Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review - Paul Magrs's Enter Wildthyme

Enter Wildthyme by Paul Magrs
Published by: Snowbooks
Publication Date: April 1st, 2011
Format: Paperback, 330 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Iris Wildthyme has been hanging out in Darlington posing as a writer for their annual festival there. Getting herself on the guests list was cover for her investigation to help the annoying and sometimes pedantic secret organization MIAOW. Darlington is a hub for intergalactic travellers, which none of the town's residents seem to notice. There was a meteor shower that wasn't a meteor shower a week or so ago and a very dangerous artifact has fallen to Earth and has hopefully not ended up in the wrong hands. The hands it has landed in are Simon's. Simon is just moving back to town to take over the running of The Exchange, a bookshop that was his refuge when he stilled lived there. Despite his friend Kelly being the best employee ever, for some reason Simon was left The Exchange... and a mysterious glass object, one he quickly looses to the annoying poet Anthony Marvelle and his creepy poodle when they nick it from The Exchange.

Meeting Iris boozing it up at a party, Simon and Iris become fast friends and Simon confesses his lose while Iris confesses her secret, she is an adventuress in space and time with her double-decker bus that is outside. For some reason Simon believes everything she says and is soon aboard the celestial omnibus with Iris, a rather gruff and opinionated stuffed Panda, a sentient vending machine called Barbara, and a mission to thwart Anthony Marvelle. But not before a few more gin and tonics and nice little dinner and perhaps a lie down. Oh, life aboard the bus is never boring, that's for sure.

When I was little I always daydreamed about living on modes of transit. I'm not really sure why, except maybe that I always wanted to travel but at the same time wanted to stay at home, and living on boats or buses, well, then you got both. Or I could have inherited my grandfather's love of RVs and come retirement I'll be going around America in a Winnebago and even being a part of their monthly newsletter... For the longest time though my daydream was of a boat, a nice cosy little pirate ship all my own, and yes, it HAD to be a pirate ship. When I was older and saw The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert I revised my thoughts to a bus. Yes, a bus would be perfect. Now Iris's bus... well, that's a whole other dimension of awesome. Not only is it quintessentially British and has two floors, but it can travel through the maelstrom and take me to France during the height of the Belle Époque for dinner. I feel that Iris's home and my daydreams has made me a kindred spirit with her. She's made me revisit cosy daydreams of years gone by. Even if Paul's writing style wasn't already of the cosy, warm embrace with a cup of spicy tea on the side variety, well, that bus would have warmed my soul. As it is Enter Wildthyme was a loving embrace of a book that you just want to snuggle into.

There's something just wonderful in the interconnectedness of Paul's books. Being a fan of Brenda and Effie, I loved seeing little winks and nods to them. Paul's books are all of the same universe, but it's a fluid universe where things are like but not exact. So while we have pinking sheers that cut the fabric of time and space, which are like those in Brenda and Effie's adventures, can we actually say they are the same? In Paul's universe it really doesn't matter. They could be, they might be, but then again, who knows. It's that fluidity and that nudge and a wink that makes his books so much fun. We have Jessie working at the galactic Hotel Miramar... ah, but could this Jessie be like the Jessie who worked not at the Miramar in Whitby but for Mrs. Claus? The Jessie who had the sad fate of turning into a womanzie? Or perhaps this is a parallel Jessie, a Jessie with a better fate. Every little connection, every little joke just made me giggle and sigh with contentment. If I could find a way to move into these books where after a day of fighting evil and possibly a good old punch up I could settle down in a warm chair and just relax and chat with my fellow friends, now that would be the life. Having a stuffed Panda as a sidekick would just add to the awesome.

Ah, but I do have to address something now that will tie this in with the whole Doctor Who theme I've got going on the blog here. This book is part of the expanded Whoverse. Iris has shown up in four Doctor Who novels, spending time with the 3rd and the 8th Doctor, while in audio... well, she has been very prolific, and is ironically voiced by Katy Manning, Jo Grant from the 3rd Doctor's tenure (and it might be just me, but Anthony Marvelle reminds me of the 3rd Doctor, Jon Pertwee himself). So the Who credentials are solid, but how Whovian is Enter Wildthyme? I would say very, but not in a way you would think, it is more subversive. Iris operates by her own rules and her own methods that are almost diametrically opposite to what one of The Doctors would do. Sure, she has a TARDIS, sure she travels through space and time, but well, her TARDIS is smaller on the inside, he origins, they're a mystery. Sure The Doctor knows her, but is that because she is one of his kind of just one of his ilk. She sets more store in fun and gin and flashy clothes and getting a sing-song going then saving the world. Sure, she will get around to it, but after a nice meal and a party with friends. I've often wondered over the years, don't the companions get tired and hungry? Their lives are all action and adventure, which can be fun, but you do need to unwind. Iris is like the cathartic Doctor, doing all the things you've wanted to, letting your hair down and enjoying the ride. And boy, did I enjoy the ride.


Excellent review. I think I will be ordering some new Paul Magrs right now!

It's always Paul Magrs ordering time!

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