Tuesday, June 3, 2008

NEWBIE REVIEW #8: Lords of the Storm

Huzzah, a review that actually seems slightly topical, what with the recent if inevitable re-emergence of the Sontarans as a menace it is impossible to take seriously as the world's most overstarched, ineffectual and uncharismatic army colonel is able to kill them as if he's shooting fish in a barrel. With rubber bands.

Seems really as good a time as any to wallow in completely fabricated but very cheery memories of when the Sontarans were the baddest of the bad mofos, tearing it up left right and centre like it was nobodies business. Of course, this is utterly false but Who fans like to believe stuff like that no matter how ineffectual the Sontarans actually were. Myself very much included in that. Man, I want the Sontarans to kick soe arse every once in a while..

Here's what I said of the affrontingly sub-par novel in which the Sontarans get their arses handed to them by the Rutans for 300 pages back in my sickeningly diplomatic days:

Yeah, sorry, but I've been kind of putting off posting this - and I know it sounds pathetic but it's because a) I didn't think the book was very good and know David is a regular here, and b) A lot of negative stuff seems to have been said about this one already. Of course, there is a simple solution: focus on the positives, and bear in mind that he's been criticised by experts and probably won't rate me highly at all.

It's a Fifth Doctor and Turlough book, which is always a good combo and they're quite well realised. Maybe the inner-monologues just last a bit long but there were times when Turlough seemed a bit thick, but otherwise his cynical attitude and cowardice was all present and accounted for. Meanwhile Doc 5 does his usual run-about mumbling exposition breathlessly all while being terribly nice to people routine.

Of course, this book has problems... quite a few. The worlds around Raghi, where the plot is centred aren't very interesting to read about. There's one or two good ideas to do with the colonists being of Indian culture and having a caste system but it doesn't amount to much, and the characters we meet aren't very interesting. The plot is expanded on a great deal, but in the end it all still amounts to 'create a big decoy for aliens to blow up' - and yet the fifth doc spouts out exposition endlessly to explain it.

But - if you're like me - odds are you'll only own this book because of one thing: it's got Sontarans on the cover. Which is just as well, because the Sontarans are very well handled - in fact, reading it I got the impression the whole thing was an excuse to have Sontarans goose-stepping around killing lots of people and being oddly likeable in the process. They're great, and McIntee goes into detail about their ships, weaponry and some oddly subtle avenues like their accepted ettiquette.

This book isn't just about the Sontarans, though - it's got Rutans as well! Or rather Rutan, as McIntee goes into details regarding their species a lot more, revealing them to be a strange collective life-form, sort of like the Borg but all squidgy - far more interesting than that jelly-fish who talked like Meglos that showed up at the end of The Horror of Fang Rock. And, yes, it all ends in a big Rutan/Sontaran battle, just the sort of thing a lot of fanboys like me have wanted to see on screen for years.

It's a bit of a pity that the main guest cast and their planet are so flat, though, as it rather brings down the book's high-points. But, another poster on this board said it best when he (or she) described it as the perfect introduction to DW novels after reading Star Wars novels. Having read Timothy Zahn's books, I have to agree that this book feels like a half-way point between the two universes. It would have made a good light read, were it not for the length, but as it is it can be enjoyable - especially if you like Sontarans. 4/10

(BTW, if you're reading this David, I've also got a copy of The Face of Evil - I'll probably like that one better, eh? )

4/10? 4/10??? YOU COWARD!!

Yes, I was afraid of David A. McIntee. Possibly because he always has James Bond in his avatar and thus could hunt me down in a jet-ski before shooting me or something like that. But NOT ANYMORE!!

Well, okay, it isn't as if Lords of the Storm is a totally valueless festering pile of crap, but it definitely seems like it at times. Generally McIntee is adept at creting characters with interesting quirks at the very least, but the inhabitants of Raghi set new levels in genericness. Even in the review I didn't mention any names, and now I'm sceptical of whether the fact they'd have had any. I'm having trouble remembering what their 'roles' were even... let's see, there was The Traior, The Square Jawed-Hero, The Cute Doctor, and The Grumpy Sultan Who Needs to be Taken Down a Peg or Two...

Incidentally, Grumpy Sultan is not taken down by even half a peg, let alone two. In a scene where the Doctor has got a Sontaran cornered and is about to bring him down peacefully, Sultan pours whisky down his probic vent and sets it on fire, causing the most painful death imaginable. The Doctor's response is naturally "What the fuck are you doing?" and he comes out with something like "WOULD YOU RATHER WE HAD ALL DIED?". Obviously it is at this point that the Doctor should punch the arrogant prick in the face to show that the 5th Doctor still gets pissed off and that he thinks all life deserves better than this, and also to vent his frustrations with this fucking Ravi Shankhar wannabe clownshoe ruling the planet with an iron poppadom. But... I can't remember what happens. He probably just chews some celery and references The Gunfighters in response.

That is the only bit from the novel that sticks clearly in my mind, apart from the ending where Squared Jawed Hero and The Cute Doctor are in a room filled with about 60 heavily-armed Sontarans who all want them dead and there's no possible way for them to run to the TARDIS in time without being shot... and they make it. With no difficulty at all.

At this stage I was majorly pissed off because I WANTED them to die. Not for being unlikeable characters, but just for being so BORING. And also wanting the Sontarans to have a brief moment of competence in this story. I mean, what is it with Sontaran stories? When it's Daleks and Cybermen the writers feel an obligation for the Doctor to come up with a clever way of getting rid of them. But Sontarans? Eh, just have his mates blast the shit out of them. Seriously - Invasion of Time, Slipback, The Sontaran Stratagem and this 300-page waste of my life all work the same way. And it SUCKS. If I want to read pages and pages of the day being won through people shooting madly and rather unrealistically NOT getting shot in return, I read Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels. From Doctor Who I expect something a little more... thought-out.

Oh, also I wanted the two goodie-two-shoes characters to be dead because I think the chick was Grumpy Sultan's daughter and I wanted SOMETHING bad to happen to that guy. If not that I would have settled for Rutan gang-rape.

Ah, the Rutan[s], those loveable and benign rascals. As we know they would never dare harm humanity WHAT??? They're meant to be just as bad as The Sontarans! What the hell is meant to ensure that they don't take over and enslave Raghi right after they've dealt with The Sont? Especially since they now know the technology used by the Raghins and how weak their military is...

Oh, and just a minute ago I remembered how uninspired the writing is. The Traitor dude I mentioned not too long ago? He does his Traitor thing because he's in love with The Cute Doctor and frustrated about it and shit. But then at the end he realises that he's been evil and so rigs the wiring in the Tzun device the Sontarans have captured (What is with the Virgin books and aliens uncharacteristically using borrowed technology purely so the authors can reference their own creations? Remember the Selachian warship in Killing Ground?) so that it explodes in a suicidally noble sacrificey way.


2/10. Absolute max.

The great thing about this book is that so much bad stuff has been said about it I really can't go any worse than the others...


Youth of Australia said...

I should point out that the Selachians were invented in Killing Ground, since the plot relies on the Cybermen having a death trap for a ship because it was stolen. The next time they were ever referenced was for the Murder Game... where they basically stomped around the place like a bunch of Cybermen wannabes.

It's a cruel world.

Cameron Mason said...

IIRC, David A. McIntee thinks this is his worst novel.

It was also originally pitched as a Second Doctor/Jamie/Victoria vs Cybermen MA...


Youth of Australia said...


Nah, I prefer 5th Doctor and Turlough versus the Sontarans. "Piss off and bully a Rutan!" Ah, Turlough, you're so BUTCH...