Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: To the Slaughter

(Originally posted to the Doctor Who Ratings Guide in May 2005.)

If you can imagine a story, any story, as a car, then you can imagine writers as auto mechanics. (I know this is a weird place to start, but work with me on this one.) The writer's job is to customize the story, trick it out with new features, improve its performance, streamline it, and give it a nice look.

If you can see To the Slaughter as a car, it's like it's one of those weird bullet cars they design just to see if they can break the world landspeed record. It might not always be pretty, it might not necessarily be elegant, and you probably wouldn't just cruise around in it to admire the way it handles, but man, that mother can move.

Cole starts the book with the Doctor, Fitz, and Trix hiding under a board-room table mid-meeting, and before you can say "interplanetary conspiracy" they're split up, on the run, in hiding, escaping explosions, racing against time, and cross-cutting from one thread to another at break-neck speed. The plot actually does hold together reasonably well under these stresses, and while characterization does suffer a bit, it's just because you're moving too fast to get to know anyone. (Trix, astonishingly enough, shows some signs of a personality shyly coming out to greet us, one book before she's written out of the series, but you'd still have a hard time caring if she wandered out of the book never to return.) There's some nice lines here and there, and I personally love the idea of realigning the planets to give the solar system better feng shui, but again, you're really just rocketing through the book for the adrenaline rush. And on that level it's fantastic.

Admittedly, it does steal some from '28 Days Later'... but then again, they stole their first big scene from The Dalek Invasion of Earth anyway, so we're owed payment.

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