Reviewed By: newt5996
Review Date: 6/4/16 12:47 pm
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So you know how in my Blood Harvest review I mentioned that I may have spent half the night reading halfway into the book, well after that I promised myself it wouldn’t happen again. That promise was quickly broken as I spent half last night reading three quarters of Blood Harvest’s companion novel, the Paul Cornell penned series premiere of the Virgin Missing Adventures Goth Opera. So yeah it’s fit to say that I enjoyed the novel considering I read the thing in less than a twenty four hour period. Paul Cornell really knows how to entice you in with a story and I’m glad to say you don’t really need prior knowledge of what happened in Blood Harvest as the only continuity piece was reprinted early on in the book to explain everything that would be going on. Before you continue reading this review this is your final warning on spoilers as I will be spoiling some of the plot twists of this book and the ending of Blood Harvest so I can adequately analyze some of this novel’s characters.
Goth Opera sees the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan after the events of Snakedance recovering from Tegan’s possession at a cricket tournament on Earth. Of course Tegan is immediately annoyed at their present location and within her first line of dialogue Cornell nails her character perfectly and you immediately feel for her as the novel goes on while absolutely horrid things begin to happen to Nyssa. The plot gets going when a renegade Time Lady Ruath from the epilogue to Blood Harvest tracks down the Vampire Messiah and gets a vampire to bite and convert Nyssa into one of the undead. Yes this novel sees Nyssa and even later the Fifth Doctor bitten by vampires and start to turn into the bloodsuckers. How do they get around this you may ask? Well Cornell takes a solution from ancient vampire myth and the way it is done is quite sublimely and actually manages to satisfy the need for a thrilling conclusion. The plot itself is interesting with the Doctor and Tegan trying to find a way to save Nyssa from her conversion and trying to stop Ruath’s plans of making trouble. Along the way there is a group of radical Christians and a cult whose main chant is the funeral procession is “Requiem for Evita” from the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Evita. So yeah even with a rather dark subject matter Cornell can’t help but put in a little bit of humor to liven the mood. There’s even a little detour with Romana getting stuck in a miniscope on the ship of Sabalom Glitz which while it is a distraction, it is great fun for the novel and seeds some seeds of Romana possibly going higher in Time Lord Society.
Cornell also nails the characterization of his regulars. The Fifth Doctor, who has always been one of the weaker Doctors for me as he was too human, uses his human caring to motivate him to go to any lengths to save Nyssa. He even allows himself to be bitten by a vampire in a last ditch effort to stop the vampire’s plan. Moving right along to Nyssa who spends the majority of the novel in a trancelike state as she is losing her humanity and begins craving blood. She slowly loses her sanity as well trying to stay human. What makes her descent into darkness even more tragic is she was bitten by a vampire baby called “The Child” who knocked on her window and almost enjoyed being bitten. Outside of her trance near the beginning of the novel she gets to have a great argument with Tegan. Remember this is right after Snakedance so Nyssa wants to try and help Tegan recover from being possessed by the Mara a second time. There is also implication that she feels guilty about Tegan being possessed. This brings us to the brilliant way Tegan was portrayed by Cornell in this novel. She states flat out that the Mara is still in her mind and she is wrestling every day to keep it suppressed with the Doctor’s head. She fears being taken over a second time yet doesn’t really want to open up about her feelings to Nyssa who genuinely wants to help her. Once Nyssa becomes a vampire she is scared as she knows what it’s like to not be yourself and knows how much pain Nyssa is in as she isn’t herself.
Now on to the villains of the piece. First up is Ruath who has a surprising history with the Doctor. Now if you don’t want spoilers, first off don’t read reviews of novels that are nearly twenty years old and second look away now just read the book. This has been your final warning. When they were young, Ruath was going to accompany the Doctor in the stealing of the TARDIS and go with him and Susan, but the Doctor left her behind. This has made her extremely bitter towards the Doctor as she had almost fallen in love with him and fueled her desire for research into the undead. When the actual reason she was left behind was to try and get Time Lords in the Academy to think for themselves and it becomes a really tragic story. The other villain of the piece is Yarven (who was turned into a vampire in Blood Harvest) who is nearly as manipulative as the Doctor. He manipulates Nyssa into compliance by promising her that he can help and she falls for it hook, line and sinker. The final important characters of the novel are Jake and Madeline who are two vampire lovers who end up surviving the story and living on. They are almost like Sweeney Todd as you don’t want to sympathize with them for all the horrid things they do yet you find yourself hoping they survive the rapidly approaching bloodbath. That’s really all there is for characters, yes I mentioned a couple in the introduction and while they are integral to the plot there isn’t much more I can say except they were good for their purpose.