THE BLUE ANGEL by Paul Magrs and Jeremy Hoad
Interesting, as you'd expect, but flawed.
We loved The Scarlet Empress, so we were really looking forward to Blue Angel. And in some ways it delivered. The irrepressible Iris is back and is as much fun as ever. The Doctor's saintliness can grate on us just a wee bit at times, and in contrast we really appreciate Iris's more pragmatic side. And we particularly enjoyed the way she had Fitz wound round her little finger. He was a goner from the start.
There's other excellent stuff in Blue Angel, too. The alt Doctor et al make interesting reading, and we liked the idea of the Enclave. The owls/shopping centre, Glass Men and Ghillighast scenes have that peculiar clarity and intensity which made Empress so good. And Belinda is a fabulous character. We don't even mind the inconclusive end: it seemed appropriate for events which, as in Empress, feel more like a dream than anything else.
But. But but but. There's too much in here, for a start, referring out of this universe. While this added depth in Empress, here it just seems unoriginal. The birth from the Doctor's leg and the Icarus/Daedalus thing really stood out as examples of this. You can find exactly the same stuff, too, in Paul Magrs' "real" (i.e., non-Who, and yes, we are being ironic) books, which seems a bit of a cheat. Does Magrs think Who readers don't dare venture into litrashure?
And as for the Star Trek parody, ugh. It fails on all sorts of levels. Firstly, it takes a lot more to successfully parody something than to simply rename characters and otherwise leave them exactly as they are in the original ('Forceps' Felixstoe indeed). Secondly, parody, even if successful, comes at a price: it yanks the readers out of the story and holds them at a distance. Ironically, this wrecks precisely what Magrs was so good at in Empress, which was totally submerging the reader in his created world. And as for the Captain being gay, which is presented in a breathless, revelation-type way, ho hum. The existence of endless slash stories in the Trek universe points to this hardly being a novel concept.
Also, the book's terribly uneven in terms of the writing: some of it's sublime, and some of it's just plain bad. Hmmm, wonder how the authors divided the writing up?
Despite the major problems, we're nevertheless giving this a fairly high score, as when it does succeed it's very good indeed.