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Love and War

by Paul Cornell

Book review by Felicity Scoones

Worst cover, best book! Love and War demonstrates to me that not only can Paul Cornell write a coherent and entertaining story, unlike Timewyrm: Revelation, but that he can write very well indeed.

The characterisation is excellent. The Doctor and Ace are completely convincing and the new companion Bernice, although independent and assertive, comes across as an individual, not a substitute for Ace. There are a number of characters that have what might be described as cameo roles. By this I mean that there were characters that made short but pivotal appearances in the story but in whose depiction as much care was taken as with the major characters. The librarian for example is vividly portrayed. Another notable factor in characterisation is that although there are quite a few characters in the book, none of them are just a name. Each has discernable motivations and a separate personality. In terms of telling the story to the reader each character is there for a reason and background characters who do not do anything do not have their names thrown about to confuse the reader.

Another thing that makes Love and War stand out from the other New Adventures is that Cornell takes a risk and writes a book about emotional relationships. Books such as Timewyrm: Apocalypse and Nightshade are entertaining and, in the case of the latter, well written but they stick carefully to what could have been shown on screen and are regarded as suitable for a 'family' audience. Love and War has Ace wrapped up in an intense romantic relationship, which is central to the plot. The close relationship between Ace and the Doctor is further developed and we get a very credible insight into the Doctor's emotions. We also gain an understanding of Ace's past relationship with her mother. The risk Cornell is taking is in showing us his perceptions of how emotions and relationships operate. This one of the main things that, I believe, takes Love and War from being merely a very good book to being literature.

The plot is well constructed, the nature of the foe being intrinsically bound up with the setting of the story - not just a monster conveniently coming up out of the ground for the Doctor to fight. Almost all the details are tied up to make a cohesive whole with not much being added merely to give flavour to the story.

My one criticism is in the Doctor's adoption of Bernice as his new companion. Although Bernice is a well defined and admirable character there seems no reason in particular why the Doctor should want her to accompany him. The development of their relationship is neglected in favour of others. This perhaps reflects the fact that Cornell was instructed to include the making of Bernice into a new companion in his book rather than it being an original idea. Ace's leaving would of course also have been part of his writing brief, but the way in which she leaves was entirely up to him. Ace's departure is superbly handled and leaves the reader very much wanting to know what happens to her next and how she could reunite with the Doctor.

I strongly recommend Love and War and eagerly look forward to Cornell's next New Adventures novel.

Book review by Jon Preddle

Paul Cornell's second New Adventures will be remembered for writing out Ace, introducing new companion Professor Bernice "Benny" Summerfield, and little else. That's not to say that Love and War is a bad book - it's well written and has an exciting plot - it's just that it doesn't stand out as being anything exceptional.

The story is based around a single line of dialogue from The Brain of Morbius (which just happens to be Cornell's earliest memory of the show), which mentions the Hoothi (pronounced hoot-high), the foe that is threatening the peaceful world of Heaven, lying on the frontier between Earth and Draconian space. While the Doctor searches for a lost book, Ace joins up with a group of 'hippies' called the Travellers. Like some previous New Adventures, Cornell concentrates mainly on Ace, but at least here it is justified, being her final ( albeit temporarily) story. Her departure scene is dynamite - I wish it could have been performed on TV! The Curse of Fenric's 'kill her!' scene is tame compared to this!

And what of the new companion? Benny is a delight - she has a wit that will certainly put the Doctor in his place. I love the 'Girlfriend? Boyfriend? Train-set?' scene, and I'm sure that she will become a popular companion as the series progresses, depending, of course, on whether the subsequent New Adventures writers can do the character justice - unlike the recent DWM strip, where she is relegated to the background with little to say or do. I am sure that she and the Doctor will become a popular partnership. Hey, they could even change the name of the book series from The New Adventures to The Two Professors!

It would pay to read the interview with Cornell in TSV 28 again to get a few insights into why he wrote certain scenes the way he did. He writes for the Seventh Doctor very well, and he likes to work in continuity references to his previous book, Revelation (and why not!), as well as past TV adventures, past New Adventures - and even ones not yet published! He even provides his own theory as to the origins of the Valeyard (hinted at in the TSV interview), the first time this character has been acknowledged since Season 23.

Cornell had originally planned to reveal Ace's surname in this book - it was to have been MacShane - but series editor Peter Darvill-Evans chose to remove the reference from the final draft. And while we're on the subject of Ace, Love and War finally resolves the question of whether or not she is a virgin!

Love and War is average, but recommended. I eagerly look forward to more from Mr Cornell, even if he does owe me a pint!

This item appeared in TSV 32 (February 1993).

Index nodes: Love and War