Wednesday, November 13, 2013

8th Doctor Book Review - Jacqueline Rayner's Earthworld

Earthworld by Jacqueline Rayner
Published by: BBC Books
Publication Date: April 5th, 2001
Format: Paperback, 224 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

The Doctor is off on another adventure with Fitz. Anji, a survivor of their last adventure is looking for a lift home, little does she know that more "adventure" is in store. They appear to land on a prehistoric planet, but everything is off. Soon they realize it's a theme park designed to be like "ancient earth," ie, Anji and Fitz's lovely 20th century. Though anachronisms abound in absurd and disturbing ways. All they really want to do is get back to the TARDIS, but with The Doctor's memory problems... well... will they be able to get out? Separated from each other they soon hear of the deaths that have been plaguing the park. The security team seems to think that it links back to a teenage terrorist organization, oddly named ANJI, but once they all meet the president's three teenage daughters, everyone is pretty sure they're the homicidal maniacs playing their own game within the park. Can a foggy Doctor, one loyal companion, and one inadvertent companion save the day? Or will they become the triplet's newest victims?

I've seriously thought this over and come to the conclusion that all Doctor Who books could only be read by fans of the show. Anyone who would pick up a random Doctor Who book would be at sea, unable to know what was going on. Even if you're just a fan of the current rebooted series, you know a bit about the history, about the past regenerations, you have some basis, some reason for going into a bookstore and picking up this book. I think reading about the eighth Doctor must be like the uninitiated reading just a general Doctor Who book. I had to actually do extensive research online just to figure out who these new companions were and what was going on with The Doctor. In an interesting inverse in proportions, The Doctor with only one appearance in film is the one that everyone writes about. Of course, this does make sense. He doesn't really have a fixed mythology, or character like those set in celluloid. Therefore it feels like a bit of a free for all for authors. Here's someone they can leave their stamp on. They could mold this Doctor into their Doctor.

This lack of restraint has led to some very odd things. Lots of amnesiatic problems, latching onto a fact from the tv movie, weird companions that are simulacra of the real companions that are long gone, hundreds of years where The Doctor was doing nothing, something? Gallifrey is gone? I was just so out of my depth at references and asides that I couldn't really enjoy anything. A good author will help you to understand what exactly is going on, especially if that author was in charge of the eighth Doctor's range of books... but from this outing, I have to say, Jacqueline Rayner isn't a good author. I felt no connection to anyone in the book. How can I like The Doctor if I don't know who he is, I mean, HE doesn't even know who he is!?! As for the companions. Fitz... well, him and The Doctor have tons of past history, you'd think he'd be good to help us understand what was going on? But no, he'll just reference tons of adventures that you have no idea about and will therefore make you want to join the triplets in killing him. As for Anji... well, let's put a pin in that rant for a second why don't we. Yet I will say, Anji should have been our entry into this adventure, being the new kid of the block, but, well, it failed miserably.

Getting to the actual story, well, I have to quote Patrick Stewart on Extras, "I've seen it all." There was so much unoriginality in this story it was mind boggling. I don't mean to always go, hey in this episode of Red Dwarf you're ripping off... but, well, she did rip off Red Dwarf a lot... and it was funny and fresh in Red Dwarf. A book should not make me want to go and watch Red Dwarf instead of reading it right? The way Fitz comes to terms with being "not the original" because he can play wicked guitar, because in the original Fitz's mind he could... well, that's the end of the Red Dwarf episode "Psirens!" As for Earthworld itself, yeah, not that original, and I know Red Dwarf didn't create the idea with the episode "Meltdown"... but all the Elvis stuff... Red Dwarf again. The medieval stuff I kind of liked, and in fact, that's what brought it up a full star, because in those instances there was a unique story with just The Doctor helping this "kingdom." It was contained, it was simple, it didn't rely on me having these vast pools of knowledge from other sources. If this little section had been the book, sigh, what a good book it would have been. But instead I will just be left quoting Patrick Stewart.

Though all this pales to Anji and what she represents. Anji the new companion, having just gotten into the TARDIS to get a lift home after her boyfriend was killed in the previous adventure... an adventure that might have made a better selection for this fiftieth anniversary perhaps, I don't know. But also, you don't ever ask for a lift from The Doctor, you won't be home for awhile, but then, Anji has issues... Anji's internal monologue is just so misogynistic and sets women's lib back years I was SHOCKED that this book was written by a woman. All Anji does is think about herself in a couple with the dear dead Dave, think about her shoes (of course she's wearing high heels), think about how she was wanted by all the other men at her office, yet she was faithful to Dave, and then, in her final "email" to Dave she actually says: "What's a step up from a man? (XY chromosome that is, none of this 'mankind' stuff, women are definitely a step down officially.) " EXCUSE ME!?! If the previous hundred some pages hadn't been a slap in the face for any smart independent woman, you have to state it as clear as possible. We are less? Well, obviously you are. You have some issues. Also the fact that Fitz is having inappropriate thoughts about teenagers, really young teenagers... I think someone needs some therapy. Perhaps it's me for actually finishing this book.


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