In Bronze Age Thera, a former priestess learns the mysteries
of magic from a tutor who has fallen from the skies. With
the Doctor's encouragement, she is able to surf the time-streams
and fly through the air. Her powers are tested to the limit
when fiery creatures in the shape of divine bulls begin attacking
the second Telos novella to feature the Eighth Doctor, is
also the first to make allusions to events in the BBC's series
of Doctor Who books, though fortunately the authors
are vague enough to ensure that you don't need to have read
any of the novels beforehand. The Doctor refers to a couple
of absent travelling companions, who could really be anybody,
but I reckon they are Fitz and Trix. This is because other
passages suggest that the Doctor, just as he is doing in the
current arc of BBC novels, is in the gradual process of recovering
memories of his traumatic role in the destruction of Gallifrey
(in The Ancestor Cell). He also refers obliquely to
his rescue from that doomed world by his ex-companion Compassion.
Time Lord's persisting guilt ties in well with the overall
theme of this novella, in which altitude is a metaphor for
morality. In learning to fly, like a superhero for the ancient
world, the character of Alcestis is literally able to take
the moral high ground. Meanwhile, the ethics of various other
entities, including the Doctor and the gods of the title,
are seen to have taken a fall.
I wonder why Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman feel the need to
forgo the use of good old-fashioned quotation marks in favour
of an em-dash at the start of every speech? Sure, it gives
the text a distinctive appearance, but it isn't always clear
when a speech ends and the narrative recommences.
The first third of the book is engaging enough as it documents
the training of Alcestis, with the Doctor fulfilling the riddle-talking
role of Yoda or an Eastern-style master. However, the plot
runs out of steam soon after that, when the action moves to
the royal island of Kaménai. At 140 pages' duration, Fallen
Gods outstays its welcome, ignoring the "short and sweet"
approach that usually works to the benefit of this format.
a promising start, I'm sad to report that the narrative, like
the Greek gods to which it alludes, also takes quite a fall.