Review of 'Doctor Whom: E.T. shoots and leaves'

Doctor Whom: E.T. shoots and leaves by Adam Roberts

doctor_whom.jpg A parody both of Dr Who and the book “Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation”, “Doctor Whom” is told from the perspective “Prose Taylor” from the rap-obsessed 23rd century whose profession literally matches his name. Answering an advertisement for an “assistant-stroke-companion to a Time Gentleman” he joins Dr Whom on his “Tardy” (“because [the ship's] temporal engines slip it out of synch with Standard Time, disengaging itself, becoming in a senses cosmically delayed”, therefore, “tardy”) and his companion “Linnaeus Trout” in their quest to correct “grammatical time errors”, for example, ensuring that Tuesday follows Monday. In the course of events they visit a top-secret military ship disguised as an iceberg in the 1910s - the “Icetanic” - where they get slightly too close to a familiar-sounding ocean liner on her maiden voyage to America. Later (or earlier?), the group visit the Dr's home planet of “Garlicfree” for a Time Gentlemen's Covenance (meeting) to discuss a threat to the time traveller's very existence: A “HGV”, not to be confused with the type of train, this is a “Time Gentleman Violator”. They attempt to save England from the threat of the “Sluttyteens” (who threaten to bring unrestrained sexual freedom to the English), Prose gets trapped inside a space helmet (much bigger on the inside than the outside), and finally the travellers have a catastrophic confrontation with “Stavros” - leader of the “Garlek's” (“EGG-STIRRING - EIGHT!”) - where not even the Dr's “Moronic Screwdriver” will save them.

Obviously, Dr Who fans may find this all terribly amusing and I did…to a point. The style and story-line just seems a bit clunky to me and often seems to be trying to hard to be funny (much like what I think when I read Tom Holt). At times I did laugh, briefly, out loud but most of the time I was actually trying to follow the story…silly me. Something I often look for in books. Again, silly me. One of the things I DID find amusing was the ordering of the chapters which is delightfully contrary to the order sought by the Dr (“Chapter 12”, “Chapter 2”, “Chapter 1”, “Chapter 4”, “Chapter 7” and so on).

The structure of the book is more of a Dr adventure with the influence of the “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” book being in the conversations that take place. The dialogue is full of grammatical back-and-forths as well as humorous misunderstandings and puns which is often more than the reader's effort to completely understand. I admit to having to pull out the dictionary once or twice during reading as the conversation digresses into linguistic play. I am sure linguists somewhere must be rolling around on the floor holding their stomachs while reading but for me I simply shrugged and moved on knowing it was not really worth my time figuring out exactly what the joke was intended to be.

'Well,' said the Dr, looking around himself. 'Here we are. The planet Skary, The Skary Planet. A war has been fought here…' He paused. 'Is that right? «Has been being»? It sounds a bit odd to me.'

'No, I mean yes.' I said. 'I think that's right.'.

'Perhaps it should be «will have had been being»? I get my tenses mixed up sometimes.'

'It's to be expected,' said Linn, reassuringly. 'What with all the confusions of time travel and everything.'

Hum, yes.

A short (165 pages including a commentary on the Drs of the Dr Who television series), odd but slightly amusing book. Perhaps one for a die-hard Dr Who fan only…

Rating:

Review Date: 2016-05-02


Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Orion Books

Publication Date: 2006

ISBN: 0-575-07928-2


Other reviewed books by Adam Roberts: