Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Story of Martha - Dan Abnett et al

I managed to pick up a copy of The Story of Martha this morning, and since I've been waiting eagerly to read the book since it was announced, I've raced through it.

The novel's divided into 9 parts: 5 are linking chapters (more than one per part) written by Dan Abnett, the other 4 parts are stories of Martha's and Ten's adventures, as follows:

"The Weeping" by David Roden
"Breathing Space" by Steve Lockley & Paul Lewis
"The Frozen Wastes" By Robert Shearmen
"Star-Crossed" by Simon Jowett

Each of these four stories is told by Martha to one or more refugees during her trek around the world, and each of them is an interesting and thought-provoking morsel of adventure in which Martha and Ten do their stuff; "The Frozen Wastes" is my favourite of the mini adventures, closely followed by "Star-Crossed".

Dan Abnett's linking story begins with Martha arriving back in England at the end of her year long trek, before going back to her departure from the Valiant with the aid of Jack's vortex manipulator. We are shown how, initially, Martha's pretty clueless about what she needs to do in order to survive (in the lead up to Roden's story, Martha's spotted by a small girl because of her earrings, and a few pages later she realises running in her heels is going to give her away.

The book only covers the first half of Martha's year-long journey, which she spends being chased by a man named Griffin who's a member of the Master's "Unified Containment Forces" (UCF); the Master's determined to hunt Martha down and one of his ADC's selects Griffin to head up a "kill squad" to go after her.

As a whole, the book's not bad. But it doesn't make my personal canon because Abnett has Martha captured in Japan when her perception filter key fails as the result of some technology being used by a group of bioluminescent aliens called the Drast. They are attempting to get back home, having been on Earth for a decade attempting to manipulate Earth's economic infrastructure in order to take over the planet. The arrival of the Master has rendered their takeover attempt impossible so they're trying to withdraw and have shielded their centre of operations from him using their own advanced technology, which renders Earth technology useless. This leads Martha's key to fail, so she's captured and made to work (although the UCF in Japan show no interest in her per se since the Drast only care about getting home). The Drast, however, find out about Martha when she volunteers to go to the Koban plant to work, which is where the Drast centre of operations is based. They want Martha to tell them how to get rid of the Master so they can take over the world instead. Once she refuses to cooperate, they go back to concentrating on trying to get their means of escape - a Relativistic Segue, which has torn a hole in time and space, creating a doorway through which they can disappear from Earth. Unfortunately, using it will also mean the destruction of Earth.

Griffin, who was captured not long after Martha was, and who also volunteered to go to the Koban camp, threatens to shoot the Segue - which would not only destroy it, but also the Drast themselves. In order to stop him, the Drast shut down the power across Japan, which leads to escape attempts and rioting in the camps - and it's in retaliation for this that the Master burns Japan: Griffin having contacted the ADC who sent him out after Martha once the Drast technology no longer interferes with human technology, and told her all about the Drast).

While I've no objection to the idea of the Drast per se, I can't buy the idea of them being on Earth at the time of the Master's rule, and I definitely don't buy the idea of Martha being imprisoned during her year-long trek. It's not that I think she was too good or perfect to be captured, it's just that I can't see her ever wanting to have anything to do with the Doctor again, or her joining UNIT, if she'd had to endure weeks of imprisonment as part of her year of hardship. Plus which, it's hard enough to believe that she managed to travel the entire Earth in one year; accepting that she spent weeks locked up tests my suspension of disbelief to breaking point.

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