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By Stephen Marley

Book review by Nicholas Withers

Managra is the first Missing Adventure to be written by an established author of dark fantasy, and it shows. The author succeeds in weaving various elements into a very readable format, showing his own experience of prose. As with Sky Pirates! humour is very much an element of this novel, but unlike that book, in which the humour often seemed to take precedence over the story, Managra is definitely a story first, humour second novel.

Stephen Marley captures the Fourth Doctor and Sarah well, and while the characterisations and their relationship is not as finally tuned as Gareth Roberts Romana-Doctor-K9 combination, it nevertheless is very close.

As with Andrew Cartmel's novels, the Doctor's role within the novel is minimized. This allows not only allows room for Sarah's character, but also allows for other characters from within the story to take on major roles (especially in the case of Miles Dashwood).

If anyone thing does especially shine, it is the setting and its inhabitants. Europa is an inspired idea and has obviously been carefully researched. Managra is thus a collection of 'what-ifs' e.g. what if Mary Shelly decided to write a sequel to Frankenstein and what if Faust and Crowley were both alive at the same time. But these scenarios contain more than a dash of almost satirical humour in them. The characters in the book, although sampled from history, are their romantic ideals, which thus allows even fictional historical characters to appear and helps to generate the humour elements without becoming a straight-out comedy.

Marley has also succeeded in constructing a fairly nasty and realistic villain. Dr Sperano and the Theatre of Transmogrification almost belong in a Sapphire and Steel story with the sinister atmosphere it induces.

If there is one thing wrong with this story it is that the final battle tends slightly more to humour rather than the sinister overtones that Sperano personified. Sperano is one villain who needed a more fitting demise.

I thoroughly recommend Managra, which is definitely near the top of my Missing Adventure ranking.

This item appeared in TSV 46 (January 1996).

Index nodes: Managra