MANAGRA by Stephen Marley, featuring the Fourth Doctor (huzzah!), Sarah Jane Smith and a cast of thousands…

“Europa is invested by ghosts, vampires, werewolves, ghouls and other grotesques spawned from old European folklore. I think we’re in a spot of bother, Sarah Jane.’

And you thought I was some sort of Dan Perry, didn’t you! Ha! Consider yourselves well and truly SHOWN! I return with an absolutely FANTASTIC dark fantasy Missing Adventure set in a lunatic Europa of the future that lives in a designed imaginary past. Lord Byron combats Torquemada’s Inquisition, Mary Shelley is writing her sequel to Frankenstein, and Richelieu schemes to become Pope Supreme while Aliester Crowley and Faust tie for the post of official Antichrist.

Let me say this first, Stephen Marley is a Visionary Genius. Unforunately, this is the only Who he appears to have written, but fans of JUDGE YAWNDREDD may be more familiar with his work. However, Who books are bad enough and I fear to go even further. You wouldn’t ask that of me, would you, Wedge Readers?

Back to the book. The Doctor and Sarah materialise in a gothic frescoed hall instead of the beaches of Shalonar, a flimsily veiled excuse if ever I’ve seen one to dress Sarah Jane in a bikini for the first couple of action scenes, where instantly the Doctor and companion get accused of murdering the Pope. Teaming up with Byron, who proceeds to dress Sarah in an altar-boy costume, they hear of Byron’s plans with the young Casanova and an as yet unknown named Miles Dashing. The poet and the lover are Reprises, recreations of historical characters of yore, while Miles is a rare natural born of Britannia. Gothier yet is the appearance of the sinister travelling THEATRE OF TRANSMOGRIFICATION (and before you tell me off, YOU try typing that in lower case)!!

The Missing Adventures, more so than the BBC novels, seem to be utterly enthralled to the history and skills of Gallifrey and thus in the end of the books we tend to get a preposterous (FABULOUS!) explanation of Gallifreyan mimesis, and the knowledge of the Doctor’s Gallifreyan heritage saves the day, which may not be to everyone’s tastes but I BLOODY LOVE! A particularly good tool often used by the darker authors IE THE BLOODY GRATE BIG GOTHS is the transformation of magic into science and vice versa, thus enabling the well-trodden ideas of science fantasy to transform themselves into SUPER TROPES of GOTHIC HORROR – hurrah!! The TARDIS through the lens turns into Dimensions Extraordinary &c. Unleash the batz0r!! And add this to the richest characters of Europe past, and then add their mad and vampiric other Reprises, and you’ve got a STAR on your hands. But despite the implausible scenarios described, there’s still moments of downright creepiness. The Doctor is incredibly haunted by his past experiences with Countess Bathory, and his fears personified in the Black Forest before being driven away by Gallifreyan science/musical charms. We’re constantly pulled in to one extreme and the other, like all the best televised Tom Baker horror adventures, and you’re left relieved, and a small part of you is glad you’ve got electric lights at your disposal and a CD to stop the silence turning into whispers. echo my echo…


Marks: 10 bats out of 10