Home : Archive : TSV 31-40 : TSV 36 : Review


by David Banks

Book review by Paul Scoones

This is the tale of what the Doctor got up to whilst Ace and Bernice were alone in Birthright, but in actual fact, the Time Lord has a minimal presence for much of this book as well. The main characters are two women created by Banks - Ruby Duvall and Pam Cutler. This seems at first an enormous risk to take with potentially alienating the readership, but it works for two important reasons. The first is that to Banks's credit, Ruby and Pam are both such interesting and well developed characters that you are easily drawn into their experiences without minding that the Doctor is nowhere to be seen; and secondly, as everyone must know by now, Iceberg is a fully-fledged Cyberman adventure.

Who better to write such a thing than David Banks, perhaps Who-dom's greatest living expert on Cyber history and culture. The theories he advanced in his acclaimed reference work Cybermen (1988) for connecting the various Cyberstories into a single chronology are the foundations on which the novel is built. Like the Doctor, the Cybermen are a shadowy presence for the first half of the book, but reminders of them are everywhere, from a flashback to The Invasion to the Snowcap base from The Tenth Planet. Pam Cutler is the daughter of General Cutler from that story.

To the casual, uninformed reader, Iceberg will no doubt prove rather confusing as it is heavily reliant on a basic knowledge of past Cyberman stories, particularly the two mentioned above. To fans however, I'm sure this will be greeted with delight.

Banks is fortunately not only very clued up on Cyberhistory, he is also a good fiction writer. With the exception of a few lapses, the prose is thoroughly gripping and the plot is tightly and intricately interwoven. Oddly enough, he writes better human characters than he does Cybermen, and I feel sure that the pair of entertainers on the cruise liner are lifted from Banks' own experiences as a theatre and TV actor.

I have just two criticisms to make. Following several chapters of careful and absorbing scenes building up the reader's liking for the crew of the Snowcap Tracking Station, they fade out rather abruptly with scant details of their fate. Secondly, the Doctor travels around in a jade pagoda that is apparently a 'splinter' of his dying TARDIS. Fascinating though this concept sounds, Banks never actually provides much of an explanation for this unprecedented occurrence and furthermore, the Doctor seems all too unaffected and detached from everything that happens to him.

In spite of these faults, Iceberg is still a thoroughly gripping novel. For those fans that would prefer the New Adventures to be more firmly rooted in established Doctor Who continuity, this book is a dream come true.

This item appeared in TSV 36 (November 1993).

Index nodes: Iceberg