Reviewed By: TCar96
Review Date: 8/3/16 7:28 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
Off the bat, Revelation does not feel like the preceding three novels - like 'that one Big Finish story', this is the one that finally delivered the promise of going far beyond the remit of the show and using the format to its advantage. This is a story entirely suited to literature, and as such feels like a well worn glove: this is first and foremost a piece of literature, not a hack novelised script. Without spoiling plot elements, Revelation is as surreal (actually moreso) than the bonkers front cover... sentient architecture; mind bending travels; butchery (of characters you really won't expect!) and heavy canon. Whilst throwing in the odd past Doctor and past companions, Revelation teeters on the edge of needless fan-service but never quite reaches the excesses of fan fiction. This is namely due to an expert use of the literary form to explore the Doctor and Ace's psyche, as well as attempting to tackle some ethical qualms unaddressed on the show. Again, spoiler-light, but lets just say RTD's work in Journey's End doesn't appear half as original after a read of Timewyrm 4. Tangentially, bonus points for 'fear makes companions of us all' ripped wholesale and stuck into Listen. I'm convinced this cannot be a coincidence.
My issue with Timewyrm Revelation however is that Paul Cornell is juggling a tonnage of plot twists and characters, occasionally losing focus on the greatest strength of the book, aforementioned mature introspection of Ace and her relationship with the Doctor and her own past. Cornell writes about Hemmings (needlessly brought back from Exodus), 'only a sense of what he wasn't defined him', and by jingo can this be bounced back onto Mr. Cornell. Rather than tackling the juicy character drama, we trundle off towards the latter half of the book to reaffirm a series of political diatribes. We're reminded (relentlessly) that the Nazi's weren't a barrel of laughs; reminded (heavy handedly) that racism inflicts cruel emotional damage and that rape is terrible. It's bizarre to see Mr. Cornell make some heartfelt and really memorably tactful observations on bullying, before untactfully wasting time reaffirming basic morality.
This dichotomy gets even more distinct when cutting from insightful character drama to the fascist world of... Britain in the mid-1980's... Cornell goes on multiple diatribes, alluding to the Thatcher government being of a racist character; generalising and caricaturing working classes on an evening out as well as Freudian slips preaching the glories of the undergraduate, and their romantic isolation from the classes they used to belong to. To say this is a psychoanalysis masquerading as a Doctor Who adventure, Paul Cornell's ticks and opinions, for better and worse, frequent the book and for me personally, interrupted.
Whilst stabbing at some real tactful observations, Revelation goes off on diatribes. Whilst attempting to ground the character drama, characters are rigidly distinct by class: graduate-types (infallible and quirky); working-classes (moronic, racialist, rape-apologisers and anti-intellectuals) and 'the rest' (wacky Douglas Adamsesque talking buildings; nazis; doom-mongering zombies). It's a story where brutal, night-on sadistic child violence takes place mere pages before wacky hyjinx straight from the Key to Time. Where a beautiful exploration of bullying takes place pages before personal diatribes with all the subtlety of a HGV in a China Shop!
It may appear that I've been overly critical - when Revelation hits home it'll have you laughing, skin-crawling and forced to sit back and mull over a poignant point. When Revelations misses it'll have you frustrated, be-muzzled, eye-rolling and uncomfortable. It's a noble experiment that for the most part works, and is a massive leap forward in the VNA's. It's also, as is the point of experiments, a learning experience. In attempting to have its cake and eat it, too many ideas jostle for too little place. Tone shifts jar, shocks may go too far and become needlessly cruel.
It aint' perfect, but its a weird, brave and bold book and well worth your time!