Book Review: “Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles” by Michael Moorcock

Posted: February 14, 2012 in Uncategorized
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If you didn’t already know, I’m a little bit of a geek.

And if you’re a certain kind of geek, then the phrases “Michael Moorcock” and “Doctor Who” will send a bit of a tingle down your spine.

I am that kind of geek.

At first I was a little worried about the quality of this book. I mean, media tie-in fiction is rarely good. And I hadn’t read any Doctor Who novels. But this book was written by Michael Moorcock. A man who has been writing for more than fifty years, who has cheerfully danced between fantasy and sf and realism, spanning traditions from pulp to postmodernism. He’s also the creator of the Multiverse, a massive universal construct that’s enough of an umbrella to contain all his fiction (and, possibly, all fiction ever written). It kind of boggles my mind to think that the Elric stories are fundamentally contained within the same massive framework as the Colonel Pyat quartet. And there are very few books as completely different as the Elric books and the Pyat quartet.

So I took a step into this book, where the worlds of Moorcockian multiverse and Whovian time-travel antics collide.

I was pleasantly surprised.

This book probably won’t be one of Moorcock’s enduring creations. It’s at best a somewhat-pulpish adventure using characters created by TV writers. But, hey: you know you’re not getting Mother London when you crack the book open and read its full title: Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles: Or, Pirates of the Second Aether!!

So, no: it’s not “literate chewer”.

But it is fun.

This is one of the few Moorcock novels that I’ve read that I’d describe as a “romp”. It’s pure fun from start to finish, and there are a few unexpected surprises. For example, I’d expected that it would blend the Multiverse with the Whoniverse, and it did– pretty seamlessly. What I didn’t expect was the extent to which it read like a Wodehouse novel. Seriously: there’s a character who is completely unironically named Bingo.

DW:TCotT:OPotSA!! has a lot of inside jokes for the Moorcockian aficionado. For example, the MacGuffin that the heroes are searching for is called “The Arrow of Law”, a name that any true Moorcock scholar should be able to recognize. There is a space-pirate captain named “Captain Cornelius”. And early on in the book, it’s revealed that the Doctor used to publish a fanzine going by the name of Novae Terrae (which was the name that Moorcock’s 1960s magazine, New Worlds, went under when it was a fanzine in the forties).

To sum up: the book was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it. Not enough to say that I loved it, per se, but it amused me, and that’s often a noble enough goal when telling a story.

Final Score: three out of five fifteen-centimeter TARDISes

~ Ian

  1. […] Terraphiles, by Michael Moorcock. Yes, yes. I was rereading this one (you can find my review of it here), but damn it, it’s fun and it’s available, that’s […]

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