Monday, December 12, 2011

In Which Trai Reviews 'Doctor Who: The Stone Rose'

The Book: The Stone Rose

The Author: Jacqueline Rayner

How I Found It: The Doctor and Rose's dynamic was my first and my favorite, and this was allegedly the best book featuring them, according to several people whose opinions I trusted. Thanks, girls! :) This was also the first book I read in my first-ever readathon, sponsored by Reading the Chunksters over at Goodreads. Yay!

The Review: Mickey has called the Doctor and Rose back to Earth with a surprise: he's found a statue in the British Museum, something that wouldn't normally be odd... except that this statue is an exact replica of Rose. In order to prevent a paradox, the Doctor and Rose have to rush off to ancient Rome, wanting to learn the truth about the statue and Rose's potential future as an artist's model.

Upon their arrival in Rome, they run into Gracilis, a local nobleman whose son has recently gone missing. A supposed psychic named Vanessa could help the Doctor, Rose, and Gracilis find the boy--but is she really psychic, or is there more to her than meets the eye? Why do the statues that proliferate Rome, all the work of one fledgling sculptor, so closely resemble their real life counterparts? Most importantly, when the air has cleared following a nearly fatal conflict, where, exactly, is Rose?

This was a wonderfully fast read for a Saturday morning, and it was just what I wanted from a book involving my favorite characters: some laughter, some tears, and the overall feeling that I'd just gotten to spend a bit more time with the dearly departed. I even got a little bit of insight into a character I'd previously written off a tad. All in all, it was a great bargain.

To start with: if you like timey wimey, gosh, is this the book for you. There's lots of paradoxical comings and goings, and a lot of things that don't quite make sense until the very end. It can be tough to figure out, but reading it straight through seemed to help me keep the timeline straight. I saw some reviewers that criticized the book for being too hard to follow on this front, but I had to just laugh the shenanigans off after a time: it was funny to see the Doctor and others have to work out how exactly not to cause a paradox.

Jacqueline Rayner's characterizations were spot-on. Jackie only makes a brief appearance in the beginning, but it matches up to what we see of her in early Series 2. Mickey's a bit more prominent, and he was the one I got insight into. I'd previously felt Mickey and Rose's relationship was predominantly sexual (given the number of innuendos Mickey makes in the pilot, and the subsequent instance in "Boomtown" when he suggests they could get a hotel room), but here it's suggested that Mickey does genuinely care for and love Rose, in a moving speech that had me reevaluating my previous opinions.
'... I mean, I was angry when she went off with you. Angry with you, but angry with her too, angry that she'd seen through me at last. Realised I was a loser and she was a winner. But I didn't mind, not in the end. Because she deserved more than me. She deserved someone who could give her the whole universe.' The sorrow in his voice turned to anger. 'But you got her killed.'

'I know,' said the Doctor, and it was as if he hated himself.


Mickey stood up and yelled, 'You should have taken better care of her!'

The Doctor shouted back, 'I know!' (152)
That exchange encapsulated so powerfully the dichotomy that was always present between the Doctor and Rose's family: they recognized what a great thing it was for Rose to see the universe, while at the same time remaining extremely worried for her well-being and unsure if they could trust this brilliant man who'd whisked her away. Rayner had it down pat.

Now, the most important thing for me is how well the dynamic between the Doctor and the companion is captured. I do so love the chemistry between the Doctor and Rose, that humorous banter with a hint of sexual tension, and I love to see them enjoying themselves. There were plenty of funny moments like this one:
‘Way to go for the detective work,’ she said.

‘Hercule Poirot could solve any case just by sitting back and thinking,’ he told her.

‘You with a twirly moustache!’ She laughed. ‘Go with the sideburns, that would.’

‘I expect it would make me look even more sophisticated,’ he said haughtily.

Rose grinned. ‘Go on, then. Grow a twirly moustache. I dare you.’

‘Fine!’ he said, gesturing at his upper lip. ‘I’m growing one now. Look!’

She peered closely, pretending to believe him, but collapsed in a gale of laughter after a moment, and the Doctor joined her. ‘Maybe not,’ he said.
There were some sweet moments, too, like the Doctor calling Rose his equivalent of a good luck charm, or telling a statue of the figure Rose is supposed to be modeling for that Rose is prettier. It was a bit more overtly romantic than the show, but in my eyes, that wasn't a bad thing; it more clearly illustrated the feelings the Doctor and Rose clearly had for each other. All the while as I read it, I could hear the voices of the characters in my head, and that added to my enjoyment greatly. All the dynamics were there, well-represented.

There were some hilarious action sequences I would have loved to see on screen, including the Doctor facing off against various wild animals armed only with the sonic screwdriver (and quickly realizing that he probably doesn't know as many of those helpful settings as he should). I don't normally read these books for the plot, but this one's plot was fun and kept me guessing: where were the characters going? Who was behind everything? Yes, the eventual sci-fi explanation was a tiny bit juvenile, but Doctor Who is a family show (or was, until recently).

Not only was the book fun to read, it was also slightly educational: I definitely learned some things about ancient Rome that were new to me! (From what I understand, Rayner has a degree in ancient history; it shows.) For someone that might want to learn a little something whilst reading a funny, fairly romantic story about the Doctor and Rose, this one's definitely recommended!

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