Friday, November 15, 2013

9th Doctor Book Review - Gareth Roberts's Only Human

Only Human by Gareth Roberts
Published by: BBC Books
Publication Date: 2005
Format: Paperback, 240 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

The Doctor was planning on taking Rose and Jack to Kegron Pluva to see the maddest ecosystem out there when the TARDIS gets an alert that someone is using some very dangerous time travel technology outside of London of all places. Pleasure diverted by an investigation isn't anything new, and who knows, this could be more fun! A Neanderthal, Das, has shown up in modern day Bromley. When the three of them finally come in contact with him, he has quite a story to tell about a weird tree and then ending up in a nightclub, like you do. They decide to take him back to his own time but find out that the dangerous technology that has brought him forward far into the future has made it impossible for him to ever go back. Das would literally be destroyed. He is stuck forever in Bromley in the 21st century.

Leaving Jack behind to help their new charge adjust, Rose and The Doctor travel back to Das's time to see what exactly happened and to make sure it doesn't happen again. What they find is beyond weird. Aside from just the prehistoric world with Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, there is a secret underground base of people from the far future, way beyond when Rose comes from. Led by Chantal, these subservient people believe they are there to record and observe, or at least make Chantal happy by doing this. Their number one goal is to make Chantal happy. But Chantal has ulterior motives. Behind a big grey door there is a secret she is keeping, the real reason she wanted to go back in time.

Ok, so, I think I can admit to you all that I think I'm starting to burn out a bit with this whole Doctor Who way of life I'm currently living. Right now I'm watching all the first episodes and last episodes of all The Doctors leading up to the fiftieth anniversary, currently on "The War Games" with Patrick Troughton, as well as reading the books in my spare time. I've reached a stage of numbness that unless it's really good or really bad I just go, "meh, that was fine, next." So, while I did enjoy Only Human, it neither offended me nor was a brilliant piece of work, so, I liked it, but still blame it for getting the song "Only Human" stuck in my head, which seriously is a bit of a break from "What does the Fox Say," so I guess, go "Only Human?" Also, I do really like Gareth Roberts, some of his episodes of the new series are the best out there because he actually understands how to write for the product line and for the show. He knows how to properly do an homage and how to properly write for the characters as well as create auxilery characters we actually like and care about. So if I wasn't so jaded at this point, maybe I'd be really cheering this book on, but at least I can see that it's likable.

What really stuck with me was the Douglas Adams factor. Previously, in the Fourth Doctor's book, the author clearly didn't get the homage/rip off delineation. Roberts nails it right on. In the second Hitchhiker's book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the indigenous hominids are destroyed by, basically, inept hairdressers from the future, and humans descend from them. With The Doctor and Rose exploring this prehistoric era, Roberts keeps subtly nudging you with this idea that these idiots from the future could in fact destroy not only the Neanderthals, which humans did anyway without any help from the future, but perhaps also our original ancestors, Homo sapiens. Yet he takes this kernel of an idea and expands it, he makes it not only the idea that holds the whole book together, but it also is able to bring up the destructive nature of humans and the sad fact of extinction. Message and moral through an entertaining medium, plus Rose Tyler doing nails for prehistoric Homo sapiens. Though I did find The Doctor at times a little too down on humans, Roberts was able to show many sides of an argument in an entertaining manner and I think Adams would have approved.

Then there's an aspect of science fiction that I love that Only Human employs. The future that is old yet new. Like watching an old film and seeing how they pictured what the future would be like, there's a fascination, a nostalgia that captures you. The idea of this whole society hidden underground, having arrived from the far future, knowing the complete map of the human brain, but being unable to have any kind of technology that wasn't analogue, fantastic! I loved this little wooden shanty town with it's pneumatic tubes and typewriters. This world reminded me of Brazil, in my mind one of the best science fiction dystopian movies ever created, I'm talking about the director's cut here. I even picture the people as kind of stylized that way, with the 40s clothes, like Bladerunner. In fact, annoying lady who wrote the Eighth Doctor's book, this is how you get a Bladerunner feel without being a plagiarist. It captured this amazing vibe, I felt like I was in this anachronistic world, part Brazil part Deadwood part Nextian, and just loving it, though I wouldn't love being a minion of Chantal's!


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