Home : Archive : TSV 21-30 : TSV 21 : Review

The Curse of Fenric

by Ian Briggs

Book Review by David Lawrence

Okay, I was wrong! Forget Remembrance and Ghost Light! Here's the novel of Fenric and it's fifty times better than any Doctor Who book I've ever read - and non-Who related novels as well. The same length as Fury From The Deep, this book is a must for any fan. If I had to choose between my collection of every novelisation and Fenric, I think I'd take Fenric! Eight years' collecting down the drain for one book!

I was one of the few people who hated the television version the first time I saw it. Having heard so much about it, I was expecting something spectacular. But I was tired by the time I put the videotape in the video, having just sat through the dreadfully boring Battlefield and Ghost Light, and Fenric just didn't live up to my expectations. I was not the only person who felt this way. The following weekend when I showed the story at a video marathon, it ended and someone said "Now what the bloody hell was that all about?" Indeed I was surprised when I asked a friend for his opinion of Survival and he said "After The Curse of Fenric anything would look good!" After watching the story a few more times I began to like it, and soon it crawled up through the ranks to my favourite story list. Reading the book coincided with seeing the uncut version of the television episodes (thanks Neil for those) and that helped.

The cover is not as bad as everyone seems to think. I like it. Paul Rigby thinks Ace looks more like Kathleen. Iain Stewart thinks there's too much green. Ace reminds David Ronayne of a Dan Dare comic. But I like it. The book itself is utterly amazingly fantastic. I can't describe it (okay, so I just did, but there is no word in existence which could accurately describe the book). All the secrets in the television version are explained, such as the Viking's 'sin' as in "I lay these stones to my wife Astrid. May she forgive my sin" and how the Doctor imprisoned Fenric in the flask. Something I didn't think I'd like was all the Norse mythology and 'documents' the book includes, but all these are superb and add to the atmosphere of the book. 'How can a book have an atmosphere?' you might ask. Well read this and find out! "The First Contest Of Fenric" and "The Curse Of The Flask" are brilliant.

However the book is not entirely flawless. There are a few things I disliked, such as the tendency to put an '!' at the end of a dramatic sentence, such as "Ace had nowhere to run!". I hate this, it would be like going through The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy books and putting exclamation marks at the end of all the funny bits. It does not work that way, it is much better to write this sort of thing deadpan. Another thing I disliked was how the last crucial scene (the confrontation between the Doctor, Fenric/Sorin, Ace and the Ancient Ingiger) was written. It comes across as if it was written in a hurry so Mr Briggs could get the book finished. Also, the most dramatic line ('Zee Baby Eees Youurr Mouzer!') was ruined by not having a descriptive pause between it and the next line so it loses any dramatic impact on the reader it might have had. Instead it's just "The Baby is your mother! The mother you hate", etcetera with no pauses.

By far the best part of the book is Petrossian's death on pages 30-31. This is marvellously done with the dead crew, in a frightening way that would not have been possible on television. Miss Hardaker (She Who Knows All About What Girls Like To Get Up To At Maiden's Point Because She Used To Do It Herself)'s death is also well done, especially the references to the record.

Millington's new fate is rather cliched, I preferred the TV version of what happened to him. Why Judson was in a wheelchair seems a bit of a letdown, something a bit more violent than a rugby match would have been a bit more appropriate.

And on a final note, for those of you who have seen the review in DWM 168, Gary Russell is dead right about the epilogue!

I won't say too much more about this novel, except do anything you can to get a copy, I doubt any future book will be able to better it (though it will be interesting to see how Battlefield turns out now that Marc Platt is doing it).

This item appeared in TSV 21 (February 1991).

Index nodes: The Curse of Fenric