THIS ANTHOLOGY TAKES
WILDTHYME SERIES 2
AND PRIOR TO THE
ANTHOLOGY "THE PANDA
BOOK OF HORROR."
& STUART DOUGLAS
RELEASED IN MAY 2009.
WHAT IS THERE LEFT TO
SAY ABOUT IRIS
EXPLORER OF TEXTS AND
POLITICAL AND SEXUAL
WRITER OF WRONGS,
WRONGER OF RIGHTS
ROUND CHAMPION OF
NIGHTCLUB SINGER AND
OCCASIONAL BAR ROOM
WELL, THERE'S ALWAYS
and the Celestial Omnibus
You pretty much know what you’re getting with a book like this. Silliness. Lots of silliness, probably a fair bit of camp nonsense and plenty of nudge-nudges and wink-winks. Within these eleven stories you will find not only the eponymous Iris Wildthyme and her good friend Panda, but also Noel Coward, MIAOW, the villainous cats of the Pussyworld, and even Barbara the sentient vending machine from the Doctor Who novel Sick Building. It’s a verit-able reunion of Paul Magrs’s numerous creations.
First impressions of the book are very positive, due to June Hudson’s gorgeous cover art-work; a thing of beauty that sets the tone for the contents perfectly. After a brief introduction by Iris herself, Katy Manning – sounding as if there’s not too much difference between her and her character – the reader is assailed by the ridiculous. The best stories are those that balance the archly knowing nods and daft situations with darker elements; in the best insta-nces, this combination of opposites can produce something genuinely affecting. Only Living Girls, by Stephen Cole, perhaps manages this the best; the story of two young girls, the sole survivors of a worldwide apocalypse, who use the opportunity to delve in the lives of the stars of their favourite fantasy television show, it’s an absorbing look at how people can let their obsessions affect their lives.
Just as good are Paul Magrs and Stuart Douglas’s respective stories. Just as you’d expect from Iris’s creator and the collection editors, both authors nail Iris and Panda’s characters perfectly, creating two easily enjoyable romps. Magrs’ Dreadful Flap sees Jenny, the oft-mentioned past companion to Iris, finally make an appearance working for shifty organisa-tion MIAOW. Under the command of Mr Alucard (and we all know who he is), this tale is a sustained parody of Torchwood and UNIT, with a rift – sorry, a Dreadful Flap – causing all manner of havoc in time. Amid hints that perhaps UNIT’s portrayal in Doctor Who has been altered by the coming of Torchwood, and not for the better, the story serves as a sequel-of-sorts to both Mad Dogs and Englishmen and Sick Building. It feels like everything s coming together. Douglas’s Future Legend is continually daft, sustaining an atmosphere of silliness throughout to great effect. Told in the first person by Panda, whose mannerisms are perfectly portrayed here, it’s a delightful bit of fun concerning cybernetic kittens in a desperate bid for survival. What other series would give you that?
Also impressive are Sovereign by Mags L Halliday, a creepy tale of coming-of-age versus ageing, set against the little known Cornish legend of the Owlman; and the excellent Battle-ship Anathema a marvellous parody on today’s favourite sci-fi series, Battlestar Galactica. When Iris looks up old friends on the battleship, she finds that their adventures these days aren’t the carefree fun of yesteryear, but an altogether harsher fight for survival. Phil Purser-Hallard manages to take a good look at how a beloved series has been altered to suit our more cynical age, brings in some reflection on the unavoidable stupidity of religious war, while at the same time making Panda an adorable celebrity.
Iris Wildthyme y Senor Cientocinco contra los Monstruos del Fiesta is the snappy title of Cody Schell’s piece. Introducing Senor 105, one of those masked wrestlers from Mexico who leave me frankly baffled, it manages to be a surprisingly tender romance for Ms Wild-thyme. In the midst of an apocalyptic demonically-cursed party. With Mexican bingo. Jon Dennis gives us the pleasantly grim “Why? Because we like you”, a somewhat predictable but very enjoyable Disneyland/Westworld pastiche, while the spookiness stakes are given another boost in The Scarlet Shadow, a creepy tale of time warping and living artwork in old Russia. Featuring Marlene Dietrich, assorted cackling gypsies and a literal cat burglar, it draws us further into the Whoniverse with the inclusion of the ancient Russian legend of the wizard Koschei, and we all know who he is… well, actually, it’s not him, but that’s as much
as surprise to Iris as to anyone.
A few stories here, although enjoyable, made less of an impact with me. The opening tale,
A Gamble with Wildthyme, by the generally excellent Steve Lyons seems more of a set-up for a story than a story itself; similarly, The Unhappy Medium by Mark Wright and Cavan Scott has a fun premise but could do with more exploration, while Steven Wickham’s And Not a Drop to Drink… is brief by nature, being more of an extended joke than a story.
As I said, you know what you’re going to get with a book like this. The proliferation of refer-ences to the ‘Magrs-verse’ give the whole book the feeling of a celebration, and a damned enjoyable one at that; but here’s hoping that the next volume, The Panda Book of Horror,
will explore some new possibilities for Iris and her chums.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2009
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
All 'Iris Wildthyme' images on this site are copyrighted to Big Finish Productions or Obverse Books and are used solely for promotional purposes.
'Iris Wildthyme' series copyright © Big Finish Productions / Obverse Books No copyright infringement is intended.