(Originally posted to the Doctor Who Ratings Guide on March 20, 03.)
The Book of the Still reminds me of no other debut novel in the history of the various ranges so much as Lawrence Miles' Christmas on a Rational Planet. Like Miles, Paul Ebbs brings so much energy, zest, and sheer swaggering charisma to the book that it feels like something new and ground-breaking, even though it's "just" a first novel. Both of them are flawed, as first-time authors tend to be, but both of them have a prose style that doesn't let even a single passage go by without trying to make it something special, something exciting, something that's never been done in Who before. It's that energy that lifts the book up to one of the better first novels I've read, and that makes me proud to be a fan of Doctor Who.
Right from the beginning, which Ebbs entitles the "Obligatory Spectacular Opening", we get a sense of amazing energy. The Doctor attempts to steal the eponymous Book through a plan that involves free-falling from orbit, a scene of dazzling excitement that sets the pace for the book to follow. We get lots of fun -- Anji stuck in a Bollywood movie, the Doctor trying to learn how to dance on a doomed planet, and Fitz... well, OK, Fitz does spend much of his time acting like a brainwashed idiot, which doesn't do wonders for him, but it's still a good book. The whole thing clips along with sparkling dialogue and a fascinating plot.
It's not flawless by any means -- the trio of villains who dog the Doctor throughout the book outstay their welcome by chapter two, and Carmodi is phenomenally irritating (although perhaps intentionally so). And I still couldn't tell you what Carmodi lost because of the Doctor, and why she believes the Doctor's responsible for it. But this was one of those rare times when I didn't care about the "whats" of a book because I was having so much fun with the "hows". I just had a blast reading this, and I can't wait for Paul Ebbs' next novel. If Lawrence Miles proves to be an accurate model, it'll be even better.