THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
THE WICKED BUNGALOW
OFFICIAL BBC HARDBACK
RELEASED IN SEPTEMBER
A PLANET COVERED IN
WINTRY WOODS AND
ROAMED BY SABRE-
TOOTHED TIGERS AND
OTHER SAVAGE BEASTS.
THE DOCTOR IS HERE
TO WARN PROFESSOR
TIERMANN, HIS WIFE
AND THEIR SON THAT
A TERRIBLE DANGER IS
ON ITS WAY.
THE TIERMANNS LIVE
IN LUXURY IN A FULLY
HOME UNDER A FORCE
SHIELD. BUT THAT WON'T
PROTECT THEM FROM
THE VORACIOUS CRAW.
A HUGE AND HUNGRY
ALIEN CREATURE IS
THEIR HOME. WHEN IT
WILL BE DEVOURED.
CAN THEY GET AWAY IN
TIME? WITH THE FORCE
SHIELD CRACKING UP,
AND THE DREAMHOME
ITSELF DECIDING WHO
SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT
LEAVE, THINGS ARE
“I picked up the last Doctor Who Magazine and it said ‘Paul Magrs’ tenth Doctor novel is gonna be called ‘The Wicked Bungalow’. And I sent an email saying, ‘No it isn’t!’. And I love Paul Magrs, he’s a great novelist - I know how clever and ironic Paul Magrs
is. But if… you went into Waterstones and you walked past a book called ‘The Wicked Bungalow’ demanding £5.99 of your kid’s money, that’s genuinely damaging the brand.”
- Russell T Davies
I was intrigued by Sick Building long before it hit the shelves because of the whole “Wicked Bungalow” debacle. To this day I still don’t get it. What is so wrong with using “The Wicked Bungalow” as the title of a novel aimed at so-called ‘young adults’? At first I thought that it might be some potentially offensive slang term – a shocking sexual position or some such like - that I was naïvely unaware of, but having done a bit of homework on the subject I found that no-one else seems to know why Russell T Davies forced Paul Magrs to do away with
his original, imaginative (and markedly superior) title.
Well, one valid, practical reason is that the story isn’t actually about a Bungalow; it’s about a house several storeys high – something that is immediately evident as soon as one picks up the book thanks to Lee Binding’s blinding cover illustration. Whilst we’re on the subject, the cover of Sick Building is perhaps the most striking of the range to date - not only does it
sum up the story lock, stock and smoking
barrel, but it also looks fantastic (in the
truest sense of the word). Those who are
familiar with Magrs’ work will already be
able to attest as to his love for that Roald
Dahl-esque, grim fantasy; the fairytale
cum fable. However, a great deal of this
novel’s audience will not be familiar with the author’s past work; indeed, many of the children
that tune in every Saturday Night probably can’t even remember which Doctor came before David Tennant’s and they’re certainly not likely to be au fait with the likes of Mad Dogs and Englishmen or even the recent radio episode Horror of Glam Rock (which is, incidentally, another example of Magrs’ gift for inspired titles). Consequently, as I read this novel I found myself wondering what a new audience would make of it.
Personally speaking, I find Magrs to be one of the few Doctor Who writers whose work I can either love or hate. With most writers I generally either like their stuff or I don’t, but with this feller some of his output I find inspired beyond description, whilst other examples of his work I just don’t get. Sick Building, curiously, didn’t provoke any sort of polarised reaction from me. On the whole I enjoyed it, but I don’t think that it will stand up to too many repeat visits.
The whole book is set within a luxurious mansion built on a deserted planet by the super-cilious obsessive Ernest Tiermann – a planet that is about to be eaten by the Voracious Craw. Now I love the Craw; it’s a first-class example of the bold and brilliant Doctor Who monster. It has a wonderful name, a great gimmick, and it’s truly terrifying. It reminded me
of something out of that old Beatles movie, Yellow Submarine! I think the real beauty of it
is that it isn’t evil or malicious – it’s just a relentless force of nature. Even the Doctor, the eternal optimist, doesn’t try to stop it. He tries to escape.
I also liked how Magrs bookended Sick Building with the thoughts of a female sabre-tooth tiger. It really pulls the events of the novel into sharp focus; it’s almost as if Magrs is saying ‘forget Tiermann and his daft house – this is what really matters.’
The ‘human’ characters I found to be much weaker though, the main protagonist’s wife and son especially. The Doctor does share some wonderful scenes of banter with Tiermann though – there is one outstanding scene where Tiermann is bating the Doctor about him ‘never having lost anything’, to which the Doctor doesn’t say a word. He just stares at him with those big, empty eyes and scares the living daylights out of him. It’s awesome. Classic series fans no doubt appreciate the glut of Peladon references surrounding Tiermann too
- not do we have him dressing like a Pel Nobel, but we also have the Doctor reminiscing about old Aggedor!
Unfortunately though, I found that the narrative spent so long building towards the big reveal that when it eventually came, I felt exceedingly let down. I expected more. There is one rea-sonably large twist that I won’t spoil, but other than that Tiermann is simply revealed to be a robot manufacturer who has unintentionally created a sort of Westworld scenario within his own house. And that’s Sick Building in a nutshell – mad robots inside a killer house, and if you escape the house, will it be in time to escape the Voracious Craw…?
Sick Building is certainly an exciting one-off read, and perhaps it would’ve even made for a dazzling television episode, but I don’t think that it will stand up to much more. If you’re a die-hard fan looking for another Magrs classic, then I’m afraid that this isn’t it.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
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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