The Eleventh Tiger

by David McIntee

BBC Books Past Doctors series, 2004
McIntee is one of those authors who I think suffered when the Who books moved to the BBC. After a series of OK books for Virgin (and "Sanctuary" remains a favourite for many), McIntee started churning out a succession of disasters. "Mission: Impractical" and "Wages of Sin" were particularly atrocious: bad ideas, terrible prose, awful plots.

More recently, McIntee's Who output has become sparser, but perhaps also better. I have a sense that McIntee is trying harder to do something in his novels... The problem is he's still not succeeding. McIntee seems to think he's in the same league as Lance Parkin: "Bullet Time" is a complex tale, a re-working of the ideas in "Cold Fusion" showing the clash between the Doctor of the New Adventures and the Doctor of the old TV series. It explores the use of an unreliable narrator and has homages to cinema. But McIntee just can't pull it off: the use of different perspectives is too messy, the ideas too cliched. "Bullet Time" has its moments, some good scenes, a dramatic imperative that makes it a bit of a pageturner, but it's not a great book.

"The Eleventh Tiger", to finally get to the subject of this review, is much like "Bullet Time". It has the same ambition and it also fails to achieve that ambition. The central plot is terrible, reliant on coincidence and with a terrible b-movie solution at the end. The big mystery around Ian is really boring and nothing is done with the idea once the explanation is out in the open. The incidental characters have background details, but they never amount to much.

However, "The Eleventh Tiger" is trying, more than anything, to be a love story between Ian and Barbara. It's an ambitious idea, one worth trying, but McIntee can't deliver. Instead we get some achingly bad scenes that wouldn't make it into Mills & Boon. Even more painful are the attempts at evocative prose that are so over-the-top that parts read more like parody.

Still, you've got to give some credit for trying. McIntee tries to flesh out Vicki. He gets into the spirit of his historical setting. The details were quite interesting. He manages to make the whole tale engaging. Again, it's got that pageturner quality. The next page was sometimes disappointing, but he keeps the rhythm of the story up. I was left flat by the end of the book, but I'd zipped through it.

So, on the one hand, ambition, highly readable, some great individual scenes against being over-ambitious, a poor story, risible romance. If this had been McIntee's first book, I'd be optimistic and say he has potential.

Henry Potts, 10 Aug 04; revised 19 Nov 2005

Originally posted to the Jade Pagoda mailing list.

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