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07 May 2010 @ 02:28 pm
Iris Wildthyme and the Celestial Omnibus  
I just went back and re-read my review of Wildthyme on Top before setting out to write this. I remembered that short story collection fondly but, on re-reading the review, I discover that I picked out two really good stories and thought the rest were fine but all a bit samey, especially since most of them were literary pastiches of one kind or another.

This collection of short stories, from new publisher Obverse Books, is a less coherent and distinctive collection and (and I fear I may lose friends here) a slightly inferior one though I think, on the whole, it is broadly comparable.

To recap, Iris Wildthyme, is an anti-Doctor created by novelist Paul Mags. In Doctor Who stories she exists to critique and contrast with the Doctor. She travels time and space in a double-decker bus. She drinks like a fish, smokes like a chimney and horrifies the Doctor with her irresponsibility and excess. Here she's accompanied by a talking stuffed Panda, a development from an audio adventure I haven't heard.

Unlike Wildthyme on Top in which I felt there was a fairly clear theme of literary comment, Iris Wildthyme and the Celestial Omnibus serves up a more varied set of stories. There is still a lot of pastiche but now attention has turned more towards television so we get Iris Wildthyme meets Battlestar Galactica (both versions) in Philip Purser-Hallard's Battleship Anathema and Iris Wildthyme meets Torchwood in Paul Magrs' The Dreadful Flap (although to be fair, she also meets Dracula and Noel Coward and his time-travelling pinking shears in that). Once again I felt the more successful stories were those that looked more towards Iris' magic realist roots than to her background as a critique and commentary on Doctor Who and literature/media in general. My favourite was Steve Cole's Only Living Girls, a strange post-apocalyptic tale in which a TV show's biggest fans are the only two survivors of catastrophe and married the strangeness of their situation with the normalcy (or normalcy considering they are fan-girls) of their lives and attitudes. My next favourite was probably Mags L. Halliday's coming of age story Sovereign, but I was a little disappointed with it's resolution in which a teenage girl, torn between the choice of two rather unsatisfactory boyfriends, gets to pick one while surrounded by numerous examples of women who are doing fine without men thank-you-very-much. Given the build-up I had sort of expected her choice to be "neither" rather than the more traditional fairytale style ending, even though the story makes it clear this is not a "for life" choice. Away from the pastiches and the magic realism (not all of which I have mentioned), the remaining stories seemed much more like the more amusing style of Doctor Who short story with Iris simply replacing the Doctor, than something distinctive in their own right - a potential weakness I thought Wildthyme on Top avoided.

There are no stinkers in this short story collection and everything was readable and often amusing, but it felt less sure of it's own identity, separate from its existence of as a Doctor Who spin-off. It surprised me that I preferred the Big Finish collection since the people behind Obverse Books have far more passion and sympathy for Iris Wildthyme than Big Finish do.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/5988.html.
ext_233901 on May 7th, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)
Big Finish do have passion
Hi there,

As one of the producers for Iris Wildthyme at Big Finish, I'd have to challenge you on your last statement, especially as one of the team at Big Finish 'behind' Iris is Paul Magrs himself.

I know that Mark and myself and the rest of the team - including, of course, the wonderful Miss Manning, have oodles of passion for Auntie Iris.

But, glad you enjoyed the book.

All the best,

louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on May 7th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Big Finish do have passion
I apologise. I should have been clearer. Obverse Books' entire raison d'etre, as I understand it, is Iris Wildthyme. While I don't doubt that those involved with the Wildthyme line at Big Finish have great passion for it and that shows in the Short Story collection I read, at least, I'm not convinced that the company, as a whole, views it as much more than an eccentric sideline.

Edited at 2010-05-07 04:58 pm (UTC)