Daleks and Cave-monsters

Last week I read and reviewed Michael Moorcock’s Doctor Who novel The Coming of the Terraphiles. I wasn’t especially enamoured with this book and had to follow it up with some classic Doctor Who novelisations — The Dalek Invasion of Earth by Terrance Dicks and The Cave-monsters by Malcolm Hulke.

I read both these books as a teenager and I remember them as being two of my favourite Doctor Who books. They are quite a different kettle of fish from a novel like Moorcock’s, which is based on the series rather than an adaptation of a particular televised story. As novelisations, both these books had to follow the scripted stories. Despite this, the two authors have approached them quite differently.

Terrance Dicks adapted Terry Nation’s script, which featured the second ever appearance of the Daleks on television in 1964. The first Doctor and his companions land in a future London that is under Dalek control. In fact, the ominous metal pepper pots have taken over the entire world. They have enslaved the human race and have them digging a huge tunnel down into the Earth. Their intention is to remove the planet’s core and replaced it with a drive system, allowing them to steal the Earth and use it as a mobile base in their plans for universal domination. Of course, the Doctor throws a spanner into their works and sends them packing.

This novelisation is, to a large extent, a ‘paint-by-numbers’ book, transcribing the televised story, scene by scene. It follows the script quite faithfully most of the time, and yet the Doctor’s famous speech from the conclusion, as he farewells his granddaughter, is reworded. The action of the script, hampered by limited special effects, is given greater scope in the book. And Dicks does fill out a few things, such as the romance between freedom fighter David and the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan.

While the writing style is quite straightforward and often plain, Dicks does show the occasional bit of flair. The opening sentence of this book is particularly memorable, and is on my list of all-time favourite opening sentences.

“Through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man.”

Malcolm Hulke had a huge advantage in that he wrote the original script which he than adapted into Doctor Who and the Cave-monsters. This story features the first appearance of the Silurians, a race of reptilian creatures who used to rule the planet Earth before humans came on the scene. When presented with global catastrophe they hid themselves in underground bases. Now, a new underground atomic research centre has woken them from their long sleep and they want their planet back. This story features the third Doctor during his days as scientific advisor to UNIT (the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce), and was originally broadcast in 1970.

Although giving us the televised story, Hulke presents it quite differently. This is not a scene-by-scene adaptation. We are privy to the inner thoughts of many of the characters and we also get a fair bit of backstory for some of them… which goes a long way to explaining their actions. Hulke also tells us more about the Silurians than the scripted episodes. The Silurians of the novel are much more individual than those of the episodes. Scenes that are only alluded to in the episodes are expanded on in the novelisation, while other scenes are shortened. Hulke obviously knows the different requirements of a script and a novel, and uses that knowledge to good effect.

Where this book falls down is in the odd way Hulke presents the Doctor. Actually referring to the character as “Doctor Who” really doesn’t work, and there are several occasions where he refers to him as human. This is rather odd … having written numerous scripts for the series, I would have assumed that Hulke would know the details of the show well enough to avoid such problematic descriptions.

Doctor Who and the Cave-monsters also contains internal illustrations by Chris Achilleos, and a laughable error on the back cover blurb, referring to the Tyrannosaurus Rex as “the biggest, most savage mammal which ever trod the earth”. LOL!

All up, I rather enjoyed taking the stroll down memory lane to read these books. They are by no means great novels … but they are fun. And I enjoyed them more than I did Moorcock’s novel.

Has anyone else out there in the blogosphere read Moorcock’s novel? Or any of the old novelisations? Opinions? Leave a comment!

And tune in next time as mother/daughter authors Carole and Lili Wilkinson stop by for a chat.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

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The first sentence

A writer needs to get the attention of his/her readers as soon as possible — to make them want to read further, to make them not put the book back onto the bookshop shelf in favour of another book. There are many ways to do this and it can take anywhere from a single word to an entire chapter. But what I want to write about today is that all-important first sentence.

A book’s first sentence can be long or short, descriptive or elusive, intriguing or demanding, full of purple prose or stated matter-of-factly — but its purpose is to begin the story and hook the reader. Some writers do this better than others.

Today, I simply want to share with you some of my favourite opening sentences — some with comments, other without. These are not necessarily my favourite books, these are just sentences that I found had grabbed my attention and made me remember them. I am presenting them in splendid isolation from the remainder of the text to which they belong. Have a read and see if you can guess from which books I have extracted them — I’ve listed the books at the end of the post.

1. I’m going to start with my all-time favourite — a truly memorable and intriguing sentence that sets up reader expectations. It’s a very recognisable sentence and also a rather long one — far longer than is fashionable to write in this day and age.

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

2. Another absolute classic:

“The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

3. A little gruesome, but memorable.

“Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own.”

4. “I heard a story once about a little kid who came home from school and found his mother dead on the kitchen floor.”

5. “I keep thinking that I have a tunnel in my chest.”

6. What I love about this sentence is the way ‘dæmon’ is written with such everyday matter-of-factsness.

“Lyra and her dæmon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.”

7. “I know a place where there is no smog and no parking problem and no population explosion . . . no Cold War and no H-bombs and no television commercials . . . no Summit Conferences, no Foreign Aid, no hidden taxes—no income tax.”

8. “When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news.”

9. Okay, okay — this is one sentence plus one extra word. But that one extra word makes all the difference.

“It wasn’t even five o’clock and Milo had already murdered Mrs Appleby. Twice.”

10. “Aubrey Fitzwilliam hated being dead.”

11. “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

12. “All children, except one, grow up.”

13. “Later, while I was facing the Potter Moth, or fleeing for my life from the First Ones, or helping man a cannon aboard Jack Havock’s brig Sophronia, I would often think back to the way my life used to be, and to that last afternoon at Larklight, before all our misfortunes began.”

14. “Through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man.”

15. “Something eerie came over European civilization in the early twentieth century and led to a madness which was called ‘the Great War’.”

So there you have it — some of my favourite opening sentences. They probably say more about me than the books they come from. There are probably other ones out there that I may like better… but either I haven’t read them yet, or I read them so long ago that I can’t remember them, or I was simply unable to get my hands onto a copy of the relevant book to check the quote.

But what about all you people out there in the blogosphere? What are your favs? Leave and comment and share an opening sentence.

And tune in next time for some random quotes.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Here are the books:

1. The War of the Worlds by HG Wells, 1898.

2. Neuromancer, William Gibson, 1984.

3. Angels and Demons, Dan Brown, 2000.

4. The Inner Circle, Gary Crew, 1986.

5. After the First Death, Robert Cormier, 1979.

6. Northern Lights, Philip Pullman, 1995.

7. Glory Road, Robert Heinlein, 1963.

8. Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz, 2000.

9. The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler, Paul Collins, 2009.

10. Blaze of Glory, Michael Pryor, 2006.

11. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dauglas Adams, 1979.

12. Peter Pan, JM Barrie, 1911.

13. Larklight, Philip Reeve, 2006.

14. Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth, Terrance Dicks, 1977.

15. The First A.I.F.: A Study of its Recruitment 1914-1918, LL Robson, 1970.

Doctor Who books

Here it is! At long last! The post I have been threatening you all with since I began writing Literary Clutter. The post you have all been waiting for with bated breath… The first Doctor Who post.

Now, for those of you who do not know what Doctor Who is (because, clearly you’ve been living under rock for the last 47 years), I should explain that it is the longest running science fiction series, ever. First going to air in the UK in 1963, it lasted for 26 seasons, finally being cancelled in 1989. But, just like its main character, it would not die. It came back for a tele-movie in 1996 and then a revived series starting in 2005, and is still going strong. The principal character, known only as the Doctor, is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He travels in a time/space machine called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). The TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental, which means that it is bigger on the inside than the outside. It is also able to change its external appearance to blend in with its surroundings — at least, it’s meant to. It’s actually broken and is stuck in the shape of a 1960s police call box.

One of the most remarkable things about this series is its ability to change lead actors. You see, the Doctor, like all Time Lords, has the ability to regenerate. When his body wears out, or if it is damaged, instead of dying, he changes — becomes a new person. So over the years, he has been played by 11 different actors — William Hartnell (1963-1966), Patrick Troughton (1966-1969 ), Jon Pertwee (1970-1974), Tom Baker (1974-1981), Peter Davison (1982-1984), Colin Baker (1984-1986) Sylvester McCoy (1987-1996), Paul McGann (1996), Christopher Eccleston (2005), David Tennant (2005-2010), and Matt Smith (2010-??).

Doctor Who has gone way beyond its humble television origins. Aside from the numerous television spin offs (K9 and Co, Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood and the new K9 series), Doctor Who has resulted in feature films, radio plays, CD audio adventures, computer games, toys, comics, magazines and, of course, books. Lots and lots and lots of books. Hundreds of them, in fact.

It all started with the novelisations published by Target Books (later taken over by Virgin Publishing). There were 156 books published in this series, with only 5 of the original series stories left un-novelised. I used to love these books as a kid. I would read and re-read them. Hardly a week would go by without me reading at least one of them. I have particularly fond memories of Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth by Terrance Dicks, which was my most often re-read Doctor Who book.

Things didn’t end with this series of novelistations. After the series was cancelled in 1989, Virgin Publishing began a range of New Adventures books, original novels set after the series, continuing the adventures of the seventh incarnation of the Doctor. Then there was the Missing Adventures books, original novels featuring earlier incarnations of the Doctor, set during the events of the series, but between televised stories. And so it went on and on. After the tele-movie in 1996, which featured a new eighth Doctor, there were more books. And now with the new series, we have another range of original novels featuring Doctors #9 through #11.

Sadly, with the recent demise of the Short Trips anthologies, a series of short story books from Big Finish Productions (the company that also produces the Doctor Who audio adventures), there are no longer any new books featuring the older set of Doctors. I keep hoping that the BBC will one day again licence a publisher to do more novels with the earlier Doctors. In the meantime, there are the current series books and the books based on the Doctor Who spinoff series Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures.

Doctor Who books had a huge influence on me as a kid. They fuelled my interest in the television series between seasons, and in science fiction in general. Although I no longer religiously read all the books, I do still occasionally dip into the Doctor Who literary ocean. The last one I read was Doctor Who: The Story of Martha, and as I look over my shoulder to my to-be-read pile, I can see three other Doctor Who books as well as a Torchwood novel. I’m also rather looking forward to the upcoming Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles, by the well-known science fiction author Michael Moorcock.

Want to know more about Doctor Who books? Check out the TARDIS library, a very comprehensive listing.

So… any other Doctor Who fans out there? What are your favourite Doctor Who books? Leave a comment below.

And stay tuned for more Doctor Who, as over the next couple of posts, Literary Clutter will be visited by a few authors who have had the good fortune to play in the Doctor Who universe.

Catch ya later,  George