Saturday, July 18, 2009

the vampire of paris

The gap of BBC Doctor Who books that I haven’t read is decreasing quickly—I think I only have six to go (until they release more, again). To combat this (I guess?) I decided to try one of the books for “younger” readers, The Vampire of Paris by Stephen Cole (from the 10-book Darksmith Legacy). Was it really a good idea to start with book 5? Well, it was an interesting experiment. In contrast to the BBC books, this book clocks in at just over 100 pages with an enormous font and lots of visual devices to entice younger readers. Despite this very obvious appeal to a certain age range, I liked this book! Maybe it’s a bit closer to the Target books. Whatever it is, it’s skilfully done and quite impressive that Stephen Cole (who in general I find quite verbose) to have distilled Doctor Who so successfully this way.

There’s a helpful “The Story So Far” at the beginning (some of the EDAs could have used this!). The Doctor is in a Key to Time-like quest and has a new companion named Gisella (who will put you in mind, not completely falsely, of Compassion). I was attracted to this particular title because the synopsis said Paris and 19th century—I was so there, imagining a St-Germain-type vampire. I was totally wrong on that front, but I was rewarded with the Doctor almost replacing Steven’s escapades with the Eiffel Tower in 1900. Great minds obviously think alike! Stephen Cole as you know has a sort of uneven history with me—some of his books I’ve enjoyed but in general I’ve not been as uniformly impressed by him as by writers like Jaqueline Rayner or Justin Richards. But he really entertained me with one. It’s got a great story (genuinely scary/disturbing), memorable if quickly-drawn characters, and he has a real understanding of the key traits that make Tennant’s Doctor work. Cole is very knowing, dropping in some hints for some of the older readers. When the Doctor starts climbing the Eiffel Tower, he exclaims, ‘Blimey, I hate climbing towers . . .’ He also takes the not-very-amusing joke from “Fires of Pompeii” (sorry, I didn’t find it amusing) about Welsh and turns it on its head:
‘What was that Welsh bit, sir?’ the driver called back.
‘Blimey,’ the Doctor muttered. ‘Whenever I speak in the local lingo it comes out as Welsh. But maybe if I try Welsh . . .’ He cleared his throat. ‘All right
–dewlch ymlaen !’

There are some features of the book that take you out of the narrative—like TARDIS Fact File on Paris, Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower, etc—it makes me think of the Hartnell episodes where Barbara and Ian were constantly dropping pedagogical info into the sci fi. All in all I’d be tempted to read more of the Darksmith Legacy.

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