The Eighth Doctor, Fitz and Anji arrive on a planet where
normal physical laws have given way to cartoon logic. The
inhabitants cannot be killed, only knocked out of shape; gravity
works by consent; and evil deeds always backfire. But the
TARDIS' arrival brings change to the Crooked World. People
begin to question their lot in life, and cartoon violence
turns into something far deadlier...
Lyons has transported us to some strange realms, from the
Land of Fiction in the New Adventure, Conundrum to
a 1950s conceptualisation of the 21st century in The Space
Age. Although a thematic extension of these previous works,
The Crooked World is the wackiest yet.
characters from Warner Bros and Hanna-Barbera cartoons are
alluded to here - from Porky Pig and Tom and Jerry to Penelope
Pitstop and Scooby-Doo - although their names and descriptions
have been altered sufficiently to prevent any copyright infringement!
Some are combinations of familiar characters: Dick Dastardly
and Daffy Duck have been fused to create Dirty Duck, while
Scrappy-Doo and Oggy Doggy become Scrapper, the nephew of
Sheriff Boss Dogg.
seems to know the rules of such cartoons like the back of
his hand. On this world, dogs are allowed to chase cats, but
cats may never catch mice or birds. Villains need only place
a mask over their eyes to render themselves completely unrecognisable.
The Mystery Machine (or rather the analogous Spook Wagon)
will always break down outside a haunted building or creepy
forest. It is perfectly reasonable for animal characters to
only wear clothes over their upper halves, because they lack
genitalia. Like the world visited by the Seventh Doctor and
Ace in the recent Telos novella Citadel of Dreams,
the locals go through the motions of eating, but never (ahem)
go through the motions of visiting a lavatory.
effect that the TARDIS crew have upon the people of this realm
owes a great debt to the movie Pleasantville. Concepts
such as free will, which motivates oppressed cats to fight
for their rights, go hand in hand with less pleasant realities,
such as injury and death. Like the mayor in Pleasantville,
Sheriff Dogg regards free will as a perversion of natural
law and morality. The author doesn't need to spell out the
political message contained within his story, that laws sometimes
need to be adapted to better serve the changing nature of
is difficult at first to really care about the fates of such
fantastical characters as Jasper the cat and Angel Falls,
but as they grow more "human", they also become more sympathetic.
There's a particularly evocative trial scene towards the end
of the book.
explanation for the bizarre nature of the Crooked World is
also a long time coming. This being Doctor Who, we
need some kind of rationalisation (unlike in Pleasantville,
a magic remote control will not do), and we do get a logical
explanation in the end.
is more or less a one-gag novel, but one that is done very
well. And it's good to have the occasional light-hearted story
to break up the doom and gloom in books such as Hope, Anachrophobia
and The Book of the Still.
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