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No Future

By Paul Cornell

Book review by David Lawrence

I've been dying to read this book for the last twelve months. You see, I can't heap enough praise on Paul Cornell. In my opinion, Revelation and Love and War are the two greatest items ever to wear a Doctor Who logo. Their incredible structure and style makes me want to set fire to my typewriter. The minute I'd finished No Future I turned back to page one and read it again. And I loved it.

The thing that gets me about Paul Cornell's books is that each time I read them I already know the 'twist' - like Revelation being set inside the Doctor's mind, for instance - but it's never taken the impact away. I'd guessed that the Monk was the mystery protagonist before I'd started reading, and within a few chapters I'd thought 'Hey, wouldn't it be really silly if the people the Monks working for turned out to be the Vardans?' and sure enough, what were quite possibly the silliest foes ever to appear on TV show up, but never at any point did this spoil what was to come, unlike Conundrum, where once I'd guessed correctly what was going on I was ready to put the book down.

The whole book reads like a huge piss-take on 1970s Doctor Who, something I suspect is more than slightly deliberate! The book runs amok with in-jokes which could alienate readers unfamiliar with the TV series, but are highly humorous. Well, most of them. Some of them are just sheer silly. 'Chap with Wings - five rounds rapid' indeed!

'You get all the best lines', the Doctor tells Benny when they watch the video of possible outcomes in Chapter 17 and he's right. Bernice is a joy to read - funny, sarcastic, and cynical. But Ace and the Doctor get their fair share of one-liners too; and is Ace's last name really Moose?

While largely comical, some of the darker aspects of Paul Cornell's earlier books crop up. Chapter 13 is decidedly gothic in tone, as the Monk and Ace abandon the Doctor on the ice planet.

One question - is Kit ambidextrous? When Plasticine takes over the Live Peace concert, they play Wings' instruments. Paul McCartney is rather obviously left-handed, but on the book's cover, Kit is very clearly playing a right-handed bass guitar. Well?

No Future is such a different book that it's difficult to compare it to Revelation and Love and War, but it's up there with them as my favourites. What a relief that we only have to wait a few months for Goth Opera!

Book review by Chris Girdler

The prolific Paul Cornell's third New Adventure is less demanding on the reader than his previous two novels. So despite the fact that it doesn't have the same dramatic impact as Revelation or Love and War, it is likely to enlighten those who rubbish the New Adventures.

The comic elements work best in the character relationships. The media-space chapter should have been omitted, excluding the wonderful Goodies bit. To call the plot over-the-top would be an understatement. Punk music, the Monk's revenge using a Chronovore, a Vardan invasion via TV; to make a convincing novel out of these unlikely elements is quite a feat.

Remember Jan? Well I didn't think Ace would have, after her admission in Lucifer Rising, but he's constantly mentioned. Still, this could have been part of the ruse to trick Mortimus. Now that Ace is as manipulative as the Doctor, she is no longer needed on board the TARDIS. Go home, Dotty! Benny's dislike of the military was the strongest element in her character. It was interesting to see the Monk up against the Seventh Doctor, as they now have similar tactics. However I didn't find the Doctor's escape from the isolation tank convincing in the least.

The highlight of the novel is that it features the most convincing 1970s UNIT atmosphere since... well, the 1970s. Blood Heat's cast was dull and flat with an extra injection of venom. Here Benton and the Brigadier are lively and characteristic of their former selves. The realistically volatile punk era provides an anarchistic backdrop to the main action. The Brigadier's death/near-death was unnecessary melodrama. Shame on you, Paul Cornell - didn't you learn anything from Battlefield?

It's a mixed effort but nonetheless a satisfactory novel. Above everything else, it shows an ability to weave in elements from other novels and direct them towards a dramatic finale. Cornell's Timewyrm novel was a climatic breakthrough in the early days of full-length original novels, and even though the competition has got tougher (Orman's Hummingbird is simply the best New Adventure yet), he competently rounds off this unbalanced cycle in his distinctive innovative style. He's still got it.

Book review by Jamas Enright

I found this book rather disappointing. There were bits that made it truly worth-while, but as a whole it didn't work.

As this book was the end of the alternative universe stories, I was expecting a decent plot and a very good explanation as to who was behind it all. In my opinion, the book totally failed to deliver this.

The Vardans were so ridiculous in their original story (The Invasion of Time) that they deserved to be parodied. But Paul turned them into respectable enemies, giving them their own environment (the Media Sphere), showing that they could be very dangerous. Then by parodying them he destroyed what could have been brilliant villains.

I initially found it hard to believe that the Monk could have harboured a grudge for so long, and was prepared to go to such extraordinary lengths to make sure the Doctor was permanently out of his way. Fortunately, Paul was able to make it believable, and brought to Mortimus a depth he has long deserved.

The points where the book is comical and the other parts (where Paul gives way to his more serious side) don't seem to mesh very well. Perhaps this is because Paul isn't suited to writing comedy, or maybe (and this is my preferred view) comedy wasn't suited to the book and its story. If this book had been written seriously, it would have worked well. As it was, it left a lot to be desired.

This item appeared in TSV 40 (July 1994).

Index nodes: No Future