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The end of the world! Or the beginning..

By:Leon Coward, Sydney, Australia
Date:Sunday 2 December 2018
Rating:   8

I had reservations about this novel, fearing it would be a zombie horror cliche. Very pleasantly, it is anything but.

For those familiar with the later stories of Tom Baker's Dr Who, "Festival of Death" fits perfectly with its style of plotting and characterisation. Morris doesn't depart from "how" the story might have looked - interchanging between scenes with the pace of a television show, and also a tongue-in-cheek low production budget - no digital era for spaceships, I'm afraid, it's still lightbulbs and tape spools.

My impetus to read this book came from the fact it was reprinted for the Dr Who 50th celebrations, and this fact kept me in for about 30 pages where I was tempted to read something else. I'm glad I held in, because you begin to realise the challenge Morris has taken up in creating a story where the characters keep looping back in on their own timelines.

The book entertained, it was thought-provoking, and kept me reading faster and faster to find out what happened next. I would certainly recommend it to those who enjoyed this era of Dr Who.



Twisted Time Travelling

By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Wednesday 20 September 2017
Rating:   8

"Festival of Death" could have been one of the best Doctor Who novels. However, Morris trips himself up by introducing some unnecessary components that are obviously unnecessary. First, the good. This is another "time turning round itself" story from the author of the CD audio drama "Flip Flop," which is equally convoluted in regard to characters running past each other at different points in their personal histories but at the same point in general history. For the first half of the book, the story is an example of the science-fiction "problem" story. This is the kind of story in which a disaster caused by a technical problem requires fixing in a desperate hurry. In this case, the problem involves two components. One is the demolition of several space ships, the result of a sudden collapse of a hyperspace tunnel. About 200 years in the future, the second problem emerges. The ships have now become a tourist attraction and the main feature of this is a new entertainment called The Beautiful Death, in which participants actually get to experience death for a brief, controlled period of time. Something has gone wrong, however, and in the latest and biggest of these events the dead tourists return as killer zombies. What is the connection between these two events separated by two centuries? It is an intriguing problem. Morris introduces the reader to it by having The Doctor, Romana, and K9 arrive after they have already solved this problem. So, they have to work out how they did it, and then go back in time to do it and thus prevent a catastrophic time quake. It's a clever set of problems. Morris handles it extremely well, so that all the various plot points past and present work out and everything falls into place. Some other good elements are the way that Morris handles The Doctor-Romana relationship, keeping it in line with 1979 and deepening just a little in the ways that a novel allows. Morris does not overdo Doctor 4's quirkiness, the great pitfall of most writers who try to write for him. There is still a joke bit (typical of 1979) in which The Doctor is apparently completely unaware of how the TARDIS works and is studying for a time travel exam with Romana as his tutor. It does not work for me, because The Doctor is obviously capable of controlling the TARDIS when he wants, and so the whole thing seems a throw-away bit of humor (also typical of 1979). Still, it does fit with the era Morris emulates.

Things go wrong, though, with the entry of two unnecessary baddies. One is the Arachnopods, robotic spider warriors who want only "eats." They seem to be there mainly as a plot complication to keep the story moving along. They are easily dealt with, and both their presence and their demise contribute nothing of note to the plot as a whole. They could be easily removed and the story would not suffer in the slightest. Another is The Repulsion. We know we are in for a needless and boring baddie when we get a powerful being from another dimension with an abstract name that has "The" in front of it. These are almost universally dull as villains go. The Repulsion has no personality as such, just a desire to enter our universe and destroy all life. Why? Revenge of a sort? It is never quite clear what motivates The Repulsion. All it is amounts to clichés - I am evil, I will take over your mind, the universe is mine, and all that sort of thing. The story could proceed much better without it. We already have badguy enough in Paddox, the scientist who created The Beautiful Death. He is far more interesting, having a clear and rational motivation, even if it is wholly unethical.

So, count "Festival of Death" as a flawed gem. Had it been left with the fundamental problems, it probably would be a 9 or even a 10 out of 10 in my estimation. The addition of too many badguys drags it down.



Timey Wimey

By:Trevor Smith, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Date:Saturday 28 June 2014
Rating:   8

As the writer Jonathan Morris points out in his intro to the reissued 50th anniversary version, for a series about a time traveler, there are very few Who stories directly about the consequences of time travel but this excellent story is one of them. A really good, well written, if it times convoluted yarn featuring the 4th Doctor, Romana II & K9. While nowhere near as good as Gareth Roberts story's about this TARDIS team ( but then how could they be ? ) there is still plenty to enjoy & the writer gets the 4th Doctors humour spot on. A very enjoyable book.



Totally season 17......

By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Wednesday 1 May 2013
Rating:   10

One doesnt often get to read a book that gets the balance of fitting in with the era of the show its placed in but also being something new and brilliant and engaging. But for goodness sake, Jonathan with his first Doctor Who story doesnt half impress.

There is the perfect amount of comedy and horror, with the suicidal computer ERIC being of particular regard, this computer would have slotted in like a piece of jigsaw into the 17th season that not many people seem to like very much aside from me.

What is also excellent is the pace, never once did I feel on the way through that this is getting boring and stilted, no, for the story just flowed onwards like some raging river. The dialogue is frequently extremely funny, but also tinged with plenty of yuck moments.

But I feel the best thing here is the absolutely spot on nailing of the characters of the Doctor and Romana 2, they are so very very in keeping with their screen personas, and this should have been done for the series. And if Big Finish ever decide to adapt more of the classic Who novels, then Id nominate this as a top contender to be realised on audio! This is Doctor Who at its best in book form. Faultless.

I have seldom laughed more at a Doctor Who story in book form. Jonny, good boy for such a terrific debut!



my brother's called Eric

By:Ron, England
Date:Monday 21 December 2009
Rating:   9

This is a very, very good book. It is just like the TV show on a good day. It's top notch and I loved it.
The language and storyline are perfect 4th doctor stuff.
If there ever was a PDA to recommend to someone it's this.



Brilliant!

By:Victoria Tiffany, Queensland, Australia
Date:Monday 18 December 2006
Rating:   10

This book is very well written. It has everything: humour, surprises, and the occasional tragedy. A bit confussing at times, but overall, very good.



Beautiful Death...

By:the Traveller, queuing up for the Beautiful Death
Date:Saturday 8 April 2006
Rating:   8

A satisfyingly complex tale with a well written Doctor-Romana relationship and many good Douglas Adams-esque comic moments.



Close to perfect

By:PJ Johnson, Hoddesdon, United Kingdom
Date:Thursday 5 May 2005
Rating:   10

I, like many others, am of the opinion that the partnership of Tom Baker and Lalla Ward was largely wasted in the television series, especially in Season 17, which (with the exception of City of Death) was made up of several disappointing stories. With Festival of Death, Jonathan Morris single-handedly makes up for that waste, in an entertaining, gripping, funny and complex tale.

In the vast majority of television stories, the TARDIS was used simply as a means of getting the Doctor and his companions from one story to the next, and the idea of travelling through time during an adventure was rarely exploited.

Here, it is exploited to excellent effect, and provided the reader is paying attention, the multiple Doctors/Romanas running around the space station make for a very interesting story, with several moments of revelation throughout the proceedings as the events of each timeframe unfold. The final revelation, however, comes at the end of the book, with one final, tragic twist which made me want to turn back and re-read the entire book, just to reach that ending all over again.

Morris combines tragedy, comedy and suspense with expert precision, and for every tragic death or unbearably tense cliff-hanger, there is a moment of laugh-out-loud humour, usually provided by ERIC, the station's manically depressed computer, or Hoopy the drug-addled hippie lizard (it has to be read to be believed!). It has been suggested that ERIC is simply a rip-off of Marvin the paranoid android, but to me this seems obvious - of course it is, and there is very little wrong with that, considering that this story is meant to have taken place at the end of Season 17, for which Douglas Adams acted as script editor. In fact, the humour throughout the book is very reminiscent of both Doctor Who's seventeenth season and Adams' most famous creation, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - which reinforces the notion in the reader's mind that the events of the book did take place between Shada and The Leisure Hive.

Festival of Death is utterly superb, and a must-read for every Who fan, especially those who enjoyed the Baker/Ward partnership on TV and in other books.



Circles within Circles - A tangled web

By:bruce klopfstein, Superior, WI, USA
Date:Wednesday 23 February 2005
Rating:   7

A very enjoyable book but very confusind. The writer weaves a very tangled web in the begining of circles within circles like a pebbles tossed into the surface of a lake. If you try and figure the story out right away it will only leave you with a headache. But if you sit back and let the story lead you the conclusion is very satisfying. I would have like to have K-9 more involved and had repulsion's character better developed. Repulsion would have made for an exceltent recuring enemy.



A Feast Indeed

By:Stephen Carlin, Bangor, Northern Ireland
Date:Tuesday 20 April 2004
Rating:   8

The book begins with a tragedy - a young boy witnesses the death of his parents. Then the story shifts to the 4th Doctor and the 2nd Romana arriving at the G-Lock in the aftermath of an horrendous series of events. People are pleased to see the Doctor and Romana - thanking them for what they have done. Some are surprised to find the Doctor very much alive...and so begins an excellent story as the TARDIS crew travel back to various moments in time to take part in events which will culminate in the Doctor sacrificing his life to save the people of the G-Lock.

This book very quickly gathers momentum and is well written with some wonderful characterisation. Over the past 10 years I have had to wade through some truly dreadful books with the title of Doctor Who appended to them. Thankfully there are a few here and there which make the task all the better - and this is one of them. Here's hoping that Jonathon Morris writes a few more books.

So, if you find a lot of the Virgin and BBC books tedious, give this one a go - you might enjoy it.



Another Superb 4th Dr & Romana II Novel

By:Yumchan, Doncaster, England
Date:Thursday 3 July 2003
Rating:   9

This book neatly follows on from Gareth Roberts excellent trilogy featuring the 'perfect' television coupling of Dr 4 and Romana 2.
The characterisation is exactly right once again, but the style is obviously different from Mr Roberts.
The premise of initially arriving to complete the cycle of events which you have already done in the future (!) is very similar to the excellent 'The Sands Of Time' Missing Adventure, however it works well here too.
Definitely worth reading.



Faultless

By:Cam Cobb, Canada
Date:Saturday 5 October 2002
Rating:   10

The Good: Everything ... the presentation of the Doctor and Romana II, the formula 1-paced plot, the ultra-witty dialogue, and constant SUSPENSE!
The Bad & The Ugly: Not in this story!



Perfect 10

By:Brett Gabbatt, Halifax, Canada
Date:Monday 26 August 2002
Rating:   10

I have been quite critical of the BBC book range. Few Past Doctor stories capture the essence of their era, but Festival of Death manages this to perfection. Festival is right up there with City of Death.



Pretty good

By:Simon, Sydney, Australia
Date:Wednesday 3 July 2002
Rating:   7

I was expecting a more gothic tale than the one I got, but still it was enjoyable. It was a bit confusing at times with multiple Doctors and Romanas running around - a time-travelling cliche that the tv series managed to mostly avoid. But the bipolar computer, ERIC, made up for any shorcomings, even if he was modelled on Marvin the Paranoid android. This book is available for trade at www.sf-books.com




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