THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
HISTORY" AND THE
DAVID A. McINTEE
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN JULY 1999.
December 1944: the
Nazi forces are
making their last
offensive in Europe -
a campaign which
will come to be
called the Battle
of the Bulge.
But there is a third
side to this battle; an
unknown and ancient
force which seems to
pay little heed to the
laws of nature.
of the dead disappear
What is the nature
of the experiments
conducted by both
Fitz must seek out the
truth in a battlefield
where no one and
nothing is quite what
After the twisting, temporal majesty of Unnatural History, David A McIntee
brings us right back down to Earth with Autumn Mist – a novel that couldn’t have been
any more different to its predecessor. A pseudo-historical jaunt set during the Battle of
the Bulge, Autumn Mist is sodden with the author’s customary level of historic detail, but lacking in substance.
The story begins as many Doctor Who historicals do – with the TARDIS being lost in some contemporary disaster, cutting our heroes off from it and, indeed, each other. However, it quickly becomes apparent to the reader that this book isn’t going to be a Hartnell-esque, gently provocative gambol in the past – it’s going to be a full on, heavy duty, Saving Private Ryan bloodbath.
In spite of the novel’s relative concision, McIntee spends much of his word count building up an astonishingly evocative picture of this chapter of World War II, gore and all. I’m no expert, but the prose positively reeks of authenticity, right down to the minutiae. Those with a keen interest in the period are sure to devour the author’s heavy, research-burdened prose with gusto. Those who aren’t are really going to struggle.
For me, the most arresting aspect of this novel is Sam’s plight. McIntee builds up a vivid picture of senseless death in the mind of his reader and then, without any preamble, just hurls one of the regulars straight into the firing line. Sam is gunned down along with a whole contingent of anonymous American prisoners and, in that scorching moment, she’s dead.
It’s unexpected, cruel, and heartbreaking; horribly dramatic. After all Sam’s adventures in time and space and after all the good she’s done, her existence is extinguished in the most abrupt and futile of ways. For nothing.
But then Sam wakes up in the higher realm of Sidhe, technically dead but clearly far from it. It’s an extraordinarily annoying get-out, but with hindsight, an obligatory one – after all, had Sam stayed dead then there’d have been no Interference – and in fairness, when one reads the book today knowing full well what’s around the corner, it doesn’t smart half as much as it did on the first read. In fact, this time I was able to enjoy witnessing events from Sam’s post-humus, Sidhe perspective, whereas back in the day I had so much steam coming out of my ears that I could barely make out the words on the page. The author’s descriptions of the literally outstanding Doctor and TARDIS as witnessed by Sam are especially memorable, even if they are at odds with the Time Lord’s abnormally ineffectual display here.
Fitz fares well, holding his own with Sam without having an awe-inspiring death scene to fall back on. Fitz’s thoughts and feelings are explored more deeply than any other character’s
in the book, McIntee wasting no time in seizing upon the half-German’s war angst and the torment that he was forced to endure growing up in post-war London with a German name.
Autumn Mist ultimately falls down
on its plot though, which at the end
of the day isn’t all that appealing.
The manipulative Sidhe are only
meddling in our realm because
their king, Oberon, loves a bit of
chaos and anarchy. Hardly the most inspiring proposition when sandwiched between two
impressive Faction Paradox stories. That said, the narrative does at least segue nicely in
to Interference, concluding with another marvellously minimalist scene which sees the re-incarnated Sam simply ask the Doctor to be dropped off at home next time the TARDIS lands in her neck of the temporal woods.
Altogether then, if the words ‘McIntee’, ‘dense’, ‘research’ and ‘war’ push your buttons, then you can’t go far wrong with Autumn Mist. If my dad were a hardcore Who fan, for instance, then this one would certainly be amongst his favourites. However, as somebody who finds a paradox more interesting than a Karabiner 98k, this well-written and well-researched wallow in war doesn’t really do it for me.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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