THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
AND "SET PIECE."
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN JANUARY
There’s a new drug
on the street. It’s
and some people say
it’s the creation of
the devil. Others see
it as the gateway to
Benny is working with
a cop, trying to track
down THE source. Ace,
MEANWHILE, is trapped
in aN animal experim-
But only the Doctor
has begun to guess the
terrible truth about
This disturbing NOVEL
moves beyond cyber-
punk into a realm
where reality is a
question of brain
chemistry and HELL
OR heaven comes in
the shape of a pill.
Brilliant. Powerful. Epic.
Ask people for their views about Andrew Cartmel’s Warlock, and these are the class of adjectives that you should have hurled at you in response. And if one can forget about the typically lame (and misleading) mushroom cloud and cleavage cover, words like brilliant, powerful, and epic don’t even begin to describe just how impressive this novel is. Cartmel
is certainly as talented a writer as he was a script editor, and here he once again leads us into the bleak future that he created for Cat’s Cradle: Warhead, only this time, he cranks up the volume.
Vivisection? Drugs? They’re always going to be topical issues, and Warlock tackles both issues head on. This mammoth 359-page novel tells an action-packed but touching story about Ace and her new friends Jack and Shell, and their daring mission to put paid to the kidnapping and torture of local animals by a pharmaceutical company. The narrative also follows Benny’s investigations into the source of a controversial new drug, Warlock, which could be the creation of the Devil or the gateway to enlightenment, depending on whose
side of the story you believe. Both threads of the plot are equally compelling.
I particularly enjoyed the passages written from animals’ point of view. As a cat lover myself,
I found a lot of Cartmel’s prose to be both witty and observant – that man understands what goes on inside a cat’s head! And boy does he make you fall for Chick, Ace’s pet cat. I was absolutely devastated when Pam – one of the scientists – tortured and killed it.
“He [Chick] strained, opened his jaws, and managed to lick her.
How odd. Pam thought she might more reasonably expected him to try and bite her…
…Chick remembered this sharp thorn-prick sensation… Always on these occasions
Chick had been ill and the thorn had made him better… These thoughts gave the small ginger cat comfort as the sharp thorn penetrated him and sent a steady spreading coldness through his hindquarters. Chick relaxed… He would chase the elusive grey
mice in the attic again. Prowl moonlit walls again and defend his territory in fierce battles. Spring out of nowhere in ambush onto the Stupid Siamese and scare it out of its wits.
Soon. Soon he’d run free again.
He just wished he had the strength to clean himself. Chick hated being dirty.
Pam withdrew the syringe and watched as the cat shuddered and died.”
Adric’s death in Earthshock and even Peter Davison’s “It’s time to say goodbye…” speech were as nothing next to that small ginger cat’s indignant death. It’s the brutal honesty of the writing that does it. As you can see from the above quotation, the writer shows us the simple pleasures that cats take from life – they’re not all cuddly, sugar-coated fluffiness, they’re all about hunting and living. The author portrays Chick and the other animals in his book as being completely outside morality, which of course they are. Cats, for instance, are playful and mischievous hunters and killers, but they know no better. Humans should. The Doctor may make sure that all the ‘bad guys’ get theirs in the end, but Cartmel has made you hate them so much over the course of this novel that somehow it doesn’t feel like enough.
“Kill her baby. Then put her to work in the heavy S & M section.”
Warlock is equally horrible and hard-hitting. We’re not talking ‘behind the sofa’ horrible, we’re talking ‘put the women and children to bed’. Aside from the horrific ordeals that the animals, Ace, Jack, and Shell are all subjected to, two other characters in particular are really put through the meat grinder. The cop, Creed, and Justine (Vincent’s lover from Cat’s Cradle: Warhead) are both put though hell in this novel, and probably as a result of their shared trauma, end up falling in love. Of course, this isn’t ideal considering that Justine is pregnant with Vincent’s baby. Indeed, at times this book can be hard to stomach, but it is relentlessly engrossing all the same. I couldn’t put it down, fervently turning page after page, hoping that everything would work out okay… only for it not to. Here even the ‘goodies’ are only out for themselves.
Benny and Ace are both used superbly by Cartmel; they really represent all that is good and right in this story. Benny is wonderful in her uncover role at IDEA (loving the ‘Winterhill’ alias, by the way) but it’s Ace that steals the show. This is most definitely her strongest outing since Blood Harvest. Cartmel doesn’t fall into the trap of making her a hard-faced bitch; instead, she’s a very tough girl who has her head screwed on and has a gun. But she also has a little ginger cat that she thinks the world of and a Mazda. The Ace of Warlock is an Ace that we can all relate to once again, yet with all her butch machismo preserved.
Gripes? Cartmel cheats a little in
how he addresses the many ethical
issues raised in Warlock. Rather
than say ‘animal experimentation
is right or wrong’, Cartmel creates
a really heinous bunch of sadistic
animal kidnappers and torturers
who take sordid pleasure in their
jobs – a far cry from the real-life
scientists who do this sort of thing
for a living, for what I’m sure they’d
argue are good reasons. Similarly,
rather than say ‘drugs are good or
bad’, we have a drug that is in itself
an alien consciousness that fell to
Earth and ended up evolving into an exotic sort of mushroom with a liquorice odour. I don’t really see these as being major flaws in the novel though, and they don’t really detract from one’s enjoyment of it – it’s just that having written some pretty savage reviews of books of late, I thought that I should at least try and criticise this one.
Of course, there is one major ingredient lacking in Warlock – the eponymous Doctor. As in Cartmel’s first novel, the Doctor is an enigma that we neither see nor hear much of. He drifts in and out of things every now and then, but at the end of the day he must only be in the book for about forty pages, which is nothing really. Now this under use of the main character is a major complaint of mine about the New Adventures in general but, to be fair, when Cartmel does it, it always works. The Doctor may not be there on the page, but you know that he’s there behind the scenes, pulling the strings, ever the man of mystery. Where’s the TARDIS? Why are they living in his house on Allen Road? How long have they been there? Always questions, never answers…
Ultimately, Warlock bares little semblance to Doctor Who as it was on television, and for this reason many readers will be put off it. To those I’d say give it a chance: it isn’t text-book Who by any means, but some might argue that it’s better. Including me. Possibly.
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.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.