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City at World's End

By Christopher Bulis

Book review by Brad Schmidt

Faced with imminent destruction by a falling moon, the citizens of Arkhaven in Christopher Bulis' latest novel City at World's End would have appreciated any extra time for the event to reach its conclusion. Such a gift was granted, and in keeping with Bulis' Odyssean style of exposition. However, as a reader, I did not appreciate it quite so much.

Again, City at World's End seemed to follow another Bulis tradition - starting fantastically, drawing the reader ineluctably into the story, then giving up as if this were all he wanted to achieve. The truth behind why Arkhaven is populated seemingly by robots in empty buildings, is so compelling that the meteor strikes preventing the time travellers' discoveries are genuinely infuriating for their interruption despite the fact that they are the more pressing problems.

It's the first on-screen TARDIS crew, yet there's very little continuity - even from The Witch Hunters, which is surprising, and like Season One stories and similarly-situated novels, Barbara and Susan are put through great stress while the First Doctor and Ian explore, bicker and worry.

There are several peculiarities evident in the story. While the city is divided between the Church and the governing body, there is very little uniquely developed culture which might typify a new, isolated world. Their technology is not sufficient to prepare an adequate salvation before the moon impacts with the planet, yet they are capable of duplicating a Time Lord's brain patterns perfectly. The sub-plot involving Barbara and a near-extinct and vengeful species builds subtly and concludes just as ineffectually. Together with its unnecessary length and its predictability, City at World's End seems a wasted opportunity in presenting the all-too-infrequently seen First Doctor and company.

The promotional premise of this story as being a homage to ‘B-grade 'fifties sci-fi movies’ sounds nice, but it's not enough to actually convince the reader that it is that. Despite a giant rocket and page-long explanations of the characters' motives, there's not much else to make it so representational of some amusing pseudo-genre. Especially considering they're entirely different media - perhaps that's what's at fault with what should be a potentially entertaining story. [2/5]

This item appeared in TSV 59 (January 2000).

Index nodes: City at World's End