Tiermanns World: a planet covered in wintry woods and
roamed by sabre-toothed tigers and other savage beasts. The
Doctor and Martha are here to warn Professor Tiermann, his
wife and their son that a terrible danger is on its way. The
Tiermanns live in luxury, in a fantastic, futuristic, fully
automated Dreamhome, under an impenetrable force shield. But
that wont protect them from the Voracious Craw, a gigantic
and extremely hungry alien creature that is heading remorselessly
towards their home. When it arrives, everything will be devoured.
Can they get away in time? With the force shield cracking
up, and the Dreamhome itself deciding who should or should
not leave, things are looking desperate...
Paul Magrs standards, this book starts off in a fairly straightforward
manner. OK, so theres a giant space beastie called the
Voracious Craw (which sounds a little too much like Penelope
Pitstops adversary, the Hooded Claw, for my liking),
but apart from that, the authors typical weirdness seems
to have been played down. Hes probably on his best behaviour
for the kiddies.
Before long, though, we are introduced to the Servo-furnishings,
robots created by Professor Tiermann to serve him and his
family. Like Disney characters, these robots come in all shapes
and sizes, each based upon a household implement, such as
a drinks cabinet or a vacuum cleaner. Silliest of all, but
in a quite endearing way, are Barbara the vending machine
and Toaster the sun bed, aged Servo-furnishings that have
long since seen better days. I was reminded a little of Talkie
Toaster from Red Dwarf, in that the decrepit droids
keep offering people snacks or a bit of a tan, because thats
all theyre good for.
The books most obvious sources, however, are the movie
Forbidden Planet and
The Tempest, the Shakespeare play that inspired it.
Like Dr Morbius and Prospero (who gets a brief name check
near the end of the book), the prideful Professor Tiermann
lives in seclusion with his small family unit. Like Prospero,
he is surrounded by magical-seeming servants (whereas Morbius
had only one robot, the famous Robby). Like Morbius, his hubris
and massive ego are his undoing.
This is the first Doctor Who novel by Magrs not to
feature his Time Lady creation, Iris Wildthyme. (This is probably
Time War is supposed to have wiped out all the
Time Lords. However, Iris has often been depicted as something
other than your regular Time Lady, and may have originated
from a parallel universe called the Obverse - as mentioned
in the Eighth Doctor novel The Blue Angel. This might
explain why the Doctor has been unable to sense her existence.)
However, some of Iriss dottiness is present in the character
Despite the childish nature of certain plot elements, which
also include much supping of fizzy drinks and resultant windiness,
things turn surprisingly violent during the second half of
the novel. Hmmm, perhaps Magrs isnt on his best behaviour
for the kiddies after all...
Autumn, which takes place before 42
for the TARDIS crew, this novel is evidently set afterwards,
because Martha refers back to the events of that episode.
I doubt it can be a long time afterwards, though, because
it is also stated that Martha has been travelling with the
Doctor for only a relatively short period of time.
Rather than building to a dramatic conclusion, the last quarter
of Sick Building is unfortunately sluggish and rambling,
just when the plot needs to keep moving. Its not as
though the author was struggling to reach the word count -
the type size is smaller than that of Forever Autumn
(though not as small as that of Wetworld, the other
book in this batch of novels).
However, even at that point in this otherwise entertaining
story, I wasnt sick of reading it.