Home : Archive : TSV 31-40 : TSV 31 : Review

Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible

by Marc Platt

Book review by Graham Howard

The splintering of time into different phases, with characters of varying ages all representing possible realities is both fascinating and mind-boggling, but Platt seems to have handled the inherent paradoxical nature of these with skill. The characters were well drawn and believable. The Process was an effective foe, although possibly it would have been more interesting had it not appeared as the stereotypical bug-eyed monster. And it was a bit of an exaggeration to describe Vael, the 'human' adversary, as 'more dangerous, more potentially deadly than anyone the Doctor had ever met'! But in all 275 pages of writing that was the only line which 'jarred' for me, probably because it is manifestly untrue. But compared with Apocalypse that's not bad! I'm wary about authors adding to the previously established Who Universe, but Platt's conception of Old Gallifreyan society seemed very credible, although I would hope any new production team wouldn't feel bound by it. Time's Crucible is perhaps a landmark piece of Who fiction. But...

Where Time's Crucible fell down for me was in the excessively cryptic and complex way Platt has structured the narrative. I acknowledge that many fans would enjoy the challenging and complicated style of the novel, and to a point I did too. But on reflection Platt's (deliberately?) confusing approach was somewhat pointless, and I'm sure it made the book seem much more 'cerebral' than otherwise would have been the case. The main plot is actually relatively simple. Yet because of the book's complicated structure in its early stages there was little to hold my interest, to give impetus to what seemed to be unrelated strands of plot. It therefore took me numerous spells of reading bits at a time to finish the book, which is unfortunate as to really appreciate Time's Crucible I believe it should be read in as fewer sittings as possible. To illustrate what I mean, I don't think it would have done any harm to at least partially explain what all the Pythia/Old Gallifrey stuff was about and how it fitted into the 'main' story. For a fair part of the book it was only a mildly interesting diversion from the events going on in the 'crucible' and appeared to be only vaguely relevant.

If this seems to contradict the first paragraph then I should explain that although the book seemed needlessly complex, it is still a very good book, and when I get to read it again, which I hope to before too long, I believe I'll enjoy it that much more. There is certainly a place for these more thought-provoking or conceptual stories in The New Adventures. However, I seem to remember reading a comment by Terrance Dicks, in reference to The New Adventures, that there was a danger in writers trying to 'intellectualise' the Who mythos. I would tend to agree, and I think his own book demonstrated that you don't need to do this to write a good Who novel and still fulfill the 'broader, deeper' requisite for The New Adventures.

This item appeared in TSV 31 (November 1992).

Index nodes: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible