Sunday, May 25, 2008

NEWBIE REVIEW #7: Burning Heart

Dave Stone is an author so purposefully off the planet that, even now, people are starting threads simply to say he must die. He produces violent episodes in people who have previously only lived to build kitten orphanages out of marshmallow and is so staunch in his bisexual ways that he even gave that 'God Hates Fags' guy a good night out (In Denmark). If it wasn't for the existence of Lawrence Miles and Sparacus, he'd have been number one in the pooling for "Doctor Who writer most likely to be diagnosed with bi-polar schizophrenia immediately after murdering my family".

He is two pence short of a pound, his beer's been left out in the sun, he's sixes and sevenses, his rooms decorated with rubber wallpaper, he owns seventeen chainsaws but no timber, he's Michael Richards without the restraint, he's touched by the sun, high as a kite, barmy as old boots, dafter than a bag of farts, bereft of marbles, pestered by kangaroos in the top paddock, chasing shadows in the dark, refusing to fire on all cylinders, Mario Speedwagon, weaving baskets for Napoleon under his bedsheets and dribbling custard on his head HE IS INSANE!

I like the guy.

I can't explain exactly why it is that I do, but there is something about Dave Stone's style that is just right, and I must admit that I had sort of hoped, in secret, for stories just like the ones he rights. And Dave Stone specialises in the sublimely silly.

After all, the Whoniverse is infinitely large, and generally everyone's very sort of blase about absurdities when it hits, so it's nice to have stories where absurdity and greater absurdity are packed on one another in a mountain of batshit-insane legos that threatens to collapse and make millions of jape-widows. Something, funny, crazy and dangerous. The only TV story like this is The Pirate Planet (One of my absolutest absolute faves..) and for my part I wished there were more of them.. preferrably a couple thrown in Season 20 somewhere. Well, I guess a couple of Season 17s are nearly there but that's entirely down to Tom and terrible production values than anything script-wise..

Anyway, Dave Stone is the guy to write that story. Yes, story singular, because I must admit that so far he only seems to really have one:

Something weird and undefinable takes over a planet/galaxy/timestream and makes everyone go fucking insane. Doctor tries to deal with lunatics for 250 pages, before said weird and undefinable thing manifests, and the Doctor performs some perfunctory sacrifice to disperse it. And they all go home for tea.

The thing is, he tells it really WELL. And you're not really reading for the plot - but for the bits inbetween. This was what I said way back when..

Now this is something rich and strange. Dave Stone is an author with a great sense of fun, which becomes obvious very quickly in this book. His forays into the Sixth Doctor's psychology, Peri's sarcastic humour, and various bizarre cultures are great. I can see that he's probably a real 'marmite' author - you either love him or hate him.

Fortunately, I love his authorial voice and I love this book. Conceptually, it's a Judge Dredd-Doctor Who crossover. Of sorts. I'm no Judge Dredd fan myself, but having read The Indestructible Man I can say that this is a far more natural-feeling crossover, strange though it may seem.

The book's set on an asteroid city that acts as port of call for a great many ships on long journeys and, as such, has become home to a great many alien races and houses the dregs of many societies. To keep order there's the Church of Adjudication, who are led by a computer they call 'God' and Garron, who interprets the messages it gives them. They are opposed by Avron Jelks, a smooth talking charmer who leads a guerilla vigilante group named Human First. Unfortunately, both groups are quite insane.

I'm guessing Stone isn't big on plot, because that's the books story in a nutshell. Most of it is down to madcap humour and interesting characters. Fortunately, this is brilliantly inventive and funny. As well as Jelks and Garron, we have Joseph Craator, the ultimate hard-ass take-no-prisoners action man, Queegvoghel Seven, a benevolent alien centipede whose faulty translator unit is his own worst enemy, Kane, who makes Turlough look reliable, and a loveable rag-tag group of alien prisoners, including Sontarans, Medusoids and Draconians. Sometimes it feels distinctly cartoonish.

The best thing about this book? Definitely the Doctor. It's the sixth Doctor, warts and all, and Dave Stone reminds us Colin fans why we like him. He is impossibly flippant, arrogant, brash and smug but also funny, witty, and kind - in his own way of course. The strange thing is the Doctor doesn't really have much to do with the action when you sit down and think about it: he spends most of his time in a prison, stepping forward at the end to save the day right at the last minute. But he's so funny you don't even notice.

Peri carries the brunt of the story, being abducted by Human First, and Stone also captures her headstrong character brilliantly. In fact, brilliant is the key word here. There isn't much not to like about this book at all, so I'm giving it 9/10. Not for everyone, but I loved it.

Note that with my usual flair for professionalism, I forgot to give it a score out of ten.

I haven't re-read this particular one, but I have read Dave Stones since and, as I have explained, they're really much of a muchness when stripped down. So I can't say my opinion has changed much. Just my writing ability..


Cameron Mason said...

Burning Heart was actually written as a Doctor Who/Judge Dredd crossover, but the deal fell through at the last minute, so Dave Stone spent the last draft wearing out the 'find and replace' function of his word processor...


Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Yes, but I know absolutely nothing about Judge Dredd so it slipped me by entirely.

Seriously, I am constantly confusing Robocop and Judge Dredd. All the time. I did it just the other day...

Youth of Australia said...

I like Dave Stone too, and Burning Heart in particular. True, there are a couple of issues I have with it, but they are the exact same issues I have with Season 22. Hell, I think it inspired me in the first place, that single flashback where Peri remembers the Sixth Doctor telling her he doesn't regret dying for her for a second, and the lovely bit where he's on his own and realizes he DOES regret it and he's been a total arsehole.

And Queegvogelduckduckduckduckduckseven! Mr Copper meets N'Grath from Bab 5! Brilliant! The final scene where the Doctor tells the entire civilization, "I suppose you're wondering why I called you all here?"! That bit where Peri strips off to admire her own tits... did I type that out aloud? The whole Benny grandson thing which is so utterly irrelevent, it's like he based the whole book around the non-sequiter!

The only issue I have is called Garron. He should have a different name! I keep thinking of the RH character, not this psycho bastard...

A book I'd be worried about if my house were ablaze.

And I have a LOT of books.

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