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Readalong: The Blue Angel

This month's featured book:
'The Blue Angel' by Paul Magrs and Jeremy Hoad

(Just to remind you, the readlong featured book is one that has been widely approved of, and is the book you should read if you only have the time or inclination to read one EDA this month).

OK, so there's SO MUCH to talk about about 'The Blue Angel', which is the next book after 'Interference' (which is weird, but nothing to 'The Blue Angel'). It's written by Jeremy Hoad (who seems largely to do other things) and Paul Magrs, who invented Iris Wildthyme and LOVES metafiction. That's very relevant to this book, which also includes a rather bizarre Star Trek parody, as well as some bits about the Doctor living a normal life, there are bits about Sarah Jane and some stuff about a magical book that seems to tell the Doctor's adventures. I find it a bit of a confusing mess, but it is interesting, and there is lots to talk about.

Please put spoilery comments behind lj-spoiler cuts or white-out the text below an indication of where you are in the book. And please comment and discuss if possible!


I totally forgot about the Interference Book 2 post. ._. But then again that book pissed me off to the extent that I uncharitably compared Miles to Moffat (which isn't entirely fair, as Miles can actually write high concept plots and follow them through) so maybe that's for the best.

As for The Blue Angel I think "a confusing mess" is a pretty astute description-- it's not that it's hard to grasp per se, but it definitely takes some sorting through the confused writing to figure out what it is Magrs' is trying to say at all. And I'm 99% sure it's not a failing on my part as a reader, but the fact that it is. Well. A mess.

(I think I read the book in september/october last year, so I've probably forgotten a lot-- feel free to point out if I'm missing some things).

[Spoiler (click to open)]
It's interesting to compare to The Scarlet Empress - and I think I've said this before in another discussion post - because TSE is also a story about stories, strange and fabulous creatures and seeming non-sequitors, but in that book I usually felt like there was a point to them. The format and content of the story was a comment on storytelling and certain stories in particular. The Blue Angel is not nearly as comprehensive, it doesn't seem to have a core narrative (or if it does, it's hard to discern until the end when the entire "alternate realities" storyline becomes clear) so a lot of what I assume is meant to be meta commentaries come off as pointless drivel.

The Star Trek parody is a good example of this-- why is it there? Is it meant to be a nod and wink to the reader about the "not main characters in someone else's story" thing? But if so, why make it so exaggerated? It serves no purpose besides being incredibly distracting (the not!Kirk and not!Spock having been lovers despite seeming to hate each other's guts up to that point - which isn't particularly Star Trek, btw - is particularly boggling). The roles for the Doctors in the Obverse (Eight as a... half-mermaid, ok, but Three as an incompetent therapist and Two as a New-Age-preacher-I-don't-even-remember-what type?) also seemed very random-- for some time I thought that maybe the Obverse storyline was some kind of "trapped in illusion" deal and the Doctor subconsciously assigned his own faces to different people in that world, but uh. Nope.

Like-- if you're going to do meta commentary, the emphasis has to be on commentary. It has to have basis in whatever it is you're commenting on, otherwise it won't mean anything. It doesn't look intelligent, it just looks like bullshit.

I didn't remember it until you mentioned it, but the magic book - can't remember what it was actually called - that first makes its appearance in TSE was something I reacted to as well. In TSE it is very clearly a magic book that works within the confines of that story, and although I embarrassingly enough can't remember how it's actually used in The Blue Angel I definitely remember going "what". :P

(Especially because that book is about the Master in TSE. Okay, so they never say it is. But it is.)

Other things... I remember thinking about the villain of the book, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was I reacted to. Was there some kind of conceit that he was supposed to be a parallel to the Doctor? I also found the new Iris... strangely annoying and unlikable. Which really frustrates me, because I don't like not liking characters, especially without any reason to. 8I

Despite all these things - I think I rather enjoyed the book. Paul Magrs is eminently easy to read prose-wise, and it's a pretty short book so it doesn't lose pace. It's just when you sit down and think about what he's trying to say it becomes frustrating. >___>
yer - i read it a few years ago, but i still remember my strong WTF about it. as you say - it's relatively easy to read on a prose level, but it's just BAFFLING. one of the things that works about the scarlet empress is that it's a relatively straightforward story that happens to have some meta stuff around it (also, i think it longer than this one), whereas this one is about 5 different things, none of which make any sense with each other that have all been shoved together.

the magic book is actually in scarlet empress as well, isn't it? (yes, that's what you're saying. BUT WHY IS IT HERE??) i'd forgotten that.

and yes, it's a spectacularly awful star trek parody that doesn't say anything about star trek or doctor who, and also makes no emotional sense within the story itself. one of the things i like most about magrs's best work is that i do find it emotionally affecting - scarlet empress for sure, and fire and replace.

ALSO - wikipedia used to say that this book showed eight in a gay relationship, and this confused me a lot.
Yeah, I have to agree with pretty much everything you said here, except that I think I liked Iris. Maybe? Probably? I'm never sure what I think of her.

I love a good metafictional yarn, and I'm not opposed to breaking away from the standard development-climax-denouement novel structure, but I kept waiting for the Obverse strand of the story to inform the other/"main"/"normal" strand (in terms of themes/characterization/etc) and it never really did. It's also not very clear what Daedalus/the Glass Men/the battish creatures whose names I forget are supposed to say about the Master/the Daleks/the Time Lords (I'm guessing?), or what the Star Trek people say about Star Trek, as you said...

The Star Trek one was especially infuriating because not only could I have written better TOS/TOS-fandom snarking without ever having been in TOS fandom, but all those words wasted on in-jokes could've been spent on making the characters feel real enough to care about. Not every Scarlet Empress character worked for me, but I had a general sense of their motivations and personality, how the native Hysperans were different culturally from the off-worlders... and the Duchess/Spider sequence may be one of my favorite off=kilter love stories. Here about the only new character that felt halfway fleshed out was Big Sue, and mostly by comparison.

I did enjoy the book, as well, it's just... argh. I was looking forward to this one after The Scarlet Empress, but as far as duologies go, this pair is very uneven. I think the only think this book does better than its predecessor is not being culturally appropriative. Which, y'know, progress, but.
By the way – is next month The Taking of Planet Five, or are we skipping books?
next month is indeed taking of planet five. i lost a month at some point...
Eh, happens to us all.

May 2016

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