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Christmas on a Rational Planet

By Lawrence Miles

Reviewed by Paul Scoones


Even before this novel hit the shelves it had gained notoriety both for its bizarre title and for having an advance cover so unpopular that the artwork had to be replaced before publication. Although the replacement artwork is, as you'd expect, a visual improvement, but after reading the novel I was struck by the realisation that the new cover had very little connection with the book's content - unlike the version it replaced.

The Doctor finds himself in America at the turn of the millennium as the end of the world draws near, but unlike the McGann movie, this is 1799 in New York State. Lawrence Miles' debut effort is an impressive piece of writing, his style best likened to Kate Orman's in that it features passages of deliberately unusual grammar and punctuation, cuts frequently between scenes and has an apparently thoroughly researched historical background. The book is steeped in Doctor Who lore in an often very subtle manner, name-checking such obscurities as the Scrampus Federation, the Witches of Enderheid and Ishkavaarr. Miles has not resisted the opportunity to solve a few niggling continuity hang-ups either, so here we learn more about the mind battle with Morbius and the reason for those other faces that were supposedly of the Doctor.

Miles has woven an intricate tale loaded with subtexts and metaphor. A considerable portion of the book takes place in a dimension which pays little heed to the laws of physics or reason; the latter of which is personified as Reason, which I suspect was in part inspired by Paul Cornell's characters Death and Time. There is a lot that does not immediately make a great deal of sense and it is for this reason that the book probably requires a second reading to be clearly understood. I did however feel that in places the level of complexity was in danger of rendering the story incomprehensible. Miles' brilliant characterizations - particularly the little-seen but highly influential Seventh Doctor - go a long way towards making up for this. And as for the bizarre title - well it makes a lot more sense after reading the book!

This item appeared in TSV 49 (November 1996).

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