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Hilarious and Thought-Provoking

By:Isaac Wilcott, Ridgecrest, California
Date:Tuesday 13 May 2003
Rating:   10

I found Bucher-Jones first New Adventure, The Death of Art, an incomprehensible mush, but thoroughly enjoyed The Taking of Planet Five despite its mind-stretching nature. Much of the faults of the former had to do with the turgid prose style, something thankfully absent from the latter since (Mark Clapham actually wrote that one according to Bucher-Jones' outline).

Ghost Devices is only the second Bernice New Adventure I've read (the rather disappointing Down being the other), and was pleasantly surprised that this one was far better. It's also nowhere near as convoluted as Bucher-Jones' 7th or 8th Doctor novels, and has a liberal dash of humor to boot.

I think one of the main mistake I made while reading The Death of Art was that I read it too quickly. Bucher-Jones' novels should be read slowly, maybe 40-50 pages a day. That's how I paced myself with Ghost Devices, and the experience was much more rewarding than reading in great big chunks of 150 pages a day (a surefire way to get mental indigestion). His novels are filled not only with complex concepts, but are told using complex sentences. Even his action scenes are filled with fascinating explanations and intricate jokes! It is unwise to skim these difficult passages, since they are what the book is about.

The novel comes across as the product of a more knowledgeable Dave Stone or a slightly less loopy Lawrence Miles -- both are authors I enjoy, but they often go too far in their respective realms of nuttiness. Bucher-Jones gives just enough leeway to his plot threads and concepts to keep them interesting and wild, yet keeps them in control enough so they remain comprehensible. Even the cycle of self-negating temporal paradoxes at the end -- which has the potential for a real befuddlement-disaster -- is presented in a way easy to understand.

I must admit that I'm a real sucker for time paradoxes, so the whole premise of this book I found irresistible -- a massive artifact called the Spire that conveys information from the future, whose transmissions are collected and studied by the sentient lizards who have developed an entire culture around it. It is an impressive premise, and was consistently the focus of the book's attention, nicely enhanced by a lengthy side-trip to the homeworld of the race who built the Spire.

The opening page and a half -- with an senile, old, city-sized Factory complaining about the dirty water and subsequently being nuked by the anti-AI drones -- is some of the funniest and intriguing *Who*-related writing I've read. Although it seemed totally irrelevant for most of the book, it's nicely explained on page 190. However, the rest of the Prologue (featuring suicidal businessman Sul Starren), as well as the scene toward the end with a Watchmaker (a.k.a., a Time Lord) painting a door (?) seem totally unconnected to the rest of the novel. These apparently unrelated scenes are my only complaint about what is otherwise a very interesting, funny, and well-written book. Highly recommended.

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