Home : Archive : TSV 31-40 : TSV 34 : Review

Love and War

By Paul Cornell

Book review by Graham Howard

'Heaven and Hell' could well have been an alternative title for this book.

Heaven is the name of the idyllic planet on which most of the story takes place, whereas the lair of the Hoothi, filled with the living dead is almost as near an image of Hell as can be imagined. The Hoothi must stand as one of the most (if not the most) vile, evil and morally contemptible creatures to have ever appeared in Doctor Who, totally lacking in any redeemable quality. The sort of creature you really love to hate.

Love and War is a complex, intricately plotted novel. However I didn't find it to be excessively 'intellectual' and I don't think it was written so as to be deliberately confusing (although there were parts which did confuse - e.g. how could Ace's Earth boyfriend Julian turn up in the Hoothi spore? Exactly how was the spore destroyed?). It is likely some of the finer details of the plot would become clearer with a second reading, but I don't believe this is necessary to appreciate the story in the first instance.

The book is written with an evocative descriptive style, and the characters are imbued with an emotional depth not always convincingly portrayed in the New Adventures. In fact I found Paul Cornell's writing of the characters to be the strongest part of the book, most notably with his portrayal of Ace (which is not surprising since a large part of it is 'her' story), also the Travellers and to a lesser extent Benny.

Those who enjoy the evasive, precognitive 'more than a Time Lord' conception of the Doctor hinted at in Seasons 25 and 26 and seemingly now imbedded in the New Adventures, will love Love and War's portrayal of the Doctor as he certainly has all these qualities and is quite possibly the most manipulative yet seen. As if to emphasize his almost superhero-like nature, the Doctor is at times referred to as 'Time's Champion'.

However, as a result of all this the Doctor does tend to appear more detached or aloof from the other characters, manipulating events rather than interacting with them. Intriguingly, Cornell has included a dream sequence in which it is suggested that the Doctor sacrificed his sixth life for 'wisdom' - possibly as an explanation of the marked difference between the Sixth Doctor (and Doctors One to Five?) and the Seventh Doctor's persona as it now appears?

Unfortunately the ending was something of a let-down, both in terms of the ease with which the Hoothi were eventually defeated and in terms of believability, i.e. how this was actually achieved. Towards the end there were also some bits which stretched the imagination and credulity a bit too much for my liking, e.g. the 'dead' arising en masse. I admit a second reading might help, but wonder whether a bit more detail on the nature of the Hoothi and the power they wield over supposedly 'dead' people might have been beneficial. All of that aside, the book is generally extremely readable and well written. And I would not be surprised if the Doctor hasn't seen the last of the Hoothi!

Book review by Paul Rigby

Cathlan tried the door, and made to kick it in, but the Doctor stopped him. 'Ace... hairpin.'
'What would you do without me?' Ace whispered, removing one. 'Ever had a companion with short hair?'
'No. It's part of the job description.'

I was looking forward to this book, expecting a lot after Timewyrm: Revelation. I wasn't disappointed. The book is a gripping read from start to finish. Knowing certain facts about the outcome (Ace leaves, Bernice joins, etc) does not detract at all from this fast paced book. The plot moves quickly, not allowing boredom to slip in anywhere, but still letting things develop.

Ace develops extremely well within the novel. Her relationship with Jan is much better written than that with Robin in the previous Nightshade; much more... likely. In a way this is Ace's story, and she gets a lot of the page count, but this is not so obvious as it is in Timewyrm: Revelation or Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible, and the other major players get a fair share of the action. One thing I was concerned about was the sudden departure of Ace jarring with the rest of the book, but Paul Cornell has written Ace and the book itself so well that there is no problem.

Also of merit is the character of Bernice. She is a thoroughly likeable character who, after this novel, makes me think perhaps it's a pity Ace is to come back. She is a joy to read, and I hope she stays with the TARDIS a while. Her past sounds interesting too, perhaps some delving in the future?

The Doctor seems for most of the novel to be sitting back, taking things as they come for a change, but don't be fooled, he knows what he's doing - in fact as usual he knows too much.

As for the villain of the piece, the Hoothi are great, and I'm glad to hear that this lot is just one of a whole group (making future encounters possible). They remind me a bit of the Nestene Consciousness. Their power over the dead was truly gruesome, and their infecting fibres totally 'icked' me out. Certain scenes reminded me of Nightshade, with the Hoothi's use of the dead.

Overall a novel which, like Revelation, aroused many emotions: joy, sadness, happiness, hate, love, and grief. Love and War is indeed a great read, a great temporary swansong for Ace, introduction for Bernice, and definitely a science fiction novel too broad and too deep for the small screen.

And I liked the cover!

Book review by Jessica Smiler

Hated it.

What a drip Jan was. I'm amazed that Ace liked him that much. Other than that, Ace was really good - until the end that is. Cue embittered and cynical companion return.

Benny was okay, though she didn't get to do a lot, but I did enjoy her rather strange conversations with the Doctor.

The only other thing I liked was the student who was asked 'If you had the choice of killing one person to save millions of others, would you do it?' by the Doctor, and who then spends the rest of the book muttering imprecations about it.

Book review by Clinton Spencer

I'm disappointed. I really enjoyed Timewyrm: Revelation because of its writing - it flowed so well and actually created visual images in my mind.

Sadly, this doesn't seem to happen in Love and War. Paul Cornell seems to write as if his earlier book drained everything out of him, causing him to turn out a rather wishy-washy second effort. I don't think that really matters to Mr Cornell this novel could only succeed after Revelation.

None of the main characters are amazingly interesting or mould-breaking. Jan is some sort of intergalactic stud whom every female want to get their hands on. He's worse than Robin in Nightshade (and that's saying something!) The Travellers are bland and seem never to come alive - sad, they had unlimited potential.

The only interesting character that Cornell seems to enjoy writing for is dear old Benny Summerfield. She is very amusing and realistic. It is sad that Ace can't be totally written out, leaving Benny to fully develop. Sadly, Ace has to come back a few adventures later, and I'm sure Benny is going to suffer.

Once again Cornell sees the book as a chance to hark back into the Doctor and Ace's past every ten pages. It makes me wonder if he can actually write anything original. He also includes the over-used computer-scape idea; it is just getting worse each novel - someone come up with an original idea!

In general, an okay book. I suppose I was disappointed with it because Revelation was so brilliant. Maybe Cornell's first novel was a once-off that he is now trying to cling to in order to ride a wave of success. But then again, maybe Love and War just wasn't my cup of tea.

Book review by Jamas Enright

All this came from one line? Makes you wonder what a strange gesture might inspire. Actually, I quite liked it.

Yet again, we are presented with a story that uses Ace to advance the plot; not just the Doctor, but Paul Cornell himself is guilty of this, and once again Cornell brings to light another part of Ace's history and uses it against her.

I'm glad Ace was written out, just so people can stop psycho-analysing her and get on with a story that is independent of knowing how Ace ticks to keep it going.

The character of Benny is an immediate favourite. If the other authors manage to bring her out as well as Cornell does, we might just end up with what Romana was supposed to be before she degenerated into 'What is it, Doctor?'

The idea of Heaven being a corpse dumping ground was used very well (it being one of the main plot devices), but I didn't think much of the dig. Apart from a convenient place to put clues for the Doctor to find and to introduce Benny, there was hardly much point in it - just what was the arch all about anyway and why weren't corpses buried there?

I don't agree with Cornell's ideas about the Seventh Doctor killing off the Sixth to be 'born'. Just because Cornell doesn't like the Sixth Doctor, as this would seem to indicate, there is no need to try and make this view a part of history.

All in all, I thought this book was a very good way to send Ace off on a temporary leave of absence.

This item appeared in TSV 34 (July 1993).

Index nodes: Love and War