1. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
2. Holiday in Cambodia – Laura Jean McKay
3. Only Human – Gareth Roberts
4. Beautiful Chaos – Gary Russell
5. The Silent Stars – Dan Abnett
6. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
7. Every Breath – Ellie Marney
8. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
9. Delirium – Lauren Oliver
10. Pandemonium – Lauren Oliver
11. Requiem – Lauren Oliver
12. Venom – Fiona Paul
13. Belladonna – Fiona Paul
14. A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
After my intellectually exhausting journey through the pages of Lolita, I needed something to take the edge off. And I never turn down an opportunity to indulge my inner Whovian.
Admittedly, I have never read “professional fan fiction” seriously before. Ages ago, a friend from work lent me one of those Warhammer books. I tried to understand what the hell was going on, based on the little backstory that the author provided. I think the author/s assume that their readers are already familiar with the world they’re reading about. Which is fair. But it means that if you come in as an outsider you’re pretty much screwed. The point to this longwinded anecdote is that I was pretty opposed to novels based on TV and film franchises. Then, one day, I was in my local ABC Shop feeding my inner Whovian, and I saw the sleek covers of the reissues of various Doctor Who stories for the 50th anniversary. Both Matt Smith and David Tennant were smiling up at me from one of the lower shelves and I picked them up, read the blurbs, and decided to treat myself (I had just handed in my last assignment for the semester). Eccleston sat there, just behind the other two, looking at me with those dark, brooding eyes and…I left him there. Believe me, I felt horrible afterwards. I rationalised by telling myself that I couldn’t really afford the third book at that moment and that I would come back for him, when I had the chance.
Unfortunately, the next few weeks were horribly realist. I could afford food, petrol, bills, and nothing else. So my daily visits to the ABC Shop became my daily reassurances that Eccleston was still there, waiting for me to take him home. The stars aligned one payday and I marched into that ABC prison, my extra $20 of disposable income in hand, and freed the Ninth Doctor. I honestly can’t believe I left him there that long. Especially because Rose and Jack (the awesome, sci-fi Rose and Jack. Not the Titanic ones) were there with him the whole time. I guess it was nice he had some company.
I have always loved Rose. I think she’s amazing. Remember that episode with the Abzorboloff? Love and Monsters? That guy Elton was trying to get to the Doctor via Rose, which meant he had to go through Jackie. When Rose found out and eventually caught up with the bloke, she went off at him, despite the fact there was a flesh-absorbing alien behind him. And then, once she’d straightened Elton out, and the Abzorboloff had done his menacing-threatening thing which resulted in Elton’s lady love being sucked down into the concrete, Rose comforted Elton. That tiny clip from that episode demonstrated everything that I love about Rose’s character: Compassionate, fiercely loyal, stubborn, brave, and beautiful. I mean beautiful in every sense of the word. Billie Piper is, of course, stunning. But Rose is just a beautiful person who loves deeply and was wronged by the Doctor Who writers until she was given her half-human Doctor in the season 4 finale Journey’s End (side note: TEN AND ROSE IN THE FIFTIETH! I CANNOT WAIT!!!).
Love and Monsters (watch until 3:29. Or, watch the whole thing and go back to season 1 episode 1. It’s called Rose and it will change your life.)
Which brings me to the actual book, Only Human. Gareth Roberts has written quite a few episodes of Doctor Who. So, primarily, he is a screenwriter. And it is obvious in the way he writes. The book reads like an episode and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I could picture everything quite easily in my head. The writing style was simplistic, staying focused on the plot points, rather than dressing up what happens in fancy language. Which isn’t really necessary, and would probably confuse the reader because of all of the sci-fi type language thrown at them. However, when the language is that simplistic, I always find myself skipping important details in scenes. For example, in one scene The Doctor and Rose are riding a horse through the forest and then, all of a sudden, they’re running around among nettles and things. I had to go back a few paragraphs to realise that they’d left the horse behind. But that’s on me as a reader.
One of the only problems I had with the book was going back over dialogue and imagining my beloved characters’ voices saying the words that Roberts was giving them. Again, this is on me. I like to make sure that those incredible, fictional people are dealt with properly. And it was amazing to hear Nine say “Fantastic!” and Rose say her catchphrase “I’m not leaving you!” and to see Jack being so very Jack, running around naked (some illustrations would have been nice…). It was like being curled up with old friends.
You’ll notice I haven’t really gone into the plot of the story. And there’s a simple reason for that: for the Whovians, I believe you should go out and buy this immediately and discover the plot for yourselves. Especially if you love Rose and Jack and Nine, of course, as much as I do. For those of who aren’t Whovians (for shame!), you wouldn’t really be interested in a storyline about characters you don’t really care about. So I left the plot out. But here are four words for you:
So, as much as I would love to give this book twelve thousand stars, I’m only going to give Only Human:
★ ★ ★
Because, as much as I loved the content, there was a lot of “telling not showing” happening. Which is fine if you’re an actor reading a script. But as a reader, you want to be able to infer some things, not have them spelled out for you. And I have spent the past three years of my university degree being told to “show not tell”. But I wish this would have been an actual episode. Maybe it will be one day. When I win the lottery.