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  1. #1
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    Default DW Book of The Month August: Touched By An Angel



    'The past is like a foreign country. Nice to visit, but you really wouldn't want to live there.'

    In 2003, Rebecca Whitaker died in a road accident. Her husband Mark is still grieving. He receives a battered envelope, posted eight years ago, containing a set of instructions with a simple message: "You can save her."

    As Mark is given the chance to save Rebecca, it's up to the Doctor, Amy and Rory to save the whole world. Because this time the Weeping Angels are using history itself as a weapon.
    OK, Michael Moorcock may have nearly killed this idea with his Terraphiles, but can Jonny Morris save the day? In theory, this one's got a lot going for it:
    Morris has been known to write good Doctor Who stories; it's a new book; The Weeping Angels are a popular monster and it'll be interesting to find out a bit more about them.

    I hope the idea of Angels using 'History itself as a weapon' means that when you turn around, they clonk you on the head with a copy of 'Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire'.

    So get yourself down the old library and pick up a copy!
    Last edited by Rob McCow; 28th Jul 2011 at 8:18 PM.

  2. #2
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    Mumble grumble ruddy weeping angels...

    I will, despite the previously-mentioned reservation, be reading this in the not-too-distant future in any case. Anything to get it out of the way...

  3. #3
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    Hurrah Stuart!

    Don't forget to moan about it at length on this thread!

  4. #4
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    Moan? Oh, you know me...

  5. #5
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    A bit better than I thought it would be. Well-written at least - it develops the main guest characters in a decent way, making the book fairly regular-lite at times - although the story is fairly predictable by its very nature. The Doctor comes to the fore comedy-wise during a wedding sequence; and while the Angels are at least shown to be scheming behind the scenes, that's where they come over at their best - behind the scenes. Apart from a disco scene where one is "brought to life" through laser lights, the whole don't blink thing and their being statues when you do just that, has become repetitive now.

    Just as well I didn't start moaning...

  6. #6
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    Nice non-moan, Stuart!

    I got through this one very quickly. These books may have a higher page-count than the Target novels, but the large print and swathes of blank space on each page ensure that there's not a huge amount of extra text.

    Spoilery stuff below!

    The story is about Mark Whittaker, who is sent back in time seventeen years from 2011 to 1993 by the Weeping Angels. His only thought is to save his wife, Rebecca Whittaker, who dies in a car crash in the Prologue (2003). But this is exactly what the Weeping Angels want. It's up to Amy, Rory, the Doctor (and Rory again) to foil the stone-faced sadists and save the day!

    The style of writing indicates that this book is aimed at seven to sixteen year-olds, roughly speaking. Events are driven forward by dialogue and action, with a little bit of atmosphere-building on the side.

    On the other hand, the story content seems to be geared more towards 20-40 year-olds. The main focus of the story is about Mark's life back in time and how Mark and the world around him have changed in 17 years. There's a nostalgic look back at Mark's university years, his long on-and-off relationship with Rebbecah (Bex!) and their eventual marriage.

    In many ways, this book reminded me of 'One Day' by David Nicholls, which follows an on-and-off relationship over the same time period. In that book, the two protagonists regard each other as best friends, but there's always somebody else in their lives until the end.

    So this book is about the experiences of a 20-40 year old, written for a 7-17 year old. It's an odd mix, because despite the occasional Weeping Angel attack, this is essentially a romantic novel. The sense of peril drains away during the middle as Mark's life rolls on, without any particular threat or danger.

    I'm not saying that the Doctor Who format can't be stretched, but I found the Doctor and his companions to be too far from the centre of the action. Worse, they don't get split up, so you've got two people asking the Doctor 'What's going on?' all the time. It means that one character becomes redundant and inevitably the companion who doesn't get enough to do in this story is Amy. Her husband is well-served, because he can make jokes and get himself sent back in time to further the plot. Amy's main contribution seems to be helping Rebbecah get into her wedding dress. Perhaps it would have been better if Mark had been given some personal connection to either Amy or Rory. Then maybe, maybe we could have had Augustus Pond back!

    The Weeping Angel scenes are fairly effective, although it does seem that Mark only encounters them in locations where it would be cool to have a Weeping Angel. We get a nightclub with strobe lighting, the statues lining the corridors of the Vatican, a church and a lightning-strewn rainy field. That said, the moment after Rebbecah's car crash where the indicator was still going and the Angel was moving forward in the orange light was really cool.

    The time paradox element was good, but not as satisfyingly complex and intricate as it could have been. It lacks the best part of the time paradox story, where a seemingly baffling incident early on becomes totally clear later on thanks to time travel. And while the defeat of the Weeping Angels was clever, I wasn't quite convinced. I found myself wondering 'Would that actually work?!'

    Another thing that annoys me about these books is the way they copy the tropes of the TV show, but don't do them as well. There's Fez action, the Doctor says 'Wibbly Time' a lot and Jammie Dodgers get a mention. All very well and good, but it makes it feel a bit stale to me.

    I've probably moaned far too much because I did enjoy this book. It was a light, breezy read and makes great use of the Weeping Angels without copying their TV appearances too much. The Doctor was extremely well characterised and had some very good lines. I especially enjoyed his teasing Rory after the wallet-snatch sequence. I only wonder what an intelligent young reader would make of it!

    Perhaps I'll lend it to Simon's nephew.

  7. #7
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    Why? what's he done to you?

  8. #8
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    Well he can be a bit stroppy sometimes. And I don't always beat him at Mario Kart (though I do usually).

    I'd just be interested in what he thought.

  9. #9
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    Stroppy; often beaten at Mario Kart - the worst kind of youngster...

  10. #10
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    I really enjoyed this one. It's perhaps the best use of the angels so far (me not liking Blink all that much as you know), as they're devious and cunning and have a well thought out paradoxical plot for regeneration that almost, nearly worked. I liked the idea of an innocent man, Mark being caught up in their plans for no other reason than random chance. Not pre-ordained destiny, just a random man caught up in random events.

    In many ways this was a book written for me. The timeline is the same as my own really- university mid 90s and all that. So the references felt right and nostalgic to me (i smiled at the Echobelly joke at the end- that was perfect!) but they weren't so overwhelming to make it inaccessible to anyone who wasn't there at the time.

    The regulars were fairly well characterised, with Rory coming off well. I'd agree with Steve about the various TV show tropes used though not being particularly succesful- it's a lazy shorthand way of getting them in character. And wibblyness is even more annoying in print than on TV.

    But it stands up better than most of the recent novels and was very touching. 8.5/10 from me.

  11. #11
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    I borrowed this off bruv (who read it in a couple of days) and read it in only a few days myself. I've pretty much stopped getting the BBC books since the last batch of Tennant's, only read one of the Smith ones before this, so can't comment on whether this is a really outstanding one, or whether they're all of a similar standard.

    But either way, I really enjoyed it. Nice use of the Weeping Angels, consistent with what we've already seen but without feeling like a straight re-tread. What I really liked was following Mark's life, during the centre section of the book - the moment when he takes the photo on the balcony, that we saw in his office at the start, for example, and meeting up with Bex while Christmas shopping. There's something very 'real', even evocative, about those scenes, and the Doctor & co are rightly kept somewhat out of the limelight there.

    Also enjoyed the wedding scene, which was easy to picture as a light-hearted, almost-nonsensical sequence on TV, with the TARDIS going to & fro to make sure things happen just as Mark remembered ("I don't suppose you recall her turning up in a mud-soaked dress?")

    Plot-wise, a neat final twist with the whole thing being a set up. I'd assumed it would be Mark breaking his promise not to interfere that would be the main plot point, but when it turns out the whole 'You can save her' is a fake by the Angels... very sad. As is the finale, where after all his careful planning, makes the decision not to save Rebecca.

    I thought, also, that the three regulars seemed to have been captured very well. I know what Rob means, there didn't seem quite enough to keep both Amy & Rory busy, but it never felt like they were getting interchangeable dialogue which either of them could have said - and the Doctor seemed spot on, to me. I particularly liked the running gag about Rory (not!) being the Doctor's secretary.

    I also agree with Rob about the TV elements being wedged in for no reason - the fez, the jammie dodgers, etc. They felt artificial (especially the fez!) and a bit naff. Too much like the author saying, 'look at me!!'

    The one thing I really didn't like, though, was the end, where the older Mark got to talk to the young Rebecca (bit shmaltzy for me, and I wasn't totally convinced the Doctor would let him) - and even worse, when he was then 'rejuvenated' due to some guff about meeting Rebecca shorting out the time differential (what??!). I guess it was to end the book on something of a happier ending for Mark than the rather abstract 'your wife's still dead, but you've saved reality' conclusion, but it just felt artificial to me, like a fake smile.

    But that final little grumble aside, a good solid read.

  12. #12
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    It is to me the best written, most absorbing, exhilarating and poignant of all the New Series Novels... infact I just might have shed more than a few tears at the end. Between this and Curse of Davros I really don't understand why Johnathan Morris hasn't written for the series proper.

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