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Reviews for The Man in the Velvet Mask

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Bizarre Fantasy

By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 18 August 2011
Rating:   7

This is a very strange, depressing, potentially off-putting novel, which perhaps explains its low ratings and that no one has yet written a review of it on this forum. It is something like Stephen Marley's "Managra" in that the Doctor and companion arrive in an Earth that both is and is not like one they or we know, and that runs by a peculiar logic outside the bounds of ordinary rationale. It takes place in Paris, 1804, but instead of the rule of Napoleon, France is run by the supposed son of the Marquis de Sade, an evil genius in a boy's body named Minski. The plot unfolds along a weird logic so that normal reader's expectations are constantly thwarted. Also, the novel is written in a multiple-perspective semi-stream-of-consciousness form, which means that every description is metaphorical, imbued with emotion and strange perceptions. Finally, the Doctor himself is not the usual force to be reckoned with here, but instead is feeling his oncoming regeneration, and spends most of the novel tired, withered, barely able to put one foot or one thought in front of the other.

"The Man in the Velvet Mask" is not really science fiction and almost not "Doctor Who." This is one of those strange fantasy novels, like Neil Gaiman's work or Philip Pullman's, in which the whole world is slightly askew. In a way, it resembles steampunk in that the novel has an eighteenth century with advanced technology built around the technological concepts of the time, such as automata, a video monitoring system derived from water, and airships with something like lasers. That this is not science fiction is clear because none of the technology ever really gets explained, and for most of it O'Mahony makes no effort to explain. It is, in essence, magic that looks like technology.

Still, it all works for the most part. Once one gets into the peculiar logic of this world and gets used to O'Mahony's distinctly different descriptions for things, the novel keeps matters tied together. Many characters have an emotional depth not seen in other "Doctor Who" novels precisely because O'Mahony endeavors to show how the world looks and feels to them.

The novel really deserves higher ratings.

Just didn't get it

By:Chris Arnold, Bundaberg, Australia
Date:Monday 7 May 2012
Rating:   4

Sorry this one was a bit too far out for me. I couldn't connect with the characters and the plot didn't grab me either. I applaud the work made to flesh out Dodo but on the whole I found it hard to finish.

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