With the new series of Doctor Who now over it's back to BBC Books and their Doctor Who novels to keep us entertained until we get to see this year's Christmas Special. For the latest three books the character of Rory has now joined the printed adventures of Doctor and Amy.
Sadly, Gary Russell's The Glamour Chase just doesn't match his last novel for the range, the rather fantastic Beautiful Chaos. It has a lot going for it, undoubtedly, but the sum of its parts left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied. He's clearly aiming to use the plot about shape changing aliens, the Weave, to unpick the aftermath of the First World War and explore the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on those men that survived it. It's sympathetically achieved but for me it doesn't quite fall into line with the rest of the story.
The alien Weave can grow themselves and their ship, literally knitting themselves into existence, and are being hunted down by their enemies the Tahnn. Their ship crash lands in pre-historic England and it is some thousands of years later that the final battle between the Weave and the Tahnn is initiated when archaeologist Enola Porter unearths the ship. In the intervening centuries the Weave have inculcated themselves into post-First World War England and the majority of the story takes place in 1936. The Doctor, Amy and Rory discover that the village they arrive in is not quite what it seems, particularly the identities of its inhabitants.
Russell - pardon the pun - weaves an interesting tale where you don't quite know who is who and even the Weave are not quite what they seem. For me it's an uneven book but packed with some terrific ideas and he does capture the Doctor, Amy and Rory very well. He perhaps slightly over-exaggerates his version of the Eleventh Doctor and it becomes irritating but I do like the way he gets Amy and Rory firmly involved in the various sub-plots. Rory is seen to be a very caring man, obviously with his background as a nurse, and his concern for the shell-shocked Oliver Marks is written with great sensitivity. I'm not going to discuss the denouement any further because the fun of the book is working out just exactly whose side certain characters are on.
The Doctor discovers that Geath is in thrall to the Enamour, a golden metal that can heighten desires and bend the mind. It has turned the inhabitants into selfish, belligerent capitalists where once there existed a peaceful republic. But the Enamour's source is a golden dragon and the dragon is hot property and two forces arrive on Geath to claim it as their own. The Doctor, Amy and Rory are left to decide whether the Enamour and the dragon belong to the scary, dark Regulator or the shining Herald, ancient races still waging a long drawn out war. They call upon the help of a con-man storyteller, a young impressionable king and an old wise woman to work out who the Enamour belongs to and how to rid Geath of its influence.
It's a rollickingly good tale and a breezy read and it's just about edges out Nuclear Time as the most satisfying of the three books in this set. The characters are well defined and I think Amy and Rory are sympathetically re-created. In fact, the Amy in this book is less defensive than her television counterpart and she's actually more likeable for it. I think everyone must like writing for Rory because each of the books gets him spot on and again he's a thoroughly endearing character here. McCormack's version of the Doctor is likewise a little less frenetic than his television counterpart but all the requisite eccentricities are intact. Her supporting characters are attractive too, including the somewhat roguish Teller who sees the error of his ways using his tall stories to boost the young king's popularity rating and the wise woman Hilthe, cautious but willing to give everyone a fair hearing, whose diplomatic skills Rory sees as the solution to their dilemma. There is a lovely thread of political satire in the book too and a witty exploration of monarchy versus republic and a few broadsides at a society obsessed with mass consumption and greed.
The Glamour Chase - Gary Russell (Published 8th July 2010 - Publisher BBC Books/Ebury - ISBN: 978184607988 7)
Nuclear Time - Oli Smith (Published 8th July 2010 - Publisher BBC Books/Ebury - ISBN: 978184607989 4)
The King's Dragon - Una McCormack (Published 8th July 2010 - Publisher BBC Books/Ebury - ISBN: 978184607990 0)