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Timewyrm: Revelation


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Timewyrm: Revelation

by Paul Cornell. Reviewed by David Carroll

I recommend you go out and read Timewyrm: Revelation, the fourth and final book in the Timewyrm series. You'll probably enjoy it, and it won't do anyone any damage (well, except for the Trade Deficit).

But I didn't enjoy it much, and here's why. If any of this makes sense, and you don't think I'm just being snobbish, do Mr Keating a favour and don't buy the book. He needs you.

Revelation is great fan-fiction, in fact it is probably the most quintessential piece of fan-fiction ever written. It has the lot: multiple Doctors, the three dead companions, the current Doctor and companion also dead, Norse Mythology, Ace hitting the Doctor, Time Paradoxes, Ancient Powers, winter on Gallifrey, Ace waking up to find she's never left home... Everything anyone has ever wanted to put in a Doctor Who story is here, and quite a bit more.

Revelation is exceedingly cleverly written. The structure is complex and keeps you on your toes, but all falls together at the end. The characterisation on all counts is spot-on, the Timewyrm almost scary, the Doctor and Ace perfect. Even the chapter titles and accompanying quotes are brilliant.


Revelation has one great let-down. It's boring. Half-way through I was having trouble turning the pages, and though the ending was better, I can't remember how Ace gets out of her final predicament. By that stage I'd more or less given up on it all.

This one problem is, however, actually three. (Spot the gratuitous religious imagery, but then, why is the book called Revelation in the first place?)

Firstly, it's not a novel, but an 85,000 word short story. There is no sense of time to justify the momentous events happening, and no character development beyond the trivial. It is certainly possible to write a great novel set over the space of hours (Stephen King's Rage comes to mind) but Revelation isn't it. More importantly, it is a book with only one idea -- that the Doctor is a manipulator. It wallows in Doctor Who mythos to the exclusion of all else. And even major characters like the mathematician and his wife were nothing more than empty devices for this idea (though, I must admit, the talking church was pretty funky).

Secondly, nothing in the story seemed to matter very much. It was all about the destruction of the universe and such, but the important things like the death of characters were trivialised. Ace died a great many times, and it never really happened. Two miles of countryside was destroyed, but then that didn't happen either. So why should we care?

And thirdly, it had all been done before. With the exception of the physical (and non-physical) settings, there was nothing original here, and no real twists on the old themes. It didn't say anything about the Doctor that Fenric or Remembrance didn't. It said plenty about Ace, but only one or two things that couldn't be extrapolated from what we knew before. And as for the wrap-up, well, it worked in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, but that was supposed to be stupid.

At the end of a very disappointing series, Revelation is another disappointment, for very different reasons to it's predecessors. It is the ultimate in fan-fic, and I know a lot of fans will enjoy it. But it is only the ultimate in fan-fic, and that isn't nearly as good as we might wish it to be.


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