Tell me, O Muse, of that many-aspected hero who fled his home
world to travel every corner of time and space. Tell me, daughter
of Jove, of his battles and his tragedies, of the strangers
he encountered and the evil plots he foiled. Speak with laughter,
with tears, through songs and visions of the Doctor, the hero
and champion of this world and many others. The nine Muses
have, since ancient times, brought inspiration to those willing
to receive it. Nine authors have received such inspiration,
to speak of the mysterious Time Lord known as the Doctor.
Here they tell tales of History, of Dancing, of Comedy and
Tragedy, of Sacred Poetry, Epic Poetry and Love Poetry, of
Music and Astronomy. May they speak to your hearts...
Big Finish didnt send Sci-Fi Online a copy
of this book for review when it was published back in 2003.
However, Ive just caught up with it - nearly four years
after the fact - and I felt that I simply had to share my,
um, musings with you all.
I have to confess that, before I read it, I wasnt especially
looking forward to the experience. When it comes to prose,
I much prefer novels to short stories, and the Muses concept
didnt strike me as a particularly interesting idea.
However, the stories in this collection are fewer but longer
than average, which gives the reader a better chance to get
into the narrative and characters before the tale comes to
an end, and the Muses angle is only the loosest of hooks for
the writers to hang their ideas upon.
For example, Thalia, the Muse of comedy, does not appear in
Gareth Robertss contribution, Thalia: The Brain
of Socrates, though it does concern comedy and is a
comic piece of work itself. Nor does Erato, the Muse of love
poetry and mimicry, enter into Ian Potters Erato:
Confabula, though the story deals with both love and
mimicry. On a broader level, all the tales are concerned with
inspiration in one form or other.
In case youre wondering, Thalia, the Time Lady from
Arc of Infinity, does
not appear in this book. Nor does Erato, the big green blob
Creature from the Pit!
The anthology does contain some welcome blasts from the past,
however, including a few of my favourite things. Two of my
best-loved authors, Gareth Roberts and Steve Lyons, have contributed.
Roberts has written another amusing Fourth Doctor tale, Thalia:
The Brain of Socrates, though this time his
Doctor is accompanied by Leela rather than his usual choice
of Romana. In Calliope: Katarina in the Underworld,
Lyons, the man who managed to give Dodo Chaplet a convincing
back story (in the novel Salvation) fleshes out another
underused First Doctor companion - you can guess who from
the title. Urania: The Astronomers Apprentice,
by Simon A. Forward, features one of my favourite alien settings
from the whole of the series history, the planet Traken,
while Tara Sammss Melpomene: Mordieu is
set during one of my preferred eras of the novels, BBC Books
Eighth Doctor stranded on Earth arc, taking between
Time. Samms effectively compares the plight
of an exhausted Hollywood writer, who is desperate to sell
another story idea, with that of the amnesiac Doctor, who
is struggling to regain his lost memories.
One entry that doesnt really work for me is Polyhymnia:
Hymn of the City, by Sarah Groenewegen. Still introducing
its major characters nearly halfway into the narrative, the
tale seems only then to decide in which direction it is heading.
No sooner had I got a grip on the story than it came to an
end. Some might argue that this is what the art of the short
story is all about. Maybe this is why I prefer novels.
On the other hand, Simon Guerriers Euterpe: An
Overture Too Early is so full of intriguing ideas (including
a former travelling companion of the Doctor, whom wed
never met before, temporal anomalies and a pair of mysterious
grey-suited beings) that it inspired a Short Trips
anthology of its own, Time
What is most remarkable of all about The Muses is how
it pre-empts the style of the new television series, which
was still a year and a half away from transmission and had
been announced for mere days when this book was published.
Robert Shearmans touching Terpsichore: Teach Yourself
Ballroom Dancing sees the Sixth Doctor acquiring the
skills he would later put to use in The
Doctor Dances. Both this and Erato: Confabula
toy with the notion of characters feeling romantic love for
the Time Lord and the possibility of him actually reciprocating
those feelings. The final story, Clio: The Glass Princess
by Justin Richards, is not only a tear-jerker comparable with
the most emotional episodes of the new series - and The
Girl in the Fireplace in particular - but it
also contains the soon-to-be oft-used phrase, Im
sorry... So sorry.
Im not sorry that Ive finally experienced this
truly inspirational book.