THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "NO FUTURE"
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN MARCH
Day. Tomorrow, total
In Empire City on the
planet Olleril, it’s
time for the annual
Tragedy Day - when
the privileged few
generosity to the
Five minutes after
they arrive, the
TARDIS crew know
they want to leave.
But Ace is imprisoned
in a sinister refugee
camp, and Bernice and
the Doctor are in the
custody of a brutal
police gang. There is
no way out.
When I read Gareth Roberts’ debut novel, The Highest Science, I was relatively impressed. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was at least good enough to have me looking forward to the Corrie scribe’s next effort. Unfortunately though, Roberts’ second
Doctor Who novel lets itself down in the very same areas that his first did, only much more dramatically. And hot on the heels of novels the calibre of Blood Heat, Conundrum, and
No Future, its flaws are inevitably pulled into even sharper focus.
The 290 pages that comprise Tragedy Day seem to be dimensionally transcendental as they appear to go on and on forever, made bearable only by the author’s wit and non-too subtle social commentary.
As was the case with The Highest Science, the opening of the book is very promising indeed, but as I read on I realised that the provocative prologue (as well as the final few chapters) have little to do with the book’s principal plot; they appear to have been tacked
on later by Roberts. This bookend revolving around ‘The Curse of the Red Glass’ and the Friars of Pangloss is infinitely more interesting than the tedium on Olleril. It’s just a shame that by the time the villain had been defeated and the day saved, I’d really lost interest in whatever it was the author had set up two and a half hundred pages back.
However, Tragedy Day isn’t a complete write-off. I enjoyed reading about a TARDIS crew who are friends. Fair dues, they get split up early on, as is the convention, but in their scenes together there is a real sense of fellowship between the Doctor, Ace and Benny. As much as I enjoyed the long-running tension between them, to read about them enjoying a light-hearted adventure together comes as a real breath of fresh air.
Roberts also creates some promising supporting characters. Ernie ‘Eight Legs’ McCarthy - an arachnid mutant hitman in a western outfit with a thick Yorkshire brogue! - is an absolute joy to read. Sadly though, half way through the book Roberts ran out of stuff for him to do and killed him off in quite trivial fashion. Crispin ‘the Supreme One’ - a teenage boy genius - is the only well-sustained character in the book (aside from the regulars), but even he doesn’t convince as a bona fide villain. Whether he’s being collared around the ear by the Doctor or adolescently lusting after Benny, he’s just a hilarious joke.
The plot itself isn’t as exciting as The Highest Science’s, but it does have its moments. Oddly, its finest scenes are ones of bleakness and horror – qualities that really stand out
in what is essentially a comic romp on a grotesque parody of 20th century Earth.
Overall, I found reading Tragedy Day to be a frustrating endeavour. It could have been so much better with a little redrafting. As it is, a deluge of alluring ideas – some funny, some dark – have just been thrown into one giant melting pot and poured all over the page.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
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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