by Paul Cornell
This is one of my go-to books, one I head for when I am depressed and need to have my faith in fate restored. That said, I probably read it noce every five or so years, so this was either my third or fourth reading, probably the latter since I own at least two copies of this book.
Curiously, Paul Cornell does not much like this book, despite it being so well-written, so well-plotted and with such excellent characterisation that you can hear the actors, envision them in your head. I think he disliked it because it was part of an arc, the end of someone else’s plot, the last instalment of something that was not his idea.
But as a fan, and especially as a fan of both UNIT with the Brigadier, Yates and Benton on the one hand and of McCoy’s Doctor and Ace on the other, this novel sings to my soul. In addition, the Meddling Monk as seen in ‘The Time Meddler’and ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan’ is personified perfectly, and the period, the mid 1970s, the birth of anarchy and punk rock, the build up to the Silver Jubilee, and the last real Labour government, it is all done to perfection. I can breathe the hot summer sun and feel the discordant notes of a future ill-born.
Of course, this being a novel in the New Adventures, it builds on the idea od interference with time, CDs before their time, video discs, and so on, the result of the Monk’s meddling with time. But of course, it is not as simple as it seems, and the Monk is playing a double game, and in cahoots with strange ephemeral aliens. At the same time, these aliens are launching their own invasion, taking over bodies, destroying the integrity of UNIT from within, and subverting the national consciousness by giving out waves of aggressive intent.
So much for the plot. It is important, but it is the background structure to the novel, it is what the characters and their interaction is played out upon, and it is where the great decisions are anchored.
In many ways, ‘No Future’ is a novel about trust, friendship and all the relationships in between. Benny, a character created by Paul Cornell in an earlier New Adventures book, is central to the start of the novel; she joins a punk band, hooks up with young Danny, Kit and Cob and makes a name for themselves as Plasticine. The Queen gets shot, and Big Ben is blown up, but in a sense these are just scenes in this story.
The novel could be about Ace and her feeling of betrayal, about how she has become hardened as a soldier, but at heart still wants to go back to what she was. It could be a story of her betrayal in kind, of how the Monk offers her the role she had always wanted, or it could be a story of how Ace finds her reality amidst a torrent of internal confusion.
At the same time, it could be a story of how the Brigadier creates Broadsword and amongst Buddhist practice and undercover operations they survive against the mind-influencing body-snatching aliens to be there when the Doctor needs them, when the time is right, and when they can strike back.
Black Star as anarchists are at their heart idealists, but the aliens have infiltrated and driven them into open insurrection, but even then things are not as they seem. It is an interesting picture of what was not,
In a way, this book is all about friendship and trust. If you re not a fan of McCoy’s doctor and of 1970’s UNIT, then there is still an excellent story here, but it might not pull at your heartstrings so if this is not your Soul’s Home.