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Review: Doctor Who: Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Doctor Who: Mad Dogs and Englishmen
Doctor Who: Mad Dogs and Englishmen by Paul Magrs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The problem with Doctor Who novels is the same as with a lot of franchise-based stuff: you never know what you will get. And not all of them are good. Funnily enough though when they actually are good they sometimes are quite excellent. The literary medium allows authors to play with things in their stories that would never have been able in a low-budget TV series (even though they tried, oh god, how they tried…).
Mad Dogs and Englishmen starts with The Doctor (number 8), Fitz, and Anji arriving in a hotel hosting a congress about Terran pop culture in the 20th century. The three of them soon become embroiled in a sordid affair around literary infighting. The issue is a famous 20th ct. fantasy epos: The True History of the Planets, by Reginald Tyler. The Doctor knows it well, but he fails to see how a story about Elves and trolls might be the reason for murder.
But But here he is soon corrected in his mistake, after all everyone knows the book is mainly concerned with poodles. Something is not right, the Doctor realizes, and off they go to investigate into different parts of the 20th century.
The book is both Doctor Who time travel fantasy, as well as sheer satire. Reginald Tyler is a rather unfavourable version of J.R.R. Tolkien (although Tolkien must exist as well, as there is a reference to a LOTR movie in drag), his best friend Cleavis is quite obviously C.S.Lewis, and John Fuchas, biggest director in the world, is quite obviously George Lucas. The book tells its story in a breakneck speed, which especially in the beginning makes the writing a bit sketchy. We barely can digest the idea of a humanoid boar as a hotel manager and a murder plot in there, when we are thrown on a space station with poodles in charge, and then meet poets and warlocks in 1940s England, the mob in 1960s Las Vegas, and mad filmmakers in 1970s LA. Oh, and then there are cameos of Miss Marple and Professor Challenger and a few other characters.
The strange thing about this is that it works. After a short while the novelty of anthropoid poodles wears off, but there is so much fun stuff happening that it doesn’t really matter.

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