Wednesday, November 20, 2013

10th Doctor Book Review - Gary Russell's Beautiful Chaos

Beautiful Chaos by Gary Russell
Published by: BBC Books
Publication Date: December 26th, 2008
Format: Paperback, 242 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Donna has asked The Doctor to take her home so that she can be with her mother for the anniversary of her father's death. The Doctor doesn't really do families well so he tries to stay out of the way of the bickering that ensues once the Nobles gather together. Plus, The Doctor has always gotten on well with Donna's granddad, Wilf, so it's easier to just spend time out with him in the allotment looking up at the stars. In fact there's a few new stars in the sky. Wilf was the first to find one of them and he's getting a dinner in his honor which he hopes The Doctor will attend. The Doctor doesn't seem so fussed about the dinner, but the other new stars, the ones that seem to be coming into alignment, well, they worry him.

At the dinner the other astronomers are grating and Donna is actually a little relieved when Wilf's lady friend, Netty, has an episode. Netty is dealing with Alzheimer's, which means that Wilf and Donna's mom are also dealing with it. Yet when The Doctor fully realizes the impact of the alignment, he has an even better excuse to leave the dinner, Donna in tow. With a cunning use of computers, astrology, genealogy, and astronomy, an old evil that The Doctor has faced before is going to use the human race to launch it's empire across the stars. Something The Doctor seriously wants to avoid happening.

I don't like to read about illness and despair, I have enough of that in my own life, thank you. This isn't the place to talk about it really, but I must touch on the issue so that you'll understand why this book made me want to get up in the author's face and explain a few facts to him, possibly with my fists. When I was in grade school my mom had two bouts of Cancer, which she survived. Though surviving took a toll. The chemo and other therapies sped things up so that while she is only thirty years older than me, her body thinks it's really fifty years older than me, which makes her the same "age" as when her mother got Parkinson's. My mom has Parkinson's. This is a daily struggle. Therefore, I think you can see why I use reading as an escape. I want to be anywhere and anywhen then here, and a book that dwells on these issues, no thank you.

While Russell's use of an incurable illness, in this case Alzheimer's, as the real evil is apt, he goes too far into the braveness of the battle. Netty dealing with her chronic illness bravely and nobly (sorry, I HAD to use that pun) just felt like some sort of propaganda for dealing with this kind of crisis in a stiff upper lip, keeping up appearances way. The message was heavy handed. People who talk about fighting this kind of battle as "brave" or "courageous" just make me want to scream. These are platitudes designed to make you, yeah, you, the one who doesn't have to deal with this shit better. To people in my position, well, it makes me want to punch you. Do you all not understand that there's your public face and your private face? That there's what you should to the world, what you show to the patient, and what you show to yourself? Yes, sure, I guess we could say that at least Donna's mom deals more with the reality of all this, but in the end, no, she doesn't because Netty joyously declares that she wants to go into a nursing home. Please (insert me rolling my eyes)! Show me one person out there who's like, "Nursing Home, SIGN ME UP!" No one will even want this, even if they know they can't handle their life in their current environment. My great aunt, she's 89, and she's steadfastly vetoing any kind of help or assisted living. And she's just the most recent of my family members to do this.

I had such hopes for this book because Donna Noble is my favorite companion in the new series, hands down, perhaps even in all the series. When The Doctor lost Donna, that was really the end of this Doctor. His life after that was filled with sadness and loneliness. The heartbreaking scene when Donna has to have her memory removed has taken on a fuller life her and made into a staggeringly heartbreaking novel. By bookending a story about Altzheimer's with Donna's own memory lose, it's a punch to the gut, that's what it is. But more then that, by showing the struggles that Donna's mother and grandfather are going through, it makes Donna's decision to travel in the TARDIS seem callous. Russell has taken my favorite character and put a spin on her that I don't like one bit. If I where just to say, fuck it and up and leave, well, I don't know what would happen, and that's a fear that I live with all the time. I admired Donna before, now... now I see someone in my position being heartless and unfeeling. Ug, just someone, remove this book from my mind, I want my Donna back.

As for the "plot," well, take out the struggle with family and illness and do we really even have much of a plot? No we don't. The author has made a flimsy story about Mandragora returning, which, for those of you not inculcated into every medium The Doctor appears in, television, written, and audio, well, you might be more then a little lost, but Russell doesn't seem to care or even want to explain for those new to this evil. Not every reader knows everything Doctor Who! A book like these needs to be written for all levels of readers. Also the evil computer/world domination bid with some little kids helping out, well, it made it more like a saccharine episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures if it had be touched up by Michael Crichton. Also, the Doctor is more then a bit bitchy and down on humans, oh, and, seriously, authors, don't have the title of your book used like fifty times throughout the story, it's annoying. Ok... I think my rant is over... can't be sure, these episodes are unexpected, much like Netty's... gaw, Netty...


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