THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVEL "THE MURDER
GAME" AND THE TELOS
JON DE BURGH MILLER
PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-
IN OCTOBER 2001.
It was the city of
angels, and the
Dying in the Sun
Having abandoned my interest in the Virgin New Adventures after The Dying Days, Dying in the Sun marks the first time that I have come across the work of writer Jon de Burgh Miller. Hopefully though, it will not be the last.
Black Sheep’s gaudy, overstated cover did a tremendous job of putting me off this book before I had even started reading it, yet within just a few short passages Miller’s resplendently cliché film noir prose had me spellbound.
And whilst the style of Dying in the Sun is far from constant as it roves between different modes of pastiche, Miller’s story is always an essentially fascinating one. Better still, the themes that it wallows in certainly warrant exploration; more so than ever now as we are all forced to live in a world where the celebrity is king and the likes of Channel 4’s Big Brother passes for entertainment.
To look at the plot first, I have to Miller full marks for coming up with something that stands out as being so inventive (a feat that becomes more and more difficult with each passing release). Whilst there has of course been a spate of science-fiction stories written about beings living inside film or escaping from it, I have never come across a story where creatures (creatures called Selyoids, believe it or not) live inside a film (the titular Dying in the Sun) that adapts itself to suit and to ultimately control the moods and emotions of those watching it. Mesmerising stuff.
Further, the story’s setting is very redolent. The Golden Age of Hollywood really is an ideal locale in which to explore the cult of celebrity that the author is evidently so keen to condemn, and of course it also serves as a beautiful backdrop for the main, movie-driven heart of the story.
Miller’s characterisation of the regulars is also spot on, though his actual use of the companions is questionable. Polly fares better than Ben as she finds herself trapped by the shallow glitter of fame, but Ben is no more a spare part really; a well-drawn spare part, but a spare part nonetheless. This is hardly surprising though, given that this novel was originally written for a two-man TARDIS team.
Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, conversely, is portrayed wonderfully and finds himself right in
the thick of things, liaising with local law enforcement. In fact, Miller’s Doctor is so evocative of Troughton’s performance that some of his dialogue borders on plagiarism! So much for not being able to capture the second Doctor in print...
Less positively, most of Miller’s supporting characters are forgettable, and because of the novel’s lampoonish quality it is sometimes hard to see which parts of the novel are deliberately trite and which parts are genuinely a bit hackneyed. On the whole though, this bright and breezy effort is certainly one of the more memorable second Doctor novels that I have read, and it is one that I would strongly recommend to fans of this particular era.
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.
This novel’s blurb places it between the television serials The Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders. Within this gap, we have placed it between the novel The Murder Game and the novella Wonderland, which
it was released in between.
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