Book review: Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles

Michael MoorcockBBC Books, £16.99

I DOUBT very much indeed that anyone who wasn't already a fan of Doctor Who would pick this novel up; and equally desire that all the Doctor Who fans who do so will go on to read the rest of Michael Moorcock's astonishing oeuvre.

Moorcock is a conundrum, even a lost soul, in contemporary English language literature: he is both avant-garde and pulp; a writer who won the Guardian Fiction Award, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. All his works are self-conscious variations on a theme: the nature of heroism and the necessity of anarchism.

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This novel is no different, and manages to be both a Doctor Who novel and a Michael Moorcock novel. Moorcock claimed, not without some accuracy, that "since the Tom Baker series, a lot of my ideas crept into the stories and so in many ways I'll be writing a story which already echoes my own work".

In his story, the 11th Doctor and Amy Pond come across a group of future humans whose hobbies involve participating in what they think of as traditional English games – cracking the nut with the sledgehammer, skipping the landlord and "wotsit", a game involving "whackits" and "arrers".

Moorcock gets the Englishness of Doctor Who very well, and part of the plot involves a Wodehouse-esque hat-theft. The other part is more Moorcockian: the universe is unbalanced between order and chaos, and the heroes have to right it.

But is it a good novel? Those who like this kind of thing will like it (there are, after all, characters called Mr Tr'r'r'r and a wonderful villain, the schizophrenic Major Frank and Freddie Force – two monsters in one body).

Those who'll never read it might contemplate its message: "It's the only way we can understand reality... by the shamanistic power of humanity to tell a story that is an absolute lie beneath which hides an absolute truth."

This article was first published in Scotland On Sunday, 14 November, 2010