THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "LAST OF THE
GADERENE" AND "SPEED
PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-
IN MARCH 2001.
A BAND is winding its
way through England,
violent and hate-
filled gigs ALL along
the way. And every
time they play, people
die in unspeakable
can the band from
hell be prevented
from staging its final
There are not many Doctor Who novels that stand out being literary classics. There are those, of course, that are hailed as ‘classics’ by fans of the series, but I doubt very much that even these would be looked at twice by a more objective person.
“Rags”, however, is a notable exception. Mick Lewis’ voice is definitely all his own; I have never read anything quite like this before, especially within the confines of Doctor Who. Indeed, were “Rags” not a Doctor Who story, then I could quite easily imagine seeing it sat on the shelf in WH Smith filed somewhere between Stephen King and Irvine Welsh!
As a Doctor Who story though, “Rags” is very much a ragbag, if you will pardon the expression. The book starts exceptionally well; Lewis’ prose so fetid and foul in the very best of ways, and his subject matter more than equal to it. So very punk; so very 1970s. The car crash cum ruck opening really dragged me kicking and screaming into the story.
But sadly I found that it was downhill from there. I found that the sheer gore of “Rags” just became too much; too intense. Overkill, if you like, in the literal sense of the word. Mary Whitehouse would have died had this been on television!
As matters progressed, for me the body horror began to detract from what I felt was the true horror of the book – the succumbing of the regulars. This is perhaps best illustrated by Jo Grant. Lewis handles the character superbly, really lifting the veil of amiability and showing us what really lies beneath her inhibitions. Reading about her in the throes of reckless abandon, indulging in all manner of dubious pleasures on the Magical Mayhem Tour and turning on her friends – particularly Mike and the Doctor – is far more disturbing to me than the image of the Doctor striding fretfully through a field of severed limbs.
Even some minor characters left their mark on me as they succumbed to the mania stirred up by the Ragman. Take the corpse of Corporal Hannah Robinson, for instance, her “eyes wide and scared, mouth frozen in a hate rictus”. Very nasty.
The greatest strength of this novel for me though is in how Mike Yates is used by the author. The UNIT Captain is certainly one of the more interesting UNIT characters, particularly at this point in his life as he about to start down quite a dark path that will eventually see him cashiered out of the forces in disgrace. “Rags” really plays to that, just as “Deep Blue” did a couple of years ago. Arguably though “Rags” is the more interesting of the two as “Deep Blue” shows us Mike through the fifth Doctor’s eyes, and as such everything is prejudiced by hindsight, whereas “Rags” feels live.
“You are scum.”
The Ragman himself is a bit too nebulous to really put too fine a point on. He works well within the context of this novel, wreaking his ruin upon the world, but beyond him being a gloriously malevolent cipher there is nothing really there.
And so for the most part, it is hard to recommend “Rags” because it is so far from the
beaten track and thus not what most fans will be looking for when they feel the need to scratch a UNIT-shaped itch. That said, I certainly do not object to it in the way that some do; quite the opposite. I love Lewis’ style and see what he is trying to do with this book. The problem is, in my view at least, he has not got it quite right. I cannot shake the feeling that with a tweak or two, this one could have been marvellous, whereas as it stands I find it just passable.
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.
This novel’s blurb offers no clues as to its placement, however the text suggests that it takes place between the television stories Planet of the Daleks and The Green Death. Within this gap we have placed it between the novels Last of the Gaderene, which was released earlier, and Speed of Flight, which appears to be set just prior to The Green Death.
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