads meshing together makes a great big whoop ass of a finish.

The Doctor saves the world. He doesn’t have sex. Yep all things are just as they’re meant to be.

Supplement 3/3/03:

I feel every book I own should have at least two or three reads out of them. A good book (in my opinion) needs strong characterisation, a surprising plot with lots of good twists, good vivid prose and an ending that makes the whole thing worthwhile. Doctor Who books however cannot always conform to these rules as they traverse such an array of genres it is difficult to compare them. Trading Futures is a good book but to its shame it is a good book that is only to be read once.

Lance Parkin should stand proud because he has captured the James Bond atmosphere perfectly. All the ingredients are there and he also gives us non-Bond fans some SF-y stuff to do with time travel too. I heard somebody on another site call this a beach novel... that is the perfect description for this novel. Light reading you can put down at any time and arc light (as opposed to arc heavy) so it doesn't matter so much if you miss it out.

It's just so damn shallow, full of implausibilities like the Doctor being thrown from a building and the Doctor being thrown from an exploding ship... high explosive thrills but no belivability to any of it. This puts us immediately in an advantage as we don't have take it all very seriously. But after the complex plot machinations of Anachrophobia we want more juicy plot fucks and this does suffer considerably for being where it is.

Okay enough moaning. The prose is perfect, Terrance Dicks in all but name but Terrance Dicks when he was still writing decent stuff. Short, uncomplicated sentences and short uncomplicated chapters mean this read just flies by. I read it for the second time and it only took me two hours this time. With Parkin you expect crafted prose and deep characters but neither are apparant here and while it might appear that he is not trying it is simply excellent wrong footing. This is a skilfully written book but to make a thoughtful novel out of a genre so ridiculous would be a terrible mistake.

Anji gets to play hero and proves why she's such an asset. Parkin has always liked Anji and it shows. She is intelligent and resourceful, making it all up as she goes along and coming out a winner. I just love it when Baskerville catches her in a bikini under his bed! The way she manipulates the answers out of him is beautifully written with some top notch dialogue.

And let's not forget the jokes. The Doctor's calculations as to where they are, the Onhirs 'pain inducer' and their five second invasion of Earth (oh you just have to read that bit!), the entire page where the Doctor, Fitz and Anji are reunited... Parkin has done an admirable job of keeping us amused in a plot that is little more than political machinations and smart arse action. Oh and the fate of Roja is a beauty, very, very funny.

I can (and shall) reccomend this novel because it is a good read... it's just after you've gotten over the smart dialogue and clever ending there's very little else to remember. We are lucky to still have novels like Trading Futures (what with History 101, Camera Obscura, TIME ZERO all arc plots... very few standalones on their way after this!) with a good dose of humour and a basic (if quite clever in places) plot.

Although you could erase the Onhir plot without much casualty to the book... except you would miss out on some priceless Fitz moments where he gets to impersonate the Doctor!

A Review by Terrence Keenan 12/7/02

The EDA line, as currently managed by Justin Richards, has done an excellent job of using varied styles of stories to keep on a common theme -- the theme of how time travel can be bloody dangerous. I bring this up because there are tons of similarities between Jon Morris's brilliant Anachrophobia and Trading Futures, the latest offering by DW book heavyweight Lance Parkin. Both feature experiments in time travel, to be used in order to fight a war, more or less.

The big difference is that Anachrophobia is an atmospheric chiller.... Trading Futures is a James Bond film/story in all but name.

Lance Parkin is up to something different, as usual. Instead of the reconstruction of DW myths that he normally plays around with, this time Parkin reconstructs DW in Bondian terms.

The Doctor, as in previous Parkin novels, is very front and center. He's a man of action, ready to fight the good fight and filled with some very Doctorish tricks. Anji plays superspy girl in a bikini. And Fitz? Well, lets just say he finally gets to do something hinted at his character and "be" The Doctor -- the rest is spoiler protected.

Like a Bond flick, we get exotic locales, including the obligatory trips to Russia and other places around the world. There are also nasty bad guys, an action teaser at the beginning, fights, chases, improbable escapes, last second bomb diffusions and a myriad of other homages (and blatant rip-offs) of the James Bond world.

I thought the whole thing worked well, and I enjoyed it. The smart thing Parkin does is not fill the book with deep character, nor unnecessary angst. Itıs an all-action romp, something the EDA line hasn't had in a long time.

And it works. Read it and have some fun.

A Review by Sean Gaffney 22/8/02

Trading Futures. What to think? Well...

I liked the fact that everyone in the book seemed to be desperately improvising. In a series where the main characteristic of the Doctor is that he jumps in without a plan and muddles through, it's refreshing that almost every single character in this book is doing the same thing. It helps make the Doctor look a little less foolish.

I really enjoyed some of the characters. Malady Chang and Cosgrove especially. Would like to see more of Malady if Lance does another book in this time period.

When together, Anji, Fitz and the Doctor work extremely well playing off each other. The exchange on Page 217 is a marvel to behold. :-D

Anji worked well. Very well. In fact, too well. This nicely segues into problems I had with the book. Because a 'Doctor' role is needed in nearly every scene in the book, Fitz and Anji takes turns acting as a Doctor substitute. And Anji's really good at it. Clever, witty, making all the connections before even the Doctor can... she comes perilously close to being a Mary Sue here. The bit at the end with the Doctor and Fitz explaining the coffee jarred, because judging from everything else I'd read, she really should have figured it out first.

The book at times gives the impression of major changes made at the last minute. Jaxa and Roja are destined to be the third, Sabbath-ey subplot... until they're cursorily written out and never heard from again, barring the time machine. Meanwhile, the Onihr/Fitz subplot cries out "I don't really need Fitz in this book, but have to give him something to do". Removing the Onihr entirely really wouldn't change much. There's also Dee, who utterly lacks any motivation for anything. I think Lance mentioned she was supposed to be part of the Sabbath subplot that got edited out at the last minute. The stretch marks really show.

That said, many of the problems I mentioned aren't really as large as they should be, simply because the style of the book is so light and fluffy and fast-paced it's designed to gloss over the flaws, much like the best Bond film. I really enjoyed reading this all the way through, which is great.

I read this right after Grimm Reality, and cannot help but note that both books feature Anji's need to pee. Is this becoming a major part of her character bio? Doesn't she know as a Doctor Who companion she has a dimensionally transcendental bladder? :-D

Is there a cast list for this? A Trading Futures movie type thing?

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It did, however, read as something that seemed thrown together at the last minute at times, rather than simply fast-paced and breathless by design.

Oh, and a point off for having the Doctor say 'Moi?', which made me throw the book across the room... but the point is immediately given back for Anji's swear word on 217.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 20/9/02

I'm quite a fan of James Bond. Me and my wife have been watching with great enjoyment the recent run of Roger Moore films on TV, and we equally enjoyed the Sean Connery Season earlier in the year. All the films are wonderfully entertaining, and full of great moments - making it arguably the most long lasting successful series of films ever - I certainly eagerly await Die Another Day later this year.

The original books by Ian Fleming were a different matter entirely. I picked them all up from a 2nd Hand Bookshop during my teens for the grand sum of £2 (which was still not very much money back in the 80s), and strived to get through them. I failed miserably, only actually reading about half, and not really enjoying them too much (except the much derided Spy Who Loved Me, which I really liked - and still do). The books just didn't evoke the same kind of wonder and sheer excitement as the films did - this was stuff I had to see, rather than read about.

Thus I approached Trading Futures with some trepidation, which was largely overall justified. I was pleased to see Lance Parkins name on the front, but I had just never enjoyed reading Bond-style adventures before, and I doubted I would this time. But this 8th Doctor arc seemed to be going great guns, and I simply had to give it a go.

Right from the word go I knew I was in trouble. The jumping from one glamour location to the next, action sequences that I can never follow in print, gadgets a plenty but no Q, typical villains, gorgeous women, over the top hideaways, a plot that you need the Andy Lane Bond Files Guide to make any sense of at all. This was James Bond. From the Cover right through to the insides, this book contains every cliche of that series of books and films. On screen it probably would have been great. In book form, I just didn't warm to it. The old Broccoli/Fleming distinction in my James Bond likes and hates had resurfaced - in a Doctor Who Book!

I actually think the cover is great, but then it copied the Cinema Billboards, didn't it? I quite enjoyed the Villain Baskerville too. Great name, well written, you're not quite sure of his total motives - only that he is up to no good for the sake of being really bad. The Doctor gets another Companion in the Book too in Malady Chang. Her character was pretty good, but very similar to that lady in Tomorrow Never Dies. Fitz and Anji are nicely portrayed - their missions take them away from the Doctor, which allows their own personalities to shine through. They are both excellent characters in their own right.

Anji's story is much more interesting than Fitz's though. Anji shacks up with Baskerville, and her undercover exploits with his group I always found interesting. Fitz however gets to spend loads of time with the Aliens of the Story - and these are just a bit too daft for my tastes. I avoided the Poodles of Mad Dogs and Englishmen because they just seemed too stupid, but at least that was supposed to be a farce. Alien Rhinos in the type of book Lance Parkin was trying to write here just seemed to go towards Austin Powers rather than true James Bond.

All in all Trading Futures just wasn't that enjoyable. I struggled with the narrative, I found it difficult to follow at times with all the different factions striving for attention. Sabbath isn't in it that much - he just seems to be making a token appearance in every book since Adventuress - he's too good a character for that - put him to the fore please! The depiction of the Doctor is okay, but with all the other characters, he barely gets a look in at times (and hopefully review readers will know what I think of books without the Doctor right in the main focus!).

Lance Parkin has dazzled us with superb books in the past. I suppose it was inevitable that he would write one eventually that I didn't like. DW is diverse enough to embrace all types after all - I just wasn't that struck on this book. It's not a bad book, it's just not up there with the excellence we are used to in the 8th Doctor range. 6/10

Four out of Five by Jamas Enright 15/11/02

This is Who, Doctor Who. Licensed to... well, to produce anything but a TV series apparently. But, as you could guess Trading Futures owes a little to a certain other series that changes its lead male actor and brings the dads in to watch by having an attractive female associate... that's right, I'm talking about Bewitched.

Ah, but I kid Trading Futures. But there are more than a few James Bond influences here, starting with the cover with its gun-sight view and hallucinogenicly coloured naked females. Cosgrove is more than slightly reminiscent of the certain secret agent (although the Doctor manages to out gadget him in a brilliant sequence in the beginning). Together with many beautiful locations around the world and a madman trying to take over the world (okay, not a madman, just someone who's dealt with too many drugs), Trading Futures is a fast paced action novel, a refreshing change of pace for Doctor Who. (The chapter titles are also a small nod.)

For all that, the plot isn't slight. There are many threads to keep track of here, some more important than others, and it was more than once that I had a problem keeping who was where straight. However, what was the point of the Onihr? (I so hope Lance Parking was taking the piss with that name, otherwise see my comments re Superior Beings.) And the whole Plot Assistance Device thing Fitz gets to help him to deal with that thread, that was just plain wrong (which isn't the only plot device in the story).

The Doctor is kept on a back foot, aside from the initial scene, and he is mostly trying to keep up, before leaping into the lead at the end. Fitz is taken out by a sub-plot (a bad one, see above), leaving Anji as the main lead. She's the one hob-nobbing with the big players of the book. An interesting change, but I'm not entirely sure how believable she is in that role.

Cosgrove, as has been mentioned, is a homage to 007, but is a slightly darker version of the big screen hero, but is just as resourceful and is just as successful, to the very end. Felix Mather makes a reappearance from Father Time, although it took me a while to remember who he had been in that. Baskerville works his angle well, although there are plenty of clues to the truth. The Onihr, I'll restate, are completely pointless, and could have been removed without a problem, as could Jaxa and Roja.

My favourite character would easily be Malady Chang. She just keeps going and gets her way no matter what. If Cosgrove is a James Bondian Doctor, then Malady is a James Bondian Anji, replacing Anji at the Doctor's side but is very much action oriented. If Lance Parkin is of a mind of bringing characters back, I hope she's his pick next time.

Trading Futures is one for James Bond fans. Although I must say that I get the feeling that on some level Lance Parkin was taking the mickey out of it all, but if so, it was on a level a shade too subtle for me.

Trading Jokes by Robert Smith? 12/12/02

One of the key elements of the TV series for me was that it was often very funny indeed. Humour's the one area the books have really struggled with. They've often substituted in-jokes and clever references for actual wit and humour, or simply not bothered to try. There's an alternate universe somewhere where all the novels are a lot like Trading Futures. And I have to say, I wouldn't mind living there at all.

The pre-credits teaser (for that's what the opening scene of Chapter 1 so obviously is) is astonishing. It's probably the highlight of the book, but what a highlight it is. It sets the tone beautifully and the fact that the rest of the book doesn't live up to it is more of a testament to how good it is, rather than the quality of the rest of the book.

I'm only partly familiar with the Bond conventions, so I probably missed a bunch of jokes, but I greatly enjoyed those I did get. Bond and Doctor Who do have something in common (apart from the sexism and the periodic change lead actor) and that's that they both work when they think big. Melding the two as here works surprisingly well, although it's a pity Cosgrove has to become such a villain by the end (and on page 243 Cosgrove actually becomes Baskerville for a moment). All-Consuming Fire also had the Doctor and an iconic character going up against each other, but it managed to preserve the integrity of both characters. Here, there's the sense that Cosgrove simply isn't competent at what he does, since he gets so roundly trumped by the Doctor over and over again.

The Onihrs feel a bit superfluous, although putting Fitz on their ship works pretty well (except for the wandering POV on page 109). They seem fresh from the Terry Nation school of alien nomenclature, giving me flashbacks to Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma. Still, I suppose we can be thankful that their leader isn't named Rialbynot or something.

Mind you, Roja and Jaxa seem so entirely misplaced that I'm hoping this is a setup for something in the future. They have sod all to do with this story, that's for sure. I liked Sabbath the flashback a lot, which feels as though it's a missing entry from The Book of the War plopped into place here. It's a pity we didn't have a couple more flashbacks, as this one was so good.

Still, there are four sets of villains, so it doesn't really matter that two of them aren't that interesting. That's the great thing about this book - it doesn't matter if there are a couple of things here and there that feel out of place or don't quite work, because the pace moves like lightening and there's another great scene along shortly.

Oh yeah, and there's also the long-awaited return appearances of Control (who finally manages to appear in a book that doesn't suck) and a minor character from Father Time, whom nobody remembers. At first I thought he was one of the space shuttle guys from Escape Velocity, which might have worked a bit better (assuming they weren't both killed or something). It's good to know that all those letter writing campaigns were so successful.

One way in which Trading Futures really works is the sense of acceleration of the arc that it gives. Keeping Sabbath off stage is a good idea too, as it allows the other elements to work better. The references back to Eater of Wasps work quite nicely, although I have a suspicion that the references came first and Roja and Jaxa were created simply to justify them. Things actually feel as though they're going somewhere (although I felt the same way at the end of Father Time... what can I say, I was young and innocent and unsullied by Escape Velocity). The shrinkiness of the TARDIS and Fitz's unexplained memory loss are certainly intriguing enough that they'd better be followed up.

That said, there's no explanation at all for how the TARDIS crew got out of their cliffhanger-like situation at the end of Anachrophobia, what with them being trapped in a weird timezone thingy with a disabled TARDIS, that's nevertheless in full working order here. Oh, and I suspect the phrase "A large metal vehicle, something between a tank and a chrome turtle, sat in a forest clearing" from the flashforward in Father Time is a reference to the tanks we see here, but I couldn't find the phrase itself anywhere in the book.

Things feel a bit disappointing by the end, though, which is a real pity because it tends to detract from the rest of it. There's a number of potentially interesting characters who get killed off entirely unnecessarily, from Penelope Lik to the marvellous Pod. After the fun and jokey tone of the rest of the book, it feels weird to have a slaughter-fest at the end. I'm in two minds about Cosgrove's fate, which ought to be a punchy ending to the book, but leaves me both partly disturbed and partly uncaring. If the book had the equivalent of the opening action scene to end on, it would probably be much more successful.

Still, despite all the nitpicks, I greatly enjoyed Trading Futures, probably more than this review indicates. It's a lot of fun, which is the sort of thing the books should be doing all the time and it's actually funny, which is a real rarity. Lance really has his eighth Doctor down pat and he's a great character to read about these days. Heartily recommended.

A Review by John Seavey 16/3/03

This is not a book to be read at work -- it's not just the very obvious dangers of laughing, very loudly, and having others look at you funny, it's the even worse dangers of reading passages out loud to savor them and having other people look at you very funny. It's crisp, it's clever, it moves along at a thwacking great clip... this is one of the most fun Doctor Who books I've read in ages.

Even so...the Onihr? *sigh* Actually, the Onihr were a great race. Their "pain inducer" scene alone... I'd always thought there was great comic potential in having Fitz pretend to be the Doctor -- I'm just shocked nobody did it before.

Baskerville's plan was ingenious. Well, sort of. It was ingenious in that James Bondian sort of way, where you know it's all going to come crashing down around his ears, but it's just such a cool idea that you have to see how it all turns out. The other principals, in turn, were all doing interesting things, in interesting ways, as well... and I'd like to see more of Malady Chang (oo-er, phwoar, etc, etc).

The Doctor acted more Doctor-ish here than he has since... oh, since Father Time, I wager. :) Lately, people have been so focused on showing how vulnerable he is since the events of Interference, The Ancestor Cell, and Adventuress of Henrietta Street, that they seem to have forgotten that he's still The Doctor. Having him shoot other people's bullets out of the air, blow up a boat using a glass of water and a rubber ball, and disarm a nuclear device to a countdown he made up himself add back to the Doctor's legendary status, which was getting sorely tarnished.

Meanwhile, on the Sabbath front... he's recruiting now. Oh dear. That can't be good.

Particularly great lines: "After all, it'll be my word against mine", "And he did it with a rubber ball", "Sorry, I'm trying to get off nicotine pills", the scene where the Doctor shoots Cosgrove's bullets -- not a line, but SO damn cool, "Yeah, but here they call it the present", and too many others to list. This was just a fun book.

Next is Byzantium!, which is, I believe, my last for some time, if things are as I hear they are about the BBC's distribution.

A Review by Nate Gundy 3/6/03

I have to say, I'm a little surprised at some of the reactions to this book. Some people seemed downright offended by it. Apparently the shallow characterization and loads of efficiently written action scenes really got on certain people's wicks. Frankly, I think that's a result of Lance Parkin's reputation working against himself. His last book was his Human Nature - I think it's fair to expect a complete 180 in tone after a book like that. Especially since, from what I've heard, Uncle Terrance has once again fallen off his rocker. Though I won't be surprised if the resilient Mr. Dicks makes another great comeback, you'd think people would be greatful that someone's stepped into to cover for him while he's down.

Also, while some of the characters may be shallow, those that are are still vivid and entertaining. Rather than condemn Trading Future's characterization as shallow, I would call it economical. Those characters that need depth get it, and don't wallow in it. Those that would only be hampered by it are thankfully spared.

Plus, despite the breakneck pace and relatively short length, Parkin does fit in some very poignant and harrowing scenes. When Roja's reaction to getting his wrist broken was to cry like the little boy he was, I felt genuinely worried for the him. And I found it quite touching how Jaxa's relationship with Roja wavered just slightly between the professional and the maternal The book also draws a great parallel between how indiscriminately both Sabbath and the two Earth superpowers made killers out of whoever was convenient. And when Baskerville revealed how willing EZ and US citizens were to kill in battle so long as they were safely out of harm's way themselves, I was almost as horrified as Anji was.

Of course, many reviewers before me have pointed out how funny the book can be. Parkin has quite vocally critiziced the character of Fitz, and it's clear from his writing that he views him as the third wheel in the current TARDIS team, and yet he still makes great use of the old sod, providing some of the book's best humour - and one even gets the sneaking suspicion that Parkin enjoyed writing for him.

Robert Smith?, in his review, made the interesting complaint that Cosgrove is made to look a bit too incompetent by being constantly trounced by the Doctor. It's a fair point, and yet I would still refute it on these grounds: He keeps losing because he's facing Doctor Who! I'm a big champion of the Doctor being super-competent, and almost nothing annoys me more than the Doctor falling ass-back into his victories through luck and the help of people who simply shouldn't be smarter than he is. I think Parkin adequately establishes that Cosgrove is nigh-unstoppable when dealing with almost anyone else. The only thing I would have changed would be him slipping on the grass when pursuing Fitz. As I understood it, it's not needed for Fitz to get away, as the only reason he wassn't caught was because the Onihrs teleported him to their ship. That kinda does make Cosgrove look a little too past it. And yet... I did get a good laugh at that bit when I read it. I dunno.

Anyway, I really just wrote this review to address a few points about the book that I hadn't seen addressed. I really enjoyed it. I bought it this afternoon, finished it this evening, and then went straight to write this review. And usually I can't be arsed to write reviews, even when I feel I have a point to make. So maybe that says something, too.

An Unrepeatable One-Off by Marcus Salisbury 18/6/04

I've just read the tongue-in-cheek "production report" on Father Time on the BBC's website, and it's confirmed a suspicion I've had about Lance Parkin since reading his brilliant Virgin NA The Dying Days. The man can't help casting his novels. While Parkin's "choice" of Minnie Driver as Father Time's hapless "love interest" might seem to be aiming a bit high, I also think Parkin's a real Ian Richardson fan. The conniving, Palpatine-esque Lord Greyhaven in Dying Days is surely a Richardson role. Ditto Savar in The Infinity Doctors. Baskerville, the chief villain in the early-21st century Bond knockoff that is Trading Futures is... yet another Richardson part, and a real Enemy of the World if ever there was one. Unlike most Bond villains, however, Baskerville doesn't mean to start a world war, nick oil tankers, flood Silicon Valley or populate outer space. He's just out to own all the money in the world, that's all. Like Trading Futures itself, this idea is both somewhat corny and hugely entertaining.

Trading Futures kept me enthralled for the entire duration of a four-hour plane flight recently. I didn't put it down. OK, so the food was crap and the inflight audio-visual entertainment consisted of some yodelling runt in a tea cosy performing tai chi exercises very quickly (I'm told this spectacle was called a "Jamiroquai concert"), but Trading Futures kept me very content throughout the whole ordeal.

In short, the plot's pretty straightforward in a convoluted kind of way; man claiming to be from the future (Baskerville) has a "time machine" to sell, and James Bond-clone Josiah Cosgrove, a big, bald, elderly Scottish superspy (or should that be shoopershpy?) is on the case, hampered by the Doctor and co., and also by a race of alien rhinos from a city-sized spaceship in parking orbit. (Parked in the Cybermen's spot, perhaps). Throw in a Michelle Yeo-like karate-kicking agent, a stealth Concorde, a couple of Sabbath employees in jumpsuits and there you have it. All that's missing is a suitably safari-suited Sabbath hiding in a secret volcano lair and stroking a fluffy white cat (or maybe that scene was blue-pencilled at the editing stage).

The book's even structured in the elderly Bond manner - there's a "pre-credits" sequence in which the Doctor blows up a futuristic hydrofoil using a rubber ball and a glass of water to great effect, and a "final confrontation" scene in which one of the villains returns after defeat, only to be bumped off in spectacular fashion. The globetrotting is of Moonraker proportions (Greece, the USA, Russia, space), and even the book's cover has a Maurice Binder (i.e. naked dancing girls) feel to it. If this sort of thing was done all the time, it would soon pall. As it is, Trading Futures is an unrepeatable one-off, and one I'm glad I bought.

is a cinematic book, in the best sense of the term - strongly visual, fast-moving, fast-paced, tightly plotted, and populated with engaging and immediately recognisable character types. Profound and head-shattering it's not, but it never meant to be so. This is a bloody good, entertaining read. Full stop.