THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "FALLS THE
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN DECEMBER
The TARDIS arriveS
in the Elysium system,
site of the Artifact: a
world turned inside
out. For more than a
have studied the eco-
within the Artifact.
Now the system is in
collapse and even
the humans trapped
inside are changing
into something new
With the members
of one expedition
murdered, those of
another fighting for
their lives and a
solar system on the
brink of civil war,
can the Doctor, Ace
and Benny survive a
journey to the heart
of the Artifact in A
search for the truth?
Parasite is a long, drawn-out piece of gritty, hard-hitting science fiction - text-book Jim Mortimore, really. Now that’s all fine and good if this is the sort of thing that you like, but personally, unlike Mortimore’s earlier, more reserved Doctor Who novels, Parasite is a book that doesn’t really appeal to my tastes. I can see that it’s good, but for me it strays too far from that unfathomable eclectic jumble that I somehow recognise as being Who.
The premise is undeniably breathtaking – the TARDIS arrives on the Artifact, a world quite literally turned inside out. It’s a completely and utterly alien environment - the gravity is low; there’s nothing to eat but each other; there are strange, intelligent ape-like predators all around. Probably the highest praise that I could bestow on this one is that it manages to come across as real in an environment that’s about as far from ‘real’ as one can imagine.
Moreover, it’s all written in Mortimore’s superlatively graphic and brutal prose style. Here the author explores characters’ reactions to their impending deaths far more captivatingly than he did in either of his previous novels, and in retrospect these short, introspective passages were the highlight of the book for me.
Ace’s passages are similarly
fascinating. Reading about what
she does to cope as the planet
slowly breaks her is one of the
strongest elements of the book
in my view. Unfortunately though,
I couldn’t really get into any of the
characters save for the regulars,
and this is where I found that the
book really fell down. Once I got
over the sheer alienness of the environment and the sense of wonder had faded, I had little
or no interest in the supporting characters or the little plot that I was able to discern. Mark Bannen (the son of a character from Mortimore’s Lucifer Rising) makes an appearance that feels completely superfluous, and the rest of the dramatis personae spectacularly failed to hold my attention.
Most damningly of all though, the Doctor is completely wasted once again. We hardly see anything of him until the back end of the book, yet when he does appear he really carries
the last fifty pages or so. I found the last few chapters far, far more compelling than the rest
of the novel. I particularly like how Mortimore hints heavily at an impending regeneration – it put me in mind of Planet of the Spiders and Logopolis in that the Doctor seems to have an epiphany which allows him to see all his faults and all his mistakes, and then look forward to see the end coming. This lends a certain scene at the end of the book some real gravity, as for a moment it looks like the seventh Doctor is dead, and a regeneration is looming large.
On the whole though, Parasite is certainly Mortimore’s least enjoyable effort to date. Those that are really into their science fiction will no doubt lap it up, but unfortunately it was a little too rich for my blood.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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