Thursday, 12 June 2008


The Graham Norton Show
3x09 (12/6/08 edition)

2x08 Four Months Ago...
Heroes takes a leaf out of Lost's book, and finally flashes back to what happened the night Peter exploded and in the four months since.


Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming
Chapter 12
In which, true to traditional Bond structure, Bond and the girl are captured and taken to the villain's lair, where he's treated to an explanation of the villain's Evil Plan. From memory, Gorner is certainly one of the most despicable, sickest, least vulnerable villains Bond has encountered. Super.

Doctor Who - Decide Your Destiny: The Crystal Snare by Richard Dungworth
See here for my thoughts on this book.

The New Traveller's Almanac by Alan Moore
Chapters Five & Six [the end]
(from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 2)
All done! Hurrah!

"Doctor Who - Decide Your Destiny: The Crystal Snare" by Richard Dungworth

The second set of Doctor Who: Decide Your Destiny books begins with The Crystal Snare, the series' fifth book, written by its only good author so far, Richard Dungworth. And right from the outset he's created another triumph -- the first Decide Your Destiny book brave enough to travel to somewhere that isn't the future! Hurrah! It's back to Victorian Britain, to attend the Great Exhibition. "People from all over the world were amazed at the exhibits on display at the Great Exhibition [exhibits at an exhibition? Whatever next!] - and they didn't even see the alien visitors! Help the Doctor and Martha put a stop to the aliens' plans, before they wreak havoc on humankind..." Ooh, ominous.

The Crystal Snare has something to live up to, as the first historical of the range, and it uses its setting well. At the start, you explore a bit of the Exhibition, with the Doctor telling you all sorts of interesting things. There's a choice of routes, of course, so the reader can see different exhibits on each read. It's not too long before the monsters turn up though, nanobot-things that can take the form of other creatures, including humans. The aliens' plan -- using these remote-controlled bots to collect and analyse a planet's life, then crafting a virus specifically to destroy them all before invading -- is certainly a clever one, but somewhat disappointing in that once the Doctor defeats the robots he doesn't bother going after the aliens who sent them. Surely they have more bots to send? This is also a 'celebrity historical', in the vein of The Unquiet Dead and Tooth and Claw (both also with a Victorian setting, incidentally). The choice -- engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel -- is entirely appropriate, but also underused by the story (at least in the version I read), turning up late and disappearing just as quickly.

Gameplay isn't bad this time round, though doesn't feel as exceptional as in Alien Arena. Pleasingly, the basic story is the same but with variances in experience. The four endings (I should've counted the number in the other books really) offer different resolutions, but none that contradict each other -- for example, in two the Doctor disrupts the signal to the nanobots, while in the other two he destroys their individual processors. Dungworth isn't afraid to write sections that run to several pages if he needs to convey that much information (the opening is five pages, all the climaxes three), which is a much better way of doing things than Davey Moore's forceful page-turning.

The Crystal Snare isn't quite as much fun as the same author's range highlight, Alien Arena, but the historical setting makes a nice change, the gameplay is more appropriate than Colin Brake's entries, and the plot less bogged-down in linearity and technicalities than Moore's book. All in, it's a worthwhile addition to the series.

"Doctor Who - Decide Your Destiny: The Corinthian Project" by Davey Moore

The first batch of Doctor Who: Decide Your Destiny books comes to an end with The Corinthian Project, the fourth book in the series, written by Davey Moore. Once again the reader/player is taken to the future (something I bemoaned in my last review), though this time it's only the near-future. "When the TARDIS lands in an undersea community known as the Corinthian Project, it doesn't take you long to realise there are some very strange things going on. Explore the Project and see if you can uncover the truth..." Ooh, misleading.

Well, somewhat misleading at any rate, because "explore" you certainly do. Moore has clearly spent at least as long creating the setting for this adventure -- its technology, its technicalities, and especially its acronyms -- as he has the actual plot, and he wants you to know it. Consequently the writing is highly descriptive, but too much so -- you can't run down a corridor without being told if you're going clockwise or anti-clockwise; early on you're herded into a Presentation Pod for an introductory lecture, where you're handed a three-page letter explaining the terms and characters... at the end of which you're offered the 'choice', "Now head back to 32 and choose a new direction".

And there is the book's fatal flaw. Never mind exploring the station or riding on a Sea Bike in no way that furthers the plot -- at least that sounds cool, and certain boys will revel in the over-detailing of the way the undersea station works -- but, frequently, once you've chosen a path via two or three decisions, you're shuttled from page to page following "Turn to 59"-style instructions. Where's the choice in that? Moore seems quite happy to let you make a few choices, but after that he wants to tell a straightforward story for a good half a dozen (or more) pages. At least it seems to fulfill another of my desires expressed last time, which was for the same essential events to be occurring 'behind the scenes', but if that sacrifices any choice then I'd prefer the shifting explanations of the last book.

So, at the end of the first batch of Decide Your Destiny books, they don't have a very good batting average. It's not the fault of the concept or the younger audience they're aimed at -- the prose style is good, simple but descriptive, effective for this sort of work. And the concept is obviously a brilliant one. But the weak plotting and style of choices in the books by Colin Brake and Davey Moore (who between them penned three of the initial four titles), makes those books less than satisfying. Only Richard Dungworth's Alien Arena has given me unquestioning enjoyment so far.

Looking ahead to the next batch, they're written by Richard Dungworth (yay!), Trevor Baxendale (author of some entertaining normal Who novels)... and Davey Moore and Colin Brake. Perhaps they learnt from their initial follies?