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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Marc Platt: Writing Like Salvador Dali

Interested in reading a novel that will challenge you? Then seek out Time's Crucible, the first installment in the Cat's Cradle trilogy, written by Marc Platt. The author previously wrote "Ghostlight," a Doctor Who TV story that had most fans scratching their heads after the last episode aired. But in this novel he surpasses himself, and once again, it's the Seventh Doctor and his companion Ace who have to navigate their way through the chaos unleashed in their lives.

We find the Doctor and Ace in an English cafe, and Ace is looking forward to the Baked Alaska she's just ordered. Suddenly, the world seems to go out of phase, as if laws of reality are breaking down. The Doctor's sensitivity to Time cause him to run back to the TARDIS. Sorry Ace, no Baked Alaska for you.

At first, they can't get into their time machine, as the door has disappeared. But eventually the Doctor finds a way inside. He leaves Ace by the console, warning her to stay there, and that she will receive a valuable item she must protect at all costs. Then he disappears, the console delivers up a scroll, and something bursts through the walls of the time machine.

Ace finds herself in a damaged city. She links up with a group of other young people, who tell her that the TARDIS collided with their own time/space vessel. Then they are attacked by chitinous guards. Those of her colleagues who are captured have helmets forced on their heads, and then take on the bug-like appearance of the guards. Ace flees outside the city, where she sees the Doctor, or the ghost of the Doctor, a silver cat, and a river of mercury. She discovers that there are several areas of the city, each one operating in a different time zone, and inhabited by older or younger versions of herself and her new friends. Soon, she will find herself climbing onto, fighting, and hiding from the chitinous guards in a tower that strides across the rubble-strewn land.

In the early 1970s Third Doctor story "The Time Monster," the Doctor threatened to Time Ram his TARDIS into the same physical space as the Master's. The collision of these two vessels, each containing so many different interior dimensions, would create a cosmic extinction event. That is what seems to have happened here, when the TARDIS and the ship piloted by Ace's new friends collided. Certainly the laws of cause and effect seem discombobulated, with the walking towers, and even clocks that climb off their pedestals and crawl across the land. What does the cat symbolize? Is the river of mercury somehow related to the fluid link that the First Doctor claimed was essential to operating the TARDIS? And why does the city seem to be gradually compacting? 

There are lots of mysteries here, and even when I reached the end of the novel, I was still scratching my head, considering all I had read, and wondering how all the various pieces of the narrative fit together. The story was as dense in ideas, and rich in interest, as "Ghost Light." It may not qualify as well constructed fiction, but Time's Crucible certainly constitutes a glorious work of imaginative art. 

Dragon Dave

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