I saw this book on the bookshelf at a local bookstore yesterday.
(On a side note, I quite enjoyed the number of times that I used the word “book” and compound words who have “book” as a root in that last sentence. Forgive me if I do it again.)
For those that are unaware, let me give you a little bit of backstory: In the 17th season of the BBC show Doctor Who, while the Doctor was being portrayed by Tom Baker, his companion was the young Time Lord Rommana, and the TARDIS was outfitted with a
n infinite improbability drive ”Randomizer”, there was supposed to be a grand season finale written by the great Douglas Adams. The script was finished; the serial entered into production; half of it was filmed; filming was interrupted by a technician strike.
Later, portions of the episode that had already been filmed were used to explain Baker’s absence during “The Five Doctors.” Shortly after that Adams ripped apart the story (which he said wasn’t very good) and recycled bits of it into the novel “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.” He felt comfortable doing this, secure in the knowledge that the original would never see the light of day. This is the kind of thing that Adams did frequently, and has been widely regarded by people everywhere as a great idea.
Later, linking narration was recorded to piece together all the parts that had been filmed and the episode was released on VHS, thus proving that “never” usually means “sooner or later.” Eventually, the whole script was reworked into an audio drama for the 8th doctor. An animated version (which is apparently quite good) was commissioned and finished in 2009. It apparently won’t ever be released. In may of 2012 Gareth Roberts released this novelization, an adaptation of the original script coupled with his own original material to “fix” some plot holes.
Adams didn’t want Shada to be released. He considered it a failed project and recycled bits of it into a successful project. It was released, unfinished but with his name on it. And again it was re-released, finished by someone else, changed significantly. It has been, at this point, bastardized to the point that it seems insulting to the memory of this man for whom I have a lot of respect that this novel even exists.
I purchased it. I felt helpless in the matter. There are three names on the cover: “Doctor Who” “Douglas Adams” and the author “Gareth Roberts.” Two of these names rendered me incapable of making rational decisions. The third (when coupled with the first two) left a vague sense of rage boiling up in my stomach.
I didn’t have any idea that this book existed. I hadn’t had the chance to mentally prepare myself for the shock of seeing another author cashing in on Douglas Adams’ name. I was aware of the script, and it’s relation to Dirk Gently. I was aware that Adams hadn’t thought very highly of it. I had so many feels, all of them competing for control of my actions. I opened the book and read a few lines, hoping that I would be able to put it down in disgust.
I was unable to do so. The writing, at least so far as I have gotten, is smart and fun. It feels disgustingly and comfortingly familiar. (How can something be disgusting and comforting?) The more I read the more my apprehension lessens and my hopefulness grows.
I am about 50 pages in, now. I find myself, already, mentally associating this book with the larger Adams cannon and the larger Who cannon. (Also, how awesome would a “Who Canon” be?) I can see similarities between this story and the first Dirk Gently novel, most notably the character Professor Chronitis. Honestly though, at least at this point, it feels so much like something that Adams wrote that I can’t help but enjoy it.
The dialogue is witty. The characters are wonderful. The doctor is everything that I expect him to be, occasionally he is so much like I expect him to be that I swear I can see Tom Baker’s smile as he says something absurd, and fails spectacularly to do something he claims is terribly simple.
Ultimately, this has the potential to be something horrific. If it manages to avoid that, it might just be something miraculous. We’ll have to wait and see.